Every single winter I repeat the following scene, multiple times:
“This summer I’ll be in the best shape of my LIFE! I’m going to actually feel good in a bikini. I’m going to feel so mind-blowingly hot in my bikini that I’m going to strut around Cherry Grove like I’m the hottest dyke to ever grace Fire Island.” I’ll slur to my friend Owen, as I slug back an extra-syrupy Manhattan.
“Me too!” He’ll slur back at me, waving down the waiter. “Can we get an order of truffle fries?” He’ll ask, flirtatiously batting his luscious homosexual eyelashes.
“WE NEED A GAME PLAN!” I’ll shout, banging my hand against the bar, as I tend to do after tossing back hard liquor. “WHAT WORKOUTS SHOULD WE DO!? PURE BARRE? BALLET? YOGA?” My heart-rate will accelerate to the speed of rapid fire, as I drunkenly imagine a thinner, more focused version of myself sporting a chic leotard and a neat, frizz-free bun, wooing the class as I perfectly plié to the sounds of classical music.
“CrossFit. It’s what all the hot gays do.” Owen will say, wistfully. And in a moment of extreme delusion, I’ll nod my head and dutifully agree to do CrossFit with him four times a week, starting tomorrow at 8AM.
When really, honey, who the hell do I think I’m kidding?
First of all, I’m never, ever, ever going to do CrossFit. I don’t think I could survive CrossFit.
Second of all, I can hardly muster up the energy to take the elevator downstairs and walk six feet to my local bodega to order a bagel when I’m hungover, let alone squeeze into a bitchy pair of spandex, and throw car-tires around a terrifying warehouse-style gym, whilst in the company of alarmingly type-A CrossFit freaks (yes, I am indeed, throwing mad shade, babe).
It’s more likely that I would have lunch with Melania Trump, than go to CrossFit with a hangover.
And lez be honest. My “summer body” goals are a goddamn joke.
Maybe I’ll hit the gym a tad bit harder the last few weeks of May, but the abs I so ferociously covet will never (like, never) appear on this body, because abs are made in the kitchen. And my kitchen isn’t teeming with fitness food. There are no chicken cutlets (gag) sitting pretty in my freezer. I’ve never had the trainer-recommended a mere “handful of almonds” as a snack. (What is that nonsense? Who feels satisfied after a handful of almonds? I mean we’re not squirrels. We’re grown ass women who retain the ability to bear a child.)
My fridge teems with pasta, not egg whites. My pantries hold court to gorgeous slabs of french bread and cold bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and voluptuous avocados imported from California. Healthy food, but rich, flavorous, glorious food, as well! Not the kind of food one swears by if they want Jackie Warner circa 2006 style abs.
I happily choose sexy food over diet food, yet, every year when Memorial Day Weekend comes flying back around, I fall into a dark, self-loathing spiral over how “bloated” and “imperfect” I look in a bikini.
I torture my partner by incessantly asking her annoying/stupid questions like “DOES THIS LIPSTICK MAKE ME LOOK FAT?” and get steamily enraged when she says something sweet like, “You look beautiful.”
“You’re lying!” I’ll scream bloody murder to her, clutching my stomach as I sneer into the full-length mirror, throwing an unflattering tantrum as if I’m Paris Hilton being denied a reservation at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “You don’t understand! This isn’t how I’M SUPPOSED TO LOOK!” I’ll bellow. If it’s a really dark, body-shaming episode, I’ll rip all of my clothes out of my closet, gather them into a giant pile in the middle of my bedroom floor, and set them on fire. (Proverbial fire, but it’s still fire, babe.)
And even though I’ll absolutely detest this self-conscious horror-show of a wonder-brat I’m quickly becoming – I won’t be able to stop myself. You know when you know you’re acting like a total f*ckgirl, but you’ve already committed and there’s no going back now?
Then, I’ll begrudgingly venture to the beach or some pretty-people-pool-party or the fabulous drag show in Cherry Grove and act like a teenage bitch. Oh, you know the drill: listlessly gazing into your phone, acting removed and aloof when introduced to new people, throwing shade at anyone who appears to be enjoying themselves and are generally happy and content in their lives.
But you know what? Last year I had a word with myself.
I don’t know if it was the new meds I taking at the time (I see you, Zoloft!) or if all the self-help books I’ve devoured over the years, finally paid off, but something inside of me shifted. As I was packing up my things for Memorial Day Weekend, I pulled myself right out of the shame-spiral.
