Summer. Grey clouds making way for clear blue skies. The soft, telltale hum of an ice cream van driving down the road. Hands that are constantly sticky, hot sands burning the bottoms of your feet as you run into silky waters. For some, the long awaited day of results. For others, an opportunity to finally breathe. For most, a time of relaxation and bliss.
However, for a select few, summer is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Summer is a time of fear. The salty sea is riddled with scantily clad girls while tanned, slim bodies cover the sands. There are no baggy jumpers – shorts, crop tops and bralettes replace the acceptable, comfortable and safe uniform that a sufferer may wear. Missguided’s slogan reads: “The Official Babe Uniform”. They boast size 6 models flaunting high-waisted swimwear, tiny hotpants and barely there skirts. My ‘go to” summer outfit is not one of these options. Before I started suffering from an eating disorder, I always wanted to wear the ‘Babe uniform’, however, being the chubby kid, it was increasingly difficult. As I tried on a particularly small pair of denim hotpants, it dawned on me; Society would not allow me to wear such clothes. These shorts were meant for the slim, for the beauties that I saw in the adverts. They definitely weren’t meant for the whale that stared back at me. After I stopped eating and started visiting the toilet after every meal, I was so proud of my body. I had worked hard for it; so much blood, sweat, tears and vomit had gone into making it what it was: an uncomfortable, unnatural size 8. I say ‘unnatural’ because my skeleton is not made to be a size 8. At a healthy weight, I am destined to be a size 12. However, at the time, I simply couldn’t accept my destiny, my skeleton. I wasn’t happy with the way G-d made me. So I decided to change it. A year after the denim hot pants scene, I was sure that the ‘Babe Uniform’ was waiting; and I was ready for it. As I tried on a skimpy size 6 bikini, I realised that it was baggy. Baggy! A surge of relief, gratitude, pride and fear ran through me. I was a SIZE 6! I was a ‘babe’. Only, I wasn’t. I was just a very sick little girl. I was so intent on showing off my body, flaunting my easily visible ribs and taut stomach. I joined the tanned bodies on the beach. However, as I pulled my tight denim shorts over my thighs after a swim in the sea, I realised that I was entirely uncomfortable. My legs were rubbing against the material, my bikini totally soaking them. Apart from the physical discomfort, I felt like a prize pig being sold to the highest bidder. My entire bum was on show, and while I initially enjoyed the attention, the novelty soon wore off. Why are innocent young girls feeling pressured to look like 20-year-old women? I see the adverts for Missguided, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, and they all present the same thing. The ‘Babe Uniform’. Then girls, aged 12-18, run to purchase the newest crochet bikini, adorned with a plunging neckline and stringy bottoms. Girls who haven’t even hit puberty, pressured to look like Kylie Jenner, who Instagrams herself in a sheer bra and knickers. She’s twenty years old. Girls of 12, sauntering along in their padded bras, their ‘cleavage’ pressed up against their crop tops, thanks to a religiously followed youtube tutorial labelled: ‘How to get boobs’. What I want to know is; why can’t kids just be kids? ‘A new age’ seemed nice, but as the adults were playing with their nice new iPhones, Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram formed. Technology surged along, and while the kids caught on, the older generation have no idea as to what goes on behind those shiny screens. So, back to my original argument. Summer is now upon us. In fact, it’s nearly over. And although I’m in recovery, I have still found summer painful. Feeling incredibly fat as I wear my flowery dress while my 11-year-old sister models my denim hot pants from the summer before. Seeing young girls soak up the sun as my stomach flips just watching them feel so comfortable. Slowly taking off my dress to reveal the bikini underneath, wondering if the yummy mummies can see my rolls of fat as they tan with impeccably taut skin, fake boobs brimming over their double D cups. How is it that I am bigger than them when they’ve had three children? Now that the end of summer is approaching, I think that I finally understand. It’s because I’m happy. These people spend all of their time worrying about their appearance. I wasted two years. No more. I will not wear another pair of uncomfortable shorts, another crop top, when all they do is make me feel like a stranger in my own skin. Make me feel a shaking discomfort so huge that it almost claims my entire holiday.
Last year, I wore the ‘Babe Uniform’ because I could.
This year, I refuse to wear them. Because I can.