I’m now 40. Or, as my son likes to tell me, “nearly 70.” That gives me the right to talk about when I was young through very rosy glasses.
When I was at school, it was social death to be really vain. If you were caught pouting in the mirror, you were “up yourself” and would spend the rest of the month living it down.
It was a rather posh girls’ school with a remarkable gene pool. There were some girls who were really into themselves, and for some reason this seemed to work for them. I don’t know why, but for some there was this anomaly which meant they were super vain, but totally forgiven.
For the rest of us, we bounced around trying to look like we really didn’t care how we looked. Of course we did care, but we kept this to ourselves.
If you were in a bikini and caught sight of your reflection, it was inconceivable that you’d think “whoa – how hot are you!?” and made sure you took a photo. Like I said – social death.
But times have changed.
I had this conversation with a friend recently. She showed me the Facebook profile of someone they work with. She’s young and absolutely gorgeous. Lots of her photos only show from her shoulders to her knees, and she’s barely wearing anything. So there’s a photo of her boobs and perfect torso getting out of a pool. Then there are several very posed, near naked selfies taken in a bathroom mirror. There’s zero mystery, put it that way.
If you want to take photos like that of yourself, knock yourself out. I just don’t understand when this became normal. I know people say it’s empowering and I get that to a point, but if we’re honest isn’t it more about showing off? When did it become OK to be this vain? Am I overreacting?
I know from personal experience that getting your clothes off can make you feel better about your body. I travelled around Japan when I was 21, and you can’t be a prude there or you’ll make no friends. You can’t give a shit about being naked when you’re nude, sitting on a tiny wooden stool, scrubbing yourself for ages (ages!!) from head to toe in a room full of strangers before your communal bath.
But that experience was a great lesson in just being comfortable in my skin – something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Anyone, regardless of size, should feel happy wearing a bikini or sunbaking topless if they want to. Or covering up if that makes them happy. No-one should feel any shame in how they look, which I appreciate isn’t always easy (hello new mothers like me who are eating too many scones).
But that’s a different beast. There’s being happy with what you’ve got, which is fantastic, and then there’s making sure everyone can see just how sexy you are because you’re so hot, dammit.
Taking this further is it’s now normal for school kids to send racy photos of themselves to each other. Apparently now if a boy sends you a photo of his penis, it’s a sign he likes you and you should be flattered.
That’s a bit sad isn’t it? Couldn’t he just buy her a Mars bar or something? And yes, adults do this too. But they (hopefully) have a better idea of their digital footprint as well as being – you know – adults.
Schools are coming under fire for telling girls not to do this. When the time comes, I’ll absolutely be cautioning my kids against it. Just as I’ll be telling them it’s unacceptable to forward these photos on – and the fact we’ll be having this conversation is awful.
I hope that when my kids are older they won’t buy into all this. Right now they love mucking around taking silly photos of themselves. They think you have to actually say “selfie!” when you press the button.
Clearly it’s a different culture now.
If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m normally very much in the “do what you like” camp. Do you think I’m being harsh? Oh god – am I getting old?? Let me know below.
Should I just have another scone? (I’ve got date scones from Baker’s Delight – OMFG!)