Isn’t it strange what the mind sees? – a very personal ramble on looks

When I got chatting to Laura AKA SisterSpooky and author Zoe Marriott on twitter a few days ago we were talking about looks. It came about because Zoe’s publishers are trying to get a book trailer done for her new book, Frostfire, but were having trouble finding an actor to play the main character. She isn’t white or emancipated and they were proving to be difficult traits in a teen actor. 

That conversation sparked an amazing blog post from the wonderful Laura which you may have seen yesterday, if not you can read it here. When I read Laura’s post I also wanted to share my thoughts about books and a bit about self image and how my mind sees things, I hope you don’t mind! 
First of all. I am not a twig. I’m almost 13 stone, I am 5 foot 8ish and a size 14/16 (oddly enough the shorts Im wearing whilst writing this post are actually a size 18 and not even that changes my mind about what you’re about to read!). And I LIKE *gasp* what I see when I look in the mirror, but its taken me a long time to get there, I’m not gunna lie. 
Now before you all go comparing me to the oh so lovely *ahem* Samantha Brick, I don’t think I’m perfect, ask me on a bad day and I can list a whole array of things wrong with my body (in fact as me any day and I’ll always say my nose) but I don’t actually mind being the size and way I am, I could do with being a little lighter but its not like my weight is being projected from a neon sign over my head is it? So yes, I like what I see when I look in the mirror and I’m not ashamed to admit to that… or am I?
I quite often find myself looking in the mirror and thinking, not saying aloud but thinking, “I look good today” and do you know what I feel EVERY TIME I think that? Guilt. I actually feel guilty and ashamed of just thinking those words, so much so that I don’t think I’ve ever said them out loud or if I have there was never anyone around to hear them. Also notice I said good, not beautiful, or amazing, or anything like that, just good or mildly pretty on very good days. It’s like because I don’t conform to exactly what we’re conditioned to think of as beautiful – thin wispy type girls who look ‘stunning’ in bikinis – I think I shouldn’t be happy with my body. And I’ve recently started to think that that is just plain crazy. 
However another thing I noticed because of my feeling guilty about liking my body and that conversation with Laura and Zoe is about books. Obviously with books you get to make up your own image of the main character. Often we are given a small description in some way of how a character looks, this is usually the colour of their hair or their skin tone and whether they are curvy or not etc. However I have realised that no matter what the description of the main character, as soon as they become a love interest to another character they instantly become small and wispy and ‘beautiful’ this is helped by the fact SO MANY YA main characters are described as small, especially when it comes to them being hugged or kissed by the love interest. 
Its kinda bugging me a bit because I know there are other types of girl out there. I don’t see them all as the same girl, just variations of similar girls, they’ll have different hair or different eye colours. Some are taller than others, but always they never wear more than a size 10 – 12 at a push – and have clear complexions unless specifically stated otherwise. (I want to point out though; I don’t see every character as white even when they’re not.)
Pansy Parkinson from
the Harry potter Movies 

I think it’s really sad on my own behalf that I cant look in a mirror and not feel guilty for liking what I see, but its even sadder that the characters from my favourite books automatically conform to what would be mainstream-ly ‘beautiful because I’ve obviously been subject to so much media and social conditioning that my head sees a love interest as a small wispy girl. (Something that film adaptations aren’t really helping, I mean seriously even Pansy Parkinson wasn’t ugly and in the books she was described as having a face like a pug!) And I’m willing to bet my last penny (seriously, I’m down to that, its payday soon though!) that I’m not the only one who sees the same. 

So, now that I’ve rambled on I’ve come to the conclusion to say sod it. I look DAMN FINE today and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I am also going to try my damned hardest not to automatically see characters in the way I know I have been seeing them and try and pick out different things about them, maybe Tori from Divergent/Insurgent isn’t as tall and skinny as I saw her and hopefully when I read Frostfire by Zoe I’ll see the same girl Zoe saw and not a thinner, emancipated version of her! It’s not that skinny, ‘traditionally’ pretty girls are bad or anything but I’m fairly sure other girls can still be beautiful too! 


  • Ms Mac

    When I look in the mirror and think, “I look good today!” I don’t feel guilt, I feel relief!

    I’m way bigger than you are and most of the time, I feel happy about the way I look. Then I step outside of my house and am instantly reminded by the looks I get from other people that I should be ashamed of myself. I find that very sad.

  • Ellie Warren

    I know what you mean, unless the author has purposefully described someone as having flaws, they are always “perfect” in my head! I’ve got to think point in my life where most days I think I look OK but I live somewhere with a high percentage of women who’s number 1 priority is looking good, so it’s quite demoralising walking out the door some days.

  • Jenni

    I think you and Laura are both pretty amazing, these posts you’ve both written are excellent and thought provoking. I’ve never really thought about the lack of variation in the characters of books in terms of their attractiveness, or size. I’m definitely going to try harder when it comes to my reading.

  • Jennifer A

    Gosh, i could talk for hours on the subject of looks and how us women are made to feel about ourselves. I won’t rant on here though! 🙂

    I think it’s fantastic that you feel like you look good! You are super adorable. I think it’s terrible to be totally vain and think you’re the hottest thing on the planet, but that’s different. I think it’s wonderful to feel content and know your worth, you know?

    Awesome post. 🙂

  • Jo

    Wow. What a fantastic post, Raimy! Do you know what I find funny? I am a size 6/8. It’s only on really good days that I can think I look good (not beautiful), and then feel guilty for it. I’m really thin, so people on the outside looking at me probably think I have the type of body media and everyone else says you’re supposed to have to be beuatiful. Yet… on bad, bad days, I see someone who’s all boney and could do with so many more curves, and just looks plain boyish. The first photo of you in this post is beautiful! On a bad day, I’d want to be you, because I get so stick of feeling like a stick.

    Fortunately, bad days are rare. Most days are “normal” days, in between good and bad. It’s when I make the effort for a night out, and I’m wearing a body con dress, and it’s like “ooh, there seems to be a hint of a curve there, and possibly there, and ooh, my bum don’t look too bad!”, that’s when I think I look good, and can smile. But I can’t ever say it outloud. It’s really sad.

    I have to say, I don’t think I change the way characters look in my head at any point. I’m quite good at keeping characters with the shape they came in. However, sometimes in my head, characters don’t look like how the book says they do. Hagrid never had a beard. He went around wearing a leather biker jacket. He looked like a biker! The mind is a strange thing!

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