I am on sip number one of Jack and Coke number two when he announces that he likes his women thick. And although I relinquished the inclination to knot myself in his frame awhile ago, the comment still stings my ears in a familiar fashion. I don’t like it. I try to brush it off and keep swaying to whatever the DJ is playing, but the words stick to my back like damp sweat under a dress on a hot summer’s night.
See, Black women are supposed to be thick. We’re expected to be thick. Our bodies are meant to swirl and curve and swerve and spiral in delicious and astounding ways. If they don’t do all of the above, we’ve somehow betrayed the norm and defied the preferred standard. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned and am now fighting to unlearn. That is what I’ve been told and am now working to untell myself. And, it is difficult to carve a new truth after years of the world force feeding you tablespoon after tablespoon of bullshit.
See, I’m learning that the gap between what Black women are “supposed” to be and all of the many things that we actually are is colossal and wide and deep and not quite close enough to being bridged.
I don’t want to write self-love anthems or body image anthems or any other anthems for that matter. I want to write the truth and serve it on the rocks. And the truth is my body does a lot less swirling and curving; it does a lot more standing straight. The truth is I’ve been known to settle in the mirror for a few minutes lifting my butt and fantasizing about what it would look like if it were “just a little bit bigger.” The truth is I am a ball of contradictions – a woman who urges other women to define themselves for themselves while still untangling her story from the raucous narration of Black men.
It is that narration that resounds every day while I fight to mold my own thoughts about the body I inhabit. It is that narration that crept up on me on Sunday afternoon in aisle 11 while I was simply trying to grab dishwashing detergent. It’s that narration that has made me an expert comedian when it comes to cracking jokes to my male friends about my less-than-rotund butt. It’s that narration that rolls off my tongue anytime I bop and sing Drake’s line, “And your stomach on flat flat/and your ass on what’s that.” It’s that narration that I am trying so hard to unhear after 26 years of letting it fill a few chasms in my self-esteem.
I would like to tell you that I am giving it all up–the appetite for validation, the listening ear to the body types I’ve heard Black men prefer, and the complicated relationship with my silhouette–but, that wouldn’t be quite true. Because most revelations about this life don’t come in singular Eureka moments or striking sweeps of the heart. The ways in which we grow up and unbind ourselves from the same shackles that shattered us are complex and unending, complicated and never quite complete. The ways in which we evolve and step into the fullness of ourselves are not nearly neat or seamless enough for the conclusion of a blog post.
There will be another moment when a Black man announces that he likes his women thick. I’ll still flinch on the inside. I’ll still wonder when it became kosher to stick the possessive pronoun “his” in front of an entire group of people. I’ll still grapple with drawing parallels between his statement and my view of my own body and womanhood. I’ll still be a mess of contradictions trying to throw away all of the puzzle pieces and reconfigure them the way I want. But, I will remember that I penned this piece and I hummed this hymn. I will remember that for a woman who has spent years writing her own story, it’s about time she started narrating it as well.