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Summer Is for Skinny People
July 2, 2014 9:50 AM   Subscribe

For some of us, summer is the season of dread, because, for all its many charms, it's also the season during which taking off one's clothes in public becomes customary, at times even compulsory. While I am spiritually and voyeuristically 100 percent on board with partial and total public nudity among those who choose to engage in it (a segment of the population I envy as deeply as some people envy millionaires), my own relationship to bodily exposure is a joint-freezing, breath-seizing nightmare. To couch it in terms of the ranking phobias in American life, I would rather address a large audience while sealed in a coffin aboard a free-falling airplane infested by poisonous spiders the size of Alaskan king crabs than take my shirt off at the beach.
posted by josher71 (107 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 


At various points in my life, I've been both scrawny and (my current state) flabbily beer gutted, and I've happily enjoyed both nude and standard beaches. I won't let some weird standard impede my fun in the sun.
posted by jonmc at 10:00 AM on July 2 [16 favorites]


It's bad enough to be excluded (by choice, by nature, by good old-fashioned prudishness) from one of the sweetest rituals available to humankind

Sean Nelson, if you read this, I hereby extend an invitation to come hang out on the beach at Sandy Point State Park for the day. We'll brown bag some beers, do a little grilling, and you can go shirtless with the full comfort of knowing that not one of the hundreds of flabby, wrinkled, stretch-marked, be-cellulited or otherwise imperfect Marylanders surrounding you gives a damn about your physique*.

*I mean it - there will be, maximum, 2-3 good looking people anywhere in the vicinity, if previous experiences are anything to go by. I'm *ugly*, and I feel comfortable there.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:02 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I've been moderately obese to merely slightly overweight and back and forth, but finally shedding the inhibition to show some skin was more lifechanging than shedding a couple dozen pounds ever was. I may be heavy and hairy, but I'm wearing this tank top and it. is. glorious.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:04 AM on July 2 [13 favorites]


What does it say about me that every time I read an article about body image I feel compelled to look for a picture of the author?
posted by bq at 10:05 AM on July 2 [24 favorites]


Summer is the. worst. Man, it sucks for the overweight, for the naturally pale (and skin-cancer prone), for the lady with any boobs at all, for the people who have to still wear suits and dress clothes on hot cement sidewalks and then sit in 40-degree cubicles all day, for the parents who have to scramble for child care...

brb ice cream truck DISREGARD MESSAGE
posted by like_a_friend at 10:13 AM on July 2 [48 favorites]


I feel like recommending therapy to the guy - it's not that people aren't assholes and there isn't any body-shaming or that it's all in his head, but getting some help to get you to the "I get to wear a swimsuit if I want, assholes" place can be really good. And he just sounds so horribly distressed. I have lots and lots and lots of body issues, I had them when I was thinner, I had them when I was fatter, I'll probably have them til they put me in the ground - and god knows I've been harassed and hassled and shamed and messed with about how I look - but this poor fellow sounds worse than I've ever felt, and lord knows I felt bad enough.

I add that this is the musician Sean Nelson, so not all that fat and not especially devoid of social capital, poor son-of-a-gun.

On the other hand, if we met we could totally geek out about the "I worry all the time about unspoken social rules and what people are really thinking even though they say they are not because the unspoken rules forbid saying it" thing.
posted by Frowner at 10:18 AM on July 2 [13 favorites]


Also, he should make some fat friends. I have friends who are much fatter than me who go to the beach all the time, and this year I think they may actually have persuaded me - fully equipped with rashguard and baggy men's swimtrunks, admittedly, but that's gender performance as much as anything else - to join them.
posted by Frowner at 10:22 AM on July 2


What does it say about me that every time I read an article about body image I feel compelled to look for a picture of the author?

If you Google "Sean Nelson musician" you'll find lots of photos of him. I don't for a second doubt his intense feelings of self-consciousness, but if he went down to the local beach and took his shirt off no one would give him a second glance. He's pretty much "Mr. Average US 40-yr-old" in build.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Summer is the. worst.

I will trade you all of my winter for all of your summer. Let's do this.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:26 AM on July 2 [13 favorites]


You can't escape this if you're (too) skinny either. My mom called me "chicken legs" when I was roughly 14 and I have almost never worn shorts in public since.
posted by desjardins at 10:26 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I'm not quite as bad as this guy, but it's very similar for me. It's an obsession, like he says. "Make some fat friends" and "you're not the only one who' snot skinny don't worry" don't really cut it. This thread is pretty weird for Metafilter to be honest.

Luckily for me I'm in a climate where it's totally fine to wear t-shirts all year.
posted by Hoopo at 10:29 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


The irrepressible Sam Irby, of bitches gotta eat:
summer is the worst
if the hotdog-scented thigh meat wafting up from the sun-dappled sidewalks of my fair city are any indication, SUMMERTIME IS FINALLY UPON US. i hate the fucking summer, man. everyone is naked, everyone stinks, and everyone is outside and underfoot no matter the time of day or night, sticky and dripping barbecue sauce or helado mindlessly down their fronts.
summer beauty tips for the sweaty and disheveled
AND POOR AS FUCK. last summer i wrote a brilliantly hilarious, yet totally useful and informative, beauty post meant to help you beautiful girls survive these slimy dog days of summer. it is nearly impossible to look like a clean, crisp slice of gorgeous when the air outside is like boiled mucous. magazines try to fool you with cute trick words like "dewy" and "glowing," but we know there is nothing more infuriating than having your entire face slide off and land in a pile of gelatinous goo at your feet the minute you step outside to go to work. AT SEVEN IN THE MORNING. i have never "glistened" a day in my wretched goddamned life. i have looked "sweaty" and "gooey" and "sticky" and "disgusting as fuck," but never have i ever been standing on the corner waiting for the bus in the middle of august looking "summery" or "fresh."
the summer sexperiment
1 formulate a question. is it possible to enjoy cosmo's summer sex tips with another human being without wanting to stab my motherfucking eyes out?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:30 AM on July 2 [26 favorites]


I do not like summer.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:36 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I add that this is the musician Sean Nelson, so not all that fat and not especially devoid of social capital, poor son-of-a-gun.

HAHAHA

My ex used to date this guy. Before me.

When I would go into her work her coworkers would play 'Flagpole Sitta'.

I don't doubt he would benefit from therapy.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:39 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]




From the "bondage" paragraph on is like a hyper-articulate mirror, including the fact that you can recognise how dumb and destructive these feelings are, but it doesn't actually make them go away.

On the other hand, if we met we could totally geek out about the "I worry all the time about unspoken social rules and what people are really thinking even though they say they are not because the unspoken rules forbid saying it" thing.

Whenever you get a chance you just put your foot in it don't you
posted by rollick at 10:41 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, it was interesting. And familiar. Though I don't hate summer.
posted by Diablevert at 10:44 AM on July 2


Yeah, I'm of the doughy-ish persuasion, and my going shirtless anywhere, let alone the beach, just isn't evar gonna happen period. And I do love being in the water so very much, but going shirtless in public keeps me out of the wet.

On the plus side, my neighbors are never going to be treated to shirtless me mowing my lawn, no matter how hellishly hot it gets.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:44 AM on July 2


[...] the issue at issue isn't about cultural norms or beauty standards or privilege or tyranny. It's simply about the hyperconsciousness that permeates every waking second of body shame running aground in the absence of such consciousness.

