I don’t usually have to make a decision on which shoes to wear to work (shoes you can walk in, idiot!), but today I did swither majorly over the ‘Oh God The Pain!’ boots, or the ‘Fall Down And Discover If You Have Osteoporosis!’ boots. I went with the devil I know. Besides, all this might yet stand me in good stead. Wasn’t I bitching mightily about the pain of rope burns on my ankles last time I had a go on a trapeze? And do I not plan to have another, much larger go, shortly? Maybe I’ll get there and find I am trapeze-proofed! Or, maybe the walk all the way into town in this weather will remove all my skin and I’ll be gubbed. Note to self: surgical spirit, where is it obtained?
Of course, it would also help if I was in better physical shape at the moment. The last time I had to do dozens of press-ups in one night was in… October, not that learning to do lots of pushing motions helped with the completely different pulling motions involved in getting onto a bar some feet above my head. This will hurt, and I will look incompetent, make no mistake.
On the bright side, and although my bathroom scales are so pleasingly inaccurate that I can gain or lose almost half a stone depending on where in the bathroom they are, I seem to be decidedly less concave around the midriff and my bras are not falling off as much as they were. Woo! Chances of freezing to death: slightly lower!
I know, I know, it isn’t Done to be trying to gain a few pounds while being female. But winter is here and I am (cringe) kinda underweight for my build. I’m sure it’s very In but I get cold extremely easily and I have no reserves to draw on should I, say, come down with a crappy virus again. In fact, it might have contributed to the last bout lasting as long as it did. So, yay for being slightly rounder!
Anyone who has inadvertently stumbled upon this ‘ere Chronicle of Nonsense might be wondering just why someone with the moniker ‘Beshemoth’, which seems to mean ‘Large and female (and with negative connotations associated with this)’, is giving out about being too skinny. Well, therein lies a tale. A long tale, so if you utilise the ‘back’ button, I won’t be offended. (Because I won’t know – but I promise that if I do find out, I still won’t be offended.)
Ahem. Away back when, at the dawn of the millennium, I spent a whole year trying to hold down a desk job, keep a flat with seven people inhabiting it spotless so as to sell it, plus somehow keep my relationship, on a year-long distance hiatus, afloat with the guy who was waiting in Dublin for me to bring our combined material wealth over. The latter part mainly consisted of listening to him give out down the phone about how crappy our brand new life over there was going to be, since his currently ‘sucked’. Which he did for several hours, almost every night.
Fortunately he had free phonecalls, but man, after a hard day doing nothing more fun than the most menial of photocopying and cleaning graft, I really coulda done with one of us going out and enjoying his suddenly-trebled income. And it wasn’t gonna be me, for I was way too busy. Too busy even to exercise! Instead, I got ‘fat’. I became a size fourteen, even! A UK size fourteen, which was the national average last time I looked.
(And I think fourteen looks good: on a tall woman, it’s Willowy, on a medium-height one it’s Curvaceous and on a petite one it’s Buxom; at least, in my opinion. And I has no opinion on other sizes; there’s plenty folks of all sizes prettier than me out there, and people who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones, etc.)
Though granted, some of my dresses would no longer fit – across the chest. You would think it would be a, er, plus.
This change of shape was Not well-received when I finally flogged the flat and took a plane over to start our new life, of course. Although, having finally had some leisure, I was already shedding pounds like a mad thing, because I enjoy exercise (as long as I can do it without anyone looking at me). It was the only way to get around when I was growing up, for one thing. But the man whose grand plans had brought all this about was still vocal in his unhappiness with what had turned up in place of his girlfriend, so one fine Saturday morning I went to join the gym round the corner from the typing gig I’d secured. I went on foot – and hungover, because we were in a very small flat which we shared with colleagues of his, and they were as vocal on the subject of ‘having to live with a secretary’ as he was on the subject of me ‘getting fat’ and I was already sharing his opinion on our brand new life. In spades.
Since everyone else’s opinion was that things would be rosier for all if only I would change, however, I decided the easiest course would be to go with it, get thin and save up to go back to university. But the prospect of being cooped up for another weekend in a place smaller than my office, with people who hated me, was worse than the prospect of Monday Morning; hence Friday night’s wine.
The receptionist at the gym was unimpressed with me too, of course. She made me wobble about on some scales that allegedly measured BMI and was also vocal in her displeasure when they told her mine, especially when I asked her what BMI was. ‘Well, of course you wouldn’t know,‘ she said sourly. Who knows, maybe she was hungover as well. ‘It means body mass index’. And I had to confess to still not having the foggiest what she was on about. So she explained that I was clinically obese and berated me for my undisciplined lifestyle. Which I took expection to, being one who diligently eschewed things like crisps and chocolate and carbonated beverages and fast food; if only because my budget didn’t allow for them.
But again, my ignorance was against me, for she went on to berate me about eating things like bread, (‘you’ll be telling me next, you eat potatoes,’), warned me that I could keel over right now from a heart attack and advised me that, contrary to my plans to do a bit of swimming and use the weights, I had better join the spinning class. I didn’t know what that was either, so she showed me one; which was when I started to doubt her wisdom because it struck me that someone who was clinically obese going straight into that was guaranteed to have a sodding heart attack. On the premises and everything.
Still. I trudged home in great distress at discovering I am somehow substantially rounder than I had thought, and wondering if I could somehow conceal this from my boyfriend and flatmates (probably not). The thought of what they’d all say when they discovered I didn’t even know I was in danger of Snuffing It From Sheer Size(!) was so mortifying that I was extremely quiet all weekend and as small as I could manage. So no difference there, then.
