or I wish it was. Let me explain
On Saturday I spent the whole day in a spa with one of my bestest best friends, Mrs Cooke. Mrs Cooke is a teacher and we met when post-divorce in 2001 I moved into the bungalow next door to her and her family. We quickly became such good friends that walking down one drive and up the other for a cuppa became too much of an effort so we put a step in between our sloping drives to shorten the journey. Door was always open, kettle was always hot, one of those friendships where you didn’t even have to knock. Though as a teacher, Mrs Cooke is always Mrs Cooke and not Jo. Mrs Cooke was also my matron of honour when I married Mr B. Though even then she was known as The Matron But I digress.
Mr B bought the “spa day for two” when he saw an offer on Travelzoo. These offers are normally brought to my attention with an email from him that says “fancy this?” and it’s four days in Prague. A long weekend in Barcelona. A week to see the Northern Lights ten days before Christmas. Fabulous ideas but in reality, impossible. Or at least not possible without some juggling. This one however, Mr B just bought, forcing me to do it rather than wasting the money. Good man.
Mrs Cooke being a teacher meant we had to do it in the holidays as even her weekends in term time are consumed with being a taxi for her two sporting teens. In the time between booking and arriving at the spa though I started to panic.
How could I spend all day in a spa in a swimming costume?
You see, if you are not a size 10 or below the media perception of “normal” starts to make you feel, well, less than normal. We are all bombarded with images of celebs
parading her slim frame
showcasing her taught abs just three weeks after giving birth to twins
looking radiant as she displays her slender form in figure hugging pencil skirt
keeping her bump covered as she flatters her figure in black leggings
It is relentless. Pics of celebs in the paper for nothing more than going out shopping, or walking out of a restaurant but what they are wearing and how they are wearing it is news. Their size with these media images and headlines becomes the norm. It becomes how the majority of women feel they need to be. That by definition anything other than the media image of women they portray is somehow abnormal.
At this time of year we are then treated to the added onslaught of getting our bodies “bikini ready” or “beach fit”. Everything from our hair, to our eye brows, to our legs and heels, and everything in between has to be primed, waxed, honed and made ready for the world. Again, anything other than spending hours on this task is somehow not normal. If you don’t have some kind of daily regime you are just not cutting it as a woman.
So whilst I was looking forward to a day off, lying on a lounger drinking smoothies with my BFF and reading an entire book, there was a feeling of dread too. Of “can I possibly show myself in public when I have been covered up with three layers for the past five months and have done bugger nothing to my body other than throw water at it twice a day?” The feeling that in the 30 minute window I had on Saturday morning to get ready I had to wax every hair off my body, moisturise, cleanse, remove skin, and do a whole host of other rituals before I showed myself in public. That I would somehow be judged for letting the female side down. That was not normal because not only am I not doing these things on a daily basis but I dont’ really care about them. I have different priorities for my time.
Those priorities being to put on the first items of clothing I could find that were clean and to drag a swimming costume out of the last year’s suitcase full of summer clothes was the most shocking thing in the world. That to have gone out with no make up was some kind of sin. Though I admit I did wash and dry my hair.
By the time we got there my stomach was in knots. Would the girls in full make up on reception look at me with withering looks? Would the other women there all be gorgeous and effortlessly skinny and look down on me? It was all I could do to not run away. And is why I haven’t done this for over ten years.
Do you know what? Nobody gave a stuff. Everybody else there was wondering around in swimming costumes, hair a mess after being in the pool, faces flushed from the sauna so not a scrap of make up, cellulite on show to the world, and nobody cared. That women really are all shapes and sizes in a dressing gown and that actually very few of them were super skinny size zero.
Nobody pointed a finger and said “well, how could she leave the house like that”.
It was one of the most life affirming events ever.
That since 47% of the population are above a size 16, this IS normal. Normal is the new normal. That normal is women who have escaped busy lives to squeeze in some time for themselves. That maybe they haven’t exfoliated in a month. That maybe their roots are showing through. That their cuticles are in serious need of attention.
That this really is normal.
And normal is good.