when i was eleven years old my mother had to measure me for a dress. i don’t remember what the dress was for, though i’m sure it had something to do with church, but i do remember her gaping at the numbers. 36. 24. 36. she looked me and said, ‘wanda you’re a brick house.’
the 1977 commodores’ hit had come home to haunt me.
at 11, i surely did not have everything didn’t want to please to a man and my preferred dress included a purple reversible jacket that i wore with everything everywhere. my mother has the fifth grade class picture to prove it. but the fact that i was only 11 years old didn’t matter to the men and boys who were constantly calling out to me from bus stops, porches, cars, windows…
it was exhausting and frightening. so to protect myself from advances i carried a stick four feet tall that i sanded and ridged for an easy grip. i told my teachers it was for walking because there were mean dogs in my neighborhood but the truth was i swung it most often on 2 legged creatures. i also stored a knife in my shoe. and i dressed in clothes that hid my curves and gave me at least the illusion of little girl-ness. i remember one particularly lascivious man and i’m being generous by calling him a man remarking on my body while i was walking home with two girlfriends. he even had the audacity to follow us until i turned on him with my stick raised, ‘you are disgusting. i’m a little girl. go home to your children.’ it was the first time i used that grown woman tone. you know the one women use when they need a man to get what it is they’re saying. the first time. he took my meaning and i learned something that day about power and intent.
i also grew to be very uncomfortable with the attention my curves receive. and for my protection for most of my life i have hidden them. i live in a world where women are still treated as objects. as much as i would like to intellectualize this reality away it remains a reality. boys are not in mass raised to respect a female’s right to privacy. it is assumed that the pursuit of a woman may include catcalling and space invasion. that as long as your intention is to get close to her she should feel flattered and remain cordial. this is the practice i believe that allows rape and sexual violence against girls and women to remain so prevalent. its also the justification for why sentencing for such atrocities are so minimal in comparison to violent acts committed against men.
women are objects. things to be had. things to be used.
in all my life i have fought against the idea that i am a thing. that any girl or woman is a thing. covering my body in too big tees and sweaters that fall to my knees allow me to stay focused on my goal – i am more than my body.
being a ‘brick house’ has been a distraction. although it nearly sent me into an extended health crisis gaining 80 pounds put me in a safety zone. fat women aren’t really women (if you listen to media and some men) and if you aren’t a woman you can’t be a thing. and if you aren’t a thing you won’t be used. problem solved. however…
42 million women in america are negotiating cardiovascular disease. 42 million according to the american heart association. heart disease is exacerbated by pre-diabetic conditions which are directly related to obesity. hiding your curves under layers of fat will literally kill you. at 80 pounds overweight i sat on the doorstep of cardiovascular disease with an invitation in my hand to come on in. i knew that something had to change. in the very core of my i had to make a step to get my health together. but the fear of being viewed as an object remained. because…
being treated like an object will kill you. consider the fact that every 9 seconds a women is being beaten. every. 9. seconds. or the statistic that one in three women living on this planet have been abused. that’s one third of more than one half of the earth’s population. wtf.
the bogeyman is real if you are female. this stuff that we fear that keeps us up at night and makes us shake during the day is real. no amount of pandering will make it go away. but hiding will also not make it go away. we have to come out from under the covers and peel off the layers of insulation we have tricked ourselves into believing would protect us.
embracing my curves is not just about empowering myself to wear hot pants (though i do have a predilection for sparkly hot pants). its about not letting the bogeyman win. not allowing fear to control any aspect of you. of your life. i can be what weight watchers worldwide would call an emotional eater. if i’m stressed i eat. if i’m pissed i eat. if i’m afraid i eat. being treated like an object makes me feel stressed pissed and afraid. and in the past i’ve treated those feelings with food. not allowing myself the tasty solace of chocolate has forced me to feel fear anger and stress. and though it puts a strain on my heart to feel these feelings feeling them won’t kill me as quickly as the extra 80 pounds i was carrying.
losing weight for me then has been a revolutionary act.
freeing myself from fear finally i embrace the curve.