I spend way too much time on Tiktok. I used to be one of those people that denounced the app and claimed I was too old for it. But big surprise: it is super addictive. Tiktok is smart, so you quickly believe your suggested videos and trends are the same as everyone else, as it predicts exactly what you’ll enjoy. But as I do with all social media platforms, I like to break this mirage intentionally. I do this by checking out the comments. Because the comments aren’t streamlined to your tastes, and so they’ll show you the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. Plus, sometimes people come up with the funniest retorts!
Engaging in this practice a few nights ago, I was stumped at a specific video. The video itself was not revolutionary; it featured the trend of a woman showing how she looked at the start of a relationship and then how she does now. The difference is usually in weight, as it’s common for women to put on weight during a relationship, men too, in fact. Sometimes there will also be a change in how they’re dressing, perhaps less focused on tight or revealing clothing and in sweatpants. But then again, this is simply the footage chosen to highlight the contrast.
I like watching these videos. I like reminding myself that I’m not the only one who changed during a long-term relationship. I like seeing their present self and acknowledging that they still look beautiful, as I hope to do the same for myself.
The video had loads of comments telling her that she was beautiful, that she still looked great. But then I saw the negative comments, and those filled my veins with unfiltered fury. I immediately sent the video to all of my friends, telling them to look at the comments, needing the confirmation of how awful and unfair their negativity was. Because not only did they try to claim that she was ugly at a larger size, but the majority spoke of her boyfriend.
“Do you even love him?”
“As a man I can confirm he is not happy, no matter what he says”
“Poor guy… too bad you don’t care enough for him once you got him”
“Ye that would mean a breakup”
“I would break up with you but if ur happy that’s what matters”
“One more cupcake and it’s over”
The list could go on, but I’m too repulsed to keep reading these comments.
Your body will not stay the same throughout its life. I used to get so worked up, looking at photos from when I was sixteen and at the height of my eating disorder, and wishing I could be so thin again if only to “appreciate it this time”. But then someone told me something that completely opened my eyes. Your body won’t look like how it did at sixteen at the age of twenty-five. Bodies grow and change. Your body is developing with age; if you’re a woman, it could be preparing to potentially carry offspring. Those narrow hips and small thighs are the childlike statures of your figure. That’s not to say that you don’t have naturally slim people, but that not everyone is built that way, and that’s okay. Our bodies change as we grow.
The body they’re referencing from the Tiktok is a girl growing over four years, from a thin and unhappy teenager to a woman who embraces her figure and hunger. They’re expecting her not to change simply because she’s in a relationship, as if that is enough to halt the ageing process.
Yeah, some people’s bodies don’t change with age. But many do, and there’s nothing wrong with that; particularly if your teenage body revolved around unhealthy coping mechanisms and a fixation on the scale.
Bodies also change for different reasons. Physical ailments happen, mental ailments happen. You don’t know someone’s story, so why would you draw conclusions from it? You don’t know what it took to keep up the thin body at the start; you don’t know how healthy and happy she may be now. You just don’t know, and it isn’t your right to know.
Even if your body doesn’t naturally change, it’s still your body. Your body, your choice, let’s say it a little louder for everyone in the back! You do not owe anyone your appearance. You don’t owe them a number on the scale, a size stitched into your jeans. You don’t owe them makeup on your face, a specific haircut or colour, or even wearing a bra. You are in charge of how you dress and wear your body, and no one has ownership of you. A relationship doesn’t commit your body to someone else, even if we were raised to believe this.
It’s easy to feel like your partner has a right to your body, that you owe them sex or have to keep looking like you did when they first fell for you. But when you love someone, you love them as they want to be. You love them in their true state, not confined to a single weight group. If you can’t offer that, then it isn’t real love.
Those comments that equate her love to her weight gain, they have no clue what love is. The people assuming he would break up with her clearly have never been truly in love; because love isn’t attached to a number on the scale. It’s almost sad to know that they’ve never loved unconditionally and probably never been loved in that way either. I hope they one day get to experience that. Also, those claiming that they would break up with her are pretty presumptuous to think she’d give any of her time to someone who sits behind their phone writing cruel messages to someone they don’t know.
Because at the end of the day, it is about gender. It’s about gender because every single negative comment I wrote down was made by a man’s account. There were also men writing positive comments, telling her she looked beautiful and healthy now, but all the negatives were by men. All the female comments were positive; they were proud of her, they were encouraging her, they were not tearing her down for the size. I am not saying women never do that nor that men always do that. My point is that these comments were left on a video of a healthy-looking woman, one who is not even above the average size, and I don’t think the same would be said for a video of a man. Yet, we continue to hold women to such expectations, particularly when it comes to their role of a partner. Would anyone tell a man that he owes his female partner to stay the exact same size?
We speak of women letting themselves go when men also gain weight in relationships. Because at the end of the day, we still see a woman’s body as the main thing she has to offer. We still view it as something given to her partner, just like how she is handed away at a wedding.
I have felt guilt for gaining weight in my relationship. I felt like I let him down, like I had tricked him by not staying the UK size 10 I was when we got together. But that girl, the one who fit into those skinny jeans, she was so unhappy. She was scared to eat, scared to stop working out, scared to love herself. My partner showed me that I was more than my body and that I was beautiful for other reasons, so I let myself breathe again. I put on weight, which was scary, so scary. But also such a relief. I didn’t have to keep counting and panicking, and I didn’t punish my body with exercise; I loved it through it. So why couldn’t I believe him when he said it didn’t matter?
We learn best through the examples of others. I learned this lesson through my sheer indignation at the comments left on that Tiktok video and on countless others. I learned because I knew she didn’t deserve that, so then why would I? She doesn’t owe her partner her size, and I didn’t owe mine that either.
You don’t have to stay the person you were at the start of a relationship, not on the outside or inside. You’re allowed to grow, develop, change, evolve and move forward. Your partner is not entitled to a snapshot of who you were. They can stay for the change or leave, but it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. What matters is that you are making the right choices for yourself; that you look in the mirror and feel content with the person you are.
Thank you to Sophia for her eye-opening video, you should check out the rest of her great content!
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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