Life in the summer:
Let joy be unconfined, let there be dancing in the streets: the warm weather is finally here. After months of bone-shakingly cold mornings, having to de-ice the car every day and drive through grey rain to get to work, suddenly winter is fading away and, like a caterpillar turning into a bright and beautiful butterfly, spring is emerging from winter’s chrysalis. Flowers appear, the garden is bathed in dappled sunshine, and everything feels wonderful. You skip out to your (ice-free) car, and drive along while the blue, cloudless skies float merrily above you. Spring is lovely. The only problem with spring is that it leads to…SUMMER!
Yes, all too soon, the gentle glow of spring is replaced by the fiery heat of summer. Leaving the house becomes like taking a journey into the depths of hell. You are wet all the time and 50 people expect you to ditch your cardigan and let your bingo wings flap freely for all to see.
Summer is evil. Oh yes, my friends, you know it’s true.
Advertisers will have us believe that summer is the season of tanned legs peeking from crisp, white cotton dresses, of smiley picnics and icecreams but it is not. Don’t listen to them. Ignore the TV images of pretty people laughing as they run upon golden sands.
Every fat person knows that summer is a vicious ride through a bubbling volcano. It’s full of sweating, chafing, swollen hands and feet, and trying to cover up when the world around you is packed full of people who are stripping off. Summer is sent down to earth to taunt and infuriate us and send us spiralling into an infernal battle between revealing flesh which promptly burns, and staying so covered up that you are quietly boiling to death.
And you know what the really terrible thing is? It happens every damn year. So, here is your indispensable guide to what the summer holds in store if you’re carrying a couple of extra pounds.
Ignore the summer brochures full of thin, tanned people doing yoga in leotards on the beach at dusk, or dancing around in the sea with a concave stomach. This is the REAL guide to summer
Let’s start with sweat. I know – I’m sorry – it’s not a pleasant conversation to have, but you’re among friends here: so, I’ll ask the question: just how much sweat can one person produce? How much? I don’t understand why there is anything left of me when there’s this much sweat pouring off me? I’m wet all the time. Let me tell you how my day goes: My sheets are soaking wet when I wake up in the mornings and I’m tangled up in them with damp hair which stands up on end when I run my hands through it. I look ridiculous. Young children would run and hide if they saw me walking zombie-like across the landing. Next, I go into the shower and wash until I’m squeaky clean. I come back to the bedroom, towel dry and style my hair, then before I can even get my goddamned clothes on, I’m all sweaty again. Can this be right? I mean – how am I ever going to get dry? I stand in front of the fan to cool off, then get dressed as quickly as I can, but I have damp patches at the back of my neck and in my armpits before I get out of the house. Frankly, I look like I need another shower. Next, the train to work. Oh, but this is the greatest joy of summer, isn’t it? Public transport. What a thrill. I stand on the train and feel the sweat running down my body under my blouse. I flap my arms like a chicken to try and cool it down, in the hope that I won’t end up with enormous sweat patches. But it doesn’t help, and people start looking at me like I’ve lost my mind, so I stop the chicken impressions and feel a long line of sweat slide down my back. Meanwhile, my make-up has practically slid off my face as I frantically dab at it to stop the sweat from running from my hairline into my eyes. Then, someone stands up. Excellent. I can have a seat. Perhaps if I’m not struggling to balance, and staggering around in the aisle, I’ll sweat less. Nope. This turns out not to be the case. I feel the sweat that was running down my back, still running. It is now pooling at the bottom of my back, and bottom. My thighs have stuck together, and still the sweat runs down my face. I probably look like Alice Cooper by now. We’re at my stop. Thank God. I stand up slowly and leave a little pool of myself behind, while my legs emit a squishing sound as they peel off the seat. All this before I have made it to work. There’s no escaping the fact you will sweat when it’s hot, so you may as well just embrace it, it is your body’s way of regulating your temperature. Sweating has an important health role as it helps keep us cool, and – despite what you might think – sweat doesn’t actually smell. It’s only when it is mixed with bacteria on our skin that it starts to give off that pungent body odour scent. Admittedly it’s not pleasant. The feeling of sweat running down your back inside your favourite silk blouse is a complete horror, but you’ve got to just ride it out. Buy cotton, wear loose clothing and try not to worry too much. We’re all suffering as much as one another.
What the hell do you wear when the sun is beaming down on you? Clearly, in the interests of staying cool, lighter garments are preferred, so it’s off with the reliable woolly cardigan and on with a cotton or linen dress. But if it’s fitted, and you’re carrying a few extra pounds, you’ll feel really uncomfortable all day. But then again, if it’s too loose, you will look as if the dress is wearing you, as your head pops up through the middle of what looks like a tent. You need to cover the tops of your arms or you’ll feel really self-conscious, but the only way to get cool is a fresh breath of air circulating around you. In short – summer is hard when it comes to dressing. You’re better off going out naked, then you’ll get arrested and thrown in a police cell and hopefully it will be nice and cool.