I've read this sentence three times (and tfa once through) and don't think I understand how or why he feels these things are unrelated.
posted by lilnublet at 10:46 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I have no problems subjecting the world to my dumpy body. It's only when I'm with my female co-workers or acquaintances not friends that I hesitate for a few seconds (that's the Indian in me and would happen even if I was slimmer) but then once the shirt is off, all reservations disappear.

I get the usual ribbing about being a hairy SOB, but that's about it. The way I personally feel about it, if someone has a problem with my body, then it is their problem, isn't it. I think it is important to have friends period, not just 'fatter' ones who just accept you for what you are. It gets easier to say fuck it, I am going to be shirtless when your friends don't give a shit about your appearance either.
posted by viramamunivar at 11:05 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Yeah, desjardins, while I want to be careful to keep this in the realm of empathy and not co-opting, there's a lot here I relate to as someone on the other end of the BMI scale, especially everything in this paragraph:
You get stuck in mirrors, performing contortions to try to discern the angle from which someone might mistake you for a peer. You pick at your clothes incessantly, trying to make them hang just so, the way normal people's garments hang. It makes young guys wear T-shirts in swimming pools (the suckerest bet of all time), turns gym locker rooms into high-speed gauntlets.
I'm skinny and used to be more so, but more importantly I have a (mostly benign) chest wall defect that makes my chest look strange and concave. I'm also gay, so not only am I pretty hyper-aware about being my body being the object of an evaluative gaze, but unfortunately the chest and the upper body, precisely the part that's deformed on me, seems to be the primary locus of attraction and virility in mainstream gay culture.

Anyway, like Sean, it took a very long time before I was comfortable going to the beach with people who were not my family and I am still self-conscious about having my shirt off in summer. I still get annoyed and jealous when I see "normal" looking people shirtless at e.g. Pride. I am seriously considering pulling the trigger on surgery, even though I'd have to be in the hospital for two weeks on bed rest afterwards and on major pain medication for months after (plus have big metal bars in my chest for a couple years) -- so I can really relate to the fantasies of doing violence to your body to get it to conform.

So yeah, I think the phenomenon Sean is describing here really hit home for me and I think it's brilliantly written and astutely observed, both from the specific vantage point of being overweight and from the more general perspective of knowing that you "[belong] to the class of the objectively acceptable."
posted by en forme de poire at 11:05 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As someone who has always been very noticeably underweight, Summer is not for skinny people either. In fact, this piece might just as easily have been written by a thin person - I know I used to swim in t-shirts 'so I didn't get sunburn' because it was better than people pointing and laughing, and everything else is incredibly familiar.

(Yeah, I know I shouldn't come into a thread about fat people and say 'boo hoo what about the thin people', but it is sort of tiresome seeing 'skinny' as the opposite of 'fat' in a headline like that, when thin people get the exact same shit as fat people for not having the right sort of body.)
posted by jack_mo at 11:10 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Basically wanted to prescribe hugs. He sounds really damaged by his body-related feelings that I think a lot or most of us natively share but have managed to partially get over.

Actually, if anything, I felt kind of alienated by his implication of summer as this, like, bacchic fantasia where people are constantly demanding you take off your clothes to partake in the unending fiesta. The most exciting part of my afternoon today is taking a letter to the mailbox. Maybe if I'm feeling real wild I'll go get an iced coffee and drink it in my stuffy room!
posted by threeants at 11:13 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I know I shouldn't come into a thread about fat people and say 'boo hoo what about the thin people', but it is sort of tiresome seeing 'skinny' as the opposite of 'fat' in a headline like that, when thin people get the exact same shit as fat people for not having the right sort of body.

I think this is a fine point -- what sucks is body shaming, not just what kind of body is being shamed. I absolutely absolutely love swimming and the beach and lakes and pools and oceans and sailing and canoeing and I'm really happy up until I see a mirror or someone wants to take a picture or I feel like there are people looking at me at which point I feel like a hideous disgusting blob who shouldn't be allowed to live.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:16 AM on July 2 [15 favorites]


I have a lot of probably overcomplicated feelings about this 'cause I've known the author forever and a day, so instead I will just limit myself to saying that it is straight-up delightful to see his writing here. Dude can wield an adverb like nobody's business!
posted by divined by radio at 11:20 AM on July 2


...when thin people get the exact same shit as fat people for not having the right sort of body.

I am a relatively thin dude who has ran the gamut from "you know food exists, right?" to whatever it is I am now ("almost healthy-looking" I guess) and man I have to disagree with this. I walk around without a shirt frequently in the summer (and in really revealing tanktops otherwise) because I get uncomfortably hot easily and if people don't dig that, then I'm extra pleased because it's my own little fuck-you to anyone who thinks they get to decide who the see shirtless on the street. On top of that, I am covered with a nice, thick layer of hair and I'm rather short for a dude. I don't have a problem with my body, but it sure as hell doesn't fit whatever the current Conventionally Attractive Male Physique is.

All that being said, I have never, in my life, encountered the sort of bullshit my friends who are visibly overweight have told me they've had to deal with their clothes on.
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]


I guess I would also prescribe him better peers. Ok, you can't choose your family, but if any of my friends were like "haha, looking pretty unappealing there, uggo" I'd be all "haha" and then choke them on a roll of fat
posted by threeants at 11:22 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]


So don't take your shirt off. Duh. Or, you know, stop giving a fuck what other people think. Man: first world problems.
posted by Decani at 11:26 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


griphus - your luxurious mustache stuns everyone into awed silence.
posted by desjardins at 11:27 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Dude basically isn't fat. If he wants to look attractive (according to mainstream fashion) with his top off, that route's open to him with a bit of working out. Am I missing something?
posted by colie at 11:27 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Decani: Also, depressed people should just cheer up, and anxious people just should calm down. Amirite??
posted by desjardins at 11:27 AM on July 2 [36 favorites]


So don't take your shirt off. Duh. Or, you know, stop giving a fuck what other people think. Man: first world problems.

Wow, how insightful! I'm sure nobody with insecurities ever thought about simply not being insecure.
posted by Foosnark at 11:28 AM on July 2 [43 favorites]


If you're a woman it doesn't matter what weight you are, you still loathe your body.

I am a normal weight but my legs horrify me so much I spend the whole summer looking for maxi skirts and full-length cotton trousers that are cool enough to wear in the heat.

To me, wearing shorts would be as out of the question as wearing nothing but a leather harness.

Oh, and when it's hot my entire lower half balloons like I've been on a 24 hour flight with no water. So even if I'm thin, in the heat I feel fat.

This thread should have come with a trigger warning.
posted by Summer at 11:29 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


I'm sixty, and I don't give a rat's flabby arse if anyone doesn't like my flapping upper arms in a tank top. Cankles, scars, veins, bruises, and one big, fat knee from a knee replacement, & I still wear shorts. Suck it. Mostly it's jeans while outside, since I'm around the horses/riding. However, being pooched in the belly from kids and overweight is one thing, but danged if I don't feel unselfconscious one the beach with my overly tanned arms and pale as death legs, in spite occasionally wearing shorts. My legs have never tanned, even when I was young and in a swimsuit most of the summer. Go figger.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:29 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Also, depressed people should just cheer up, and anxious people just should calm down.

This is getting fighty but it really isn't the same as 'slightly tubby but perfectly healthy guy could work out, if for whatever reason, he wanted to have toned/ripped muscles like some other guys do.'
posted by colie at 11:30 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


your luxurious mustache stuns everyone into awed silence

it's true, i was wondering why you were posting photos of freddie mercury yesterday before i realized what was going on
posted by elizardbits at 11:30 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


This article was painfully familiar to me. That whole "bondage" paragraph was like seeing into my head. My friends go tubing down the river and I find an excuse to stay home. It's almost nicer now that my friends have moved away, because no one wants me to go swimming anymore. I'm visiting family in Hawaii in a few weeks, and I tried and tried to get my partner to take my place so I didn't have to go. Anyway, I'd like to say that I enjoyed the article but I don't think that's quite the word for it.

