I obviously went from chilled vibes to judging you during the course of this little selfie sesh.

I obviously went from chilled vibes to judging you during the course of this little selfie sesh.

In the last month, I’ve bought two new pairs of sunglasses. People seem confused about this. “You have sunglasses already, why do you need two new pairs?” I don’t, is the answer. I don’t need new sunglasses at all. But as I go into shops with a view to picking out some new items for summer, it becomes clear that there’s a problem. Sunglasses don’t make me feel fat. And they’re the only thing.

Recently my friends and I booked our July holiday (huzzah!). Of course, I’ve got ages before I need to worry about preparing for it but I fancied a little shopping, I thought, and the excuse presented itself! The most practical item on the list was swimwear. Having not had need for it for a long time, I have none and we’re going to be swimming a lot. I thought I’d just search ASOS to see if anything caught my eye. When the search results came up, it was no real surprise to see washboard stomachs and teenie weenie bikinis across the board, but I still felt frustrated by it. I’m a pretty standard size – a “perfect” size, in fact (Beautiful South, 1998) – and I’ve never been someone who gets too hung up on their body issues. I have them, sure, but they’ve never been dangerous. As I browsed through the endless two-pieces thinking of the judgmental looks I’d get if I ever wore any of them (possibly resembling mine in the top right picture), those body issues did start to feel potentially dangerous.

I’d innocently and excitedly gone to shop for swimwear, thinking I’d pick out a patterned tankini with no worries. Of the 775 “styles found”, 26 were tankinis and nine of those were maternity. By the time I was looking at my options for swimming costumes, morale was pretty low. I was making calculations about which body issue I could surrender to; would it be worse to have my belly out or my stretch marks on display?

Every sign that I’m not a pre-pubescent child had to be covered up. God forbid anyone confuse me for a grown woman. It’s not like I was intending to impress anyone. I shan’t be parading around in my swimwear; it’s purely practical. I just want to be able to go for a swim with my buddies. Why do I care? Why can’t I talk myself out of this hole? I stayed resolute about wanting to cover up more, and began to look at other retailers. It’s Next and BHS before I see anything resembling the coverage I want, shops that are targeting a demographic twenty years older than me. The items that I show an interest in are given names like “Tummy Tuck Swim Shorts” or they’re only available in bigger sizes, like anyone needed to draw further attention to the motivation behind picking the items. It’s not long before I’m calculating how many more runs I can get in a week, and wondering if my mum would notice if I snuck a look at her diet books. In retrospect, I’m saddened that my brain so quickly took that path. Unlike when I took up running last year, motivated by the desire to feel fitter and healthier, this move was entirely motivated by unhappiness and a dislike of myself.

After a little while of searching through the bikinis, I began to become self-conscious of my thought process. I felt a profound sadness over the effect it had had on me. It took so little for me to get into that mindset and I hate to think of the effect experiences like that can have over people like me, and younger.

I moved my cursor to the sunglasses search. There I find a happier place, somewhere between the meadows of joy and the valley of contentment. “Ooh, heart-shaped ones!”