Little Victories: tank top

It may not seem like that much of an accomplishment, especially coming from someone like me, who has done impressive things like understanding whole sentences written by Judith Butler and juggling tangerines for a full three seconds– but yesterday I went out in a tank top.

Yes. I, Kate Fridkis, wore a tank top, baring my arms for all the world to see.

I paired it with pants. And flip-flops. I put on some gold hoops, in case you were wondering. I was going to be brave.

In honor of this amazing weather (I will not make a weak joke about the end of the world here). In honor of being sexy with chubby arms.

(when the world feels like this, how can you not want to take some layers off? source)


I sometimes hold a hand along one of my arms, blocking half of my skin. There. That’s the right size. Imagine how good I’d look if it was that size.

I casually think my body is badly proportioned. It can’t choose thick or thin, so it incorporates everything—like a movie about dinosaurs and surfer babes and aliens. Pick one!

I think, “If I could just change my arms, that would make the biggest difference…” Like I’ve solved a mystery called “Which Part of Me Has the Greatest Negative Affect on My Appearance?”  Please gather in the parlor at 7 p.m. sharp. I will reveal the truth to you then. No, knees, you shouldn’t be concerned. There is a much simpler answer.

(what a tank top world! source)

I love the look of a plain tank top and jeans. I love sleeveless dresses. I love clothing that exposes the arms. But I have been trying to avoid it. It’s been a gradual process. At first, I wasn’t so careful about it, and then I saw a couple pictures, which had, it occurs to me in retrospect, obviously been altered by the devil. OHMYGOD, I thought. I AM HORRIFYING. I threw several layers over myself, so that the world wouldn’t know my shame (although I suspected that the world, like one of those bomb-sniffing dogs, wasn’t fooled by the packaging).

I started buying a lot of shirts to go over other shirts. I tried to be accepting. This is my reality now. There is no reason why a shirt over another shirt can’t be a wonderful alternative to just one shirt.

And that’s true. But maybe I want to just wear one shirt once in a while. And more importantly, maybe I’ve got nothing to hide.

(this is what NYC feels like to me right now. source)

My arms are thick. And don’t tell me “they’re not! You don’t even know what thick arms are!”

They are. I can tell.

But being thick is really not so bad. And when I put on that tank top yesterday and stood in front of the mirror, I thought I looked kind of badass. It was a different look from before, when my arms weren’t so generously proportioned. I look slightly more imposing now. More likely to know Krav Maga. Weirdly maybe, I look more confident. Like my body got confident for me, before my mind caught up. And now my mind is panting along behind it, like, “Wait! Hang on a sec! Where are we going?…No, I’m good. I’m totally good. I do this all the time—you can’t tell? I’m like, in great shape…it’s just these damn shoes…”

I took my confident arms out for a walk, in a tank top.

It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, I guess. But it was a little victory, maybe. Baby steps. We’ll get to the sundress soon enough. And eventually, eventually, something totally strapless.

(maybe I should just focus on the tank top?)

*  *  *

Which body part are you trying to let out of the closet? Or are they all free? Or, alternatively, how awesome do you feel in a tank top?

Unroast: Today I love the way my feet feel in flip flops. YAY!

Some other posts in the Little Victories series: Asking for a raise, shlumpy phase.

P.S. My brother just got into Yale for grad school (flute performance. How awesome is that?). Holy shit. I am so ridiculously proud of him. I know that doesn’t relate to anything here, but I’m just posting it everywhere I possibly can.


Kate on March 15th 2012 in body, weight

37 Responses to “Little Victories: tank top”

  1. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    nice tank top…can’t see your arms in the photo, but i don’t “see thick.” you should totally get a tattoo! i’d love to let my thighs out of the closet, and do on occasion…but as a courtesy to others, i wear longer dresses…seriously, i wasn’t supposed to be white but my legs tell the truth…I AM WHITE! don’t have any feelings for tank tops, but i do feel awesome in a cotton tie-dyed dress with no bra and no shoes!

  2. Kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    That’s why I can’t put my arms in the picture. Because then we can debate them. But honestly, it doesn’t matter if they’re chubby enough for other people to be offended by them– it just matters how I feel about them. Probably the same with your thighs. I love the idea of a cotton tie-dyed dress!!!

  3. Melanie responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I think that is an awesome small victory. I spent many years not wearing tank tops until I realized, “It’s not like wearing a t shirt is making people think I DON’T have huge arms.” So now I wear tanks. I even bought a strapless spring dress for the first time last year. Only it’s too big and I haven’t had it altered yet. I also bought a shrug to go with it, ’cause strapless is something I haven’t conquered yet. I’ve conquered sleeveless. Strapless is next.

