I have recently joined Instagram. So far, I’m enjoying it. I love taking pictures and I love seeing my friends’ pictures.I am not, currently, following anyone who has a ridiculously perfect Instagram life. Like one of the Kardatrashy girls or other people who pimp their pictures to try and make their lives seems perfect. A perfect that simply doesn’t exist and just makes the rest of us feel inadequate and failing at, well, everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a filter as much as the next 40-something mum, but, what I don’t like is the pretence.
I change the lighting on some of my pics sometimes to brighten them, or to make my kids look clearer. I change the filter on ones of me to try and hide the signs of skin damage from using Hawaiian Tropic (with zero UVA/UVB protection) in my teens. But, I don’t Photoshop my arse to make it bigger (heaven forbid) or take a few centimetres off my thighs (sighs wistfully).
It is a worry, having girls that will grow up with this as their norm. Screens filled with seemingly perfect girls, all competing with each other to prove their success, but never on a fair or even playing field. Instead they compete using smoke and mirrors. Camera tricks and fakery. How are they going to know what’s real in a world where real is not celebrated?
I was driving in the car with Martha a few weeks ago. It went like this:
“Your legs go like mine, Mummy.”
“What do you mean?”
“The tops of your legs spread out when you sit down.”
“Yes, darling. That’s what happens to everyone when they sit down.”
“But my legs are big like yours.”
“Darling,” I tried to not be offended. “It’s perfectly normal. It’s because I’m sitting down, as are you. And, I don’t think my legs are particularly large, thank you. And yours are certainly a pair of the skinniest legs I’ve ever seen. So shush your face.”
Then whilst on holiday and feeling quite confident in my bikini, given my months of running and dropping the carbs, this happened:
“I’ve got legs like you, Mummy,” she declared as she twirled in front of the mirror.
Here we go again! “What are you going on about, darling? Sweet cherub of mine?”
“Your legs. They’re big at the back. They go out,” and with this she gestured to the back of her own thighs and showed me an imaginary line where my thighs spread out to. It looked like she’d just included half of the medium-sized room we were standing in. “Mine are the same, look!” And, she stood in front of the mirror and turned around slowly so she, and I, could see her beautiful legs.
“I don’t see what you’re looking at, darling. You have gorgeous, slim, shapely legs.”
“Are they big because I play tennis and do sport?”
“They’re not big.”
“Are yours big because you run?”
“Mine aren’t big!”
“I wish mine looked like A’s and B’s (two girls from tennis) legs.”
“Erm…. they do. You all look just the same in your little tennis skirts. You all have beautiful slim legs.”
“But, mine spread out when I sit down.”
“No, they don’t. Not at all. Not even the tiniest bit. Your legs are lovely. They’re not even slightly big!”
“I think they are.”
“Well, you’re wrong.”
And, so it went on.
My daughter is beautiful. I know I’m biased. I’m allowed to be. But, even if I wasn’t, I would look at her and think she was a sweet looking thing. She’s also perfectly formed. She runs, she plays tennis, she swims, she roller-skates. She’s healthy and slim. Skinny almost.
So, where in the actual f**k has she got this notion that she is not good enough? Not skinny enough? Too shapely?
I am raging about it. Honestly, it boils my blood.
Because I know how it feels to be insecure as a pre-teen and a teenager. That’s tough enough. I don’t know what it is like to be a normal, insecure pre-teen (or teen) and have the pressures our kids now face.
– Because if my daughter – who has nothing to worry about and has a supportive family to help guide her back into reality when she is in danger of overthinking all this shit – thinks like this, then what happens to the girl who doesn’t have a supportive family who gives a damn?
– Because we seem to have lost a sense of reality and priority. I mean, COME ON! One hundred years ago we were fighting for our right to vote. Women died for the cause. Strong women who knew the world needed to change, gave their lives for the greater good.
– Because life is difficult and tragic enough without overthinking the eyebrow thing.
What happened girls?
When did pouting into a public toilet mirror become an aspiration?
When did contouring become a thing that girls, who are not horror-film make-up artists know how to do?
Where are all the girls that want to change the world?
They are still amongst us, I know they are. I see them in my kids’ primary school every day. Gorgeous, strong, opinionated girls who want to be Olympic athletes, adventurer’s, vets, scientists, teachers, doctors, nurses, politicians. But, I worry that in the next few years, my daughter’s voice, along with those of her peers, will be drowned out by shallow nonsense, like lips, tits, arses and f**king eyebrows!
I think us ladies need to stand up now and stop all this nonsense. Those of us who can see through the bullshit need to shout about how utterly wrong and abhorrent all this is.
I think it’s time for a revolution.
Let’s start with the eyebrow thing. I mean…. what the actual f**k? Girls are drawing thick, ridiculous eyebrows on their faces and going out of the house looking like clowns. And, what do the rest of us do? Nothing. We let them do it! We should be pulling our friends, daughters, nieces and goddaughters to one side and saying, “Now then, the eyebrows. Can I have a word? I am saying this because I love you. Okay? I love you to the bloody moon and back, but you really do look ridiculous. It’s the eyebrows. Please. Just stop it.”
We need to teach our girls that beauty is not achieved through fake eyebrows or slutty poses on Instagram.
Beauty is achieved through confidence. A real smile that lights up a face and crinkles up the corners of your eyes.
Beauty is in a laugh that hurts your tummy and makes your cheek bones ache.
Beauty is not found in the reflection of a posed pout into a public toilet mirror.
Beauty is wearing your favourite jeans, piling your hair in a bobble and dancing to your favourite song with your best friend.
Beauty is the glow of your skin when you’ve run for the bus. It’s the sparkle in your eyes when you suddenly get the joke. It’s the few inches you grow when you win a prize at school or your best friend tells you why they love you.
Beauty is so much more than f**king eyebrows.
I remember heading off to sixth form once with a dash of a a light pink lipstick on. I was 17. My mother’s response?
“Get back up those stairs and get that muck off your face!”
Imagine if I’d caked my face in thick foundation and drawn on dark eyebrows too?
I can. We’d still be laughing about it now, if we could.
If she could.
This blog is about my mother. My mother made me the girl and the woman I am. Her strength and her insecurities live within me. I hope my daughters will get through the next few years, because of the mother I am. Because of my mother. Because of my strengths and because of what I have learned about my own insecurities.
I am pretty sure they will. I am confident they will.
I will make sure they will.
But, if they ever appear with eyebrows that, no matter how beautifully shaped, are heavily coloured in, or with enough make up to scare Marilyn Manson, I will send them back upstairs with a shrill and very firm:
“Get back upstairs, my darling and get that muck off your face.”
The revolution starts now!