How body confidence gets better with age
I blame M&S and their horrible, rubber ‘roll ons’, the girdles not the ferries, for my lack of body confidence, writes Elaine Kingett. Forced into them at 13, by a mother who told me my stomach was fat. I was a girl who even at 16, had a photo of her bikini-enhanced chest noted as, ‘Oh look, a picture of Elaine’s back.’ I was a skinny-bean, tomboy in Levi’s 501s. My face is now scarred with the results of hours, staring into a magnifying mirror with a bright light, squeezing spots. Every tiny blemish felt like a major obstacle on the road to true love and I hated my nose because of comments on my similarity to Ringo Starr. Then I met my late husband and he said big noses were sexy and he preferred small tits and suddenly, everything was alright.
Oh, teenage years were cruel then and still are now but with social media and a certain online newspaper’s Sidebar of Shame, it seems every age can be full of physical failings and sartorial faux pas. Too old to wear that? Too young to wear that? Too fat? Too thin? And never assume every slim woman is a confident woman. It’s not how much you weigh, it’s the baggage you carry around. I spent 33 years in the fashion business, almost always weighing in at 8st 4lbs, documenting my dietary intake, feeling clever if I missed a meal and filling-up on fags. God knows how I got pregnant on a regime of tequila, Murattis and coke. Then I became a mother, joined the religious order of Holy Homeopathic Wholefooders and changed overnight. I’ve never done anything by halves, me. I pretend to be a Feminist but, even at 66, I long for the admiring glance of a man. And, if I do have a new liason, what about my scars? My veins? My downwardly-mobile chest?
Now I’m older, I know three things that have decidedly help me feel more confident and powerful. Posture, muscle strength and flexibility. I don’t want my age to be assumed 50 metres away by my sloping shoulders and hunched back, I want to be able to put cabin luggage up on my own, carry future grandchildren and put on my socks without holding on to the chest of drawers. I want to touch my toes without slyly bending my knees and stand on one leg and not fall over. I DO thank my mother for the years of ballet lessons with fierce Miss Rainbird in a draughty hall in Basingtoke and also my friend Sarah Maxwell, a fitness trainer who believes in chocolate and wine. She showed me, with a lot of laughter and an awful lot of compassion, what my body still can achieve despite my ruinous past habits and adventures. Here’s her tip, which I pass on with pleasure:
Buy a pack of those coloured sticky dots from a stationers. Stick one on all your mirrors, your phone, your kitchen cupboard doors, your laptop. Every time you see a dot, tighten your stomach and your abs, and lift your pelvic floor… and continue to breathe. Amazing. Flatter stomach in a week. Cost? Less than a quid.
Elaine Kingett runs Write It Down! creative writing courses in Spain.