Also, it's not about having better friends. My friends are lovely, wonderful people who would never denigrate me based on my weight. I still don't want them to see my thighs. The problem is in my head, not theirs. I thought the author was pretty clear about that.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:32 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Am I missing something?

I think there's definitely a level of "unforgiving" in summer fashions and activities, for both men and women, that just doesn't exist in other seasons.

A "bit" of working out is also a little misleading; to attain the physique that our culture says is permissible to be almost totally nude, this dude would have to make the gym his LIFE. All for the sake of passing muster for 3ish months during which, coincidentally, he is also supposed to be shoveling burgers and ice cream into his face at all times because AMURRICA.

I'm basically not fat either (tho not in great shape), but the author's sense that summer is just way the eff more judgmental than other seasons definitely resonates with me.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:32 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Poor people: just get jobs you shiftless good for nothings!

Cancer patients: stop being sick you sorry bastards

Blind people: idk have you tried seeing

so many people will find life-affirming inspiration from your comment decani

bless you

bless your cow
posted by elizardbits at 11:32 AM on July 2 [48 favorites]


Cancer patients: stop being sick you sorry bastards

That's right this tubby guy has got problems as bad as cancer hmm.
posted by colie at 11:34 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


you're misreading. the point is that will alone will not cure
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:36 AM on July 2


my god and nothing irks me more when someone has a compulsion/disorder/issue when someone else says 'just don't'. its like fucking telling Skee-Lo to just be 6 foot tall its easy try it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:38 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


I'm thin, and I don't even like taking my shirt off for the doctor. I used to even wear a shirt in the pool. I'm not sick, but I'm not well.
posted by Redfield at 11:44 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I also get the sense that the author used to be quite a bit heavier, but it's also not like some modest recent weight loss is going to be enough to cure this type of long-term mental conditioning. As he says, "Scorn-dread follows the fat and once-fat around like the dust cloud follows Pigpen in Peanuts."
posted by en forme de poire at 11:44 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


How to get a bikini body

How to tell if your body is bikini-ready

I saw something going around about how moms should go swimming with their kids even if they hate how they look in bathing suits because swimming is awesome. It made me think of how my mother used to say she would have to buy a bathing suit from Omar the Tent-Maker (real PC, mom) because she was morbidly obese.

Part of me says, eff that noise, I love being in water, everyone else can deal with it, summer is only once a year, etc. A louder part of me says, but have you *seen* how you look in your bathing suit??

That said, ryanshepard, when are we going to Sandy Point? I haven't been yet this year. When I went last year, we saw Asian people who brought a rice cooker filled with food. They knew what was up.
posted by kat518 at 11:45 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


This is getting fighty but it really isn't the same as 'slightly tubby but perfectly healthy guy could work out, if for whatever reason, he wanted to have toned/ripped muscles like some other guys do.'

I mean... how do you know that he's perfectly healthy? Even more importantly, how do you know that "slightly tubby" for him isn't already the result of a couple of decades of striving, self-denial, hard exercise, and less healthy/more disordered weight-loss maneuvers?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:48 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


This guy needs some sort of therapy, self-administered or otherwise. I can relate to a lot of what he writes, but there is not a single thing in that entire piece about taking steps to mitigate his issue. He does however spend a whole lot of effort maintaining it.
Maybe now that he's opened up about it in public, one of his friends/family will see it and push him to see a psychologist.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:48 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I used to play a lot of pick-up basketball and, as you know, "shirts v. skins" is a common way of dividing pick-up teams. It always interested me the guys who just would not remove their shirts; who would just choose not to play if someone was a stickler about it. What was interesting to me was how seldom the self-consciousness was clearly related to any objective fact about their body. I'd guess that if the writer saw any of those people with their shirts off at the beach he'd think "if only I had a body like that, of course I wouldn't hesitate to take my shirt off." The whole thing breaks your heart, really.
posted by yoink at 11:48 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


This guy needs some sort of therapy, self-administered or otherwise. I can relate to a lot of what he writes, but there is not a single thing in that entire piece about taking steps to mitigate his issue. He does however spend a whole lot of effort maintaining it.

I'm in therapy. I'm on medicine (in fact, some of the medicine I've been on contributes to high weight gain). I spend a lot of time and effort coping with these body image issues and with my body itself. I mean, yeah, feeling better about yourself is great, but therapy isn't a magic bullet that makes it happen. This stuff is very, very pervasive and part of the problem is that once it's introduced into your head there's no getting it out. It's possible that no one but me cares how I look in a bathing suit but I care and unless everyone else were holding up signs that said "no seriously I don't give a fuck" (and possibly even then) these issues are with me. Once you start believing this is important, even if you know intellectually that it isn't or shouldn't be, it's really, really hard to move away from that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:53 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Here's another heavier, and perhaps more well adjusted, Nelson unafraid to remove his shirt in public.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:55 AM on July 2


What the fuck is your point, bashos_frog? Are you going to keep trawling the internet for pictures of fat people without shirts so you can "prove" it's really no big deal and the problem is all in his head, all the while making digs about his psychological adjustment?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:58 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Hey guys, when you live in a society that tells you at every turn that you're not good enough if you're fat, that your body is unhealthy and that you're directly helping to drive up health insurance costs and food costs and gasoline costs and whatever else you want to pin on fat people... of course some of us are going to have some severe hang-ups about baring our flesh in public. It doesn't indicate a deep need of psychotherapy, it indicates a deep need to not live in a society that treats us like shit, kthxbai.
posted by palomar at 12:00 PM on July 2 [28 favorites]


I never said it's no big deal. I've dealt with depression and body image issues myself. The picture of Roy Nelson is just something that came to mind when I looked at the authors name - probably because it's pretty much the total opposite - a guy in a sport which is almost entirely about physical conditioning, where people are genuinely judging you on your appearance (as well as skills) and yet, it is possible to totally not give a fuck, and still come out on top.
posted by bashos_frog at 12:01 PM on July 2


hooray you're back
posted by elizardbits at 12:02 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I'm also a little confused by the rage, en forme de poire, since the author is pretty much saying throughout the entire piece that he understands that it is "all in his head" - a phrase I dislike, because it implies that mental problems are somehow less serious than physical ones.
posted by bashos_frog at 12:07 PM on July 2


Omar the Tent-Maker

Wow, I missed that episode of The Wire. I'm having a lot of fun imagining him sewing bathing suits, though.
posted by desjardins at 12:07 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


I really liked this article. I don't have time to go into all the reasons, but before this conversation derails into a fight I want to point out that he's NOT talking about his peers or Society "shaming" him. He's talking about a personal psychological problem he has -- which I recognized in myself with painful accuracy. At one point he says that he felt this way even when he got in shape and became thinner.

I recognize all these feelings, and I don't know what to say to him either. It's likely that one or another of the suggestions people have made in this thread might work for him -- but it's really hit or miss what will snap you out of a weird mental state. (This is different from a serious psychological disorder like Depression.) For instance, I found a neat solution to feeling like a freakish-looking alien while working out at the gym: I joined the University's Campus Recreation, and so the Gym I go to is mostly undergraduates -- although there's a sizeable minority of professors, staff, etc. I remember from my college student days that everyone was judgmental of each other, but "old people" (over 30) barely registered on our attraction-radars. I know nobody's judging me because I look like a typical assistant prof, not a fellow student. The parallel for Sean Nelson is probably that his world of Rock Music has a fixation on youth and attractiveness; if he stopped going to "the lake" with his twentysomething fans/friends and went instead to the Family Aquatic Center in Suburban Park, where everyone has their eyes locked on their kiddies, that might help. Or not.

