Let’s get this out of the way first; I am a white, slim, naturally blonde girl, I am petite; I am in the privileged class of what is our society’s collective beauty standards. But I’ve been a teen and a girl, so yeah, I’ve had body issues. Let me tell you my personal story, because I believe in sharing stories and connecting. But this story is personal and comes from a place of privilege. Share your own; let’s share ourselves.
When I was a child I was literally white-blonde. Chubby cheeks, thin girl, small. Many people just came up to me to touch my hair. I found it revolting. I can’t help being cute, but adults can help being an asshole that crosses a child’s personal space. I still feel sick to my stomach when someone accidentally touches me.
I thought I was pretty hot, because according to our societal standards I am and always have been.
One day as I was growing into my puberty suddenly my mom came out and said ‘you’re gaining weight, you should lose some’. I was a late-bloomer and still child-like; I couldn’t believe what my mom had just said to me. I just thought she was terribly weird for saying that and retorted ‘have you seen me? I am perfectly thin! and hot!’ It didn’t consciously hurt me, but maybe sub-consciously it started seeping into me.
When I was fifteen I crushed hard on Vanity 6 and wanted to be Vanity. I had been reading Vogue’s since 11-12 years old. All these girls were some new level of thin.
I first noticed my face looked weird; it’s fucking square, what the fuck?
Then I noticed my butt; it didn’t fit in jeans easily; what the fuck?
I noticed my arms were kinda flabby and certain retail shirt’s sleeves didn’t fit me; what the fuck?
My boobs are pretty fucking tiny, they better grow!!
At thirteen my brother had died, I was kinda alone — everyone was scared of my pain and loss and I let them drift away on their newly found cloud of hormones, boy-crazy with cheap sticky lipgloss smelling of candy. I was so dazed out I didn’t have the energy to care for the perfect body anymore while the girls in my class were arguing over who had the best tits and spoke seriously of getting plastic surgery. I lost my self; my pride, my strength, my courage, and any self-awareness I ever had. I showed up in pink sweatpants and a hot pink lycra shirt and people still thought I was hot. But I felt ugly, smallI, weird, unearthly sad. I was floating somewhere alone, somewhere I didn’t belong. Sometimes flashes of reality came to me when I wasn’t running away to and from school to an inbetween place and I looked at my peers and felt ashamed for my breasts, which I thought hadn’t earned their own bras yet. One day I asked my mother to buy bras anyway; I got mostly sports tops. I still fit in one of the two actually bras we bought. I was fourteen.
I transferred to a new school in a new city, I wanted to start over and be a new me. I told my parents “you are either sending me to this school or I will stop going to school,” they looked uneasy. They must have been so worried, they saw me as incredibly dependent. I guess they wanted to keep me close, too. I couldn’t be close anymore, I needed to shed my past year. My grief and loneliness.
I did not become a new me. My insecurities got worse; but I got less dazed as time went by, heard more dieting stories and dudes calling pretty girls fat. I started looking at tips to “dress for your body shape”. I was a “pear”. I got some beige-ish, grey clothes. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right.
I met some friends at art school. I got introduced to second hand clothing. I could almost cry over how little money I could spend and change my wardrobe at a relative speed. Moreover I could change myself.
My first purchase was a wild one. 80 euros. A leopard coat. I loved it. It was both an oath to Prince’s eccentricity and a classiness of Vogue I still wanted to achieve.
One night, as I was ready to go out, I remember looking into the mirror and my saw butt sticking out. That shouldn’t happen, I thought. I tried to eat less, but only became hungrier. I ate so much chocolate. I counted calories and dinner, lunch and breakfast but at night I raided the candy cupboard. Whenever I saw a photo of me I saw myself as slobby, fat, shy, gross, undesirable. It hurt to look at photos of me. I will be myself when I lose so and so much kilos, I said to myself. I will be myself when my arms are thinner, my butt is flat, my breasts are bigger.
Still, somehow, someway, I must’ve been 17, I started sharing photos of me online: livejournal the place to be, and I got a new wardrobe (slowly). I finally started being closer to a Vogue girl (or just a girl?) because I had clothes I actually liked. But I always struck the same pose which made my legs looks skinnier and my waist tinier, my face less square. I deleted all of them when I was 19 and sad. (I wish I hadn’t every time I think of it.)