    Also, I am in agreement about not picturing your arms. It doesn’t matter how WE see your arms, it only matters how you do.

  4. Kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    We’re on this journey together! One day soon we’re gonna rock strapless.

  5. Lisa F. responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    I have literally never worn a tank top outside the house, ever, because I also hate my arms. I love the idea of feeling the breeze on my arms, but I refuse to expose them! Part of me knows this is ridiculous, and yet, I would feel so naked. I’m happy for your little victory here, and I hope it inspires me toward my own this summer!

  6. Christina McPants responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    I remember that battle. Hell, I had that battle in pilates today when I saw how I looked in that tank top (so fat I should be sweating oil).But you do it anyway untilyou don’t care anymore. And then it’s awesome.

  7. Lina responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    I’ve been battling the same thing. It’s only recently that I’ve mustered up enough confidence to go sleeveless and strapless. I used to be rather embarrassed of my arms and how they are not toned or in my mind, ‘flabby’ is the word I use. But then I thought, oh screw how others might view my arms. Also mind you, I am surrounded by Asians whose definition of beauty really is how thin or fair you are (and oh how far I am from those definitions!). So now here I am, baring it all, and owning mostly sleeveless tops and dresses now. Sending you lots of encouragement, hugs, and gorgeous thoughts! xo

  8. Kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Yeah, flabby comes to my mind about my arms, too. Sigh. What a word.
    I don’t think it’s just Asians– a lot of people define beauty by thinness, at least outwardly. Not so much the “fair” thing, unless you start to think about racism…Now I’m thinking about racism against black people and Latinos…

  9. Audrey responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    I think you rocked your tank top. Tank tops are ok for me when I don’t think about the flabby part underneath my arms. My dream is be able to wear a bathing suit, even with board shorts and not worry about the back of my thighs, even normal shorts and not the ones that practically come down to my knees. A summer free of body obsession….

  10. kate responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    ugh…my underarms. Seriously love tank tops wear them constantly but I battle the underarm shadow.

  11. Courtney responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    My thighs, for sure. I feel like they’re huge. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “nah, they’re not so big”. But while I can debate their perceived size, I can’t debate away the small spider veins that are spreading around the backs of my thighs…or the stretch marks higher up. Gah.

    I would love to wear short shorts! As it stands, I rarely wear anything that’s more than an inch or two above my knees.

  12. Celynne responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    My ankle area/calves are definitely it for me. I spent nearly a year ONLY wearing maxi dresses, the big billowy kind. I couldn’t stand the sight of my thick, ankles and robust calves. I had hoped while losing weight that my calves would slim down (I do actually find boots I can zip up now though, now and again) but apparently I just have giant calf muscles. And super extra-sturdy ankles. I often feel like I’ve got man calves and I should be in some English Football team or something. But then I’ll be thankful my ankles are thick (and so don’t twist easily while in heels or while hiking rocky trails) and my calves are so muscular because I walk everywhere and my legs are my locomotive… so I’m starting to be okay with them, and even sometimes kinda show off those muscles, even though it still bothers me how BIG and IN YO FACE they seem for a woman’s calves.

  13. Shannon responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    I’m a thigh-hider. Mostly my upper thigh, right under my butt. It doesn’t matter how many squats I do, my fat has decided to make its home there. It makes bathing suits troublesome and short-shorts a big no. I used to be more bothered by it, until my entire department at work got a peek when I accidentally tucked my skirt into my underwear and walked into a meeting… across the room, in front of everyone. (Thankfully there are no men in my department.) Having all those people be privy to my least favourite part of my body was mortifying, but also kind of relieving. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly embarrassed, but guess what? Nothing horrible happened, no one has judged me inadequate.

    Anyway, that was my ramble.

    Thanks for sharing your story of courage. It may inspire me to be a little less harsh on my own body and respect the thigh!

  14. Sooz responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    OH MY GOD. This post was awesome. I am having this debate in my head all the time these days: “How am I gonna get through spring and summer when my thighs are thundery, my tummy is jiggly, and my arms are chubbily?” I’m always trying to camoflauge (sp?) things and it is just ridiculous. I am the shape that I am. Round and jiggly and squishy. I think they called it “fleshy” back in the day. I need to do what you did and be brave and throw on whatever I’m comfortable in and not worry about if I look good enough. Thanks for such an encouraging story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. joolz responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Loved this post and love what you write. You are very inspiring. :)

    My legs are still to come out of the closet. I started running but I think the effects will take place in 2030. And spring/ summer are coming and i’m afraid of skirts and never wear shorts. I do skirts when it’s cold so I can wear tights.
    But my legs, my tummy and I are having couples counseling and maybe this year they will get some sunshine.

