Column: I am what I am: the direct descendent of lanky genes
Mar. 01, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
I am 6-feet, 2-inches tall, 74 inches if you think that way, 188 cm if you're not an American, 160 pounds if I've actually eaten much that day, 32-inch waist if you care, size 13 shoe and incalculably gangly.
I am 19 years old, basically fully developed, save for the beer belly that inevitably will come as it has for others in my family. I am the direct descendent of lanky genes, the beneficiary of moderate good looks and almost no hair, the inheritor of equally inevitable heart conditions.
For me, hiding my embarrassments -- my knobby elbows, my non-existent biceps, my visible bones elsewhere -- is a key to feeling comfortable. Despite owning dozens of T-shirts, I never wear them as anything but a concealed layer, and for that matter never publicly reveal anything above my forearm. I never buy a collared shirt without tailoring it. I never put together an outfit without asking myself, "Just how gangly am I?" or "will people think I'm healthy?" or "can people see my visible bones?"
In a society whose body ideals worship the muscular, the tanned and the physically fit, it's easy to fall into discomfort and alienation. Sure, on the outside I'd be interpreted as a healthy, fit individual, but when my body is judged on the scale of what a man "should be," I fall woefully short.
But, when people ask me if I have body issues because I hide what I hate about my body, I say no.
Part of my body image, and by extension, my comfort, is producing an artificial aesthetic, a facade. The structuring and tailoring of my clothes create illusions of what I want my body shape and contour to be, rather than accurately revealing what they are. Yes, gangly is gangly no matter how you spell it, and I can't avoid certain eccentricities of my body, but I feel I successfully avoid seeming quite underweight and disproportionate.
Admittedly, my means of body comfort is not parallel to typical 'liberation' narratives created by body image activists, which so dramatically and aggressively demand body comfort and empowerment via the stripping of a body down to its nude core. Tyra Banks requesting haters to "kiss her fat ass" or politically charged nudists and breast flashers might be unfair representatives of these narratives, but they do send the message that one can only be comfortable in their body if they are publicly willing to expose it completely.
This trend in society to diagnose body issues is to me patronizing, if not offensive. We're told everywhere to love our bodies, to ignore socially constructed ideals of what a body should be, to embrace our curves and to not care about gazing eyes. Movements that stress body liberation, that attempt to empower people to vocalize their rejection of body norms, are appealing with a price: that people in their motivating ambitions try too hard to address people about body norms they should be rejecting, they should be rebelling against.
While rejecting stupid body norms is an appealing political/social ambition, we need to find ways to access these narratives without telling people to feel a certain way in their own bodies. Body comfort and body liberation are two different things, and our political initiatives to deconstruct superficial paradigms in our culture should stress comfort before liberation.
In the end, I am quite liberated in my body, yet I choose to create a façade to enhance things I like and mitigate little issues I might have. My artificial exterior flat out hides the things I hate. My tailoring bills are high, my long sleeve wardrobe is certainly disproportionate, but it's what I do to be what I want to be, regardless of body politics, regardless of cliché movements. And I don't plan to stop.