On Sunday I put my new “bare arms” challenge to the ultimate test: I wore a sleeveless dress to church. I am not sure why this seemed like a bigger deal to me than going to a baseball game, but perhaps it’s the fact that I sing in the choir, and the choir sits in the choir loft for the duration of the service, which means I’m in full view of everyone in the congregation. Of course, I didn’t for one minute think everyone in the congregation was going to be staring at me during the whole service, but in general I feel very exposed when in the choir loft, so that feeling of exposure was elevated even more with the wearing of a sleeveless dress. (Writing out this whole paragraph has made me aware that I am ridiculous.)
Furthermore, the fact that not only was I baring my arms but was doing so in a dress complicated the situation. I am pretty much a pants girl; aside from weddings, I do not generally wear dresses or skirts. I feel that dresses accentuate my body more than other articles of clothing, and naturally I’d rather my body go completely unnoticed, so dresses aren’t my first clothing of choice. Before losing weight, the baggier and less form-fitting a piece of clothing was, the better. I was paranoid of having layers of fat show in my clothes, so this paranoia manifested itself in the wearing of clothes that often floated away from my body, sometimes not even touching my skin. And I liked it that way. I can’t say this aversion to form-fitting clothing has changed much even though I’ve lost 70 pounds. I have tried on many tops that other people would consider to be perfectly fine, but I won’t buy them because I can see the shape of my body. Clearly, I have issues.
Truthfully, the dress I chose to wear I probably would not have even bought had my husband not been in the store with me and told me how much he liked it and how good it looked. The lack of sleeves was the first strike against it, and then the fact that you could actually see a slight silhouette of my body was the second. The kicker was the fact that it just barely brushed my knees, and I am used to wearing dresses or skirts that go much longer than that. I just knew that if I bent over in the slightest, I’d be flashing all of America. However, I decided to be brave, listen to my husband, and buy the dress (it was on sale for a great price–bonus!).
I ended up bringing a light black, three-quarter length sweater to church with me because it is often cold, and I also figured that the sweater would make me feel better about the dress because at least my arms would be bare. But as I was sitting in the choir room before we were to enter the sanctuary, I was waging war in my head. The dialogue went something like this:
Practical Erin: “It’s going to be hot in the sanctuary, Erin. Just take off the sweater.”
Fearful Erin: “NO! Everyone will see my flabby arms holding the choir book. I can’t do it.”
Practical Erin: “Your arms are the last thing anyone should be concerned about in church. It’s about JESUS, remember? Shouldn’t you be thinking about HIM?”
Fearful Erin: “Well, it will be easier for me to think about Him if I were wearing my sweater…”
Practical Erin: “Now you’re just making excuses. Leave the sweater and get your mind in the right place!”
So I did. And you know what? I didn’t get any disgusted glances from people and no one said anything to me about my arms. No one cared! So why do I constantly make this an issue? For someone who is supposedly insecure, I sure am vain.