My Vogue stack grew bigger and bigger. But I had friends now, places to be, therefore money to spend. I realised I didn’t want to spend my little pocket money on these magazines. I stopped buying them, but held on to them, maybe I’ll make collages out of them, I thought. I looked through them often. I used them to make sketching assignments that were strictly told to be after real life people. They noticed. So I distorted my sketches; drew more fast-paced, made the models thicker, less elegant. They stopped noticing.
I had continued shopping — my friends and I used to walk fast-fast-fast in order to catch the last of a second hand market every Friday, remember when we did that, we say so often to each other, smiling, we were discovering ourselves — and I started sewing and cutting up things to fit into what I wanted them to be. I could do that. I could fit into what I wanted to be, too. I wanted to be smart, sexy, beautiful.
I finally graduated high school and my parents gave me the best thing ever, the one thing I desperately wanted, the thing my stomach somersaulted over whenever I thought of anything remotely like it; they rented me a studio in the city of my (new) school. A place of my own. The city were my friends were. The cool city.
My clothes had become, considered by others, a little “weird” by that time. I think the year of 2007 was were I suddenly lapsed into a spell of wearing the tightest pencil skirts, belts pinched so tight I would’ve been hardly able to breathe if my anxiety hadn’t taught me to breathe small breaths from your upper chest only. I almost wore red and green only. For an entire year. I don’t know why. It just happened.
I registered at university, first excited by the knowledge I could sink my teeth in, easily saddened when I realised there was none of that. There was no critical thinking. It was pure studying by heart, studying the canon — no questions asked.
I remember being twelve, lying on the floor and crying so so so much, feeling utterly lost and in despair. So alone. I don’t know why. That kind of sadness came and went in my teenage years, now it clamped to me and grabbed me at my throat and it refused to let go. Maybe I refused to let go, too. I ditched more and more classes and dropped by friends every day. We went to all the parties we could find; the parties in people’s houses and studios because that’s where the free booze was. Pretentious parties, fun parties, but never dull because alcohol was always free (or I found it free abusing sad-eyed and creepy dudes). Parties with hippies proclaiming their Buddhism, who knew nothing of Buddha — I laughed in their face and my friend and I stole Tolstoy books from their shelves, whose house was that? Who cares, they were pretentious as fuck. Parties with hired DJ’s and rooms stuffed with everything but cookies (as I went to get some the party was over because the police had come; thank you cookie craving moment). I anxiously looked into every boy’s face for a mutual desire and ignored that my heart raced when I met a beautiful red-haired girl who had all of my favourite Lou Reed records on vinyl. Because that’s the mould I chose for myself; cute, appeasable, (rude and condescending as fuck when drunk but that’s kinda quirky and attractive right?), smart, the girls I saw in Vogue. When we went to one of my hometown’s friends parties, my friends and I sat apart. My old friend came to me and said we had made puppets of ourselves; acting bold and hiding our true selves and caused the distance ourselves. I knew the distance was created by the group who had all come from my hometown and felt frightened by our boldness and retorted with homophobia. Our boldness wasn’t real, but we knew that, we were exploring ourselves and we could cry and break down drunk in front of each other while we took care of each other. We didn’t always feel safe to do so, mostly and often while drunk only. At my friend’s party I stood apart with another friend and on my tongue I could feel tumbling; I fell in love I fell in love I fell in love! but my friend kept talking and I decided: not just yet it might not be real, I might not yet deserve this.
I scoured every place for the cheapest second hand shit I could find. I documented outfits, stories and drunken photos on my livejournal, the more I edited out my own crippling sadness, the more people started following me.
Exams came up and I foolishly thought I could make it without having gone to classes and I looked at my books. But I was too afraid to actually try. I might not be as smart as I want to be.
I went home, to my parents. I gave up. I slept. I stopped going out and I stopped communicating to a crush I had developed; self-sabotaging my first ever infatuation on a someone based on real-life affection rather than a fantasy a love with someone who returned my feelings; sabotaging myself through silence. There, see? I knew I didn’t deserve this feeling.
I am not thin enough yet, not smart enough. I am not anything, not anyone. I repeated and wrote a notebook filled with this. I AM NOT WORTH ANYTHING YET. I must grow thin, I must be smart, I must be strong, I must be everything I am not. I tried to get myself back up and went out again. I burned my notebook. I glanced at boys and went home in desperation once or twice, feeling absolutely awful having experienced something so hollow-feeling to me. I quit school. I worked a job here and there. Sometimes with friends. Laughing behind curtains over our bosses, stealing champagne in spite. Drinking and smoking too much, sometimes breaking down in front of each other. We started to crack and some kind of honesty slipped through us, sparkling and glueing ourselves together. That was the year we drank too much but found ourselves.
