Don’t tell me I can’t call myself fat.

My actual reaction when someone tells me off

It’s a pet peeve. Whenever I refer to myself as fat in front of people, I immediately get a barrage of well intended admonishments.

You’re not fat, you’re curvy!

No. I carry more fat around my body than I should. Curvy refers to the body shape, not how much extra fat I have hanging around. People can be fat and curvy, fat and not curvy, curvy but not fat. The term curvy doesn’t equate to fat.

But you’re beautiful!

Why thank you! But just like the word curvy, being beautiful doesn’t mean I’m not fat. That extra fat doesn’t magically disappear when someone sees me as beautiful. The fat in my body is a physical certainty, an absolute fact of being. Beauty is more flexible, a preference in the eye of the beholder.

Don’t put yourself down!

Where did I do that? Calling myself fat is no different to commenting on the colour of my hair, my eyes or my height. It’s a noun with no nefarious purpose past what cultural norms pins on it. If you personally think fat is a bad word, maybe examine why you feel that way instead of telling me what I shouldn’t call my own body. That is more about you than me.

You’re being so negative!

How so? Let’s try something. Oh no – the term ‘dry skin’ is now considered terrible, horrible and no good. Imagine telling someone who has flaky skin that they shouldn’t say dry skin but ‘dehydrated’. Let’s see what the response is when you tell them how beautiful they are because of their sensitive skin. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Again, that negativity you ascribe to a word is external to what the word actually means. Fat is just descriptor and without additional negative context surrounding it, it’s silly to assume the person using it is meaning it in a detrimental way.

Does this look like a person who is being negative?

I get it. I understand and appreciate that you’re trying to make sure I don’t put myself down and we’ve all been conditioned to have an immediately adverse reaction to the merest mention of the word fat. I also get that every single one of us is guilty of using self deprecation as method of self harm and most people – especially with the people I (gratefully) surround myself – are sensitive to that. So yeah, I truly do appreciate that trying to remove the word from my vocabulary comes from a good place. In the end though, telling me not to do or say something is still harmful. I’m sure you don’t realise it, because I didn’t for the longest time, but silencing my voice, telling me I shouldn’t use the word I deliberately chose is wrong. It’s unconsciously reinforcing both the word fat as a negative term and that I need to care more about what others think about me than what I think about myself.

Not so shrinking violet over here!

Putting it like that might seem harsh – but it is fair. Yes, words absolutely matter. Yes, we should be more aware of the power of words but equally we should be aware of the power we give to words. When I call myself fat, I’m simply stating a fact, not deliberately putting myself down or looking for validation. Please don’t feel the need to tell me why I’m wrong, and just let it be.

I’m fat. I’m also 5ft 4in, a dyed redhead, gothy, (yes) curvy, music lover, sore all the damn time, friendly, shy, a homebody and sarcastic as fuck. All this and more. It’s ok to call myself all that. I’m ok with it. Please, be ok with it too.

Let’s Chat! | Who is Mama Silverside?

I wanted to begin my conversation on my burlesque life with a walk down memory lane and touching on how and why burlesque is so important to me! More topics will be coming up soon, hope you enjoy!

Cabaresque Charity Events (new event coming soon!)

Mama Silverside

Sig

Burlesque & Stripping… two sides to the same coin?

Anyone that knows me knows I love burlesque. I was an audience member for 7 years, and last April, I made my debut as Mama Silverside. I’m strictly a hobby performer, and have no intention of turning it into a career, but my passion for all things burly is as strong as any career performer. I believe. I know. Yes.

mamafirst

Anyway, recently a few performers and enthusiasts had a great discussion based around a newspaper interview with a lap dancer, where she states there is very little difference between performing burlesque and working in a strip club. It raised opinions from each end of the spectrum, and loads from in between. I gave my opinion and read with interest everyone else’s, but I’ve found that days, even weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. So I thought I’d write about it! Please note this is about female-led burlesque, I’m not negating the other branches, they just aren’t what this discussion is about. Context yo’.

Burlesque is an art form, stripping is for male titillation.

