Body Party

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First, can I just say that whenever you see something in all capital letters you know it’s going to be some ignorance. But this hit one of my sore spots and I felt the need to address it.

Growing up I was called fat, and to be honest it scarred me for life. Looking back, I realize that while I was what qualifies as medically overweight, it was just baby fat that I would grow out of it. And in high school, I finally did. But having spent my formative years being teased, and a doctor who lectured my mom about watching my portions at every yearly checkup, the damage was done. I was a perfectly normal size, and in decent shape thanks to that godawful Presidential fitness test we had to do in PE every year. But looking in the mirror all I ever saw was fat.

It took me until I was an adult, and legitimately plus-sized, to realize how wrong my thinking was and do something about it. It’s only now, at 28 years old that I can look at myself and say, “yeah, you’re bigger than you would like to be- but you’re still beautiful and have nothing to be ashamed of.” I was embarrassed by my body for so long that I never wanted to do anything that would call attention to it. So I shied away from sports, and even though I would have loved to take dance classes, the thought of squeezing my (roly-poly, I thought) body into a leotard was TERRIFYING.

It may seem like one of those hippy-dippy, touchy-feely, politically correct things but the plus-size and HAES (health at every size)  movements against body shaming have roots in the type of ignorance displayed above. You can’t change your body overnight. And even with living the ideal lifestyle of 100% clean eating and a tailored exercise routine, there are limits to how much you can realistically change your size and shape. For example, I’m never going to have one of those perch a tray on it booties. I can definitely build it up, but  absent a commitment to  surgical intervention, it’s just not going to be a bubble butt. But to take it even further, the demands of our careers, significant others, and family prevent us from being able to live that ideal lifestyle.

The judgment from others is unnecessary. Overweight people know they’re overweight. They can’t forget because we idolize certain body types and mock those who don’t meet the standard. For example, the Playboy model who filmed a woman changing in the gym locker room.  For all we know that woman has already lost 25 lbs. But she was made a mockery of because she didn’t have the “perfect” body.

I love myself, rolls and all. I’m strong enough now not to let anyone discourage me. I haven’t met my goals yet, but I have more energy. I look forward to moving my body. I’m getting more flexible and discovering muscles I didn’t know I had. I’m saving money by cooking more and eating out less. I’m craving more fresh foods and less sugar. Whether or not anyone else can see the changes on my body, I’m happier with myself. I’d like to lose 50lbs, but even if I only lose half that, at least now I know that I’ve done everything I can for my body to perform optimally.  I’ll end up wherever I end up and have fun doing it.

 

Don’t bring me no bad news!

*cue Evillene*

2016 has been kind of a bummer so I thought it was time to put some good energy out in the world. *sprinkles glitter*

I’ve been going through my share of struggle but it’s not all bad. I’ve been connected with some folks who I hope will be mentors to me. They helped me make a decision about where to go next professionally and that has been priceless.

Like so many other women, weight and body image has been my cross to bear. This year I decided I needed to make a change, or quit complaining. I’ve been working out at least three times a week for 3 months now, and it’s finally a habit. I don’t always want to do it but I do it anyway. And recently I found a gym that I’m excited to go to. It’s a women’s fitness studio that focuses has all types of classes- from Zumba to pole tricks to aerial silks. I’ve been doing the dance classes mostly and have been having a blast. This past weekend I went to a 2hr cardio dance class choreographed to Beyonce’s 7/11. And next month there will be a limited time adult ballet workshop. I finally feel like I get it now. You really have to find an activity that you love. I’ve always wanted to dance, but I felt so self-conscious that I never did anything past one year of tap/ballet/gymnastics in kindergarten. I secretly envied the drill team girls in high school, but I was a late bloomer and the thought of wearing a short skirt and *gasp* shaking my butt in front of a stadium full of my peers (and parents!) was terrifying. Now I’m more comfortable myself, and to the extent I’m still self-conscious it doesn’t overshadow my desire to let loose and get moving.

How I feel when I’m in dance class:

How I probably look when I’m in dance class:

LMAO!

