There is a picture of me when I'm 13, lined up in a gaggle of swimsuit-clad girls, complete with oversize teeth and nascent breasts. For some sadistic reason, the eighth grade ended with a class-wide beach trip to the New England coast. At first glance, you'd notice the cute Persian girl in a teeny flowery bikini and the tall dirty-blonde in the white tankini. And then you'd notice me. I'm the one swaddled in enough fabric to safely parade through downtown Riyadh.
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The only one wearing a one-piece, I have one towel draped over my shoulders and a second wrapped around my waist, its edges trailing in the sand. Even at that age, having kissed one boy, read zero books by Virginia Woolf, and traveled only as far as Massachusetts, I was positive that my thick thighs and bulbous arms were best admired behind fabric. Lots of it.
At 33 years old, with those same inflated thighs and hockish arms, I've realized that I was kinda wrong. Truth: The fewer clothes I'm wearing, the better I look. If anything, I actually look my best stark-ass naked.
My thighs touch, or rather press with force against each other; in yoga pants, I feel like I have a mermaid tail. My calves aren't exactly slender, so skinny jeans make me feel anything but. (See also: capris, culottes, midi skirts.) My arm-to-chest flab ratio makes a sleeveless top look preposterous. Ditto skimpy tanks and anything strapless. Let's be clear: I'm not obese, and I don't suffer from an unfortunate health issue. Clothes just don't really flatter me.
I was always quietly mindful of my body's inadequacies, but my career put the issue on blast. In my 20s, I worked for the kind of women's publication where most everyone is slim and stylish. I did my best to play along. I bought skinny jeans that I could never pull up all the way (the crotch saddled a good three inches lower than it should have). I teetered in heels that made me feel a bit like a bear on a unicycle. When my Twiggy cubemates complained about the arctic AC during summertime, I kept silent. My cardigan wouldn't be coming off, even if we were in the Sahara.