This is a fairly popular opinion, so I thought I’d explore it first. These days, most people see burlesque as socially acceptable entertainment, geared towards the empowerment of women. It focuses on the beauty, the comedic and artistic merits of women, where the ‘strip’ is not more important than the ‘tease’. This can be seen when we talk about the famous performer Gypsy Rose Lee, who managed to whip men into a frenzy when all she removed was a glove! Of course, she revealed a lot more than her hand during her career, but the reason she is remembered as an icon was the artistry involved in her routines.

But this same story can be viewed from the other angle, where Gypsy performed (at least initially) solely for men. Back then, burlesque was for male titillation. She just managed to be memorable enough to break through the old music halls and vaudeville theatres and perform also for mixed crowds who regarded her performances as artistic, if a little crass. These days she is regarded as a pioneer, but then she was simply a stripper, a title she owned up to. Nowadays, burlesque seems to have little to do with stripping, but without burlesque, stripping wouldn’t exist. Strip clubs remain mostly the domain of men, and asking around most men I know would seldom even admit going to a strip club outside of a stag (bachelor) party. Strip clubs as a form of regular entertainment seems tacky, seedy and according to my male friends, embarrassing to admit to. Women I know have went to strip clubs on a lark, as a cool and different activity, but often end up chatting with the ladies dancing there instead of watching them perform!

And what of the performing? When you think of strip clubs, is it pole dancing, stripping, or lap dancing you think of first? If we leave out lap dancing as an obvious act of male titillation, most strippers have a routine they have worked on, with music, costume, make up. If they use a pole, they also need countless hours of practice and exercise. There is even pole dancing competitions and classes where the focus is not on titillation but artistry, form and poise. You must be very fit to look good on a pole!

There will always be strippers who wear a ‘sexy’ outfit or nothing at all and mindlessly grind and dance to a song with no thought other than making money, but I feel lumping all strippers together as that does a disservice to the women who make an effort to inject some personality and art into their routines. Like their spiritual predecessors, they perform primarily for men but insist on setting standards for themselves.

Stripping demeans and objectifies women, burlesque empowers them.

This one actually annoys me more than anything else we discussed. This opinion relies on treating strippers as poor lost souls who have been forced into the profession. I can’t deny that could be true of some strippers, but it certainly can not be the case for all. Some women do it simply for the money, some because it makes use of whatever qualities or talents they possess. Some enjoy being the centre of attention. I would place my last penny that some even do it because they enjoy performing the same way burlesque performers do!

Burlesque as a tool of female empowerment is a relatively new concept. Again, back in the early days of burlesque, the general consensus about burlesque was no different to how a lot of people view strippers today. It almost seems that when burlesque and stripping split, burlesque took the positive aspects and stripping took the negative! When I perform, I do feel fantastic, the audience is there to support you, cheer you on and make you feel like the centre of the universe for 4 minutes. I know that regardless of body shape or size, burlesque enthusiasts champion body confidence and enjoy the variety of performers on show. I know it’s a big part of why I love it so.

With stripping, it’s easy to assume it’s all teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs. Again, it’s easy assumption to make, but to judge that kind of appearance while championing variety seems counter productive. Teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs deserve respect too! The funniest thing to me is it’s been proven time and again men like all sorts of women. The choices strippers make about their appearance is their own, no one else’s. In the end, I don’t see why it has to be stripping = bad to mean burlesque = good. This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. It’s not empowering to any women to put one down in order to raise another up, if that’s the only reason you think that.

So what about the lap dancers?

Stripping and lap dancing are as different as burlesque and stripping. They are related, held together by a common ground, but they are not one and the same. Not all lap dancers perform on stage as strippers, not all strippers are lap dancers. Again, it’s down to assumption. Even so, I don’t see lap dancing as ‘beneath’ anyone. You either enjoy it or you don’t. If you don’t, that doesn’t give you right to bash people who do it or enjoy it.

Opinions are like assholes…

…everyone has one. I respect that other people will have differing opinions on this, and I encourage discussion on it, because it’s the only way to learn. What I can’t abide is the frankly unnecessary hate and judgement that comes with the ’us versus them’ mentality. I’m not asking to like, enjoy or support anything you don’t want to. But when it comes to differing opinions, one doesn’t have to be wrong for the other to be right.