I’m also going through the agonizing process of making friends. In June I took my long awaited, first ever trip to NYC to visit my sister-from-another-mister Maya, which was SOOOOOO needed. Hopefully she comes to see me in Screwston and the hijinks can continue, but if not it won’t take another 5 years for me to come back! In the meantime Bumble, which is basically feminist Tinder, has a “BFF” feature that allows you to make a profile strictly to find your new bestie. I met two cool girls, one of them just moved to Fort Worth and the other I haven’t had a chance to meet back up with but I’m still putting myself out there. Unfortunately , a new squad is not going to just pop up on my door step so I am willing myself to be an active participant in creating the life I want.

If you have good news to share, feel free to put it in the comments!

Breaking Point

2016 has been a year.

Culturally and politically, as a Black woman, it’s been rough. We have a presidential candidate endorsed by the K_K_K who has yet to disavow said endorsement. We lost Prince. It’s apparently open warfare between the police and the Black community.

Personally, it’s also been a trial. My third wedding anniversary is coming up next month and we’ve been together for 8 years now. In all that time, we had never had a real falling out. You know, the kind where one person can’t stand to look at the other and is afraid this might be the end? Yeah, we finally had one of those. We’re back to normal now but that kind of ruined a full month of my summer. Things at my job have been. . . challenging, to say the least. If you know me personally, you know what I’ve been dealing with and if you don’t–just use your imagination. All I will say here is that I’m considering my options. Just three days ago was the first anniversary of my friend’s death. I’ve thought about him every day since he passed and it still doesn’t seem real. Riding an emotional rollercoaster on two fronts has me feeling like a crazy person. I like to stay at equilibrium. People always comment on my restraint, but it’s self preservation for me. Emotional extremes are just exhausting and if I’m too far on either side of the spectrum, it’s hard for me to buckle down and be productive.

Today I almost had a full blown anxiety attack, which has only happened to me two or three other times in my entire life. It’s the red flag, flashing lights, blaring siren sound from my subconscious to me that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE. I know exactly what needs to change and while the more prudent thing may be to wait, I’m at a point where my physical and emotional health are being compromised and that is simply not acceptable. I will find a way to do what I need to do.

I can tell from my social media newsfeeds that I’m not the only one struggling, either. The devil is busy and we all need to pray for each other.

Why I’m With Her.

News broke this week confirming what we already knew–that Donald D_ru.mpf is the official Republican presidential candidate.

For a brief moment in time, progressives all over the country were excited about the prospect of Sen. Bernie Sanders becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Ultimately, he failed, but not before running a grassroots campaign that will likely end up in the history books. The silver lining is twofold: young and progressive voters are definitely invested in the election, and Hillary Clinton has adopted several of his key platform points. I believe that if she is elected and we continue to put political pressure, she will move to the left on more issues.

But some folks aren’t satisfied. They refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, they say. Hillary is a liar, they say. They’ll write in for Sanders or vote for one of the third party candidates because it’s time to stand on principle, they say. While I understand where they’re coming from, ultimately I am almost as disappointed in these people as I am in D_ru.mpf supporters. That’s saying a lot because, I’m deeply disappointed in those people I know who are voting for D_ru.mpf.

The thing is, I’m black. Sure, the Ancestry.com DNA results show that I’m just as much Nigerian as I am Native American, Russian and French. But I believe in calling a thing a thing, and I’m black. Blackity black. Negro. Colored. I’ve got chocolate skin and frizzy hair. There’s nowhere in the world I can go where I will be treated as anything else. But I’m proud to be black, despite the enormous psychic burden it confers. I’m very proud of my people and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. I grew up just 20 minutes south of Atlanta, the birthplace of Civil Rights Movement legend Martin Luther King, Jr. It was instilled in me that Black History was just as important as American history (and that I needed to know the difference). I majored in history in college and when we studied European revolutions, I saw W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

Embedded in my cultural legacy are the things that make me an individual. I am passionate about political and economic empowerment, as well as community service. I believe that because I call myself a Christian, I am called to love and understand others even when they deny my humanity. I believe that people are more important than money. I believe that socialism is the best form of government, but human greed and shortsightedness get in the way. I believe in law and order, but not in blind obedience.

