Friday 16 July 2010

On bodies in the town and the country

I went to the proper countryside last weekend. I mean the no phone signal for several days and definitely no Wifi, papershop only open in the morning on Sundays, beep round corners countryside- not the organised, national trust planned with handy loos and maps of pretty walks countryside (though that is very nice too- especially when there are scones).

I had a lovely time, it was a bit like a holiday in the early 1980s, not like Ashes to Ashes though, maybe Bergerac without the nice car.

I couldn't fail to notice that the real country cousins (not the cousins who live in the Peaks or the Cotswolds but who dress like they live in Notting Hill) continue to dress and behave more like women of another time- and have the bodies of another time. Frankly those bodies, which are rounder, less taught, not brown-orange but either a nice milky-white or a proper golden brown, those bodies seem just as popular with the local men folk as the sometimes starved, over gymed bodies of the city.

Clearly not all country girls are fleshy maidens ripe for painting by Botticelli and not all city girls are as slim at Kate Moss and/or as toned as Paula Radcliffe. What is certain though is that far more girls in the towns and cities will feel concerned they don't conform to Kate or Paula look, or if they do they will sometimes go to bizarre lengths in my eyes to achieve that figure (if you don't see your friends because you need to go to the gym every day, if you only eat vegetables ever, limit your calories to 500 to 1000 a day, if you are scared of semi- skimmed when it's just for tea- I mean you).

The girls in the country seemed more comfortable in their skins to me- far, far more relaxed- and actually the men seemed more demonstratively attracted to them- though perhaps you will get more squishing, hugging and the like at a wedding than you would every day.

I guess my real point is that we all either strive very hard to conform to a certain look or feel bad that we don't perhaps and the truth is there are other ways of doing things. If you look back at pictures of the celebrities from the 1980s they aren't as exceptionally waif like as the current crop. Julia Roberts says in Pretty Women she is a US 6- that's a UK size 10. That's slim certainly especially for someone of her height, but it's not emaciated; it's achievable for people who need to eat to get through the day and who don't have all day to devout to regimes of cardio, stretching and toning.

Of course for every Sigourney Weaver you will have an Audrey Hepburn type figure- but when Audrey was playing roles not all actresses looked like her- because films showed women of different sizes- admittedly never anyone plus size as such but of different sizes- but they showed different bodies presumably acknowledging that difference could be beautiful. Now we see a uniform example of how we should look and I think men start to think that is what they should aspire to find.

Sometimes I wish the country would come to the town- and that instead of wearing clothes from the 80s fashion could decide bodies from the 80s (or earlier) were back.


Stephen Thomas said...

You're spot on here. One of the things I miss about being down in rural Sussex was the ease of spotting the locals and the city-weekenders. The locals were just so much more relaxed, less worried about looking like they were from the country. The weekenders ate in our pub, and the women ordered a salad and left half the meat on the side. The local girls just ordered - there wasn't any fussing around the chorizo if they had a salad, though more often than not it was the steak, or the generously portioned tarts that they ordered. Something that wouldn't starve them. There is a lot to credit the city for, but when it comes to being comfortable in your own skin, the country wins out. It isn't just girls either - I'm aware, moving to London this coming month, that I could stand to lose a little weight. If I still lived in Sussex, I probably wouldn't bother.

Ines said...

I think I already talked about how I fall prey to that type of thinking even though I know I shouldn't. Although I can't say I'm terribly upset because I think I should lose weight, I'm not doing anything to make it happen. I like the way I lead my life (some pilates, some food, and a bit more alcohol) - the most important thing is I'm happy, content and most importantly healthy. :)

And it's really upsetting seeing everyone in the movies looking the same size most of us never even see in our daily lives and routines.

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Such a true point. I always notice it when I go home to my parents how shape and dress is so different to London and yet it's only two hours away. I wonder how I would be if I'd not moved to London?

Metropolitan Mum said...

it is taking a lot of willpower and strength not to be influenced by the body shape that is en vogue at the moment. It's scary when I think of my daughter. I want her to be healthy and happy. No matter which size she is.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

You know, I think most men might agree with you. After all, Marilyn Monroe was an American size 12!

Funny, but I think women tend to want to impress other women more than men. Something competitive, I suppose.

Rose said...

Hi Stephen- I really appreciate a male perspective- and I don't doubt that the pressure is the same for men at all. There is a sort of hysteria that city living can induce I think- I like to get out to the green every so often to remind myself of that.

Hi Ines- You sound very balanced to me and look like a very nice size!

Hi Joan- Yes I'd be fascinated to meet myself having lived and worked at home in all ways not just looks wise- it would be very interesting. I suspect I might be more settled in my own place but seem a little older? I don't know!

Hi MM- well both you and little L look to be perfect shapes to me but I agree being a Mum and giving the right ideas to a child must be very hard at any time but especially now- I think I would also struggle with education, what to aim for, those things- because I don't know myself!

Hi Pamela- I couldn't agree more about women being competitive! We are often our own worse enemies. Marilyn was gorgeous and would have been at about any size.

Lucy said...

I think you're right about men's perceptions being moulded. I'm not saying there aren't natural boundaries, but what they are encouraged to think of as ideal is a very narrowed version of that. But a lot of men seem able to still think outside of it!

ps. that 'taught' has to be a great Freudian slip, is it?

Rose said...

Lucy- it was actually a genuinly tired typer but I kinda like it so I'm leaving it!

As to whether they ignore it, says lots about the man I think if they do. I don't dislike really tiny people- I just like all people! the extremes at either end of the spectrum being a bit strange though.