“My dear,” she said, holding my arm in one hand and a wobbly Chardonnay in the other, “can I give you the perspective of an older person?”
I braced myself. Having been raised by a grandmother with a repertoire of well-intended advice insults regarding my body shape (which I had become as accustomed to over the years as luncheons at the local RSL), I could just feel in her tone what was coming: almost to the point where it crossed my mind to intercept right then and there, “Uh, let me guess: you’re about to call me fat.”
Instead I did exactly what I do when my grandmother is in the firing squad: I smiled.
“You are beautiful, you have a lovely voice, but…” (here she tapped my arm in either a gesture of conspiratorial secrecy or increased urgency) “…you must wear longer skirts. You see you have these…these, pub legs.”
Stop. Let’s just take a moment to take that in, shall we? Yes. PUB LEGS.
I still to this day have no idea what ‘pub legs’ actually means. I can only hypothesise that she meant either that they remind her of the look of a haggard barmaid, gravity slowly pulling the weight towards the ankles after one too many years bent over the beer-tap, or alternatively, that they are rectangular and well – block-like – enough to actually resemble the physical structure of a pub.
Once I got over the surprise – and confusion – of my newly found fan’s token of career advice, I had three thoughts.
The first was to thank her very much for valued feedback, which will prove most useful should I ever opt to actively pursue that very overlooked niche demographic of inebriated over 70s.
The second entailed a rather long-winded rant on why the mere sight of a body part could be so completely contradictory to one person’s idea of beautiful, that they should feel inclined to actually tell the appendage’s owner to “put that thing away!”
The third was a resolve not to hide my stubby protrusions at all, but rather to show them off more often!
My pub legs may be pub legs, but they were MY pub legs. Ones which had helped to carry three children, no less, and they would follow me and my plethora of other imperfections in open sight of anybody who could be bothered looking.
I would enlist them as my delightfully chubby little allies in playing my small (if rotund) part in changing where the real ugliness lies: that being, in our society’s pursuit of perfection at all costs.
And let me qualify this by saying that I am as far away from immune as I am from a treadmill. I’ve never felt chuffed with my body – but never LESS so than since having children. When I look down at my stretch-marked, war-torn tummy I feel like a gypped landlord in one of those ‘Tenants from Hell”’ segments on A Current Affair. My tenants came, they saw, they trashed the joint. I never even thought to collect a security deposit. Ironic, given that I was left with a great big deposit of insecurity.
Please, please, please, women of planet Earth, I beg you, let us make a pact whereby we all simultaneously abandon this ridiculousness known as the pursuit of perfection, and instead agree just to let it all hang out. Maybe then, if we could focus less on the art of looking good and more on the art of being good we could just…you know, hang out.
But for now I must take a break from my pontificating. My pub legs and I have some serious strutting to do.
Jenny Wynter is a comedian, writer and mother-of-three who brings her award-winning one-woman cabaret about the unexpected twists in life “An Unexpected Variety Show” to Brisbane Powerhouse and Melbourne International Comedy Festival shortly. You can visit her website here.