    Anyway, one day I will be 80 and will ponder that I never did rock a miniskirt or shorts and that is sad. Or not if I just make my peace with it.
    Anyway, beauty is all around us not just on thin, tall or other commonly used adjectives to describe it.

    And to all of us : we rock! we are beautiful :)

  16. ashley responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Sooz…you’re right…we just need to do it..i say tomorrow (i dont know what the weather is like where you’re at..) we just wake up & throw on something cute & daring :]
    i’m a size 10 & i do have some chub on my tummy..but i have the nasty belly like..under the belly…& no i have not had babies :(
    i HATE it & it makes me sick & sad & incredibly insecure..i hate wearing short shirts & i feel like i always have to cover my hip area all the time..i’m trying really hard to get over it..especially since i’m getting married soon & i know that the only thing that could ruin my relationship is my insecurities & constant “omg look at that flab..omg joes going to wake up & see how fat i am” way of thinking…
    so lets just go for it..thanks Kate for all the motivation <3

  17. Jenna responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I’m similar about my arms. I like to keep them covered, but there are so many cute tops and dresses that are sleeveless and they just don’t look the same with a cardigan.

    I’m glad you were able to show off your arms! Maybe I’ll follow your footsteps, but not for months. It’s practically flooding in Portland right now. :(

  18. San D responded on 15 Mar 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Word of the day: wattle.
    That’s what I have, and that’s what I can’t cover up. LOL

  19. Val responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:35 am #

    I already told you the story about shaking rugs and then my arms keep going after the rug stops.

    Nobody wants that.

    And how my mother laughed?

    But even when I was young and very slender, I still was outraged by that fat on the top of the thighs and the little dab on the inside of the legs.

    FAT. No, not fat, just a normal, healthy, human female body. What’s the BMI of a woman 5’5″‘ and 118 pounds? Not much.

    Why be mean to ourselves over any of it? Who gives a rip anyway?

    What matters to me the most? Of anything quality in a person? Are you ready?

    It’s fairly abstract, can’t be quantified by a size or a tape measure or scale…


    That’s it. It’s simple and easy and fun, freeing.

    Comes in every size and shape and fits all. love, Val

  20. Elsa responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 5:58 am #

    I noticed at some point that when Tolstoy describes beautiful women he often mentions their round arms. I don’t like to bring the male gaze into the conversation, and goodness knows Tolstoy treated women deplorably. Yet somehow this man was able to write Anna Karenina. No idea how that happened.

    Anyway, here is his description of Helene in War and Peace: “The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and considered a reply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the story was being told she sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful round arm, altered in shape by its pressure on the table, now at her still more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted a diamond necklace.”

    I realize that what upsets you is proportion. And indeed, if I had a beautiful bosom I would be more comfortable with my round arms. But still, her arms alter in shape where they press the table! That’s something we tend to think of with dread, but here it is a detail specifically chosen to convey the image of a stunning woman.

  21. Jen responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 8:53 am #

    I used to feel the exact same way about my arms. They were too pale and pillowy. And then I got this really badass arm tattoo, and now I can’t wait for tank top weather every year. :)

  22. Deanna responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Kate: Arms are actually very easy to work with. I could give you some exercises that you could do at home that would help you develop some tone in your arms. People get so frustrated with arms, but I always tell them that it’s one of the easiest body parts to improve on. Let me know if you want some help.

  23. Kate responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    I totally understand that impulse to draw even more attention to the part that you’re self-conscious about. To change the dynamic. I’ve always kind of wanted to get a nose piercing for that reason.

  24. Kate responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    This is fantastic!!! Not that I need Tolstoy’s approval :-) But I can’t help but love the description. Thank you.

  25. Sooz responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    @Joolz @ashley Here’s an interesting thing. My grandma was fleshy and chubby and had loads of cellulite. BUT. She always wore a bathing suit and went to the beach and wore shorts and tanks and she didn’t give a rip. She had fun and cracked jokes and told people how things were and she really really LIVED. She never talked about what she (or anyone else) looked like and she never felt bad about her body. She DID things and LOVED her family. My grandma was a rock star and it had NOTHING to do with what she LOOKED like….I try to look at her life and legacy and draw inspiration to live my life and not worry about what I look like and I live in the moment (it ain’t easy but I try). I appreciate both your comments and your bravery in sharing your stories. :)

  26. Charise responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I am this way about my thighs. For many years, I wouldn’t wear shorts, even if it were 100 deg out. I would wear breezy dresses and capris, but no shorts. It made me too self conscious, to have my super pale, large and in charge thighs looking like sausages crammed into a pair of shorts. Last year, I finally said “this is RIDICULOUS”. And I found 2 pairs of cute shorts that fit me well – just roomy enough in the thigh and butt without being too big in the stomach, and not too long or too short. And I LOVE them. And WEAR them. What was I so worried about?