So what’s your take on this subject? Do you prefer burlesque to stripping? Do you think there’s much difference or do you hate when people think they are one and the same? I’ll be writing more on this subject but I’m taking pity on those who’ve made this far! Until then, feel free to sound off!

Sig

Ladies. I want to talk about your underwear.

Ugh. I’m so sick of four boob. With the weather last week being very lovely, the ladies of Glasgow took off a few layers and the land witnessed how many of them wore ill fitting bras. I spent most of the time wanting to lecture women on correct bra sizing and fitting. How is it that so many women just plain don’t know how to find a correct size bra?

Messy Carla wrote a bit about it recently, but I wanted to go into it too, since its something thats frustrated me for so long. I’m a girl of, shall we say, generous sizing, and I didn’t always know how to fit my own bra. I still don’t know why its not compulsory to learn how to size yourself, the same way you need to learn about tampons and shaving your legs. There’s always been that statistic of 75% of women wear the wrong size bra, and for something that makes such a social, personal and sometimes maternal impact on our lives, we really don’t take care of our breasts!

I abide by a few simple rules about my bras, and since I started following them, I’ve seldom had trouble. Of course, whats right for me may not be right for another, but I’ll ask you to at least try them out, especially if you are always complaining about your bra. A bra should be a wonderful help, something to make you feel good and even sexy! There’s nothing better than wearing lingerie under a tatty old tshirt, a little secret only you know 🙂 Beautifully fitted underwear *does* make you feel better, improving your posture and making you comfortable in any situation. Trust me, its a whole different ball game when you can go about your life without worrying about your bra!

So, the rules.

1. Primark sucks. Sorry, its true. You can get some cute looking bras there but it won’t wash well, the underwire WILL poke through sooner rather than later and their sizing is atrocious. When paying for the things that will sit closest to your body, in the most intimate of places, quality counts. Treat your body with a few carefully selected well made pieces, not 39 cheap bras that itch and ride up. Leave the cheap stuff for the outside, know you are a total queen underneath.

2. Look after these bras. Even if you don’t hand-wash them (which is best but lets face it, you won’t always have time/inclination) make sure you have a lingerie bag for machine washing, and use a delicates friendly detergent. Hook the bra clips together before you wash them so they don’t attach themselves to something else or damage anything. Make sure there’s plenty of room in the machine for them to tumble around. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE TUMBLE DRY BRAS. Always air dry. Clear?

https://www.clovia.com/blog/anatomy-of-a-bra/

3. Wearing a bra right now? Do me favour and lift up both straps as high as they’ll go. If there’s more than an inch gap between the straps and your shoulder, you’re wearing it waaay too loose. Use the ring slide to tighten the strap until the pull is only about an inch. It may seem too tight but that’s why you have the extra inch. That sounded much dirtier than it was supposed to. The inch will still let you (and your boobs) move without straps falling down or your boobs flying out.

4. Having just done that, go stand at a mirror (after you’ve read this bit!) check the middle bit joining the cups together, called the gore and see if it sits flat against your body. If it juts out at any angle or doesn’t rest on your skin at all, this bra does not and probably will not fit you. Have a look round back, assuming its a standard back fastener. Even after tightening up the straps, this should not ride up, but instead go straight around and level with the bottom of the front of your bra (this is often where cheap bras fail, especially very thin strapped or thin backed ones). Basically, if this happens its because the back of the bra is not constructed to support the weight of your breasts pushing down the cups. If this is the case, chuck. It is not the bra for you. Donate it/them if you can, maybe there’s a home for them someplace else, but right now its not doing you any favours.

5. Finding a new bra is difficult. In 3 different places I got 3 different sizes, because even though we know dress sizes ranging from shop to shop, bra sizes are meant to be universal. They’re not. And even when you do find a shop you like, the ranges! The possibilities! But, try as I might, I will never be comfortable in or suit a triangle bra. I need full support for these bad boys! I tried what styles were recommended for my size, and found I always stuck with balconette bras. These flatter my shape more than half cup (even fully secure I felt it looked like I was spilling out of them!) or full cup (granny bra alert!). I definetely couldn’t get away with backless bras (no glue could keep these up at a manageable level!), or most plunge bras (the gore is often very flimsy and I need more support). But this part is personal to you, and your size. Try stuff on, bounce around in the dressing room (it’s research!) and trust your body. Have a look at what’s out there. Get fitted at each store so you know what their sizing thinks you are. Ask questions about the construct of the bra. Any decent bra fitter should be happy to answer these questions.

