Living In

I was brought up in a culture and a house where looking in the mirror, liking your self was not okay. It was vanity. It was too close to sinning. Any child’s desire is to be loved, accepted and so I learnt to blend into the background. At the same time my family would remark on my weight seven or eight, and the concept of fat came from their words. So I didn’t live in my body, I looked at my body through their words, their eyes. I was called a highland cow, I was jeered. It wasn’t all bleak, summers free in Ireland, I forgot about the adult world and was building straw bail houses in fields, talking to contemplative cows and feral cats with kittens in the shed.

I hit puberty early with ignorance and shame. Covered up. Hid. Rolled down my shoulders, hunched my breasts. My grandmother poked me between the shoulder blades. Slouching makes you fat. Used toilet roll to block the blood from leaking. It wedged like a brick in my pants. The male gaze in our family wasn’t safe. Sexual awakening was accompanied with sexual assault. All of this meant loving my body wasn’t even a formed thought for me, let alone a feeling or simply just being in the world.

Living in my body meant living with shame, guilt and fear. Lumpen heavy dragged down. A source of shame to my family. Not pretty, sylph-like and adored but shy and bookish. I felt a quiet defiance though. Then they called me a bull. It’s your star sign they said. More names. I said nothing. My mind was the way out.

I was happy being an outsider – not with the popular crowd who tottered up town on a Friday night to feel grown up dating older men. I was one of the lads, still hiding my body, and I learnt boy language. Safer than trying to be a girl. I was the one they practised on till they moved onto the real thing. I didn’t mind. My body wasn’t there. I wasn’t really there, I observed. I couldn’t feel anything – but then I had stopped living in years ago. Clitoris? Orgasms? Masturbation? No idea. Our sex education in a catholic school was a creaky video of a woman giving birth. We watched it in the school library amidst posters of grey looming tombstones engraved with AIDS KILLS, and embarrassed passers by. More shame.

Curious at 17, I went to the public library and hired the proper sex education video to watch in one of their study booths – I couldn’t take it home. Mid throws of ‘the sex scene’ with mild murmurs from the woman I actually felt tingles, there was a knock at the door my poor studious neighbour -turn it down I’m trying to work. Oh the burning redness on my face.

I left home for polytechnic and never moved back. I had relationships. Had sex. Felt little. The first time I did a friend showed me where my clitoris was and an orgasm (courtesy of his ex-girlfriend—thank you Alison!). The joy. I struggled to share it with the boys I had relationships with all the same. I was still ashamed of my body.

Twenty years on, interspersed with 10 years of two relationships littered with sexual, physical and emotional abuse and I left my body for much longer, I am here. Living in. I have learnt that loving my self is the only place to start with love. How can I ask any one to love me or expect to be able to love them fully if I don’t love me? If I don’t love my heavy loose breasts, my scars, my crinkles, my smile, my belly that gives me my laugh and furrowed brow? Our culture teaches us an arrogance, some cringe factor about these sentences even, let alone the actuality of it. Poetry, writing, music and art have kept me alive, been my backbone.

This image was taken by my lover who I feel emotionally safe with, who I can fuck with abandon, happiness and can cry with. In the fells outside naked with the sun on my topographic stretch marks and white skin, I am free like those summers in Ireland as a child. My nerve cells and I have reconnected. I am a woman with my feet firmly planted, my shoulders level with a quiet defiance that got me through, my stride is one I love and I can dream a future of my own making. My eyes are bright and open, my heart is whole, beating, I can love with my head up and most of all I feel alive.

living in

Michelle Blog – donkey

Loving my Image

I met the amazing Lynn Ruth after her show at the Edinburgh Fringe earlier this year. She is an absolute gem, and proof that it does not matter what age you are or what you’ve been through, you can still get up and achieve your dreams! She is an inspiration and we are very honoured to share her story with you. 

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful,
Than a woman being unapologetically herself;
Comfortable in her perfect imperfection.”
Steve Maraboli Continue reading

Carol Rossetti – WOMEN

This is one of the reasons I love facebook and can’t quite give it up because I come across amazing things like this from the various pages I follow. This is the amazing work by Carol Rossetti, so simple yet so powerful! I wanted to share on the blog because I felt it so fitting and something a lot of woman will relate to. Also the illustrations are just too KICK ASS not to share.

10460783_607627086023505_2359297747599507528_n

10456279_611061502346730_1308003179945535168_n

10450757_611061322346748_76972309744280116_n

10440667_607627246023489_5260652503377494039_n

10433089_607627039356843_8578679951548815492_n

10426631_611061422346738_3325652325691785541_n

10426566_611061375680076_2253383492968375296_n

10425880_607627026023511_6889663281894561945_n

10415637_607627249356822_7319651340761856396_n

10408867_607627332690147_7405618258385569419_n

10384588_607627142690166_6043201589597472719_n

Posted with permission. Please go to http://https://www.behance.net/carolrossetti to see more of her amazing work!

“If a partner knows you well, I have always felt that they should be able to compliment you on something more substantial or uniquely you than your appearance.”

I wrote a post over a year ago about body confidence and my changing attitude to my body over the years but now I’m going to write one reflecting on a recent experience and how it’s made me rethink my attitude to my body.

Last weekend, situations transpired that I hooked up with and have kinda begun seeing a good friend. Sorry, this anecdote will get to the point soon! He is someone in my close friend group whom I have known for years and liked for a while. We have a lot in common and I like to think that we know each other well. Over the course of the romancing, he mentioned my appearance several times in general terms of “You’re beautiful” etc. I never enjoy these compliments but can cope with them when I hook up with acquaintances or strangers but I hate hearing it in this sort of situation. If a partner knows you well, I have always felt that they should be able to compliment you on something more substantial or uniquely you than your appearance.

I understand that he was simply trying to compliment me and I believe that he was entirely genuine and I know that I am over-reacting with this silent battle in my head. In recent years I have learned to take compliments but upon finally hooking up with someone who knows me well, it upsets me that the most prominent thing about me he wants to comment on are my looks. It opens up the paranoia that they are my ‘redeeming feature’ as well as that I am interchangeable in his mind with any other “beautiful” girl.

Perhaps I should just shut up and accept the compliment but it upset me and I have been brooding over the reasons why it bothered me so much for a week now. I prefer my body confidence to come from myself rather than the opinions of others. And while the “You’re beautiful” line is commonplace etiquette in drunken pulling situations, I do not want a potential relationship to have any basis on my partner’s appreciation of my looks.

I noticed that for the rest of the weekend, I spent a great deal of time worrying about my appearance and the other day almost requested my friend take down a photo from Facebook where I have a double chin. This is not me! Who is this taking over my brain?

Maybe I should just shut up and learn to take a compliment… to be honest I much prefer to be happy and have my body confidence based on my own opinions.