About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

My Iced Buns and Me by Holly Searle




When I was a little kid, I never thought of myself in terms of being a girl, I was just a genderless shy and sensitive child knocking about in the world. And when I think about it now, I wasn't defined by society as one either. I was just me.

I don’t recall ever being made to feel special for having been born a girl, or dressed up in buttons and bows or in pink. Maybe this was a very modernistic approach on my parent’s behalf, although I tend to think it was more to do with their lack of Joie de vivre in relation to their income that rendered them (and me) without that option.

It was more of a calamity than Calamity Jane.

We were painfully poor. It was the sort of poverty that enabled us to survive rather than affording such lavish choices like acquiring new clothes.

In our house, my dad would cut out the shape of a shilling (that's five pence in today's money) from the top of a tin can, and push it into the to the electricity/gas meter to keep our supply going. I can remember how we would all have to hide, and pretend that we weren't in when the utility man came to empty the meter. And how my dad would have to cough up the money, when the man eventually did gain access to ours after pay day. The shame was palatable as he unlock the little draw in the meter, and poured out all of those faux tin shillings.

Still, at least we had access to these utilities and were taught the important lesson of how necessity was the mother of invention.

I spent the first few years of my life in those unattractive black slip on PE plimsolls. I always thought they were quite cool and to this day if I even get a whiff of that rubber smell, I am immediately transported back to my days wearing those unsupported and unattractive canvas poor excuse for footwear.

I can only remember going to buy one pair of shoes as a child, and my overriding memory of that, was why I couldn’t have the red shiny ones instead of the ones I had bought for me. Now I can buy my own shoes, I am, as you can imagine, very particular. But alas, my feet are a problem due to these early Start-rite lacking years.

I can’t ever remember buying clothes off the peg. To be fair, and fashion accurate, in the 70's there weren't any specialist girls clothing stores, there were just departments for them within department stores. But I can remember my mum making me clothes that were all constructed in a particular style to cover my apparent girth. My nan was a pretty good seamstress, as well as being a sterling knitter. And my mum had inherited these amazing long forgotten skills.

By modern standards, I was not an obese child by any means, but for some reason I was dressed in these tent like dresses that she made to covered me up.

There I was, a concealed child, who also happened to be female. What sort of unconscious message did that send to me I wonder? Probably the one that was just as effective as the comment that I nan made to my mum during a family holiday in Devon one year when I must have been eight or nine. “Holly is very fat.” I heard her say to my mum. I was completely dissolved and devastation by that comment for years. I felt like a freak and hated myself. It consumed me and I felt socially unworthy because of it for many years afterwards, and hid my post-adolescent slim body under mountains of oversized clothes.

The comment and the tent dresses were like two scarlet letters which I wore with shame throughout those last two years of primary school, and beyond. Being a child had been okay, but realising I was becoming a girl was harsh.

When I started secondary school I wore a uniform just like everyone else. I found tremendous comfort in that as I was no longer singled out and could take cover and disappear into a crowd of other people who were all dressed just liked me.

But at this moment, the one in which I had at last found some sanctuary, my body decided it was time to evolve.

This evolutionary process decided that it was time for me to have breasts. Girl bits grew where they had not been before and I was so mortified by their appearance that tried to flatten beneath my school blouse with an ugly tight waistcoat. I was horrified by these changes that were defining my gender. In the shadow of recovery were I was able to hide after being the fat freak, I was now going to have to become a proper girl. I hated my breasts. I was so embarrassed. How dare they do that to me? How dare they appear and ruin everything in such an obvious and apparent way.

My femininity was never cherished or presented to society in the correct débutante way. On the contrary, something somewhere had been wholly unsuccessful in my coming out. And my breasts suffered because of that the most.

Their existence also seemed to me marred by other people’s perception of them. And that perception, stigmatised my own enjoyment of them. Where I should have been celebrating these changes, I was ashamed by them.