6. Got a bra you’re happy with? Awesome. Lets put it on like a pro. Like the corsets of days gone by (and in my case, last Saturday, but thats another story!) the reason you get at least three sets of ‘eyes’ for your hooks is the bra is supposed to mould and form itself to your shape in time, and you use these to tighten it as it wears in. For a brand new bra you should fasten it at the last one (at this point it’ll still be tight at this size). So, with cups lying with the outside of the bra resting on your stomach, clip the eyes and hooks together. If you usually clip them at the front then spin it round the back, try to clip them at the back as this saves stretching the fabric. Pull your straps, and by extension cups, up into place, pulling them up to check the tightness and adjust if necessary. Double check your back to see if you haven’t twisted the fabric and it is sitting at the correct level. Move your thumb over and under the gore to check it is sitting against your skin. Finally, lean over slightly, hold the top of your cups up and out a little, and jiggle your boobs! Seriously, this fills the cup more naturally and redistributes your breast tissue, so when you let the cups go and stand up straight, don’t be surprised if you suddenly have a cleavage where you didn’t before! True story, after fixing my sister’s bra for her she found herself SCANDALISED I TELL YOU to see she did have a cleavage after all! Heh!

So thats it. My rules. It boils down to, the closer it is to my skin the more expensive it is (a good life lesson I think!), never put up with bad bras, and when the difference of about 20 seconds fixing my bra gives me a days worth of vavavoom, its totally worth it.

Let me know about your experiences/tips/whatever! And if you try out anything I’ve suggested, let me know about that too!

Toodles!

In which I come to the defence of Barbie, of all things!

The HORROR!

Barbie isn’t my favourite toy in the world. I could wax lyrical about the various ways her very image and persona is harmful to growing children and their (hopefully) maturing minds. It’s pretty easy, I’ve heard all about the damaging ways of the evil Mattel all my life.

But wait a minute, and look closer. Children derive pleasure from all sorts of silly toys and none of them are held up to the same level of accountability as Barbie. She is expected to be a realistic role model. A women with aspirations and goals outside pet doctor (never veterinarian, oddly) or home maker. Even the very real and difficult careers of teachers and doctor get the Barbie treatment, sanitised and playful. Like OMG U GUISE. How dare Mattel make something so whimsical and not at all true to life?!

IT’S FUCKING PLASTIC TOY.

The only reason we know Barbie is supposed to be female is those two triangular moulds on the torso. Otherwise, it’s just a doll, a doll I played with as a child for years without ever looking at her and thinking, why don’t I look like that? I didn’t do it with Barbie anymore than I did it with my Teen Mutant Ninja Turtle figure. Why? Because even my 5 year old mind knew the difference between a toy and reality. My Lucy doll is a rag doll, who used to have purple wool hair before my little sister ripped it out. She has a hat stitched onto her head. I never wondered what was wrong with me because I didn’t have a hat stitched onto my head. Again, I knew it was a toy.

Regardless, Barbie has been the blame for pretty much every problem young girls and women have. Who says so? Why, the adults, of course. Putting their own bias and insecurities onto a bit of shaped plastic instead of thinking the way a 5 year old does and realise it’s just a doll. Barbie will always be unable to reach any form of realistic expectations if if Mattel tried because everyone on the planet has a different idea of realistic. For some, it’s a size 22 short women wearing wolf t-shirts and leggings who clean for a living. Others think it’s vintage clothes and a career as a makeup artist. Some think realistic is Jersey Shore. It’s all relative, and all true. Apart from Jersey Shore.

So, Tattoo Barbie. My only real gripe with this new addition to the family is the dog. Stupid idea, stupid name. It’s the only thing that makes the whole shebang seem like Mattel are deliberately trying to piss people off. Regardless, much of the articles I’ve read make little mention of the dog/cactus thing, and focus mainly on the fact that SHOCK!!! Barbie has tattoos!

