Curves and all that
When I was fourteen, fifteen and struggling through secondary school, I had curves. What my body was then is a bit of a blur between body dysmorphia and everything that has happened since, but I remember constantly feeling different because of it. It was four years of looking around the English girls and wanting to be like them, taller, slim legs, less curves, just a bit more like them you know.
(On a lighter note, be prepared for a lot of hair flicks in these photos)
Even in year six, an eleven year old trying to figure out stuff, I got home upset because boys wouldn't stop telling me how big my bum was. Mum's reaction was different to what I expected, she laughed and told me that was a good thing, that it's because of your Spanish heritage and be proud of it- you have a Latino bum. The Latino bum thing bit stuck with me and helped me all the way through secondary school, it gave me either something to blame or something to he proud of; a reason anyway- 'I'm like this because of my Spanish heritage'. She also told me that one day you'll find a man who loves you and he will tell you he likes everything about your body...and if he could, he wouldn't change it one bit. That sounded nice I guess. But I've learnt it absolutely does nothing if you don't feel good yourself. Another persons opinion, even if you adore them and want them to see you as beautiful, doesn't change one thing if you can't stop insulting yourself when he's not there.
The truth is, my body has gone through a lot. From boys suddenly coming out with "you have big boobs" whilst staring at them and getting away with it, to having an exaggeratedly large pair of breasts carved into the wooden desks with my name underneath them, to having one boy repeatedly over three years grabbing, pinching, slapping and even putting his hand down my backside, to walking along a corridor alone and sudennly being pulled into a room, having my boobs touched up and then thrown out so hard I fell on the floor- I've had some experiences. But the thing is when I talk to my friends we're never short of stories to share. It will always make me wonder (and not in a good way) how every girl I speak to have had some sort of incident which is just not ok. And those are only the stories that are curve-related, there are so many more starting from very early where in my life, things have crossed the line.
I didn't have much confidence during secondary school, actually that's a whole understatement, I didn't have any at all- which didn't make anything better in terms of stuff like this. In fact I just accepted it, and occasionally had a rant with my friends talking about how this guy or that guy wouldn't leave me alone, whilst they let out their stuff too. It was all with a lot of nervous laughter mixed with a lot of anger, and never listening to their advice of 'tell a teacher'.
So why do we keep so silent when every girl I've spoken to has memories? I guess there's a fear of being judged for talking about it, as soon as you say the word boobs its easy to think you're being slutty or shouldn't say the word so boys don't start imagining. Talking about sex is very healthy, but writing a blog post about your curves? Not so cool.
A lot of other people think its just too personal, which makes a lot of sense. Over sharing is definitely a balance I'm always fighting with on the blog. Personally I want to say what I want to say, but my parents think showing vulnerability online is a dangerous thing. Actually I think its important and crucial, but then I totally understand what they're saying.
I think the 'too personal' thing is definitely the main reason for these things not to be talked about. It's something I respect- a lot of people think its kind of just not appropriate to talk about stuff like that, and tell themselves they'll save it for a boyfriend if there ever comes a time when it feels like they need to know. Everyone's different, and a lot of people just don't really like talking about this stuff, which is ok (as long as there's nothing that on a serious note needs to be talked about).
But I think sharing has power, and I will stick by that.
I actually think highschool/secondary school is a pretty unbearable place at times, I know I would have happily been home schooled though I would have missed the most wonderful friends that I still miss today; plus acting acting acting acting and painting painting painting that were my two joys through those years.
The school I went to was 95% white, a figure which is so totally ridiculous I still can't believe it today. There were two African girls in our year, which actually encouraged me because they were the most gorgeous and beautiful girls ever which made me stare haha. But at the same time had curves, which made me want to celebrate them and put them on a pedastool (though not sure they'd like that but anyway) and show the world that this is beauty too.
What's helped me the most is being proud of your heritage. Looking at your parents, and thinking, yes I'm athletic like them, or yes I'm beautifully African like them, or yes, I can see a mixture of their two different figures and this is who I am. Also knowing that anyone that judges you by your body or looks, not yourself, is totally not worth hanging put with, and definitely not hanging around trying to please. Whether that's a girlfriend who likes to think she's better than you because of her looks, or a guy who you're aware likes your body but not your face or vice versa- never try to change yourself for them. Just walk away as soon as you can honey. Sticking with the people who love me unconditionally has brought a lot of healing to me, and though you may have heard it before, I really want to encourage you to stick with the people you know don't care about anything but you.
I still have this damaging thought going round in my head, yep you could even call it some sort of belief of mine, that slim and straight means boyfriend-worthy, means anything-worthy, actually means life-worthy. But it's so wrong, and so disgusting too. You are not fat for being curvy and Spanish, or for being a gorgeous African girl, or for just ending up with bigger hips than you expected post puberty...
And yes, I do think the media has a lot of responsibility and blame to take...I love clothes, but a side effect of that is spending lots of hours looking at the tallest slimmest and beautiful models that we all expect when looking at clothes online. Even when you're thinking about the clothes and trying to ignore the model, I think more goes in than you ever realise, and its so easy to come away not feeling good enough- even when you're excited for the clothes that'll be arriving in the post in three days.
Another thing that has stuck in my mind whilst dealing with this, is Jesus says "do not worry about your body". That verse makes me realise that God knows that you are so much more than your body. So much more in fact, that its not worth spending one moment stressing about. It also makes me realise how wrong the world has got, that the Bible talks about our eternity as the most important thing, whether we are spiritually alive or dead, but we're stuck down here worrying about our bodies and image so much. We've got everything more than a bit upside down, life is about bringing glory to Him, and delighting in Him and the amazing hope He gives us (which has little to do with what our bodies look like in the mirror. Though, I am currently writing another blog post about not beating yourself up/being ashamed about caring- its natural to care, and also to worry.)
I feel like I've been sexualised one too many times in my life- I was going to say since turning sixteen but this post has made me realise that before that too. It's put in me a desire to be loved/looked down on for more than my body, in fact its put in me a desire for people not to see my body at all. I simply don't want to be judged for that, or for guys to look at that first thing- no thanks.
For me, the reason why I'd call myself a feminist is because I believe as women the way we are treated should not depend on our bodies. The reason why men should want to take us on a date should be so much more than our bodies. Its because I don't like to be 'checked out' and then cat-called, it's because I hate it when I'm looked up and down and up and down again...it's because I believe human beings are more than their bodies.
Photos by my lovely friend Dan- you are a talented photographer
'Do not worry about your body' is found in Matthew 6:24, look it up if you like x