Would you like to hear some positive stuff? Amongst the disruption of Covid, and fear around curious political manoeuvrings, 2020 has been challenging to say the least. In amongst all this, there have been some personal positives. This has been my best year so far in terms of publication, with work appearing in high profile online journals, being placed in Paper Swans Press single poetry competition and now appearing in Popshot- which feels like a big achievement. The feeling of holding something in my hand which has my words inside is hard to beat.
I feel a little awkward about the poem – it’s about something that makes me uncomfortable, and something that I rarely talk about (put paid to that haven’t I?) but issues around body image follow many of us throughout our lives. I thought I was fat when I was seven stone, I thought I was fat when I was nine stone (a fact reiterated by a helpful GP) I’ve never felt comfortable with my body, the responses it elicits and the assumptions that are made. I’m an average size now, to go with my just over average height (and gosh I hate to be average anything) but I still long to be tall and interestingly skinny. Preferably adorned with a permanent pair of Magenta de Vine style sunglasses.
This issue of Popshot is about freedom, and being free from my body is a curious hope, (especially now M.E. means I can’t even enjoy a simple walk – it’s like a prison on some days) but this poem represents that freedom, as well as touching on the power and promise of the ocean. I’m angry that we are so manipulated into believing we have to present our bodies in a certain way that we’ve damaged our digestive systems with endless diets, spend thousands plucking and colouring and poking to meet some ideal that no one really understands any more. I’m not angry with the fact that people do these things, I’m just frustrated that we are so trained to dislike ourselves that looking like someone else feels like the only way to be happy.
Aha I promised positivity didn’t I? I think being able to talk about this is positive – chats with colleagues and friends about diets have always brought a feeling of absolute inadequacy, and a huge sense of anxiety. Enjoying food in front of others is always tainted by wondering what assessments are being made and I always long to be the person who fulfils the stereotype and orders proper ladies’ food like a dainty salad* just so I can avoid the feeling of being judged. I never do and always end up in a pull of pride at not bowing to convention, and an overwhelm of self- loathing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Writing this poem is a bit of battle cry, a bit of determination not to be bowed down by convention. Will it make a difference to how I feel? Who knows, but I hope reading my poem brings a spark of positivity and more than that I hope freedom begins to move beyond the waves. The fact that it has such a powerful, apposite illustration courtesy of Shut Up Claudia is the icing on the, ahem, cake.
You can buy Popshot from leading news outlets like WHSmith, or via the Popshot website. The Freedom issue is full of work that is funny, moving and challenging and I’m proud to be part of it.
*no disrespect to those who order a dainty salad.