Choosing to Love My Body at Every Size, Shape, and Ability
My body changed this year. My tummy poofed out in a way it never had before. I remember the day I felt it, pressing up against my desk in an unfamiliar way. I looked down and rubbed it, questioningly. Then I went back to working on whatever it was I was doing.
The second time I noticed it was when I put on my super cute hogwashers. While the still fit, the fabric hit me in places it hadn’t hit me before. I rubbed my belly and looked in the mirror, taking note of the different fit. I spent the day hyper aware of it. Rubbing it. Feeling it brush against surfaces. It was like this alien presence under my skin and I couldn’t adjust to it. But I did the stuff I intended to do that day and moved on.
The next time I noticed was when I realized my favorite t-shirts fit differently. My shape was not the same. My look was not the same. Parts of my body that rarely touched my clothing now had constant contact and I was having problems adjusting to that new sensation. I had a greater awareness of parts of me I’d usually ignored, and I didn’t like it. It took this time for me to fully own just how my body had changed.
It shouldn’t be a big deal. It shouldn’t even be an issue. Bodies change for any number of reasons. Some are health related, others activity related, but I know my reaction is because I am a fat, Black woman who cosplays. A lot of my visibility is due to whether people think I’m attractive enough to be human. The more my body changes, whether it’s getting fatter or the dimensions shifting, the less people acknowledge my existence and humanity and the harder it is to participate in general society. Flying, an already stressful activity, becomes outright hostile when I have to sit next to strangers who resent the space my body takes. Clothes shopping becomes a whole other beast when my clothing store options whittle down yet again because I’ve crossed the “semi-acceptable fat” threshold. Despite round being the perfect curve, that is not the curvy that the general public finds marginally acceptable and so many spaces and images openly reinforce that.
In media, womxn who look like me are jokes. We are punishments. We are comic relief. We are the unbelievable option. We are rarely seen and when we are, it’s because we are the least “womanly” option or the example of who not to be. We are tools who are only meaningful as plot devices to emphasize the rightness of thinness, whiteness, and maleness and nothing about us is real or meaningful unless we are serving these roles.
When you are a fat, Black womxn, people don’t need reasons to ignore you. Those three things are more than enough for people to dehumanize, debase, disenfranchise, demean, and destroy you at their whim. Or for financial gain. Or clout. Or a personal ego boost. The ways and reasons fat people, Black people, and womxn are oppressed, exploited, and disposed of in this world are infinite. When something jeopardizes the tiny bit of safety and balance I’ve found while embodying all these identities, it sends me into a tailspin of doubt, self-loathing, and self-flagellation until I reach a space of self-acceptance and, finally, healing.
Because I am a member of a culture that convinces us that women are less, I fight to know I am more. Because I am a member of a society that convinces us Black people are nothing, I fight to know I am someone. Because I am a person in a reality that convinces us fat is horrible and should be hidden, I fight to believe I can be seen. Should be seen. Want to be seen.
And because I am all these things – a fat, Black, womxn – I fight myself to see the perfect imperfection that is me and I fight to believe that I deserve a place here and to be seen and heard and loved not for all the skills I possess and all the value I can bring to someone’s life, but for being myself and existing. I don’t know how to not earn my place because I struggle to see myself as worthy and it’s hard to be in spaces when I don’t believe I deserve to be there.
So, I rub my belly. I look in mirrors. I take selfies, pose for pictures, cosplay, play with makeup, try on clothes, and take the time to appreciate the variability of my looks and the ways I can morph them into virtually anything and anyone I want to be. I caress myself and relearn to appreciate the form I have. I admire myself and I allow others to admire me. I make conscious decisions to put myself out there and live. And yes, my belly is round. My arms are large, soft, and fleshy. My chin has a twin and my thighs rub together till they destroy any fabric that dares come between them. My knees hurt and my joints ache. I cannot run anymore and many days I wake up in pain. Stretching is no longer a luxury, but a requirement for me to walk across a room. This is the physicality of me and regardless of who it bothers, offends, annoys, or touches, it is me. I love me in every form I’ve ever known, and I plan to love me in all my future forms. Because there is no joy to be had in hating myself. There is no joy to be found in being ashamed of myself. But everyday I love myself I find something more to love in this world, and considering how fucking terrible this world can be, I’m going to find and live my joy as best as I can.
I don’t need to care about your normal. Fuck your normal. I am me and I am amazing…Blackness, fatness, and all.
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