Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Basically, whilst other people my age are out getting bladdered and dancing at parties on All Hallow's Eve, in various states of indecent dress, I did the yearly task of taking my sister round the cul-de-sac - stopping her going to clearly vacated houses or those where the residents were lying low, telling her to say please and thankyou, not to take the whole bowl of sweets when offered etc, etc. As I was getting dressed, I found myself mentally ordering myself about.
OK. Here's the deal. You're supposed to be nearly an adult, so be polite. For goodness' sake, wear something appropriate. Practise that grin. Put some nice perfume on. Look quirky but shy and retiring. Sort your hair out, it looks a mess. No fancy shoes. Look naturally friendly.
My conclusion? I'm turning into Bree Orson. Now there's a scary thought. I don't think I'll be faking pregnancy and passing the baby of my non-existent daughter off as mine any time soon though, somehow...
(Picture credit to www.abc.go.com)
(Beth Ditto, above - the poster girl for ignoring Size 0)
As a teenage girl, I have had times where I have been self-conscious of my body. It does not help in the least when your classmates are groping their 'podgy bellies' and complaining, when you and they know full well that yours is much larger and wobbly than theirs. When your peers can still fit into a My Little Pony t-shirt from the kiddies section and you're struggling into those skinny jeans which are far too short and far too tight for you (and this is from the supposed Petite section), it hardly fills you with confidence in your own physique. However, stepping back from those niggling worries, which would I rather be - size 00 (a rare UK Size 2) or a UK Size 20 (US Size 16)?
Personally, weight has been an issue with me for some time. I have never been capable of remaining a constant weight because I just love food too much - and not necessarily the good foods; I detest most fruit and vegetables and crave cheese, chips and chocolate. I also rarely exercise - at the moment I am no longer attending martial arts classes and do very little other physical activity other than what is dictated by the government. Because of this, not only is my skin a landfill site, but I changed from size 4/6 (US Size 0/2) at 12 to a size 12 (US Size 8) at the age of 14. For someone south of five foot, weight gain shows tremendously. After a huge summer diet last year, I am now at size 10 (US Size 6), but this is continually changing in both directions with the shifting tide of a rumbling stomach.
Before I hit the scales with significantly more weight than I was used to, I was a staunch believer in being proud of your weight - and that involved not dieting or changing yourself for society. However, I caved in. Why? There was the obvious feeling influenced by others around me who had a much slimmer figure, concern expressed by my parents who saw me do nothing but shovel down food - but I did feel ill. At my UK Size 12 peak, the excess weight brought on perpetual hunger, sluggishness and was a factor in becoming ill over two holidays in the summer with an infection, and ultimately having to spend a couple of days in hospital abroad. I knew I had to make a change in my diet, as the type of food I was constantly digesting was turning me into a bleary-eyed, green-hued person I didn't want to be.
Taking an outsider's point of view on weight, there are plenty of examples in the media of thin supermodels - Kate Moss and Lily Cole but to name two. Their waif-like bodies were 'practically made for catwalk' - the clothes are advertised on their bodies in a way we class as an art form. However, just one image of a model in a swimsuit with her ribcage and backbones protuding through her skin really brought home to me that the designers are flaunting their latest creations from the way it hangs, rather than the way it is worn. The question of whether we should ban size 0 models from the catwalk is a non-existant one - designers build their name on constructing clothing for the impossibly small-waisted and those with thighs no wider than their knees. Take away thin models and you take away the industry.
However, looking at the heroin chic that's becoming more popular in recent times, there is almost no healthy way to go about obtaining that 'perfect' size 00 figure. Either it's the nil-by-mouth route, which has led to the death of three South American supermodels, or drug use. Either way, the body cannot take lack of food or injection of drugs - an adult, female human being is not meant to have the waist size of a seven-year-old girl. It inevitably spells disaster for the mind and the organs.
Fortunately, there is a 'big girls, you are beautiful' movement at the moment. Progressing from the celebration of women's curves, powerful and larger ladies like Beth Ditto are being hailed as the new ideal role model - she's lovable, she's a little mad onstage and she's not paving the way for thousands of emaciated teen girls. A new fuller figure is being reported as the way to go - a stand against the disfigurement the conventional fashion industry brings.
However, with an obesity epidemic hitting the western world, should we really be encouraging this? Beth Ditto herself has stated in an interview with music magazine Uncut that she exercises and eats no little or more than her friends do, and likewise with exercise. Yet some people may misinterpret larger ladies in the media as a green light to an unhealthy lifestyle. Let's not forget that whilst not eating at all leads to organ failure and death, malnutrition is the more silent killer, leading to diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. It seems that either stance we take on weight in the cut-throat media, we are sentencing this generation of teenagers and the next to health problems, insecurities and an early grave.
Relating back to my choice to go on a diet, however, I believe that the most important decider on what weight a person should be is health. It is not just to starve yourself if you cannot concentrate on other areas of your life as a result, yet is it not acceptable to gorge yourself and as a result develop arterial disease. Therefore, I urge people to look out for your own wellbeing. If your diet is resulting in mood swings, fatigue or a poor immune system, change it. Ensure you get the recommended amount of carbohydrates and protein in your diet - it's not too hard to have grilled fish for lunch and wholemeal pasta for dinner.
As for the catwalk debate, size 0 models should not be banned - but designers who only support the skin-and-bones style of fashion should be fazed out as model agencies should be forced by law to ban models with a BMI of lower than 18. Responsible model agencies should encourage models to eat more by arranging light meals before catwalk shows, denounce drug use (taking any model who is not willing to go into rehab off their books) and encourage exercise so that models are heavier due to larger muscle mass and so look and feel healthy. Models and teenagers alike, please don't put down that cream scone just yet.