I really don't want to see this thread turn into a space exclusively for victims of Fat Shaming In Society -- the article is about psychological self-loathing, which can hit you no matter what you think you look like. As someone said above, he looks perfectly normal for his age, it's just that he wants to look like the people in the article's stock photo -- and he concludes, from every hesitation and sidelong glance, that everyone around him secretly believes he should too.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:09 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Feeling self-conscious about your appearance?

Highly recommended! Cognitive Therapy and Body Image

To some degree, most people wrestle with body image - even so called beautiful people. Some people suffer immensely; it's tragic.

In fact, to the degree that any one culture gets hung up on body image as an indicator of self-love, or self-hate, to that degree a specific culture is toxic. To imagine that one's natural (some would say "god-given") life...i.e. the very body that allows one to be becomes the object of ridicule/hatred/shame by oneself (or another) is to imagine a culture that has no "knitting", no connection - thus, a lack so profound that any sense of the reality of community disappears into the aether.

We need to change this, and stop letting our fashion overlords - including all anti-fashion movements (the ones that take on a conformist life of their own) - become judge and jury on self worth. Love yourself! Get outside yourself! Wear what you want (don't get arrested!). Dare to show yourself! Make showing your body an act of self love and an act of courage - make it an act of helping others who need your courage! So what if someone scoffs...scoffing is little more than the scoffer trying to make himself/herself feel better according to some norm. The scoffer is *weaker* than you. In fact, the scoffer is the one who needs help, because s/he requires the mockery of others to feel good.

Happy beach combing!
posted by Vibrissae at 12:10 PM on July 2


It's always something. Even when I had the realization that hey, I'm not fat or hideously misshapen or terrible to behold, and even if I was, I can wear a bikini if I want, the thought of wearing anything more revealing than shorts and a tanktop or a summer dress inspires horror. I'm super pale, like, blindingly pale. Plus I have dark body hair. Trying to tan leads to sunburns that don't even leave noticeably darker skin behind, and the fight against body hair is frankly Sisyphean.

Faced with the prospect of trying to achieve the beauty standards of society at large, I'd rather just opt out. I'll shave my legs because smooth legs feel nice, but man, fuck putting in the effort for anything else. I'm not experimenting with fake tanning or tanning booths to get a couple shades darker, and I'm not having my entire body waxed into hairlessness. Not giving a fuck is really liberating.

Of course, not giving a fuck is much easier said than done. I can't quite reach the level of not giving a fuck that would let me feel comfortable wearing a bikini with my flabby stomach, paleness, body hair and all. The voice in my head won't shut up about how all those things are hideous and I shouldn't think of inflicting them on other people.
posted by yasaman at 12:11 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I found all my own hang ups about nudity dissolved when I took figure drawing classes. I even considered posing when I was unemployed (it paid $16 an hour!). My favourite model was an former schoolteacher who did it for fun and was a nudist. He was a really great ambassador for the skin you're in :) Wish I had met him earlier in life!
posted by Calzephyr at 12:12 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


This is all pretty much the reason why I simply cannot wait to have most of me sliced away, and the remainder stuffed into a borosilicate tube surrounded by actuators and assorted microelectronics.

One day I will finally become the skittering carbon-fiber and titanium nightmare I just know I'm capable of becoming. All flashing edges and faceted eyes and horrific keening wails, skip skip skip up the walls and over the parapet into darkness, target acquisition systems flailing wildly in my wake.
posted by aramaic at 12:14 PM on July 2 [28 favorites]


I think in general people cover up more swimming now than they used to.

Men's and boy's swim shorts are long--some nearly knee-length. They used to be short-short when I was a kid.

Swim shirts are a thing now, both son and husband use them because it's less sunblock you have to keep reapplying.

After years of bitching that I couldn't find women's swim bottoms that don't require waxing private areas, I am actually able to find them now (though a lot of them are still sub-par). Oddly, I think I have the modesty-movement Christians to thank for this one. There are also swim shirts for women now, sold either under modesty or for people who burn easily. They're kind of cute.

I don't know if any of those would help this guy..your gut still shows in a swim shirt...but at least you can look less unusual and cover up more, if you want.
posted by emjaybee at 12:17 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


If you're a woman it doesn't matter what weight you are, you still loathe your body.
- Summer

My heart genuinely goes out to you. No one should have to feel that way about themselves. I feel really strongly about your first sentence sentence as a lead-in to talking about your own experiences. It's something I've heard a lot of other women say, and I think it strengthens the negative framework within which we contemplate our bodies (and the bodies of others relative to our own). It also makes it not okay for women to like or even love their bodies.

I have a lot of amazing athlete friends who are women. When they talk about their bodies, they almost never mention aesthetics, clothing size or even weight. They talk about performance goals and personal bests. They think about their bodies in terms of what they do, not what they are. I've heard it said that "men are things that do things, women are things that are things". The way my athlete friends think about their bodies flips this script in what I think is a really empowering way.

I love my body. It's strong and fast, it's taken me to places I never thought I'd go (at least, not before I started getting out and really living in it). Running has been my gateway to inhabiting my own skin. When I think about some of my favorite runs and races, I don't think about how I looked (unless I had some seriously awesome race face going on). I think about the line between mind and matter, between "I think I can" and "I know I can". In that exquisite little space, there's no room to worry about what anyone thinks about my looks because I look like me, doing something that makes me feel real and whole and strong.

We deserve to think about ourselves as doers of things.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:19 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


bashos_frog, you're representing him disingenuously. This is what he actually says: "This anxiety, like all anxieties, exists entirely in the psyche of the anxious, and has very little to do with other people. That doesn't mean it's imaginary, however. It's not about self-esteem, or even self-involvement, but it is about the self in relation to the rest of the world." (emphasis mine)

Since you asked, I am annoyed with your previous comments because you're reacting to a piece where someone talks honestly about the angst associated about being constantly judged for their body by ...judging them further for feeling bad about it. You even stated that he's spending a lot of effort "maintaining" this state of mind by writing about it, not only implying that he's to blame but that he's actively making it worse by thinking and talking about it (and also disregarding, for example, the therapeutic potential of writing and sharing one's writing). It's patronizing and condescending, and further, it sets up a classic no-win scenario: You're going to be told constantly that you don't measure up, but if you dare to feel bad about it, much less talk about it, that also means you're unhealthy, irresponsible, and inadequate.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:33 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I think some of us are more "embodied" than others of us. When I put on a bathing suit I go, "Wow, that's not looking so great ... oh well, time to swim." But some friends will spend an hour just agonizing over whether they want to swim enough to take off their coverup, even though we're of similar backgrounds and body-types and whatnot.

It took me a long time to start to understand trans* issues around feeling like you're in the wrong body, because I'm just so rarely aware I'm in my body at all. I just don't think about it. Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I'm like, "Oh! Hello! That's what I look like!" and I'm surprised by it. (I laughed when I saw Patricia Lockwood's comment about being "the 11-year-old gender: protagonist.") I like being a woman but if I woke up a man tomorrow, I'd be like, "Oh, well, that's weird" and get used to it. From talking and listening to others, I know many of them feel very strongly about their identities in their bodies -- not just gender but size and shape and hair color and all kinds of things -- even tattoos, piercings, clothing-as-identifier. I have a hard time understanding the appeal of tattoos, for example, because I just don't feel like my body is that expressive of my identity, certainly not in any permanent kind of way.

