Over the past few years, body image has been a popular topic for debate, particularly on social media, with many companies supposedly moving away from using the stick thin supermodels of the ‘80s and ‘90s, in favour of healthier women with curves (which happen to be my favourite bit, for what it’s worth).
While this is to be applauded, not least for raising awareness about eating disorders among women (and especially young girls) around the world, as they strive to achieve what society has historically deemed to be ‘attractive’, we as a species still have some work to do.
I know this for a fact, as I just Googled the word ‘model’ (with caution, as I’m in the office), and I had to scroll through a disappointing number of images before I discovered a lady even close to what I would consider to be healthy looking. Ok, some of those images may have been associated with stories highlighting eating disorders, but I didn’t click to find out – and the problem is, many young impressionable girls won’t either. They will search online for what a model should look like, and be immediately faced with images like this:
Now, it may be the case that these three women are naturally skinny, and happy in their own bodies, and if that’s true then I applaud them, but it does worry me that those images were in the first few rows of the Google search result for ‘model’.
Don’t assume we men have it any easier either, though. I have just done another search (again, with extreme caution), and within the first few results for ‘male model’ I was faced with the following:
Fuck right off.
The thing is, I have never been one for going to the gym (I have this irrational fear of merciless ridicule), and even though I have a weights bench at home (it’s buried under a mountain of crap in the garage), I guarantee I could spend an hour on it each day and still never look even remotely like any of these fine specimens of manhood. Ok, one of the men is black, but you get my point.
Would I like to have a body like that? Sure. Perhaps not quite so muscly – because my wife assures me that she doesn’t find a six-pack sexy, even though I feel sure she would prefer that to the current ‘keg’ I try to disguise each day – but a flatter, toned stomach would be nice. Together with some arm and leg muscles, perhaps, so I don’t resemble a twiglet. Oh, and you show me a man who wouldn’t like a bigger penis, and I will show you a dirty stinking liar.
Therein lies the fundamental difference between men and women (no, not penises, even though that is a major difference) – our attitudes to body image. Social media constantly reminds us that, if we want to be attractive, women ‘should’ be thin, and men ‘should’ be muscly. Bullshit.
Fortunately, our attitudes to body image are slowly but surely improving, and there appears to be an increasing trend for women – particularly those who have had children – to post pictures of themselves on social media, either without wearing make-up, or without wearing much full stop, to show that they are happy with how they look. Halle-fucking-lujah (for once, that was not typed sarcastically).
Ok, I still get annoyed when these pictures are accompanied by corny phrases like ‘your body is not ruined, you’re a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes’; because, well, it’s all a bit fucking cringey, but I do understand what those people are trying to say, and I whole-heartedly support the message.
The thing is, though, women who have had children will often use their previous pregnancy(ies) as justification (or, worse, an excuse) for having a fuller figure, and this is inherently wrong for two reasons:
- Firstly, women should not feel pressured into explaining their image, whether they are happy with how they look or not;
- Secondly, and more importantly, the last time I checked men cannot give birth, so we are denied this justification (if, indeed, that is the right word) for our bodies not being at their best as we get older – even though, believe it or not, having children affects the way we look as well.
Next February, I will be turning 40, and like most people I have decided this would be an appropriate milestone to reflect on the ageing process, and what I can do to improve the way I look (or slow down the decline),
Admittedly, some aspects of my body are outside of my control, unless I consider surgery (my ever-deteriorating eyesight, and insecurities in the trouser department instantly spring to mind – although, there is at least some spring still in it), but there are parts I could take better care of as I approach my forties, because they have been badly destroyed by becoming a parent.
In fact, if we consider my body from top to bottom (although, that should perhaps read ‘head to toe’, as the problems most certainly do not cease with my bottom), there is very little which has not been worsened by fatherhood….
I suppose I should think myself lucky that I have avoided grey hairs until my very-late-thirties, but not only will I need to give serious consideration to masking the ageing process with hair dye in the next year or so (something I have not had to consider before), but I recently had my hair cut shorter than normal to save money, and if my wife mentions my apparent bald patches one more time, I may have to kick her in the shin.
Not only is mine getting larger as my hairline inevitably recedes, but wrinkles (or ‘worry lines’) are appearing at an alarming rate. Now, far be it from me to make a connection between these increased wrinkles and Isaac’s birth, but it does seem more than a coincidence….
My eyesight has always been dreadful, but since having children the rate at which it is deteriorating seems to have accelerated. Worse, I now find that whereas I used to decline all the optional extras when purchasing new glasses, I now actively seek additional ones just to be on the safe side.
“Ok, so that’s the anti-scratch, smash-resistant, anti-glare lens options all added, plus we’ve got that thing which makes car headlights less blinding, but can you offer me anything by way of ‘sharp object repellent’? No? How about something which makes it look like you’re asleep, so the kids leave you the fuck alone?”
Look, I know everyone’s ears get bigger – and, in the case of us menfolk, hairier – as we get older, but I have noticed my hearing has deteriorated far more rapidly since we became parents. Now, this may be because of the excessive noise created by the boys screaming at each other, and us screaming at them to tell them to stop screaming at each other, but I also can’t rule out the possibility my body is trying to protect me from having to listen to that fucking Baby Shark song ever again. Evolution is a wonderful thing, sometimes.
As a father, I suppose the worse-case scenario, is that your nose will be broken at some point, whether by a stray baby leg during nappy changing, a toy thrown at your face when they are a little older, or by your partner punching you for any number of things you may or may not have done to upset her (almost all of which you will not have foreseen), but even though I have thankfully avoided ever visiting A&E to have my conk snapped back into place, I now find that I apparently have a cold for the majority of the year, because my children collect and distribute every single bug available at school. I swear I never got ill before we had them, and now I feel ill all the time.
From the moment we are born and they nourish us, through puberty when we realise they are fabulous and we long for nothing more than to see them up close, right up to middle-age when we try to remember the last time we saw a pair in real life, we (heterosexual) men are obsessed with boobs. But now I suddenly have a pair of my own, and not only has the appeal worn off when I look down at them each day, but I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night when I am reminded of their presence.
I have already covered this above (although sadly, actually covering mine is getting increasingly harder these days), and there are only so many times your shirt button can ping open before you have to accept there is nothing wrong with it, and you have fastened it correctly each time, it’s just that your clothes can no longer accommodate the vast gut underneath, but the real kicker is the first time you glance down in the shower and realise you can no longer see your own penis.
These are all, quite frankly, destroyed, and while I have to blame running as being the primary cause for my lower-body deterioration, I’m not ruling out child-based factors either. If I am not running up and down stairs to fetch things for the boys (or, more commonly, to bollock them for fighting again), I am smacking my lower extremities on items they have left strewn around the house, or being kicked by Isaac.
I have lost count of the number of times my feet have been injured by small sharp objects being left lying around (and, yes, Lego usually gets the blame when someone on social media posts about the pain of standing on a piece for the 1,000th time that week – I do wish people would get their own material – but the truth is most things kids leave on the floor are likely to hurt like Hell when trodden on).
So, there we have it. My body is ruined, and I fear the situation is only going to get worse as I enter my fourth decade.
Wish me luck, folks.
Thanks for reading x