“Your ass is spreading.”
“Black women have hips, chile. Where are your hips?”
“Oh my god, doesn’t your acne hurt? You should take something for that.”
“That shirt would look so much better if you had boobs.”
“Jesus, you went from a twig to thunder thighs!”
Women point out these things to each other every single day. For many of us, it started as an innocent observation from a grandmother or aunt, or a joke from a friend that landed like an anvil to the heart.
Sometimes it’s difficult to compliment another woman for fear she won’t find something acceptable about you. You think her dress is banging, and she looks amazing in it. Will she think you look like a hot mess in drenched in fuchsia?
Everything I hate about my body I learned from a woman. When I was a tall, skinny, underdeveloped teenager, women made me hate my flat ass, and skinny arms. When I started to develop (thanks grad school), they made me think I was getting fat. And after I lost all the baby weight only to promptly gain it back again… I berated myself and became my own worst enemy thus starting a terrible battle with emotional eating.
Boys? Men? They may have called me “little butt” and “Twiggy,” but they never made me feel defective; less than a woman. I owe that pleasure to women. The “real women have curves,” and “F**k skinny women” movements of the late 90s/early 2000s did not celebrate all bodies. They revolted against thin women and the messaging that all women should be thin in an attempt to empower curvier body types. For me, a stick skinny young woman trying to love my body, hearing I wasn’t a real woman because I didn’t have curves hurt. No—being the lone stick in my family—it mortified me. I was already wearing boy jeans. Now, according to other women, I was not woman enough, and I felt I needed to apologize to the other women in my family for the “skinny is right” messaging they had received their entire lives.
It is commonly accepted to blame men for the unfair standards of beauty, but I’ve never seen it that way. Men in the industry most definitely capitalize on and promote that standard, but it’s the standard we women have created for ourselves. Name one man who’s said, “yes, a thigh gap is necessary or I just can’t sleep with a woman.” Or “I wish you looked like a live Barbie.” Or, “baby please lose forty pounds before I can be seen with you.” If you know that man, and he doesn’t look like absolute male perfection (and even if he does), punch him in the nuts. But chances are you can’t name one.
So if men aren’t into the make-up, weaves, extensions, surgery, and other odd torture, I mean beauty methods, who are we doing all of this for?
Instead of aspiring to have J. Lo’s insanely fit body, strive to feel your best. If sugar breaks you out, consume less sugar. If salt makes you bloated, reduce the amount of salt in your diet. If dairy makes you feel ill, stop eating cheese… Okay, I know from experience that this one is hard!
When you see another woman looking fabulous, tell her. When you aren’t feeling awesome, play up your best feature. For all that is wholesome do not put down another woman. If your friend feels fat, tell her she’s beautiful and work out with her.
We live in a strange world. Whereas it used to be superficial and skin deep, we now have an odd, combating dichotomy of messaging. On one hand, social media and the entertainment industry play up the unfair standards of beauty to the max. With contouring, it is hard to know if you are looking at nose job or the work of a great make-up artist. Filters and photo shop have everyone looking like a pore-less Olay model. And plastic surgery is still a trend, except now, flat butts can look like conjoined beach balls and small hips are a thing of the past. And anyone with a camera and good social media presence can be famous. On the other, we chant girl power and love your body, and worthiness. J. Lo is nearly fifty and, at even at my most fit, I could only dream of looking that good. And I don’t want to. One does not get a body like that by consuming Chick-fil-A fries at lunch, wine with dinner, and chips when the mood strikes (hint, the mood strikes at least three times a week).
Still, like many women, I am blessed to come home to a man that has seen my washboard abs swell with a child, and sort of get stuck that way, and he doesn’t love me any less. For this I am eternally grateful. Yet, I am not proud of my body. I am not excited about being naked. I sort of scrunch up and turn my back in dressing rooms, just in case the mirror is one of those being monitored. And when I look in the mirror I long for the body I saw just five years ago… Well, that body with hips of today’s body.
Everything I hate about my body I learned from a woman. The stretch marks on my sides that remind me I successfully carried a baby to term. The “Similac” thighs that never quite matched my skinny lower half and still make it difficult to find jeans that fit well from the top to the bottom. The old and new acne marks because damn, I’m in my thirties and still getting breakouts. The not perfectly white of my teeth. The roundness of my belly because sexy women have flat stomachs. The jiggle of my arms. Angela Bassett’s arms have never jiggled. My so called big feet, which given how often stores are out of my size, are actually just average. The asymmetrical size of my bust. Yes, it’s natural, but it’s also annoying. And the fullness of my smile. Smizing is not something I can do. I either have RBF or a Kool-Aid smile, which apparently is not all that sexy.
Still, I love myself. I love who I am. I love who I’ve become and I can’t wait to see that woman I am growing into. And I know that most of the things I have listed as something I hate I’ve either grown used to or can change. Seriously, no matter how convenient it is (right next door), or how good they are, I do not need Chick-fil-A fries once a week.
Let’s practice self-care by being kind to our bodies and focusing on being healthy from the inside out. Let’s give the notion of social media perfection the middle finger. And let’s uplift one another. The female body comes in a multitude of amazing shapes and sizes. No two women are built alike, and instead of comparing and analyzing one another, we should embrace our bodies and our differences and teach the generation of women to do the same.