My grandparents grew up during segregation. When they wanted to go the movies, that had to go certain showings on certain days and times and walk in the back door. My parents attended Georgia State University less than 10 years after integration. My father had a professor who refused to give black students a grade higher than a C+. My mother wrote a genealogical history of her family and tracked down my 4x great-grandfather’s grave. The only record of Sandy Reed, other than his tombstone, is a line item in his owner’s log book:

“He was a good slave.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

I can never escape the fact that not too long ago, historically speaking, I would not have been a United States citizen but property. Chattel. An object. Not a human being, much less a lawyer. When I got married, I wanted a formal ceremony and I took my husband’s last name not just because I wanted to, but because years ago I would not have had that right. I went to a law school named after a known racist. I went to school in classrooms where the Confederate flag and the American flag hung side by side. And while I don’t know of any relation, my maiden name is that of a president who is lauded for giving the country its independence but who refused to free his own slaves.

There is not a person in this country who doesn’t know of Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. In fact, we romanticize World War II because it is the only conflict, other than our war for independence, in which America was unquestionably one of the Good Guys. And yet, the hate filled populist rhetoric Donald Dr_ump.f is spewing doesn’t ring any bells. He has dismissed or insulted every non-white male group in this country, from black to female to disabled. He has been endorsed by the K_u.Klu.x-Kla.n and has not condemned them. He encourages his followers to beat up and kick out anyone at his rally who dares to question him. Recently, a white woman attended a Drumpf rally with a sign that simply read “No Racism, No Hate” and had protesters try to rip the banner out of her hands and cover it with the American flag. Apparently, if you support equality and understanding you don’t love America.

When people tell you who they are, be skeptical. But when they show you who they are, believe them. In the year of our Lord two-thousand and sixteen, we cannot all agree that racism is a bad thing. This is madness. But it is a madness we are familiar with. It is a madness that makes it acceptable to gun down a black person for simply being unfamiliar. It is a madness that demands a system be put in place to track the more undesirable elements of society. It is a madness that justifies the systematic isolation and extermination of an entire race or ethnicity for “the greater good”. It is a madness that turns hatred into patriotism and bigotry into justice.

Our country is facing a crisis. Do not be fooled. D.ru_mpf is not running for President on lower taxes, or more jobs, or any other legitimate reason that outweighs his real platform. He is running on hate. Whether or not he believes the bigotry that many (if not most) of his supporters ascribe to is irrelevant because he is their voice. A vote for Dru.mp.f is not a vote for making America great again. It’s a vote for making America white again. It is a vote for America to return to the days when we ni****s knew our place.

And this is why I’m with Hillary. Not just because she’s the most qualified person for the job and not just because I’m a progressive liberal who doesn’t want to see regulatory legislation gutted. But because in our current system, any vote that is not for Hillary is a vote for Trump. And I’m bone-chillingly afraid of the havoc that a Drum.pf presidency would wreak. It took 100 years for black people to get from emancipation to liberation, and we fought tooth and nail every step of the way. There is no telling the damage that Dr.umpf could do. He has lifted up the most radical elements of the Tea Party and given them free rein to do and say whatever they want. His RNC speech has drawn comparisons to Adolf Hitler. How much more proof do we need in order to act?

I would love to be able to vote on principle. But I don’t have that luxury. I am black, from a black family, with a black husband, and black friends. We are teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, nurses and more. We are church goers, athletes, musicians, and bookworms. We are loud, funny, thoughtful, and generous. We are people. We are just like you, and yet we are disenfranchised and mocked and condescended to and murdered just for being a shade too dark. So forgive me if I don’t want to hear anything about third parties and sticking it to the establishment and how you shouldn’t have to vote for the lesser evil. Sometimes the lesser evil and the greater good are so close you can’t see daylight between them, and this is one of those cases. I am black. And I want to live in an America where blackness isn’t ignored or condemned but allowed to just be.

I don’t know if Hillary Clinton can get us on the path to that America. But I know for sure that Donald D_ru.mpf will not.

It’s a cliche because it’s true

I’ve got a pretty good life, I must say. There are things I’d like to change, but none of my goals seems impossible. I have a husband I adore, great friends, and I’m starting to finally meet people in Houston.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling reflective. I’m 28, so my biological is starting to tick. I want a house and kids. I want work/life balance. I want to be a better person. I want to be able to take care of my mom when she is no longer able to take care of herself. I don’t want (o settle for a life that is just “good enough”; I want to CHOOSE my life rather than just reacting to it.

