The Bold And The Hulk-Armed, In Which Schmutzie, Our Intrepid Heroine, Foils An Evil Plot

For most of my adult life, I have been unnecessarily preoccupied with the girth of my upper arms. While other people are concerned about whether the pants they are trying on make their butt look big, I'm the person hogging the dressing room's three-way mirror so that I can fully examine the arm to sleeve ratio of a new top.

my bicep
my bicep, shot with the CameraBag iPhone app using the Helga setting and then run through the Lo-Mob app using the News Emulsion filter

I never went through that stretched out, skinny, string bean phase that a lot of girls go through before they fill out at puberty. I remained disappointingly proportional in every way, except for, I was certain, the gargantuan state of my upper arms.

You know how a lot of eleven-year-old girl arms look. They are thin and long and look like they can barely support their own weight. They're ridiculous. And I wanted arms like that in the worst way. I fervently wished that the sleeves on my t-shirts would hang away from my arms like theirs did instead of pulling snug against my skin. I was sure that my arms looked like encased sausages.

It only got worse, of course, because when everyone else matured and fleshed out, so did I, and so did my arms. Certain that my meaty appendages probably made up at least half my body weight, I tried weighing them on the bathroom scale at home. I stretched out on the bathroom floor with my arm laid across the scale and held up a pocket mirror with my other arm so that I could look at the numbers without applying extra pressure. It was important that the measurement be as accurate as possible.

Whatever the number was that popped up on the dial, it must have confirmed my worst fears, because, from that day forward, I tried faking having skinnier arms. I pulled at my shirt sleeves after they were washed so that they gripped my upper arms less forcefully. I adopted the habit of standing with my arms slightly akimbo in an effort to keep them from mashing out even wider against my sides. I did push-ups every day to keep my burgeoning flesh under some kind of control.

Nothing worked, of course. My arms remained what my arms were genetically programmed to be, and I cursed my strong, Mennonite ancestors for their legacy. I was sure that my arms would be the things that kept me from being beautiful when I grew up. Dark shirts with long sleeves became my camouflage.

Since the early days of my pathology, my arms have caused a handful embarrassing moments, like that time when I was on a date and I reached across the table only to have my bicep tear the seam on my sleeve or that time I tried on one of those tissue-weight summer tops and my arms broke through the fabric like I was a paler, pinker version of The Hulk. HULK NO LIKE SHIRT! HULK SMASH!

Despite my childhood fear that my specific form of gigantism would keep me from beauty and love and success of any kind, I have managed just fine. I make it through the day-to-day bravely flaunting my ginormous upper limbs in short sleeves. (I've found that it relieves some of the excess weight to keep them free of extra material.) I let them out in the sun without worrying about blinding an unsuspecting bystander with their acres of whiteness. I have even taken to moisturizing them in order to maintain what aesthetic qualities they do possess.

Yesterday, though, my upper arms made me want to cry. Not since elementary school have they so tried to undermine my self-esteem.

I was in a dressing room trying on a top. It is not uncommon for the sleeves of a fitted top to be snug on my upper arms, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. Hope springs eternal. I put my arms through the sleeves and was just pulling it over my head when I started to panic. I had not even pulled the shirt on all the way and I was already stuck. I looked in the mirror and stopped breathing as I took in the horror displayed before me.

MY ARMS WERE BEING PINCHED INTO LINKS NOT UNLIKE SAUSAGES HANGING IN BUTCHER SHOP'S WINDOW.

I stood there with my arms bound over my head, suddenly fully aware that the only thing standing between me and absolute public embarrassment was a thin curtain. I took a few deep breaths and scanned my brain for a plan.

I remembered how hand models hold their hands over their heads before a shoot to minimize the appearance of veins. I suspected that the same principle might help to drain extra blood from my arms and, therefore, decrease their size.

"You can do this," I said to myself.

And, there I waited, half naked in a tiny dressing room, arms in the air, weeping. I was ten minutes away from being late for work because I was tied up in a top meant for women with skinny arms. That was just too stupid. Even my childhood self would not have forecast this scenario.

Suddenly, there was a knocking against the outside wall. Oh god.

"How are you doing in there?" a salesperson said.

"Oh, fine. And you?"

"Um, I'm good," she singsonged with an edge of concern. "Can I help you with anything?"

"Yeah. No. I'm fine!"

"Let me know if I can get you another size."

"Will do," I said.

I wondered if she could see my arms extended over the top of the dressing room wall and realized that, if she could, they had been suspended there for more than a few minutes. I was a freak. I crouched down so that my great, white arms would stop broadcasting my freakness.

After about five minutes or so, my plan showed signs of success, and I managed to pull the shirt from my offending limbs without having to cut it off. I examined the deep grooves the sleeves had left in my flesh.

"You, my friends, are getting lipo," I said to my arms.

I swear that my arms sulked in response.

I put my shirt for the giant-armed back on and managed to make it to work with four minutes to spare, thwarting my limbs' dastardly plot to destroy my shoe-selling career.

Schmutzie - 1, Schmutzie's ham hocks biceps - 0.

Will Schmutzie's upper arms succeed in their plot to destroy her success? Will they be able foil her plans to find summer clothing? Stay tuned for the next episode of The Bold and the Hulk-Armed.
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