Eventually it dawned on me that this seems fairly inbuilt -- people mostly say they've either thought a lot about their body or not a lot about it for as long as they can remember -- and I'm not sure how much you can "change" how embodied you feel. I also think I'm probably towards the extreme end of feeling "non-embodied," and when people who DO feel very embodied (like this writer) express their feelings about their bodies, they're going to be very different from mine because it's, like, a fundamental difference in how one thinks about oneself in the world.

I used to be like, "Man, just relax, don't think about it so much, don't be so self-conscious!" but now I think there's probably a spectrum of embodied-ness and people can only move themselves so far along the spectrum. If you're fundamentally embodied, you're not going to be able to not think about it so much. If you're fundamentally not-embodied (disembodied?), it's going to be really hard to remember to think about it so often.

I don't think there is a moral difference between these two ways of being in the world; I do think different subcultures tend to value one attitude and denigrate the other, and I think it can be tough to understand the other way of relating to the world. It took me years of listening to other people talking about how they felt about their bodies before I was like, "Wait, these aren't shallow concerns, these are profound reflections by serious, thoughtful people of how they think about themselves and the world ... ones that I do not seem able to share and I am not sure why," and since then I've spent a lot of time thinking about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:43 PM on July 2 [36 favorites]


I think I may have been misunderstood. The 'effort' I was referring to was not in writing the piece, or thinking about it - but in the way he has to be "on constant alert" and making excuses to avoid shirtless situations, and otherwise accommodating his disability. Like I said, I think the article is good in that it may lead to him getting some help, and I am absolutely not judging him for feeling bad. I was just noticing what was to me a glaring omission.
posted by bashos_frog at 12:48 PM on July 2


I saw something beautiful last week: a photoset from a woman who was able to move from body shame to celebrating what her body was capable of doing.

"Regardless of what it was, I decided that it was time to REALLY celebrate what my ugly body CAN DO rather than focus on what it looks like…or doesn’t look like. So I asked my friend Emily, the amazing photographer at Southern Star Photography, to take some pictures of me DOING the THINGS I have NEVER, EVER…EVER in my entire life…not even as a kid (with the exception of the cartwheel) have been able to do until now. So here you go!"
posted by grippycat at 12:59 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


I appreciate the clarification but I still think it's messed up to blame him for "accommodating his disability" (especially when he says that his reaction has sometimes been to feign enthusiasm or to suppress his feelings), or to reduce this piece to merely a cry for help from an unwell person, but I think we're probably just not going to be on the same page here.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:07 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


We deserve to think about ourselves as doers of things.

I think women kind of run into a problem of having that whole other layer of shit whereby if they wear something that shows a millimeter more skin they're that much more likely to have jackasses catcalling them. So with women who don't like to show their body it may not entirely be about a self-image thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on July 2


I just can't wrap my head around reading this and immediately leaping to the assumption that there's something horribly wrong with the author for feeling the way they do. If there's something horribly wrong with him and he needs urgent mental help to fix himself, then the same goes for millions of us in this country.
posted by palomar at 1:21 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


This is a strange thread, and I feel like people on the site have either forgotten the innumerable previous discussion threads about ongoing topics (mental health / physical fitness / fat-shaming / etc.) , or just don't give a shit about other people anymore. "Skinny people have it bad too" = "this article is not about my problems and therefore I must speak up." "First-world problems / jeez get over yourself" = "this issue has not affected my life and I have no empathy for people who are not exactly the same as me." "Just work out" = "I have no fucking clue about anything."

What is going on here, nowadays? We're in some kind of retrograde.
posted by tzikeh at 1:23 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


The way my athlete friends think about their bodies flips this script in what I think is a really empowering way.

It's really super great, no lie, but it is also really fucking traumatic when illness or injury take that away from you. You feel fucking robbed of your sense of self and grotesquely violated by the failings of your own body. So in the long run it can be just as demoralizing as having your personal happiness depend on your weight or other more typical beauty aesthetics.
posted by elizardbits at 1:30 PM on July 2 [25 favorites]


grippycat, that's an inspiring link. (I wish I could do a cartwheel or a split) I think there is definitely something to the idea that thinking in terms of doing vs. being has a strong effect on self-image. One of the things that helped me with depression was keeping a list of things to check off as accomplishments - most of which were as small as "brushed my teeth" or "made coffee" but still made me feel better to read at the end of the day.

On preview - there are definitely millions, if not tens of millions of people in this country (US) in need of urgent mental help, most of whom are not going to be able to get it in the foreseeable future. One can believe it is wrong to be constantly anxious/depressed/sad without the 'wrong' being a moral judgement of the victim. Everyone deserves a shot at a life with the absolute minimum of unnecessary pain.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:30 PM on July 2


What is going on here, nowadays?

IT'S HOT OUT AND I DON'T LIKE IT
posted by elizardbits at 1:31 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Shit, until the past few years I was never particularly fat but I always had big embarrassing nipples and lots of hair on my chest and back (and neck and legs and and and). I had about three years in my twenties when I was cool with going shirtless but you know, at some point the motherfuckers won. Comments, askance looks, pointed aversion, it all adds up. I don't mind, I'll have my revenge when we all burn in hell together.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:33 PM on July 2


Man, I really struggled with this for a long time, being a bit of an ample gent. Especially since I've had a pot belly as long as I can remember now. Weirdly, something that I think has helped has been working with a lot of gay dudes, who are happy to emphasize that no matter what body type you have, there's a subset of folks who get off on exactly that. I'm still not totally OK, but I also try to remember the advice of one of my old post-college slum roommates, who was a fan of proclaiming that anyone who didn't want to see him naked or jerking off was welcome to not look through his window.

It's rough, because for a lot of people, getting over this stuff is a slow process without any obvious steps, so it all gets distilled down to "You get over it by getting over it," which is unhelpful in the extreme to people who are still dealing with it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:38 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Everyone deserves a shot at a life with the absolute minimum of unnecessary pain.

Yes. And sometimes, when you're expressing your feelings about a painful area of your life, it helps more to hear, "That sucks, I feel that way sometimes too, here is how I deal with it," and not, "Wow, you're really messed up, it's clear that you need immediate mental help because you're so broken."

I guess my point is, bashos_frog, is that you're pathologizing this guy instead of humanizing him, and to me that seems like just as big a problem as his feelings about his own body.
posted by palomar at 1:39 PM on July 2


I'm a normal weight woman who puts on weight in my general stomach area and I have never worn a bikini and never will and bluuuuuuh to anyone who tells me to get over myself, because frankly it's none of your business whether or not I like my flabby white stomach. Luckily I am also a pale Australian and terrified of skin cancer so I use that as an excuse to never get my kit off.
posted by jasperella at 1:39 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


That article was really interesting to me, because it resonated very strongly with me, except that I really do believe that my dysmorphia is in my head and is sort of residual mental illness. I had an eating disorder. I don't anymore. But I still think my body is grotesque and repulsive and that people are disgusted by me and are just pretending not to notice because they're being polite. Rationally, I realize that's silly, but emotionally, I believe it to be true. And I honestly don't know whether he has the same problem or whether he's right that people really do judge his body as harshly as he does. My hunch is that he's wrong, but that's easy for me to say.

