This week I did something twice that I generally have a policy against. I don’t really tend to show much skin, save cleavage, because I have too many scars and because I’m just a tad lumpy… okay, I’m quite lumpy. 95% of the shirts I own go at least to my elbows but most go to my wrists. It isn’t that I’m a modesty Gestapo, on the contrary; I have no problem with skin. It all about my own self consciousness.
The lumpiness I might be able to get past if it weren’t for the addition of the scars. My right arm is covered with them. Starting at the side of my wrist there is a slash, then up on my forearm there are parallel lines. Moving up my arm there are blotchy spots, and on my shoulder is what I can still tell are tread marks. My back is worse. It’s hard to show these to the world not because of the marks themselves but because of the story they tell.
I guess that’s true of my body in general. I dress to hide it because of the story it tells. For those who know how to read them, my arm and shoulder tell a story of an accident and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder induced self injury. The rest of my body tells a story of depression, abuse, self imposed abuse, childhood injuries, self injury, lack of sleep, and good nutrition. Good nutrition??? This isn’t just about the negative, you can tell from my skin that I get the vitamins and minerals I should. My body tells the stories I do not so I hide it in layers of fabric and color.
On Wednesday, though, I let my arms tell their stories; lumps, cuts, scars, and all.
This wasn’t taken on Wednesday but it’s the same tank top. That day I ended up hiking in just my bra with one of my best friends, Schnookums (who was also in her bra). On Wednesday the sun came out and I had a free hour so I decided to go shopping and get some sun. It felt amazing to be out and about with my arms exposed. When dressing in layers to cover up flaws I think you forget what it feels like to not do that. There’s a distinct freedom in that.
On Friday I went to a hip hop club with my sister and I was looking far too “suburbia white girl” for my taste, (I was still in work clothes) so I stripped off my long sleeve shirt and spent the evening in a spaghetti strap tank top. Skanky? Maybe not for you but for me it was more skin than I ever show.
Here’s the thing, I have this theory that we love or hate our bodies based off of the story we believe they tell. For centuries a fat body told the story of wealth and luxury. Fair skin meant that you didn’t have to go out in the sun. In China disfigured feet told the same story. In many parts of the world fat still spells beauty because it tells that same story; you can afford to eat and not work hard. Here in the present day U.S. fat tells a different story. Interpretations vary but in general it says you don’t know how to take care of yourself.
Fat tells me a different story, though. Maybe it’s because I acquired my chub after trauma or maybe it’s because my mother always taught me to look past the surface but I always wonder what’s actually going on with that person. I mean, why would someone do that to themselves on purpose if there wasn’t an underlying reason? I don’t think they would. I know the story my body tells and it’s not what I want people to see when they look at me.
While I definitely believe in dressing to flatter your figure and look your best, there’s something to be said for not being ashamed to show your flaws. I guess my challenge for everyone this week is to dress without shame for the story your body tells. For some that might mean wearing a skirt, while for others it might mean wearing a tank top. Whatever it means for you let it also mean liberating yourself from layers of shame.
I’ve been ashamed of my body for a long time. While I’m working on changing the story that it tells, I’m also working on changing how I view that story. I’m showing some skin. What about you?