I Don't Care if I Look Fat in This Picture: Why I've Stopped 'Untagging' Myself
Photo Credit: Adam Woodhouse
There's a photo of me on Facebook that I am particularly in love with right now. But had it been snapped only two or three years ago, I'd have untagged myself in horror.
In this photograph, the folds of my stomach fat are not only visible, but markedly obvious. I also have three distinctive chins.
But my god, I look rapturously happy.
Like most Facebook users, I have a tendency to use my profile to project the image of my most intelligent, most engaged and most attractive self. In addition to carefully selecting what I choose to share in terms of links and content, this has also involved the stringent curation of photos.
I'll be forever grateful that Facebook only became popular when I was in my late-ish twenties and already well on my path towards body acceptance and unconditional self-love. Still, I would untag certain full-body shots in a nanosecond if I found they made me look more dumpy hausfrau than vintage pin-up model a la Fran Gerard.
This is why I completely understand why Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham expressed public enthusiasm for their recent cover images on Elle and Vogue, respectively. Both women, beautiful in ways that fall outside of the mainstream, have struggled with body image. And although they publicly approved of the photographs, the fact that both of their bodies were omitted troubled me. It felt, to me, like a form of censorship. It sent a message that bodies that look like theirs and mine are so far from the gold standard that they should not be flaunted. We are allowed to adore Mindy and Lena for their humour and grace and intelligence and many successes, but let's not pretend that their average bodies -- that our average bodies -- are worthy of admiration.
I am heavier than both Kaling and Dunham, but I've more than made peace with my body. It's healthy and strong and men you'd admire have admired it. Under this dimpled flesh are the muscular legs and killer glutes I've sculpted since taking up running two years ago. They carry me as far and long as I need to go without ever tiring or seizing up. My clear skin and shiny hair thank me for eating a steady diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, olive oil, lean chicken and fish and for never smoking or doing hard drugs. And while my belly and soft upper arms tell the tale of occasional chocolate indulgences, patio margaritas, late night Hawaiian pizza slices and beach beers, I would not change that about myself, because these things have given me great pleasure and are attached to some of the best memories I own.
And speaking of memories, this new favourite Facebook photo is attached to fond ones. Despite the jelly rolls and multiple chins, my hair and makeup look lovely. I am laughing while holding a glass of champagne. And I am acting as Maid of Honour to a woman I've known since the tenth grade who had just married the love of her life in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. Lumpy though I may look, this is an image worth celebrating. Every image where we are happy is worthy of celebration.
Thirty or forty years from now, I imagine we'll all look back on these old digital photographs of ourselves when we were young women. At a time in our lives when we hated our crazy hair, our crooked teeth, our too-big noses, our imperfect bodies. We will look back at our flawed, younger selves and think, “Holy hell, would you look at me? I was gorgeous!”
And we will regret all of the time we wasted convincing ourselves otherwise.