I will say that where I live, very few older-than-teenage people have the kind of bodies that would be considered perfect (or even acceptable) by pop culture standards. Here, he wouldn't stand out in the least if he took his shirt off. Maybe it's different if you're a musician who lives in Seattle, and you're being judged by coastal famous-person standards.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:50 PM on July 2


This guy needs some sort of therapy, self-administered or otherwise. I can relate to a lot of what he writes, but there is not a single thing in that entire piece about taking steps to mitigate his issue. He does however spend a whole lot of effort maintaining it.

I spent my twenties and early thirties in the grip of really crippling physical self-hatred, and this piece really resonates with me. For some of that time, I was actually delusional about how I looked, since I was average-sized. But when I have been actually fat, it didn't change anything for me, so it really didn't matter what size I was.

I feel really sorry for this guy, because it's horrible. I know what it's like to dread summer for clothing reasons. (Even now, it's not like I'm roaming about in tiny shorts and a sleeveless shirt.)

Some thoughts I have that may or may not actually have anything to do with his actual mental state:

"Other people don't give a shit" doesn't mean what you think it means. Or rather, it does mean that most of the time no one notices. But it also means that no matter how many times you tell people about your problems with your body and how the way of the world hurts you, they will never change and the world will never change. (The world may change very slowly, perhaps, but not in time for you.) People in general do not give a shit about your pain.

A lot of the self-destructive stuff I used to do and think was based, essentially, on the idea that if I hated myself enough and caused myself enough pain and exposed that pain to the world enough, someone would tell me that I could stop hurting myself - that I'd done my quota of self-hatred and could finally stop. If I just told everyone that I knew I was repulsive and unlovable, something would happen and I'd be able to let go of thinking about it.

This essay gives me the feeling that the writer may be in the grip of something similar.

For a long time I thought that something outside me could make this kind of thing stop, and I waited for that.

It was really getting to a point where I realized that if I didn't stop myself from feeling this way, then I'd always feel this way that sparked some kind of resistance in me. No one else was going to help or be kind or sympathetic, no external force was going to be able to stop me from hating myself. I had to do it myself.

Partially, it was accepting that I am basically broken on some level that therapy will never help. I will never feel at home in my body, or sexual in my body, or like I am attractive. I will never feel those things because they were all beaten out of me when I was younger, and they're never coming back. I will never be one of the summer people. I'll always be some weird alien, and I'll always have to watch my back because people are assholes.

I think once I got my head really around that stuff, I became able to be on my own side, because I stopped feeling like I was a failed version of other people. It's not like this solved all my problems, but it reduced a lot of pain and discomfort, and it gave me enough headspace that other therapeutic modalities had some room to work.

I guess, if I were going to say something to this guy, I'd say that we have to be on our own sides.
posted by Frowner at 1:52 PM on July 2 [27 favorites]


The only reason that I don't remove the amount of clothing sufficient to my comfort in summer is that public nudity is illegal in most jurisdictions.

To quote Carrie Fisher: "New York in the summer is like a cough. It's like the whole country came here and coughed."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on July 2


I guess that's the difference between a internally directed mental condition, and an externally directed one. No one would think to give that advice to a obsessive stalker, or a paranoid schizophrenic. Personally, I was glad when someone finally told me "you need help" - it gave me an excuse/reason to stop trying to "deal with it" and to start looking for solutions outside myself.

I do get at least part what you're saying though, and will try to be more empathetic in my expression, as it's not my intent to dehumanize anyone. Its pretty sad that we automatically think of "broken" or pathological people as something less than human, though.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:59 PM on July 2


Back when I was at my worst disordered thinking/eating stage I'd have to make sure I wasn't the fattest person in any given social situation and if I was was, I would LEAVE.

Crazy. even more crazy is that, now that I'm the fittest I've ever been since early childhood, The crazy food policing paranoia is starting to come back cause ONE DOUGHNUT IS GOING TO MAKE IT ALL COME BACK LIKE SOME HORRIBLE CURSE NOOOOOOO and all my hard work will be undone.

There is no fucking way to win cause like the author I can tell myself uplifting thoughts and consciousness raising speeches and remind myself I am the healthiest motherfucker I know ( watch me run 2.5 miles in 12 minutes and keep my heart rate lowish) There is still that awful voice in YIUR head that says "Yeah, those are things we tell fat kids."
posted by The Whelk at 2:20 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


The thing is, though, even in extreme cases like paranoid schizophrenia, simply showing empathy and understanding can actually be profoundly helpful. It's an extremely isolating disease, and social support is one of the things that helps people cope with the stress and even to get better. Even many obviously false delusions contain a grain of something that a well person can relate to, like anxiety about being watched or judged, or the feeling that others are being rude or uncaring, or the stress of feeling like your life is at the mercy of strange and unknowable forces.

Obviously, yes, you push as hard as you can for your friend to get help if s/he is going through a psychotic break, you don't validate the delusions themselves, and you call for more serious support if you think someone might be in danger. But offering emotional support can be just as critical, and further, pathologizing someone can easily be counterproductive by making them feel defensive, beset upon, and less likely to actually seek help.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:43 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Ah - mine enemy the tummy.
I'm lately thinking that all that's really necessary is to try and keep a sparkle in your eye.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:52 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of amazing athlete friends who are women. When they talk about their bodies, they almost never mention aesthetics, clothing size or even weight. They talk about performance goals and personal bests. They think about their bodies in terms of what they do, not what they are.

I may be an outlier, but when I've been at my fittest the shift from "are" to "do" hasn't necessarily been more empowering. If anything, for me, it becomes more fraught, as the kinds of judgments that can be made about my body and personal bests, goals, etc. increase exponentially once we're talking about setting it in motion, not to mention the additional calculations that trying to calibrate eating, sleeping, etc. to support the "doing" can end up inviting. In many ways, I've felt more genuinely "disembodied" (as Eyebrows McGee describes) and at peace with my appearance when I've stepped away from an exercise routine.

Maybe this is a useful distinction for others; I don't know. But it seems like a "do" paradigm for thinking about our bodies can engender just as much anxiety as an "are" one. In both cases, there's a still a spectrum that runs from what Sean Nelson is describing to genuinely not giving a fuck. I guess that I, personally, find advice along the lines of "start thinking about the amazing things your body can do, not how it looks!" to be reminiscent of the kinds of platitudes one finds in fitspo - still not helpful if you're trying to get over these kinds of feelings.
posted by Austenite at 2:55 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


This guy needs some sort of therapy, self-administered or otherwise. I can relate to a lot of what he writes, but there is not a single thing in that entire piece about taking steps to mitigate his issue. He does however spend a whole lot of effort maintaining it.
Maybe now that he's opened up about it in public, one of his friends/family will see it and push him to see a psychologist.


Yea, pretty much this.

I was going to write something about how the whole "being skinny sucks too" thing is crap and not the same, as someone who was incredibly skinny growing up and still sort of is...

But this is just a typical garbage can stranger article. It takes something that's a larger issue, frames it as being a good think-piece on that issue, and then serves you up a piece of shit article that's more about the problems of the writer than whatever the actual subject was.

Charles Mudede is especially bad at this, and just overall writes garbage. But this is pretty par for the course coming from the stranger.
posted by emptythought at 2:59 PM on July 2


Like a lot of other people, I relate to what the author is saying, but I'm conflicted about being in the "Not Normal" zone.

In my case, I realized fairly early on (like, grade 6 or so) that at no point was I ever going to pass for "normal", at least as far as my peer group, family and culture defined it. Because I was never going to be "normal", I had to be extremely selective in terms of how I presented myself to the world. That meant being careful about what clothing I could wear that would hang properly, what kind of hairstyle, jewelry and makeup I could wear that didn't look funny, and what kind of activities I could undertake. I focused on musical and academic acheivements, thinking that being a doer would absolve me from having to be a be-er. In later life, this even extended to things like what kinds of topics I felt I could bring up in conversation.

