James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

74: The shorts

This week’s essay: The shorts

Three years ago, I first got my bike and rode it year round ever since. Riding around, I quickly realized that I got hot a lot quicker and my butt became this damp, sweaty mess that needed to be taken care of thanks to Chicago summers being a sticky garbage dump of swass. Solution? Buy a pair of shorts.

I was nervous because it was the first time I’ve worn shorts since I was 16 when the fashion statement were jeans that converted into shorts thanks to an integrated zipper. Since moving to Chicago, I had become more confident in myself, body, and space that I thought “yes, I should finally expose my legs in the summer heat.” I bought the shorts at Pilsen Vintage and Thrift: royal blue, soft enough where they stretched when rotating my leg, wide enough where they didn’t vice grip my thighs, with a length that ended mid thigh. They were perfect and also made a personal statement that I was present and comfortable with my presence.

I took the shorts on their first bike ride. It was a crisp late-summer morning so the streets were packed with backpack laden kids, including large groups of lads that like to walk slowly in the street. As I rode past one of these groups, three of them called out to me: “Hey man, why you wearing those shorts? You shouldn’t be wearing them, they are too short!”

The confidence pedestal I was prancing around crumbled into quicksand. Once out of visiblity, I stopped on the curb and bust into tears. My body dysmorphia knocked on the door and broke the window when I didn’t answer. When I got home, I folded the shorts and put them away for a week.

I’ve always thought about the relationship with my body, but never so much until I read Kaitlyn Tierney’s latest letter which discussed the relationship with her body and tattoos. It was a beautiful essay that put into context that feeling when a group of teenagers commented about my legs, or the triggering thoughts after I order a feta and beet salad and the wait-staff says “that’s it?” It’s the same tears when I read another online essay or social media post that dismisses me as “wrong, a problem, or something that needs to be fixed.”

I took inventory of myself: the piercings on my body, the tattoos across my skin, the collaboration of muscle, fat, and bone that make up the humanity of my being. I felt the pieces of fabric that protect it from the elements. I began to see everything at their face value, the work of art that is my presence and the other mortal works of art that surround me daily. Works of sculpture that stand, sit, ride bikes, run, sleep, and make mistakes. I took ownership of myself and said, dammit I feel good and I’m going to embrace every fucking moment of it.

Eventually the shorts ripped two years later. I immediately picked up a new pair afterward. Same length in a bright red, and have every summer since.

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What did I find interesting this week?

★ “Fuck being humble. Put yourself first. You matter the most.” Sanam from Rihanna’s BBHMM music video now has a regular column.

★ On bicycling while black and why you have to fight.

★ “Think of time like money and budget it.”

★ As someone who writes a long, intimate email each week to you, let’s not make it go away.

★ And a set of affirmations to start off the week to appreciate the present moment.

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What’s coming up?

★ Cher and I moved our podcast, Open Ended, into a weekly format! This coming Wednesday will be the two of us ripping on something. You can check out last week’s episode, ‘You’re So Talented’ with guest Sam Bailey, on our freshly redesigned websiteiTunes, or in any other podcast player. Be sure to rate us on iTunes and send us a donation to keep our lights on.

★ CHGO DSGN: WHEREVER show at LVL3 in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood is up until August 16th. I’m showing a piece with a bunch of other talented folks.

★ The group exhibition, Three the Hard Way, is up until August 23rd at The Logan Center in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with Ayana Contreras and David Leggett.

★ I will be giving an artist talk on Wednesday, August 5th at The Logan Center about the Three The Hard Way exhibition. 

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Special shout out to the 8 supporters this week:

Jayson, Subi, the Revision Path podcast, Allyson, Will, Chad, and Jessica.

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Thanks for reading, and see you next week.

-James

James T. Green