Undressing for ‘Dressing Up’

Finding summer swimsuits when you are a curvy girl is all kinds of challenging. Here is my selfie from the Ezibuy fitting room when the togs first hit the shops. I thought if I was prepared and did my research I would surely crack the code for this summer!  As it happened, I didn’t need to because Monique, on her blog, Dressing Up has done the legwork for me and all of us ‘inbetweenie’ and curvy girls. Monique is a friend of mine, and so when she enthused about the vision for her swimsuit edit, I put my hand up. Quickly, before I could change my mind. I know, it surprised even me. These thighs don’t see the light of day very often!

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gimme all the supports please

The location was a sophisticated poolside in Greenhithe, nestled in native forest, bathed in sunlight. I was waddling my way around the location, adjusting my ample thighs, trying to find a position that was most ‘kind’ to my cellulite. But that cellulite was irrepressible.  No matter how much thought-control I used to will it away: it persisted.

I gave up trying.

And that is how, in the harsh light of day, the reality of every dimple of my legs got translated through a lens onto the screens of more than 30,000 people (at last count).  It’s been a freaky few days.

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But how could I let this happen?  You ask.  Do I really want my flaws out there for the whole world to see?  Well, um, yes… kind of!

See, I’ve been on a mission, not exactly to get my kit off, but to accept myself just as I am and to help other women do that, too. To recognise that all of me is okay, not just the bits I think other people will find acceptable.  I am just so tired of trying to live life with the brakes on. It just wears a soul down, living like that.

I’m tired of seeing other women limit themselves too, just because they are ashamed of their ample arms, rumptious bumps, mummy tummies or thunderous thighs.  It feels to me that if I am serious about self acceptance, I will be serious about helping other Curvy Queens to feel more normal about their bodies. That’s why I get in front of a camera so often these days, so girls like us can feel they are not the only one.

Our bodies deserve more credit for what they have brought us through.

Since going into remission I have been busy, and one of the things I have been doing is plus-size modelling. It’s been fun! It’s been mostly rather ‘safe’ in the way mature plus size fashion always is; most places don’t like to show too much of this old girl… so I’ve been modelling sedate numbers like this one:

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‘Yourself’ brand from Farmers, now sold out

Until I met Monique. She is a dynamo woman. A Girl Boss.  She told me about her vision for the ‘inbetweenie’ and plus sized women of New Zealand and I was sold; she’s awesome, highly professional and one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met. I love her story, I love her methods.

It was to be for this post, it’s been doing really well because it shines with relate-ability. She wanted to show suits on a range different body types.  Her post was all about how everybody already has a swimsuit body, we just need to put the swimsuit on! Is it any wonder we feel shy, when most retailers show their suits only on size 8 girls? It needs to change. Even some of the plus size brands still showcase their suits on size 12 women. They are beautiful women, but size 12 is not plus size. We’ve been labouring under the notion that swimsuit bodies are the ones mainstream media feeds us. Nu-uh. We can wear togs too.

Are you going to join me? This summer: we swim!

It’s time to release ourselves from all the things that hold us back and finally get into the ocean with our families. The idea of wearing the swimsuit anyway, aligns with my feelings about living this life to the fullest. Not walking away from the things that light you up.  Freedom for women, especially from the shackles of our own minds; lights me up.  And so, even though it terrified me, I did it, anyway. I got my kit off in front of the camera.  I’m a size 18-20. My boobs are 18DD/E. And I wore togs in front of the whole crew… and all of you. Eeep.

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Our clever photographer, Nykie Grove-Eades made me feel completely fine about being in a state of undress in front of the lens! When I put the first suit on, I threw my cover-up on top. Then I looked around at all the women, everyone so different. And I thought how ridiculous I was being. I took it off and wandered around just in my cossie. It was the culmination for me, of all the past months of working as a model. Learning to move my thoughts out beyond my own self.

I will however, leave the nudie shots to Taryn Brumfitt (!)  Her documentary, Embrace (have you seen it?) is partly responsible for the new, emboldened me. Thousands of women all over the world are baring all in bold new selfies, but I am more of a keep-the-lady-bits-covered girl. And not just for my sake!

The thing I am burning to address today, is that every single time I do a shoot, no matter what I will be wearing, my brain goes through the same tiring dramas. I wanted to share that with you because I think many of us go through this cycle. The same statements, on repeat. They used to be really loud and sounded compelling, like a ‘truthful’ person, doing you a ‘favour’ by telling you that you are not enough somehow.

The words in my head would be horrible to me about my worth and how pathetic I am. They would tell me that no one wanted to see me. That how I look, who I am, is completely insignificant and irrelevant to everyone. That I was disgusting, gross, obscene. Unlovable.  Laughable.  And exactly who did I think I was?

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One of you. With my lumpy bits and my lopsided tits (!) Realistic. Woman. Roundy and Rumptious. At your service.

What a counterproductive script! I am flipping that script. Slowly but surely, I am standing up to the girl in my head who loves to hate me. She’s shrinking a bit, every day, her voice grows less insistent. She’s learning that she’s not the boss of me anymore.  And oh my goodness, I like it. Why did I let that voice become so powerful?