But none of her incarnations has caused so much fuss as her latest: a rock chick with dyed pink hair, a chest and neck covered in tattoos and a small dog in a cactus suit called Bastardino.

My god, the world is going STRAIGHT to hell. I mean, if this unrealistically proportioned doll now has artwork ON HER NECK it means we are encouraging the young ‘uns to go out and get riddled with STDs! Seriously, that was a thing. Sack the notion of how tiny her waist is for now, even though we’ve been bitching about it for 50 years – she has PINK hair! The horror!

This is a fucking joke. Quick, what’s the most popular TV show right now? If you said Glee, you’re saying all sorts of things about your credibility as a grown up, and I love you for it. Season 3 opener, Quinn went bad. Pink hair and a tattoo. It was played for laughs, and pretty much everyone got it. It wasn’t a social commentary or a valid lifestyle choice for the former cheerleader and she very quickly reverted back to her own look. That was it. It wasn’t telling young kids to get a tattoo of Ryan Seacrest anymore than saying smoking is cool (which, by the way was commented on very little!). So why, when you look at them together, a plastic toy and a real person (albeit, playing a character) – does the plastic toy get the dubious honour of leading tomorrow’s adults? Why should Barbie have to answer for the influence it may or may not have on young children?

Some have said it appeals to children’s natural desire to appear more grown up. Again, OMG U GUISE! Like a kiddie kitchen, a baby (that poops like real!) and all the other toys that affect a grown up (read, homemaker) lifestyle doesn’t appeal to kids either. But that’s ok, isn’t it? Playing house? Wearing an apron. Seriously, wanting to have pink hair is waaay more dangerous than thinking you know how to use an iron so try it with the real one. Just me?

This doll is more covered up than I’ve ever seen Barbie. So what if the style isn’t my personal taste, I still think she looks cute and would have less of a problem seeing my 9 year old niece try to replicate the look than Barbie’s other outfits. In fact said 9 year old niece, my Cookie, has insisted on her own choices of clothes since she could walk and enjoys a greater sense of self than I did at that age due to the careful encouragement and nurturing of her mother. Her style? Leggings, a tutu and a t-shirt feature frequently, a get up not entirely different to the one Inkd!Barbie sports. And Cookie ROCKS the shit out of it. Age appropriate and fun.

I have 3 tattoos. All of them have meanings special to me. I will be getting more. I’m 27. Many of my peers have beautiful ink across their bodies. Many of them even have children. The shocking thing is, they raise them well! Who’d have thunk it? And here’s me thing having symbols and lettering scrawled onto your body killed off the good parent gene. The fact of the matter is, having a tattoo is not the taboo it once was. When we get old and our tattoos wrinkle, it won’t look stupid because the majority of the population, for good or bad, has at least one. Even that shining figure of elegance and sophistication, Dita Von Teese, has a tattoo (10 internet points if you know what it is!). Maybe using a burlesque performer isn’t the best example, but I like to refer to her as often as possible! Today’s kids will grow and not think anything of the fact some people have decorated their bodies, and that’s a good thing. There’s so much you can judge a person on, the colour or colours of someone else’s skin shouldn’t be one of them.

In essence, I say the same thing I say every time adults get their panties in a twist over something like this. Why don’t YOU look at it from another angle? Why doesn’t someone else have to change to fit in with your views? Is there the slightest chance you might actually be wrong? Is this an opportunity to learn and expand your world view?

If a 5 year old can look at a doll and see a doll, so should we. If that 5 year old starts asking questions about why Barbie looks the way she does then you can talk to them about it. Start a dialogue. Or, simply don’t buy them. You have control over the content of your children’s life. Take responsibility for it.

I’ll end this by reminding you Mattel intended this to be an “Adult Collector’s Item”. If you choose to let your child play with it anyway, more power to you. Because incase I haven’t mentioned it enough – IT IS NOT REAL. IT IS A DOLL.

Next up, why parents are angry that the dinosaur toys they gave their children are too realistic after a small boy was eaten by one.

The Art of Me part 2

A lot of what I write about comes from a desire to understand myself better. Without blaming my past for my present, there’s still a fair amount of “dealing with” that I need to go through in order to understand why certain things are just that much more difficult for me. Every time I do have a “breakthrough”, even though rationally I know it’s not the magical cure to my issues, I still feel disheartened when I realise I have not changed too drastically.

