When a person who lives in a lady-body announces she is going to show some of its “private parts” to the public, most people have an opinion. The opinion generally falls into one of two categories: “Fuck yeah!” or “What a whore.” But there are subtle gradations between these two extremes, as I learned recently when I announced my intent to write and star in a comedy short in which I, a non-skinny person, appear naked (or mostly naked).

I struggle a lot with my own opinion of my body. In some areas, it is just lovely. But in some spots, it’s bigger than I’d like. I am ashamed to admit that I feel bad about the pudgy bits and the lumpy bits. I’m a feminist and I thought feminists were supposed to say things like, “Fuck yeah! I’m a goddamn real woman!” and feel pride. Sometimes I say those things, but I feel shy and strange. Out of place, somehow. Misshapen. I feel this way every single day and have for at least two years.

Plus, I take a medication that slows down one’s metabolism and increases one’s risk of Type II diabetes, so I gain weight extra-fast and hang onto it for quite awhile. And I have to deal with the fact that if I want to be healthy (note: skinny and healthy are NOT THE SAME THING) I can’t eat like the average gal. (Not that there is such a thing as a average gal, as we are each individual beautiful baby blooming flowers full of starlight.) I can’t eat sugar like some other folks can.

Historically, I have found the best way to deal with my fears is to confront them head-on — to lean in, so to speak. Years ago, I dealt with my nervousness about meeting strangers I admire by putting them in a bathtub and turning on a camera for a show called “Gettin’ Wet with Sara Benincasa.” A few months back, I wrote about my experience posing for pinup pictures and even included some of those photos.

And now I’m currently writing a funny short film called “The Focus Group” in which a woman employs a focus group to tell her exactly how she really looks to the outside world. Part of the process involves her stripping down to her panties (or nothing at all — I’m still figuring that bit out) and showing her body to the group. They critique her as any focus group would any product set in front of them for judgment. And wacky hijinks ensue!

I’m tired of seeing movies and TV shows in which a size 6 woman serves as the butt of fat jokes — or makes fat jokes about herself. I want to put my own body out there without apologizing for it, knowing full well I’ll look “fat” to some people and “normal” to others, because those terms don’t have much meaning these days. As one of my favorite clothing lines, Matrushka Construction, says on some of its tags, “Size is relative.”

I am not a punk, but sometimes when making an important decision, I ask myself what the most punk rock move would be. And I have decided that for a woman of my size, exposing my own body is, to put it in formal terms, punk as fuck.

The nude scene is a relatively small part of the narrative, but it does carry a lot of meaning. I figured I should give some folks in my life a heads-up about this idea. I talked to my boyfriend about it, and he was encouraging. I asked him to help me out with it, because he’s good at telling stories, and he obliged.

Then I found a director, my buddy Adam Wirtz, whose stuff is amazing. He was on board. I talked to some friends about potentially acting in it, and they were down.

And then I told another friend, a lady, that I was “gonna make a funny, fucked-up short film about body image and accepting yourself even with your flaws. I’m gonna be naked in it.”

“Ooh,” she said earnestly. “You should do lots of power yoga.”


I mean.

That’s kind of not the idea?

Now listen. I think exercise is awesome. I mean I hate it, but when I do it, I love it. I’m exercising for my health, my sanity, and, yes, to lose weight. I’m not exercising to get taut and toned for a short film about loving yourself even if you’re not taut and toned.

“Yeah, I’m just gonna kinda go as I am,” I said, because I am bad at being direct with people I love. “You know, not worry about my body for once. Just be me, and be funny and have fun. ‘Cause that’s kind of…you know…the theme of the film.”

At least my mom thought it was a neat idea. She suggested I find out how much it would cost to use that Meghan Trainor song about butts. I replied that I didn’t think a $5,000 budget would cover it, but it was an excellent idea.

Then it came time to tell the person about whom I was the most concerned – my Irish Catholic dad. I’m 34 years old, and I haven’t lived under his roof for quite some time, but I still care what the man thinks. In fact just the other day I wrote about how I appreciate the way my dad has supported me over the years. I love him and I don’t want to upset him or embarrass him.

But at the same time, a punk rock bitch gotta do what a punk rock bitch gotta do. So I explained to my dad (via text, natch) what I was planning — the idea behind the short, the inspiration for it, and the general plot. I also added that there would be “some nudity in one scene” and then threw in “I would star in it.”

I waited for his reaction, which was, “That sounds interesting. When would you film it?”

I was confused. Maybe he didn’t realize the person who would be nude would be me? After all, I didn’t directly come out and say, “I WILL BE NAKED IN THIS SHORT FILM, FATHER.”

I texted back, “We’re shooting in May.”

He replied, “That’s cool. I look forward to seeing it.”

Wait, what? “That’s cool”?

I waited some more.

“But I want a blindfold and advance warning for any naked parts. There are just some things this dad supports but would prefer not to see.” Wow.

The man has put up with a lot of things, from my obscene comedy stylings to me showing a lot of cleavage on this very website, but I didn’t imagine he’d roll with the naked thing so easily. But he wasn’t fazed. Phew.

Someone asked me if I’m ready for what comes next — the reaction of strangers who don’t love me or have any loyalty to me. I suppose my answer is, “As ready as I’ll ever be.” I know there will be people who like the film and people who hate the film and people who feel neutral about the film, for reasons that have nothing to do with the naked stuff. There will also be folks who think me going naked is a great idea and people who think it’s a terrible idea and people who don’t much care. There will be some who call it a feminist move and others who say it’s pandering to the patriarchy or something. There will be some wonderful comments and some creatively nasty ones. The world will go turning regardless of how this particular piece of art is received. But I feel really fortunate that the people I love are willing to take this weird journey with me.

And now, in the interest of being punk as fuck, I present you with a photograph of myself covered in nothing but feathers and an excellent pair of high heels. It doesn’t show my pudgy bits or my lumpy bits, but it’s a start.

Photo by Iconic Pinups

Photo by Iconic Pinups

Sara Benincasa is a comedian and the author of Great and Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom. She tweets @sarajbenincasa and is currently on tour: dates are at SaraBenincasa.com/shows.