How could you have known? The world did not teach you so. Before the time you left the nurture and safety of your mother’s womb your life was dictated to you. Walk tall…be pretty…stay silent…be thin…hide your stretch marks…lay your hair…always smile…do not behave “like a girl”…be a lady…depend on a man to validate your worth… these..these were your mother’s truths…and they soon became ours.
I remember watching my mom as a youth and admiring her light..pale brown yellow skin beneath the kitchen’s lights. She had freckles and her hair she’d wear in a chignon bun at the nape of her neck. She was withered…and she was worn…but she was beautiful. And I’d tell her so and she’d dismiss me…she’d say things like… “O please! Alicia!” with her incredulous tone…because how could she know she was beautiful if she never believed it?
And she’d tell me stories of being a little brown girl in Bangor, Maine…breast before her time…hips and thighs… .and these were the welcoming of womanhood…yet she felt “fat” barely a size 14 simply because she differ from her porcelain skin counterparts. And I imagine it’d be kind of hard to love yourself when you’re always trying to hide yourself. And my mother did not know enough to teach me the fundamentals of self-esteem when she did not possess any of her own.
My road to self-love was not an easy one. I can regale you with tales of my attempts to purge my food after binge-ing quietly in my room…but to no avail due to my lack of gag reflexes… and I would stare at the models on t.v and in the magazines and I’d pray just a little bit harder for straighter hair…lighter skin…thinner waist…smaller thighs… I’d pray to be anyone but me. And the careless words of the children who didn’t matter shaped my view. There was no one sitting at home waiting for me to tell me that these kids could not define my beauty for me. And for too long I saw myself thru their eyes…not my own…and what skewed vision will have you see about yourself is never pleasant.
How many times did I find myself the butt of someone’s jokes? The target for some older man simply wanting to scam me out of my vagina? The “friend” but never the “lover”…not aloud anyway…only in secret…in shame…as if being seen with me was a detriment to some lame’s coolness. And I tried to adhere to everyone else’s perception…until one day I didn’t.
I began this piece simply because I wanted to vent. To all the little girls who feel ugly…for the women who’ve been sold a dream they can’t achieve by nameless…faceless corporations who’s only interest is to tell you how NOT beautiful you are simply so you will buy their products to make you “beautiful”…and shovel cancer down your pores and throat in the process. This is for the fat girl who just wants to wear her shorts because it’s hot and not because it’s a fashion statement but won’t because she is too ashamed of how her thighs rub. For the dark skin girl who’s even considered bleaching creams…makeups to even her “tone” or filters on social media apps to make herself more appealing.
For the depressed girl who cannot smile because inside she feels like death… for the raped girl…the abused girl…the girl who is a “ho” by some man’s standards…the slut who has been shamed…for the skinny girl who craves curves like drugs injecting herself…for the girls seeking a man to be their father…for the girls who did not know enough to look into a mirror and smile back at what was there…. this is for YOU.
For the slut…the saint….the cutter…the tomboy…the lesbian…the bi girl…the virgin…the white girl…the black girl…the girl with the long hair …the girl with the hair that won’t grow past the nape of her neck…for the nappy girl…for our unborn daughters who will be met by the hostile environment that is a man’s world and wasn’t designed for you…
It is cliche…but you are not alone…
I am you.
And that may not be a very comforting thought to you…but I assure you it is…simply because…today…I can stand naked in the mirror and not be concerned about how my right boob is larger than the left…how my stretch marks increased post babies and a 200 lb weight gain only to be followed by a 100 lb weight loss that left my skin sagging (daily might I add). I can smile despite the fact that my mental health diagnosis is as thick as a dictionary…and I smile despite my gap…because these things are parts of me…not the sum of me… I am so much more. If a person will not take the opportunity to find that my beauty is so much deeper than the physical that they see…THEY ARE NOT WORTHY.
And you owe no one any apologies…only to yourself. Apologize for not knowing better…then commit to doing better.
Yes…this is for YOU…the beautiful woman who did not know to love herself first….