Ma’people

Readers of the last few months may have gathered… I am a huge Nashville fan.  I am committed to not giving away any series 5 plot spoilers for my friends on this side of the pond, so let me just say that Rayna is one of my heroes (and I do know that she is a TV character – but she’s my hero anyway!)  I love the way that we have seen her grow as a mother as her girls have entered turbulent teenage years,  I love how passionate and open-hearted she is, and I love the way that we’ve seen her struggle to balance her career and her dreams with her life as a mentor, mother and lover.

 

There’s a scene in Nashville a few years back where Rayna has to play at a Country Club benefit.  I remember her raising her eyebrows and assuring her band leader, “These are not ma’people” (try and imagine a lovely Southern drawl)

But here’s the thing, Rayna grew up with those people.  Yet the comfortable world of the elite wasn’t for her.  She knew they weren’t her people.

Ever since we moved from a cosmopolitan, diverse Northern city to a sleepy market town in the South West, I’ve been searching for “ma’people”.  The direction life took us when Eldest was born meant that our local conservative, evangelical church began to feel less and less like home.  We had too many questions.  One of the reasons I left Facebook earlier this year was because I felt so aware that the views of many mainstream Christians just don’t reflect mine.  These are not ma’people.

When life throws a lot of crap your way, it’s interesting how it can help you find your people!  Over the last ten years or so, my friendships have deepened with other people who know what it is to feel broken.  My little WordPress community is full of amazing people who are learning to live with limits.  Next weekend I’ll be meeting up with the other mums from the ‘Head up, Heart strong’ film who have all battled postnatal illness. We will be sharing cocktails and stories of relapse.  These are just some of ma’people.

 

This week I took a new step to reach out and find ma’people.  I joined Team East Devon Swimmers for an evening swim in Sidmouth.  The water was 12 degrees C and the swimming was magical!  It was a special thing for me after a number of years living with mental illness to meet people based firstly on a shared interest, rather than on a shared experience of suffering.  I learned a new word – Thalassophile – meaning someone who loves the sea.  These too, are ma’people… and I can’t wait to get to know them better.

Here’s where we will be swimming.  Just beautiful.

Derailed

XL

I’m a shapely woman.  Thanks to starting Metafit this year I consider myself pretty strong and fit.

Yesterday evening I spent a demoralizing twenty minutes trying to do up my wetsuit for outdoor swimming.  I’m a size 16 in the hips and a size 14 in the chest.  The average dress size in the UK is a size 14.  So why did I find myself painfully squeezing the skin between my shoulder blades into the largest triathlon wetsuit available – an extra large?  A Google search of wetsuit brands confirmed that the weight and chest measurement range for almost all swimming wetsuits tops out roughly where I begin.

It’s not just my wetsuit.  My Ronhill running shorts are an XL (they top out at a Size 18 XXL), my cycling shorts are an XL, my yoga pants are an XL.  I couldn’t even fit into the XL sports crop tops at Decathlon.

What frustrates me isn’t the judgement of my body size.  It’s the implicit exclusion of women and girls who are my size and larger from so many sporting pursuits.  “You don’t belong in the ocean/on the trail/on a bike”; “You’re not our target market”.  How many women and girls who are nervous to take up exercise in the first place have stumbled at the first hurdle when they find they can’t fit into any of the gear?

What can I do?  The closet entrepreneur in me would love to start a website selling sports gear for the (at least) 50% of women who fall into the >XL category.  But would the manufacturers even produce kit in the sizes we need?  I’m definitely going to write to wiggle, the stockist of much of the sports gear I have bought.  I might even pen an article to a women’s magazine.  I will send a letter of praise to Nike running who stock up to a size 26 (and incidentally where I measure up as a medium)

Campaigns like This Girl Can assert that ordinary women can and should enjoy the opportunity to sweat.  It’s time the manufacturers and stockists caught up.

Readers, if you know of any brands or stockists who consider the >XL 50% please comment below!