I was reading Cracked recently(so named, I believe, for the addictive tabbing I do!) and this quote really stood out to me.

Simply put, psychology is not a game of Jenga, wherein one crucial block can bring down the entire tower of mental illness. No one factor made the person snap, and shoving one thing back into place won’t make them whole. If it did, this mental illness stuff would be easy.

In the real world people with severe personality disorders are about as predictable as the weather, and so far the fact that we all know what causes lightning hasn’t helped us figure out when and where it’s going to strike with any kind of certainty.

What it made me realise is that I expect too much from my ability to overcome issues. I don’t take great joy of the simple fact I have had progression, a step away from letting those issues control my life. I just focus on the fact it hasn’t cured me.

The main thing I’ve been thinking about is learning the idea of me isn’t ever going to be me. I am a constantly changing entity, and the Nicki of last year isn’t me now, just as the Nicki I will be in 5 years isn’t me now. Hell, even writing this will change me into a new version of Nicki. I need to stop trying to change myself and let myself grow organically. When I get to the point where I truly understand why I do what I do, I won’t stop changing. I can’t. I will always evolve and grow and change. I need to stop idealising who I think I should be, and remember to take each day as it comes. I’m not always a sad bunny, so I have to slow down and enjoy the person I am right now, instead of just paying attention when I’m in a cream puff.

Today, Nicki is 27, chubbier than she wants to be, slightly sweaty (it’s too warm!) and sitting in a messy flat. She’s not unhappy. She’s in love. She’s about to go tidy up said messy flat, and later will be going to see Captain America with a few friends (she’s very excited.)

I wonder who I’ll be tomorrow.

The Art of Me

This might be the understatement of the century, but I love makeup. I know, I know – wild confession! There’s a few different reasons why, of course – but let’s face it, they’re not exactly ground breaking or exclusive.

Makeup is my comfort food, I apply it like armour when I’m feeling vulnerable, I use it to hide my less than perfect mood, I take joy in feeling amazing in it. I enjoy the ritual I have of being so particular, cleaning my brushes, sweeping on some liner, and watching as I transform myself into a different side of me. I bestow care and attention on myself – and for a little while, it’s all about me. Exaggerating my lips, drawing on a pout, or even just shadowing in my eyebrows so they photograph better when I know I’ll be out on the town.

“Pretty is something you’re born with. But beautiful, that’s an equal opportunity adjective.”

-Anonymous

I’ve already wrote about how I knew I wasn’t pretty. But to me, this was a good thing. I knew I could care for myself and feel pride in knowing I looked after myself in my own way. I think, all things considered, it gave me confidence, knowing I could practice beauty, not rely on prettiness. Some of my idols are their own created beauty. Mae West, Dita Von Teese, Marilyn Monroe.

“The makeup is simply an extension of the personality and colors, clothing, makeup all express something.”

-Gene Simmons

These women are larger than life. Their painted face, the control, the poise. Even faked, the image they leave is hard to forget. But make up didn’t make them who they were, or who they became. It was the cliff notes version, one look and you knew what they were about. Marilyn, a next door girl become sex goddess. Dita is controlled, powerful, and just a little naughty. Mae, well she just didn’t get a fuck, she’d prefer you take her, but see ya if you left. They commanded, and got, respect. It isn’t the make up on their face that made these women iconic, but it makes looking up to them easy on the eye!

“How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.”

Oscar Wilde

Every person in the world is entitled to feel amazing. But no one deserves that attention or respect if they won’t even give it to themselves. Everyone has their own way of stamping their identify on the world, even if they don’t know it yet. Mine’s is make up, and my red hair. I may not always feel the most gorgeous, the most talented, the most anything – but I know I’ve done something I love to do, and that makes me, me. And because of make up, I decide to be a different me every day.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

-Miss Piggy

Thank god I’m (not?) pretty?

