During my commute the other day, I saw a woman running up a steep incline near the local university campus. She was pushing a jogging stroller containing a kid that was more toddler than infant. The sun was scorching, the sidewalk pavement was uneven, and this lady was effortlessly moving what was easily an extra 50 pounds up the hill. What a boss.
The guy next to me on the train was less impressed: “Ugh,” he groaned, with a look of disgust. “She needs to put a shirt on.”
Were we looking at the same woman? I saw toughness personified, and all he could see was unappealing post-baby flesh in a sports bra. Granted, I live in conservative Utah, where a bare shoulder, much less an exposed midriff , is considered obscene. But make no mistake—these comments happen everywhere. In Texas, a friend of mine was heckled about his weight while waiting at a crosswalk mid-run. On Facebook, an acquaintance’s race photo was turned into a scathing meme without her consent—apparently, when skin ripples and jiggles while running, it’s hilarious! (Note: It was not hilarious.) A sneering clerk at a running store in California once suggested I might want to wear tights, not shorts, to cover my cellulite. Until that moment, I didn’t even know I had cellulite.
It’s really no one’s place to judge someone’s body, and yet it happens again and again. We’ve become a culture where any so-called body imperfection brings on the scorn of society: If you have love handles or bingo wings or even a smidgen of body fat, you best cover that up. If you’re too skinny, you need to eat a sandwich. You don’t have the body type to wear split shorts (or leggings, or tank tops, or anything but this very large potato sack.) Never mind that it’s a hot summer day, or that you have the audacity to love the skin you’re in. Put a shirt on! No one needs to see that.
Those words echo in my brain sometimes while I’m wishing away my newly discovered cellulite.
But then I think, why do I care so much? I can’t change the way people view my body—or anyone else’s, for that matter—but I can choose not to let it get under my skin. My dimply, bouncing, awesome, amazing skin. You see, if there’s anything running has taught me, it’s that I’m strong and healthy. Toughness personified, like the lady with the stroller. Like a boss.
So this summer, I’m donning my split shorts on my run, cellulite be damned. While I’m at it, I’m going to try to counteract the bodyshaming of others by being more vocal about the awesome things the body can do, like pushing giant babies up hills at an eight-minute mile pace. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from that moment on the train, it’s this: Every body is pretty amazing.
Susan Lacke’s first book, Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow (2017, VeloPress), will be released in November.