Friday, April 29, 2011

Beautiful - Tia

I sent the following text to Toya, "I would argue this to the death: Black females are the most beautiful things on this planet." I sent this to her as I was walking through Atlantic Station in downtown Atlanta. I passed this young girl who couldn't have been more than 17 years old and literally stopped in my tracks. She was GORGEOUS. Chocolate Skin, natural hair pulled up in a cute bun, and as my grandmother used to say, "Praise the Lord for Jesus" fully clothed in a non-revealing tank top and shorts of a respectable length. As I looked around I noticed that I was surrounded by a bevy of beautiful black women of every shape, size, color and hue. I began to marvel at how much beauty was around me.

As I continued to wander I watched as men of varying race walked proudly with many of my sistahs and how those men without companions tried, sometimes in vain, to gain the attention of some of the unattached beauties. One instance in particular caused me to pause. I observed a young man trying to get the attention of a group of passing girls. Now these young ladies were dressed in, shall we say, questionable attire. As I listened to the young man comment somewhat lewdly at the girls I began to feel that sadness that I sometimes feel when I'm in that situation. These girls not only seemed flattered by the talk but they appeared indifferent to the somewhat offensive things that were being said. It was almost as if they were compliments. Their responses were the polar opposite of what mine would have been. I take great offense when someone, in a misguided attempt to gain my attention, makes a comment about my anatomy or calls me a "pet" name that would normally be reserved for a significant other. I have never been comfortable with being admired by strangers for parts of my body that 50% of the people on the planet also have. And while I wanted to be mad at this young man, I realized that maybe that was the only way he knew how to talk to those girls.

The whole afternoon made me realize two things. First, we as women, regardless of race, size or economic standing need to realize our worth. And we need to know that we are not governed by a number on a scale, a shade of skin, a grade of hair or an amount in a bank account. And trust me, I know that is far easier said than done. I just read an article about Khloe Kardashian that not only made me see her in another light but made me add her to my prayer list. (Yes, I pray for celebrities. I get the feeling that some of them may not have anyone in their immediate circles praying for them and that is a lonely place in my eyes.) She talked about being taller and thicker than her 5' and 5'2" sisters. She's struggled with her weight trying to obtain this perceived idea of perfect that just wasn't reasonable for her 5'10" frame. She's battled insensitive comments from the media and even her friends and family. But she's finally starting to make piece with her body and I applaud her for it.

I can completely relate to her struggles. I'm her height and I'm thick. And the minute I stopped swimming competively my body seemed to betray me. I've battled comments from family and sometimes complete strangers about my weight. And while I'm active (ran an 11:54 mile today...working on a 10 minute mile and eventually a 5k) and consciously working on slimming down and getting more healthy, I still battle for my own peace of mind about my weight and how I perceive myself. And if I let what I see define me, I will be miserable. I think a lot of women spend so much wasted time agonizing over something that should be a non-issue. Every last one of us is beautiful. And if more of us realized that and then took the time to help others see that they too are beautiful, we would be so much better off and we would really understand the inherent beauty and worth that we all possess.

Second, we need men to be men. And we as women need to let them be men. I know that there are feminists who will probably hate me for this, but I think the "I am women, hear me roar" has skewed some things in this generation. I'm all for gender equality. But I think that we've been so busy doing it all for ourselves that men don't know where they fit in now. I recently heard Kelly Cutrone speak and she said something that really stuck with me. She said that we need to give men their masculinity back. Once we allow them to be men, it will again allow us to be women. (Aside: I highly recommend Kelly's book "If You Have to Cry, Go Outside." I don't agree with everything that she says, but overall the book is a fantastic read with some very judicious advice.)

I think a lot of men aren't respectful, worthy gentlemen because they don't know how to be and because we as women sometimes don't let them. Maybe that young man in Atlantic station didn't know that speaking to women is not a game of "rate your anatomy." Maybe he didn't have a man in his life to teach him how to be a man. To be a man you have to see a man.

As I get older I realize that it truly does take a village. And everyone has to play their part. We as women must not only support each other but we must support the men as well. And they need to do the same. We can't go around bashing ourselves internally, bashing other women behind their backs, and bashing men outright and expect everything to come up roses. We have to find the best in ourselves and the best in others. How can we expect to love others if we can't love ourselves? And since love wins above all else we have to give it to ourselves and extend to others. Otherwise, what's the point?

This is my FAVORITE song of the moment. I heard this the other day on the radio and when that chorus came in I screamed, "YES!!!" I did not care that my windows were down and I looked crazy. This song BLESSED me.

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