Like Nelson mentions, in the early days some of it was overt rudeness on the part of my peers, and some of it was the pained, trying-too-hard of adults in my life to "help" me fit in. It got noticed, and internalized. Now, a lot of it comes from inside, with the occasional reinforcement from outside (a comment from my mother that was meant to be helpful, or an involuntary reaction to my looks by coworkers or strangers). A lot of the time I feel like one wrong move on my part and some fragile web of social "acceptance" will be shattered and I will fall through into the void.

I hit a point sometime between grade 7 and the end of grade 11 at which I decided, fuck it, I'm not normal and never will be, so I will do whatever the hell I want. That has advantages, because being not normal can be empowering in a lot of ways, but it also has its disadvantages. For example, my brain computes things this way: if I will never meet some standard of normal, then I don't need to work at trying to meet the standard. Therefore, why worry about a fancy hairstyle, or makeup, or trying to squeeze into a tiny dress size? The advantage is I don't feel the social pressure to conform in a lot of ways, and that frees me up to do some interesting stuff. The problem is it also leads to destructive behaviours, like over-eating - why would I worry about maintaining a normal weight if I'm not normal? It's a weird mental place to be in, and I empathize with Nelson for feeling this way.

That said, there is nothing at all like the feeling of finding a kindred spirit that couldn't care less for my lack of normal. It's not a fix for the mental calculus I've spent a lifetime making, but it's a break from it, at least.
posted by LN at 3:06 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


But this is just a typical garbage can stranger article. It takes something that's a larger issue, frames it as being a good think-piece on that issue, and then serves you up a piece of shit article that's more about the problems of the writer than whatever the actual subject was.

It's a personal essay. The problems of the writer were the point of the article. Despite using himself as the lens with which to examine these problems, there's a whole thread full of people here who felt more than a glimmer of recognition and sympathy with the phenomena he describes. You did not, which may equally be because you simply have not shared the same life experiences as him, or because you failed to comprehend his piece. I know which I'd plump for at the moment, but then again, I am in a very foul mood.
posted by Diablevert at 3:07 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


watch me run 2.5 miles in 12 minutes and keep my heart rate lowish

GREAT NOW I FEEL WORSE (it takes me almost 30 minutes to do 5k and I'm breathing pretty heavy by the end)
posted by Hoopo at 3:08 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


a piece of shit article that's more about the problems of the writer than whatever the actual subject was

there's no shortage of people here relating to what the the guy wrote, so...
posted by Hoopo at 3:13 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


"Skinny people have it bad too" = "this article is not about my problems and therefore I must speak up.

I don't think that's what any of the thin people commenting have been doing, and I certainly didn't mean it that way. It's more that we recognise this bloke's feelings as being very familiar, just from a different end of the non-standard body spectrum. So, this article is very much about my problems, I just found it ever-so-slightly annoying that the headline suggested it wasn't/couldn't be. (en forme de poire put it much better than I did upthread, though, so maybe read his comment and ignore mine!)

I am a relatively thin dude who has ran the gamut from "you know food exists, right?" to whatever it is I am now ("almost healthy-looking" I guess) and man I have to disagree with this.

I'm sure the weirdness from other people only kicks in for thin people at the extreme end - I'm 6' 2" and weighed between 7 and 8 stone (100 pounds-ish?) until my 30s. I mean, I was so thin my lungs used to collapse all the time, and my nickname at school was Belsen.

All that being said, I have never, in my life, encountered the sort of bullshit my friends who are visibly overweight have told me they've had to deal with their clothes on.

Oh, absolutely. Even at my thinnest, I never had to put up with more than half a dozen comments a day (plus a few more if I was eating food with other folk around). Nothing compared to the avalanche of crap you get for being overweight in public, I imagine, but still... not a fun thing to put up with every day for years on end.

I'll shut up now, eh? I'm not sure talking about thinness really constitutes a a derail in this thread, but on the other hand I really am starting to feel like one of those gobshites who stomp into feminism threads to tell all the women that men have it worse, so...
posted by jack_mo at 3:15 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


It's a personal essay. The problems of the writer were the point of the article. Despite using himself as the lens with which to examine these problems, there's a whole thread full of people here who felt more than a glimmer of recognition and sympathy with the phenomena he describes. You did not, which may equally be because you simply have not shared the same life experiences as him, or because you failed to comprehend his piece. I know which I'd plump for at the moment, but then again, I am in a very foul mood.

The thing is i do, my original post quoted the "i have never encountered the sort of bullshit my friends at the other end of the spectrum" bit from up thread.

My point was that i'm buying what he's selling, but only because i already bought it a long time ago and he's basically asking me really halfheartedly if i want to renew my subscription.

I agree with the premise, but i think that this article does a terrible job making it's point, and that this is also a very common problem with the stranger; in that lazily preaching to the choir is seen as good enough to greenlight an article.

Judging by the post i quoted in my post, and several others, i was not the only person whose reaction to this article was not so much a reflection on the greater ills of society as "jesus, this guy needs therapy" since as far as people getting body shamed go he's a totally normal looking 40 year old dude.

I'm not saying that you can't relate to what he wrote, i'm just saying that if you do it's because you were likely already predisposed to. It's just not a very powerful piece, and part of that is the perspective it's being written from.

I mean, poop on me all you like, but that's the point i was trying to make and i hope that clears it up a bit.
posted by emptythought at 3:19 PM on July 2


It can be tough to give lots and lots of strangers access to your body. Or really giving anyone access to it. I don't think my body looks bad, but I still hate being in a crowd of people who aren't wearing a lot, for the same reason I hate giving people those "hello"/"goodbye" hugs that are apparently A Thing in a lot of social circles now. The interaction seems wayyyyy too intimate and grabby/entitled for the context. I don't want lots of people looking at my flesh or touching my body or to be forced to be all up close and personal with theirs. There's not really a way I could look or not look or any weight I coudl be that would make me comfortable with that, because it's essentially about access and what kinds and amounts of access to your body that you feel comfortable granting any given person/people/the general public and not about looks anyway.

The beach is terrible anyway, though. The ocean is huge and can just swallow you up and it's clutching at you with those waves and the sand is just teeny tiny rocks that rub all over you and dig into your pores and who even knows what's under the surface of the water or buried on the shore. AND it's also filled with lots of people not really wearing much clothing and rubbing oils and lotions all over each other. And seagulls. And the glare of the sun off the water that even cuts through sunglass lenses. And your hair gets nasty and maybe you even even get a sunburn. Every single thing about that is awful.
posted by rue72 at 3:24 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Oh and I'm not saying that *this* essay isn't about weight and being/feeling fat (obviously it is), but I'm saying that I relate to it on the level of not liking to give people access to my body in general. Not so much for fear of others' judgement or my judgements or out of dislike for my body, but because people/society demanding (extra?) physical intimacy can be tough to deal with.
posted by rue72 at 3:28 PM on July 2


Sam is a rock star and rock stars are beloved beyond what most people will ever know. I suggest he shock himself into being ok with his body by playing onstage in a tank top then shirtless. I promise no one will care and he will feel a huge release just doing a big F U I am shirtless on stage. Zillions of other musicians have been near naked on stage before him and most are not model material by a long stretch.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:42 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Just as a sidebar, if you're a straight dude, I'd be careful of extrapolating from your experience to a gay dude's, since we face body-image pressures that are different in both kind and degree (for one, men are evaluating your body, not women, and they're evaluating it according to very different criteria compared with how straight men evaluate women's bodies).

