The quarantine and my life-long struggle with body positivity
It’s quarantine time! How are you? How many delicious tiny meals did you eat today?
I’m Ok. Mostly. Kind of. And I’m a little scared. I’m afraid my parents will get sick. I’m thinking about the people who have died and the people who will die. I’m thinking about my sisters in Oakland, Seattle and NewYork. I’m wondering what will happen to my livelihood. I miss my friends. I miss hugs. But TODAY! For now, I’ll skip the deep, dark apocalypse fears. Today I’m going to talk about getting fatter. :)
*If you’re not familiar with fat positivity, fat acceptance or body positivity (all different, nuanced concepts/movements), I hope you’ll be curious enough to research. When I use the word “fat” in this piece- I am not necessarily using it as an insult or a negative descriptor. Here’s a simple piece that could get you started.
I don’t know what y’all are up to in your socially distant little caves- but I am doing a LOT of snacking. I LOVE food, I LOVE eating. I've seen a lot of jokes on social media about quarantine and constantly eating. And I know how gross and weird my self-talk can be when I eat a lot. So here’s my goal. I want to say hello to everyone enjoying a bag of chips and a bowl of ice cream today. Hi babies! I’m right there with you! I’m going to talk about my journey with body issues in hopes that it’ll make you feel seen, more powerful and more beautiful today.
A couple months ago I watched the series SHRILL on hulu. I LOVED it. I highly recommend it. Definitely take the first couple episodes with a grain of salt. The protagonist ANNE begins her journey as a people-pleasing journalist living in Portland (played by Aidy Bryant). The first few episodes mostly reinforce the insecurities and lows of fat shaming. At first, Anny’s response is more frustrating than inspiring. You’ll want her to be stronger, and eventually she grew stronger. And when she did, it made me so excited to live and love my body. Just the fact that I got to watch a fat actress playing the LEAD role in a show made me happy. (Also Anne's roommate is queer, black, fat woman who is so sexy badass and that's really the character to look out for.) I didn’t realize how deprived I was. It’s amazing how much representation can change your mind. Slowly, I see more of myself in mainstream media. More black, queer, awkward, not skinny, not femme. I am looking for reflections of myself because I feel like I’m the opposite of nearly everything I see on tv and in the movies. And that makes me feel invisible. The more I see myself in my favorite shows and films- the more affirmed I feel in all my differences. Maybe it shouldn’t matter- but for me it really does.
When I finished watching Shrill- I was confused. I was so proud of my new fictional friend, Anne. I was excited for her to be in love with her body. I KNEW the facts from the start- ANNE is brilliant, kind and gorgeous, she deserves to enjoy her life! She deserves a fine partner who worships her. She deserves to write about her journey and celebrate her body. And somehow- after experiencing all that fictional self love- I couldn’t manage to apply it to my REAL ass life. I suddenly felt lower than before. Anne got there. Anne got stronger. Why can’t I? It’s like being depressed in the springtime. Suddenly there are flowers and colors everywhere and your heart is stuck in wintertime. I am looking around at all the fat-positivity and body positivity blooming around me and I feel like the same self-hating jerk.
I do all the things. I curate all my social media to be FULL of community and self-love. SEXY, black, queer, body positivity everywhere I look. If I see a post that makes me feel uncomfy in my skin- I unfollow. I report weight loss ads as offensive. To me, they are. I’m constantly looking at all the gorgeous activists, writers, strippers, actors and friends who seem to love their bodies unapologetically and I felt like I could NOT catch up.
I’m usually pretty hardcore about self love. Especially since I went sober, I have a WHOLE LOT of self love and I take good care of me. But when I have lows, I go relly, REALLY low. When I finished watching Shrill, I was thicker than usual. I couldn’t fit most of my clothing. I was getting fatter and I didn’t understand why. I was healthy, exercising regularly, productive, creative, sober, happy. But my body didn’t look good to me. I felt ugly. At the time I was planning to shoot a video for my song FUCCBOI. This new song and the EP is about sex. Goofy, casual, serious, deep, queer sex. So since the album is about sex-I have to be sexy, right? What is sexy? How can I be sexy?? My initial thought was- I’ll stop eating sugar, stop eating bread and I’ll work out really hard. I’ll shoot the video when I’ve trimmed down and got some sweet muscle cuts. So I tried. I did all of that. And you know what, it didn’t work. The date for the video shoot got closer and closer and I had to make a decision.
Be. You can either find a way to love this new, curvier, thicker Be- or you can wait until you have your fantasy six pack and shoot your fantasy video then. If you’ve seen the video, you know. There is no six pack. And you know what, maybe the world doesn’t need another fucking six pack.
Maybe you’re surprised I could be this petty, this mean to myself. Maybe not. But my loves, I’m an independent artist. I shoot my own headshots, I edit my videos, I curate my website, make my own fliers. I look at photos and videos of myself ALL DAY. Maybe that seems like a Leo’s wet dream, but it actually inspires the perfect storm of insecurities and neuroses. I see every double chin, every rippling giggle of my arms, every handful of belly pushing through my shirt. And again, I can be that loving radical feminist to everyone else. But for some reason, it's harder when I look in the mirror.
