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What’s up, bitches? That’s what you guys call each other, right? Hey there, sluts! Where my ladies aaaaaaaat? Anyway, females, let’s get some real talk up in here. Over the holidays, I was victim to a cavalcade of photos: you with your dog, you with your new scarf, you drinking wine with your high school besties, masquerading as though you all kept up the pretense that any shred of friendship you once shared still existed beneath that avalanche of experience, resentment, and one-upmanship (one-up-womanship?). But, I barely masturbated to any of these pictures. You know why? I can’t get past “The Skinny Arm.”
Allow me a tangent, if you will. There was an article in Wired Magazine last month about the problem of data. Long story short, numbers, algorithms and systems are the most effective way of predicting or analyzing anything – that is, until the thing being predicted or analyzed is aware of the system. Confused? Let me break it down. Imagine you run a police precinct and you find that your best officers also tend to make the most arrests. So, you start incentivizing your police force based on number of arrests. Good idea, right? Well, until the officers become aware of what they’re incentivized on. Then, instead of good police work leading to arrests that stick, they just start arresting anyone suspicious, regardless of likelihood of prosecution. So, arrests go up, but quality of police work doesn’t, and the system is actually worse off than it was before. Or, how about the fact that you went through a full semester of a class in college and can’t remember a single thing you learned? That’s because whoever taught that class stuck closely to a system they thought worked: testing. In reality, you studied to pass a test, not to actually learn a concept. System built, system hacked, system failed.
What I’m getting at here is that there was a patient zero: the first girl to ever notice that fat people tend to look fattest at the area around the armpit, where their arm splays into a miasma of stretch marks and cellulite as it rests, as if the skin itself were exhausted, against the body. Eureka! this person thought, All I need to do is make my arm skinny, and the rest of me will appear skinny as well. Brilliant, but how? Then, later, as a friend clicked back the wheel of her disposable camera, she triumphantly threw her hand on the hip of her clamdiggers, effectively erasing fifteen pounds in a single motion. She looked fucking great (for her) and hundreds of suitors were fooled. It was a watershed moment. In tunnels and speakeasies and caves, women passed the secret through hushed whisper and coded movements until it spread across the nation like a locust swarm of “fierce.” Thus, The Skinny Arm was born.
Except that now the secret is out. We’re hip to the scam. Facebook has disseminated The Skinny Arm past the point of ridiculous. We look at photos and see you doing The Skinny Arm and we’re disgusted by the fact that we’re being unapologetically scammed straight to our faces. We’re sort of saddened that you’re so desperate to appear thinner. You’re all like amateur magicians pulling the same silver dollar from our ear that we just saw you grab from your pocket. At that point, why not just wear Spanx on the outside? Why not openly stuff tissues into your bra in the middle of a date? As a matter of fact, when I see The Skinny Arm, all I can think is that perhaps the subject is hiding an abnormal amount of arm fat for their body. In all seriousness, The Skinny Arm now has a reverse effect on me. When I see one, I’ll think, What does that ogre freak arm look like when resting against her body? Probably like a slow lava flow. We all begin to over-correct for the illusion and everyone is worse off than they were before. System built, system hacked, system failed.
You all had a good run. It was a glorious decade or two. But now it’s time to stop. It’s distracting. Just put your damn arm down and let’s see what you’re working with. Maybe it’s a disaster, maybe it’s not, but THAT confidence, THAT self-possession would be sexier than any illusion of skinny. And maybe, just maybe, before the flashbulb bursts, remember the immortal words of Beyonce to carry you though: “I woke up like dis. I’m flawless.” Yes. Yes, you are. As long as you’re still popping those knees, ladies. I don’t want your legs to look fat. That would be disgusting.