The receptionist at work, who did weightwatchers, took one look at my expression on Monday morning, demanded to know what had happened, grilled me on my height and weight and worked out that the gym receptionist had somehow miscalculated my mass by over fifty percent. You need to lose six pounds, she added, showing me the website.
Well, that certainly sounded more reasonable. Surely, becoming clinically obese would have resulted in the need for a whole new wardrobe, for one thing. But I still marched home in great fury that night, not so much because I’d been told I was far larger than I was, but because I’d been told off for it. (And yet, did I feel entitled to righteous fury about how I’d been spoken to, when I thought her calculations were correct? Yes, I did. I just didn’t feel anyone else would agree with me.)
What sort of way is that to drum up membership for your gym? I raged, not caring about trying to be small and keep out of everyone’s way for once. She made me feel awful about myself! And here I was already coming along of my own free will to try and be a different shape! At least I was lucky that her calculations were flawed! Seriously, is this what people do? Jesus, it’s criminal how people are treated just for being an unfashionable size!
Somewhere around this point, I realised I was ranting to a person, one who I loved and had moved my life for, who pretty much agreed with the gym receptionist’s attitude, and had also made me feel pretty awful about myself recently. It was a tad awkward.
I tried to cover my confusion by declaring that henceforth I was changing my online name to Beshemoth, just to make the point that I wasn’t, goddammit, and it was Ironic. And hoping like all hell he’d agree, because yeah, I was lucky to only have to lose six pounds to be in with a shot at ‘please love me again’ land. He found the idea fairly amusing (though he pushed to go with my first idea, Jabba the Slut, and hire webspace under it oh thank Christ I didn’t), and thus the relationship was (sort of) saved for another few months.
Would that it had not been and we had never bought that sodding house – and if I had my life over, I woulda made some ultimatums at around that point, and walked if they weren’t met, but hey. I was young and (more) stupid. At least, when I am feeling a bit low, I can look back on living in that flat and remember how blissfully happy I am now by comparison.
All of this is ancient history (though it still smarts somewhat when I recall it, betcha couldn’t tell) and entirely irrelevant to my lifestyle now, however. So, why keep the name?
Well… I’ve grown used to it. And as soon as the split was over and I had retreated to darkest rural Yorkshire to lick my wounds and live in financial penury, a whole host of other body-shape-related issues were thrust upon me; and these ones Are still relevant.
Being fond of exercise, and also broke, I was walking five miles a day and generally working out for a couple of hours in the evenings. Well, I had no working telly, my books were all still in storage, the internet connection was hazy at best. In no time I was back in fighting shape – or so I thought. Other people, as other people do, disagreed; and also as other people do, did so vocally. Since I was now back to the shape I’d been all through my teens, I was now back to the same comments about the ‘unfemininely long stride’ and the ‘unfemininely broad shoulders’ and the ‘unfemininely bulgy calves’ and the ‘ugly biceps’. (Though the triceps, for some reason, attracted a lot of compliments from strangers. Though I should admit here that they are the only part of me that does.) This time, however, I didn’t shrivel up in shame and accept that I am no damn good at being female and thus lucky to attract any sort of male attention at all. This time, I was angry.
Right! I vowed. You know what? Since there is no shape I can be that pleases anyone, or so it seems, I am going to be a shape I am pleased with. And that shape, one glorious day, will be ‘ripped as FUCK’, for if I am that bad at femininity, let’s just go the other way! All the way the other way! I will be a Beshemoth, by god! I will regain the hideous six-pack abs of my youth! I will have shoulders so wide I have to walk through doorways sideways! I will have sinews in my calves you could shave with! And if that is deemed unattractive and socially unacceptable, so much the damn better because I am through with shelving all my plans in order to put a partner’s plans first and if nobody finds me attractive, I can’t fall down that particular hole again (because I am an idiot and I always fall down that hole if the opportunity presents itself)! Onward!
The move to France to spend a year being an unpaid labourer helped a treat with that (if not so much with the actual aim of the game, which was to garner Mad Construction Skillz). For my birthday before going, I had bought myself a dress mainly composed of black denim and zips; despite buying it untried on eBay for the princely sum of twelve pounds, it fitted like a glove. A mere three weeks of hauling logs, and when I next tried to put it on, none of the zips would stay shut. However, after six months of labouring under Calories In not-equal-in-any-way to Calories Out conditions, I thought I would wear it for my next birthday. With hindsight, this was unparalled optimism on my part, because despite being mainly ribs by this point, it just would not pull up over my shoulders. One mighty heave… and the damn thing shredded in my grasp. Oh well. Farewell, birthday frock.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and all the walking and hauling wheelbarrows and press-ups – this time, fitted in around the day-job – are indeed having a fantastic effect. The hideous six-pack is returning! The biceps are like rock! Well, they were in October. So I thought it was all going pretty well until the Cute Chick at fightclub, who is petite and pretty enough to qualify for waif-fu and who always made me feel rather hulk-like by comparison, turned to me one day and said, Jesus, doll, there’s nothing of you.
On going home, I looked hard in the mirror and was forced to concede that she’s right.
So it’s an ongoing project.
Still, I did have one moment of destroying a (treasured) item of clothing by Hulking out like anything. I know it’s socially unacceptable, but the memory still makes me smile.