Seattle weather as of late has been impressive.
When the sun comes out in Seattle, residents collectively lose their shit. Everyone is outside, running, jumping, throwing frisbees, walking dogs, playing soccer, eating organic locally grown kale, and working in their gardens. We’re like the antithesis of vampires. Wednesday I was a happy member of the flock. I rode my bike 4-5 miles to a restaurant to eat with a friend. At dinner I didn’t snort the pre-dinner bread and oil like I usually do (yay good choices!). We ate a sub par meal (I didn’t eat it all and I’m proud of myself). Then I biked home — well, part way– I biked downtown and took the bus uphill. Then, because the weather tickled my athletic parts I changed, leashed my dog, and went for a run. Ladies and gentlemen, zes and hirs that never happens. I don’t work out more than once in a day unless I exercised in the morning and was chased by a mugger at night.
Upon my arrival home I signed up, at the urging of my friend, for My Fitness Pal. It’s like Weight Watchers, but free AND awesome. Today I logged on via computer and discovered some other cool new features (you can write on your friend’s walls). I even picked up a friend or two. I hope my enthusiasm lasts. I think it will just maybe not at the same intensity. It’s kind of fun. When you use the mobile app you can scan the bar code of what you’re about to eat and it uploads the nutrition label. I’ve uploaded homemade recipes and it calculates the contents; vitamins, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fat, etc. My favorite part is how it incorporates your exercise into the mix. I went to my boxing fitness class and burned 916 calories. I can then see how it impacts my food intake. It’s like a lazy person’s food journal. Okay, maybe not a lazy person’s…more of an electronic food journal for busy people — so basically the opposite.
This recent burst of athletic vigor allowed me to realize that sometimes I don’t do a good job of looking in the mirror and recognizing what I see. Granted, I’m getting better at it. I’m trying to see my body for what it is and not what I think it is, or what plutocrats and media outlets tell me it is. Most recently, I noticed one thing that I have that works in my favor; my athleticism.
I am athletically inclined. I excel at sports. I was a fantastic basketball player, field hockey goalie, and track and field shot putter/javelin thrower/discus tosser. When I tried sparring for the first time I rocked it. When I do cardiovascular exercise I shed fat and my musculature is evident. I don’t have to try hard to look ripped. That being said, I also struggle with looking at myself as feminine and seeing myself as attractive. Ah, there lies the rub.
Now, even though I don’t see myself as attractive, I feel attractive when I’m working out. No, that’s not right, I feel confident when I’m working out. I’ve heard they come hand in hand.
How does this tie into Blackness, you ask? Well, closely. In a book I’m reading Black Rage the author mentions (this is not a direct quote) how White women can exert little to no effort and be seen as attractive. They can wake up, brush their hair, walk out the door and be viewed by society as prreetty. Black women, however? We must exert much more energy and focus into looking socially acceptable. Have you seen Chris Rock’s 2009 movie Good Hair? If not, watch it. If you have and you still disagree, watch it again and read Black Rage. In the Western culture we aren’t socially acceptable if we walk out the door with our hair two stepping in the wind just as it grew out of our heads. Before I had locks nightly I would oil my hair, two strand twist it (at least an hour’s worth of work), wrap it up in a silk scarf, go to sleep, wake up fix the scarf, go back to sleep, wake up, untwist it, style it, and then I still look liked what people would call a “ragamuffin.” Trust me, I did the “just brush and go” often, and that choice has had me playing in the basketball court of androgyny way too long.
So, when you look at me — natural hair, athletic build, darker skin (we haven’t even gone there yet), and deep voice I am not attractive as deemed by society. Then, let’s whip cream my lack of familial influence in my upbringing, coming from a “broken home,” AND my naked love of things that are not generally accepted in “b”lack culture. I’m screwed when it comes to self-image. I didn’t grow up hearing “You’re beautiful” or at least “You’re visually acceptable.” That’s why I’m a 28-year-old woman who is still coming to terms with being Black and seeing myself as attractive.
Attractiveness is relative. I am slowly digesting the possibility that media tycoons, stupid psychologists, and government officials could be wrong. There is a possibility that when I am at my best — well exercised and properly nourished– I have the makings of a handsome woman (that term still makes me giggle). Now that the Seattle weather is nicer, the anti vampires have come out of their tent cocoons, and I’ve become best friends with My Fitness Pal, I’m definitely examining a cleaner petri dish. My hope is that when I’m at the weight I’m supposed to be (T-minus 34 lbs) I can re-examine my self-image and self-worth.