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Hello, this is my first post here in what will be many, just spouting off about the issues, things I'm loving at the moment and my views on the news as it arrives.
I am guilty of knowing I should really be doing something else, but instead being attracted to the silliest, most trivial things online to wile away the hour. Craving my Disney fix, since my best friend is at the moment an unashamed High School Musical obsessive and he's dragging me in with him, I decided to 'see how the stars of Hannah Montana were doing'. A bit of light reading, you know - Wikipedia is hardly taxing when you're reading about teen stars.
And lo and behold, what do I see? Rumours of a pregnancy scare involving the lead of the show, Miley Cyrus. This jolted me, particularly since Miley is about my age - in fact, she's younger than me. Not being the stereotypical teen 'ZOMG WTF IT HAS TO BE TRUE' type of person, I browsed the newslinks and even before I read anything about how Miley's camp had reacted on this, I smelt a rat. Why? Because 1) child actresses and singers with that much on their plate are forced to grow up quick and 2) I've been subjected to the bloodthirsty desire of the media for fresh storylines long enough. A young actress being with child would be a gossip columnist's dream, especially since their ordinary route of the socialite is becoming quite worn and unoriginal. But I feel the compulsion to write this down, because it's made me change my perception of the actions of those thrust into the spotlight.
Take, for example, the Vanessa Anne Hudgens case. High School Musical, despite us being maturing 15/16 year olds, is the talk of our close circle, and one of the hot topics between our select three or four is the well-publicised incident with Vanessa. I'm quick to snigger about it with the others, point the finger and say 'ha, owned' - but then, don't we all act on impulse sometimes? The more I think about it, the less I want a Cheetah Girl to replace Vanessa for the eagerly-anticipated HSM3 and the more I think it shows these Disney starlets are not the robotic line-reeling, move-busting, tune-warbling made-to-order aspiration figures some, including me, are often quick to state they are. A true role model for children conveys to them that if you make mistakes, even though its not ideal, you pick yourself up and make a fresh go of things - most importantly, keeping your dignity as much as possible in the aftermath. And, at the end of the day, what crime is there in being proud of yourself and letting your hair down?
However, the media circus is particularly fierce over child stars after they have made a transition into adulthood or what they perceive as a step up from child-like innocence. Like the conservative parents who sit at home reading the newspaper and baking, the media sees their children transitioning from the apple of their eye who is all birthday cake and Barney the dinosaur (e.g. Lindsay Lohan in the Parent Trap or Britney's I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman era) to untamed creatures who want to spend their babysitting money getting drunk on whole bottles of tequila and buying inappropriate clothing. Basically, the media is a double-edged sword - it sees something cute and adorable, and is all too keen to jump on the bandwagon, singing the praises of this singer or actress. Yet when things start to turn sour (or even not - basically when even the slightest whiff of controversy emerges), they are all too quick to devour the image they bolstered and wag the disapproving finger - after all, the hype surrounding both actions sends magazines flying off the shelves.
We as readers see 'star in crisis' or 'exciting new look for (insert star with 'problems' galore or the latest comeback kid here)', and the headline just lures us in to pick up the publication. Excitement triggers in our brain and we want to read every little detail - perhaps because we find our lives mundane and want a bit of excitement or light relief from our troubles, perhaps because we aspire to those we read about and so sigh wistfully at their rise and revel mercilessly in their downfall. Well, maybe not all of us. But a fair few, considering that a large proportion of people buy tabloid magazines instead of broadsheet and watch the entertainment section of the news. Now come on, teenage girls do NOT watch Sky News for the latest on the DOW Jones.
When we read a gossip magazine, we forget that who we are reading about is a real person, not the persona who has had their image on billboards or scattered throughout fan sites. When we watch the entertainment news, we forget that the person whose lives we are listening in on, and their personal traumas, could so very easily, with the turn of fate/God/whatever you believe in, have been experienced by us. It's easy to judge others and go 'tut, tut' at the antics of celebrities, especially when they appear to be begging for the publicity themselves, but you don't have to be an Oxford-educated psychiatrist to see that fraught childhoods or problems with relatives - even the minutest type of disturbances - can have repercussions later on in life in the form of choices and behaviour. It is very rarely that someone behaves in a way perceived as out-of-order because they're being difficult or they are being spoilt - there are usually some difficulties on the surface, especially since it is easy for the rich and famous to bypass the fact that money can't buy you love. And it is tragic. There are much greater tragedies in the world, and people who do not wallow in their difficulties and deal with them accordingly, but it is still like watching a car crash - so why the heck should we stick around and watch?
Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the media circus is, bless it's heart, hypocritical. It cries out, 'she needs help!' when those words are actually a step back. What any person, not just a celebrity, who is in trouble needs is support in the form of professionals, family and friends as the problems can potentially run deeper than any of us understand. Also, as with the Disney cases, downright lies, exaggerations and misinterpretations can be harmful beyond belief. I must at this point state that I myself am guilty of reading gossip magazines, and recently purchased one when I needed a mood boost, and to be fair to them, they do exactly what they say on the tin. But really, we should mature and stop punishing celebrities for what they have that we don't, e.g. money and lavish possessions, by increasing exposure of their inevitable faults and flaws. Also, it's a form of tough love - starving a press-obsessed (and most likely damaged) socialite of the paparazzi is cutting off their oxygen supply. Eventually they will sort their life out and we will no longer have to stick our fingers in our ears and staple our eyelids shut whenever they creep annoyingly, yet so deliciously, back into our lives. Think of it as rehab for them and for you, as a proud human being who just loves seeing others fall.
Come on, you know you'd rather buy NME.