So, like many girls ( I’d like to think it’s a safe assumption to make) I’ve never really consistently had a positive image of my body. My whole life I believed I was very fat and that obviously meant I was ugly (I know right?). This despite the fact that I was an active young teen, participated in sports and stayed active. This is also despite the fact that I was raised in a matriarchal home, my grandmother, mom, aunt and my three cousins who are my sisters.
They never demonised our bodies, I can’t remember my mother ever telling me to ‘cover up’ or ever putting the idea in my mind that my body somehow influenced or affected anyone else but myself. Autonomy over your body right?
Lesson one in being a woman, no a person.
Coming from a family of women with different shapes and figures I was taught to love my thick legs because I got them from my gran who gave them to my mom, who passed them on to me.
Love yourself, lesson two.
There were many positive influences in my life informing the way I saw myself yet the few negative ones turned out to be the ones that stood out. I can never forget how a friend of mine in primary school in grade 6 called me a ‘big ball of cellulite’. I was 12, I didn’t even know what cellulite was, not really but I knew that I didn’t want to be called that and I probably tried anorexia for a few days after that incident. Funny how at my ‘thinnest'(according to my logic then, my hottest) I was actually so ugly inside, I hated myself everyday finding something new to find unappealing about myself, always comparing myself to skinny white girls with their western standards of beauty. It was impossible to win, I’d get the hair but didn’t have the hip bones popping out. Oh my god I was such a hot mess.
I still am, we all are at some point; your body image is more than simply how you see yourself, it is a part of who you are, how you think, how you interact with people, it is the relationship I have with myself.
I’m sure anyone who is in their 20s especially after 23 can vouch that this is such a transitional period in your life, learning about yourself, your daddy issues, your real friends, becoming conscious of your blackness and what it means in a world constantly aiming to shove your identity in a box, oh and of course what it means to be a black woman and realising how strong your mothers are and how much they protected you from the harsh reality of the world as a child. Growing up is tough but the lessons and the process in retrospect are the best part of life, knowing what you know today and comparing it to what you knew and who you were 5 years ago is the essence of life.
For the longest time (since I can remember) every winter I grow my own ‘winter coat’. I don’t shave from the 1st of June until the 1st of September. Yes I don’t shave my armpits, legs and pubic hair for three whole months. At first it was because (this is stupid but here it goes) ‘I am a winter baby and my body temperature naturally runs cold and growing my under arm hair would prevent me from wearing short sleeves and catching a cold’ wow what a load of bullshit that I had to even explain why I wanted to let my body do what it wants to do naturally without inferring.
Fast forward to now and of course my winter coat is growing as lush as ever, I even cut all my hair before winter (in hopes of growing a fro…stay tuned) and yes the curtains match the carpet and for the first time I’m so unapologetic about it. I actually enjoy not shaving, like until I stopped doing it I couldn’t fully acknowledge that it wasn’t my thing, I hate the way my pores look on my legs from shaving and I hate not having hair down there yes I said it. I am actually dreading the first of September now, I’ve learned to embrace everything that is me.
When the usual idiots would ask me in almost shock (and definitely disgust) ‘Why don’t you shave your armpits?’ I would shoot back with a witty comeback ‘what business do you have with my body wena!?’ also shocked and disgusted that you think you know me like that? Or the none question question ‘You don’t shave your armpits!?’ ,this is my favourite; my answer is simple, logical and true ‘Nope’. Besides you wouldn’t be asking a man that because society doesn’t tell you that you own a man’s body.
So in brief I’m learning to be unapologetic about myself and be happy in my own body right now. Waiting until I have that Serena body to love myself is the biggest lie I told myself, loving yourself now makes you so much happier and more confident with yourself, well at least that’s what I’m learning. I mean I still have bad days where I hate the way my breasts look (getting older and gaining and losing weight changes the womxn body neh?) but it’s life, it’s a working process everyday we live and learn. My thing this year is to not explain myself (my pubes, my armpit hair, my head hair, my braless comfortable self, my potty mouth, my actions and thoughts) to anyone. Who knows maybe if I am still feeling the bush I’ll rock it till next winter.
(Follow Keo on Insagram – @keezy_keeks )