Wake up: you don’t get to decide what I can and can’t wear.
I am so, so tired of being told what’s right for my body.
For once I’m not talking about politics here. I mean literally being told what’s right for my body, how if my body is apple shaped I should wear one style, if I’m a triangle I should wear another. I have short legs so I shouldn’t wear dresses past my knees, and my stomach is round so I should avoid anything attention grabbing. I definitely shouldn’t wear swimsuits or sleeveless tops, like, ever.
I can’t win no matter what season it is. In the summer I want to dress like everyone else, and everyone else is wearing shorts and sleeveless tops. I remember daring to wear a sleeveless dress a few inches above my knees, thinking it would make walking around under the blinding gaze of the Los Angeles sun a little less painful. While I was substantially cooler, I also had to deal with the inevitable jerk pulling over to honk and laugh at me. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I could have had people shout “free Willy!” at me, making mooing or oinking sounds, or “helpfully” suggest I wear leggings to keep covered up. Why? No one else was wearing leggings.
No one else was fat, either.
Fun fact: I was 25 years old before I wore a sleeveless top in public. Rain or shine, weddings, proms, beach days, I always made sure my arms were covered. Even after I started my journey towards accepting my body, my arms were my last hurrah. The last thing on my body making me feel completely hideous. I was a wreck the day I decided to go out dressed in a sleeveless top to a dinner with my friend. I didn’t tell her it was a big deal to me, I just let the day go the way it was going to go. She was surprised when I told her later, in fact. As a thin person she’d never thought twice of going out in a sleeveless top.
What many people don’t know, is being fat adds an extra layer of thought to every clothing choice we make. We have the usual worries: Will I look the way I want to, what will my comfort level be. And it’s certainly true that women especially have to worry about what degree of harassment they’re going to be on the receiving end of based, strangely enough, on the fabric they choose to drape their bodies in. But fat women have to worry about all this plus whether someone’s going to decide to hate on us because we’re fat, too.
We feel this constant pressure to make ourselves as invisible as possible. Do me a favor: the next time you’re in a clothing store, check out the plus size section. I don’t care what store you’re in, what you’ll find is a sea of neutral colored standard cut outfits. A black skater dress, a navy knee length skirt, a brown and cream striped boat neck top. We don’t get vibrant colors or stylish cuts because we’re supposed to blend in. We can look okay I guess, but we definitely aren’t supposed to look good. I mean, if we looked good we might get the idea our bodies are okay exactly how they are and we certainly can’t have that.
Listen, bottom line: If it’s hot out and I want to wear shorts, I get to wear shorts. If I want to wear a crop top to a concert, I’m wearing a crop top. If I want to wear a bikini to the beach then by god that’s between me and my future sunburn. Wearing something that everyone else can shouldn’t require bravery. If you hate how my thighs look, time to suck it up buttercup.
So the next time you get the urge to stifle a giggle or cast a judgmental stare at a fat person hanging out in clothes they clearly feel awesome in, take a second and ask yourself if you want to be the kind of jerk who makes someone feel awful just because they have a body that makes you uncomfortable. And instead of saying something ugly, evaluate what ugly thing exists inside you to make you think it in the first place.
Natalie Slaughter is a former Texan currently living in L.A. who enjoys politics, cooking, video games, comic books and spending more money than she should at ModCloth. She takes her nerd title as seriously as she does her writing and believes anything’s a good story if you tell it right. Follow Natalie on Twitter and Facebook.
This originally appeared on SHESAID. Republished here with permission.