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😈 If you don't read today's email scroll to the end for a treat. ⬇️
Today's question is:
"What was your earliest memory of body shaming?"
Email your answer to me.
Immediately, I thought of two things.
1️⃣ In third grade my class voted for best dressed student in the class. 👕
At the time I wore sweat pants—a practical choice, I didn't grow out of sweats so quickly—or my brother's hand-me-downs. I thought I could win the contest, too. I loved matching sweat suit tops and bottoms (lime green! fire engine red!) And I loved the soft feel of my brother's hand-me-down Captain America 🇺🇸 raglan shirt. I thought I was adorable.
But Lauren Melendez won. She didn't just win by a few votes—it was a landslide. She got recognition from the teacher. 🥇 A physical award. And popularity stature in the class. I remember comparing myself to her and understanding what our class valued.
👧🏻 She had pale skin, bone straight hair, and usually wore tight fitting wool pants (houndstooth seemed to be her favorite pattern).
👶🏽 I had a jolly belly, unruly dark curly hair, and clothing that showed a different level of family wealth—we were poor! I realized then that my physical appearance would affect how people evaluated my worth.
2️⃣ The second memory to come up was also in my adolescence. I sat in my cousin's room and we took a break from kicking a soccer ball around. I remember looking at him while we both sat catching our breath and I asked myself: "Why wasn't I born with pale white skin and an athletic body like he was? Why wasn't I beautiful like him?"
These days, I'm full of self love. 💝 But my thoughts constantly compare my body to people around me who are further up the ladder of "the ideal". 🥴 It's exhausting, amiright?
◾ I feel it when I walk by cute guys and they don't so much as glance my way but stare at the white guy next to me.
◾ I feel it at the gym when I see a guy with bulging muscles working out next me lifting 10x the weight I am.
◾ I feel it when I'm online and I see a younger (usually blonde) guy with 9,000 likes from a selfie he just posted.
◾ Sometimes it makes me angry. I went ballistic when I saw gays making porn fetishizing that crazy Qanon shaman who terrorized the US Capitol building. It's like, fuck: not only do we train ourselves to hate brown/black/trans people but now we're joyfully celebrating white supremacists in our fetish spaces? Hell no. Something's got to change.
The insidious part of all this, is that no matter what you look like, we'll always find a flaw—something to fix—on the road to "perfection". There's always another ladder rung to climb.
As I get older, I'm also keenly aware of how my age can make me unattractive to people. Younger guys in my friends' circles will occasionally make a joke like "ug, when I get old like 30 or 40 my life will be over". And I realize: that's my age. Is my life not valuable any more?
Of course it is! Snap out of it. 💥👋🏼
My point is this: your body is valuable. 🧘🏼♂️ Your body, mind, skin color, degree of physical ability, hair density/texture is beautiful. 💘 You are worthy of adoration and of love just as much as anyone. Every body is worthy.
Honestly, I needed to hear these words.
But they are not mine.
Sonya Renee Taylor has a book that talks about this very topic. It's called "The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love". She's an incredible queer black woman. And you can support her work by getting the book.
These days I'm trying to un-train my preference for young, pale, and thin. I'm filling my Instagam feed with #BlackJoy, a hashtag about super-melanated stories. I'm giving myself grace for the roundness of my curves. I'm adding thicc boys to my OF content rotation. I'm digesting Instagram accounts from folx with different physical disabilities and trying not to erase those from my field of vision.
I'm still working on loving my curly hair. But baby steps, you know.
Thanks for listening.
This week, I'm going to leave you these photos of Erik and my artwork.
He contacted me about getting a custom pink version of my daddy self-portrait. Quite frankly, I'm flattered that this young pup loved my body enough to frame it.
It proudly hangs behind all of his self-portraits on Instagram as seen here. But most importantly, he's taught me an important lesson about loving my own body. Because even when I didn't, he did.
Thanks for the love and support, Erik!
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