  27. Blair responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Tank tops are always cause for celebration! Because 1. it must be warm out to wear them, which is great and 2. I agree that they are inherently badass. I feel like the cool kind of person who knows how to fix motorcycles or speak Russian (which, weirdly, I *also* feel about hoop earrings. So they must go together?)

  28. oja responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I can’t shave above about mid thigh without getting a rash so I never wear shorts or skirts higher than just above my knee and I probably never will. I would gladly trade having a little cellulite there if it meant I’d be able to shave up there, people tend to be less grossed out by a little fat than by hair or red bumps.

  29. Lauren responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    I know exactly what you mean about ‘thick arms’. I’m a small girl, I don’t carry any extra weight, but my arms just don’t do long and lithe. I build muscle ridiculously easily, but in bulk rather than in petite strips, and in photos I feel like it just all looks tooooo much. But….

    I love having my skin out, getting some sun and feeling the breeze. So I, like you, have made an effort to do just that. Sundresses, let me tell you, are filled with awesome. I still don’t do much strapless yet, but I’m working on it (arms plus chest plus neck…it just seems like such a big expanse of skin!)

    I’ve found the more accepting of the way my body is, the better it looks. The straighter I stand, which pulls my shoulders back and instantly, looking not so rounded, my arms look great!

    Here’s to us thick armed girls, strutting our stuff on the streets and probably pulling out some krav maga when least expected!

  30. Sarah responded on 16 Mar 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    My back. I am trying to focus on things I like about myself. Some days it is harder than others, but lately I am into my back. I found beautiful backless shirts and bought two of them.

    Your arms look great. Seriously.

    ps I misss you! <3

  31. joolz responded on 17 Mar 2012 at 5:40 am #

    @Sooz Thank you for sharing your grandmas story, it’s very inspiring! :)

  32. Datura responded on 18 Mar 2012 at 10:53 am #

    For me it’s my unsexy! I wish I could feel less than self conscious about baring them. That thing where you pull the skin back and imagine them being that shape instead, yeah I do that too. Also I have ears that stick out pretty bad. Oh and the whole left side of my face is weird and asymmetrical.

    Kate, what do you think is your best physical feature? Or have you already blogged about that? I would say mine is..hands and neck. If we point out our flaws maybe we should also point out our strengths. :) Thanks for your posts!

  33. Abby responded on 19 Mar 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Just found a tank top that I actually really love…I don’t know. I don’t like looking at my arms, but if I don’t think about them, then I absolutely love the way I look in a tank top. Especially because I’ve only recently started wearing tighter shirts that actually show off my curves. The best thing about my new tank top? It’s pink and orange horizontal stripes. Might be considered a huge “fashion mistake” for larger people, but I actually discovered I love the way they look!

  34. Lo responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    I can’t wait for the day that I can say “yesterday I went out in a tank top.” I have some of life’s battle scars on my arms and I’m not quite ready to share them with the world. I do feel like the time to “let them out the closet” is closer than ever and I’m hoping the summer of 2012 will be my time. Thanks for this post!

  35. tirzahrene responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Kate, I love you.

    I needed a new swimsuit this year, and I was having a fat day. And I went to Target and bought myself a bikini ANYWAY, because I believe in people being comfortable in their skin, and I believe in being the change we want to see, and I want to be a person who wears the swimsuit she wants at the size she is. And I’m going to wear it, too. In public.

    Rock the tank top.

  36. minniewheats responded on 29 Jul 2012 at 3:08 am #

    I think I understand the whole tanktop thing. I have broad shoulders. When I was smaller, my brother would tease me about them sometimes. I used to push down on my own shoulders in hopes that it would shrink, haha (I was a kid, what did you expect?) I’ve pretty much never worn any tanktops or any shoulder/upper arm baring shirts until recently. I went out and bought some cute loose colored tanktops. I’m still trying to get used to the sight of myself without sleeves. I’m wearing a Hello Kitty themed tanktop right now, actually. Though initially i felt more like a football player than those cutesy girls in short shorts and tanktops.
    Theres a lot of other insecurities that I have about myself. Its a relief to know that I’m not the only one who’s hesitant in going sleeveless :) Thanks

  37. Eat the Damn Cake » my skinny friend and the women who judge her responded on 27 Aug 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    [...] shit. My arms are about twice the bulk of her arms, and I’m wearing a tank top, and she probably feels sorry for me for having my arms. I could never wear that shirt she’s [...]