MIA FREEDMAN: 'Gen X have grown up but our body issues haven't.'

"Fat is not a feeling", I once heard a therapist say. And technically, this is correct. Fat is, in fact, an adjective. You can feel hungry or afraid or competitive but just like you can't feel tall or Greek or blonde, you cannot feel fat.

Except you can.

When a woman says she 'feels' fat, what she's saying is that she doesn't feel like she is conforming to the beauty standards of a society that says even Em Rata could drop a dress size.

For shows about women, Sex And The City, and now, And Just Like That, have always been oddly mute on the topic of body image and beauty standards. While it isn't a documentary and shouldn't be strictly bound by reality, the total lack of discussion between the characters about their bodies and faces, their hair and even their clothes has always struck me as perverse. Women talk about this stuff constantly. We always have. And as long as we live in a world that rewards women for looking a certain way (young! thin! ripped! flawless!) we will continue to angst over our appearance. Out loud and silently to ourselves.

Watch: The official trailer of And Just Like That Season 2. Post continues after video.

Video via Max.

I know what you're going to say. This is problematic. We are more than the way we look! The Matildas! Yes, but also Barbie.

The body positivity movement has done a stellar job in trying to help us reframe these conversations in ways that do seem like progress. But don't look too closely. The word 'diet' has been replaced with 'clean-eating' or 'cleanse' or 'detox'. Conversations about weight loss and dropping a dress size have become carefully coded with phrases like 'getting fit' or 'being healthy' or '75 Hard'. Women are encouraged to post make-up free selfies, embrace their curves and love their laugh lines and focus on what their bodies can do, not how they look, even while injectibles have joined hair dye as baseline beauty maintenance.

So while some words may have changed, the pressure to look a certain way - slim, ageless, attractive - remains unrelenting and only intensifies as you get older.

And this is annoying, because in every other way, getting older is a relief. You know who you are and what you want. You take less sh*t and no prisoners.

But gravity. And the inescapable fact of your actual age. Which I guess is why some women deal with it like this - no judgement, I get it, even if I baulk at the idea of recasting your 50s as being empowering so long as you look the same way you did 20 or 30 years earlier.

Actor Kate Beckinsale celebrating her 50th birthday this month. Image: Instagram.


Jennifer Lopez posting to Instagram for no reason at 54. Image: Instagram.


And so to Charlotte. Finally, to my great delight, an episode of And Just Like That addressed body image for the first time when 56-year-old Charlotte went on a crash diet before starting her new job, because she bought a dress that didn't fit the way it would have when she last worked in an art gallery in her early 30s.

To highlight this gap, she printed out a photo of her younger self in a similar dress, pinned it to the new dress and gazed at it wistfully for a week while slurping bone broth and trying to push in her stomach while looking in the mirror.

Eventually, after complaining that her crash diet doesn't work like it used to thanks to menopause (truth), she crams herself into multiple pairs of spanks and staggers to her first day at work barely able to breathe.


Image: Max.

Hard relate. Not the bone broth because eugh. Nor the spanks. But almost every woman who watched this storyline knows what it's like to look in the mirror and see a face or body you don't recognise. It's confusing when you feel the same as you did 20 years ago but your appearance has a whole other thing going on.


For me too, it was a shock to learn in real time that my body would change shape with peri-menopause and I wouldn't know how to dress it or feel about it. Every woman I know in her 40s and 50s has experienced this. Yes, we are grateful to be alive and we are aware that growing old is a privilege not a punishment. We all know women - and men - who did not have that privilege so it feels churlish to complain. And yet.

Is there anything to be gained from pretending it's not confronting and disorienting when your face and body change with age? Just because we 'should' feel cool about it, doesn't mean we do. And nor should we have to pretend that we do.

All this at the same time as your children are growing up and away from you, invisibility is beginning to take hold and society is telling you to get in the bin. Or at least that's how it feels a lot of the time. The calibration between how we look and how we feel is finely tuned and can be easily f**ked with by something as stupid as a dress or a new job. Yes, it can.

If you need help or support for an eating disorder or body image issue, please call the Butterfly Foundation's National Helpline on 1800 334 673, chat online or email 

Feature Image: Max.

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