“Wow, you got so fat!” are the words my aunt said to me as I walked into my grandmothers house on Thanksgiving, years ago. My then boyfriend and I were in a toxic relationship; he emotionally abusive and me, mentally exhausted. Depression took over, and so I cried, and ate…and cried, and ate. Gaining an extra twenty pounds on my small, five foot two frame. I tried to pretend I was unbothered for the rest of the night, and silently cried while staring out of the window in the car the entire way home. After pulling myself together, and kicking his cheating butt to the curb, I dropped the weight, but the mental toll it took, stuck with me. This is not the first time I’ve struggled with self acceptance, and it definitely wouldn’t be the last. My body and I have had an internal struggle most of our life. My Body…My Words.
As a kid things weren’t much better. “Look at your legs…you have thunder thighs!” Ryan, my fourth grade classmate yelled as we walked on the playground. I wore my new Bongo shorts and matching t-shirt my Mom bought me, and felt ready to conquer the world that morning on the drive to school. Everyone will love my outfit, and this will make them finally love me too was my internal hope. As one of the literal few black students in the entire school being made fun of was a daily part of my routine.
My thick thighs, kinky hair, and brown skin were the subject of many hate campaigns. I tried desperately to fit in and be liked, but I would always be considered an outsider, and my body, skin and hair would never let me in. I began to resent my brown skin, kinky hair, and strong thighs just like they did. For the rest of the year, no matter how hot the weather became, I’d wear my thick black New Kids on the Block jacket to school, and use it to cover my legs anytime I wore
a dress or shorts. Their words stuck.
“She hates me.” is what my body must think.
In junior high we wore school uniforms, and after the summer of seventh grade, we returned to school in the fall and waited in line to be measured for our new uniforms. It was my turn to enter the tiny little room where one of the staff members measured our waists. She would always compliment me on my small frame, and reiterate how she had to order the kids sized uniform for me in front of everyone. I didn’t realize the body shaming and emotional manipulation she was inflicting on me and my classmates until adulthood, but again, her words stuck.
“Wow, you’re not in a kids size anymore!” she exclaimed, and I immediately felt the sting of her words. At thirteen years old, was I supposed to have stayed in a child’s size clothing, and what was wrong with my size? Why did she have to yell that so loud, and in front of everyone? After that the compliments she used to shower on me stopped, and I felt as though she didn’t like me anymore. As though me being super small and skinny was such a great accomplishment to her, and now that I’d gone up a size, I was no longer valid.
As an adult, I felt I needed to be beautiful like the women around me, and I berated my body for not looking like theirs. Why are my breasts so small…guys like girls with big boobs, and my a-cups were not cutting it. So, what did I do? I headed to a plastic surgeon and arrived for my consultation with my Mom in tow. “If this is what you want to do, then I support you.” she said, and we entered the office together.
During the consultation the doctor pulled out this huge photo album, and plopped down in front of me. She opened the think book and began flipping through the pages with pride. It was a look book of before-and-after pictures of breast enlargement surgeries she had done. As she described the procedure and what I’d look like afterword. Her staff members were all too happy to lift up their scrubs and show me their breasts-courtesy of the doctor-one after the other. After weighing the option very heavily I decided against it, and not because I don’t think it’s something women should do, it just wasn’t for me. Mom and I left the office and never returned.
Now, at thirty-seven, I know better than to allow the opinions of others to swallow my sense of self, but still struggle with full self love. My thoughts and beliefs about my body as an adult are my responsibility, and its on me to stop myself from being so hard on, well…me. I have to check myself when I am in the mirror picking myself apart. It’s doesn’t matter what size you are, how many stretch marks you have, or how perfectly coiffed your hair is.
In the end, the last thing we will be worried about is why we didn’t add more weights to the hip abductor machine. Our bodies are the shells that encompass our souls, and they are magnificent. Loving, being loved, taking care of our bodies, and self acceptance are what matters. And, if you want a bigger boobs, or a perkier butt go for it, just make sure you are doing it for you, and not because of the dickhead in fourth grade that made you feel like shit because of how you look. Change what you want to change about yourself for you, and you only.
This body I have been blessed with has gotten me through two bouts of pneumonia, and trekked me up a water fall in Jamaica. She endures hour long workouts, skinny jeans and cereal for dinner because, sometimes, I’m just too damn tired to cook.
My body has brought me through the debilitating heart palpitations I suffered due to my Mothers unexpected death, and gets me up every single day to act, write, and make unnecessary Target runs. This body which is a collection of my parents, grandparents and maybe one day passed onto my children deserves to be complimented, appreciated, and loved. My body, the body that I have made to feel as though it was ugly, unwanted, and unworthy has stuck by me, gotten me through, and lifted me up, and for that I want to thank her: Thank you to my muscular thighs, a-cup breasts, kinky hair and everything in-between. I am sorry for every shitty thing I ever said about you, and promise to try harder and uplift you because that’s what you deserve.
What body issues have you struggled with? Comment below & thanks for reading! xo Jonesie ??