this is what a semi-ratchet feminist looks like.
when i was little, i was over-height and underweight. then, in third grade, my asthma spiraled out of control, i was prescribed steroids, and i’ve been a big girl, ever since.
i weighed over 100 lbs at the age of 8 and all of my clothes stopped fitting.
by age 10 i had already learned that i should loathe the way my thighs rubbed together when i walked, flattened and spread beneath me when i sat. for a long time, i didn’t wear shorts.
by age 10 i asked my mother if i could drink the same dick gregory weight-loss shakes she drank, so that i wouldn’t be fat. she said no, that i was fine. she and my granny assured me that i’d lose weight after puberty. i found this to be a conflicting message that only affirmed that something was wrong with me, that would hopefully be fixed later.
i was an only child, so i spent a lot of time by myself. but i was also very active. at a certain point i played golf, took swim lessons, played volleyball and basketball for my school teams, and was also in an AAU basketball league.
by high school, my interests were streamlined and i stuck to volleyball. and by my senior year, my physical exertions combined with a lenten fast in which i gave up sweets & fried food meant i had FINALLY slimmed down the way my granny said i would. i was still far from skinny, but i could comfortably wear a size 12, and sometimes, a size 10.
i still winced when i stepped on scales and saw 180-anything (in comparison to friends in the 120s), but it was the smallest i’d been since pre-school, and you couldn’t TELL me i wasn’t fine.
then, college happened. even before i had gained a respectable “freshman 25”, i quickly went from the center to marginal beauty. 16 year-old, brown-skinned, curly-haired, thick-thighed, “good girl”-appearing, middle-class enough to dress “well, “thick” me drew plenty of positive attention in the super black detroit of the early 2000s.
17 year-old, african-american, detroit-accented, fresh out of urban public school, unambiguously black, afro-textured hair, size 12-14 me had a completely different relationship to attractiveness and desirability on the mostly white, elite, ivy league campus on manhattan’s upper west side.
the men of color to women of color ratio in this environment meant i had zero social capital. i was invisible. romantically and sexually frustrated, i formed half-hearted crushes on the only young men around. boys who–no diss–would have never elicited my attention in any other environment, suddenly became the focal point of my attention. i was still young and ignorant, and could not understand why or how my attractions were never reciprocated.
i began to wonder why, and then the question became obvious: was i too fat?
the answer was yes. and too black & unapologetically so, and too unwilling to give up the yoni just for the momentary attention of late night rendez-vous(es); but mostly too fat. i looked around and noticed: no one was checking for the brown girls my size. and it IRKED me, because i’d just begun to realize how beautiful i was.
it has now been over a decade since i graduated from college, and a different, but similar question remains: am i too fat to find love? am i too big to attract the attention of the men who attract me?
things are different now. i’m a little taller, and solidly in the 240s, a size 18. i am forced to wear the limited offerings of the plus-sized sections. i have shed my identity as a “thick” girl, for BBW (big beautiful woman). now, more than ever, people think “you’re not fat” is a compliment, offer unsolicited dieting advice, and assume that my exercise routine is for the purpose of losing some significant amount of weight.
i love my self, and lament my shape more than i ever have. when i was younger, weight loss was an easier task: i could quickly lose 10 lbs (of mostly water weight) within a week, and 6 weeks of a dedicated exercise routine would result in my being at least 1 dress size smaller.
now, progress is a process. weight loss requires a lifestyle change.
my “tummy” has become a full-grown belly; my breasts still seem too small to match the rest of me, my chin likes to double sometimes, and a host of other small changes, in tandem, have left me with an appearance that doesn’t match the residual “me” i conceptualize mentally.
i’ll interject: none of this has stopped me from getting dick, relationships, marriage offers, or unwanted attention from men i find physically attractive.
because i’m not too fat to fuck, be taken advantage of, cheerlead a nigga’s ego, enjoy someone’s company, or give my best self.
i look at myself in the mirror, from various angles. sometimes, i look at my reflection and smile in appreciation of the work of god’s hand, at this beautiful woman i have become. other days, i am less forgiving. facing the mirror, i grab my belly, lift it up and imagine how wonderful my body would look if it just wasn’t there. from the back, i love my lower half, while the width of my back makes me frown in dismay.
like all of us, my self-esteem is a work in progress.
i try not to think of myself in terms of my attractiveness or worthiness to others, but it is difficult to avoid in considering partnership.
i imagine a man who prayed for–or could at least truly appreciate–a woman like me: intelligent, loving, “self-possessed”, kind, honest, introspective, thoughtful, affectionate, sensual, sexually free, spiritual, giving, fun, funny, creative, proudly african & african-american, educated, profound, intuitive, empathetic, supportive, physically active, healthily-eating, talented, hard-working, powerful, authentic, humble, confident, employed, technically “middle-class”, truly desiring and capable of an equal partnership…
and i ask myself: would i REALLY want a man who could actually WANT a woman like me, see how wonderful i was, and then think to himself: Yeah, BUT…i need her to be 2 dress sizes smaller? (cuz understand, a size 14 is about as small as i’d want to be)
and i tell myself the answer is no…
because perfection doesn’t exist. because once i sacrificed my soul to the altar of the man who was perfect on paper, “the total package” and came away less than myself.
but physical attraction is important, and i don’t think it’s something that can be learned. i tend to prefer my men brown, bearded, bellied, and nappy-haired, but i’m flexible on most of those things. where i’m less flexible is with height. i just want a nigga to at least be eye-level, and my true preference is much taller.
i know it’s stupid. and if i met an awesome dude that just so happened to be short, i’d definitely be open, and have been in the past. but it’s not the way i gravitate. there’s a certain way i like to feel, physically, with a man i’m dating. i like to be able to lay with them, or sit on their laps and have their bodies completely envelop mine–which is why i prefer a man with some heft. but height is more like a requirement.
so, i’m not knocking the dudes that ain’t bout this belly fat & back roll life.
to be honest, i’m not fully about that life either, which is why i’ve made significant lifestyle changes. but as stated earlier, it is neither in my interest or my capabilities to be thin. my goal weight is still in the 200s. i’d prefer to be a size 14 simply because it gives me a LOT more options for clothing. it has nothing to do with health. i have excellent blood pressure. i eat a little too much sugar, & don’t drink enough water but otherwise, have a pretty healthy diet. i just like to eat. i’m not marathon ready but i can walk for miles (LOL). i’m increasing my bike endurance. i exercise regularly. i’m not a sedentary person, and i don’t inhale multiple plates worth of food in one sitting.
i guess my point is, maybe i’m a little bigger than i’d like to be, but i’m just a big girl. i have been, for a long time, and for the vast majority of my adult life, i’ve enjoyed it.
but i can’t help but notice: the women i know, who are built like me tend to skew single, or with men who aren’t their equal in any way. and i’m in my 30s, and i still envision partnership and parenthood…& while the idea of getting skinny for the sake of finding a man is both ridiculous & beyond my capabilities…sometimes i still can’t help but wonder if, on this journey to love, my weight is in the way.
& that’s the realest i’ve ever kept it.