“Ugh I don’t even want to go!” I squealed out loud, even though I was alone in my room. “I’m going to look so hideous in a bathing suit! I don’t have a SUMMER BODY body! AGAIN!” I began to pound my chest with my fists like an ape, claiming her territory in the jungle.
And then something wild, spiritual and sort of beautiful happened. I felt bored. Painfully bored. Bored with myself. Bored with the entire narrative regarding summer bodies and weight and diets! Bored with the idea that I might yet again ruin another fabulous summer, because of my lame rotation of swirling, narcissistic, shallow thoughts, regarding my appearance.
I yawned. It was a giant yawn for all of womankind. I felt the boredom of all women who are so collectively understimulated by the slew of boring “summer body” bullshit conversations we’ve been tricked into having our entire lives.
“This isn’t who you are. You’re a creative person, bursting with ideas. You’re pretty cool, you know that, you ungrateful little bitch?” A voice inside my head began to feverishly lecture me. I decided to call her Wise Zara.
Wise Zara peered right into the teary eyes of weak, body-shaming Zara. Weak body-shaming Zara shuddered and looked away in defeat.
“I don’t know how to stop.” Weak, body-shaming Zara whispered, her lips trembling. It was all getting a bit too real for her.
“This is what you do. You put on your bikini and you strut out on to the goddamn beach, feeling grateful to be alive. Grateful to have the privilege of feeling the sweet sand between your toes. Grateful to have the privilege of smelling the intoxicating Atlantic ocean. There are dykes locked up in prison for crimes they didn’t commit who would do anything to experience the beach. And here you are, worrying about your thighs?” Wise Zara, lit up a cigarette. “Give me a break.” She murmured, lighting up.
“Bu-bu-but what about the girls in the Instagram picture? They look so curvy and perf-”
“NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THE GIRL IN THE VIRALLY ADORED INSTAGRAM PICTURE. NOT EVEN THE GIRL IN THE VIRALLY ADORED INSTAGRAM PICTURE,” Wise Zara screamed so loudly, my four poster bed, literally shook from the vibrational intensity of my voice. She continued, in a softer voice, “Look. You’ve always been able to see the beauty in all kinds of people. Why can’t you see beauty in yourself when you can see it so vividly in everyone else?” She blew a perfect ring of smoke in my face and disappeared.
I (Weak Zara) ruminated on her words for awhile. She was right. I do see beauty in all kinds of humans. I don’t believe beauty is one note; I believe in so many epically different versions of beauty. Most pressingly, I truly believe a “summer body” is simply a body in the summer. Yet, I blindly subject myself to the beauty standards I reject for everyone else.
At that moment, I decided no more.
So last summer, every single time I began to beat myself over how I horrible, blah, wah, I looked, I actively changed the narrative. Rewrote the script. Ventured outside the steel bars of the prison of my boring brain and decided to direct my attention toward the beauty of the beach. Just like Wise Zara suggested. I inserted myself in interesting, dynamic conversations with interesting, dynamic new people instead of obsessing over “how hideous” I looked. I couldn’t believe I had missed out on such inspiring conversations because I had been so wrapped up in my appearance. I realized how gross it all was.
It took practice, as habits such as these have possessed our souls for so long they aren’t going to simply flutter out of our bodies without putting up a fight. But after a month or so, of refusing to give in to my abusive body-shaming tantrums, the habit shrank. It was still there, but it was merely a tiny pest in my ear that I had the power to swat away anytime.
I’m not going to preach to everyone that we should all “FEEL BEAUTIFUL!” all the time this summer. After a decade of suffering from a dangerous eating disorder, I know the relationship between a woman and her body is complicated and often an outer reflection of much bigger issues that lurk beneath the surface of our flesh. But that’s another article for another day, babe.
What I’m trying to say is: You can still get over your summer body obsessed bullshit. Even if you don’t “FEEL BEAUTIFUL” in a bikini all the time.
So honey. If you’re on the beach this weekend and you’re spiraling into darkness about your body’s imperfections, I want you to get over it. Even if you’re feeling like hell about the way you look, give yourself permission to have a good time anyway. After all, who cares if we don’t think we look stunningly beautiful? Does that mean we’re not worthy of having fun on a long weekend? Hell no. As the great Diana Vreeland once said, “You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother. You don’t owe it to your children. You don’t owe it to civilization in general.”
If you need some extra words of encouragement, message me. As your lesbian big sister, I live to pull you back to Earth when you’re flying high in the sky of panic, darling kitten.