Confident in my 50th percentile-ness

It always takes me the first few days of a beach vacation just to get comfortable in the attire, or lack thereof.

The wardrobe of the cold wintry north is much more forgiving when it comes to those of us with body image issues. Bulky layers make everyone look a bit bigger and rounder. But around the pool during vacation, it all comes down to the trunks.

When I first arrive at the pool for my winter vacation, I am very self-conscious of my body, all soft and pasty from too much time sitting in front of computers indoors. But body consciousness is not limited to mine only – I’m checking out everyone else’s too, as we all get comfortable without most of our clothes.

Now, I’m a bit heavier these days than I’ve ever been, so I’m not feeling all that buff. On top of that, I have this little bump on my tummy, just above my belly button – some kind of hernia that just won’t go away. So not only do I have to suck it in, but I have to push it in too. I know, too much information.

Then, of course, there’s the question of body hair and what to do with it? It seems that hair is out these days, certainly in the metrosexual circles. I guess it’s ultimately a matter of opinion and taste, but to the person who matters most in my life (certainly when it comes to matters of body hair), there is a strong preference is for the groomed look. The less hair the better. I can’t quite get comfortable with the completely hairless me, but I’m getting close. Truth is, I kinda like it. But, that’s quite a different article.

Back to body image and pool attire. What I’ve found sitting around the pool and walking on the beach for a few days is that people come in all shapes and sizes. (No shit, Sherlock.) Yet this comes as quite a revelation. Any self-consciousness I experience standing in front of the mirror is always in relation to a body image ideal that, relatively speaking, just isn’t that common. I mean, there are guys out there with sculpted hard bodies and nice tans, but they are the minority. The majority of guys are overweight, the worst with bellies that look like they are carrying their offspring and large man boobs to go with it. And then there’s the pasty white skin and the guys with hair everywhere. And I mean e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. As far as I can tell, when it comes to the average body, I land somewhere in the middle, decidedly 50th percentile. Maybe even slightly better than average if I suck it (and push it) in.

This revelation is rather freeing. I don’t feel quite as self-conscious walking around with my shirt off and my extra 25 pounds hanging over my bathing suit waistline and my hernia poking through my abdominal wall. And as the tan starts to set in, I feel almost confident in my 50th percentile-ness. Fat, I observe, in people and in food, is much more appealing when it’s rendered to golden brown.

So, I’m settling into the vacation very well, thank you very much. Just in time to head back to the frozen arctic in a few more days.



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