In order to do all these things, I have to let go of some things that do not serve my purposes. And in reevaluating my path I’ve come to realize that a lot of the advice and sayings my parents used all. the. time. when I was growing up are true as hell. For example:

  1. Birds of a feather, flock together. If you are the only person in your circle of friends who prioritizes fitness, education, religion, or whatever–it’s far more likely that they will influence you than the other way around. It doesn’t even have to be peer pressure, but the subconscious knowledge that you can do less of what you claim to be about, and not be judged will make you start slipping.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. This a one sentence sermon! Don’t believe what people tell you unless their actions match! To be nice or avoid conflict, folks will say a whole lot of things…and then not follow through.
  3. Knowledge is power. This can cut two ways, the first being that looks fade but education is forever. The second is that information is currency so- DON’T TELL EVERYONE YOUR BUSINESS. S–t.
  4. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. All the hard work and dedication in the world won’t help you if you don’t know the person who can get you that raise, promotion, new job, etc.
  5. Treat others the way you want to be treated/You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It doesn’t hurt you to be nice to anyone and you never know when a favor will pay itself back threefold. Conversely, keep treating folks any old way and it will catch up to you. God don’t like ugly.
  6. It’s not what you’re called, it’s what you answer to.  You have to live with yourself forever. That’s a long time. Get comfortable with yourself. Because if you don’t? You will define yourself by the labels that other people assign to you. You can’t teach folks how to treat you if you don’t know who you are.

The list goes on… but suffice it to say, parents are always right.*

 

<small>*Don’t tell my dad that, lol. Happy Father’s Day!</small>

Dear Target

Dear Target,

Despite being a retailer that prides itself on stylishly being all things to all people, your plus size market has been grossly ignored. The plus size section is relegated to 2 or 3 racks at the far end of women’s apparel, and is often mixed in with maternity. While the emergence of the Ava & Viv line, designed in collaboration with several notable fashion bloggers, was supposed to provide a fresh face, nothing changed. The most fashionable items (which were little more than colorful basics) were offered in that initial launch, and everything since then has been absolutely pitiful. At my local Target, the plus line is updated with 5-7 new pieces per season. Invariably, half of them are black or white.

Meanwhile, a quick perusal of Target.com shows a substantial collection of plus items in Target’s proprietary Merona and Mossimo lines, many of which are equivalent to the plus size lines…and none of which make it to my local Target stores, with the exception of solid color tees, cardigans, and basic slacks. The demand for fashionable plus size clothing clearly exists, as evidenced by the fact that the Lilly Pulitzer collection sold out in mere hours.

So, you’ve tried it again in a collection with Who What Wear and you’re finally doing some things right. The collaboration is a long term one and includes plus sizes. Perhaps most importantly, almost every item in the straight size line was provided in plus, in at least 2 color/pattern options.  Aesthetically, the offerings are a HUGE leap forward from Ava & Viv.

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This dress was the one thing I knew I had to have!

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I’m not a leather jacket kind of girl, but I love having the option to become one.

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Polka dots are always in style for me.

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Finally, modern styling for plus sizes. I bought the boyfriend jeans.

However, there’s still room for improvement. The Who What Wear line was only available in a limited selection of stores, and only a few of those stores carried the plus line. As stated above, some of the items were not available plus.  For example, a longline blazer in blush pink and an olive green  sweater dress that I would have purchased if I had the option. Additionally, the logistics were off. The collection was stated to go live on January 31, but I couldn’t add anything to my cart until about 12:30 pm CST (and I only got to the plus size items by searching the Target website, because they weren’t up on the splash page). But the Target twitter account said the plus size items wouldn’t be available until February 1–with the likely result that some shoppers missed out entirely. Last but not least, Who What Wear is dissociating itself from the plus items. They link to the Target collection on their website, but only provide links for the straight size items. It’s kind of hard to send  a message that all your customers matter when your collaborator doesn’t acknowledge half of them.

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Love this dress, but couldn’t buy it.

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This would go great with some of my dresses if it were available in my size.

Target didn’t knock it out of the park, but it finally has a plus size collection that is comparable to Forever 21, H&M, ASOS, and others. It remains to be seen whether the progress will continue, or if this is just another means of placating the masses without really solving the problem.