Butt Seriously

From The Book of J.Lo: We may be through with the ass but the ass isn't through with us

White girls with big asses, man. There goes another one, a J. Crew cardigan riding up atop a buttock so big, so out of place, it makes you wonder if Serena Williams woke up this morning wondering where her ass went. Temperatures are going up, taking hemlines with them, and the trendy white ass is hanging out there like a couple of upside-down Tasty-D scoops. They're taking over this city. They're everywhere I turn: in dressing rooms, in store windows, in that pond with the little boats—anywhere I can look down and see my own reflection. Yes, I'm one of them and it seems strange to admit something so plain, but until recently the subject has been almost completely taboo among the SPF 40 set. If I said even now (in front of a man or woman of any race for that matter) that I think I have a big butt, they encourage me to deny it. "You have a great ass," they say. Which, ahem, isn't the issue in question. And all that protesting, all that mutually exclusive commentary about how big versus how appealing, leads a 5-5 pallid girl to wonder: What is it, exactly, about the ass right now?

On the street, men tell us we've got a "phat ass" and most of us immediately jump to some bad comedy film scene where a blue-haired lady in a Talbot's suit whispers in our ear, "That's how 'they' say it, dear. It's a compliment.' " I hate this woman because (a) in my fantasy she usually smells like turnips and (b) she's a bigot. But she comes to me every time, and believe me this means every damn day. The basic difference between white women getting hit on or hollered at for their butts versus black women getting the same harassment is that these men, I think, are surprised by my ass. On the walk to work, on the subway platform, at a bar—they're surprised all over this town. And it is the surprise that validates their double take. I've seen how black women get looked at and for better or worse their whole body seems to register. Their hair, their breasts, their shoulders . . . a gaze may start at the ass, butt it moves right along. Thus I think the white girl's fascination with a flat ass comes not so much from the desire to have a flat ass (also known as a "flass"), but the desire to shift focus onto something else. With no form of below-the-ab-quator entertainment, eyes become bored, wander to more uni-racially appealing parts like breasts or shoulders or nice arches.

In a shocking turn of events, the major women's magazines are trying to encourage this "cover that thing up" mind-set despite every clothing storefront in the city showing off their half-naked mannequins. Since May, magazines have been loaded with rear-view, waist-down pictures of women, and they all say something like this: Big bottom? Avoid horizontal stripes or patterns that draw attention to your backside. Read: "You're a lard ass, honey. Lay off the 4 a.m. China Fun and go see a movie with that disjointed and meaningless makeup ad starring Julianne Moore and Halle Berry [because they really need the work] for similar messages." And you know what? In every damn photo on every glossy page is a little sliver of exposed pale skin. Of course, if that same skin were darker some intern from the suburbs would get more nasty letters than she could open in a single summer. Those same magazines claim that this fall, the miniskirt will die. It will slit its seams with back issues of Vogue or hurl itself on to the runway, but it will be very dead. Time to cover up. Bring out the pearls and the tweed 'cause Prada's got a brand new bag and it's burlap. But can a whole body part really go out of season? Can it be trendy? According to Ludacris it can. From Blow It Out: "Plus I'm the new phenomenon like white women with ass." White girls showing off their big booties is a novelty and, as such, a rapidly endangered concept. So be warned: If the magazines and lyrics have their way, this may be the last season of the ass.

And OK. On the one cheek, I'm fine with that. I have to admit to being a longtime horizontal stripe-ist. In spite of what I've seen this summer, I'm having a tough time letting go of a lifetime of black pants. I'm still sick of not being able to find a pair of jeans that doesn't either gap at the waist or make me look like a plumper. I'm sick of playing musical hangers with department store bikinis and of my reflection lasting a millisecond too long in a store window. What is that passage from The Book of J.Lo? We may be through with the ass but the ass isn't through with us. My ass has a spine of its own, seeming to move in one block, detached from the swooshing of my legs like it's following me around and if I run really fast I'll lose it.

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