I first went to New York City the year before 9/11. The world was a different place then and I was different too. It was the year 2000, I was 26 and I was off to New York, but even though I’ve been blessed with a massive barrel of self-confidence throughout life it took me another six years to start becoming the woman I wanted to be and a decade to return to NYC.
In 2000, I travelled with my then best friend. She had been to New York before and although she thought there was a lot to see and do she was immune to its Glamour. To her it was just another city. To me, it was the greatest city in the world and the place I’d dreamed of going to since I was a child. I had a map of Manhattan, photocopied from a library book, stuck to my wall long before I started putting up pictures of pop stars. Said best friend was also something of a nervous or perhaps just very cautious traveller, an attitude not recommended in New York. While I was blown away by the rush of the city; by its size, its noise, its lights, its people, it seemed as though she was looking for a mugger on every block.
But while I was excited to be there; to visit my beloved Chrysler Building (it’s as beautiful inside as out), to go to the top of the Empire State, to ride the Staten Island Ferry with its splendid views of the Statue of Liberty and to generally see the NY of my dreams, there was a shadow over the trip. It may sound stupid to some, but to others it’ll strike a chord. I didn’t look how I wanted to.
To make matters worse my travelling companion had cute outfits and a figure to carry them off. I felt like the fat cousin next to her and worse when I saw the pictures of myself when I got home. Part of the problem was that I foolishly asked my Dad (!) to trim my hair just before I went. He cut off a huge amount more than I wanted – by accident – and I ended up looking like Emo Philips or a teenage lesbian who isn’t quite ready to come Out but keeps getting shorter and shorter haircuts till she finds the courage to tell the world who she really is.
The other part of the problem was that I was overweight. A lot of crap is talked about what women ‘should’ look like, what size they should be and how much they should weigh. I’m not joining those bullying fascists either by buying into their bullshit or dishing out any of my own. But for me, back in 2000 I weighed too much and it was difficult to get nice clothes, let alone ones I liked and that suited me and my style. I’ll not go into self-analysis overdrive here. This is just reflection with hindsight. The point is I wanted to have nice clothes. I wanted a New York Wardrobe, but barring one or two items I had only baggy stuff for hiding in and New York is a place to be seen. It seems that even my enormous self-confidence wasn’t able to fend off the constant, subtle assault by images of female beauty and fashion that make us think we aren’t up to scratch.
But by 2010, the world was a different place and I was a new woman and yes, there were outfits, my hair looked great and although, if I’m honest, I’d still like to lose a few pounds there are some splendid photos that I’m happy to show people, rather than the packet of glossy prints I’ve been hiding in a box for ten years.
I’ll be writing more about my trip to New York over the coming weeks. Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss an instalment, or check back in case I’ve posted something new.