Thursday, July 15, 2010

Every time a bell rings...

It’s no secret that I hit a bit of a rough patch in the last few years. It seems perfectly logical to me that we refer to difficult times as “rough” because it does feel a lot like someone is forcibly dragging you, barefoot, over sandpaper. It smarts at first, becomes excruciating quickly, and the longer it goes on the more it wears you down. And that’s why getting to say the following sentence feels like an amazing gift, a privilege in fact:

Life, my friends, is good.

I’m smiling again. Writing again. Wearing color again. I’m LIVING again—and it feels great. Just the other day I was telling a friend that it’s like I looked up one day and the little storm cloud that’s been following me around was gone. They smiled and said “It’s time for you try out your wings.” So that’s what I decided to do. Literally.

Last night I faced down a fear that has plagued me for the better part of 20 years. It was a step so bold that the decision to finally do it had taken on mystical significance in my mind. I have suffered for my resistance to cross that line and agonized over the possibility of finally taking the plunge.

Janeane Garafolo once said that there are two kinds of women in the world: those with shapely upper arms, and those with matronly upper arms…and never the twain shall meet. At my highest weight, I fell firmly in the matronly category, add in some weight loss (and gain, and loss) and an already touchy underarm situation went from bad to worse. Skin that was once stretched tight with fat has been slowly morphing into a wing like structure (affectionately termed “bat wings” by the fat-fighting community) that keeps on waving even when I stop. I’ve become a devotee of the ¾ length sleeve, and acquired an impressive collection of shrugs and sweaters and wraps and shawls to drape over anything that has less than adequate sleeve coverage. But yesterday afternoon, when the mercury topped out at 111 degrees in the shade, I threw caution to the wind, and....


Well, perhaps “threw caution to the wind” is an overstatement of my zeal. The decision was easy to make, but the execution required a little moral support. I called my sister in law for some cheerleading and minor commiseration (because she has lovely upper arms, no matter what she says) complete with a few texted photographs of the offending arm flappage. We decided that if I felt more comfortable keeping my upper arms at my side that I could totally get away with just moving them from the elbows down, kind of like T-Rex. I then quizzed my 15 year old son about whether or not my uncovered arms would be embarrassing to him, which earned me eye rolling and several variations of “of course not!” (note to self: raise his allowance). I took a few pictures to commemorate the event:

This one wasn’t so bad, really. I mean, I’m certainly larger than I’d like to eventually be, and my hair hadn’t been styled since 7:30 AM, but from a purely arm-focused perspective I don’t look deformed or anything. As long as I don’t start enthusiastically flapping my arms and pretending I’m an airplane, no one will have to see this:

I was understandably less thrilled with this photo. I told myself that I didn’t HAVE to post this one here, but it didn’t take long before I decided that I would. My arms are getting flappy for sure, but striking that exact pose is probably only going to happen if I’m held up at gunpoint or spontaneously break out into “the robot”, and the chance of either of those things occurring at a Wednesday night marching band show seemed somewhat unlikely. Plus, in the event that there was an emergency that required us to evacuate the area, I could spread my arms and coast off the bleachers to safety a la a flying squirrel! But at the end of the day, those are my upper arms. And they’re only going to get worse.

I have spent most of my life disliking my body. I have scrutinized its glaring imperfections in the mirror, and averted my eyes to that same reflection just as often. I have wished it was leaner, longer, less lumpy, or more attractive. I’ve liked how I look, only to have that feeling stolen by photographic evidence to the contrary. I’ve bemoaned the negative aesthetic consequences the positive changes my weight loss has earned me. And you know what? I’m tired of it. My ever increasing bat wings aren’t terribly attractive, but that same skin wasn’t exactly fetching when it was stuffed tighter with fat either. Pick your ugly, I say.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hating my body. I don’t want to have every good change I’ve made be mitigated by new insecurities. And I certainly don’t want to spend even one more scorching hot summer under long sleeves because I’m worried that my upper arms might offend the world at large.

And so it happened that at 6:15 PM, on July 14, 2010, I left the house with my arms on display for the world to see in all their naked glory. It was a little scary at first, but that fear was quickly replaced with a feeling of liberation. Turns out it WAS time for me to try my wings. I did it, you know what? I’m probably going to do it again. Soon.

And if anyone has a problem with that, they can kiss my big, fat, white ARMS!

So who else is ready to fly? If you’re up for the challenge then bare those arms, smile for the camera, and tell me ALL about it at


  1. Good for you Sarah. Just like middle school students, we adults need to remember that most everyone is so busy being concerned about how they look and what their "ugly" is that no one is really paying much attention to ours.

  2. Rock it, Sara! I can't wait to join you in your naked-armed-glory!

  3. Yay Sara! I too have the floppy arm syndrome. Even after losing weight and working out like an crazy woman, they still flap in the wind, like wings.

    One thing that's help me are shoulder exercises. By building up my deltoids and shoulders, my arms don't look so God-awful since the attention is mostly my shoulders.

    Also, Jergens self-tan lotion. Tanned flab is so much more appealing than white flab. Three days and your arms will be a nice golden brown (and it's pretty cheap too).

  4. P.S. - you are a very pretty woman. I don't think I've ever seen your face before. :)