There was no such thing when I was a teen in the 80s; there was the heavenly Maria Whittaker on Page 3 and Sabrina in the Boys Boys Boys video
As Lizzo paraded gloriously with her flute at Glastonbury last month, a paean to body positivity, a poster girl for billions of proud, perfectly-imperfect young women worldwide, I finally accepted that, when it comes to radical self-acceptance, I have missed the boat.
God speed you, Lizzo, majestic in a purple sequined bodysuit which fought to conceal her camel toe. As for me, despite being primed for many decades to step into summer with a capsule wardrobe of chic garments in du jour shades, my 2019 wardrobe divides into two distinct piles: things I can kind of wear (with some caveats) and things I am too fat to wear. The second pile is much more voluminous and has at least a dozen subcategories, including Gorgeous but literally unzippable as bought during a heartbreak when I was surviving largely on Celine Dion and two fingers of KitKat per day. Or Spaghetti straps: with my knockers? What was I thinking? And, of course, a pile of bright statement maxi dresses that I will don for 10 minutes pre-pub beer garden, before deciding yet again that, with my hips, they make me resemble Ermintrude from The Magic Roundabout.
I am not terrifically big right now; and as a restaurant critic that is as good as it gets, and down to tedious exercise and saying no to a lot of pommes dauphinoise. In the showbiz scale I am, lets say, half a Lizzo or maybe one and a half Love Island contestants. Still, body positivity is, I feel, a young womans game; built on the relatively fresh notions of self-worth, clapping back, cancel culture and an instinctive feeling that any poster bearing a pneumatic babe that instructs you to be beach body ready is more or less inviting a group of incandescent size 18+ lasses to show up in neon bandage dresses, shaking aerosol cans.
Being positive about the fact that you have a working human body at all, one that allows you to breathe, move, laugh, shag and enjoy the sun on your face, is a lovely message, a life-enhancing mantra, but I think it has its work cut out with all Generation X-and-above women. People who were, say, held captive in living rooms during the 80s while their family enjoyed numerous televised Miss World beauty pageants. The measurements 36-24-36 still chime in my brain every time I set foot in a Marks & Spencer underwear department. These were the nifty numbers of perfect creatures read out as each goddess entered the stage. A 36-inch neat but voluptuous bust. A tiny 24in waist. Plus womanly, but by God not too womanly, 36in hips. Am I the only woman today who still sneaks her pants to the cashier like a dirty secret, almost scared that bequiffed Miss World founder Eric Morley might appear with a microphone?
There was no summer body positivity when I was a teen in the 80s; there was the heavenly Maria Whittaker on Page 3 and gorgeous strumpet Sabrina in the Boys Boys Boys video. I cannot speak for the pains of being too thin as it has never happened to me, nor can I speak for men, although Im sure Hasselhoff on Baywatch or Arnie pumping iron didnt help masculine self-worth. We lived our formative years through a time where the F word was perfectly acceptable: hes a fat git, shes run to fat, theyre as fat as butter. I recall no positive labels for bigger. And back then, on the beach, any woman over a size 12, plus of course anyone flat-chested, knobbly-kneed, stretchmarked, dimply or in any other way defected, would walk, nay run, that horrific final 15 metres from sun lounger to the sea at a breakneck pace.
Now along comes the body positivity movement, saying let it all hang out. Let your boobs nestle under your armpits, Lycra-clad that paunch. Let your pubes grow from your belly button to behind your knees like knotweed if it pleases thee! Slip on a summer frock and step out into sunshine, exactly as you are: youre good to go! Well, this is a lovely idea, but its just too late for me. Thank you, younger sisters, future leaders and Generation Z activists. Thank you for the fact that the high street now sells jeans for bigger bums and each ad break on primetime ITV has women with plentiful hips dancing like no ones watching. Thank you for how my almost-teen niece, asked to describe someone, will never say the F word, daintily pirouetting around the topic with sensitive words, none of which sounds anything like fat-arsed cow, which felt like mild affection during a northern 1980s school day.
And above all, thank you, Lizzo. Heard you say, Im not the baddest, bitch, you lie, she sang in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers, on stage, on TV, across the globe on YouTube. She wore the exact type of sequins I bought as a Christmas frock one year, that hung in my wardrobe for five seasons and was then given to a charity shop because, deep in my heart, I knew it made me look a bit wide-hipped. Lizzo wore it, but stripped from the waist down, parping on a jazz flute. Play on, player: I love you, but youll need to do this show without me.
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