As a child, when I’d come home to my mom complaining about being teased about my body, she’d tell me I was “big boned. And it made more sense because I was eight and literally bigger than everyone else. I was the weird African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch, but I was also the big African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch. As I transitioned through elementary, middle, and then on to high school, my size and height became far less interesting. It was my over-developing teenage hips and ass that caught stares.
As confident as I am with my current body size, it’s simply rooted in the fact that I’ve maintained it since I was fourteen. I’m grateful that I fill out the clothes when I wear them now, but at fourteen I wanted nothing more than blend in. I didn’t look like all the Lilly Pulitzer’s wearing lacrosse playing Mattie’s and Skylar’s of my high school. Sure, you could put both of us in the same gym uniform of Sophie’s and school t-shirt but we unquestionably weren’t going to get the same reaction from the administration.
SN: I like to think I’m responsible for the ban of soffee shorts of 2011 at Northview High. I take pride in knowing that my ass lead to the substitute for longer and uglier basketball shorts.
In those moments, often brief and uneasy, my shape brought about disgust from guys my age and disturbing admiration from older men that no one should endure. All the new attention to my body made me more self conscious and it manifested many insecurities I had no business having at 15. I took the stares and inappropriate comments of others as facts rather than short sighted opinions. I held on to them and made them my own.
Oh, maybe I do need lose a bit of weight… Should I really wear that dress? Nah, my legs are too pudgy for it.
Of course, I passed each insecurity as a stage. My alternative emo look turned into a clever t-shirt phase which turned into faux feminist “no shorts” phase. I’d be lying if I said I can now completely ignore people’s lingering stares. My mind immediately goes to times I was ridiculed by my classmates or gawked at by super creepy adults. But people will either love you for loving yourself or hate you for doing so. It’s impossible to constantly feed into the newest fads for ‘bigger this’ and ‘smaller that’. Beauty and body standards of society are fickle. Those that I followed always left me feeling bad or feeling hungry but never better about me. I was the only one who could look at me and love or change what I see. Okay, I got a little fat. But who told you I don’t like it like that?