My body image has changed – and will keep changing

I was recently digging through my Instagram to find something from several years ago when the friend I was with stopped me. “There’s no way that’s you,” they protested, pointing to a post of myself in my mid-teens. 

We all have these pictures lurking in our Throwback Thursdays – the ones where you’re all gangly limbs, braces, and enough awkward energy to make you cringe years later. It’s the type of photo your family has dozens of, locked away in photo albums, immortalising the memories you’re not sure you want to cherish or erase totally. However, the feature being pointed out wasn’t any of these minor things. What elicited this reaction was how much my physical body has changed in the intervening years. 

To say I have a complicated relationship with my body would be an understatement. I spent most of my childhood being one of the tallest and thinnest people in my year. I have vivid memories of belts with extra holes punched in at the ends, willowy limbs and always looking slightly stretched. 

In short, it was the one time in my life I could be considered a twink. For those unaware of the term, it derived from LGBTQIA+ circles in the 1980’s and is used to identify a young man of slight build without defined muscles or excess body fat. Think Timothee Chalamet, or, even better, Troye Sivan. 

This body type is one universally celebrated by the fashion, film and art communities and is one of the most highly desired bodies within queer male circles. To be a twink is to typify youth and social standards of beauty. To be a twink is to fit into the mould society deems most attractive. This is the body type I once had and baring some major event, it is one I will never have again. This fact is something which no longer upsets me, but I still occasionally miss the body I once had. It’s these moments of loathing which upset me more than people’s reaction to it, since I’ve seen first-hand how my body has changed from the person it was in that photograph to the one existing today.

What makes this realisation harder to accept is knowing I am judged for my body on a daily basis, largely due to my masochistic usage of dating apps. Oscar Wilde once said, “if you give a man a mask, he will reveal who he truly is”, and never is this truer than on Grindr. If you think it’s bad being told you’re not someone’s type in the LCR, try having them do it online where they have free range to be as brutal as their twisted heart desires. I’ve literally had people list my faults unprovoked when I’ve messaged them, and I’d love to say that this is a freak one-off event, but it happens with depressing frequency. Not enough to actively affect my life, but enough to ruin my day every once in a while. 

What these people fail to realise is I am already aware of these faults. Having them pointed out is a death by a thousand cuts. I may do my best to pretend I don’t care about them and that I am happy with myself but some random internet stranger highlighting them can push me back to square one. When you comment on my body, even in the gentle way my friend did, I am reminded that these faults exist at all. My body therefore becomes a record of how I failed and continue to fail, by not remaining the standard society deems best.

However, this is not to say I totally loathe myself. While I am aware of my physical faults, I am also accepting the many positives of the body I got dealt to me. So what if I’m no longer some lanky teenager with stick thin limbs and ribs you could count? Do I really desire to inhabit that self again? To be totally hand-on-heart honest, I do not. I have spent long enough with myself to know I am good enough and to actively add people who will support me regardless of how I look. While I have undergone seismic changes in my physical form, I am still a person worth knowing ,in my humble opinion anyway. I may be unhappy with bits of myself in the mirror, but I am still fundamentally a good person. 

While I know I have changed and am unlikely to return to that previous self I will continue to practise self-loving until it sticks. To my previous self, thank you for letting me grow into the person I am today. To my future self, be kind when you look back on the person I am now. In the meantime I will do my best to accept myself warts and all, no matter how long this takes.

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Danny Hayes

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January 2022
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