The Art of Wearing a Crop Top
Reclaiming Over Twenty Years Lost to Diet Culture
I was nine when I went on my first diet.
That summer I became infatuated with the Spice Girls and all I wanted in the world were platform sneakers and a crop top. I begged my mother for both without much success.
Perhaps this would have been as good a time as any for my mother to have a conversation with me about the fetishization and hypersexualization of young female bodies. About why I should resist the media’s representations of beauty because they would, for the rest of my life, continue to dictate what I should buy and wear and do in order to achieve perfection (I’m looking at you, Instagram influencers). She could have said, honestly, that at 9 years old I was just too young for those kinds of clothes and that I had years ahead of me to wear whatever I wanted.
That was not the approach my mother went with.
“Chubby girls can’t wear crop tops,” she told me. “It doesn’t look nice. And you don’t want people to laugh at you, right?”
I know she meant well. I do. I know she said that out of a genuine desire to protect me from what she viewed as the meanness of people. I know that she didn’t fully grasp that attitudes like hers, passed down generation to generation, were precisely why “chubby girls can’t wear crop tops” without fear of being laughed at. This attitude is how each new batch of preteen girls learns from their mothers or aunts or friends that they have something to be ashamed of simply for having bodies, particularly bodies that don’t quite fit into a standard of beauty we’re sold from the moment our eyes first alight upon princesses and pop stars. It is how the bullies my mother so feared first learned how to deflect attention away from their own insecurities and onto the weaknesses they perceived in others and, often, in me.
Being a chubby girl could not be an option.
My mother, who was usually so good at reassuring me of my beauty and worth and never mentioning a word about my weight, told me what would become a deeply held belief for the next twenty years: chubby girls can’t wear crop tops.