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I don’t want to shrug

Bingo wings, tuckshop lady, truck drivers.

Fat arms.

I can remember the first time I was made aware that apparently fat chicks should cover up their arms. It was in the last year of primary school and the women who worked at the tuckshop had the unfortunate aforementioned nicknames, usually with ‘arms’ added on to the sentence. There was this fear that us girls (not guys, never guys) would eventually end up with those arms. The excess flesh.

Those of us who already had them were doomed, of course.

And that’s where clothing shops and marketing comes in. Plus sized shops make a freaking killing selling this image to women – gonna buy a sleeveless dress? Oh dear, all we have are sleeveless dresses at the moment! Better buy that shrug to go over it! Because, you gotta cover those arms. And sales assistants are always taught to try and make more than one sale. As if some scrap of fabric that can cost as much as the dress you’re purchasing will ‘hide’ the fact your arms are fat.

Who cares?

Well, those of us who have been taught they have something to be ashamed of. Those of us who have been called ‘gorilla arms’ (that was for my hairy body as well, go Eastern European genes!), bingo wings, flabby, waddle, you name it, I’m sure someone has been called it. And it sticks around. It makes you self-conscious. It makes you wear jumpers in 30C heat and insist you’re not dying of sweat. It makes you add a shrug, a cardigan, for ‘just in case’ in your bag. It makes you wear a long-sleeve t-shirt to the beach when the rest of your friends are wearing togs.

I can’t really remember the first time I got rid of that fear of my flabby arms. I’m relatively certain finally getting sick of sweating buckets in summer was the first step and fat acceptance years later was the final step. I saw so many women who were so confident in themselves, proudly showing their bodies, including their arms. My mother has always been one of these women and I wish that influence came sooner than it did. I look back on my late primary school and early high school days and cringe.

A fair few women I know have gotten tattoos on their upper arms. They’ve embraced their bodies and want to give a little ‘Get fucked’ to the society that tells them to cover up their fat and certainly never draw attention to it. I admire them. I’m even debating the idea of getting an upper arm tattoo myself.

Now, the only times I will wear a cardigan, shrug, or bolero are when I’m actually cold, or if I happen to somehow attend a church service or conservative wedding — any other time and it’s bingo wings a-waddlin’. And screw anyone who has a problem with it.

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