Summer 2017 is around the corner and I am nervous for the arrival of warmer months.
We all know summer as “bikini season,” “sundress season,” or generally just as the season where we wear less and go out more. The thing is, I’m not always comfortable with my body. I would be lying if I said I felt confident about myself all of the time, especially in the season where our bodies take center stage. I don’t have huge boobs and my stomach isn’t flat. I have cellulite on my butt and my thighs jiggle when I walk and seemingly expand for miles when I sit down. Most days, I don’t mind any of those things. In fact, I embrace them. But on other days, I do mind.
It’s hard to always love my body when all the summer images of women look so different from me. Whenever I look at a TV or movie screen, I see women whose bodies are so sculpted that it make me feel lackluster. Whenever I see models on Instagram promoting some new exercise regimen or slimming tea product, I look down at my own body. I know that what I see is not all that meets the eye, but the task of differentiating between real and fake is so difficult that summer becomes a stressful season.
And the greatest irony is how arbitrary this perfect “bikini body” is. Take, for example, thickness. A few years ago, having curvy bodies, especially larger butts, was not in “style.” In my predominantly white neighborhood, I watched thin soccer moms talk about how grossly large their butts were getting. I would look at mine and be sad thinking about how “mine’s even bigger.” I remember a boy telling me in middle school that I should diet because my butt was too big. Yet when I would go to Miami to see my family, I would hear women talking about how flat their butts were and how they needed to wear their fajas while doing squats. Sometimes they would talk about having surgery to make their butts bigger.
I didn’t know what was beautiful and what wasn’t. All I felt was that I was not. I went on a diet, just like the middle school boy “recommended,” and I lost 30 pounds. I had finally achieved the body of my dreams―I had a thigh gap, abs, and a distinct outline of my ribs. Or so I thought. I was a size 0 but I was still unhappy.
Summer that year came around and I remember trying on a swimsuit and thinking that nothing filled out. I felt flat and I cried in the dressing room because I looked nothing like the impossibly thin model who somehow still had large boobs. I couldn’t understand why I still hated my body when I thought I had achieved perfection. I didn’t wear a swimsuit that summer, or the next two summers.
When high school began, I started gaining weight and searching for validation. But no matter how often guys or my boyfriend would tell me that I was “fine as hell,” I never felt right. I became a size 6—and “lucky” for me, my change coincided with the new wave of mainstream media approval for “curvy” women like Kim Kardashian. I thought I’d finally found happiness with my curvier look, except I started seeing that curvy women in the media like Kim had boobs and butts larger than mine but waists that were somehow smaller. Once again, I felt like there was nothing I could do to change myself to look like women I didn’t even know.
It took until the summer of my junior year of high school to begin realizing how badly I was treating myself. I started noticing how I would suck in deeply every time I took a picture. And how I would pick myself apart for the smallest things. I started forcing my thoughts in a positive direction. In fitting rooms, I would think about how “great” my waist looked instead of how “bad” my arms did. I’d be lying if I said that the transition was easy. There were countless days where I would felt like this self-praise was a lie and that I was shielding myself from the truth of my ugly body. Yet for every one of those days of doubts, I would have a day of love for every inch of my brown skin―stretch marks and cellulite included. The more I told myself I was beautiful, the more I started to believe it, and the more I knew that it was true.
I did go to the beach in a bikini that year. Lying on the towel in the sand, I was tempted over and over to put a shirt on, put some shorts on, anything but wear a bikini. I didn’t. Senior summer, I wore a bikini again. Soon, summer 2017 will be here and I’m nervous. But I know I will be at Carson Beach in a bikini again because my body is beautiful.
Kim Arango ’20, a Crimson sports editor, lives in Matthews Hall.