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When I can make my thoughts shut up, I feel so free!

Have you got a loud, rude voice in your head, too?  Like any bully, that voice is like that because of insecurity.  So if you want to flip the script too, start by saying something reassuring to that inner-child of your soul. Something kind. Offer that anxious creature some evidence to knock down some of that nasty bully bravado. I start with looking at myself square in the mirror and saying “There are millions of other women just like me”.  And then “Every person has beauty”. Those things are facts. Sometimes, I remind myself that thinness is not a virtue, or that fat is not anything to do with my character. My fat is just a fact about me, it is not all of me, nor is it a catastrophic disaster. It’s just fat.

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My dear friend Jo recently told me something her grandmother told her. She said, “Each morning, when you face yourself in the mirror, simply make the best of what you have. Then go out and forget about yourself“. I love that wise advice.
Feeling self conscious? Concentrate on others, listen to them, be present to the people in your life. Because that is the key to true beauty, an outward focus. Connection. Genuine joy is out there, not inside your head, locked up with that aggravating voice of self castigation.

I think Roald Dahl understands beauty best:

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

I want to say thank you to Monique Doy from Dressing Up, for the vision and radness she brings to the NZ online world of inbetweenies and plus-size girls. For asking me to be part of this shoot and seeing something in me I did not see. And to Nykie (camera), Natalya (face) and Alice (hair) for making the best of what I’ve got, so I could step out and forget about myself; being truly present to a beautiful experience. Thank you so much. I also want to thank Farmers, KMart, Beyond the Sea, Thunderpants and K&K Fashions. I loved wearing your swimsuits and hat; in them I am going to feel a million bucks doing the towel-to-surf dash this summer!

If you haven’t already, head on over to Monique’s blog, Dressing Up. If you are into instagram you’ll find her here. You’ll love her as much as me. She’s the kind of girl Roald Dahl was talking about, she always looks lovely, for all the right reasons.

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NB:  All photographs (unless stated) in this post are copyright to Nykie Grove-Eades and Dressing Up NZ. They have been used with permission.

Politics :: Please Explain

Across my facebook feed in the past week, friends and relations have been identifying their partisan colours. I am all at once, surprised and dismayed, buoyed and comforted. It’s confusing.  I love all of these people, how can it be that all of my friends see politics so differently? American politics, like American television, has seeped into our culture, even all the way down here at the bottom of the world.

The rains have come today, if only it would wash all the acrimony away.

We are an unassuming little country, our population is small but we box above our weight in some things. Our home is peaceful …when we’re not being shaken to the core by tectonic trouble; there is a lot we take for granted here. Last night, watching the footage of helicopter evacuations from the earthquake zone, I saw a bloke who’d been helping the people of Kaikoura. He was exhausted. Understating things in true kiwi style,  he just wiped his arm across his forehead and said “might be time for a beer”.  Even in the wake of seismic shifts, we take for granted the basic benefits of our life here. It goes on. We get up. Roads and buildings are repaired.  Bad things happen.

I think we are lucky. It’s easier to stomach disasters when they are visited on us by mother nature than by human, political choices.

Self harm is so much more destructive to the soul.  It affects everyone close to you. America got the razor out. Our hearts are in our mouths as we listen at the door, fearful of what may come. We couldn’t stop you, but we wished so often we could. Like a sibling standing outside, listening to the tears and the cutting and the distress, we rattle the doorknob but your mindset is fixed. You won’t let us in.

Donald Trump was elected president, and our world shifted.  Literally.

“If you are not American, stay out of our politics” said one internet apologist.
“You don’t understand why we vote like we do”. And it is true, we don’t. We are not there. We have only the American media to show us what went on. But ohhhhh… the view from over here is not pretty. I’m not the only one who is shocked by the narcissistic buffoon that has been voted in.  It’s like a bad reality TV show. Like all of the shallow, hideous aspects of American culture have finally overtaken all the loveliness.  It makes me sad for my American friends, and sad for our world.

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I think of all the American Aid in Africa that man intends to de-fund. Of all the environmental protections he intends to cease. Of my friends in the LGBTQI communities, of the people marginalised by his policies. He didn’t even pretend to care about any of those things on the campaign trail. He was clear about it. So how he intends to be a good president for all Americans now, bemuses me. I was talking to a guy recently about the challenges of growing up a woman in the church culture. He looked at me curiously, like I was speaking a foreign language. Shrugged, and dismissed what I said. And it occurred to me, very few men can see beyond their experience of being a male; for the majority of men, their perspective on life is limited to the lens of their privilege.

I can see how Donald Trump doesn’t offend them, his words to them have not been red flags, his behaviour, to them, does not seem appalling, but to many, it is horrifying.  We are not horrified by the ‘image’ of the man, but by his own words. Very public, documented, words.

Dear friends across the world who think Trump in power is a good thing, can you please explain it to me? If you are a caring human being, how can you expect Donald Trump to represent you? If you are a professing Christian, what part of your values finds a home with his rhetoric?  I honestly want to understand.  Down here, the earth still shakes today. And so does my head. I just don’t get it.

