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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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What's the skinny on wearing shorts?
What's the skinny on wearing shorts?

Do you wear shorts?

It is presumably is summer, although the prevalence of precipitation appears to be questioning whether the climate really wants to commit to the season. But, with temps in the 80s and humidity hanging like a wet comforter in the air, a fashion topic has reared repeatedly in my conversations with friends.

The issue seems to be whether the female homo sapien will wear a certain article of clothing in summertime – and specifically, in public. This garment is seemingly so innocent, yet extremely controversial. It’s maybe even more contentious than the "Itsy" due to its mainstream prevalence and longtime presence in the modern-day wardrobe.

Shorts.

When I say "shorts" I mean "above the knee" lower half-covering garments. Going into Abercrombie / Daisy Duke shorts territory would never be a reality for me, so I am truly referring to a conservative, nice pair of summer shorts that reveal an inoffensive stretch of leg. No booty cleavage top or bottom revealed. 

Shorts elicit opinions from those who may not have a strong viewpoint on anything else. Try even saying the word, "shorts" without the corners of your lips curling downwards and nostrils flaring. 

Will the weather get hot enough for you to wear shorts?

This is one of those questions that have a very black or white answer. The reply is usually either "yes" or "no." And the "No"s have a sea of reasons they won’t be showing off their legs, mostly fueled by the terror of self-image gripes. 

I am ashamed to admit that I am one of those women. I can’t. I won’t. And 9.9 times out of 10 – I don’t. The moment I slip into a pair of abbreviated pants, the self-critic starts yapping.

I will wear activity appropriate short-shorts to a hot yoga class, cutoffs at the beach or around the house, but not in public while say, shopping, being social or working.  My self-consciousness about my perceived flaws prohibits me from what may be more comfortable than a long dress, skirt, leggings or jeans in 100 degree, humid weather. (My explanation is that when my thighs are exposed in hot weather, I detest sitting on chairs or car seat leather due to the moisture factor. This goes double for the skin-on-skin action I get because my legs are not sticks. They touch. And in hot weather this can just be uncomfortable. So, in truth there is a practicality / physical comfort factor as well.)

I am not alone in my self-inflicted nix on the wearing of shorts. 

I have had the "shorts" tête-à-tête (or forgive me, jambe- à -jambe) with several friends and acquaintances over the last month as the temperatures have gone into sauna territory. We’ve come up with explanations that span from pre-biblical times attitude conditioning to present-day body consciousness.

So, where does this embarrassment about our stems stem from? Besides the fact that as women, we seem to have an inbred instinct to compare ourselves to one and other, I’ve expressed before - that Photoshop is a major culprit here. This is why I tend to avoid it when I edit my photos. The use of it provides an illusion that is not always interpreted as that – a deception, a bending of truth. The commonplace practice of airbrushing and editing photos of female bare legs into perfectly smooth, lengthened appendages has led to an unrealistic expectation of what we are "supposed" to look like. That "supposed to" has transposed a magic trick of digital editing into a belief of perceived reality.

Women (and men, certainly) are plagued with a bevy of cosmetic issues that present themselves on the lower half – cellulite, varicose veins, stretch marks and pale skin to name a few. I am not impervious to any of these plights, no matter the exercise, diet, lotions, massages or prayers that are enacted. Genetics always wins on this one and seems to be another primary reason legs stay covered in the swelter of summer.

However, there is also an entire lot of women immune to the aversion to shorts, who comfortably and proudly rock them as long as the season permits and beyond. I have always admired these ladies, their body confidence and willingness to uncover. What makes them different from me? They are not all esthetically perfect and yet they do not live in fear of exposure. 

Just yesterday, I witnessed a woman get out of her car at the valet on a very swanky street to enter a restaurant. She was very beautiful and obviously spent time getting ready and focusing on her appearance. She was wearing an adorable printed romper that because of her body shape, revealed not only her entire leg, but also the under side crease and bottom quarter of her buttocks. She was in no way a perfect picture from a magazine. There it was, all on display: the shake, jiggle and wiggle of womanly curves. Although to some, the outfit may have been a bit vulgar, she seemed entirely confident and looked very cool despite the sweltering temperature. 

My inner critic started her chatter as I gazed at the display of flesh in all its natural glory. I simultaneously was in admiration of this lady for proudly wearing such a cute and revealing outfit, while at the same time bewildered by what the difference between us was.

Why was she OK revealing her body and all its imperfections in plain sight, while I struggle daily to veil and camouflage mine? She instantly became a superhero of self-acceptance to me.

Who am I hiding not being perfect from? Aren’t our flaws, both external and internal what make us, us? If I could only figure out how to silence that inner critic for good, maybe I could wear short shorts, too.

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