A contemporary poet by the name of Drake once said, “That’s right I like my girls BBW, yeah…So thick that everyone else in the room is so uncomfortable.”
Breast, hips and thighs make people uncomfortable, especially when they are large. I’ve always been a healthy woman or as those of us in the African-American community like to call “thick.” I noticed how it made some men and women uncomfortable. And as a result, I became uncomfortable with my body because of it. My body proportions always drew unwanted attention, especially from boys when I was in high school. The size of my breasts and what breasts do when it’s cold were a regular joke in my coding class. They were constantly the center of attention. I have the inappropriate comments in my yearbook to prove it too.
During my two years (freshman and sophomore years) in an all-white school, Walt Whitman H.S., the few black girls in the school would look at the microscopic shorts the white girls wore and their tank tops and we’d say amongst ourselves, “Now, if we wore that, they’d call us ghetto or a hoochie.” We knew this to be true because our curves were considered inappropriate, dangerous and sexually suggestive. Sexual maturity and promiscuity were always attached to our body types, and people felt the need to strictly police our bodies at all times. Today, we have the studies to prove that we were correct in our feelings about how people viewed our bodies.
This was in 1994 and 1995, and it doesn’t appear that things have changed. A biracial, curvy young lady on a swim team was recently disqualified because of the way the bathing suit fit on her body. The decision was ultimately reversed, but I believe officials did so because the story went viral and the public expressed their outrage. When the story was first broadcasted, many of us already knew the girl was either black or of color because no matter how much things have changed, some things remain the same. The curvy bodies of black girls and women are to be abhorred. Just research Sara Baartman.
That’s why this weekend during my church’s annual picnic or community fair, I praised myself for how far I have come in how I think about my body and how I present myself in casual clothes at church functions – I don’t care. Isn’t that liberating? There was once a time, in my 20s, when I stressed about what I would wear to the church picnic. Could I wear shorts? If so, how long did they need to be? Could I wear a T-shirt? What size T-shirt because unless I wear a shirt two sizes too big, nothing is hiding double-D breasts? God forbid congregants discover I am a woman – and a curvy one at that! I remember one year at the church picnic my mom laughed at me because I showed up in a sleeveless turtleneck in 80-degree weather. I love turtlenecks. I’ve always been a conservative dresser – I chose black suits as a child to wear on Easter Sunday instead of frilly, laced dresses. My mom told me that I never wanted to show my arms when she dressed me for school. My business casual dress preference followed me all through college. I never owned a “Freakum dress” (I wish I had now because I had the body). There was one summer when I wore jeans the entire season because I didn’t want to show my legs. I developed a rash that year because it was so hot. That’s how uncomfortable I felt with my body and wearing summer clothes.
However, today at 40 years old, I don’t care what people think. I wore a shirt I liked and high-waisted ripped jeans. I chuckled to myself because I remember the time when I felt so uncomfortable wearing regular clothes around church folks. The Lord has brought me a mighty long way. I’m excited that I’m free from other people’s opinions.
I recently asked female ministers on Twitter if they felt like their big breasts or curvy bodies prevented them from establishing genuine mentor relationships or partnerships with other ministers. Several women felt like their bodies or appearance (people being attracted to them) are a hindrance. Many people can’t get past their universal attractiveness and curves – and before you even suggest they dress inappropriately, these are women who wear suits and robes regularly. I think it’s time we examine ourselves if many women are experiencing this. It’s hard enough for women to advance in ministry. Women don’t want to be overlooked because their elder, pastor or priest can’t get past the woman’s looks or focus with the head that holds their brain in their presence.
Older women told me that when I reached 40, I would start to feel more comfortable in my own skin and not care about people’s opinions. I’m feeling it or better yet, I’m feeling myself. I like it. I hope other women can or will learn to walk in this same kind of freedom.
Pictures of my family at this weekend’s church picnic. No I didn’t take any pictures of myself, but I looked cute!