It started, as these things so often do, with a German sausage.
Looking for a pre-theatre bite and hankering after a bit of bratwurst und sauerkraut, I was scanning the menu at Herman ze German to see what schnitzel I could see. Grace Dent once described their sausages as ‘pink and limp, not utterly dissimilar to an anaemic penis’, but not even that could put me off, as my Bavarian roots were demanding Kartoffelnsalat and demanding it schnell.
What did change my mind, however, was spotting the salad section of the menu. A choice of sausage, served on top of what looked like the end of the night scrapings from the Pizza Hut salad bar, and proudly proclaiming ‘No Carbs, Fraulein!’
I looked to see if any other foodstuffs had been assigned gender-appropriate slogans (‘Big sausages for overcompensating boys’ would have pleased me), and finding they hadn’t, went and ate elsewhere.
No carbs, fraulein. Why should only the women (the unmarried women at that) avoid carbs? Is food-sexism really a thing now?
Of course it is – just take a look at the wave of ‘female-friendly’ restaurants that came out a few years back. Clearly us gals were intimidated by the robust, manly ribeyes and red wine served by likes of Hawksmoor and Gaucho, so some bright sparks decided to set feminism back 50 years by opening STK, where the portions were small lady-sized and the wines were, presumably, Lambrusco. That’s what proper girls drink, isn’t it?
This type of food-shaming (‘don’t eat all that, it’ll make you fat’) isn’t by any means a new thing. Sometimes even your waiter will get in on the act: whilst mystery shopping a restaurant a little while ago, my friend and I decided to share a side of fries and a side of spinach. She is tall and slim, I am short and a tubster (all those steaks), so our hilarious waiter gave me the spinach and the chips to her, because, ‘you don’t look like you’re gonna share them’. Cue open-mouths all round, a tip cut in half, and a damning report to the bosses about teaching their staff manners.
Having judgements made on my character based on how I look is by no means a new thing. I wear a size 20, so whilst it’s safe to assume that yes, I like my food, it’s way out of line to suggest that I spend every second of the day stuffing my face, singing songs about how much I love the fried potato whilst my poor friends go chip-less. It’s rude, it’s embarrassing, and I only sing those songs on special occasions.
I’m fed up of being fat-shamed, food-shamed, and feeling like I should about apologise for my lovely big bum. Like almost everyone I know, I’ve spent years cultivating an impressive hatred of my body and everything about it, and it’s got to stop. Inspired by a post on the Fat Positive London facebook group, today I took the bold step of stepping outside the door in a vest without a cardigan and thus exposing my bingo wings. And do you know what? The world didn’t end. There were no plagues of locusts. No one pointed at my upper arms and screamed in terror. In this brave new world where my flabby triceps (trifleceps?) were enjoying the sun, it occurred to me that I’d been listening to the wrong voices for far too long. (And to the person who gave me a diet book on my birthday, thank you. It was really handy when we ran out of loo roll).
It’s only human, yet so charmingly narcissistic, to imagine the rest of the world see your perceived flaws as you do. Or that they’re not so concerned with their own weight/hair/eyebrows that they even notice them in the first place. And if there is some helpful wag on hand to tell you what’s wrong with your face, body or whatever – fuck them. It’s difficult and embarrassing to call someone out on their rudeness, but know that they are being rude and ignorant – sorry, did you think I hadn’t noticed my belly jiggling up and down as I run for the bus? – and try not to let their words cause you to cry yourself to sleep while they rest easy in their beds.
And now I shall clamber from my soapbox, and go and eat some cake. Mit vielen carbs, Dummkopf.