If I'm not mistaken, I was 20 year's old the first time I wore a sleeveless top, and I can count on one hand the number of times I let my arms show from the shoulder down between my sophomore and senior year of college. If you don't believe me, here's a photo of me rocking a bolero jacket over a strapless top to a black party at nearly 21 year's old trying to figure out why I wasn't getting any play in college. And you're absolutely right, the gauchos didn't help. I blame myself for those, but the covering up my arms thing? That's all my mama.
I can't recall my mom ever directly telling me I should cover up my arms, it was just always implied. First, by the fact that she, at 52, has never worn a sleeveless top outside of her home and would gawk at the suggestion she buy a dress or top without short sleeves. And then there was the time my high school choir director met with all the students and parents about wanting us to buy formal wear for an upcoming concert and upon announcement of the dress that was chosen for the girls my mom raised the concern that "some" students don't need to have their arms out and asked could "some" students wear shawls with the dresses. Iyanla isn't needed to draw the parallel between those messages and me showing up at Iota Parties with shrugs over tank tops trying my best to be cute.
It wasn't until I lost a significant amount of weight -- and found a durable enough strapless bra -- that I began wearing tank tops and sometimes even strapless tops out in public. And I think by the time I'd gained the weight back, I stopped caring. Hiding one-third of my arms didn't exactly hide the fact that I was overweight and New York summers were too hot for me to let go of the glory of not having t-shirts stuck to my armpits with sweat.
I was reminded of those cover-up days Sunday when I woke up to an expected temperature of 94 degrees and a will to hit Central Park. I'd barely survived the day before in 80-something degree weather with a moisture-wicking tank top on so I thought, let me try something. Though I've long gotten over my arm-shame days, my stomach is not something I'm trying to give everyone a peek of, and shorts? That's a no-go. But that morning I pulled out the black crop top I'd bought solely for the purpose of my photoshoot (and dancing around my apartment) and wondered if I should brave the heat -- and the street harassment -- in it. I decided yes, and it proved to be one of my most freeing walks yet.
One, who knew the wind felt so good on the small of your back? Two, who has time to worry about a little belly fat poking out from a pair of high-waisted compression pants when trying stay cool and get in 5 miles? That's pretty much the approach I took on my walk, and you know what? Nobody said a damn thing to me.
I was feeling myself after that brave adventure and when I returned home from my friend's event I threw on a pair of shorts just to hang around the house in. A little later I realized I needed to pick up a few things from the grocery store and I sat for a few minutes having a great debate in my mind: to throw on a pair of sweats to run across the street or brave the three minute walk to the store in a pair of shorts? That was the question.
I opted for shorts, despite the fact that that's just not something I "do" in public, no matter how hot it is or what country I'm in. But I didn't have the energy to be insecure about my thighs on my way to go pick up the very vegetables that would soon slim them. So, I stepped out my house, crossed two blocks, and when a seemingly less-than-sane woman told me right before reaching my final destination (Food Town), "You gone hurt somebody (chuckle) you know you need to quit (chuckle)," I gave her a closed-mouth grin and kept on strutting. I didn't have the time or mental space to decipher whether her remark was complimentary or critical in nature, nor did I need to care. So, I guess, in a way I didn't actually didn't miss the crop top and booty short boat this summer. I can't say I'll be stepping out in either one on a regular basis from now on, but I'm thankful to this heatwave for reminding me just how insignificant these perceived flaws of mine are when it comes down to it.