We are not failures, we’re just looking for who we are.
One day I got so sick of feeling bad. Of constantly looking through myself in the mirror, trying to make myself slimmer with high heels, pinching belts curling my hips and bust into an S-like edited version of my body. I took my clothes off and stared at myself in the mirror. Really at myself, not through a lens of who I was supposed to become, I tried to look for who I really was, what my body really looked like. I’d spent too much time pretending. I kicked my high heels off and challenged myself slowly to not constantly put a focus on my tiny waist, to let my breasts be small, to allow my butt to be bigger than most. I let myself be me. Rather, I tried to. I am still doing this, challenging myself; challenging the views I’ve let myself swallow and bloat with. They are not me, I am the only person who can and will ever be me, and I can and will contain multitudes. Just as my body changes, so does my mind, my views on life, who I am, who I want to be and become; as I change my outfits change because this has become a mechanism to learn how to discover myself bodily and mentally.
Years of experimentation started and late 2008 I started an outfit blog. First called Fluffy’s Blog, then A Fluffy Blog, but now fully encompassing an ever-evolving middle-state: perma pupa. At first trying to please, but quickly realising trying to juggle school, friends and a realisation that I have depression wasn’t working. On and off I was myself and tried to please. When I moved and named myself perma pupa, I decided to be none other than myself, though this can also mean I am many different people, all of whom are aspects of me and only singularly me. I’ve put on many outfits and skins, I tried many styles and through this I searched for who I was.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
– Anais Nin
Shift from late 2008 to middle 2010: in art school a project was presented to me in which I could channel the insecurities I had, have and still felt towards my own body. For this I thought of all those years in which I loathed small aspects of me; of how my nose is always slghtly reddish, my butt big, my breasts small. I used myself as a model and took photos of myself as a drawing source, first in my gorgeous La Fille d’O bikini — a bikini in itself important because it’s so well-made and beautiful it made me able to swim and sun bathe without continually worrying it might slip off, a bikini highlighting everything I find beautiful of myself. Then I started to shed the bikini and took pictures of myself naked; curled up, shy, insecure and introverted, I modelled as myself. When I looked at the pictures I saw aspects of my body I had never seen before, like hey wow my shoulders are much wider than my hips and you know what? I didn’t feel bad about it. It just was. It just is. Me & my body. Suddenly it happened: I felt okay being me.
Now I am a nude model at art school to pay school and living expenses, and I love it. My first nude modelling job was out of desperation; I’d been unemployed and doing nothing for almost a year when my friend talked about her nude modelling I figured: why the fuck not, they’re always short on models? I got hired for my first job at a part-time art school where people try to juggle learning art skills and work; mostly older men and women. I felt anxious looking for the class, a painting class, but when I stepped in and introduced myself as a model some of the women came up to me, marvelled at my outfit and instantly demanded the tutor for me to model with my clothing for a while. As the class went on I stripped more of my outfit; from coat to warm sweater & dress to my simple dress. The best start I could’ve had, really. After a break it was time for me to sit naked. It works like this: a nude model always has a tiny space, mostly somewhat hidden or directly separated in the classroom. They come out wearing a robe of some sorts and shed it when they are on a tiny shoddily made stage with some props and blankets, often with some heaters directed towards them and lighting and lamps for some artistic shading. For the occasion I’d bought a second hand fancy robe in a beautiful light blue of a shiny fabric with a small lace collar, it is soft on my skin and drapes like silk. I came out in the robe, which makes me feel fancy, smooth and incredibly feminine, as I came on the stage I dropped it and I imagined it fell smoothly, almost sensual, and I was naked in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know and it felt ok.
Sometimes I still don’t feel one hundred percent okay with my body — like why is my nose so damn weird or why are my arms flabby and my toes so gross GOD, but it comes and goes and I always remind myself that this is my body; a body of life, it gives me pleasure and sadness, it is not separated from my mind. My body is part of who I am; it allows me to experience this world, it gives me grief and joy and it gives me privilege in places and prejudice in others. My body is not an object detached from who I am, who I chose to be and how I experience life. It is simply me. And I must and need to be who I am or want to be or it will cause me pain to try to be otherwise.
Documented throughout here are some other posts in which I’ve mused over myself, my body and my relationship to clothing.