I struggle with vulnerability. The word itself makes me uncomfortable. The idea of having to subscribe to “the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally” is not a comfortable feeling. I always believed I spent enough time with someone or in place, it would ease my customary anxiety but just a comment, an action, or even a location can send me back to a space where I felt nothing but vulnerable. I have seen how the distance I create causes others to feel weary of me . It causes distrust, resentment, and ultimately avoidance. I may try to explain all but it never seems quite enough. I write this at a time where I feel more exposed than I have in years but I lend these words to images that made me feel seen positively. Hopefully, they balance each other out.
As I sat across from my gold cladden date, I couldn’t help but think to myself
Hoe, why is you here?
My eyes began to glaze over as he talked about his various business ventures and recent trips. I only snapped back as he expressed his desire for a woman who could “keep the house in check” but not hassle him about going and coming when he pleased.
“Why not just hire a maid?” I inquired. He shook his head furiously as if I’d made the most ridiculous suggestion. He tried to explain that every man needs someone to come home to at night but that person needs to be able keep him and home in line. Blah, blah, blah.
I could sense my attention drifting further and further from the delusional conversation so I excused myself to the restroom.
As I looked at my self over, lip gloss popping and my favorite wig bobbing, I again thought:
Hoe, why is you here?
This sadly hadn’t been the worst date/ encounter I had with the male species. A particularly interesting one involved a hotep that slipped through the cracks of my vetting process with his beautiful teeth and washboard abs. Our time was quickly cut short after he explained to me on our first date that he was interested in marrying me but only if I give up my desires to further my education and my instagram.
I knew I was bored. My mundane routine of work, home, sleep had me left grasping any and every bit of excitement that could find me. Except, the excitement finding me weren’t even particularly interesting. To be honest, I had allowed “swit” words and fine dining to steal some of my Friday and Saturday nights. I never thought my time could be bought until I tasted the Côte de Boeuf from Marcel’s.
Damn me and my bougie stomach.
I started to think of all the things I could have been alone doing rather than sitting across from one of the most boring men on the planet. Ideas of pole classes, coloring books and actually writing about my feelings again danced in my head. All of sudden, I began to feel sick about how I had just wasted my time and this poor delusional misogynistic man’s time. I quickly texted my friend:
<<Save me in 5 min>>
I walked back to the table, feeling more nauseated with each step. He could sense my discomfort and asked me what was wrong. I played it off as a stomachache and anxiously waited for my phone to ring. I don’t think I even allowed a second vibration to pass before I picked up and motioned that I was stepping out to take a call. I explained my situation to my girl and we both agreed it was time to go.
I walked back into the lounge and bullshited an excuse about a friend going through a bad break up. He gave me his unwanted and unneeded blessing to leave and I dashed to the valet. Within 30 minutes, I was undressed and in my bed. Before I pressed play on Living Single, I looked around and realized I knew exactly why I was there.
As a child, when I’d come home to my mom complaining about being teased about my body, she’d tell me I was “big boned. And it made more sense because I was eight and literally bigger than everyone else. I was the weird African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch, but I was also the big African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch. As I transitioned through elementary, middle, and then on to high school, my size and height became far less interesting. It was my over-developing teenage hips and ass that caught stares.
As confident as I am with my current body size, it’s simply rooted in the fact that I’ve maintained it since I was fourteen. I’m grateful that I fill out the clothes when I wear them now, but at fourteen I wanted nothing more than blend in. I didn’t look like all the Lilly Pulitzer’s wearing lacrosse playing Mattie’s and Skylar’s of my high school. Sure, you could put both of us in the same gym uniform of Sophie’s and school t-shirt but we unquestionably weren’t going to get the same reaction from the administration.
SN: I like to think I’m responsible for the ban of soffee shorts of 2011 at Northview High. I take pride in knowing that my ass lead to the substitute for longer and uglier basketball shorts.
In those moments, often brief and uneasy, my shape brought about disgust from guys my age and disturbing admiration from older men that no one should endure. All the new attention to my body made me more self conscious and it manifested many insecurities I had no business having at 15. I took the stares and inappropriate comments of others as facts rather than short sighted opinions. I held on to them and made them my own.
Oh, maybe I do need lose a bit of weight… Should I really wear that dress? Nah, my legs are too pudgy for it.
Of course, I passed each insecurity as a stage. My alternative emo look turned into a clever t-shirt phase which turned into faux feminist “no shorts” phase. I’d be lying if I said I can now completely ignore people’s lingering stares. My mind immediately goes to times I was ridiculed by my classmates or gawked at by super creepy adults. But people will either love you for loving yourself or hate you for doing so. It’s impossible to constantly feed into the newest fads for ‘bigger this’ and ‘smaller that’. Beauty and body standards of society are fickle. Those that I followed always left me feeling bad or feeling hungry but never better about me. I was the only one who could look at me and love or change what I see. Okay, I got a little fat. But who told you I don’t like it like that?