Later after I had stopped trying to restrain them with that waistcoat and had got a well fitted bra, I had to visit the doctor due to illness. As I was still too young to see the doctor alone, my mother was with me. The doctor (a woman) asked me to remove my top so that she could examine me. When I did, she gasped at my breasts. This response was not due to their magnificence, but rather due to the fact that she had known me as a child without them. Their presentation startled her and her audible recognition of them, was yet another set back.

Their presence eventually grew on me, and I accepted them as I started to grow into the woman I was becoming. Then one day a friend’s mother informed me in front of a captured audience that she didn’t really think I needed to wear a bra as she thought my breasts were quite small. “Mother!” I heard my friend cry out in despair. What is it with women and other women’s breasts I wonder?

Maybe Jean Paul Gaultier should have made me a conical bra outfit instead of Madonna. Now that would have been something to comment on for its sheer audacity.

That observation hurt. And in that moment, I was ordained with the same freakish mantel as I had been all of those years ago by the comment that my nan had made about my weight.

It was all turning in to a game of Snakes and Ladders this girl stuff. I had enough ladders to climb as it was without those that shared my gender forcing me to slide down patriarchal snakes before I needed to.

They were my breast for the love of Mary! And the more attention they drew, the more protective I became for their well-being.

Were they small? Or were they just my size? Who gets to decide what is small and what is big? Where does this obsession come from?

Less is more according to a poem by Robert Browning. Maybe it was his fault that people paid so much attention to my breasts, and felt the need to comment.

When I became pregnant, my breasts and I were given the gift of foresight. If, I had wanted bigger breasts, this was the perfect opportunity to consider this option as nature increased their size naturally for me.

After I had had my baby, I can recall going to the loo which was situated on the maternity ward and whilst washing my hands in the sink, I suddenly noticed the size of my breasts in the mirror that hung above it. There they were reflected back at me in the mirror this huge pair of breasts heavy with new motherhood. I was delighted and amazed with them. But that didn’t last long.

It was great having those around for a while. They were certainly cheaper and less painful than surgery. They were natural. But they soon lost their appeal and I was glad when they were reduced to their initial size.

Then one day I found a small lump in the left one. I was beyond scared. I was a new single mother with a baby. I went to my GP as fast as I could because that is what we women are told to do. As I opened the door to his room, and before he gave me the opportunity to sit down, my GP gestured for me to lift up my top for him to feel them. He then informed me that there was nothing there and I was just being silly.

Six weeks later I was in hospital having the lump, a milk cysts removed. I knew he was wrong. The one thing nature teaches about your body after you have had a baby, is that you know your body better than anyone else. And I knew my breasts.

Then I went through a phase where I lost a ridiculous amount of weight. This just so happen to coincide with the fact that I was on the first run of starting a new relationship with a particular man. The night we did it for the first time, I removed my top exposing my breasts to which he exclaimed “Oh my God you’re a boy!” It was horrific for my ego, and for our fledgling relationship, that died a tragic and mournful (for him) death soon after.

They grew again when I had my second child and have in the aftermath of his arrival, just reverted back to being my breasts.

I love them. They are mine and no one else’s’.

I have shared them quite successfully with each of my children. That after all was their raison d'être.

They have been admired, fondled and loved. Most of all by me and a few others over the years.

Recently they were relentlessly squashed during my routine age appropriate mammogram examination.

I didn’t enjoy that at all. But I enjoyed the negative result.

I often admire them. For although they are smallish, they remain my second most favourite part of my body.

It’s been a long and emotional love story between my breasts and I. They are part of me and I am lucky to have them. Not all love stories end so well or continue to grow so successfully.


1 comment:

sonia shuter said...

I'm trying to think who your writing reminds me if maybe Andrea Levy- cant quite place it but once again a fabulous piece that makes you laugh, smile, cringe at similar experiences- love it Holly don't ever give up writing