Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pool Party!! Pretty Serious Party by The Pool Review

Here in my Australian corner of the world Summer has arrived with a great big bang! Most years we get a nice, slow transition from a cold, damp winter to the scorching humidity of summer, but this year it's gone straight from coat weather to t-shirt weather. I'm trying not to sulk about this too hard - I love winter and LOATHE summer - by brightening up my wardrobe and trying to put on a happy face beneath the sweat. While pawing through my untried polish pile (it's under control, I swear) I noticed this beautiful peacock blue jelly polish from Pretty Serious called Party by The Pool, and decided that this was where my Summerfication should begin.

Image courtesy of the Pretty Serious website
While not as uber-sparkly as more recent releases like Cybernetic, there is still a lot of sparkle swimming around in the squishy jelly base. As with every single Pretty Serious polish I've tried so far, I have nothing but effusive praise for the formula. Perfect consistency, perfect coverage -  the almost unbelievable consistency of this brand is one of my favourite things about it. Because it's a jelly base, it will remain a teeny bit transparent unless you layer it, so I put two coats over a base of Ulta 3 Get Teal.

In the glorious sunshine! One good thing about summer, plenty of sun for swatch photos.

Because I put this over quite a dark base, it came out a little bit more teal than aqua - I imagine if you put it over a dark blue or sky blue base, it would create different tints as well. 

Posing with a pendant I made using Pretty Serious Tux, which would also look amazing under this polish
Yes, okay, I forgot my bottle when I wanted to take photos at lunch. If anyone can guess what this is
that I'm holding, they get internet cookies.
I'm a huge lover of all things blue, teal, aqua or turquoise, so there was never any doubt that I would love this polish. But if you have even the slightest leaning towards this colour palette, you definitely need it too. 

Now, I'd like to get a little serious for the rest of this post, so if you're just here for the pictures, I'm done with those now and you can wander off to a prettier corner of the internet. Also, anyone not wanting to read descriptions of self harm, probably best you wander off too. For the rest of you, pondering the name of this polish got a lot of thoughts stirred up in my head, and as usual, I'm going to go ahead and inflict them all on you.

You see, this week is actually Body Image Awareness Week, and nothing brings up my self consciousness about my body quite like the idea of a trip to the pool. Mr. Reluctant Femme is the only person who's seen me in bikini bottoms in a public place for....well, for a very, very long time. I actually can't specifically remember the last time I was anywhere near a public pool or beach without board shorts on.  I've gotten to the point where I can strip down to a bikini top with minimal panicking - but those shorts DO NOT come off when other people are around. Which means, unfortunately, I tend to not really go to the pool at all.

Nope, nope, nope.
When I was very small, I had little to no awareness of my own body, except when I hurt it, or it couldn't carry as many books as my brain demanded. The only concerns I had were purely functional - I would get annoyed as hell when it wouldn't do the things I wanted it to, but had very little interest in it's aesthetic value. My boobs didn't come in until I was 15 or so, and my mother was quite worried that there was something wrong, but I was delighted. Puberty seemed messy and complicated, and I simply wasn't interested.

Even as a teenager, it took me a while for the idea that there was a right and wrong sort of body to sink in. I remember suddenly being desperately concerned with being cool from about 12 - I absolutely HAD to have the same god awful push down socks as everyone else, I NEEDED "girl hair" instead of "boy hair". But I never felt like there was anything wrong with my BODY, just the daggy things I had to put on it. But slowly, somehow, the idea me body was something to be ashamed of, something wrong, crept in and took root.

via Tumblr - if anyone knows the original artist, I'd love to credit.
Before this, I'd LOVED swimming. One of the tiny rural schools I went to had its own pool, a re-purposed model clearly designed for a suburban home. Most afternoons I'm summer were dedicated to very loosely structured "swimming lessons" that largely consisted of all 20 odd students in the school dragging each other around the edge of the pool until we got a massive whirlpool going. I did learn to dive there though - I remember the teacher explaining that you had to aim your body like an arrow out of a bow, making sure to curve your trajectory to prevent the dreaded belly flop. I fucking loved those afternoons, and don't remember ever being concerned about anyone's opinion of my body. I still saw me body as purely functional, so the only shame that ever came from those afternoons was from losing a swimming race to either of the two boys in my grade. 

Going swimming at the local council pool (once my family had moved back into a town of a decent size) was also one of the few "family day out" type things my family could afford, and I loved those too.  Growing up in a house of three much younger siblings meant I treasured any peace and quiet I could find, and it doesn't get much quieter than sitting on the bottom of the pool. I'd practice diving like a whale (or how I thought whales might dive) with my arms down by my sides, flapping my legs, to see how long I could stay underwater for. These afternoons spent underwater for as long as possible made such an indelible impression on me I ended up doing a painting years later of a whale, trying to capture the tranquility I felt while I was drifting through the water. It's one of the few paintings I've done that I've actually kept - partially because it's quite small, but also because I didn't want to let go of that feeling of calm, and quiet.

