Size is relative

Last night, I went to a friend's get together. There were 5 of us (I hate being the only single gal amidst couples!) so the conversation flowed freely. At one point, one of the other women ended her comment to me by saying "well you're tiny anyway". Huh? Me, tiny?

In order to understand why I was surprised, you'd have to know my life-long struggle with weight and body-image issues. I was a chubby yet active child, with a body that family members referred to as 'solid'. In middle and high school, I wore the largest uniform on our cheerleading squad (except for the girl who had to get her uniform custom-made, b/c the company didn't make them in a size big enough for her). Somewhere between 11th grade and freshman year in college I seemed to have either grown into my body, slimmed down, or both. I look back on my pics from that year and don't remember being as small as I appear to be.

But my struggle didn't just revolve around size. Shape has always been a determining factor. Along with taunts of having thunder thighs, being rolly-polly, and the like, I was teased with the saying of "BMW" (body made wrong). I had strong, muscular thighs from being athletic, but I have never possessed the typical black girl's butt or hips. The most hurtful thing someone has said to me was that I was shaped like a white girl. Not because there's anything wrong with the way white girls are shaped, but negative comparisons to another ethnicity seem to hurt the most (if you've ever been accused of 'talking white', you know just what I mean).

Fast forward to 2004. I had come to a place where I was comfortable with and truly admiring of my body. Sure, I have rolls just like anyone else, but I like what I see when I look in the mirror. I know what my flattering aspects are, and I have learned to camoflague the ones that aren't so flattering. So imagine my dismay when I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). My doctor prescribed a low-carb diet and a regimen of Glucophage (an insulin sensitizer that allows the body to respond more normally to insulin secretion, thus lowering blood sugar levels). He also strongly suggested that I lose 20 pounds.

Its been very difficult, to say the least, to motivate myself to lose weight when I am finally in love with my body, flaws and all. Of course there are days where I wished I wore a size 6 instead of a size 12... but those days get fewer and fewer the more I come to appreciate myself.

So after hearing that I was chubby all my life, it is still surprising to hear that I'm 'small'. This just goes to show that size is relative. Some women look at me and think I'm small, whereas others see me as bordering on being a big girl. I've come to realize that we do this to ourselves because it is the nature of our society. In order for it not to hurt, a woman has to be secure in all her flaws and strengths and be okay with the judgment of others. If a woman's self-esteem and sense of self were founded on the approval of others, it would be an ever-changing thing indeed.

I say whatever size you're at, love you for you. Self-love is one thing that will never be relative.

Do Sistas Give Too Much?

article in its entirety:
“Black women's sense of obligation to community and family is both
extraordinary and commendable,” Rhonda Mims, president of the ING Foundation,
told the website

“When you are pulled in so many directions financially, something or
someone has to pay the price. For black women, it appears their financial
well-being suffers.”
Tell us something we don't know. The Baby Boomers generation probably feel this economic crunch the most. With parents still living, grown children who need help and sometimes grandchildren to support, its hard for those in middle age to save for retirement. Where does money to save come from? Especially when you're helping Pookie-n-nem with a little change.

Black women are among the most loyal and caring women. So I really don't see us saying no to family in need, especially when we feel like we can afford to help others. The question is, though, can we really afford it? With the healthcare debate at issue in this country, can we really afford to take care of everyone else, at the cost of our own self-care? Especially in light of the fact that Social Security might not be around when the Baby Boomers (and Generation X, let's not forget about us) really need it.
Helen Adeyanju, a 59-year-old nurse, said she didn’t mind the cost.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. Money has no value. It is what you do with the money that is valuable.

“One of the valuable things is to look after your friends and family and the church,” she said.
Sorry Helen, I'll have to disagree with you. Money definitely has value. Ask anyone who doesn't have any... or better yet, ask the family members and friends that call needing some help. When your car is broken down, you don't have food on the table or you've just lost your job, money definitely has value. But if you care for your family, friends, and the church first, you are saying that you value yourself last. Because at the end of the day, we financially support those things that we care about. Where our hearts lie, our wallets follow.

Take, for example, men. When you're dating or married to a man, if he has the money, he'll spend it on you (if he's not cheap, that is..). Sure, there's a culture of 'get what you can out of a man', but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a man taking care of his lady. Maybe black women giving so much to others financially is the result of men not doing so (either not having the ability, or refusing to.. which is another topic altogether). If there were more men in the church, in single-parent homes, black women wouldn't have to carry others so much. That's just my humble opinion, as a child of a single parent.

UK-based financial expert Albert Forbes told The Voice that giving the church and loved ones money is not the main reason why black women have financial problems.

“They are not giving out what they don’t have. They are giving what they have so that’s a good sign,” said Forbes, who runs financial firm Edward Forbes and Company.

“I think a large part of the problem is that they aren’t really taught about the value of money. Maybe if they were taught about managing money, they’d think more about how they spend it. That would make a big difference.”

That's pretty much what I thought. A black woman might not feel broke, because her bills are paid, but how many of us are spending our money wisely? Especially in these stressful financial times, I'd think that sistas would be cutting back, especially on luxury goods. But apparently that's not the case. Since we're earning more money, have better education and more spending potential, black women should be in positions to live comfortably for retirement. But with supporting family and the church, and purchasing luxuries, how much are we investing in ourselves, in our futures?

