Friday, September 10, 2010
ďOne of the nicest realizations that Iíve come to over the past two years is
that Iím finally learning to love all of my selves.Ē~Wista Johnson
This week's assignment is about body image. The response has been incredible. I tell you, I'm a little anxious if I can measure up to the level of honesty and courage and inspiration I've read. This is going to be a little convoluted because the truth is, it's taken years to work through many issues and body image is complicated and intertwined with others. Anyhoo.
Let me say first of all I like my body. I'm a black woman who's 5Ē0 tall, compact and muscular (how muscular is relative and we'll get to that later). In my world, black women are raised knowing our men like a little meat on the bone so I've never wanted to be rail thin. I did want to be a brick house (36-24-36). Well, I have a straight waistline so the hour-glass is the one fantasy I coveted for years.
I was always athletic, always thick and being a natural athlete, I kept my weight in check. Still, as a kid, I was never skinny, sometimes chunky and I was teased and I wanted to be smaller like my girlfriends. Tomboy that I was, I was still a girl and I wanted boys to see me the way they saw the skinny girls with long hair and light-skin.
Well, I got breasts early and I had a butt and I was fun so the boys came. In high school, I ran track and cross-country, threw the shot put and lifted weights with the football team. I was popular. I still wanted that small waist but hey, we always find something we don't like.
As a young woman, I taught aerobics and competed in amatuer bodybuilding, and let me tell you in the gym, I was happy, a gym rat not bunny (my socks didn't match half the time; the idea of makeup and cute outfit was silly to me). Lifting weights, I felt strong, confident. I had found my element. Where most women my height struggled to put on size and lift heavy, I was naturally built for the stage and I lifted like a fish swam.
Despite my athletic ability and appreciating what my body could do, I still struggled with weight. I loved to eat. I ate for a lot of reasons I didn't understand and so keeping the weight off was an issue even when I was most fit. As I got older and became sedentary, I lost the one check I had to keep the scale from tipping.
Today, I'm back on track with exercising and taking care of my body, and I like what I see in the mirror. I like the shape of my body. I think muscle is sexy and if you don't, that's okay. I got my game on for me. And let me say in this youth obsessed culture, I'm an ageist of the opposite order. I like who I am today. I don't coveted my youth. I don't want to look or feel 'young.' Getting older is a gift and while everything that comes with ageing isn't golden, I like the benefits like no longer worrying if others find me attractive. I'm not in competition with models who've been airbrushed so much that there's little reality on the page. I'm not sucked into fad diets, and I actually know a little about nutrition and my life concerns are bigger than my personal realm.
I am a smart, passionate, intelligent, cute loc-wearin', muscle-building black woman whose eyes smile when she laughs. I'm forty-five, in love with a great cook and I have two dynamic young daughters. I'm a community organizer, activist, writer and literacy advocate who loves the body that allows her to live life abundantly.