Accepting that my body type is not designed by myself is the most awakening experience of my life.
Many opine about the bodies and shapes of young brown women who appear to look more like women than the girls idealized by social standards. Remarks like “You so fast!” “You think you grown!” “Who you think you are?” haunt young women budding into puberty in more aggressive ways than their peers. These statements were addressed to me based on my body and the form it began to take in puberty, not my behavior. Culturally, having fully formed breasts and hips in the 6th grade was a stamp for a girl that was, by folk tale prophecy, going to be “fast.”
Fast? Moving faster than most girls or women should. Moving faster physically and mentally in courtship and dating. There is a standard somewhere in a book that no person has ever written nor read that states: Girls of a certain age should look like children, undeveloped and have no sexual identity. All girls who do not fit this standard are doomed to be objectified and oversexed. I had to accept this reality. I had to accept that my breasts meant that no one would ever see me at 12 years of age with 36DD’s and assume innocence or virginity. I had to accept friends parents not wanting me around their sons, their husbands or their daughters. I had to accept that I had to deny all the accoutrements of womanhood to avoid being “too grown”. I had to accept that my body was the pit of lust that I had to learn to control.
When people see what’s in front of you before they see your face, you learn what fast is, quickly. At home in my tweens and early teens, with my Mother, I was made to feel no particular way about my body. Shopping for clothes had changed only in the way that my shirts were larger and we purchased appropriate undergarments. My Mother didn’t tease, exclaim or complain about my body. Everyone else did. My Father, the boys I grew up with, my friends parents, my parents customers and clients all saw my breasts before they saw me. Briefly in my tweens, my step brother addressed me as “titties” even among his friends. My Father had me convinced that I was “just too fat” and needed to get involved in an active sport ( 5’3 140lbs). People would joke, “you gon’ be pregnant as soon as you have sex.” This is in the fast girl standard checklist. My father approached me, randomly, based on a rumor from family members I didn’t associate with, asking if I were pregnant. If he wasn’t abusive, I’d have said yes for shock value. People stared, made comments, jokes and antagonized. This was all apart of my experience. I had no idea what this was doing to my self-esteem so I didn’t protest. I began to accept my body and how people saw it as a deformity. I didn’t hang my head low but I made minor adjustments to myself as a defense mechanism. I wore certain shirts, certain coats, certain bras based on my environment. I dressed as a stud or tomboy for a year. I covered and hid to close myself in the box that allowed me to be only an undeveloped child. As I grew older, my Mother began to ask me to “cover up more” during her second marriage. I was told to wear a bra at all times around the house. Flannel pajamas weren’t enough to turn people off from my breasts. I didn’t understand but obliged. My shame grew. It was my fault, my duty to cover myself, my duty to make other people comfortable with MY body, with MY breasts, because MY breasts were exclusively sexual and made me exclusively sexual. That was my only dimension. I had to control my body because it made other people uncomfortable.
High school was better because I had chosen an all girl high school, primarily for academic reasons, although in reflection, I think it was a way out of being a “fast girl” in a school full of teenage boys. To my dismay the gossip of girls was just as damaging. In high school, I was allowed to look more like a woman. I wore lower cut tops or turtlenecks that clung to me. I dressed for my body. I began to feel confident about my breasts and the idea of being sexy. The confidence could not mask my long term insecurities. I began to fulfill the folk (fast) tale prophecy. If people were going to stare, antagonize and joke I felt I should put on a show. I began to lead with my breasts in social interactions not involving elders or family. I dropped my boundaries, I welcomed and laughed at the jokes, I addressed myself as “Titties”, I jumped and shook and flirted. Now I could own it. I could objectify myself. I had power. The judgement by my peers grew. Stories of things I never did or said floated through social circles. Any time I exposed or showed any part of my body, by the next day, stories grander than Jack and the Beanstalk surfaced. I enjoyed it. People spent thinking time on their idea of me, fantasizing, vilifying. I liked the idea of being that “fast girl” and not having to do much work for the title. I was already being boxed in, so I decided to decorate it. I began to objectify my body so much that I ventured into adult entertainment at 16. I wanted to be a dancer. Not for the money, for the attention. I learned quickly, by a literal slap in the face, that wasn’t who I was or wanted to be. I didn’t want strangers touching me. At that age I could only dance at private parties where so many things happened that I didn’t want part in. I dabbled until I was 18 and by the directive of a boyfriend I closed that chapter in life. Yes I was glad but who was he to tell me not to objectify my body? It belongs to me. I shouldn’t want other people to enjoy my body, right? I should keep it pure for my man, right? Where is the checklist of what I am supposed to do with my body?
I knew that I didn’t want to be constantly objectified or be the tap dancing cliche I portrayed. I knew I didn’t want to save myself for a false sense of purity. I knew that I wanted to be respected and sexual. I knew I didn’t have to choose between showing my cleavage on a night out and covering my boyfriends goods, because history told me I belonged to him. I knew that it was ok for me to flirt and maintain dignity. I was too scared to. I followed the advice of the book that no one had ever written or read. I gave into the concept of being one or the other. Hoe (whore) or good girl. The dissonance was so great in my sense of self that my will to be exactly who I wanted to be won the fight. My goal wasn’t to fit into my Mother or boyfriends purity standards. I wasn’t around to be the “titty” jester for those who graced me with their attention. My goal became being me.
My male friends didn’t have these issues, they were exactly who they wanted to be. My male friends never suffered from this lack of sexual freedom. They don’t have to deny their desires for sex or sexual attention because it would imply a lack of decency. I envied them with passion. I sometimes followed their social standards to avoid falling into those of girls. I wanted to be one of the boys. I wanted to enjoy my sexuality and not be degraded for it. No boys development of facial hair puts him in the social class of fast. No boys development of height or muscle mass requires him to cover up before visiting a friends house. He’s not taught to cover, not taught to hide for the sake of other peoples purity standards. No boy ever asks for disrespect because his toned biceps are showing. Boys in puberty are rarely questioned about how much sex they want. Boys in puberty. That statement evokes little discomfort. Girls in puberty. That statement evokes awkwardness. Boys in puberty is used as the explanation for all behavior, bad and good, to reason an adolescent males sexual behavior. An adolescent girls sexual development and behavior is described as fast, slutty, whorish, dirty, nasty. Girls having a sexual identity disturbs. I have chosen to be disturbing.
I choose confidence and pride in my now 36HH breasts. I choose to be as flirty as I want. I choose to wear exactly what I want. The jokes, antagonizing and rumors are still there for those who are invested but in being myself it hasn’t mattered at all. I choose to be sexual and dignified. I have redefined my sexuality by being a woman free from social standards, free from being chosen by a man who thinks I’m used up and impure, free from suppressing my hormones, free from expecting disrespect, free from being who others want me to be. This is redefining feminism.
“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe