T O P I C R E V I E W
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 01-27-2013 12:08 PM
Maybe thanks to Scarleteen, and some other positive influences in my life, early pubescent body changes actually all felt pretty ok to me.
Gaining height, change in voice, body hair and changes in my genitals all actually felt kind of exciting. I had a load of problems with other stuff, but my body felt ok. What has surprised me though, is how really I can't think of a time when any of those changes stopped. They just seemed to morph into other changes and with that came a wave of negative connotations and feelings that instead of being associated with growing up (which for me always seemed to offer great stuff like more freedom and new experiences), I find myself recognising as changes that most places depict as bad. Puberty for everyone varies and so I'm really interested to hear how anyone else feels about that period of time, early 20s, when it all supposedly stops. A couple of things which feel like they have effected me most: Belly - It came, it stayed, it grew, clothes stop fitting (without the benefit, this time round, of my mum financing an updated wardrobe) and everyone started giving me weight loss advice! There are so many horrible messages about fatness, that I was lucky enough not to have to deal with that much when I was younger. It's a new part of me that I'm working to welcome, but it's not so easy. Face changing and continuing thickening of facial hair - My face keeps looking less and less boyish... and wow do I depend on the androgyny of boyish appearances for a big part of my identity! My instincts are to want to reject these things, in a way I had been told I might feel about growth spurts and my voice breaking. But what I'd really like is to actually look forward to it, adapt to it and have these changes represent progress in my life. It feels very sexualising and creepy to read these past few years of my life described on tv, or elsewhere as my 'prime', and the appearances associated with this age as defining attributes of attractiveness. It also feels harsh to be told "It's all down-hill from here", especially at only 24! So some questions: How do other people feel about this body-life stage, whether you've experienced it already or are are a long way from experiencing it yet? Do you actually have positive feelings of enthusiasm about continuing changes in your body throughout your life? Are there any media examples people can think of where there are positive feelings about such changes? And why is it that we are encouraged to feel good about some changes, and encouraged to feel bad about other changes in our bodies? [ 01-27-2013, 12:29 PM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]
Member # 95598
posted 01-27-2013 12:45 PM
I've definitely grown an inch or so in the past couple years (I'm 22), so I now stand at roughly 5'7" (170 cm), which is fairly tall for a young woman in the U.S. There are times where it feels awkward, and it's strange to have to find new clothes that fit long after I'd been told "you've stopped growing".
I also recently went up a cup size, which felt more weird than anything. I'd been just fine with the size my chest was before, and I still have conflicting feelings of dismay and "actually, this is kind of cool..." Other than that, my body hasn't noticeably changed much since my mid-teens except for losing weight, but that was a conscious effort in order to be more healthy. My upper wisdom teeth also recently decided to both form and attempt to come in. I don't mind these changes too much, to be honest, except for the wisdom teeth because of crowding issues. It's mostly annoying that I have to go buy new clothes on a student's budget. Obviously, today's media thinks I should definitely have bigger boobs--it's just an ideal that women are supposed to strive for. (Despite the fact that I never wanted my chest to grow.) I haven't really seen any positive media examples about being taller, though--there are a lot of subtle (and occasionally not-so-subtle) tall-isn't-cute messages out there, which is really a shame. I wonder if a lot of the media portrayal of the early-/mid-20's as the prime of a person's life hasn't caught up to the fact that humans are living longer and being active longer and longer, and doing "traditional" things like marrying and having kids later and later. It's also sad that your "prime" culturally seems to end when you do those things, as if you've served your purpose and can now fade into the background. As for me, I'm one of those "come what may; I'll deal with it then" sort of people, no matter what the media tells me, because I've never been your typical beauty and don't feel like I need to be to live a fulfilling life. (Then again, I'm also cis and straight, which I've gathered makes things a LOT easier for me to disregard other social/cultural norms.)
Member # 101745
posted 01-28-2013 06:32 PM
You know, this is actually a really interesting thing to ponder, because I've had two separate puberty experiences.
I definitely hit puberty fairly early; I was around 9 or 10 when it had clearly started. This happened right around when I developed something that was never diagnosed as an official eating disorder, but it was definitely a very skewed way of looking at food and at my body that still hangs around some days. So as my body was changing I didn't have a very detached view of what was going on; puberty sadly brought a lot of self-fat-shaming and body hatred with it because I had a lot of baby fat and developed a curvy figure pretty early before that went away. Honestly, while I remember being frustrated by some of my body's changes at this time, I think most of my difficulties during puberty were mental health related. A few years after my puberty changes settled down, I started seriously questioning in my gender and a few years later I went through it again, just with very different results. For the most part this was a very exciting and positive thing because most of the changes were exactly why I'd decided to start hormone treatment in the first place; my voice changing was the most important part, but my facial shape has changed as well. I do have more facial and body hair than before and while I was uncertain as to whether I'd like that, I'm very happy with it. I have a beard right now mostly because I think it's hilarious. To be honest, the only media I can think of at the moment that's positive in terms of puberty is all related to trans people being excited about the effects of hormone therapy. There are plenty of zines/films/websites about people happily posting before/after pictures and otherwise talking about the positive changes that are happening. But in terms of "regular" adolescent puberty, I think most mentions of that I see take it as a given that it's miserable for everyone or play up the social and physical awkwardness for humor. I assume there's room for a happy puberty experience that feels more like an exploration of a lot of changes, but it's not something I've seen. I assume it's pretty tough to grow up in a world of puberty jokes and have a healthier attitude about it.
Member # 2297
posted 01-28-2013 11:33 PM
Well my early twenties were a few years ago now. Basically the one thing that has been consistent over the years is weight gain. I know it's mostly because of the medication I take for my bipolar disorder, and a little bit because I have no motivation to exercise.
Every 10kg or so I think back to a few years before and go "I thought I was so fat then, I wish I could be that weight again". That said, I don't let my weight define my appearance. Yes, curviness is a part of it, but that is as much how I dress as the size of my bosom. I'm at a really awkward stage now where my clothes are starting to not fit and I'm desperate to drop 10kg (for health reasons also). I'm actually considering surgery, even though it's risky. So yeah, that was kind of off topic, but that's what it made me think of.
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 01-29-2013 11:04 AM
I think it's on topic! Those are on-going body changes. And both of you talk about body changes that you can control, or want to control, and other ones that kinda just happen.
Mo, I really love that horomone happy stuff. It's felt like a pretty exciting time for some of the trans people I've been friends with. But you're right, puberty and enthusiasm about it is taboo... I think of it in terms of body changes. But much of the taboo around the physical stuff, must come from the cultural stuff about 'becoming sexual' at a certain age... I think many cultures have a problem with youth sexuality, and transitions which apparently bring those to the fore. It sounds like much of the trans community has understandably learnt to have really positive association's with physical change. It'd be so great if we could all learn from that.
Member # 101745
posted 01-29-2013 05:26 PM
I think it's kind of a mixed bag in the trans community. There is definitely a lot of joyous "look! I grew ONE BEARD HAIR!" or "my breasts grew enough that I needed to buy a bra!" and there is something really neat about people getting excited over changes like a receding hairline or a cracking voice that most people are embarrassed by.
However, there is also a lot of body-policing that can happen in trans spaces as well. I've noticed a focus on a very specific super slim and muscular body shape, as well as lots of gym culture, in a lot of trans male communities. But yes, overall I think there's a lot of joyous reaction to changes, even if they're a bit messy or wouldn't be ideal in other circumstances. There is a taboo around youth sexuality, but I think there's a fascination too. I was thinking about this last night, and I feel like a lot of beauty advice geared towards women is focused on gaining a very youthful, innocent/virginal look. There's certainly a trend in fashion shoots to dress and pose women in their mid-20s or older as if they're teenagers, and to put teenagers in more adult-looking makeup and poses. Maybe some of this is the idea of puberty as something that people living through it are ready to move past, but that some older folks do see as their "prime?"
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 01-31-2013 03:18 PM
Yeah, I wouldn't want to reinforce such a thought, but's like that 'prime' is some imaginary 1 dimensional point, you're either before it or after it, but rarely able to feel like you're right there. I think thinking about things that way is a loosing battle.
It'd be far nicer, I reckon, to think of our bodies as subject to one constant varying change and transformation which sometimes syncs with biological expectations like puberty and common old age signs, and gives you a common experience with cohorts, but then at the same time twists and turns, diverges, dives and re-emerges. We can affect it but not control it and in some or other that change is going to continue and maybe all of that change is equally cool .
Member # 72015
posted 01-31-2013 07:12 PM
I've been thinking about this lately, being almost 20. I had very, very oily skin all throughout adolescence, and now I find myself with dry patches! I've never had to deal with this before, so it all feels really strange. Also, my periods have finally gotten regular and predictable, and this has led me to be able to understand my body more. Weight is something too because I can't eat as much as I used to or else I'll gain weight - I used to be able to eat and eat and eat and not gain an ounce, now, no. Lately too, it seems my pubic and body hair has fully come in, and I don't exactly know how to feel about that.
Pretty much, everyone always tells you what's going to happen to you during puberty, but I've never really heard anyone talk about what happens after it, and clearly, it's a relevant thing to talk about! I'm glad I'm not the only one noticing these post-puberty changes.
