Teach Me To Love My Body

Dear Africana Woman,

You have gained so much weight! Have you been met with this greeting at least once this week? Or you have lost weight mama. People actually greet with the words, You are fat.

I want to let you know that because the village believed it had the right to comment on my body since I was a child, I learned to hate my body. I hated it for a very long time and yet it’s the only one I have. I cannot exchange it. If I am not content in this vessel, then my whole life is one of regret, shame and guilt. Listen, you do not need to tell me what you perceive my weight to be. I already know. My body is with me 24/7 honey. My clothes tell me whether I have lost or gained weight so your opinion is but a mere assumption not based on facts, that is violently harmful to my psyche. I don’t know what it will take to make the village realise that weight is not a greeting. In fact, it is not on the table for discussion.

My perception of my body has evolved over time. You see as a child my mother called me big boned. I was not overweight but in comparison to my cousins I was the biggest. As a result, I was labelled fat. You know where relatives are trying to identify you in a conversation and they would differentiate me as ‘the fat one.’ I grew up always perceiving myself as the ‘Fat Girl’. I remember around the age of 14, I wore shorts once and walked to town. I heard someone say behind me, “Oh my God she is so fat, how can she wear shorts?” My friend heard the comment and immediately tried to reassure me that I looked fine. It was too late the damage was done. I stopped wearing shorts.

From very early on I also noticed how my body attracted the wrong type of attention from grown men. I remember walking on a street and a group of young men walked passed me and one decided to grab my ass. Or the time I was deposited in a market at a hair salon to do braids. As it would take a while, I was left alone with the hair dresser. Then a man walked in and started rubbing my thigh until he was rebuked by the hairdresser as she pointed out I was a child. All this to say that I hated my femininity. I wanted to hide it so that it could not attract the wrong type of attention. Therefore, I wore very baggy clothes that were asexual as an armour to protect me from unsolicited advances. I did not want anyone to see my breasts or the