Dating and Relationship Advice

It happens every year. As temperatures rise and the cicadas start to sing, I tuck away all my sweaters and long sleeve dresses and pull out my cutoffs and strapless bras. The checkout lines at grocery and drugs stores fill with magazines promising to show us just how to get a summer stomach, or give us the inside scoop on products that will melt away cellulite. Even amidst the contemporary movement of body positivity, I only find it easy to accept soft tummies and chunky thighs when I see them on someone else’s body.

When I find myself wondering why my summer clothes that prioritize cuteness over comfort seem dustier, I remember how little use they got last summer. In the peak of Covid, comfort was king. My slinky sundresses and stringy bikinis each got one wear at most last summer, while my baggy linen pants and one pieces stretched and curved to the lines of my body.

Not only did lockdown give me permission to buy more sweatpants and lounge shorts, but it saved me from any pressure to hit the gym. Though friends and I coordinated our home yoga schedules, my squats and sit-ups were few and far between. But it hardly mattered in the absence of pool parties and big beach trips. I still didn’t love the fleshy parts of my body I found in the mirror, and I felt guilty about not forcing myself to do home workouts. But during the pandemic it felt easier to brush off my concerns. I said, “I’ll workout when I’m vaccinated,” and that day seemed so far off.

And now I am. After receiving my second Moderna shot last week, I knew I’d have to own up to the promises I’d been making myself for so long. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve moved thrice. Gyms in my new city are more expensive and I’m as resistant as ever to the home workout. The tight shorts that I stuffed away last summer seem to be laughing at me this year, as if to say, “I told you so.” On the days of last year that I dared try them on only to discover that they became stubborn around the hips, I could shrug it off with the understanding that one day post-pandemic, I would slip into them comfortably and look better than ever.

Though it may be worth it to join a gym sometime soon, I will do so with my mental well-being in mind, not my waistline. But the truth is, those shorts don’t deserve me. No amount of squeezing and turns in front of the mirror are worth whatever boost they give my appearance. Much like the jeans that shrunk after I started antidepressants, or the aspirational bread pan I bought for the sourdough I never started, those shorts would do better with a new owner. Let those shorts be a symbol of who I was pre-2020: a person trying to shrink herself to fit into the unrealistic standards impressed upon her. She should be shed; my tummy can stay.

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