There’s something wrong with my washing machine. It’s been ponging for a while now, spewing out less than Persil-fresh clothes at the end of its cycle, but now it’s started shrinking things as well. Yesterday, I put on my jeans and they were noticeably tighter. Weirdly, their length was unchanged: the shrinking only seemed to affect the waistband. “Has anyone else noticed the strange phenomenon of the waistband-shrinking washing machine?” I asked the family. They looked at me like they always do: like I am bonkers.
But there’s nothing wrong with the old Bosch, is there? Clearly, I was just having a fat day. Except I couldn’t say I was having a fat day, because I have two daughters, and I don’t use the F-word in front of them, in case my own body issues are catching, like measles. Besides, I don’t really have body issues. All in all, I feel fairly fortunate about the shape my parents bequeathed me. I like my body. It has birthed two children. It hasn’t malfunctioned much.
None of which means I don’t have fat days. Who doesn’t? I bet my patatas bravas that even Kate Moss does. Yet it can still feel embarrassing/self-indulgent/ wonky to admit to them. Which is why it’s so positive that a woman with the heft (cultural heft, not physical heft) of Rihanna has come out and admitted that she has them, too. “I have had the pleasure of a fluctuating body type, where one day I can literally fit into something that is bodycon, and then the next day – the next week – I need something oversized; I need a little crop here and a high-waist there to hide that part, you know?” she said earlier this week. Praise be.
Whether because of their period, their diet or something more nebulous, the idea that women inhabit the same body 24/7 is a fiction for all but a few
I’m not really au fait with Rihanna’s menstrual cycle, but if that’s what lies behind her “fluctuating body type” – oh eloquent phrase – she wouldn’t be alone. At this stage in my life, I have a well-worn routine that deals with the bloating. Out come the smock tops, the loose blouses and the trapeze-line knits. On go the elasticated lounge pants and the drawstring-waisted jogging bottoms. Oh, and the jeans that mysteriously shrunk in the wash.
Whether because of their period, their diet or something more nebulous, the idea that women inhabit the same body 24/7 is a fiction for all but a few. Women have many bodies, from period body, January body, depressed body and postpartum body to beach body, wedding body, regular exercise body, found-a-diet-that-worked body and more. Rather than feel bad about it, a better approach is to acknowledge it, then make the best of what you’ve got to work with that day.
Like Rihanna. “I really pay attention every day when I go into the closet about what’s working for my body that morning,” she continued. “I feel like that’s how everyone should go after fashion, because it’s an individual thing. And then, if you take it further, it’s like: What week are you having? You having a skinny week? You having a fat week? Are we doing arms this week? We doing legs this week? We doing oversized?”
Rihanna is 29, and has already been fat-shamed on social media by haters who clearly don’t know a goddess when they see one. If I were tragic enough to stare at pictures of her through the ages, maybe I’d have noticed whether she’s lost or gained weight in the ten years since her Umbrella video, but I doubt it. I don’t really see Rihanna’s fluctuating body shape: I just see Rihanna. The sheer Rihanna-ness of Rihanna blinds me. It’s like looking at the sun.
That someone as outwardly confident as Rihanna has fat days will be a salve to her fans, many of whom are young, and still finding their confidence in a world where body diversity is rarely well represented. She has already taken on the beauty giants with Fenty Beauty, providing foundation in an unprecedented 40 different skin tones. Maybe her next move will be to provide clothes for loads of different body shapes. Fenty Fat Day, Fenty Thin Day, Fenty Oversized? Don’t bet against it.