Member # 3
posted 02-01-2013 05:49 PM
quote: It'd be far nicer, I reckon, to think of our bodies as subject to one constant varying change and transformation which sometimes syncs with biological expectations like puberty and common old age signs, and gives you a common experience with cohorts, but then at the same time twists and turns, diverges, dives and re-emerges. We can affect it but not control it and in some or other that change is going to continue and maybe all of that change is equally cool You know, I think that eventually, we all DO think this way. I mean, it's kind of inevitable after decades of life when it's been apparent that this is the case with our bodies, you know?
I do know, though -- it was my experience anyway, might be yours -- that this certainly isn't a message I got when I was younger, and being younger, without that experience yet, it really did seem like it was like birth-puberty-pregnancy-wrinkles-death and those were pretty much the changes. I know I try, in the work I do, to send a lot of messages about how our bodies, for all of our lives, and in a constant state of change and flux, but it does often feel like that message gets drowned out very easily.
Member # 41699
posted 02-02-2013 07:23 PM
quote: You know, I think that eventually, we all DO think this way. I dunnno, Heather; I'm not sure everyone is quite as grounded and confident as you are, otherwise the whole "anti-aging" market wouldn't be doing so well ;P
I think there's a whole lot of messaging out there that pretty much ANY body changes other than losing weight are BAD TERRIBLE YOU ARE UGLY YOU MUST DO SOMETHING TO STOP IT. For us young'uns, we're never really told about the fact that our bodies change more than just during puberty, and thus people our age often feel very insecure/not-so-awesome about the changes they do experience. Because of that "any change = bad". And then older peeps are told that wrinkles are bad and you are past your prime you need to GET RID OF THE WRINKLES otherwise people will KNOW you're past your "prime". The "beauty" industry really thrives off people of ALL ages feeling like their body changes are gross/ugly/bad/MUST BE STOPPED. And ugh, "prime" always makes me think of raw chicken (because of Maple Leaf Prime ads). Gross. I never want to be in my "prime" [ 02-02-2013, 07:24 PM: Message edited by: Onionpie ]
Member # 3
posted 02-03-2013 10:00 AM
Oh, I'm not saying everyone ACCEPTS those changes, but that everyone gets they happen. Otherwise, as you say, the whole "anti-aging" market wouldn't be doing so well. IOW, anyone and everyone who buys that stuff clearly is aware their body is changing.
Member # 41699
posted 02-03-2013 07:45 PM
Member # 3
posted 02-03-2013 08:08 PM
Also, as I like to say, when even in relatively small measure, your butt isn't quite where you left it the decade or two before, you kinda can't miss that there have been changes.
[ 02-03-2013, 08:09 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]
Member # 79774
posted 02-03-2013 08:36 PM
It's funny, I'd never thought about that mass denial of changes being the same as a secret mass recognition that they happen, but it's so true.
In my early twenties I noticed that my breasts weren't quite so lifted by themselves as they had been, and I couldn't wear the same clothes without a bra ("couldn't" as in, comfort issues and I didn't like how they looked, not to do with any social requirements). That was annoying, and still is annoying, because there's clothes I'd like to wear without having to figure out invisible scaffolding (I still haven't figured out how to Create invisible scaffolding, so there we go). It was also a bit "huh, what?" because like other folk have been saying, it'd never really filtered through to me that my body would go on changing gradually. My head hair went considerably darker all through puberty, but has carried on gradually that way ever since. Finally I decided to break with my previous preference for "natural", and just decided that a person's hair "should" be whatever colour they felt it should be, and I've messed around a little with colouring it ever since, and that's been a positive change for me - the feeling that it's ok to change things that don't feel like "me". The hair on my calves has got considerably longer, thicker and darker. In my early 20s I noticed maybe one stray thick, dark hair on each thigh, and since then the patches have very gradually expanded. Wasn't really expecting that; I was used to my fine, invisible hair, and was annoyed for a while. But it is what it is, and I feel ok about it because I can remove it if and when I feel like it, or I feel ok leaving it if and when I don't feel like bothering. And frankly the patches are still damn small. It's odd how an immediate-post-puberty body seems to be being held up as the ideal of what people in general want bodies to be like. I have no idea if I personally see that as my body in its "best" form, but one thing I am sure of is that since 18, I've become So much more at ease, comfortable and confident in my body that I absolutely would not want to go back to being in my 18-year-old body as my 18-year-old self. And from what I gather, that isn't an unusual feeling. It seems like this "best body" idea can potentially steal loads of time from us, because when we're In the supposed "best body" time, we're hyper-aware that it isn't "perfect", and still adjusting to it, and then, we spend the time afterwards wishing that we'd appreciated the "better" body we had 3 or 5 years ago when we had it. My conclusion is something like "we should enjoy what we want to do as much as we can at the time, and care less what the rest of the world think of our body, because we'll probably figure out later that they're wrong anyway", but I could still get considerably better at actually applying my own conclusion.