I don’t know when I really realised I wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t anything my mum said, nothing my family did, to make me feel, well, less than pretty. Even though I have many, many, brothers and sisters (thank you biological dad!), I grew up with my two younger sisters, L and JL. L grew up blonde, blue eyes, tan and the one what all my gorgeous little cousins “took after”. JL was the complete opposite, quite pale and and very dark features, a million lashes framed her deep brown eyes. Even as the eldest, I was somewhere in between. My hair wasn’t dark enough to be really brown, neither light enough to be considered blonde. I called it my dirty water hair, because that’s what it reminded me of. Even my eyes were a mix of green and blue. Nothing spectacular.Growing up seeing people fawn over L’s beautiful golden hair or JL’s doll-like features didn’t bother me, because I did it too. I didn’t stop to realise people didn’t really fawn over how I looked.

Maybe it was that old catch-all, school. In secondary school, I seen my peers in the toilets trying to straighten their hair with the hand dryers, decide what kind of earring went with the school tie. The popular girls, no matter what their natural hair colour, would have white blonde highlights in their hair, worn like a badge of honour. Perfectly cut in the space just beyond their shoulder blades.When Britney’s “Baby One More Time” video came out – those girls wore the knee high socks, tiny skirts, knotted up oversized cardigans, yada yada. I remember looking at then with a feeling not unlike envy, and thinking, “why can’t I look like that?”.

And what did I look like during those years? From 12-14, my look was tied back hair (barely combed), black trousers, whatever colour trainers I found a pair of first, a school blouse and my loosely put together tie. No make up. Yup, I was a total tomboy. When I wasn’t in school I was out on my bike, hanging with friends – not indoors trying to tame my hair or bleach it to within an inch of its life. I wasn’t considering how what I wore attracted the boys, I was too busy giving them Chinese Burns!

Fourth Year – two months after I turned 15. During that summer, I started changing – just a bit. I realised I liked to take time making myself feel good, if not pretty. For me, it took some effort. I just wasn’t naturally pretty, and I realised that information didn’t bother me one iota. I re-entered school that year with a foot firmly in each camp – a well dressed tomboy. Just because I didn’t wear make up at school didn’t mean I didn’t experiment with my mum’s make up. I had done since I was little, and it was time to put what I learned into practice. On that day, I showed up, wearing classic black court shoes, a pale coloured pair of tights, a black pencil skirt and a fitted cardigan over a blouse with a properly knotted up tie. My make up consisted of clear brow gel and lashes of black mascara, and a small flick of eye liner. Some of  my mum’s light rose coloured lipstick completed the look. My hair was brushed back, not straightened, in a half up, half down style. I was definitely channeling some vintage style, although I’d have a way to go!

Why do I remember this so vividly, 10 years on? I remember because of the looks I got. Even the teachers had difficulty realising who I was. My friends loved it, and the popular girls snorted and looked away. Thing was, I was already friends with the boys they liked, and now I looked “passable”. I won’t go into the things they said, what interests me now is why they said what they did. I still don’t, to this day, understand it.

Remember, I still didn’t consider myself “pretty”. Not like them. For all the time they must have spent to look the way they did, to me, it still seemed they had the one thing I didn’t – they were pretty anyway. Take away my new look and I’d be that tomboy again, but they’d still look lovely. My male friends still farted in front of me, none of them hadn’t come to the startling realisation that they really liked me. More to the point, neither did I. There was no She’s All That moment. They were still just my friends.

Since then, I’ve struggled with the thought that my looking after myself means something more than it is. I like doing it, and spending some time in the morning making sure I’ll go through the day feeling good about myself is the reason I do it. There’s no ulterior motive. I might not feel pretty, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate myself. I’ve discovered something I might not have had I felt pretty enough to not need to bother.

I’ve went through the tomboy stage, the classic goth stage, the neon bright industrial, the vintage, the Bollywood. So much joy found in the different, the strange, the comfort of experimenting. I’ve not been lazy in discovering new things, and I love each and every thing. I’m no jeans and t-shirt girl. I can’t wear something I know is popular, because I hate the idea of looking like just another person. In my quest, I’ve found talents in myself, creativity, a different perspective. I’ve found others like me, to bounce ideas off of. I love that even though I love vintage most of all, I can take different aspects of other styles and make it work. I can’t imagine not living this life.

And all because I don’t consider myself pretty.

Not such a hardship after all, is it?