Imagine if you will a pool party. It is a warm and breezy day as sunlight glistens on the water. Music is playing, and people are drinking all varieties of colorful drinks with those little umbrellas that never seem to go out of fashion.
There are men and women scantily clad laughing and lounging about.
Then, sitting on a lounge chair, there’s a guy.
He’s wearing sunglasses, a hat, a long-sleeved button down shirt, pants, shoes, and socks. He knew full well that he was attending a pool party, but he had no intention of ever swimming.
I’m that guy.
Sure, I don’t like extended exposure to the sun for purely practical reasons. Overexposure is not good for your skin, but there is a deeper explanation.
It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit it, but I’m not particularly fond of my body. I’ve never been the chiseled athletic male you see on the cover of magazines. In fact, here in America, most people don’t think of Asian men when they fantasize about beautiful men. I get it. There’s Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and all of those other impossibly handsome and talented white men to fawn over.
That’s not me, and the fact that it’s not me seems to have invaded my sense of self and my collection of personal insecurities.
Beyond race, I’ve also never considered myself handsome or beautiful in any serious way. I do the best with what I have, and that pretty much covers it.
I am often fully clothed everywhere I go no matter the occasion or season.
I understand now that my behavior and outlook are rooted in shame.
Yup, deeply so and for better or worse.
Essentially, body shaming, which I impose sufficiently upon myself, is as ubiquitous as it is insidious in our broader society.
For example, whenever you say “Wow, you lost weight! You look amazing!”, there is something deeper at play. Sure, it is intended as a compliment, but you may as well as say, “You look better now than you did when you were fat.”
This is how I see it, anyway, and these kinds of “compliments” happen everywhere all the time. There does not seem to be an awareness of how we impose unfair and unrealistic standards of beauty upon each other.
Why couldn’t we always say, “You are infinitely perfect just as you are”? Why can’t we encourage people to make healthy decisions for their lives (like eating organic foods and regular exercise) without the intended/unintended judgment about their bodies?
There may need to be a collective seismic shift in how we perceive beauty and in our awareness of body/fat shaming when we talk to each other.
In any case, writing this post is a step in some sort of direction for me in terms of how I see my body. Perhaps admitting that my shame exists is a step toward someday defeating it.
Will I someday be that other guy proudly sporting a speedo and nothing else at a pool party?
Nope. Highly unlikely.
But maybe, just maybe, I can start seeing that other guy when I look in the mirror and smile just a little bit, even if it’s someone no one else will ever get to see.
Who is that person? I don’t even know where to begin.
For now, I’ll enjoy showing off my wardrobe at any pool party I attend. I’ll have fun regardless.
The parts of me everyone sees will shine enough, and for now, I am very okay with that.