We are not supported by a culture that puts the black woman first. Its time we created that culture for ourselves.

Black Women Love: Oprah

For black women who grew up in the 80s and 90s, there are several cultural staples that we all have in common. Namely, the Cosby Show, A Different World, falling in love with (and growing with) Hip Hop, and, among others, the phenomenon known as The Color Purple.

How many times have you quoted the line, "You told Harpo to beat me..."?

I love Oprah, and I know I'm not alone. Before her book club, before her billionaire status and before Tom Cruise lost it on her couch, I've loved that woman. She embodies every good and perfect thing that black women represent: beauty, intelligence, talent, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and a strong desire to uplift others. When I think of Oprah, that's what I think about. However warm and fuzzy I feel about the O, she gets some serious hate from black people. And the only reason I can see why, is because her show isn't geared toward black people and she started her Leadership Academy in Africa and not here. I say, why would she focus on only black people, when she can focus on everyone (and be the syndicated genius that she is)? And also, there are others in the world in more need than Americans.. if she wants to contribute to the motherland, what's wrong with that? I don't see Bob Johnson (the only other African-American billionaire) starting schools in third-world countries, discussing books (Confessions of A Video Vixen, maybe?) or positively influencing any aspect of society on such a large scale. Don't nobody talk bad about Ms. Oprah!!

I love Oprah because of her accomplishments. She hails from humble beginnings, and has turned her passion into worldwide wealth and recognition. Her talk show is featured on 208 stations, and in more than 100 countries outside of the US; she started Oprah Magazine, is affiliated with Dr. Phil, Suze Orman and Rachel Ray (and IMO she's the one of the reasons that they're household names). On top of all those things, she runs Oprah and Friends, her XM Satellite Radio show; and she produced Oprah's Big Gift reality show.

Let's not forget about her philanthropic endeavors. She pledged hundreds of thousands to Hurricane Katrina victims, and her viewers contributed $15 million to relief efforts. Oprah's Leadership Academy may be associated with scandal, but there's no doubt that she initiated a project that touches the lives of others in a unique way. Oprah earns $260 million annually, and has a net worth of $2.5 billion. She's won 18 Emmys, and her own network, OWN, will be launched in Fall 2009.

How can people not love her? Seriously!

Start at the center

I took some time away from the internet, and now I'm back. I realized that I was spending too much idle time on the web. There are always productive things that I could/should be doing, so I decided to spend some time on me.

I wanted this blog to be a place where black women and girls can discuss our experiences in a manner that positively affects our self-esteem and standard of beauty, in light of the marginization that we face as a double-minority. But I realized that I was afraid to blog about that. I realized that I felt I wasn't an authority on self-esteem, so how could I have something positive to say? Then I realized that not only do I have alot to say, but I also have experiences that make me an expert on my self-esteem.

Self-esteem is such a many-layered thing. Like an onion, peeling back those layers can be bitter, can make you cry, can bring out unaddressed pain. But in the end, if we want to be happy, healthy, successful women, we have to peel back those layers that protect our self-esteem and see it for what it truly is.

So what is self-esteem, really? At its most basic, self-esteem is the regard we hold for ourselves. Its how we view ourselves based on feedback we've received from our experiences. Its easy to say "I have high self-esteem" without actually knowing what your self-esteem really is. Or, more frequently, we may have a high self-esteem in one area, such as intelligence, appearance, or sexual prowess (hey, I'm being honest...) but not in others. So how do you peel back those layers, and examine what your real self-esteem is?

For me, I had to start at the center. I had to define what it meant to be me. Not what my mama thinks, my friends or colleagues think, and not what my performance review at work reflects. What really makes me who I am, a unique being from the next sista walking down the street? When I could quiet the voice of the irrational critic (we all have that voice.. it may sound like your parents, a teacher, a significant other or someone you've never met.. but its there) and really look at myself objectively, then I could begin to understand how I regarded myself. And at first it wasn't easy. During the process of getting to know me, I realized that I was a different person than the one I assumed I was. My likes and dislikes had changed.. my goals, talents, strengths and weaknesses were different than they were just a few years ago. And, most importantly, I realized that some of the things that I held as important, simply weren't that important anymore. But at the same time, it was exciting to learn all of these things. Like getting to know a new friend, knowing that this friend will be the closest one you'll ever have.

Defining who you are definitely takes work. But I believe its the first step in building a strong and unshakable self-esteem. Once you know who you are, then you can work on being the person you really want to be, if you're not already there. And, hopefully, you'll see that you're closer to that ideal image than you've previously given yourself credit for. Overall, in order to withstand attacks from without - attacks on our race, our gender, our bodies, our religious views, heck, even our hair - you have to acknowledge your core and strengthen who you are within. It all starts at the center.

I'm so proud

So far, I have refrained from posting anything here about Barack Obama. After all, this blog is for discussion of black women's standard of beauty and self-esteem issues, as they pertain to the media and every day life.

But I had to give it up for my alma mater! How many Obama supporters/Rattlers were proud of this pic?!

The Rattler Nation blog discussed how our school was involved in the election. In fact, we were the highest-profiled school in Florida in this campaign. Yes my heart bleeds orange and green! Go FAMU!