Memories are funny things. I’m not sure if it’s that we forget some things to make space for new memories and remember others because in some way they define us. Those memories might still serve some purpose and make the “bigger picture” seem not as big anymore. I remember going to Sunday school with my twin sister and cousin, being back home in Swaziland playing in the garden as gogo (grandma) sipped tea with a light blanket placed on her lap and yet I could make out the shape of her big legs. I remember smiling until my cheeks hurt, praised for being “such a pretty little girl” and being well fed.
As I got older my “African curves/black girl body” came in and in true form I got those thick legs, an imperfectly round big butt and big arms. This felt and looked natural to me having spent so much time with my older cousins, aunts and gogo. I had clearly inherited this body from her.
Inherit/in’herit/v. Derive (a characteristic) from one’s ancestors.
This body had been given to me, derived, passed down from women before me, I had no choice in the matter and yet it started to feel like I was being punished for it.
A box of memories
Pain: In grade 4 art class my art partner drew a picture of my legs and made them look like tree trunks. He showed the other boys and they burst out laughing.
Anxiety: Primary school swimming galas were the worst for me. I had developed fuller hips, a big butt and the looks I got when I was in swimwear were enough to break anyone’s spirit.
Humiliation: At the end of science period in high school I stood up, grabbed my bag which raised my dress and I accidentally flashed the girl behind me. She said “that’s disgusting, keep that to yourself.”
Shame: My big butt, thick legs, big hips and arms.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ” – Dr Maya Angelou.
I remember what they did, what they said and how it made me feel.
These moments helped define me. This series of events made me realise I could no longer shame my body the way other people had. I had to find comfort, peace and love in the way I looked. I surrounded myself with strong influences that celebrate curvy African women. Influences who honoured the complexity of stretch marks, the strength of thick thighs, the fullness of wide hips and the beauty of an imperfectly round shaped big butt. Influences who weren’t afraid to look for beauty in “ugly places.”
By Miss Curvy Lala