"The Conventional Black Girl"
You have seen my thighs dangle out from under my shorts and my skirts. They jiggle, they flap and cause problems whenever I try on something new. It’s a little difficult to learn how to love every inch of my body fat when I go into a store — take your pick, H&M or Forever 21 — and have difficulty buying shorts. All of a sudden my regularly size six thighs can’t fit into your size 10 shorts. That’s a problem. Oh, my beautiful thick thighs — I put so much onto you that it always leaves behind lines and marks from the jeans I force onto you each day. Mainstream, I love my rolls, the rolls that roll over my size six pants — but do you? Why don’t you see the beauty behind my curves and my rolls? I never see my reflection on any of those websites when I’m shopping online. I’ve rarely met someone who looks like those size small, 5’10” models, with a small bust and a small waist. You deceive us, making us think those clothes will fit just like they do on the models, but they don’t. Are they ever tried on by someone who was larger than a small? You imagine all of us to be the same, and you expect for us to change until we are. Mainstream, you don’t allow for individuality, and you’re so quick to deem someone’s body out of the norm, to be plus-sized. Why is plus size a different section in general? You choose every chance you get to embarrass my big black thighs, forcing me to go to the plus size section when you can easily extend the sizes into your regular lines. Mainstream, learn to love and accept my body for what it is. What you see as imperfections I see as uniqueness.
Mainstream, you have taken away my uniqueness by manipulating my nanas, aunties and mommas for years. For so long, I was told that I had to tame my hair and make it look “presentable,” all the while damaging my hair. My hair, oh my hair, it’s been pinched and bobbled, robbed of its texture and all. It’s been strained, lost, shortened and almost completely uprooted. For years, my hair follicles have endured chemically-induced pain. Sitting there for what feels like years, being permed and burned, permed and burned, permed and burned. I constantly complainied from the pain only to be reminded that “beauty is pain.” Why does it have to hurt to be beautiful? Mainstream, you’re the one who told our mommas to scold us in the morning if we didn’t wrap our hair the night before, always making sure that our hair would be neat. We’ve been placed in a bubble where we would rather spend the money to look good then spend the time to be true to ourselves. Mainstream, you are a catalyst for change — to make everyone look just like you. You have beaten into the heads of my nanas, aunties and mommas that the natural curl coming straight from my scalp shouldn’t be there. You have convinced many of them that the hair we are blessed with is not okay, forcing us to assimilate to straight long hair just so we are not looked at as beneath the rest of mainstream. How I choose to wear my hair is my prerogative. I want to see my natural curls back. I want to walk into a job interview with the curls that sprout from my head and not worry about whether or not my qualifications are the only thing in consideration for the job. I’m slowly having to prove to those who come before me that it’s okay to wear my hair in its natural state. Mainstream, accept me and my natural afro of curls, just like we’ve had to accept everything else that you’ve thrashed in our faces.
Accept my skin, embrace it — it’s not going anywhere. I am born and proud of my smooth cocoa skin — my beautiful chocolate skin that reminds you of filth, that you describe as dirt. Mainstream, you set aside my skin color as if it’s removable. We are not seen as an entity that needs representation. You were in my friend’s head when she thought her only option was to bleach her beautiful skin — her beautiful chocolate brown skin. Mainstream, you tell my sisters and me that we will be accepted if we look just like you, if we try to match you as best we can. There’s a divide between me and my lighter-skinned sisters. Mainstream, do you only wish to inflict pain on me and my sisters? Do you know how difficult it is to look in the mirror and never see the image reflected back at you in media? Mainstream, do you hear from your nanas, aunties and mommas that you need to date someone with lighter skin so that your babies will have lighter skin so that your baby will be considered beautiful based upon her skin color? Mainstream, if you could change your skin color, would you be chocolate? No. You would rather just take everything else about black women and claim it as your own.
My lips, oh my lips, I was born with these luscious, full and round lips. They were not manufactured — just au natural. You constantly tore down my sisters for their lips and used it as a way to emasculate my brothers. “Big lips” are equated with ugliness, mainstream, except when it comes to today’s reality stars. We embrace many reality stars as if their newfound interest in having big lips make them look better when that same amount of tissue in my lips is deemed unattractive. These are the same lips I use to mindfully obey your every whim, policing my sisters about their hair expression and reminding our brothers that assimilation is the only way to get ahead — all of that to finally have my lips deemed “cool.” My grandmother actually tried to teach me ways to make my lips look smaller based on the type of makeup that I used.
There’s only so much about my appearance and my body that I can continue to take from you, so I’ve decided to take it all back. No longer will I look to you for justification. If you will not represent my beautiful body and everything that comes along with it, then I’ll find or create a space that will. If you refuse to recognize the part of your current culture that takes parts of the culture that I’ve had for years, I will shame you for it. Mainstream, if you continue to purposely tear me and my sisters down, remember that we’ll always keep rising up.
The Conventional Black Girl