When I’m at my lowest-that’s when I’m farthest from my purpose. My purpose is to love on myself, and love on people like me. If I do my job right-my art, my music exists to make people feel stronger, safer, and godly. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll feel that way about myself constantly- but it does mean that I should reflect that in my work to my best ability. Or at least reflect my struggle with all that. I don’t think there’s one right way. Maybe having a six pack in a video would give somebody life and make somebody feel excited to be queer and atheletic. And also, maybe me being THICK AF, having 87% of my cheeks falling out of my undies, twerking, and making out with an adorable boo- maybe that’s exciting too. Maybe they’re both gorgeous as long as I love myself through it all.
When we finally shot the video, I had to coach myself into self love. It doesn’t usually work that way for me-but this time it did. I said to myself- if you saw a video of a Brown Queer THICK person bouncing around and being silly- would it give you life? Yea. It really would. So I had fun. I enjoyed it. I didn’t fall completely in love with my body. I cut up and constructed a shirt to make sure none of my belly fell out on camera. But I considered my favorite things- my thick thighs, my ass, my new tattoo. I can love on those bits until I learn to love the rest. That I could do.
This is not a sob story. This is where I come from. I grew up around a ton of white people. I was the black/multiracial girl and my body was just different from most of the folks around me. I grew thicker and curvy before all my friends did. I got my period first, I had bigger thighs and arms. In my tiny mind- that meant ugly, it meant fat (in a bad way). It meant drinking diet coke and “dieting” (whatever that means to a tween). It feels completely ridiculous to me now. I want to meet a little version of me and give her the longest hug and a giant bowl of ice cream. I want to shake every adult who makes comments about kid’s bodies. About anyone’s bodies. I know all that shame was wrong. AND YET. I’m still managing the same issues. I still talk down to myself. I sometimes still feel different, too fat, too big, too round
I don’t know how to define fat. I know that right now I buy LARGE and EXTRA LARGE when I look for clothing. I know I have to buy stretchy pants because my ass and thighs won’t fit pants without a little give. I know my doctor tells me I’m overweight for my height. I know people only say “WOW, YOU LOOK GOOD” when I’ve lost weight. I know I feel angry and hurt when someone sees me eating ice cream and asks “Is it worth the calories?” I don’t like the way my cheeks grow chubby when I gain weight. I don’t like the way my body feels more feminine when I gain weight. I don’t like the way I make myself feel bad for eating. It’s ALL GROSS AND SAD. But I'm working on it. And talking about it. I know just writing this down makes me feel a little better. Like seeing these words on a page takes some of the power out of it.
I don’t ever claim to have answers. I am not a motivational speaker. All I have is my own experience. So here’s where I’m at. In regards to self love and body positivity-it is a DAILY PRACTICE. It isn’t necessarily SUDDENLY I LOVE MY BODY FOREVER AND EVER. The way I grew up, every commercial, every movie, every piece of clothing PRIVILEGES a specific kind of white, European, skinny body. This requires a constant UNLEARNING. This means that those standards of beauty are consciously and subconsciously injected into our brains every day. It sucks, but loving my different body takes work. It’s like meditating, or prayer- the more I practice it- the stronger I become. But meditating once last week won’t necessarily help me today.
This winter, I watched Lizzo perform on SNL and I weeped. I was so proud of her and excited for the change she could inspire in mainstream music. But sometimes I forget Lizzo is human too. We may see Lizzo at her most confident, proudest moments- but that doesn’t mean it didn’t take work for her to get there. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have hard days. That some of the ignorant comments don’t get to her now and then. Everyone has hard days. Even Lizzo. I will have hard days. I will go through fazes when I obsessively run. I will sometimes not eat sugar. I will sometimes eat ice cream everyday (that’s me currently). I will always prioritize health over weight. I will always love when my ass jiggles. I will sometimes love when my dimples are deep. I love women who love thickness. I love fried things. I love green things. I do not own a scale and I will not buy one. Some days I will LOVE my thickness. Some days I will hate wearing sweatpants...again.
My journey is not yours. But I do want to tell you- it’s OK to eat. Your body may change now. The quarantine version of you may have a different routine and a different shape. And if your body doesn’t change now, it will eventually. It will get thicker, thinner, more and less muscular. If we’re lucky, we’ll grow old enough to see our skin loosen up and our hair turn gray. Change is inevitable and beautiful. If physical change is inevitable, then spiritual and mental love can be a tool for comfort- a place to make a home. When I rely on a certain shape or weight to feel sexy-I waste a ton of time not feeling good enough. What I’m attempting to do now is let the feeling stay, knowing my body will change, and finding the different kinds of sexy in each shape, each phase of me. I can’t say it enough. Self love is a practice. In quarantine-I have more time than usual-so I’m going to start today. My body is on my gratitude list today. I’m giving my ass and belly and cheeks some extra love squeezes. I’m grateful for my health. I understand I will sometimes love everything about me and sometimes I will have lows. But I can promise to prioritize self love. I promise myself to have patience with my spirit and my body. Every day. I promise to try to create spaces in my music and art for you to love on you. And I promise to listen if you ever feel I could do better. I’ve attached some of my favorite self-loving, sexy, gorgeous posts and people from IG. People who are fine and different and game me feel empowered. SOme are friends, some are artists I’ve never met. If you need some inspiration and some hope in these quarentimes-check these out! I love you -Be