body image issues

Becoming your Mother

We think intelligence shields us from emotion. Then Life proves us wrong.  As one prone to depression and mood swings I can tell you that when your mind sets upon an idea, no matter how harmful it may be to you, your intellect tends to contribute to your [emotional/internal] downfall. All mantras and affirmations are thrown out the window as phrases like “You are beautiful and you should love yourself” lose precedence to the more cynical “They lied. You know better than to trust in the words of people.”


I’m no stranger to body image issues. We can all relate to feelings of inadequacy and most of us have had and continue to have the 2 AM “I will change my Life in the morning” moments when everything seems attainable with a little effort and possibilities seem to lie in wait, to grow under the guidance of the soon to be rising Sun.  I however, have not paid attention to these issues for years.  The logical part of me took over and I decided, if I can walk, run when I need to [my smoker’s lungs don’t allow for random running] and fit into my clothes, I’m fine. 

Until recently. 


During one of my not so appealing bouts of Fuck My Life  someone said to me, “Why do you look such a mess? I mean I’d still fuck but, I don’t know you to be this way.” And as much as I laughed it off, it’s been on mind for probably over a month now.

Why? Maybe because he said it at a time when my mind was ready and willing to accept every unflattering thing one could say in order to justify it’s already despondent thoughts at the time.  Maybe because, being an emotional masochist, a part of me enjoys having something to add to the file marked “Reasons Why You Sometimes Really Ain’t Shit” in my mind. 


It’s a funny thing when you think about it. Really, when one’s going through a time when all they’d really like to do is die, why would they even bother with looking pretty for the outside world? I’m not worried about being hit on by you, I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to leave the house tomorrow, assuming I make it through tonight.  A “You don’t understand, things are rough” didn’t seem to quite make him understand why I was as I was and so I left it.


While discussing it with a certain Sir he said to me “I don’t even know why you’d pay attention to that, you’re so smart. Have you..Do you even see yourself though? Goddamn.” And he looked at me in a way I haven’t seen in a while. In awe. 


The whole experience made me realize, what you know doesn’t save you from making silly decisions, accepting less than you deserve and words of affirmation could be nothing more than pretty lies if you tell yourself so.


I know a  Lady, she’s beautiful, young, ambitious and tied down to a man who treats her like surplus meat.  Does she know she can do better? Yes.  Is she lacking options? No. So why is she staying?


I said yesterday that I realize we’re becoming Women. We’re growing and even though our private school education, feminism and all round privilege made us think we’d be far from the women our mothers became, at the end of the day, somehow, we end up there. 


We’ve grown to undermine our mothers’ experiences and really it seems, only age and our own parallel experiences will humble us. And I’m taking them as they come.  We’re taking them as they come. 


Body Language: Stretchmarks, Chinese tea and the Women I know

“Don’t be ashamed of your stretchmarks. You’re just a tiger that’s earned it’s stripes.” 

I read this and rolled my eyes. What is this fuckery? Honestly, it took me back to the “FAT stands for Fabulous And Tempting” days.  I’ve never appreciated such sayings, probably never will. They sound like something a teary eyed, self hating woman would say to herself in her bathroom, and that, my love, is not a sign of pride in one’s self as far as I’m concerned.

I got stretchmarks when I was 12.  I had no idea what they were and thought it was a part of puberty, my cousin and my mother found them amusing and used to call me Zebra sometimes. My waist and my cousin’s were referred to as Zebra Crossings for years afterwards, and because it was something I bonded with the women in my family over, I wasn’t ashamed. 

Growing up with African women, body issues and insecurities were rife. Of course we didn’t notice at the time, we just knew our mothers, aunts and sisters were fixated on their weight. Chinese slimming tea, smaller portions, workout videos, tights and sneakers that were always unused, creams, belts, they were all a part of the constant battle to lose weight. 

My aunts would walk into the house and the first thing they’d comment on was our weight. “You’re thinner” they’d say beaming, or “You’ve gained” as they scowled and asked my mother what was wrong and what she was feeding me. 

I’ve never really thought it was a matter of self hate.  Maybe because in my household it wasn’t all that extreme. They were doing what they felt they needed to do to be more appealing I guess, and they slacked often so, it wasn’t all that serious. 

Back to the stretchmarks. 

My Zebra Crossing started on my waist and traveled downwards a bit. I couldn’t have been bothered. Nobody saw my body and I couldn’t care less. They were normal. The problem arose when I noticed them on my knees. I was crushed. I couldn’t wear shorts anymore. At 13, I had things to hide. I hated them. I tried everything my mother suggested but, it was done. See this was before Bio Oil and Jasmine Tissue Oil entered our house. Back then it was “Try Vaseline or something”. For 3 years I had to buy clothes that were below the knee. The waist Crossing I got accustomed to and I accepted that I had more marks than my 40 something year old mother.

But through all that I never really felt ugly. I was annoyed. I was exasperated, but never truly insecure. Until one day I stepped out of the shower and saw one on the underside of one breast. Lord, I broke then. This would mean no more low cut tops. What WOULD I be able to wear now? I wanted to have a nice body dammit. I wanted to not feel awkward at pool parties and feel the breeze on my knees in a place other than my yard.  I was already tired of my aunts pulling me toward them and pulling up my clothing while they suggested things that never worked. On my breasts too? I couldn’t.

That day I started using Bio Oil. And no, this is not another success story. It did nothing but make me sweat and make my skin shiny.  I gave up. I got mad at my body. And I stopped looking at it. I just went about my days, undressed,dressed,undressed,dressed..Never quite paying attention to it. 

One day I was nervous about having sex with someone because I felt ugly. I undressed in my room, a panicked look on my face and realized my breast marks were gone. Those on my waist I’d have an eternal relationship with, and my knees were pretty much the same. I stared, probed, lifted my breasts, pulled at my skin, looked at my skin tone, the darker areas, the lighter areas, and really took my body in.

This was it. I had stretchmarks. My tummy refused to be flat, no matter what I tried, my right ass cheek had a dimple while the left didn’t, and my breasts were as they were.  In that moment I asked myself “The fuck is your problem though?” 

It would be nice to wear shorts and tiny summer dressed but, evidently that wasn’t happening anytime soon. Turning around, my waist stretchmarks looked really pretty to me.  I still trace them along with a smile. My breasts are lovely and my tummy, it isn’t offensive, not in the least. It occurred to me: I have the body of the Women in my family. There is nothing odd or ugly about it. 

If it bothered me that much, I could do something about it. If not, I was fine. 

I haven’t really had issues since then. I don’t understand it when women honestly hate their bodies. I can’t relate. I understand to a certain degree, I understand wanting to change a few things, it’s normal, but women who detest their bodies, I never really know how to explain to them that it’s okay. 

Do I sometimes look at my friends who appear to have flawless bodies and envy them? Yes.

But I have an intimate relationship with my body now that I wouldn’t  trade.ImageImage