I have zero body confidence. I think it started some time between the sixth and seventh grade, and ever since then I’ve considered myself the fattest, weakest piece of shit on the planet. Thankfully that overt criticism hasn’t manifested into anything more than perpetual general dissatisfaction with my appearance and a mild contributor to my overall anxiety and depression, but it’s still been enough to make me pretty conscious of what I wear. I’ve only recently just dipped my toes (literally) into “skinny” fit pants, and that was only because there wasn’t any other fit available at the time I was buying pants. I avoid front logo shirts if I can because when I look down it makes me acutely aware of the roundness of my upper half, and I never let my beard get too full for fear it’ll round my face off just enough to give me that beardy fat guy look. You can imagine, then, my confusion with a recent trend among the public to basically get naked.
A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were leaving Schlotzsky’s on what was the first warm sunny day of the month, and as we walked out a gentleman in at least his late fifties, shorter than me, and I’d guess somewhere close to 250lbs strolled in as happy as a pig in mud. From the car I watched this happy fellow place his order, go out to the patio to place himself in total, direct sunlight, and proceed to strip his shirt off and lean back like he was on the deck of a cruise ship. I was stunned. Who does that? I maybe, might, could get on board if we had been at Abel’s On The Lake or Mozart’s or somewhere off the lake, but we were at Schlotzsky’s at 183 and 45. We couldn’t have been more landlocked if we had been in freakin’ Nebraska, and this dude’s sunning like he’s in South Padre. I could tell from his even tan this was not his first foray into public toplessness.
I forgot my encounter with the sandwich streaker pretty quickly, until a few days later when my girlfriend and I took the ole cowpuppy downtown one Sunday afternoon. As we parked the truck and began walking the trail I noticed we, in our t-shirts and running shorts, were in the minority among our peers. Apparently that afternoon was sports bra and boxer briefs day. Must have lost that memo. Again, just as before when I was left dumbfounded pulling out of the Schlotzsky’s parking lot, I found myself stunned. People of all shapes and body types were baring as much skin as the law allowed to the late spring sun as if they were the only ones at the lake, as if there weren’t enough people hiking, biking, and paddling to fill a football stadium.
It’s not limited to my generation either. Two days ago I went to what could arguably be the most suburban park in all of Austin, TX, and as the ole cowpuppy and I sat on a bench while I finished checking emails a woman whose age clearly began with a 4 jogged by in thong cut shorts. Thong. Cut. Shorts. I’d never seen it before. I honestly didn’t know thong cut shorts existed, and for all I know they may not. She may have just put on sports underwear and hit the trail. To her credit she certainly looked like she took great care of herself, I could tell because both of her entire legs were completely visible to myself and everyone else she encountered on her run. Somehow, though, I think even if she hadn’t had the body of a person who prioritized fitness I probably would have still seen her in no more clothing than would cover a VS model on the catwalk.
I’m not chronicling all this to criticize everyone baring themselves. People’s bodies are their own to do with as they please, and if they walk out the house in a loincloth or a coconut bra and palm frond they’re damn sure not doing it for my opinion. No, I’m writing this out of curiosity for where they’re getting the body confidence. I want to know how they’re able to convince themselves to open the front door with that much of their bodies visible to the world. How can they face society’s eyes and not think every person they make contact with is critiquing them like a plastic surgeon giving a consultation?
If I went into the gym in compression underwear, as I saw one nose tackle built individual do a few weeks ago, I’d be so embarrassed I’d have to spend my whole workout in the supply closet. I envy these people’s ability to shutoff that insecurity, that constant self doubt that tells them not to be vulnerable or expose themselves to a cruel world full of mockery and insult, a world where at any time someone might be holding up a phone to unknowingly caption your existence with a joke or some unkind words. I want to know why’s everyone getting naked, how are they doing it, and how can I get the confidence in myself to stop seeing my appearance as an amorphous blob akin to Jabba The Hut. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to get all this confidence so I can trot out a leopard print speedo next time I paddleboard Town Lake, but I’d like to feel like I have the option.