Unveiled

The Summer season is excruciatingly stressful for me, despite my lack of academic engagement, for one reason and one only: Swimsuits.

This past Saturday was the debut of my summer body, and it was nerve-wracking. I shimmied into my high-waisted, Marilyn Monroe-style bathing suit, sucked my gut as close to my spine as I could, and forced myself to take a peek in the mirror.

That peek turned into a 15-minute inspection, and, as always, I did not measure up to my self-imposed expectations. I had been attending the gym for an hour and a half EVERY DAY since school got out. My diet consisted of purely fruits and vegetables and an occasional square of dark chocolate, and yet, despite all of this effort, there I stood, desperately trying to gather the courage to emerge from my bedroom in my bathing suit.

Before the tears of frustration were allowed to flow down my freshly-sunscreened face, I ripped myself from my own merciless gaze, grabbed my beach towel, and left my bedroom.

I timidly rushed down the stairs, acutely aware of my thighs jiggling with every step. Before heading out the door to head to my community swimming pool, I bumped into my sister. She looked me up and down, sighed, and said, “you look good.”

“You look good.”

Guys. You have no idea how much influence that subtle, simple comment had on my self esteem that day. I was actually able to enjoy getting slightly sun burned as I draped myself over a pool chair. I wasn’t worried about what other people were thinking about my pasty white, chubby thighs. I wasn’t worried about much at all, actually. I think I might have even been relaxing.

You see, what I realized that day was that not everybody is looking at me. Not everybody is scrutinizing my body and tearing me apart with rude comments about how I should lay off the cheese puffs or do more squats. Odds are, i’m the only one doing that. Most people are just there to swim.

No, I’m not saying I’m finally and suddenly comfortable in my own skin. I’m not saying I will no longer poke at my stomach, cursing myself for not having washboard abs. Because who cares if there’s some extra flab on my tummy when there are ice cream cones to be eaten and vacations to go on and barbecues to attend? What i’m saying is i’m no longer going to let it interfere with my ability to go and do fun things and enjoy them.

So from now on, i’m just here to swim.

M.

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The Problem of Modesty

“Modest is Hottest.” The all-too familiar chant for anyone who grew up in the LDS Young Women’s program. We grow up being taught that as women, it is our responsibility to cover ourselves up, in order to protect the thoughts of the young men in which we interact with. Exposing the shoulder, midriff, cleavage, or thigh causes young men to have lustful thoughts, and we best not corrupt them.

I never bought into this whole “modesty” thing, mostly because in this instance, the word “modesty” is being completely misused. I would suggest we substitute “modest” with “conservative,” but “Conservative is Hottest” isn’t nearly as appealing to say, and doesn’t rhyme, either.

Also, I never felt that the burden of controlling someone else’s thoughts was a burden assigned to me. After all, if I was busy controlling my dude friends’ thoughts, who was controlling mine for me?

Back to my point. So I was always that girl in high school who stuck out like a sore thumb in homecoming pictures because my dresses lacked sleeves, and rarely reached past my mid-thigh. Tank tops in the summer were a staple, as were two-piece swimsuits. (Except at Girl’s Camp, of course.)

Today, I was at the gym, minding my own little business on the weight floor, when an older man (estimated age 60) approached me.

“Excuse me,” He said as I ripped out my headphones, DMX blaring. “I know i’m an old man, but I just wanted to thank you for not wearing those tiny running shorts.” I looked down at my Ultimate Yoga Pants, my cheeks growing hot. I blinked.

“I’m new to this gym,” he continued, “I switched here because at my old gym, all the girls would wear these tiny, little running shorts. I’ve been coming here a week now, and I haven’t seen a single girl wearing those. I appreciate you covering up.”

Dumbfounded and jaw agape, I mumbled, “I like stretchy pants.” and marched out of the gym, ears fuming, and cursing myself for not having a better response.

To be frank, my dear old gym friend, I did not choose to wear pants as opposed to shorts for modesty’s sake. The last thing on my mind when dressing myself this morning was “gee, how can I present myself in a way that will promote clean thoughts from the men that see me?” Because let’s be honest, I will be objectified regardless of the length of my leg wear.

