I鈥檇 be lying if I said that I hated summer, because I really don鈥檛. There was a time, in fact, when I longed for those few months of soaking in the sun on the Jersey Shore. Fishing, exploring, walking the boardwalk: It was, plainly and simply, fun.

But as I grew older, and as my body grew wider, it felt as though every drop of fun was being squeezed out of the season. Summer went from a time of pleasure to a minefield of triggers.

Triggers are different for everyone. For me, being in a situation where my body is exposed is emotionally and mentally harming. I鈥檓 unable to feel any sort of enjoyment in these situations as I鈥檓 constantly concerned, anxious, and terrified of what my mind deems to be the worst possible situation: showing my skin.

I鈥檝e struggled with my weight practically since birth. Not because I have a health condition that caused me to do so, but because I grew up in a typical Italian household and loved, loved, loved food. Pre-puberty, the extra fat didn鈥檛 hold me back. I was never afraid of doing anything I desired, whether that be swimming (with my shirt off) or lounging by the pool like Sharpay Evans in High School Musical 2 (sans lifeguards imported from Spain, unfortunately).

But when puberty hit, it brought along a new sense of body image that worked like a distorted mirror, showing my body plumped up with love handles and stretch marks galore. I not only became ashamed of my body, but terrified of the possibility that someone else could see it. Instead of changing for gym class in the open locker room, I hid myself and my insecurities in the locked bathroom stall, waiting for everyone to leave before stripping off my clothes to reveal the scars that were quickly attacking my mind.

Thankfully, as I鈥檝e gotten more into fashion, fall, winter, and spring are times when I can easily cover up any blemish. From extra layers to my trusty waist trainer, these three seasons are safe. Summer, on the other hand, is when it all comes crashing down.

Because in summer, there鈥檚 no layering, no waist-training, and no hiding. There鈥檚 only a thin wall of fabric and each one of my insecurities out for all to see.

Many don鈥檛 realize, or don鈥檛 try to understand, how detrimental summer can be for plus-size people like me. Afraid to show my skin, I鈥檓 unable to do so many things I wish I could. Beach excursions turn into hours of sitting under an umbrella, fully clothed, longing to be as proud and confident as those around me with the tightest and tannest bodies I鈥檝e ever seen. Pool parties become a tease as I only feel comfortable submerging my feet and, on a good day, all the way up to my thighs. My self-esteem becomes almost nonexistent as I鈥檓 surrounded by the types of bodies I鈥檝e always wanted.

I wish this could be a love letter to my body, an essay on how I overcame my fears and fought my insecurities. But unfortunately, it鈥檚 not. Summer, for me, is incredibly triggering. Each step outside during these months of heat and horror is a step toward a possible harming situation. My mind is constantly running, worrying about whether or not people are judging me and my extra pounds. Though I鈥檓 well aware that those close to me have no problem with my size, my struggle is internal 鈥 and, therefore, a whole lot harder to resolve. The problem isn鈥檛 magically fixed by telling myself to 鈥渁ccept my fatness.鈥

The challenging part is that I know my size doesn鈥檛 matter. So many people have stretch marks and, nowadays, with the body positivity movement at full force, it鈥檚 celebrated to show your 鈥渢iger stripes.鈥 Unfortunately, my mind and my heart haven鈥檛 synced on that front quite yet.

But I鈥檓 getting there. This summer, my swimsuits have gotten shorter and my layers have gotten lighter. Am I ready to burst onto the beach, body out for all to see, 100 percent proud of the vessel I鈥檝e been given? No. Will I get there soon? I sure hope so.

With each day that I push myself toward accepting my weight, my self-esteem and my happiness grow. It may take years before I鈥檓 fully confident in my own skin, but if I can get through people trying to convince me to remove my shirt at the beach (and yes, this happens way too often), then I can get through a few more summers of walking carefully through the minefield that is my mind.


Gianluca Russo is a New York-based freelance writer whose words have been published in Playbill, Paste Magazine, BroadwayWorld, the Albany Times Union, and more. Visit GianlucaRusso.webs.com for more of his work and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @G_Russo1.