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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 barthey'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.
I've tried that once, incidentally. There was one week a few months ago when threecount themthree, free one-week memberships to gyms fell into my lap/mailbox: New York Sports Club, Reebok Sports Club, and the David Barton Gym. I thought, OK, God wants me to burn some carbs. But it was more than that. This ass, I thought. This ass should not be attached to white chicken legs. This ass is on a foreign-exchange program. This ass is lost. Time to send it home. So I piggybacked my free memberships and worked out every day for nearly a month. I stretched and ran and learned the many aspects of treadmill etiquette. Apparently, it's a sort of female version of the public urinal. Eyes front! No smiling! And no, I don't think I would take the same measures if I were black because the majority of black asses I've seen in my life look like they belong where they arethey're sexy and they fit. Their overarching bootyliciousness is a side-effect of plain old genetics. Yeah, well, I'm white as the day is long, so what about me? Unless we start getting used to the idea that some white girls are simply built like this too, I'm completely subject to the fad. Where's my ass's raison d'être? Do I really only get one summer before it's back to the anti-back?
Say it isn't so. I welcome the omigod-Becky-would-you-look-at-her-Nordic-baby-got-back trend and plan to perpetuate my ass off. Literally. Viva la bone-white booty. I don't particularly feel like shoving it in the back of the closet with my horizontal-striped pants come fall. My ass isn't perfect for someone else's body because it's not on someone else's body. It's time to embrace that. Better yet, it's time to have some else embrace that. Either way, the "phenomenon" is just confirming what we white girls with big asses have known for years. There's always been a secret society of us. At our best we smile at each other on the street like honking Jeeps passing in the night, encouraging and sympathetic and exclusive all at once. At our worst, wellat least my ass isn't as big as hers, right? For this summer in this city at any rate, I've found more of the former. White female butts are on display as never before and they're being checked out by people of every race, sex, and contact prescription. Whether that's inappropriate or violating, whether it's motivated by jealousy or lust, is a different issue for a colder day when we're not all trying to show off and get tan in public. For now, anything that makes New Yorkers grin at each other even on a crowded and sweltering subway platform is OK by me.
Sloane Crosley is a writer living in New York. She likes to keep her ass out of trouble as much as possible.