This cultural attitude that women must cover themselves in order to protect men from entertaining lustful thoughts and desires is problematic at best.It ingrains a sense of shame in young girls over their bodies. Girls as young as they come are being told that tank tops are immodest. The shoulder has been sexualized. Girls are shamed into conforming to some arbitrary dress code and told that if they don’t, they are causing men to have lustful thoughts.

And we layer EVERYTHING. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. But when it’s 112 degrees on a July afternoon, you can bet your bottom dollar I will not be sporting more than one layer.

So sure, let’s keep the fun “Modest Is Hottest” motto. But let’s stick to the literal definition of the words within that phrase, and let’s hear the boys chant this at scout camp, too.

According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, Modesty is defined as “freedom from conceit or vanity.”

Where, exactly, does the shoulder coverage fit in there?

M.

Measurement

Who decided that we need to quantify everything? I realize that in some circumstances, measurement is absolutely essential. These circumstances can include building a house, baking, and all that mathematical crap they teach us in high school that we’re supposedly going to HAVE to know to function efficiently in today’s world. We have an obsession with sticking a number on literally EVERYTHING.

And I guess there’s nothing wrong with quantification. But then we apply that quantity to certain contexts and our interpretations of them are entirely skewed, and we shape our entire lives over these measurements. Allow me to further explain with examples:

1. TIME: Y’know, before the invention of the ever-constantly ticking clock, people got along just fine by using the sunrise and sunset as their method of time measurement. I’ll bet times were a lot less stressful, urgent, and structured back then. But now, we have the clock. The dictator that tells us how much time we have left. The circle on the wall or on our wrist which we constantly watch, making sure we don’t linger in one place too long, or counting down the seconds until we can move on to our day’s next appointment. Imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have such a definite measurement of time, or at least didn’t make it such a central, definite, and authoritative factor in our lives. I feel like I’m always wishing my time away so that I can move on to the next mundane activity I have penciled in to my stupid, little planner. I wish I knew how to enjoy where I am. The “right here, right now.”

 

2. THE BATHROOM SCALE: I hate that thing. Hate it with all of my guts. And yet, I am a daily user of that dreaded thief of happiness. By standing on that stupid glass square, I am giving it power to dictate how much I like myself that day. Those stupid LED numbers have the power to change my entire mood. Again, too much value is placed on numbers. I get that measuring one’s weight is important if her weight is causing her health issues, whether she be too light or too heavy. But for your average young adult with a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle habits like me, there is no need for a daily weigh-in. I know, I do it to myself. But I blame society and it’s emphasis on numbers and “ideal weight” for making me this way. So thanks , society, for screwing me up.

3. CALORIES AND SERVING SIZES: BOO. I hate calorie-counters. I have this theory that if we all just ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were satisfied, we’d all be happy, healthy-weighted individuals. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to listen to our own bodily signals. So then we become food addicts and eat an entire box of Oreo’s and wash them down with a big glass of self-loathing. Hence the need for serious attention to our dietary intake. I, too, participate in this nonsense. I use this dreaded app called MyFitnessPal, and it tells me I can only eat 1200 calories a day. That thing doesn’t know me. I always end up exceeding my “limit” by the time 4:00 PM rolls around, anyway.

4. DRESS SIZES: I’m talking small, medium, large, extra large, XXL, XXXXXXL, etc. Nothing says “you’re a human cow” like sticking a tag in the back with multiple “X’s” on it. What’s wrong with the numeral sizing method? I don’t even know what those numbers indicate, anyway. Centimeters? Inches? Doesn’t matter. All I know is that buying a size 4 feels much better than buying a size “Medium.” Medium is relative, anyway. This might be the single instance that I prefer the use of numbers for measurement.

I recognize the significance of measuring stuff. It’s a good idea, really, and a lot of our daily situations depend on our ability to measure stuff. All I’m saying is I wish measurement didn’t have such significance or rank so high on our priority lists and we just learned to let go and live a little.