Photo by Tony Wu, from his blog
I don't even really know how my view of my own body changed so much. Somehow, I picked up from somewhere that my legs were too chubby, my arms too flabby, my belly too wobbly, that my uncovered body was something that shouldn't be inflicted on other people. And so I stopped swimming where there were going to be other people around. Get me on a deserted beach, and I was as much a mermaid as ever, but a public pool was a special kind of hell. Since learning about the fat positive movement, and seeing fabulous, confident, wonderful women like Jes over at The Militant Baker rocking swimsuits I never would have otherwise considered, I've gotten over a lot of my fat shame. I don't feel GREAT about showing off all my wobbly bits, but I can do it. I wear short sleeved shirts in summer, and pencil skirts every now and then. I can even push myself into swimmers in public every now and then. I find it easier if I wear a string bikini top, because my boobs are big enough that I figure they distract from just about everything. 

There's just one snag though, and I hate it the most because it was entirely avoidable and mostly down to a complete lack of foresight. I've mentioned before that I used to cut myself as a method of stress relief for a long time; there are even pictures if you really feel like going and looking them up. Thing is, I discovered pretty quickly that cutting my forearms was convenient at the time, but extremely difficult to conceal. So I switched to cutting the tops of my thighs. It seemed like the perfect solution at the time - there are far fewer situations in which you are expected to show the tops of your thighs than your forearms, and this meant less questions, which was ALWAYS the best outcome for me at the time.

Unfortunately, the ease with which I could hide these cuts meant I was less careful, and less interested in finding other ways to deal. My arms only have a few visible marks now, but my legs are a veritable patchwork of scar tissue. Grids of thin, tiny marks laid over and over and over, broken up with a few absolute whoppers - the only time I've had to get stitches for my cuts was for one of my thigh, which healed really badly and is now a stripe of swollen scar at least 5mm thick.

My self consciousness about being fat masked my self consciousness about these scars for a long time. If you're too ashamed to wear a short skirt because your thighs wobble, whether they're scarred up or not is kind of a moot point. But now I'm not (so) ashamed of the jiggle, I find myself facing yet another hurdle to being comfortable in the meat bag I have to live in.

I wish there were role models around to help me embrace these marks. I can look to The Militant Baker, or Evie at Work It, Own It, Use It, or Tess Munster to see what being happy with your shape looks like. Reading their blogs and seeing all their wonderful pictures has done so much for my ability to not only accept, but love my jiggly bits.  But I don't know where to start with my scars.

Well, that got pretty maudlin, hunh? I guess if there is anything to take away from this whole rant, it's that while I might sometimes look like In doing okay with myself body image, the truth is I still have a long way to go. And also that Pretty Serious make awesome nail polish, and you should buy ALL OF THEM. 


  1. Thank you for your story. That was very interesting to read. Its a shame us girls get to that age where we feel ashamed of our wobbly bits! I have not been comfortable with my wobbly bits for a long time, after going to a school with lots of surfer chicks, with gorgeous bodies. Im still not and its made worse by the fact that Ive had three lovely babies who have stretched my wobbly bits even more! Im slowly starting to not give a f*ck about what other people think (at the ripe old age of 36) but only slowly. Thank you for sharing and I agree, buy all their polish, its gorgeous!!

  2. This resonates with me sooo much, both the part about the polish (I can't resist teals and turquoises, either! ) and also the body image and self-harm issues. I couldn't wear sandals for a number of years because my feet and ankles were scarred from self-abuse, but I'm lucky that they have faded significantly and that I've abstained for a long, long time. I have extensive surgical scars on my breasts, though, and I am self-conscious about those and wish I could get over it. I've also been chubby or overweight for most of my life and I can't count the number of times I have stayed covered up at the beach or pool in order to avoid being seen. I'm trying really hard to give up this preoccupation at age 30 and challenge my own assumptions about what will happen if I wear something more revealing, but it is still damn hard. When it comes to other people, I am totally on board with fat positive messaging and self-love. When it comes to thinking about myself, though, those principles seem to fly out the window. I'm not giving up, though.

    1. Yeah, I feel you on the difficulty of applying perfectly rational principles to your own dreadfully irrational mind. I find it does get easier, bit by bit though.

