My favorite thing about this summer, beside being able to walk home half-drunk without my fingernails getting frostbite, is the knowledge that I'm probably horrifying at least a few people simply by wearing a crop top.
Like most women who have ever looked at a magazine ad at any point in their lives, I can be pretty insecure about my body. It bums me out to think about how much energy I've put into battling the discomfort that perennially lurks beneath my skin. If it weren't for trying to live up to unrealistic beauty standards, maybe I could have written the next Great American Werewolf Novel by now, you know?
And this is where the crop top comes in.
A few months ago, I absentmindedly bought a shirt at a Betty Who concert. In my excitement, I didn't realize that it showed a strip of my stomach until I threw it on the next morning. When I saw the little pudge-window, my first response was, "Great, now I'm going to have to give it away."
Then I paused. Why, I thought, was I going to throw out a baby-soft shirt bearing the name of an artist I love (that I had paid way too much money for)? Sure, I was a little self-conscious about my belly, but what was the worst that could happen? If somebody didn't like it, that was their problem, not mine.
For possibly the first time ever, I was confident wearing something that wouldn't traditionally be "acceptable" for my body type. And it felt rad as all hell.
Too often, people -- women, in particular -- fall into the trap of believing it's our job to make sure others are comfortable with our appearance. The media constructs an aesthetic expectation for us, and it becomes our responsibility to conform to "rules" for our outfits that will ensure no one ever has to remember that most people really don't look like Zoe Saldana or Emma Watson. The public's perceptions of those women, after all, are essentially fictional, or at least created from filters of tabloids and Photoshop. The average person can basically treat them like a character in a novel.
So when in-the-flesh women don't fit these generally unattainable molds, they remind others that they're real humans, not just objects of lust or disdain. And that makes some people mighty uneasy, or even aggressive. I've had dudes inform me on the street that my thighs have too much cellulite for me to be wearing short-shorts, for example, and even other women have gently told me that I should steer clear of halter tops, with shoulders like mine.
And you know what? Screw 'em.
If wearing something more revealing than usual makes you feel hot, or relaxed, or even a little less like peeling your own skin off in this weather, then wear it. And if seeing you in it makes other people stress out, that's their concern. Strut your stuff and get to working on that zombie book.
Kate Conway is a RedEye special contributor and Queer Studies editor at xoJane. If you haven't seen the PG-13 parts of her yet, just stick around for a particularly warm afternoon.
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