Summer and the Pressure to Conform

So at the moment Summer seems to be flirting with us. We are being gifted the odd day of cracking-the-flags sunshine. Cue: racing to the shops and clearing them out of sun cream and sun hats. I love our habits when it comes to a sunny day. And I love sunny days. Let’s face it, there isn’t much not to love. But, I always find every year that I feel under huge pressure as soon as the sun rays peak through the clouds, for me to get out my summer wardrobe and conform to the ideal summer image.

Does anybody even have a summer wardrobe anymore? Do you go into the loft, dust off the suitcase at the back and open it up to find pristine summer clothes? Or do you set aside a Saturday morning to go shopping and buy some new, fresh, breathable and socially acceptable summer clothes? I’m probably the latter but this is where the pressure comes from. You see, I’m not in any way, shape or form designed for summer. Or at least the summer that is sold to us. And it’s against every fibre of my being that I feel the pressure even though I know I shouldn’t. I do not possess a figure that looks fantastic in a bikini, or for that matter, the natural self confidence I think I would need to be comfortable sitting next to complete strangers on sand in pretty much underwear by another name.

But my other problem, and I really hope I’m not alone in this (I suspect I’m not) is that I find most clothing ranges for summer that are widely available and affordable are designed for very very thin people. Now I should say this, I’m not against very very thin people in any way. I just wish that people like me – not very very thin – were considered as socially acceptable and in fact socially desirable to the point where the shops make clothes for us without putting them in a special range called Plus Size.

My name is Madeleine and I’m a Plus Size person. Imagine walking into a support group and saying that. Well we pretty much do, don’t we? At all of the slimming classes around, where people go for the weekly humiliation of the weigh in. Why do we have to regard curvier people as something different? Something other?

At the moment I’m on a (long) mission to lose some pounds and get fitter. This mission began approximately five years ago and went from a fully-motivated state of affairs to a longer term plan with me attending fitness classes, running occasionally, and implementing chocolate bans which inevitably lead to chocolate binges. In the cooler months I’m comfortable with my body, but in the summer months I come to dread the daily selection of clothes.

I find society’s attitudes to size really strange and unfair. It is widely known that being thin is considered by a lot of influential industries to be the body of choice and everything else just isn’t ok. How do we change that? It doesn’t help that if you’re above a size fourteen you are labelled as Plus Size. Or that people try to attribute a reason why you’re bigger than the ideal, as if it is just temporary. Baby weight being the obvious one, but even that is time limited. You can’t claim it is baby weight when your baby is no longer a baby. A recent low point for me was when my daughter asked me if I was having a baby because my tummy was bigger. She’s four but still, it was pretty crushing.

So, my dream is for my kids to grow up in a society that accepts people of all shapes and sizes and for them not to feel the pressures to conform to an ideal body image. I think we are a long way from that though, and to be honest I’m not sure how we will arrive at that point. I guess we will have to keep on buying the Plus Size range through gritted teeth (and then go home to eat more chocolate).

Image: lovethispic.com

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