Lately, I’ve been obsessed with wearing drop sleeved tops. It’s been a hot summer and I’ve been enjoying a breeze across the boob. They seem a little daring at this age but I love them and they deserve to be worn. Some one commented in a group that I’m a member of, that they couldn’t wear them as they aren’t as confident about their arms as me. It got me thinking. I don’t think that they I am confident about my arms, beyond a confidence that they will likely stay attached to my shoulders for the rest of the day, and pretty confident that they will behave in public space, but in terms of confidence about how they look. Maybe not. However my choice, to wear an arms out, sides out top is certainly driven my comfort. I may not feel confident but I do feel comfortable and comfort plays the trump card every time.
There are so many articles in print an on the internet encouraging me to feel less happy about my arms. There are derogatory terms like bingo wings (and, as I learnt from the Daily Mail article that I’m resolutely not linking to), rump lumps, Jabba flabba, Double Chubble, Arm Charms and Chap Flaps. There are exercises to beat them into shape; articles to shame them into submission; and even the Avon book sells a shrug contraption to hide your “problem arms”. Sometimes the simple act of displaying a generous arm, seems like a subversive act.
This blog was meant to be about accessing pleasures, previously denied. It was going to have this dreadful title, WOOBSOOS. Water on our bodies, sunshine on our skin. Because this is what I noticed time and time again. People not swimming for decades because they were ashamed to be seen in their togs. People not wearing singlets in the summer as they were too appalled by their bodies to allow them to feel the sun. Each year I am saddened by hearing people say that they can’t play at the beach, or have summer photos taken of them as they are so displeased with themselves.
But sunshine on skin has to be one of the best free pleasures there is. Not a sun smart message, I know, and not responsible in a country with the highest melanoma rates in the world, but for me, nothing beats it. This year I was so committed to feeling sunshine on my legs for the entire summer that I refused to wear pants to work for the whole of summer. So every stolen moment outside gave my legs a small dose of happiness. They ended the summer browner and happier than they’d been in three decades. The legs have been pretty well behaved, too, I don’t think that they upset to many people, and the council hasn’t been to visit with cease and desist notice.
Returning to the idea of confidence versus comfort, I was really fortunate to have my mum as my role model in this regard. Like me, she isn’t small, however she has always chosen to participate fully in life. Not subscribing to an idea that there were some things that weren’t available to her. She was my original bikini warrior, refusing to wear a one piece until she reached her 60s. Not everybody is so blessed to have body positive messages from their parents, but I certainly did and this has set me up well to fully participate in life as well. Its not really confidence that allows me to do things, more that I haven’t been set up with a series of negative filters. Other people see their arms and then that sends them down a whole path of ascribed meanings that make them question their entire self worth.
Even with a positive sense of self, here are days of doubt. Today was one as I attempted to buy pants. Tired, hungry and in a cruelly lit changing room that eschewed all luxury in favour of adopting the aesthetic of a dentist surgery, I felt less warm towards myself. But I gave my head a shake, told myself that a committed body positive warrior could not speak to herself in such a way. Then I reminded myself of all the amazing things this body had done this week and treated it to some body butter. Feeling much better about myself, I practised walking my bad-ass walk as I walked out of the store. My favourite perfume counter assistant noticed my swagger and complimented me on my dress. At this point it became apparent that while I may not need to work on my arms, I may need to work on my compliment acceptance skills….Its from the warehouse, I whispered.