LAST week I did something pretty scary. I decided to pose naked.
Granted, at my age — with more years behind me than ahead — I try to take myself out of my comfort zone whenever I can. But these things don’t happen often.
And despite often writing about sexuality, ageing and body ownership, I am acutely aware that sometimes you really have to show commitment, put your money where your mouth is and basically s**t or get off the toilet.
So that is what I did this week. A few weeks back, I had applauded the actions of one of those SAS: Who Dares Wins guys off the telly, Billy, for showing his bare backside for charity. I thought it was a cute little feat. And an even cuter bum.
At my age, I really should know better than to draw attention to myself (says the woman who has basked in the public limelight for more than 33 years) but before I knew it, I was asked whether I would consider doing the same: Bare myself for a good cause.
And before I had a chance to engage my brain, I said: “Yes”.
I was fuelled, it has to be said, by the objective of the charity, which is to help men with their mental health and to cope with bereavement.
This feels important to me because you find me writing a lot about women’s issues here.
I was asked if I would “share a tasteful photo of my body I wouldn’t normally have the confidence to show”.
Now, I’m happy to pose semi-bare, but the idea of being so utterly exposed and utterly bare really felt like a step too far, not to mention the public judgment: Accusations of attention seeking; skinny shaming; body shaming; old woman shaming or worse still, complaints about the state of my (garden) bush.
I justified it in my head that, because it was for charity, I was giving away my nudity for free. Pretty generous, I think. My kids, on the other hand, rolled their eyes.
Let me be clear, I never ask my children’s permission. I ask them their thoughts but this is my life and my body. There were no outright objections but some dismay from one who was thinking about herself and her own reputation.
My youngest boy, Malcolm, couldn’t even be bothered to show any interest because he said: “You’re not actually naked!” True, I’m wearing wellies.
I had to request help from a girlfriend, Emma, who has a good eye for pics. I couldn’t really do it on my own unless I wanted a boring picture in the bathroom with my back turned away from the lens. But I felt, if you’re going to do something like this, you might as well push the wheel- barrow out.
I’m no stranger to gardening and the weather was warm — it felt like the scene was set . . .
With next to no make-up and filthy hair, there I stood, stark-b***k naked in my garden on a Sunday afternoon.
Alone with my barrow, in the wilderness of my apple trees and the long grass backing on to fields that stretch as far as the horizon. After much faffing and trying to position handles in front of my tiny pancake-breasts, we captured some different little vignettes.
Then suddenly, Emma, shouts: “There’s a man, there’s a man!!!”
I thought she was joking and ignored her. But she didn’t relent.
I turned around to see a metal detectorist in the field behind me.
In the six years I’ve lived in this house never, ever, has anyone walked across those fields. What are the chances? Poor bloke would have had an eyeful if he’d bothered to look up.
And he would have had an eyeful of what I can only describe as bit of a “glorious disappointment”. As women, we’re rarely happy with our bodies.
I treat my body as a vessel for food and rum. It has carried four children for a total of three years.
It has breastfed and gone up and down in size more often than a tart’s knickers. It has suffered operations and many invasive treatments.
So I looked at the pictures without any filters we took for @strongmenorg and I cannot avoid seeing the excess skin, the cellulite on the back of my legs, the diminished muscle on my forearm, my ever-decreasing bum and my beloved varicose veins which I’ve had operated on no fewer than three times.
But as my best friend Laura physically held my hand when I pressed the “go” button on Instagram, I felt I had to accept and take ownership of this nearly 54-year-old body.
Own it. It is what it is. It’s given life to four beautiful, ungrateful children.
And, hopefully, earned some money for a well-deserving charity, too.
A right carry on-off
THEY were feverishly in love, wrapping their arms and their worlds around each other.
They were obsessed with one another and the world cringed a tad when he took out an ad in a trade mag in honour of her glory. They earned their own nickname. They were inseparable and in no time became engaged.
There had been such high hopes for Bennifer.
Then something went a bit awry when he visited a club and their engagement was called off. They both married other people and had children.
Clever Ben Affleck married another Jennifer (Garner) so he could keep the “Bennifer” nickname.
And J-Lo married singer Marc Anthony.
After much water under the bridge, the original Ben and Jennifer have now been reunited.
Once again, they are draped around each other and the world is praying history doesn’t repeat.
It made me think about the times when relationships I’ve been in have come to a heart-breaking end but there ends up being a reunion.
Your mind tells you this was meant to be, because why else would love have found a way back to both of you. Your heart is relieved it doesn’t have to break any more.
Your soul tells you this is fate and you should never have been parted, ever, ever.
And then, a few weeks or months in, he starts squeezing the toothpaste from the centre of the tube and leaving his dirty socks on the floor and snoring too loudly and you think: “No, dammit, we were NOT ever, ever meant to be together.
Get me outta here!”
Tweet as you'd like to be tweeted
I GUESS you could call me a coward. Either that or I’m really, really smart.
But for me, Twitter appears to be a dangerous place and it is for that reason I don’t engage with that social media platform.
I’m thin-skinned, not keen on confrontation and hate arguments.
So I’m a smart Swede or just plain lily-livered. Probably the latter.
Much of social media can bring huge rewards but it also comes with pitfalls and enormous risk. It’s a game of jeopardy.
Increasingly, we hear of more and more celebs getting into more than a pickle due to careless, thoughtless and often immature tweets.
Some of these are historic. Some racist or sexist.
It wasn’t that long ago that England cricketer Ollie Robinson got a suspension from the national game’s governing body, the ECB, due to tweets of exactly that nature.
The young man is only 27 and stupidly let his fingers do the talking around eight years ago.
Age is not a justification for stupidity or naivety but I thought his sentence was a bit harsh.
I know for sure I used wholly inappropriate and awful words and insults at school.
I didn’t know what I was saying – they were insults I bandied around as casually as “fattie”, “porker” and anything else which sounded like a slight on someone’s character rather than a painful, undignified put-down. I am not proud of any of it.
But I’d hate that, had Twitter existed in those Victorian times, I might very well have uttered those words in a public forum and been suspended from school or lost a job.
I cannot deny that one person’s rightful indignation is another’s mindlessness. And in the current blame culture, there always has to be a harsh punishment. We are obsessed with retribution. We want suffering and castigation.
In many ways, I’ve mellowed over the years and my levels of tolerance have risen because I try not to lash out, and instead try to show greater understanding of the whole picture. But I’m getting bored with this constant hunt for scapegoats, fall guys and lambs to the slaughter.
We have to find more perceptive and considered ways. How else do we deal with someone like model Chrissy Teigen?
She is married to a famous singer, John Legend, and likes the sound of her own voice. So much so that historic comments she has made include suggesting someone kill themself, Courtney Stodden, calling someone a whore, Farrah Abraham, and mocking someone self-harming, Lindsay Lohan.
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Trolls were trolling the troll.
Now, I don’t like the sound of her one bit, but this constant cycle of punitive brutality gets us nowhere.
What she appears to have done sounds considerably worse than what Ollie did. And yet, for some, jobs and careers hang in the balance and for others it’s just another day at the office.