Summer Bodies

Lucy Beall Lott discusses the pressure of having a “summer” body while also learning to accept her own. However, body positive we may try to be, it can be hard to avoid the messages all around us at this time of year. It takes time to celebrate your body and all it does for you, so use this season to enjoy your summer body.

I have bright red scars that trace down from my elbows to my hands, that take up the entirety of my knees and feet, and that are sprinkled up the backs of my thighs in accordance to all the injuries of my childhood. Whenever I wear jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, my scars are concealed, and you would not be able to notice the extent of my condition unless you were to stare at my hands. 

However, as we are in the throes of summer, the long sleeves and jeans are not a wardrobe option for me anymore and, once again, I must confront the fact that I do not look the same as other people. This is not an anxiety that is uniquely mine. Every person, regardless of background, experiences the same pressure to strive towards perfection this time of year.

Although it is 2018 and we as a society are starting to shun the use of the phrase “bikini-body”, it is still something we are confronted with. It is, thankfully, an idea that we are challenging but it nevertheless persists. The unavoidable fact of summer is this: it is hot, and wearing too many clothes is miserable. But for those with body issues or disabilities, this presents its own wave of mental and physical challenges. 

While during the winter months I may shield myself from the unwanted attention my scars may draw, that is not possible when temperatures reach 30 degrees daily in some areas that I live. I love wearing little shorts and flowing summer dresses, I do not want to deny myself this simple pleasure. Although I hate the attention, my scars are on full display, especially those on my knees that are undeniably eye-catching.

Back home in America this is more of an issue. I often have strangers approach me and ask if I had been burned or otherwise terribly injured. Even though they may not mean to hurt my feelings, these interactions cause me to blush with shame. Those who love me are not spared either. On our first trip to America together this summer, my boyfriend had to watch others stop and stare at me on the street or comment, wanting to protect me but unsure how to without causing more embarrassment. Unfortunately, these moments will not end anytime soon. 

Although I am not be able to control other’s reactions, I can control mine. There is something good that comes from all of this exposure. Without winter clothes to hide behind, we are forced to look at our bodies. We are confronted with our insecurities and must come to terms with them. While I may conceal my scars throughout the winter, I must look at them all day every day during the summer months. By doing this, I become used to what I see in the mirror, and from the familiarity we form with our own bodies we can begin to cultivate love for them as well.

I’m not quite there yet, but maybe soon. In the mean time, I’ll remember to give my scars the exposure they deserve and match them to my summer dresses. 

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