This summer I started wearing shorts again.
I haven’t worn shorts for probably ten years or more. Ever since the backs of my legs started looking like cottage cheese. There’s a certain age where women trade in their shorts for Bermudas because, really, does anyone want to look at cottage-cheese legs? And then after that we trade in the Bermudas for capris (or pedal pushers, if you’re from my era) because, really, does anyone really want to look at those elephant knees? Yuck.
About the same time I gave up shorts, I quit wearing sleeveless tops. Why? Well, duh. I had those flappy arm things. And does anyone really want to look at those??
So for the past ten years or so I wore longer pants and tops with sleeves, even though I lived in California where the temperatures in the summer could bake a nice triple chocolate cake without an oven. Because, after all, I was officially middle aged, menopausal, cottage-cheesy and flappy-armed, and it was time to tuck those imperfections away so as not to impose them on the world. Fully clothed and well covered, I looked pretty good.
Then I moved to Missouri. The temperatures here don’t get as hot, but we have something else: humidity. And it didn’t take me long to realize that humidity and tops with sleeves did not blend well. Plus I lived out in the middle of nowhere so who saw my flappy arms anyway?
Once I started wearing sleeveless tops around the house, I became liberated. I mean, seriously liberated. OMGosh liberated. I remembered that my grandma used to call her flappy arms “angel wings,” and I decided I liked that. No longer were they ugly old flappy arms; now they were angel wings, and I was dang proud of them. So from about April until October, it was sleeveless tops and angels wings for me. And not just at home, either. Because guess what? It’s also hot and humid in town. And once I became liberated, there was no going back. Plus I realized that I really didn’t care what anyone else thought about my lovely wings.
Then this year came along, with its record rainfall – which means record humidity. And my capris began sticking to the backs of my legs as if I’d sat in a puddle. Or had a little accident, a much less pleasant visual.
It was then that I started thinking about why I’d stopped wearing shorts in the first place. I mean really thinking about it. Was it because I didn’t like shorts? No. Was it because they weren’t comfy? No.
It was because my body had changed, and my legs weren’t 18 anymore. Just like the rest of me.
Now, here’s a funny thing. I started thinking about my husband’s wardrobe and realized it really hadn’t changed much over the years. Well, except for style trends — he wouldn’t be caught dead in those 80’s basketball shorts these days, but only because no self-respecting guy would. But other than that, he gets to wear whatever he wants.
It’s different for women. See, the world has convinced us that once our bodies peak and start down the other side, we need to cover them up. We need to hide anything that doesn’t look 18 anymore. Cottage cheese legs? Hide them. Ugg. As in ugly. Angel wings? Keep them under wraps. Bit of a tummy issue? Spandex, baby. Chest sagging a bit? (Not that I have that particular problem since I don’t have a lot to work with there.) Lift and support – which means wider and tighter and more uncomfortable bras. Feet getting gnarly? Trade in those cute sandals for orthopedic tennies.
Why do we have to do this? So we can “look good”? For whom? And why is looking good so important? Sure, everyone wants to look nice when they go out, but this goes beyond looking nice. This is changing your whole wardrobe to hide your body because it no longer fits into what the world says a beautiful woman should look like.
I’m not buying it anymore.
I refuse to accept that a woman’s beauty has anything to do with how the world views the package in which she is wrapped. A woman’s beauty — anyone’s beauty — comes from their character, not their body. It comes from what’s inside, not what’s outside. If that sounds trite to you, reverse the statement — “beauty comes from what’s outside, not what’s inside.” Yeah … I’d choose trite over shallow any day.
I read an anecdote in Readers Digest once that really stuck with me: A man and his wife were sitting on the beach when a young woman in a bikini strolled by. They both watched her for a minute, and then the woman sighed and said, “I’ll never look like that again.” Her husband replied, “That’s okay, honey. Neither will she.”
I’m not 18. I haven’t been 18 for 40 years. I have the body of a 58 year old, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not going to dress to please other people; I’m going to dress to please myself. If you don’t like looking at the bumps on the backs of my legs, then don’t look at my legs. Why are you looking at my legs anyway?
So I’m wearing shorts again. To go with my sleeveless tops. My legs are cooler, my arms are cooler, I am freer. And my body is so happy that I’m not ashamed of it anymore, it’s doing the happy dance – in all its lumpy and flappy glory.