[This is a journal. Or something.]

I was at the beach recently, a clothing optional one. It isn’t my first time — and heaven knows I have no issues with being naked around strangers, and have frequently been nude around two of my friends who had invited me this time— but the crowds I’ve gone with before have usually varied in size and shape. Their bodies weren’t necessarily exactly like my own, but they existed in a space that was relatively free to judgement. As I joke frequently with my friends, I’m “body neutral”, which means I can go from loving my body to hating my body faster than a rollercoaster shoots you through a corkscrew.

Walking down the beach, there’s a sea of bodies. It’s a lovely showcase of differences. But then you’re stuck in a microcosm of gay life. The sea parts and you realize that the people you’re with, many of which you don’t know very well but seem relatively friendly, are all working with the same-ish bodies. They’re all different, of course, but different in a way that’s still appealing. They’re toned. They’re lithe. They’re fit. They’re healthy. They’re every word in the book that isn’t fat, so when you’re around, it’s all they can see.

It’s not something that’s every spoken aloud though. It’s a feeling that persists and digs at the sole fat person in a room. It’s the realization that your towel is further off than everyone else’s, and you’re laying there reading while others go off and jump in the water together, bodies happily rubbing against each other. It’s noticing that the only time people’s eyes are on your body are in quick, judgmental glances, because no one wants to see you try to shake off some sand.

The day shifts. You get dressed. You play games. You have conversations. You enjoy yourself. You’re in a room full of queer folks. You’re at home.

But then the clothes come off again, for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just comfortable to play strip games with your friends and be comfortable. Hell, I’ve played the Battlestar Galactica board game with a group of people (and won, as a Cylon, naturally) while wearing absolutely nothing. Sometimes there’s something more erotic to it.

When it’s the latter situation, depending on the group of individuals, you sort of split off into groups. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all experience; you’re all more than willing to enjoy each other’s bodies, whatever that entails. Sometimes, it happens in pairs. You notice everyone in the room splits off until you’re sitting on an ottoman, alone, naked, and wondering why the fuck didn’t you leave when you had the chance. Nobody in this room is interested in the body that’s sitting there. Not when they’ve got bodies that look like what they have, or what they fantasize about, or what they’ve always been fucking.

Everyone looks at you when it’s your turn in the game, or when you’re saying something, but it’s not the same way they look at each other. Their limbs are intertwined, their bodies are pressed up against each other, their gazes lock. And you just watch. Because that’s what you’re destined to do in the situation. Until it’s over at least. And, at that point, you realize that no one is trying to wrap their arms around you to say goodbye while still naked. No one really cares about feeling your body against theirs. No one makes a point to say that you shouldn’t put on your clothes so quickly, even though you just heard someone say it to someone else.

This is, ultimately, an exhausting experience to navigate. Mostly how it creeps into your mind and lingers for the rest of the weekend. The good of it all is overshadowed by the way you felt when you realized you were alone. And how that loneliness is inevitably going to seep into every romantic interaction you have for the next day, week, month, who knows.

It’s entirely possible that the feeling is exacerbated by the fact that, lately, I’ve felt more and more like no one wants to look at my body. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t felt like I’ve gotten a sincere compliment by anyone sexually attracted to me in a while. Maybe it’s the fact that my last partner left me for someone who looked like him and didn’t touch me sexually for years. Maybe it’s the fact that, despite dating and having hook-ups, it always feels like the people I’m interested in will always be more interested in people who don’t look like me. Maybe it’s just deep insecurity that stems from having an eating disorder that I still barely like to grapple with.

Who knows. I’m just tired of being alone. And I wish it didn’t always feel like it was my body’s fault. I want there to be more days where I feel good about it than bad about it, but neutrality goes both ways I guess.

Neurotic queer Latinx. Programmer for Flaming Classics. Florida Film Critics Circle. Writer for Miami New Times, Dim the House Lights, and more.