When I was a pre-teen, I had wild, crazy style. Purple crushed velvet reigned supreme.
Predictably, as my body changed and I moved through the teenage years, I acquired a kind of deep discomfort with my body, and likewise the clothes I wore became plainer, looser fitting, more of an armor than before. It didn’t help that I was a veritable beanpole, bony wrists, knobby knees, and too-long gangly arms. At a certain point, I withdrew inside my body, foreign to myself.
Once, in a fit of exasperation, my mom admonished the way I tended to walk — stiffly, trying to avoid attracting any attention whatsoever. “Move your hips,” she said. “Sashay a little!” I wanted to curl up and die, not admit that hips were even a thing that I had.
She didn’t want me living in fear of myself, arms perpetually hugged across my chest, shy and timid. She wanted to give me confidence to put some bounce in my step. She was right to encourage taking a little more delight in my body and how it can move. Unfortunately, puberty had other plans.
I’ve come a long way since then, but have never been quite able to shake an aversion to attracting too much attention to my body. There are certain styles that make me feel good about myself, but I’ve avoided others that would put more of me on display. I’ve favored classic, feminine looks over anything overtly sexy. A deep-seated embarrassment of my physical form has stubbornly stayed with me, as much as I try to tamp it down.
But something has shifted inside me recently. After nearly a lifetime of discomfort with my body, suddenly crop tops and short shorts are looking fun, inviting. It’s funny that this happens now that I’m in my thirties, not in my more lithe and youthful twenties. But the stereotypes are true — the older you get the more you DGAF. When I look in the mirror now, I like what I see, even though it includes a belly pooch and stretch marks and little spider veins on my legs.
Part of not giving a fuck means not standing for being uncomfortably over-clothed in the steamy southern summers. So YES PLEASE to clothes that reveal a little more, that let the sweat evaporate off my skin, even though that skin is pale and cellulite-pocked on the backs of my jiggly thighs.
Lately, I’ve been using a rowing machine at home for some cardio, and watching my legs and arms glide, push, pull to the wooshing sound of water gives me great joy. They are strong, they are powerful, they are mine. I admire what my body can do.
When I row, I wear little athletic short-shorts. They do tend to ride up over my thigh chub, and occasionally give me a bit of a camel-toe, but also they are stretchy and bendy and make me want to do squats. And they are supremely comfortable! If I had started my rowing routine in a gym, I would almost certainly not have worn these, but at home, they are ideal, and because I’m now convinced of their idealness, I feel empowered to wear them elsewhere. Walks on the Beltline in 90 degree heat? Yes.
One of my favorite secondhand purchases last year was a pair of vintage linen-blend high-waisted Bermuda shorts. Blousy and breezy but with enough length to make me feel un-self-conscious. The Bermuda short is practical, but not necessarily conventionally stylish. When I posted a photo wearing them on Instagram last summer I got some backhanded comments on them, but didn’t let it bother me too much because at the end of the day, I was happy with my choices. A longer short is a perfectly fine thing to wear.
But in my new era of short-short love, I started feeling like they could be improved upon. And this is how it came to pass that my newest styling trick is to cuff a pair of longer shorts. The base design of the Bermuda short allows for movement, and with a cuffed leg, you keep that roominess but up the ante with shortness. The high waist provides the semblance of material coverage even though there is more leg showing.
I’m feeling excited to parade through this summer with more caution thrown the wind rather than clutched tightly to my chest. Life should be a celebration. In the words of party-hard rocker-turned-inspirational-speaker Andrew W.K., "The present has to be the best party you’re ever going to have, because you’re living in it.”
The journey didn’t happen overnight — and it isn’t over — but it feels freeing to admit that yes I have a body, and yes it is fine to show it to the world just as it is. I’m gonna wear crop tops! I’m gonna wear short shorts! To embrace it just as it is. I wish my mom could see these legs now.