I’ve never liked my body – never, ever. It’s been with me a long time and I’ve always been hard on it; my attitude’s probably not going to change. At least my critique is consistent. My body’s changed shape constantly over time, reflecting what’s been going on in my life, good and bad, but I’ve come to realise that I’ll never like it. It’s not even its fault: it’s done nothing but not be like the women in the pictures in magazines, or on stage or screen. The stage or screen part is tricky, because that’s part of what I do for a job. It can seem like – if you don’t break through quite quickly and corner the market in “character” parts – the prerequisite for an actress is to be willowy, tall and have impossibly big eyes like a fawn so they’ve less CG work to do in post. Eyelashes, too: I’ve noticed a trend in filming actresses from above so the camera catches a tear trickling gently out from beneath 3ft lashes, obviously funded by the production so they’re determined to get the value for them. That’s right, I can even find fault with my eyelashes. I’m aware that this feeling isn’t unique to me.
The best I can hope for at this stage is to make friends with my body. Be thankful for it when it’s in good health, as it mostly is for now. Well done, body, you’re great. I should say that more. I’ve put you through a lot. So I try to feed it right, I’m not drinking anymore and I work it out whenever I have time. I try, every healthy, mobile day, to notice. I’m not in hospital, I’ll remember, and it instantly lifts my mood. I don’t currently have an illness or injury, bar the asthma for which I’m lucky enough to live in a time and place where I can easily get medication. Age has brought some interesting noises when I stand up too fast, but other than that, my body’s been a great, under-appreciated, buddy to me.
This January, however, I will still fall into the trap of the relentless onslaught of “You’re Shit” ads that flood the telly and every billboard for the month. I will still, despite my better judgement, regret every fun thing I ate or drank over Christmas, even though I loved every second of it. I internalise the knowledge that I am a failure and only this membership or that product can save me. I will feel guilty for having a healthy body that goes through seasonal phases, that responds naturally to movement and fuel. I should “cleanse” (I am dirty), I should “detox” (I am poison), I should be “new” (I am useless and old). My brain doesn’t believe these messages, but goddamit, after four decades of this shit, some of it’s stuck in my heart.
To counter this, my aim will be not to perfect, or sculpt, or punish my body this New Year. I will try instead to be friends with it. Let it do its thing in peace. To distract myself, I choose completely non-body related goals instead.
- Like, I will become a despot. It seems to be all the rage these days and you get in all the best places, like the White House and restaurants with goldy lighting that are particularly flattering. I need all the help I can get.
- No selfies in fluourescent lighting. Not out of vanity but so’s not to shut down Instagram with the fright and the glare.
- I will have my own radio station, broadcasting in secret from within a mountain lair. I will play only 80s hits to which I know the words and sing along. I know the words to a LOT of 80s hits. This will take up more airtime than you can possibly imagine. There will be no requests, for fear any of them would include “Stop singing along to 80s hits.” (Being a despot will have many hidden benefits like this.)
- I will contrive to have someone pay me to go on holiday and write about it. Even though despoting will take up a lot of my time and guarantee me an income, I simply couldn’t give up doing what I love: going on holiday.
- I will find a mainstream publication, programme or website that hasn’t had a hilarious racist on for clicks. I know it’s hard to believe, but they’re out there. I will find them and report back.
- I will bring back thatching and weaving and other lost crafts and skills. Like listening. Nobody does that anymore. We used to have storytellers – now they’d never get even halfway through the story of Cúchulainn without someone butting in to argue that the story was shit because the seanchaí neglected to mention that #notallmen accidentally kill dogs with sliotars.
That’s plenty to be getting on with this month. And I didn’t even mention Nutribullet once.