I also think it's messed up to say that this person is not fat enough to "authentically" have these feelings or wtf-ever. For one thing, he alluded to how his weight has fluctuated over the course of his life. I would be pretty shocked if this type of mental conditioning magically went away when your BMI dropped below 25.

And I gotta say, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that you identify with the piece despite being a skinny person. It's not inappropriate to say that this kind of body policing hurts people at other points in the BMI spectrum any more than it is inappropriate to say how you've been hurt by patriarchy as a straight man. I do think it would be inappropriate to make the thread all about skinny people, or to use their experiences to try to invalidate the author's or other posters' in some kind of "at the end of the day everybody really suffers equally" or "skinny people are the real oppressed minority!!1" type of move, but I think the people who shared their stories in this thread were careful to avoid that. But of course, I could be wrong and I'm certainly coming from a biased perspective.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:04 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


I am fat, hugely so, morbidly obese by medical standards. I also have one leg with severe lymphedema from cancer. (we call it my Patrick Duffy leg.)

I wear tank tops. I wear sundresses. I wear bathing suits, two piece bathing suits.

I swim, I go to the pool. I wear tank dresses.

No matter how much material I put on my body I am still going to be fat. People are still going to treat me like shit because of my body.

You know what?

Fuck 'em, I'll wear what I want. Not only sleeveless or short or a bathing suit, but also bright colors and patterns and whatever makes me happy.

Life's too short to hide.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:40 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I can relate to this article to an almost painful degree. I also have a seven year old daughter, whom I desperately want to protect from this kind of miserable anxiety. To that end, I've decided to do my damndest to never be ashamed of my body ever again. This is the body I have today, and if I want to go out and do things today, this is the body I have to do it in, and I'm gonna.
posted by KathrynT at 5:46 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Teen-aged me agonized over bathing suits and some summers avoided water altogether.

Now, I go to the beach every single day for my swim and do not give one single damn what anyone thinks about my definitely not-bikini-ready body. The water feels great, and so do I after my workout.

Wish I'd known then what I know now.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:46 PM on July 2


Wish I'd known then what I know now.

But maybe what you (general you, not YOU you) know now is that it's OK to not like things even if everyone says they're great? Or to just feel however you feel, and not force your feelings to be (or pretend that they are) happy or bright or however they're "supposed" to be?

If you hate bearing your skin or going to the beach or skinny dipping, that's just as fine as loving to bare your skin or going to the beach or skinny dipping. If you're discontented or think your body's ugly, that's just as fine as being perfectly contented or thinking your body is gorgeous. There doesn't *have* to be a value judgement attached to any of those preferences or opinions or feelings. It's 100% OK to not be ~picture perfect~, not just in terms of how you look but also in terms of how you feel and how you perceive things.

It actually bothers me at least as much when someone is policed into feeling a certain way and told to shut up if he can't feel that way and can't even pretend to, as when someone is policed into trying to look a certain way and told to hide himself if he can't look that way and can't even hide that he doesn't. To me, those are pretty much the same thing. The demand to "act right" isn't exactly the same thing as "look right" but, at least to me, it's pretty much same difference.
posted by rue72 at 8:32 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


The ideal beauty standards for both men and women are so wildly unrealistic and cause so many people so much pain. The whole thing just seems so unfair and yet is getting worse, not better.

Though my issues were different, I can very much relate to what he wrote and the stories people have been telling here. I'll never look like a model on the cover of Men's Health or GQ, but I'm happier now than I've ever been, and I'll take that for the victory it is.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:35 PM on July 2


If you've spent any time in your life being noticeably overweight, you're likely to know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you're equally likely to have no clue how anyone could be so foolish as to deny himself the birthright of feeling the sun's rays on his bare skin.

Whut. No. Trust me, this scrawny woman has a giant armful of having a clue. Lots of people have a clue. MOST people have a clue. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you see and what everyone sees when looking at other people is subjective. Yes, some people are cruel and shitty to fat people for being fat. Be pissed off at those people. Don't project it all over random people who were not shitty to you. Treat other people as non-judgmentally as you want to be treated.

the fact that summer is great. It's just better for people who are thin and attractive. Like everything in the goddamn world.

Dude. No. I'm sorry, but no. Everything is better for people who keep in mind that people are more alike than they are different. If this dude were a personal friend of mine, I'd be giving him a little compassionate toughlove talking-to.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on July 2


If you hate bearing your skin or going to the beach or skinny dipping, that's just as fine as loving to bare your skin or going to the beach or skinny dipping . . . If you're discontented or think your body's ugly, that's just as fine as being perfectly contented or thinking your body is gorgeous.

Except it is clearly not fine as evidenced by, for instance, the great deal of emotional pain and suffering related in the linked essay and numerous comments in this thread. I don't understand this thinking, you wouldn't say that being in physical pain is just as fine as being pain-free, so why say that for psychological pain? What's the point of saying that it's okay to feel good about feeling bad?
posted by mrbigmuscles at 8:03 AM on July 3


I don't understand this thinking, you wouldn't say that being in physical pain is just as fine as being pain-free, so why say that for psychological pain? What's the point of saying that it's okay to feel good about feeling bad?

I would say that being in pain is *painful,* but it's not bad. There doesn't have to be a value judgement attached to pain. Pain can just exist, and you can just accept that it exists, and acknowledge that it exists -- and people shouldn't pressure you by telling you over and over "but pain shouldn't exist and you must be pain free!"

On a practical level, it's much more pleasant and productive to not have pain, but also on a practical level, a whole lot of the time, being pain-free isn't an option or a resolution you can control. So the most pleasant and practical thing is to accept/acknowledge it, and hope others accept/acknowledge it.

And negative emotions aren't necessarily worse than positive emotions. They're less socially acceptable a lot of the time, but there doesn't have to be a value judgment attached to fear, anger, sadness, etc.

The pressure that people are under to either be on some quest for self-perfection or to pretend to everyone that they're already there is immense and self-alienating. I don't think there's any reason to put a happy face on things. If you hate something, you hate it. It's OK to hate it.

This guy hates bearing his skin and is very torn between trying to keep up a facade about being OK with it to his friends or people in general (when they pressure him into skinny dipping) and not being able to actually start being OK with, let alone like, it regardless. Why should he not just own that he hates bearing his skin and be real about that?

I think that's pretty much what he's doing in this article. But I'm saying, people in general (myself included) should be accepting enough of things that aren't ~perfect~ (EX: negative emotions, dislike of popular things, pain, ugly bodies, etc) that it should be OK to publicly own the fact that those imperfections exist without everyone feeling the pressure to rush to deny them or erase them or hide them or say they're not actually imperfections or don't matter, etc. It's OK for imperfections to exist and for you to hate them and for you to nonetheless accept and acknowledge them.

I think many people don't like doing that because it's a way of admitting that something is out of their control. But not everything is going to be controllable. Your emotions, your body -- those are a couple things that you can't entirely control. I think that's frightening and a PITA, but it's something that you kind of have to accept comes with the territory of being a human being. When I hear people say he should just workout more and get his body under control, or just not feel bad anymore and get his emotions under control, I think that they're misguided, in that the goal doesn't have to be to take control, and maybe trying to take control isn't even laudable, maybe it's better to just accept and adapt to the limits to your control.
posted by rue72 at 8:56 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


It's funny which threads make me want to meet you guys
posted by Strass at 8:43 PM on July 4


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