I spent most of last week in a southern California heat wave.
You know when it’s so hot you start to feel the skin on your face become tighter and tighter because it’s actually kind of getting cooked alive? It reminds me of the way it used to feel when I put on one of those goopy Queen Helene face masques (the ones you only break out at sleepovers when you’re 11) — drying and tightening before I peeled off the entire thing like an insect-wing membrane.
Since it was like face-bacon hot in LA, I decided it was time to pull some summer wear out of my cheetah-print roll-y suitcase. I had just thrifted a pair of plus size denim shorts (with elastic band!) with the intention of inaugurating them into my wardrobe on this very trip.
I love shorts. I love showing skin. I love the way that wind feels on my bare legs, the way the sun warms me, the way that I can see my body, and watch the way it moves. Do I arouse myself? Yes, a little bit.
It was not without trepidation that I found myself asking, “What good are shorts if they're not rolled up as high as humanly possible?”
So I did it.
I rolled my shorts all the way up my inner thighs - up past where the skin just above my knee starts to soften, up past the little fold where the fat on my thigh makes a crease, up past where the softness turns into divoted jiggly fat, up past where the chub rub scars reside.
The last time I wore short shorts like this was over ten years ago, and I was still dieting. I thought I had earned the right to wear them because I had only eaten toast and lettuce for three months and had done a minimum of two hours of daily aerobics.
Everything I had seen — on TV, in magazines, in movies, on billboards — had taught me that it wasn’t just anyone who could wear whatever she wanted. Short shorts were reserved exclusively for thighs that were firm. I was taught that soft bodies didn’t “look good” in most clothing. So I did what a lot of women do — I hid and I longed and I waited.
We’re taught that only certain people can wear certain things because they “look good” in them. But what does that mean? Does “looking good” mean “looking thin?” Because good and thin aren’t synonymous, actually.
I remember the first time I saw a fat woman wearing denim shorts rolled up. She was walking up the boutiquey street near my house with her butch partner. I had met her a couple of times before. She was a friend of a friend and she didn't live in my neighborhood, but people from all over the city make their way to the beach near my place when the sun's out.
Her thighs were like mine — fat and soft and jiggly. Each time she took a step, her thighs moved with their own momentum. I was totally bedazzled by her thighs. They had put a spell on me and filled me with a wish that would take two years to realize.
There are these moments in my healing process that are so subtle and so monumental, like a gift that had always been there but I didn’t know how to see. The key to the puzzle became simple: I didn’t need to change my thighs, I needed to change the idea of what looked good.
We’re taught that only certain people can wear certain things because they “look good” in them. But what does that mean? Does “looking good” mean “looking thin?” Because good and thin aren’t synonymous, actually. If we change our expectation of what people are “supposed” to look like in clothing, then we open up a galaxy of possibilities. Once I shifted my lens, I realized that there was room for my soft, wobbly thighs in short shorts, and that I could reclaim any item of clothing I wanted.