She rocked my world without saying a world. That’s because, thanks to the part of the brain that sometimes recolors crazy thoughts into perfectly rational ideas, she made it OK to come out of the house in a baby tee with her tummy drooping five, maybe six inches below the shirt’s hem. On either side of her waist, a balloon of flesh dangled over her jeans, which were accented by a belt that squinched the bulges even tighter. She strutted hard to make all the cake beneath her back pockets wobble and shake. And wobble and shake it did. Mission accomplished.
I love being a Black woman. From little girls to gray-haired grandmothers, we got it going on en masse. There’s just a quality that makes us all shine, even if we don’t directly embrace or realize it ourselves. But—and you knew there was a but coming, and not just because I’m talking about sistas—too, too many of us have been lulled into this false belief that in order to be sexy, every article of clothing has got to be vacuum-packed onto our frame.
Sheaths, gowns, slacks—Lord Jesus, even our sweat pants, scrubs and pajama bottoms—everything’s susceptible to get the painted-on treatment. And I’m going to venture and say that 6 times out of 10, the suction only works to highlight one thing: a lot of us are taking that “I’m thick” privilege way too far. We’re lulling ourselves into a false sense of comfort by using euphemisms for being overweight. We’re full-figured. We’re curvy. We’re big girls. But we’re also damaging our health and hurting our bodies by trying to make corpulence extra cute.
Last week, Clutch posted a story about the whopping number of Black women who are being categorized as overweight [sic] or obese. Seventy-eight percent of us. That’s a staggering figure, even a little disheartening when you think about all of the health risks that go along with hauling around too many extra pounds. I was never a real believer in body mass indexes or weight scales. What you won’t do is put me up against a waif-thin, minute-big white girl or compare me to a petite Asian, who happens to be the same height as I am and then tell me I’m alarmingly overweight. So I’ve taken the findings from studies and research with a grain of salt.
After all, we are thicker by design. We’ve got big legs, big booties, big chests, and big hips—even a lot of thin girls got Coke bottle shapes—and because that’s the prototype outlined for us by our ancestors, we rightfully take pride in it. Instances of Black women suffering from eating disorders are increasing but still nowhere close to touching the body hatred that our white counterparts experience. And that’s a good thing. I watch Intervention and my heart goes out to the girls compromising their health—and wasting all that doggone food—trying to get or stay thin.
But we’ve got health issues of our own that are being exacerbated by the baggage of being overweight, and they’re just as detrimental as a girl intentionally tossing her cookies to maintain a svelte figure. Diabetes is a problem. Heart disease, circulatory issues, asthma — you name it, we got it. So common sense tells us that we need to be more considerate of how our bodies are working and not just stuffing, prodding, pulling, and—with a hope and a prayer—zipping them into a too-tight outfit and saying it is what it is.
I’m also not one of those believers that Black women don’t work out. Even I venture out to the gym for zumba and kickboxing every once in a while. Dude may stop me at the door like he don’t know me, but I whip out my membership card, and he falls back quick. I am not and never have been—and I’m gonna go on ahead and assume I won’t ever be—a skinny girl. I was introduced to my abs briefly when I ran track in high school, but we’ve long since parted ways.
I’m now a solid size 12, a (eh-hem) hefty increase from the size 8 or 10 I was back when I moved to D.C. God knows I never met a biscuit I didn’t like, so I could never make the sacrifices necessary to whittle my buxom self down to a low-end single digit. But I do want to be healthy. And you don’t have to be a stick figure or an itty bitty little thing to strap on some sneakers for a brisk walk or press through a yoga class at least once a week.
Just because you put sugar on poo don’t make it pancakes and just because you put lycra spandex on a muffin top don’t make it sexy. I am personally thankful for the design genius who created the empire waist. And I wish more of my homegirls would join me in using it.
Because baby, if you are a size 16, no amount of positive thinking is going to make getting into a pair of size 10 shorts the right thing to do. And yet I see sisters strutting around all the time in clothes that are clearly from the junior’s section when they know they needed to be front and center at Ashley Stewart. We’re ready to verbally assassinate anybody who dare suggest it ain’t cute. But it’s not. I wouldn’t say it to some folks’ faces—hey, I’m a writer, not a streetfighter—but it’s not a good look. And not just in the fashion sense, either. Because inasmuch as it troubles me to see our clothes stretched across us, it’s more saddening to know that our main concern is looking good rather than actually being good. From the inside on out.