The Sleeveless Question

I don’t do sleeveless.

For me, it’s about picking my battles.  I can deal with a certain number of snarky comments about my body per day.  Short shorts and sleeveless tops always take it over the line.  I’ve heard too many heartless words about the appearance of upper arm fat to tempt that sort of ire.

I nitpick clothing to ensure it has the proper amount of coverage, that it won’t betray my arm’s dimples and wiggles.  I treat sleeve length with the same scrutiny I give the fall of a top’s waist line–heat of summer be damned, I try to placate the social norm that fat girls should keep their body’s many lumps and jiggles under wraps.  I know well that the more you notice me, the more you scrutinize me, your head repeating the same ego-tearing mantras that have been fed to me.  You’re thinking that cellulite is the devil, why doesn’t she choose more “flattering” clothes, body rolls are shameful and why doesn’t she just exercise more or show more self-control.

I could lose 100 pounds and still, someone would think my arms were too fat for sleeveless.  In fact, if I did lose 100 pounds right now, the skin would sag and hang from my bones, flapping in the breeze.  I probably couldn’t even wear t-shirts in public without getting some kind of heartless comment about the way my flesh piled up when faced with gravity.

That’s the thing that stings most.  Even if I somehow brought my body to an acceptable weight, I’d still be somebody’s horror story, somebody’s “I hope I never look like that.”  I would still have bad teeth, a fat tummy, red-spotted legs and a too-long chin.  I would still feel the nerve-shattering paranoia that anything I wear will offend you, will make you say those words that are in your head.

Sometimes, I see pretty dresses and think how nice it would be to get dressed up and go out for dinner for once.  But then I panic.  That dress doesn’t have sleeves, and because it doesn’t have sleeves, it will make you wonder why I’m even at this restaurant  shouldn’t I be on a treadmill?  I see cute tops and I can almost feel the breeze on my shoulders when I’m driving down the road with my windows down, but I don’t want to hear your cat-calls and rude words when I pull up to the red light.  I see swimsuits and I long to be a summertime mermaid, but I hear over and over in my head–“whale”.

I wish it were all in my head.  But I promise you, if I showed up in a sleeveless shirt, you’d shudder at my “armpit fat” and flour sack arms.  You’d swallow back a measure of bile and itch to talk about it to someone–anyone.  You’d find your head repeating for you the words that stunt you, the words that keep you from living exactly as you’d like to live, the words that you wrongly believe are making you happy.  And next time you’d go to put on a sleeveless shirt, you’d pause.

14 responses to “The Sleeveless Question”

  1. Irony? Every time I see a woman wearing sleeveless tops, I feel nothing but envy, regardless of her size or the state of her limbs. I wish I had the brass to just do it!

  2. Ah so many feels about this…have to think more about my response.

    1. That pretty much sums up how I felt about writing this. ^_^*
      On one hand, I feel like my own insecurity just continues to perpetuate the notion that our bodies are a thing we should allow others to make decisions about. I feel like hiding myself is a condemnation of other women who are fine with themselves as-is.

  3. I struggle with all the same things and it depends on how I am feeling that day whether I will be brave enough to go without sleeves, shorts never, capris are as short as I will go.
    I try remind myself if I am thinking critically about the way someone is dressed that it may have taken a lot of courage to put on that sleeveless shirt or maybe they are so brave they really just don’t care.
    This summer I am determinded not to have a farmer’s tan so that I am more likely to be brave about wearing a cute dress.

    1. I rock a farmer’s tan all year! Haha I’m rooting for you!
      Trying not to overthink others’ bodies is something I really need to come to grips with. I think it’s a big “right on” to think positive thoughts about others, but to contemplate their body or motives or anything–who needs it?

      1. I was so close to ridding myself of my farmers tan so that I could wear some cute sleeveless things I own and then … sunburn tragedy while wearing a t-shirt. I was at an art festival all day and I was supoposed to be undercover showing off my goods and the wind kicked up so the umbrella/sunprotection had to come down. Now I am back where I started with a very obvious farmers tan. Sigh, maybe next summer.

  4. I just bought three strapless dresses and regardless of my “lunch lady” arms and the UDD (under arm dingle dangle) I am going to wear em! I have gone up and down the scale and my arms are flabby saggy and I don’t like them but it is hot and I like to dresses….who cares what other people think?

    1. This makes me really happy!

    2. UDD!!! That’s PRICELESS!!

  5. I deal with this, too. My solution is to inundate my RSS with fatshion blogs where empowered chicks not only go sleeveless, but put it on the internet. These chicks are heroes, and someday I’ll get their courage. Maybe.

    1. I always want to print out pictures of bloggers looking amazing and pin them to my body. That way, if anyone gives me the stinkeye, I can point and say “LOOK HOW HOT THIS BLOGGER IS. She’s doing it, too!”

  6. Aaaaannnd.. I’m back.

    This post… really stings. It hurts to read it and not for the reasons you think.

    Yes I am fat and I have UDD and I rarely go sleeveless outside the house. Or wear shorts. Or short skirts. Or tight anything. Yes I assume people are repelled by my body. Yes yes yes to all that.


    I never expect snarky comments. Not daily. Not ever. I never expect them because… well, because I never get them. I can count on one hand the number of mean, bitchy, hurtful weight-related comments I’ve gotten my whole life ( and to be clear: most of that life was lived fat ).

    I already excel at beating myself up without them.. I can even imagine what it would be like to live with them. Dootsie… oh sweetie…please tell me I’m reading this wrong! Please tell me people are not slinging barbs to you on the regular! ( Or alternatively please tell me who I need to beat up!! )

    1. I’m really glad that you don’t experience negative comments! I think that’s actually very wonderful, and something I hope for for everyone!
      It’s so funny–the comments never happen on the regular. They’re incredibly random. I might get two rude comments in a week, then none at all for months.
      I’m not out in da public as often as I used to be, so comments have become less frequent. I’m fine with that. I also feel like people are coming to see that spewed negativity towards fat people won’t make them go away. So yay for everybody!
      I’m unfortunately surrounded by people who don’t hold back on their comments about anyone not in the room. So it’s easy to be aware that–yep, they’re thinkin’ it. And honestly, if I hear a comment about someone’s body who is similar to–or worse, smaller than–mine, my brain is just like “you’re talking about me, too.”

  7. The only thing I can think of is maybe the comments slow down as you get older. And I might be looking back at my twenties with rose-colored glasses!

    I know one thing is for certain : you care less as you get older. If it gets hot enough I’ll bust out the shorts and sleeveless tops. (In public no less!) If somebody were as ill-advised or ill-mannered enough to make a comment to me I’d either laugh in their face or squish’em.

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