peacocks in the front yard.

"Did you ever notice that a bathing suit allows you to wear a dress over it that would be completely inappropriate to wear over regular underwear?"

Whoa, deep.

I did not hear the response to that question, because I was just walking by. I was coming back from the keg station, carrying a beer over to the tent where my chair was. It was a slip 'n slide party, but I was not wearing a bathing suit. I was wearing a dress, and since I was wearing it over regular underwear, it was reasonably concealing. Under the tent with me were two other women. One of them was also wearing a long dress, no bathing suit, while the other was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She even had a jacket, which she attempted to use to keep the sun from burning her shoulders. I offered her some sunscreen, but she said she had to go to work soon anyway. The other tent and the rest of the yard was inhabited by women in bathing suits and the kinds of dresses that you can really only wear over bathing suits.

Why would someone go to a slip 'n slide party and not wear a bathing suit? Actually, let's back up and ask another question: What is a slip 'n slide party?

Presumably, you know what a slip 'n slide is. It's a long piece of plastic with a irrigation tube on one side. You plug it into a garden hose, which makes the plastic very wet and very slidy, so that little children can take a run at them and then slide faster faster faster all the way to the end, where they will either land in a pool or get a bunch of grass cuts on their tummies. Commercial slip 'n slides are not recommended for adults, due to danger of spinal injury.

You're quick, so you've by now figured out that a slip 'n slide party is a party where there is slipping 'n sliding. However, I was at THE slip 'n slide party. It gets the definite article because it is an annual event. A fellow that we know throws a party at his house. He gets a couple of kegs, supplies a bunch of food, hires a band, and constructs a massive slip 'n slide going down his inclined yard.

Since this party has been happening for a few years, the slide construction is down to a science. First, there is a thick layer of carpet over the grass going down the hill. There are rolls of carpet on either side to prevent people from sliding off to either side. A thick layer of clear plastic covers the carpet. At the bottom is a giant inflatable pool. Last year, the pool was more of a kiddie-variety, and a couple of sliders with too much momentum bounced right out of it like skipped rocks. The water comes from a holey hose that is strung from tree to tree across the top of the slide.

So now you know all about slip 'n slide parties in general, and also THE slip 'n slide party in particular. Back to the original question: why wasn't I wearing a bathing suit?

I agonized over that decision, let me tell you. Aside from not particularly wanting to shave my legs, I didn't want to appear in public in a bathing suit. Good old-fashioned body shame. I looked at the other women, all tan and thin in their suits and tiny dresses. I consoled myself that they all probably hated their own bodies, because that's just the way women are.

That's all old news, though. I'm not here to talk about how women hate their bodies (well, except for those previous five paragraphs). Because there was something else that I could not help noticing. Just as the women were all either self-consciously covered up or uncovered, so were the men. Some guys kept their shirts on even as they went down the slide. Others paraded around shirtless, tan, and toned. Some preferred that you not look at them, while others competed for your eyes. It was equal-opportunity body shame (and eye candy) out there.

That's probably not a new thing. I just never noticed it before, because I was too busy worrying about myself. It was funny to me, actually, to see men worrying about their appearance, like they ought to know better. With their brightly colored swim trunks, I couldn't help but think of peacocks.

And then. Over there, under the band tent. There was a guy who kept his shirt on. It was a tee shirt meant to look like a boy scout uniform. He also wore a ridiculous pith helmet and some silly sunglasses. He was not covering up, nor was he strutting, though his outfit did draw attention to him. It made me wonder what kind of person I was, that out of all the peacocks in the yard, mine was the one in the pith helmet.

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