What’s the scariest thing you’ve done lately? Maybe you asked for a raise, or asked for a date. Maybe you shared your art with the world for the first time, or signed up for a marathon. Being brave is tough. If we put ourselves out there—artistically, romantically, physically, and any other -ally you can think of—we risk failure. We risk being laughed at, mocked, and rejected.
Being brave on the internet is especially scary. Internet trolls lurk everywhere. You can read the most innocuous article, and when you look in the comments, you’ll find the worst of humanity. I’m not sure why so many people feel compelled to hurt strangers. There’s something about being behind a keyboard that gives them a different kind of bravery than the kind I’m talking about today. I used to think that the thrill of anonymity was what drove so many people to be awful to others online. But nowadays, we often use social media log-ins when we comment. It’s fascinating to me that having your name and profile visible doesn’t seem to deter people from being their worst selves.
Anyway! The point of all this talk about bravery is that I’m going to do something brave. Right now. My friends over at TeeRico asked if I’d have some pictures taken of me in the tank tops and t-shirts they’ve asked me to test and review. Gulp! Tank tops and t-shirts mean bare arms. If there’s one part of my body that I still have to work hard to accept (much less embrace and love), it’s my arms. Don’t get me wrong: They’re strong and capable. They lift, push, pull. They’ve swum endless laps. They’ve come with me on twelve 13.1-mile journeys (and countless training miles to get to those start lines). They’ve hugged some of the best people in the world. But they are, by society’s standards, unattractive. And many other adjectives that I won’t list here.
We talk a lot about how much representation matters. When I see images of a fat person online who doesn’t have a perfect hour-glass figure, it’s shocking. And so wonderful! I want—and need—to see images of people who look like me. People with belly rolls and cellulite and stretch marks. We have to stop thinking of these natural things as flaws we should be ashamed of and cover up. Think about it: The more we see different bodies, the more we’ll come to accept them. The more we see visibly fat bodies (not “plus-size” model bodies), the more we’ll come to accept them. If we work hard enough, if we’re brave enough, we’ll see diversity everywhere. We’ll accept it, we’ll expect it, and we’ll love it!
If somebody sees my pictures and feels kinder about themselves as a result, then my fear is worth it.
So here I go. I’m sending these pictures out into the world. Thanks for holding my hand, friends. And an especially big thank you to Luis at TeeRico, who inspires me to be bold and brave. ¡Vamonos!
(And thanks to Austin for being my intrepid photographer!)