When the Capitalism arrived and I didn’t notice.
Poland had released itself from the Soviet occupation in 1989. I was only 7 back then and didn’t really notice much of the change right away. I played outside every day in my navy trainers that had holes in. I would hide them under the bed every night, so my parents wouldn’t throw them away, because I was too attached to let them go.
Us, girls also for wore ,,czeshki’’ – simple plimsoles (made in Czech Republic, hence the name) our obligatory trainers for PE in any school. I loved them too! You could even choose between white and black ones. Mums would make us girls cute colourful skirts (it’s really easy to make a simple skirt with elasticated waist). And lycra leggings were on every market stand. Happy days!
Soviet fashion dreams, perm and diets.
In 1989 my sister was 20 and the change must have been quite a bit of a shock for her. During the socialist times, there were mostly locally made goods available, in very limited stock amounts (and those imported from Russia and China, of coarse).
Teenagers craved all those funky outfits they saw on American MTV. They tried to make them themselves or get the fakes on illegal markets. There were only two magic, tiny stores called PEWEX where you could get stuff like Adidas, perfumes, real Levi’s (Legos and Barbies too!).
Then, suddenly in the summertime of 1989, the trade borders with THE WEST started to open. For my sister’s generation, who were craving all these beautiful, colourful jackets, denim head to toe looks, funky reeboks – finally there was a way to buy some of those things, and with the Polish money! As long as you had the money.
At least the perm was available to buy in every corner shop, so all the girls rocked the Madonnas’ fluffy hairstyle.
Hip-hop High School, my Friend Kate, Kate Moss and I.
The wave of the western culture slowly started to lure me in, but in a great way at first. At 9, I started to learn English at a private after-school club. Private! This was not allowed before!
Tomboyish, always riding my BMX, with Queen loudly on the headphones, I didn’t really pay attention to my beautiful, slim sister being constantly on a diet. I still had no consciousness of my body, which was truly great, but sadly, didn’t last very long.
Autumn of 1997 and the big, scary, high school times started. We were 15. Actually, Kate is from October, so she was only 14 then. She approached me first, reached her hand high up to shake mine – not because I was taller, but because I was wearing insanely high platform shoes. And all black. To look as skinny as possible.
Kate looked nothing like me. Skinny with huge cheeks, huge smile and beautiful, long, blonde hair. She was wearing denim overalls – these were out of trend for like 2 years now, but Kate didn’t care. She wore purple clown shoes from a mysterious shop, the name or location of which, she would never reveal to anyone.
Kate was my best friend. We were inseparable. We shared the desk at school and would hang out together after. We smoked cigarettes together in the toilets during the wintertime, before the warmer weather would bring more freedom to move our rebellion outdoors to behind the school building, a place that, apparently, none of the teachers knew of.
We got madly into to rap and hip hop music and we copied the girls from the videos as much as we possibly could. Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Whitney… to us they were PERFECT!
I had my bob hair style cut first and made sure to perfectly style my dark straight hair every morning. Oh, and makeup, of course. All the steps, from foundation to mascara. Special attention was given to the spots, as I was terrified of anyone seeing them.
Kate followed with her cool rap/hip-hop hairstyle, lucky blondie with soft locks, she didn’t have to spend an hour every morning and still looked perfect. Kate was perfect, btw.
Kate Moss and her thigh gap
But then there was another Kate. Looking at me from every back of every magazine. Of every Calvin Klein advert. Magazines were everywhere. My sister worked in a walk-in clinic and there were tons to go through. Kate was in every one of them. Skinny. Perfect. Skinny arms, simple style.
I wore two tank tops on top of one another, just like her. And the jeans fit perfectly only when the thigh gap was showing. Kate Moss had the best thigh gap that ever existed, didn’t she?
And then, at some point, we had a new TV channel to watch, or rather to stare at after school. Fashion TV, showing runway shows 24/7. All those models were so idyllically perfect I didn’t know if I wanted to pray to them or to be them. Be like them was the answer. But how?
The egg diet
My hart was racing when going through the magazine pages, looking at all the perfect tops, idyllic dresses, GOD! If I ever had the money to buy the whole outfit! Would it be ever possible? It would cost a fortune!
Anyway, I would need to loose weight first, to look good wearing these amazing items. I need a quick diet and I’m starting tomorrow, my friend Kate is in.
We are doing the drastic ,,egg’’ diet which will loose us 5 kg (nearly a stone) in 5 days. You are allowed to eat one thing, every two hours. But the choice of food is: 2 eggs, 2 apples, one piece of chicken breast, one cottage cheese. And that’s all the food for one day.
It worked, and we were so happy, our young tummies were flat from the hunger, our jeans would be hanging loosely. Oh, and white Nike trainers (just like those on girls from the rap videos) – that was the look!
Changing rooms and cellullite
Diets were great but would only work for a while; thighs would get rounder within a few weeks. Same with our tummies and cheeks. When shopping, I was PETRIFIED to try on size 36 (UK 8) in case it wouldn’t fit.
I remember that Zara, back then in Warsaw, had the worst changing rooms, with mirrors highlighting all of my cellulite. I even decided to shop in H&M instead, as their mirrors were much more forgiving. But the cellulite was there. And so the tears of frustration, every time I had to look at my legs.
No other – seriously – NO OTHER girl my age that I’ve met, and none of the models from the magazines had it! Disgusting. Why me? Starving myself was not helping, creams were not helping either. I don’t remember if I ever wore anything above the knee-length.
The school trip to Spain
The end of final semester of the 3rd year of High School was approaching and they announced the school trip to Spain. Excitement was growing, but how? How, within only one month, will we loose ALL THE FAT? That was a much more important task than working on the final year grades.
We have found a ‘miraculous’ cabbage soup diet. Kate managed to go through the whole demonic week of eating just cabbage soup (with some other raw vegetables allowed on specific days). I had to give up on day three due to unbearably painful bloating.
And the day came and we hopped on the bus to Barcelona. Kate and I had a great plan: all the money we received from our parents as pocket money, we will spend only on drink, fruit and ice lollies (who needs food anyway when it’s hot?) and for the evening, booze. All those fat-related problems must have been so stressful that Sangria had to help us forget, if only for one night, after all.
I’m sitting now looking at old film photographs from that trip (it was year 1999). I was a slim, healthy-looking, pretty teenage girl. My legs, maybe not with a drastic thigh gap, but actually, longer than miss Moss’…
If I could only talk to the 17 year old me and tell her the truth.. and how much more fun she could have had on that trip if she ate. If she didn’t constantly think about her belly and her cellulite. I would tell her how beautiful, fun, and smart she was. She had wonderful friends and established even more great friendships during that time. I’d tell her that never again will she have the chance to be in Barcelona at seventeen.