The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Identity Thief, Emily's Story

Since posting the video I've had all sorts of feedback and questions on how our experiment went and what the subsequent results have been. Whilst the comments have been mostly positive, I've also received some concern about the last part of the video where I say, 'I may be less inclined to wear things like this' referring to my dungarees. I realise that without context that could appear as though the experiment has taught me to shy away from what is naturally my own style, due to the reactions to what I was wearing or due to the various 'tramp' related comments Josie received when wearing my clothes. So I thought I'd better start by clearing that up.

First of all, I am not, by ANY means, getting rid of my dungarees. They are my favourite item of clothing by a long shot and nothing will ever compare to their super comfiness. However, as I mentioned in the first post, I have some serious issues when it comes to my body shape and how I perceive myself. This stems wayyyyyyyyyyy back to my childhood, when in Primary School I was going through the awkward, slightly chubby, puppy fat stage.

This is what my friends say I used to look like. I now cry with laughter every time I see this.

Unfortunately like many other children I suffered a severe, though short lived, stint of bullying around the age of 10/11. Although I was on the slightly larger side (though how much that was true is difficult to tell), I still wanted to fit in with my skinny, mini friends at school so I'd always do the classic school girl skirt rolling up and cool sock thing - which looking back was actually really bizarre. Whilst none of my friends would bat an eye-lid, almost everyday when I said goodbye to group I meandered home with and walked the last five minutes by myself, a group of girls from the neighbouring 'rival' school would chase me home shouting obscenities at me and their favourite, 'fat slut', still resounds with me today. I'm not sure how many people I ever told about this as I was, and probably still am, a proud little lady and didn't like people to think that they could get the better of me. So for a few weeks I would take it on the chin, ignoring everything and anything these four girls would throw at me until it finally fizzled out; I can only assume they got bored due to my lack of reaction. I even eventually befriended one of them a few years later at a drama club I attended, though she either chose to pretend or genuinely couldn't remember what she had done.

When I went on to high school the following year, I lost a lot of weight. It almost didn't seem like a conscious decision at first, I just stopped eating as much. Then I'd eat as little as I could get away with and began to feel guilty if I didn't feel hungry. A few times I got so hungry I binged like crazy then made myself throw it all back up again. Luckily, by some miraculous means, I managed to get through all this without telling a soul. I didn't want people to think I had an eating disorder or worry about me. The fact was I was 'fat' and needed to lose weight, but unfortunately I was totally uneducated in how to do that in a healthy manner. I was also lucky that I somehow managed to take hold of the situation before it became too severe. Although I was pretty tiny, (I remember a science class when I was 14 where I weighed in at 6.5 stone (42kg) and a pair of jeans I had when I was in year 5 were to big for me by year 9) I was never dangerously underweight and as I gained more confidence I started to care less about what people thought.

This is me at my first festival just before my 14th birthday rocking my classic, men's extra large black hoody.

Sadly, the repercussions from 10 years ago still haven't quite left me. Although I care less about what people think of my style and personality, I am still and will probably always be, terrified of being 'fat' or 'slutty', which is why I dress like a do. I'm the kind of person who dresses depending on how I'm feeling. I either pick colours that reflect my mood or garments that reflect my level of self esteem. For example, if I'm feeling sad I'll pick dark colours or if I'm particularly excited I'll go all multi-coloured or if I'm having a 'pretty day' I'll wear something girly or if I'm having a 'fat day' I'll wear something loose fitting and comfy so I don't have to feel self conscious about myself etc etc etc. Although my clothes are without a doubt an expression of my personality, it annoys me how they are also slightly determined by insults a received from some misguided children over a decade ago.

So, to get to the point, I am not saying I would be less inclined to wear my dungarees because I don't like them. It's just that by wearing something that made me feel pretty much naked and incredibly self-conscious for the day and receiving only positive comments, I've realised that maybe I shouldn't be as ashamed of my body as I am. Of course my friends have always been lovely to me, trying to build me up and telling me that the amount I care about other people's opinions is stupid, but seeing not only the reactions to what I was wearing but also to my clothes on somebody else's body really highlighted for me the ridiculous lengths I sometimes go to just to hide what my body really looks like. I should be wearing my clothes for me, not because I'm scared somebody else won't like what they see.

Another question/comment that I've received a lot is, 'Why don't you wear make-up?' and, 'I didn't realise you didn't wear make-up, that's so strange'. Now I just want to make it clear that I'm not a raving, bra-burning, man-hating feminist (though if you are, each to their own, I'm not one to judge). I simply don't wear make-up because I don't like it. That's genuinely it. It makes my face feel heavy and it gives me spots and more often than not I have allergic reactions that make eyes swell so much that I look like a bull frog on steroids. I'm partial to a little now and then for a special occasion or just coz I fancy it, but other than that I really just don't have any interest in it.

Me (right) with make-up.

Me without make-up. I'll let you guess which side.
I can't really see much difference, hence me not seeing the point in it. Maybe I'm just blind?

Also why is not wearing make-up considered strange? Most men do it everyday. Which is another thing I don't get: why aren't men 'allowed' to wear make-up? Like I don't see how it HAS to be a particularly 'girly' thing (whatever 'girly' is, but let's not get into that right now). Surely you're mainly just covering up blemishes on your face and then adding a bit of colour and sparkle if you fancy it? I think it's silly how women are just expected to wear make-up because of our gender and if we don't do it it's like we're trying to make some statement to the world about our views on society. Well I'm not, I just think it feels yucky. So there.

On the day of the experiment I also got a lot of interesting reactions that I didn't get to record. I had a really interesting conversation with one friend in particular about whether how you dress defines your identity. He talked about how for example, my having dreads and a slightly alternative dress sense doesn't define who I am, rather it is more a cherry on top of the 'Emily' cake. Basically, it's a form of self expression rather than something that defines what your personality should be. Although some of my friends noticed my new look, it didn't change the way they acted with me, just like Josie and I didn't notice how different our styles were until we swapped. Don't let people define you because of the way you dress or do your hair or whatever else you do to decorate your body because at the end of the day, once they get to know you it really doesn't make a difference. If people were all the same how boring would that be?

Any other feedback has mostly been that people thought our experiment was interesting and they can't wait to read more, which is always lovely to hear. So thanks for that, we didn't expect something that was originally 'for the LOLs' to get so much attention :) If you have anymore questions you'd like us to answer then please don't hesitate to send them on. Josie will be writing more about her experiences in due course!

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