I detest Christmas parties in suburbia. I really do. But I have friends and family who live there and so to them I must go. I hate them primarily because I don’t feel I have anything of value to add to the prevailing themes of conversation. This isn’t because I have particularly low self-esteem, before you start conjecturing. It’s because at Christmas parties, everyone talks about their boyfriends, girlfriends, children/babies, plans to redecorate and cars they’re thinking of buying and my life is, fortuitously, bereft of all of these things. I have a bloody interesting career to chat about, but no one wants to talk about anything remotely work-related over a minced pie and mulled wine. They just want to ask me why I’m not married yet and if it's because I’m a secret lesbian.
To avoid a Mr Darcy-esque party demeanour (i.e. standing, mute and sulkishly in a corner somewhere casting aspersions on everyone’s dancing abilities), I’ve honed my ability to seek out the person in the room who looks like they might be interested in discussing body image. See, blog readers, really I’m always at work. Devoted to collecting the nation’s opinions - Some potentially different, new and interesting perspectives on the body confidence issues of the day.
Accept, of course, Christmas isn’t an ideal time to gain any sort of sensible perspective on the subject. From anyone. In winter, absolutely everyone loses their minds and confuses their poor, unsuspecting bodies. People who can usually be relied upon for unrelenting logic and profound sociological commentary become slaves to the whims of the season and start spouting clichéd old crap. December is a month to gorge – To indulge in all the forbidden delights we associate with celebration. Wine is quaffed, meals are four times their usual size and the tin of Quality Street is never far from our eager, grasping fingers.
But that’s ok, because we know our resultant expanding waistlines can be whipped back to their former svelte selves come January – The month of discipline, the month to eschew all pleasure, the month when we become an idealised version of our former, gluttonous selves.
For those of us who have a more long-standing, less Christmas-specific body bugbear, January presents the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Yes, we decide, this will finally be the year we actually use our gym membership, or lose that pesky weight, or save up for a long-hankered-after cosmetic procedure, or learn how to wear pure white without spilling bolognaise sauce down ourselves. We begin to fantasise about a future in which we are a leaner, more poised, cooler, more attractive, more popular version of ourselves.
But it’s all bollocks. And deep down, you know it.
I could wax lyrical at this juncture about how the one thing we’ll never truly escape is ourselves. I could go a little spiritual on your asses. But instead I’ll resort to good old fashioned empiricism. I’ll look at the evidence.
Every single year, millions of people throughout the Western World resolve to mould their bodies into a different, more aesthetically pleasing form, convinced that this will guarantee them the fulfilment and happiness they so desperately crave. And yet, come September, the majority less resemble the idealised version of perfection they believe they should emulate and are considerably more depressed as a result.
We’re trapped on an endless binge/purge carousel, bombarded with conflicting messages telling us to indulge one moment and to deprive ourselves the next. On and on we run, on an endless treadmill to absolutely nowhere, slaves to the billion pound industries that depend on our greed and our consequent guilt.
Well, I’m getting off. I’m tired of running. It’s exhausting, futile and bloody irritating. There are enough tangible and worthwhile things to hope for in this World, without being blinded by the neon lights of an entirely false and synthetic hope being rammed down my throat by the hands of the advertising industry. There are far more productive activities I could be engaged in than calculating the calories in a low fat fromage frais.
This New Year, I’ve pledged to change my attitude, not my body. I’ll resolve not to change a physical thing, and spend the time that saves me doing something I can really be proud of, and that might actually make me a little more happy.
At Body Gossip, we’re hoping you’ll do the same. We’re calling you to arms: This year, change your attitude, not your body. Tell us what you WON’T be changing by tweeting us at @_BodyGossip.
During the evenings of January 2nd and 3rd, I’ll be on Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio London respectively, telling that nation EXACTLY what I think about New Years’ Resolutions. For details on how, when and why to tune in, follow me on Twitter @BodyGossipTash.