In high school, my nickname was “Feed the Children,” because my friends joked that I was skinny enough to be in Feed the Children’s campaigns about malnourished children in third world countries (Clearly my friends weren’t very PC).
I was somewhat insecure about my thin frame because I had internalized something that I’d learned from listening to hip hop and the guys at school: girls with curves and big booties were sexy—bony little “Feed the Children,” was not.
So I always wanted to be thicker. Three years later, while studying overseas in Argentina, where my diet consisted mostly of pasta and cheese, I gained some weight and grew what became my pride and joy: my ass. Coming home from Buenos Aires with a little curve in what I believed was all the right places gave me a synthetic confidence.
Imagine my disappointment one day when I turned to the side in the mirror only to find that my booty had shrunk, and for a little while, so had my confidence.
As women, many of us are all taught at young ages —either from our parents, magazines, music, or the world around us—that part of our duty is to be pleasing to the eye. Scholars Sheila Lintott and Sherri Irvin explain in “Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects: A Feminist Reclamation of Sexiness,” women are socialized to believe that being sexy is essential to their value as human beings, and that only certain looks are defined as sexy. When someone fails to adhere to those narrow standards of sexy she may be viewed as less of a woman.
That is how I felt when I looked in the mirror and saw my lack of curves: I was less sexy; I was less of a woman.
Many of us have those times where we judge ourselves according to someone else’s definition of sexy. In doing so, we progress this idea that sexy means fitting into a very small box (more like a very small prison).
We are often taught that we are too skinny, too big, or too dark. We have too much of this and not enough of that. Most women do not fit the dominant idea of sexy.
However, many people go to great lengths to try to fit into that prison. We spend hundreds of dollars on our hair and makeup, constantly change our diets, wear the highest, most uncomfortable heels, experience a lot of pain (sometimes at the hands of beauticians, stylists, or plastic surgeons), and in the process, we deny and reject our real selves.
There’s a difference between the synthetic confidence I attained when I first noticed my weight gain and the real confidence I got from defining sexy on my own terms. Sometimes I have to remember that sexy isn’t something I can buy in a bottle at Sephora for $45. Nor is it my favorite pair of heels that make my legs look longer. Sexy is a fusion of confidence and compassion. It is a decision to live on my own terms (not according to anyone else’s expectations). Sexy is a lifestyle.
P.S. This is a throwback post from last year. I’ll do a throwback post once or twice a month for my newer audience. Enjoy :)