I am a black woman and I wear a size 4. My five feet, nine inch, 125-pound frame is a bit of an anomaly in the black community –- no Beyonce body here. Think Cameron Diaz, dipped in rich chocolate.
(And for the record, my slim frame is hereditary, not something gained by unhealthy means. A lot of the women in my family were also very thin when they were my age.)
Because of my slender body frame and proportion, I have been asked about my weight more times than I care to remember. It is usually peppered with positive or negative overtones, depending on the woman asking. White women tend to envy my size, whereas black women tend to pity me for it. It’s as if I straddle two different worlds –- praised by white and mainstream culture but enduring ridicule and countless cruel jokes from the black community for the same reason –- being thin.
And quite frankly, I am tired of the praises and criticisms I’ve received from both sides, finding these comments about my weight intrusive and downright rude.
Although mainstream America praises my slender figure, my people celebrate the curvier body type as beautiful. Just look at the covers of Kingor Black Men Magazine, graced with photos of rapper Nicki Minaj or actress LisaRaye turned around and poppin’ it out. Heck, even Coco, rapper Ice T’s wife, has a Thong Thursday photo posted via Twitter each week and Kim K’s famous curves are everywhere you turn. I mean, any time a white girl is thicker than you are….. I’m just sayin’.
The message is clear: If you are a black woman, or if you want to be with a black man, this is what your body should look like. Subsequently, there is a lot of pressure for thinner black women to have a fuller shape.
When I was younger, everywhere I went -– church, school, the hair salon –- other black women felt the need to comment on my weight. “Guuurrrlll, you look like a toothpick! Dontcha know no one wants a bone but a dog?” In restaurants, other black women would press me to eat more food, order dessert or ask me if I had an eating disorder. I would drop my head in shame, mumbling some reply about how I had tried to gain weight, and silently pray they would stop discussing my body openly like some sort of salacious celebrity gossip.
Today, I accept my body the way it is, but I would be lying if I said I have never wanted fuller hips or plump backside. In the past, I spent hours in the gym on the Stairmaster, doing lunges and leg presses -– the very exercises that fitness magazines promised would fill out my flat fanny. I wolfed down tons of sugary snacks and fast food, enough double grease burgers to make a competitive eater sick, all in an effort to pack on the pounds.