Editor’s note: I wrote this piece after a riveting conversation with the brilliant T. Allen-Mercado of Tea & Honey Bread, who is exploring body and self-love in her Sweet Tea Tuesdays series on Moms of Hue.
For years, my ass was my enemy. I hated her. She tortured me. No matter how hard I tried to stuff her into baggy pants and A-lined dresses, no matter how many thick, wool sweaters I wrapped around her, no matter how many ridiculous diets I committed to—the cabbage soup diet, the lemonade diet, the no-carbs diet, the eat-nothing-but-air-for-breakfast-lunch-and-half-of-dinner diet—I couldn’t hide her or make her go away.
I wanted to, though. Wished it with all my might. The stories are legendary, and, if you’re a “coke bottle” black girl, all-too-familiar. I grew up in a town where black boys wanted anything but what I had—curves, chocolate skin, a brain and my big brother’s mean muggin’. And I was raised and reared at the hand of a black woman who knew that eventually, what I had below my waist would be at a premium around some real brothers. I was all-at-once undesirable and a potential tart. A veritable Venus Hottentot—grotesque, untouchable, shameful and sexual, but certainly not sexy.
Then I got around some boys from Brooklyn. And Jamaica and Africa and Compton and Mississippi. All places where black men appreciate the art form that is a black woman’s curves. I distinctly remember the night I realized there is, as the comedienne Phyllis Yvonne Stickney once immortalized in a comedy routine, “power in the booty”: It was during a fashion show my friends had talked me into modeling in. Backstage, the producer was searching for someone tiny but curvy enough to fit into and look dead right in a tight, red, leather mini dress with sky-high black pumps, and the only somebody who could fit into it was, well, lil’ ol’ me. I didn’t want to wear it; it was tight and body-hugging and short and sexy—the exact opposite of every stitch of clothing in my closet. She might as well have asked me to walk naked out on that stage. But the producer was about the business—not my protestations. Before I knew it, she was squeezing and pulling and tugging me into that dress and pushing me out onto the runway and I was facing the spotlight and an audience full of guys who all seemed to move closer to the foot of the stage when they got a gander of what I was wearing—and specifically, all of what I’d squeezed into it. Let’s just say I gained a few, um, fans.
I was still uncomfortable with all of this, though, even as I forged a career and stumbled into womanhood and built a life on my own. Even dating and eventually marrying Nick, the King of Ass Men, didn’t change the perception I had of myself. I mean, this man has loved me inside and out, up and down, fancy or plain, clean or dirty, sweet or attitudinal, fresh or sweat, fly or foul. And I swear to you, every morning I open my eyes, this man tells me I’m beautiful. No matter, though: I still thought I was too curvy—that what I had needed to be hidden.
Getting pregnant changed all of that.
There’s nothing like the miracle that is procreation and the birth of a child to remind a woman just how incredible her body is. Honest to goodness, every inch of the parts that I railed against all the way through my late 20s became a huge asset—pun intended—when it came time to usher my children into this world. My booty is round and dense, my thighs thick, my hips wide—what you could call the perfect birthing body. My first baby was born after just three hours of contractions and 20 minutes of pushing. My second was out in three pushes.
My lower body is strong. Solid. Supple.
Perfect for what it was meant to do.
And even though I now have a two-baby booty and a little post pregnancy pot in my belly, a few stretch marks that weren’t around before and a couple extra pounds, I’ve fallen in love with me. All of me. I chalk it up to a certain level of confidence I gained when God put me in charge of two little human beings—two little girlpies who look to me for guidance and strength and clues for just, like, how to be. I’ve written HERE about how I’m trying to help Mari get comfortable with her inheritance; even at the tender age 10, it’s clear she’s got her mama’s figure. And with every lesson I teach her—every ounce of self-esteem I pour into my baby—I learn to love myself even more, without reservation, without hesitation.
Don’t get it twisted: I know I’m not perfect. But that’s the beauty of it. Honestly, when I saw Erykah Badu’s controversial “Window Seat” video, in which she strips naked in the middle of Dealey Plaza, I applauded her not for being edgy or questioning groupthink or inviting people to assassinate her work, but because she took off all her clothes and walked with confidence in her thicker, curvier, not-so-perfect-but-still-fly mommy body. She was walking like she meant it—like she was clear in her own mind that she’s comfortable with exactly who she is.
And as a 41-year-old mom of two I birthed and a third I’m helping to raise, I can say I feel the same way.