Constance Hall and the F Bombs

Being REAL in a world full of curated gorgeousness is so needed.  We are all so desperate for a breath of fresh air!

'A Queen is a woman who just wants to love other women and not do that bitchy thing that so many of us do,' says Constance Hall.
‘A Queen is a woman who just wants to love other women and not do that bitchy thing that so many of us do,’ says Constance Hall.  (photo source abc.net.au)

 

Constance Hall is refreshingly real. She’s the actual ‘Bad Mom’ (have you seen that movie?  I hated it, but I got what they were trying to say… it’s time to let go of the ridiculousness between women that exists in mama-land).  She’s a skate-in-sideways chick. An Australian sensation, mother of 4 and insanely popular mummy blogger. And she has just released a book. It’s about her, about mothering four kids. It’s a no-holds-barred look at relationships and life after babies.

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Today I went to her book release Q & A session hosted by The Women’s Collective and the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. I knew she would be irreverant, I knew there would be some shock-factor stuff, because that is her trade. I knew there would be challenging statements, because she is the Constance Hall of the recent social media cyclone over the ditch (a fellow mummy blogger let rip about Con’s manner of mothering and Con retaliated. It sparked a ‘mum war’ on the internet). I stayed well clear of it because I hate the nastier side of social media. It makes me so sad.  But I was curious about this raw kind of mother. The tell-all kind of mum. It bucks the trend alright, I wanted to see if she was just a sensationalist, or if there was something deeper driving her work.

Me and my fellow Queens this morning, Trudy and Pascale.
Me and my fellow Queens this morning, Trudy and Pascale.  Yep, I am a Big Bird, and no, I am no longer going to stoop to try to be more diminutive than I am!  #tallgirlsproblems

I was fascinated. Con (we’re at nickname status already cos that is how she rolls) blew onto the stage like a kind of mini tornado. Her hair was frizzy in a way I recognise from my own morning mirror, but on top of it she was wearing a crown of flowers and jewels. She’s tiny in stature and massive in presence. You could say she kind of exploded onto the podium like a freak weather bomb; blowing in out of nowhere and taking off the roof.  Within two minutes she had reassured us that she was wearing undies, unlike the other four days she’d been in New Zealand, because she’d be catching a plane later and she needed somewhere to hide her wee. Her humour is as raw as she is and the whole way through her talk, f-bombs exploded like colourful fireworks, punctating her florid discussion. She’s kind of like what would happen if you could cross Frida Kahlo with Reese Witherspoon and Whoopi Goldberg. Kapow!

I loved her. I think everyone in the room did. I loved that she said out loud some of my hidden, inner thoughts. I even loved all the f-bombs, because they made us laugh. I dated a comedian in my younger years, he always said that people laugh at what they relate to, especially when it is rude. And because every human being can relate to toileting, sex and death, regardless of their individual circumstances, most comedy covers these subjects. It’s just funny for us to see our not-talked-about experiences mirrored by others. It makes us feel more normal. Apart from wees and poos, Con’s Q & A covered: marital sexy time, break-ups, behaviour management (of kids and husbands), dealing with a history of abuse, death of children and grandparents, suicide, wine, why it’s best not to fight in front of kids, the age-old working mum vs. stay at home mum debate, the importance of support, multiple birth mothering, dyslexia, The Sisterhood, dealing with judgmental people and the importance of connection.

I can’t wait to read her book; Like a Queen. She’s just adorable. She makes the very hard job of mothering feel so much more achievable. She makes us feel like we’re doing a great job. Like everyone has days when it goes to custard. I think we forget that, in our intensity around getting it right.  We forget to cut ourselves some slack occasionally. We forget that having a loving mother is much more important than any other type of benefit we can achieve for our kids.  That having a loving mother is more than many kids have.

There were tears today from we women in that packed out auditorium. Tears of recognition and relief.  I’ve come a long way since the early days of parenthood and my babies are much older than most of the little ones at the venue today, but the message was as relevant to me as for the new mums there.
Take a deep breath. Do you love your kids? Do they know it? Love wins, every time. And you know what? Extending a bit of that love in your own direction is a brilliant idea too from time to time. Might just stop you from losing your mother-f#$%ing mind!

This afternoon, I’m going to assess the impact of Cyclone Con. I reckon she demolished a few of the ideas in my head that were damaging my peace of mind. I am grateful. Who needs perfectionism anyway? All it has ever done for me is give me reasons to feel like a failure.  Good to see that particular idea hitting the dirt. And what  purpose comparison? See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya. And that ol’ flower, success? It’s moved into a new neighbourhood. Into the love camp. Over there I am already a raging success and that matters more than anything else.  I’m going to make like Queen Con, and take heart that my heart is the most important part of mothering.

Open your windows, let the winds of change blow out some of your cobwebby corners, too. It’s liberating!

If you’re keen, you can buy Like a Queen, here: www.likeaqueen.com.au