What do tight little Speedos, obesity and the Lord of the Flies have to do with each other? Flesh. Beautiful, sexy, difficult, challenging, stinky and sweaty human skin. Or, put another way, why do we hate ourselves so much?
Have you noticed that, as a society, we don’t treat fat people very well? (Full disclosure: I tip the scales at a big healthy 225, a rather largish number for my 5’9” height. Lots of muscle, but plenty of padding too.) We mock and belittle the obese. We make all kinds of unfair assumptions about their discipline and moral character. And it’s bullshit. Unfair, inaccurate, judgmental bullshit.
As a trainer I learned that there is absolutely no correlation between skinny and healthy. Nor does being thin mean that you have a single shred more moral fiber or discipline. But still it’s a tremendous insult to ask if someone has recently gained weight. Presidential contenders have to have surgery in order to run because we would never elect a fat guy to lead us. The sight of a larger sized woman in a sexy or tight outfit seems to disgust both men and women. Let the eye rolling and mocking begin.
There’s all kinds of questionable ‘scholarship’ out there to explain this clear prejudice. It’s our male dominated society, or female cattiness, or Hollywood or some other scape-goating crap. I’ve spent a lot of years helping people with body issues and I’ll tell you exactly what it is: We’ve been taught to dislike human flesh. We’ve been led to believe that human bodies are inherently evil or at least icky. Since fat people have more flesh, they’re lesser and yuckier. Oh, and by the way, this belief just happens to be TOTALLY FUCKING WRONG.
And that brings me to Speedos. Remember way back in the dark ages of the 70’s when men used to wear bathing suits? You know, skimpy little tight numbers that showed their legs and, oh my, gasp gasp, had a bulge in the front? Those days are long gone. Just try to find a men’s bathing suit that doesn’t brush the knees. They’re also roomy enough to carry a number of magic tricks inside, flowers and flags and shit. Hell, maybe even a bunny or two. Many guys even put underwear under the suit, just to make sure there’s absolutely no hint of sexuality or human flesh when they get in the water. It’s not just men. Women’s bikinis are getting larger and thicker. Coming soon to a Macy’s near you- full body baggy clown swimsuits for the stylishly repressed swimmer.
When the subject of Speedos comes up the new response is universal: “Ewwww, who wants to see that?” Yeah, really. Who would want to see a good looking guy’s body? Who’d want to know that he might have a penis? Imagine the scorn and mocking a slightly obese guy in a Speedo would face showing up at the local pool or beach. Girls would giggle and point. Men would mutter ‘faggot’ under their breath. Mother’s would shield their children’s eyes. And why? Just because he dared to show a little human flesh to other humans. A child molester or terrorist would have an easier time. We sometimes forgive or at least try to understand them. But a fat person in a skimpy bathing suit? Bring out the stones.
Our fear of human flesh is both sick and ridiculous. We ban it from movies and television, unless of course it’s being hacked up by a chainsaw wielding maniac. We shun any stars who dare to show a little too much flesh or acknowledge that they might like having sex. We even legislate exactly how much flesh can be shown in specific situations. That’s right, actual laws with penalties for having human skin. What sad, repressed little creatures we can be.
Now here’s where the essay takes a unexpected turn. You’re probably expecting a rant about how sex is good and shouldn’t we just get over it by now. After all, every one of us has genitals. Of course that’s all true, but that’s not where I’m going. I’m going back to the pool and the Lord of the Flies.
I live in a place that has a neighborhood pool. There are a bunch of kids who use that pool. Most of the time there are moms accompanying them. You notice I said accompanying, not watching or supervising. These moms sit in the shade and literally never look up from their phones. EVER. The kids are screaming for attention. The kids are throwing all the chairs in the pool. They’re fighting and spitting on each other. The other day one little kid was literally tying the rescue line around his neck and jumping into the deep end. It’s Lord of the Flies, except the moms are literally 20 feet away. My wife and I could barely stop giggling in horror when one mom chastised her 10 year old daughter by saying “I don’t want to listen to you, I wanna play my game”.
It would be all too easy to condemn this particular group as bad parents but I think that’s too easy. The other night my wife and I watched a young couple on a date at a very nice restaurant. Neither one of them ever got off the phone. They ate with one hand. They barely talked. And they were the rule, not the exception. If you’ve read my earlier essays you know how much I hate people watching live concerts through their phone. The phone obsessed moms aren’t any worse, they’re just a more obvious example of our disconnected society.
Kids are messy. They’re fleshy little things that want constant close attention. Dating is messy. It’s full of insecurity, awkward fumbling and garlic breath at the worst possible time. Phones are safe. They’re sterile and rarely sweat. They’re so un-fleshy. So at exactly what point did we become too squeamish to deal with reality? When did being human get to be bad? When did we decide that we, ourselves, are gross? Because at that moment a lot of shit went wrong.
Life is not sterile. Life is sweaty and stinky. It bleeds and burps. It has rolls of flesh, unwanted hair and genitals. It eliminates waste in awkward ways. But it’s ABSOLUTLEY FUCKING GLORIOUS.
Be not afraid of your humanity. Put down the camera and play with your kid, even if it’s hard. Talk to your date and forgive their flatulence. Go hug a hefty person and lose yourself in the fabulous abundance of their humanity. Let’s get rid of all the laws that restrict or outlaw our wonderful, complicated, icky horrible bodies. Unpack the Speedos and spandex. Embrace those who carry a few extra pounds or are willing to put their flesh out there for all to see. Shame those who would scorn or judge our human skin. Because if we can’t even accept our own human skin we have no hope of finding Joy or God or anything else beyond a little sanitized box of electronics. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion my fleshy friends.