  3. Thank you for your post. My scars are from surgeries... and I'm not really ashamed of them, not the way I am of my fat thighs and bulgy belly... I never felt comfortable in a bikini -- even when I was young and skinny. Nowadays, I just push aside my embarrassment at showing myself in a swimsuit in public and do it anyways. Once I'm in the water, I forget what I look like and just feel transported by the ocean... that nailpolish makes me think of the lovely waters off of Port Douglas where I first went snorkelling many years ago....

  4. My scars are like my tattoos. Both are forms of body modification, of externalising what's inside. To quote Jim Steinman, "you've been through a lot of pain in the dirt and I know you've got the scars to prove it".

    They are part of our history, of how we survived. Of how strong we are. And that's a pretty awesome way of looking at it. Hope it helps.

    1. Thanks :) That's how I think of them sometimes...but sometimes I just resent how public they make my past. I don't mind talking about it (obviously) but having visible scars often invites comment when I'm not particularly interested in explaining. That's more what I'm talking about here than shame of them in general.

    2. Ah, I get that as well. The Death Stare and acid tone to "Really? How interesting for you" tends to work.

  5. I totally hear you! In my mid-twenties, thanks largely to an office job, I've turned into a bit of a wobbler too, and it's a real shock to not *want* to wear the stuff I used to swan around in without a second thought. And I too have my scars.

    But you know what, I personally would rather see a normal woman, with normal wobbly bits and normal (yes, they are) scars chilling out in a pool and being happy than some "perfect" skinny monster laying her skeletal frame out for examination. Chances are, that skinny chick doesn't feel much better about herself than you do! And you can probably stay under water for longer. So there!

    And you know, one of the great things about going to the pool is that everyone is in the same boat. You might be larger, you might have scars, but no-one's looking! Just like there will always be someone smoother and skinnier, there will always be someone larger, wobblier or more scarred. Just rock it!

    1. You're absolutely right about no-one really looking at anyone else that hard, when it really gets down to it. I think the vast majority of people are far too concerned with what they think they look like to really notice. After writing this, I actually stopped and had a good look at my legs for the first time in ages, and realistically, it's actually not nearly as noticeable as I feel like it is sometimes. Maybe this year I will just rock it :)

      I would like to point out though, that calling smaller women monsters isn't likely to make them feel particularly good about themselves either. It's always a temptation, when insults have been flung at you to fling them right back, but as you say, they probably don't feel any better about their frames than bigger girls do.

    2. oh gosh, I didn't mean it to come off that way at all! Of course I don't mean that skinny girls are monsters, either inside or out - that was totally the wrong word to use, I hope that no-one's taken offence ! All I meant that is that skinny does not equal beautiful

      But yep - rock it !

      And you know, I think it would be really cool to have an article examining why we seem to think that everyone's looking at each us, or why we think it matters what they think :)

  6. That's why I originally stopped going to squad training when I hit puberty - I just felt so wobbly next to the prepubescents. And now I have scars and shiny white stretch marks. For the longest time, I did the not-without-my-swimming-skirt thing, from the age of 13 all the way to 21. But after going to pole and being confronted by my semi-naked body in full length mirrors 4 times a week for 3 years, I just stopped giving a fuck. I think one of the other unintended positive side effects of pole is that I've ended up (inadvertently... and advertently!) exposed to unphotoshopped, half-nekkid, frequently muscly and sweaty girls of all shapes and sizes so much more than photoshopped, freakishly proportioned, slathered-in-makeup models that the standard in my head has shifted significantly towards the actual norm, which has made me so much less critical about the stuff "wrong" with my body.

    1. I've heard a lot from other people about pole giving them confidence in their body - I think it's because it's something aesthetically pleasing, like ballet, but still accessible by a wide range of body types. Interestingly, a girl I used to go clubbing with waaaay back in the day who was born with one arm is currently a world champion pole artist.

  7. Yes! Totally agree with Labmuffin above. I spent a year serving drinks at a strip club, and the range of body shapes there was extensive. Also, it really didn't make a difference about size or shape or wobbly bits as to which girls were popular, it was really more about how they moved. That, and my disinterest in beauty magazines desensitized me to being too critical of my own body.

    However, interesting to note that when me and my friends would go swimming at a younger age, it was definitely the fashion to pick apart your body, and all the girls would wear boardies in the pool insisting they all had big bums. I didn't have any insecurity about having a big bum (I have a significant lack of curves), yet still wore boardies all the time so I wasn't seen as being up myself! You just can't win hey.

    The thing I really wanted to ask though, and hope you will seriously answer is...exactly HOW many untrieds do you have? (I just want to know if I'm normal)

    1. Because I take answering questions too seriously, I just went and counted so as to give you an exact figure - 74, currently.

      ...does that help, or not?

    2. Haha yep! 74 is heaps! I am good compared to you!! :p


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