The baggage about bodies that we bring into adulthood begins to accumulate in grade school. Little kids, just trying to do what kids do–learn, play, grow–are told they are too much. By classmates. By relatives. Even by parents. Most who write about fat positivity source their childhood as when they learned that the world expects proper bodies to restrain themselves. In the greater scheme of feminism, girls are told to be quieter, dumber, less opinionated, less than. In bodies, we’re convinced that we must fight them every day. The battle all women must take up in order to fit in. Diets. Aerobics. Shoes smaller than the feet being shoved into them. Grab your swords, girls–we’re going to war with nature! (Hopefully, your 800 calories a day will allow you to fit in the suit of armor…)
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when it was first recommended that I go on a diet. But I do remember my mom sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons. Diet culture perpetuates in the most unintentional ways.
I also remember when it started to matter to me.
In 5th grade, I invested myself in pulling off one of those 80s movie plots by transforming myself from the nerdy girl who hung out with the smart guys and played Dungeons and Dragons to one of the popular girls. Everyone would see me appropriately attired and admired, proving I was worthy. I could do it.
I begged one of the mean girls to aid me in my plan. I don’t know why S decided I was a worthy project, but she actually agreed to share the secrets of the desired class with me. Most notably, she gave me a shopping list. Clothes I MUST wear in order to be socially acceptable. Essential to my very own Ugly Duckling metamorphosis.
My mom was less convinced that a 10-year-old who wore women’s size 6 should be squeezing into short skirts and crop tops, but she eventually humored me. And just as soon as the Bradlees layaway was paid off, they were all mine. That lavender skirt with the raw edge. That crop top with a duck. That collection of clothing proving that, while you can guide me on what I should buy, the real me will shine through with how I execute this advice. Ha.
The crop top? Never did make an appearance to dazzle the cool kids. They weren’t allowed in school. It was for the best, anyway, all things considered. My mom has some lovely photos of me pairing it with a long, ruffled skirt and a crepe paper flower parasol from Riverside Park, all while sporting headgear. I’m sure that’s exactly what S pictured when she took me under her wing. My life, surprisingly, was not a movie.
It became less and less acceptable, as I grew larger and larger, to wear crop tops in public. But in recent years, as I started to shed society’s rules for my body, I became more invested in the idea.
Somehow, bikinis were easier. Probably because people expect you to essentially be clad in underwear at the beach and pool. But what are the rules for shorter-than-usual tops? Are they okay for the coffee shop? What about theatre performances? Do you wear them at parent-teacher conferences? Work is probably a no… I could have used lessons on this. Where are you S?
It turns out that, like most other items of clothing, you wear crop tops wherever you damn well please. Fuck the rules.
I keep telling myself that, anyway.
I made a baby step, though. I wore a barely cropped cardigan to the coffee house a few months ago. If I moved just right, you could see centimeters of my flesh. I think 3 people might have witnessed it. At the theatre the other night, I also wore a long-sleeved black crop top. With a high-waisted skirt. So you couldn’t even tell, when I was sitting, that I was pushing back. A quiet kind of resistance, revealed when standing (and especially when raising my arms–oops). The world didn’t end.
I’m not sure that I’m quite there yet. But I’m dabbling. And you know what? If I want to walk around in a duck crop top with a long ruffled skirt and a crepe paper parasol, fuck it, I will. Because what anyone else thinks about it doesn’t really matter anyway.
(Side note: if you’re interested in that shirt in the Instagram post, you can find it in Mary Lambert‘s merch shop. I also highly recommend listening to her music and reading her poems, which feature fat positivity, queer love, being yourself, and just plain being awesome.)