upper arm exposure

 I  learned the rules as a fat child with tight elastic waistbands that dug into my midsection and pinched uncomfortably. It was understood that cute jeans were not for me. Halter tops were not for me. Anything designed to be worn without a bra were not for me. Entire categories of clothing were off limits. It felt like an early betrayal by my body, to ruin all my fun and ability to fit into the same outfits as my friends. I had to wear a bra from the time I was ten years old. I was the girl in the recess line who chose where to stand very carefully so that I would not become some boy\’s hilarious pastime as he snapped my bra strap and laughed hysterically with his friends. While my face burned in shame. Nothing to do about it. My body was my body.

The high school season was all about what I could not wear because of my body. Cute jeans. Tight t-shirts with pithy sayings emblazoned across the front. Tube tops. Two piece bathing suits.You get the idea. That layer of armor that those girls had because of the way they could dress was exasperatingly elusive to me. Being fat made me invisible in the worst way. Or maybe not so much invisible as rendered irrelevant in every important way in high school. No chance of being a cheerleader. So I dedicated myself, heart and soul, to concocting the most vitriolic nastiness I could invent to vilify those (mostly) blonde and bubbly youth. Hey, I wanted to shout, I am blonde! I am bubbly! Too bad, fat girl. Move along, nothing for you here.

I won\’t spend a lot of time talking about the childbearing years here. The most fascinating thing I noticed about that season was there was automatic forgiveness for fatness as long as you were one of the following: trying to get pregnant, pregnant, breastfeeding or (my favorite) \”getting your body back.\” Unless one of those were the case, fat continued in its bad reputation, though cloaked in purpose and condescending understanding from other women.

Now in midlife, bewildered by the conflicting messages about body positivity, weight loss (or not) and limitations imposed on me because of my menopausal adventures,  I have returned to my inner hippie in both my politics and my wardrobe. I love tie-dye anything, flowing peasant blouses and well-worn jeans as my daily uniform. I am the queen of comfy cardigans.

However, summer.

We are being hit with an unprecedented heat wave. So I am asking the question that plagues fat girls in the summertime. How much skin is too much ? What kind of a bathing suit is acceptable? Can I bear to walk around in a sleeveless shirt, letting my fat arms see the light of day? Will it cause other people to randomly glance my way and vomit up their lunch? 

Why is it that upper arm exposure is such an issue? I can safely report that on the few occasions that I have sat in the sun on a beach somewhere with my arms bare, literally nothing has happened. No one has ever approached me, timidly or boldly, and demanded that I cover up my offensive flesh. Nothing has fallen from the sky. There were no altercations or arrests to report.

I will tell you why it is an issue. Good old fashioned shame, plain and simple. How dare we offend the sensibilities of all of those people who have the good sense to either keep their arms slender and toned or keep them covered up, no matter how hot it is outside. Really, how dare we.

 I have had enough. I am striking a blow for fat girl comfort and the right to feel the sun shining on our upper arms. I have spent enough years sacrificing my physical comfort for the aesthetic comfort of others, real or imagined. I have carried three humans inside this body. These fat arms of mine have lifted babies before they could walk and beyond. I have lifted baskets of laundry, stacks of books in my classroom, endless bags of groceries and diaper bags stuffed to bursting. My arms are strong and they are beautiful, stretch marks and all. One of my favorite things is to see my pink stretch marks turn silver as they take in the sun.

 No thank you, I won\’t deny myself this summer. Because the sun belongs to everybody.

2 thoughts on “upper arm exposure”

  1. I've struggled with my weight most of my life and I know how it feels to not be able to wear something you want to and the unnecessary feeling of embarrassment because of what one is expected to look like!

  2. I've struggled with my weight most of my life and I know how it feels to not be able to wear something you want to and the unnecessary feeling of embarrassment because of what one is expected to look like!

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