Up until 2011, I had remained blissfully unaware of the existence of the model Tara Lynn. Now, I wonder how I ever lived without her. If you are as unfamiliar with the name as I was, I should explain that in spring 2011 she became the beautiful new face and bountiful body (and oh my heavens, what a body it is) of H&M's summer collection.
To put into perspective how big a deal that was, H&M's previous collection was fronted by Gisele Bundchen, all $150m personal fortune and size four frame of her. Tara Lynn, however, is a UK size 18-20, and is every inch - every glorious inch - the physical opposite of Gisele. Well, I know where my preferences lie, and with apologies to the fair Miss Bundchen, they are most definitely in Tara's curvaceous camp. Or, to put it another, rather more succinct way: I likes 'em big. Like Tara Lynn. Oooh, Tara Lynn!
It would have been nice (for me, at least) if the emergence of Tara as The Next Big Thing, no pun intended, had represented the first glorious fanfare to signal the ushering in a new age of worship of full-figured women - I refuse to use the word "fat" to describe her or any of my other various celebrity crushes (Nigella Lawson, Liza Tarbuck, TOWIE's Gemma, pop singer Adele and Lorraine Kelly, in case you were wondering) because it has a nasty, finger-pointing, pejorative air attached to it - "curvaceous" and "full-figured" will be the terms of the day. I don't consider any of the aforementioned to be fat anyway. The sea-change never really happened; it seems to me that Tara Lynn simply got co-opted as the fashion industry's token big girl. I worry that, although when I look at Tara Lynn I see a woman so mightily fine that I now clothes-shop exclusively at H&M from now on just so that I can look at the posters, the women of Britain don't share my enthusiasm.
The Daily Mail writer Liz Jones' once said "I'd rather be dead than fat" in a piece about her own anorexia. It troubles me to hear talk like this, not least because I know full well that their definition of what "fat" is, is plausibly a good five or six sizes lower than the point where I'd even consider using the term. But then I have, in the past, happily gone as high as a size 26.
As a big - ah sod it, FAT - man myself, I get the rise taken out of me mercilessly for my heft, and yet I treat it as water that is almost contemptibly easy to shake off the duck's back, for the simple fact that I think curvaceous women are qualitatively more attractive than their slender counterparts. And if the saying that "like attracts like" is true, then I should, in theory, be a very happy man unless they suddenly invent a pizza that burns fat and fail to inform me first. Now, I understand that the subject of what attracts you is an entirely personal matter and that, for some men, gym-tightened sinews, steely abs and a boyish absence of front and rear may be the very stuff of erotic nirvana. And there is obviously a point where the fulsome femininity of a Nigella or a Vanessa Feltz (add her to my list, actually) stops and the wheezing corpulence of a Beth Ditto begins (that classic NME cover still gives me nightmares). But I'm truly baffled by a consensus that sinews, jutting bones and hard muscles should be prized within the realms of the sensual over heaving bosoms, soft yielding flesh, warm skin - and more of it all to boot! What is this madness? If the former set of attributes interests you so much, I sometimes think you'd be better off signing up for an anatomy class.
When I think of large women (and I frequently do) I think of ladies who are willing to indulge their sensual side, who don't entertain a quarter hour of agonising before they decide to forego the dessert trolley yet again. How can you call yourself a sensual being if you favour the grinding attrition of the gymnasium over the indulgence of a three-course face-stuff, with pudding not just an option so much as an obligation to oneself? When I look at thin people, I see self-denial, I see restraint, I see the application of the sensible rather than satisfaction of the senses. And, to put not too fine a point on it, why would anyone want to jump into bed with someone who thinks like that? Indeed, it's still so taboo to be so unashamedly chubby in this day and age, when nobody bats an eyelid at those who neck G&Ts until it weeps from their pores or consent to humiliation for entertainment's sake on national television, that I would argue that there is a certain added frisson created simply by loving your largeness. Big is not just beautiful, it's naughty too - and we should be all for naughty!
I recently joined a gymnasium near my office, not because I look in the mirror and see something huge and grotesque looking back, but because I simply couldn't find decent jeans to fit and I need some new ones. In their main window, they have an "enticing" 12-foot-tall image of a beautiful, fully toned, gymwear-clad young lady, glowering and pointing accusingly at passers-by, shaming them inside to sign up. That one image encapsulates all that I find unattractive about the gym-slim: the humourlessness, the sanctimony, the implied superiority, and those hard, unyielding sinews. It was with some reluctance that I joined, but I really and truly hope that Tara Lynn and all you other beautiful, curvy women do not follow my example. You're all fine, mighty fine, just the way you are.
A version of this post first appeared as a feature in Fabulous magazine in 2011. Fabulous is free in the Sun newspaper every Sunday.