Emergence of the Inner Body Fascist

Yesterday I tried two approaches in the What (Not) to Wear experiment. We had the in-laws round for coffee (no bra, no softie, – no discernible discomfort on their part or mine. Good old in-laws). Then later we went to a barbecue with good friends – me in my bra and softie. Again, no discernible reaction from anybody – but I was uncomfortable. The pressure of the bra straps was sore after a few hours. Also, I was hoping that the fairly discreet top I was wearing would sit better – it had looked a bit off-centre when I was swinging free underneath – but it didn’t really. The softie did not fit too well on my chest because of temporary swelling that wasn’t present in the immediate post-op period. As a consequence, it felt bigger than my boob, and I wasn’t sure I had quite positioned it right. The fabric of my top still seemed a bit skewed to me, though I doubt anybody else noticed.

But, oh dear, the nasty things that emerge from within when I think ahead. My next clinic appointment to get histology results looms (Tuesday 3rd). This in itself has sent me down a bit emotionally: I think I associate the clinic with Bad Things. Unsurprising, since the two visits I have made there have been fairly horrid. I am not at this point really considering the worst news I might come home with (cancer in the lymph nodes, and therefore a recommendation of further surgery, radio, chemo –); I am bothered enough about the likely offer of hormone treatment. Firstly, how will They get it right, since I am neither clearly pre- or post -menopausal? Secondly, will they be able to offer me Tamoxifen, as I had that deep vein thrombosis in pregnancy? Does this mean I might have to settle for a second-best option? And thirdly, how bad are the side effects going to be?

And this is where my inner body fascism shows. I am certainly bothered about the possibility of nausea, body thermostat going haywire, etc. etc; but what I am most bothered about is the thought of getting FAT. Although I don’t regard any of my overweight friends as ill-disciplined, badly educated slobs who don’t know how to look after themselves, what emerges is that this is my view of fat people in general. And I might beat myself up with this stick if it happens to me. Just now, the idea of getting fat is more troubling than the fact that I have lost a breast; maybe since the latter might evoke sympathy and understanding, whereas the former doesn’t. At least not from myself.

I like being slight and on the small side – it is perhaps my main virtue (if that’s what it is), given that I am not beautiful in any classic sense. (And if you do comment on this post, please don’t give me the spiel about “inner beauty”, because I know all that). I am delighted that I am currently actually a bit thinner than daughter number two (who, like her older sister, looks terrific to me). I also don’t want to get over-preoccupied with food the way I did in my brief overweight period in my student years. The anxious binge/starve cycle is no fun at all. Good food is one of life’s chief pleasures.

Of course lots of women put on weight in their fifties,and I might have struggled with weight issues anyway, without all this cancer rubbish. But I will so resent being catapulted into it for my own good.

So much for my militancy about the shape of women’s bodies. Sorry, sisters. 5:2 diet, here we come —



  1. Dear fellow body fascist,

    I share your fear of turning into Fatwoman. I’ve already had to compromise due to the Heathrow Injection, compelling me up a size, and from being Someone Who Lives on Cocktails, Chocolate and Ice Cream and spurns exercise, I have had to make friends with Sensible Lifestyle choices (no drinking on school nights, working out once in a while, and Fast Days. Yes, I have learned what calories are, and how many I’m allowed on Fast Days, and how to disguise them into something tasty despite their paucity. This lies in your future, too, if you stumble down this route – beware!

    I think it has little to do with notions of beauty, classical or otherwise, and more to do with occupying space. How clothes fit, and feel. How sitting on a favourite seat feels different as your shape changes. How familiar shapes become alien, and your body becomes strange. Ageing is bad enough – that incremental realisation that your best 100m time is forever in your past, and that twisting yourself not a pretzel in yoga class comes with twinges of discomfort, that the greying of your hair is only reversible with the help of chemicals, and that pressure patterns persist on your skin far longer than you’d consider decent after you’ve sat on an uneven surface. Ageing, after all, happens to us. But fat – oh no, fat is within our means to control! Getting older is life. Getting fatter is choice! And when things beyond our control happen to us, we cling to those things we can control, to reassure ourselves with our agency.

    Fat might be a feminist issue, but feeling at peace with your body should be anybody’s to choose. And if it comes down to it that you do find your clothes shrinking or your scale groaning, you are welcome to low-cal recipes, hoodia, crosstrainer / stairmaster access, etc. Misery loves company, after all.

  2. Oh but you are very beautiful Elizabeth – always have been inner and outer.  Methinks beyond the blog the release of expression beyond bc might lead to the book you were always going to write whether fiction or whatever (it’s in you and most likely Barry too though he will no doubt be a much-published educ-psychologist already) – I always liked words and you and Barry have a very clever and succinct way of encapsulating your annual news at Christmas yet sending stuff up in a humorous way (beyond the Xmas mega-essays!)  – and as you have said,  strategic comments, and in some circumstances the weaving of humour through words, can defuse a situation that has got just that little bit too serious – no reference to your current circs where seriousness has its place, but just that sometimes when seriousness tips over the edge in pious circles there is that need to cleverly defuse. Nuff blogging from me for now – Caroline xox


  3. Thank you. B too thinks there might be a book – but so many women write about their bc experience that would I’m doing is not at all original, though it may be therapeutic. I would have to find a USP — (and yes, B is already published many times over!)

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