Ah Summer: sunshine, kids out of school running amok (sometimes walking amok if they’re physical-activity-adverse), day drinking in the hot sun, and that guy who insists on wearing his shirt in the pool.
Summer represents social land mine hopscotch for people with body shame issues, being that most group activities are centered around bodies of water. As someone who avoids mirrors like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix (the first one, let’s collectively forget the Ecstasy-fueled rave-nightmare of the sequels), I understand body-shame. But I also know that at any given public public congregation near water will lure people with train wreck bodies topped with embarrassing tattoos that make me look like I could pose for a swimsuit magazine. I’m here to assure you, people-who-wear-shirts-to-go-swimming, your body is not the most disturbing or shameful.
First, what do you think you’re accomplishing, person-who-wears-a-shirt-while-swimming? Here’s the best case scenario: “What? You’ve gained weight? I had no idea, you concealed it so well under that soaking wet, clinging dark shirt that highlights your saucer nipples.” A shirt in a water-situation is about as concealing of a body type as drugs are affective for concealing one’s own self-worth. We all see what’s going on. Wearing the shirt, however creates a worst-case-scenario thinking that’s probably much worse than the couple of extra pounds you think you’re camouflaging.
Of course there are other reasons: just lost a lot of weight and have some satchels of excess skin, stretch marks, birth marks in the shape of swastikas, tattoos of Bugs Bunny’s foray into racist propaganda, an outie bellybutton that resembles Steve Buscemi, moles in a constellation-like configuration of Bill Cosby holding a pill bottle, or maybe a thatch of hair on a tummy (good luck not being self-conscious of that now, people with a bit of belly hair).
But I assure you, person trying to hide their personal shame under a tiny layer of cotton, no one cares. If there’s any way I can empower you, people ashamed of their bodily quirks, it is this: the vast majority of people are so wrapped up, mummified in their own narcissism that they won’t notice you or whatever spotlight on your insecurity you feel exists. Maybe someone looks at you and has a cursory judgmental thought, but it is fleeting.
The more you can stand up and own your body type, the more attractive you become. I was never more sexually attracted to Kathy Bates than when she tossed out her goodies in About Schmidt…that’s not true, she was super sexy in Misery, but the point is still valid.
Everybody is judging everybody else all the time, in such a way that they are trying to use that judgement to buoy their own self-worth. So, if you can shed the shirt, and confront people with your body type, you are really confronting people with their own insecurities.
You can do it, shirt-in-the-pool person, I believe in you…more than myself. Whatever you have going on can’t be worse than 90% of the tattoos that are out there on full display. Who knows, maybe someone will call you “brave.” Wear sunscreen, though.