Something has been brewing inside me for a while now, and today, casually browsing Instagram, I found the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to write this. I haven’t thought this through, and I’m sitting here eating a bowl of soup in a hoodie trying to put a million thoughts into words so bear with me and I’ll try and explain what’s got me so worked up. Let’s start with the general stuff – I am well aware, that at 28 years old I am a dinosaur to many people watching my videos or reading my stuff. Hey, I understand. When I was 15 a 21 year old may as well have been drawing a pension for all I cared, they were so far removed from my notions of youth but trust me, you blink and you suddenly feel exactly the same except with home insurance and council tax. You’ll be 28 one day and you’ll have a ‘holy shit Gemma was right moment. Hopefully I’ll still be spilling the contents of my brain on the internet so you can come and tell me. I get comments all the time along the lines of “OMG I didn’t realise you were 28, you look so good!” which I’m always pretty chuffed with but also slightly confused by, after all, what is a 28 year old meant to look like? I admit I do have a particularly chubby, youthful face but still, 28 year olds do look good because, well, they aren’t exactly over the hill. Avril Lavigne, Keira Knightley, Audrina from The Hills? All 28. Finn from Glee? – 31. Maya from Pretty Little Liars? – 34. Gwen Stefani is 42 for Pete’s sake! Anyhow, that isn’t what this post is about, I’ll get to that in a second, but the point I want to make is that being in my late 20′s I remember a time before Heat magazine, before Closer, before Now and before all the downright scary obsessions with how other people look.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and imply that I never gossip about people. That would be a barefaced lie. It’s what we do as humans, and yes, of course looking at a photo of a normally perfectly made up celebrity looking a bit rough with no makeup on makes me feel better about my own shortcomings, particularly whilst I’m sat eating chocolate feeling hormonal and bloated. See the thing is though, I can’t remember the last time I bought a celebrity magazine, the whole thing makes me feel sick and a bit ashamed of myself these days to be honest. Even on the occasions I do find myself on Perez Hilton, comforting myself with the fact that Emma Stone is in fact human, I know that what I’m doing isn’t really great, and that I would feel utterly crap at the thought of someone picking apart my flaws, so something stops me. I remember that time before all the gossip rags, when yes, people gossiped but we weren’t so direct and blase in how we went about it – when did that change? Chatting about people’s thighs and whether or not they had too many spots was done secretly and hidden because we knew it wasn’t very nice but now I feel like every time I click on a photo of a young woman I see arguments in the comments over whether or not she’s put weight on, if she’s too thin, too fat, a “bigger girl” or whether she’s just “normal” – whatever that means.
The overwhelming response when those comments are challenged seems to be that the person has put themselves out “there”. Where “there” is exactly I don’t know, but constructive criticism aside, that excuse doesn’t really fly with me. “I’m saying pretty mean things about someone’s appearance but hey, it’s not my fault! She put a photo of herself on Instagram! She put herself OUT THERE. I’m just being honest!” – Yes, you might be being honest, but you’re also being mean, and I’m not sure how enthused you would be if you put yourself “out there” at a BBQ in a sundress and I came over and told you it might be a good idea to put one of those sausages back because it looked like your thighs were rubbing together a little bit too much, but hey, I’m just being honest, and it’s a free country, right? Right, but it would still make me a bit mean. I notice things all the time about other people, mostly when I’m hormonal (and maybe just a tad jealous) but sometimes when they have actually lost or gained weight, or their eyeliner isn’t even, or they forgot to blend their blusher in and it’s making them look more Cirque du Soleil than Cara Delevigne, but I keep it inside knowing that I’m trying to lose a few pounds myself, I don’t always have the steadiest hand, and I very often do my makeup on the tube because I’m always late. It’s more than likely that one day out of the month I am that person.
I suppose the worry I have is that for a whole generation the circling of cellulite by tawdry tabloids, the “shocking” photos of makeup-less celebs, the way mental illness, drug addiction and eating disorders are treated like some kind of media sideshow that we all have to be okay with because someone chose to put themselves “out there”, all of this is normal for people who have grown up not knowing a time before the media was quite like this. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are so many young people who are equally disgusted with this kind of stuff, and I by no means want to patronise younger people as if they don’t know any better, but it does worry me that if you grew up as part of the “Heat Generation” – the odds aren’t really in your favour. It breaks my heart to think that so many young girls feel that this is just a part of life that we have to deal with. It’s not.
We can’t control what the media print but we can control what we buy and we can control how we act. If you spend your time feeling half guilty and half entertained by those magazines, skip them for a week or two and act with your wallet. Sick of the politics of social media? Go against the grain and pay someone a compliment, one that you actually mean. Better yet, if you’re feeling fed up and you know you’re probably going to take it out on someone’s Instagram comments thinking they probably won’t actually see it, and if they do they won’t care (they will, and they likely might), turn off your phone and take yourself away from it. Don’t make excuses that they are famous, they are rich, they put themselves out there, and instead take ownership of the kind of person you’re being and what it is you’re doing. I’m aware that I sound preachy right now, and trust me I will be taking my own advice, I damn well need to at times. I have, however, stopped myself going on gossip websites and celebrity “news” tumblrs, and in the few months that I have I feel a million times better. I still love a bit of juicy gossip, but I limit myself to actual goings-on rather than articles about the circumference of an Olsen-twin’s arm.
Before anyone thinks it, none of this was born of something someone said to me. The things I saw were all on other people’s photos and just made me sad for us all really. Emily Davison didn’t die under that horse so that we could all sit around picking each other apart and discussing what a normal weight is. If you don’t know who Emily Davison is, skip reading Heat for a week and find out. Don’t even get me started on the “thigh gap” thing – your legs are for walking, for running and for supporting you whilst you do fabulous and fun things that will remain “if only’s” if you waste your wonderful life fixating on the size of your own, and other people’s thighs. Be happy, take pride in your body and take care of it, but if you’re healthy and your thighs (god forbid!) touch, and someone else is healthy and theirs don’t, it’s okay. We aren’t all cut from the same cloth and sometimes that is a wonderful thing. I love beauty, and fashion as much as the next girl, but there is so much more to us all than what we look like. Honey Boo Boo’s little niece was born with an extra finger and what did she do? Instead of thinking she was strange she got jealous because she could grab more cheese balls. However amusing that is, she saw the rainbow and not the rain. Maybe we all need to take a leaf out of her book. Don’t get sucked into the vicious and soul-destroying cycle of bitterness and gossip that social media can become. You are wonderful and you should be treated that way, just remember that so should everyone else, and all will be well.