Did you know your feet put on weight? I was quite horrified to hear this. I thought feet were the one thing that didn’t grow as you put on weight. But they do. So, by putting on weight and losing weight, you may find you have a shoe collection in which half of them don’t fit you at any one time. Add to that the fact that feet can swell in the summer, and you have to look after them a little more in the hotter months of the year. Obviously, a pedicure is a nice idea if you can afford one. Sitting back while someone massages, files, scrapes and oils your feet is one of the world’s greatest feelings. If you don’t fancy that, or if it’s out of your price range, it might be worth buying a file from the chemists and some cooling gel and give your feet a mini pedicure at home after a bath or shower. When it comes to shoes, it’s not rocket science, really, is it – you need shoes in natural materials that allow your feet to breath (I hate writing that… I picture these feet with mouths on, desperately gasping for breath). Make sure your shoes fit properly, even when your feet swell, or you’ll end up with blis‐ ters and sore feet for days. And no one wants to be a weird, sweaty fat person, hobbling along in a thick cardigan and ill-fitting shoes (see – combined the first three points in one neat sentence there). An unfortunate side-effect of getting too hot is swelling – and your ankles seem to cop the brunt of it. When we are hot our blood vessels expand to allow the blood to flow closer to the surface of the skin. This is our body’s way of cooling our blood down. But, naturally, if our blood vessels expand, so do other areas of the body (stop sniggering at the back). As your ankles, and feet, are supporting your weight all day and have very little fat and muscle between the skin and blood vessels, you may notice them swelling more than other areas. The heat also causes our body to try and hold onto as much fluid as it can to prevent dehydration. Fluid retention tends to be more visible in smaller areas like your ankles
You were wondering when I was going to get to this, weren’t you? I thought I’d build things up slowly, but there’s no doubt that the prize for the very worst of all the summer pains is thigh chafe. Oh my God. Your thighs sting like a thousand bees have crawled down your leggings and it looks like your inner thighs have been boiled. If you dare wear a dress without cycling shorts, anti-chafe cream or a reapplication of talcum powder every five minutes, you’re in big trouble. Fat skin rubbing up against fat skin can be so painful you’ll end up walking as though you’ve been riding a horse for the last three days. The site of the chafe often looks like it’s been through a nasty burn incident. It’s painful, and embarrassing and God it hurts. Look out for the new shorts/leggings and accessories designed to beat it. Don’t fight it. In a fight between woman and chafe, chafe will win every time.
We live in a society where it’s really not cool to be fat – it’s seen as lazy and indulgent and deliberate. Fat people are still ritually mocked in stand-up comedy (as mentioned) and across the internet in hurtful memes. It takes a lot of strength and guts to go out in summer as a fat person and wear what you want – to be unconcerned with showing the cellulite on your legs or arms, to show the stretch marks and fat rolls on your stomach when you dress in a crop top. But I think that’s the only way to be. To cover up effectively would involve no sunbathing, no swimming in the sea, no summer dresses, flip flops, sandals or swimming costumes. The only way to cope would be to hide away til winter, and that’s definitely not the right option to take.
I don’t want to make this all too dark and desperate. But the fact is – given all that summer offers fat people – many women will stay in and withdraw from social activity instead of socialising. If you’re invited to a pool party and you’re much bigger than everyone else, it can feel really awkward, and you may be tempted to stay at home, alone. Summer then becomes a time of great isolation – a time when you feel you can’t be outside without being judged, a time when you’re worried about every‐ thing, a time when depression creeps in and darkens days that are carefree and happy for most other people. This is to urge you not to isolate yourself indoors. Please get out and enjoy the sun on your beautiful face. Catch up with friends and enjoy the outdoors when you can. It’ll soon be cold again; please try to emerge from your cocoon and enjoy it all when you can.
Oh, the awful angst of finding a swimming costume that doesn’t look exactly like the one your nanna wore in the mid1970s (and in her mid-70s). Can I not find some simple, straightforward, flattering costumes in elegant shapes and large sizes? I don’t want a little skirt attached or a wild floral pattern. I just want a simple swimsuit in a choice of colours, much like the range of swimsuits that everyone else gets to choose from. I’ll buy a kaftan if I want to cover up, all I want from you is a nice comfortable swimsuit without flowers, cherries or frills. The beach This is a tough arena. A place littered with obstacles: teeny tiny bikinis, staring, pointing children, and discomfort. And the day always ends in a red nose and sand in uncomfortable places. But it’s also a great equaliser. People aren’t really looking and judging, they are way too worried about being looked at and judged. The beach is somewhere you should be able to relax, catch the sun and cool down in the sea. What other people think is nothing to do with you. If they haven’t got anything better to do than stare at you, you should be pitying them, not worrying about being judged by them