“Papa, can you put that on?” [Mae pointing to my bra on the floor of the bathroom]. “No, Mae, Papa doesn’t have boobies, Mama does,” says my husband Matt.
“No, Papa has one big boobie.” [Mae pointing to Matt’s stomach]
I started laughing uncontrollably only to be hushed by Mae: “Mama don’t laugh at Papa’s one big boobie, it’s not fair.”
And she is right. After having had to endure ‘beach body-ready’ guff from magazines throughout my vulnerable teenage years and beyond, it’s time to properly hang up any lurking body anxieties. (And, of course to respect my husband’s right to a beer belly).
I have a bottom that’s less curvy, more ripply and boobs that resemble spaniel’s ears after having made a human. It’s not even a case of being proud of the goods, it’s more I’m just delighted it all works.
Ears? Good. Arms? Good. Whether they’re ready for a beach or the Tesco weekly shop is neither here nor there. I’m a walking talking human keeping another smaller human alive – what could be greater?
It’s a shame I couldn’t see that light when I was a head-braced teen carrying what stoic relatives kept calling ‘puppy fat’ with a mild lisp and an obsession for Woolworths pick ‘n’mix.
But why am I bringing any of this up at all? I suppose it’s because Mae made it clear to me in that damp bath time moment that she’s immune to all the braying perfection I’ve, perhaps unknowingly, been sucked into.
She’s still wondering if the Teletubbies are real and I want to do everything I possibly can to steer her away from those glossy, Photo Shopped images of women that do little other than sap the self esteem of anyone (including the models themselves; imagine having bits chopped off you because you’re not ‘quite right’) who isn’t a lithe gazelle.
That’s why I’m not only behind, I’m positively charging forward with the Be Real Body Image Pledge supported by Dove.
There’s no witch-hunt here, there’s no preaching, it’s just a simple drive to help our kids see beauty as confidence, not just an ability to follow ’10 hot tips to get a beach body’. It’s about who you are, not what you look like – a relief as I sit here in Hob Nob crumb-embellished pyjamas.
I think the Dove stat (love a stat) that hit me hardest was that 9 in 10 UK women and girls with low body-esteem stopped hanging out with mates, playing in teams and joining clubs because they feel, well, a bit rubbish.*
Aged 13 I had crippling body confidence issues that centered around ‘muscly thighs’ and a ‘general feeling of lumpiness’ but my Mum drove me to play hockey every Tuesday night – even when I was hyperventilating crying. I knew no one there and I truly felt like nobody.
She knew my strengths – an ability to peg it up the right wing – and she knew once I started running, instead of reading about what I wasn’t in More Magazine, I’d find my groove.
She was right. The hardest girl on the team – the one who had the seemingly perfect teeth/ hair and everyone slightly feared – soon became a firm comrade. Not because I looked like her but because I had proved myself silently on the pitch. I was made captain of the team; I went on to play for Northants county and I finally stopped thinking about what I looked like and started focusing on what I could do.
My grandfather cemented it: “Darling, no one looks at anything but your eyes; make sure they’re always sparkling and you don’t have to worry about getting old.”
Beauty in the eye of the beholder, indeed and I’m determined to keep Mae from thinking otherwise. Especially when presented with Papa’s ‘one big boobie’.
Time to get real
Join us in this Pledge to create a more accessible, more real vision of beauty. To be part of the Be Real Body Image Pledge supported by Dove, use #PledgeToBeReal on social media and tag @DoveUK
* Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, 2016
Written by: Anna Whitehouse.