Infinite Beauty

They arrived when I was 12 - one year before what my mother called "the curse" (or menstruation).  They were the topic of discussion quite often...and I hated it.  I barely noticed them until I acquired the nickname "hips" from close family members.  I vividly remember staring at them in the reflection of my mother's car door.  Ignoring the fact that the curvature in it created a fun house mirror effect, my disgust for them grew.

Through most of my teenage years, I did what I could to hide them.  Baggy sweatpants and long shirts felt like a gift from God.  I could cover up and not be ashamed of what lied underneath .  A comment in passing from my childhood best friend while we were trying on dresses for our senior prom was the first clue that the "situation" wasn't as bad as I thought.

"You've been hiding all of THAT under those baggy clothes.  You're shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle."

"Is that a good thing," I asked.

"Uh yeah. It's great. I wish I had a body like that."

Imagine that.  What once made me feel awkward, and isolated - a body part that I loathed was actually a blessing.  Life can be funny that way.  It takes for someone else to share their perspective for us to appreciate what we have.  

A common theme among many women that I've talked to over the years is a distaste for their body.  Whether it be their tree trunk legs or 100 pounds they wanted to shed.  Their expressions of discomfort ranging from a comment about plastic surgery in passing to constantly obsessing about how they wanted to change themselves.  Don't get me wrong, I think we should all strive to be healthy.  But society creates false expectations of what women should look like.  At the end of the day, very few of us look as perfect as the photoshopped goddesses on the pages of magazines.  Hell the goddesses themselves don't even live up to those expectations...which is why they're photoshopped.

Whether Cindy Crawford intended for it to happen or not, it's out there.  And she gets a virtual high five from me!

Whether Cindy Crawford intended for it to happen or not, it's out there.  And she gets a virtual high five from me!

As time went on, I grew to love those curves more and more.  No longer ashamed that my measurements were 30-24-40 (once upon a time), I learned to embrace them and appreciate myself.  Dancing naked in the mirror has become one of my favorite pastimes.  Loving my imperfections increased my confidence which shined through in my interactions with others.  The ultimate compliment came a couple of weeks ago when my guy lovingly compared my curves to the symbol for infinity:


I smiled.  What was once a source of great embarrassment transformed into an infinite symbol of beauty.  Or better yet, I was the one who transformed.  And I couldn't be happier!

Pssssttt... Mothers - are you out there?  Good.  I want to share a tidbit of advice with you.  Remember to celebrate your girls' entrance into womanhood.  Adolescent years can be a turbulent time with a lot of change.  Plant seeds of positivity and encouragement into your young women so that they can carry them with them for the rest of their days. 

No Means No

Commonly used as a reference for sexual violence prevention, "no means no" covers more territory than rape awareness. Street harassment, any violation of one's personal space, or persistence beyond reason also ventures into this territory.

Last month, I gained a new understanding of "rape culture".  The incident itself was minor.  But the a-ha moment that followed will not be easily forgotten.  I was at a social gathering when a guy that I knew approached me.  He was a bit flirty.  I had other priorities to attend to, and didn't respond to his advances.  He persisted - even bringing his face close to mine with a "you know you want me" air about him.

His behavior didn't bother me immediately.  It wasn't until the next day that I became uncomfortable with the situation.  My body language expressed displeasure.  Failure to respond to those cues appropriately disrespected my rights as a person.  I tried to shake it off by telling myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  He's my friend, and probably didn't mean anything by it.  The sobering reality, though, is 2/3 of rapes are committed by people who know the victim. 

You might be wondering how I got to rape from a guy annoying me with his persistence.  Admittedly, I would have thought the same thing about a year ago. What bothered me was the lack of respect for my personal space after I made it clear that I did not want to engage him.  As I deliberated on the topic further, I recognized "won't take no for an answer" is part of rape culture.  Furthermore, I reflected on my own previous assertions on the topic.  In a previous post on singer Robin Thicke's music video for "Blurred Lines", I lambasted feminists for being too darned sensitive.  Yet Thicke's line "you know you want it" taunted me as I sorted through my emotions.  I was wrong.  And I get it now.

Another incident occurred last week that resurrected my desire to write this piece.  Walking from my building at work to the parking lot is a bit of a trek.  I was heading to my car when a gentleman walked past me and said, "You're beautiful."  I responded with a customary "thank you", and continued walking.  He asked for my name, to which I shook my head "no" and waved my hands back and forth (to give him a visual cue) letting him know that I wasn't interested.  He proceeded to walk toward me, and ask if I was married.

Leave.Me.Alone.Dammit.  I could not have been more clear. Again, I found myself annoyed at the lack of respect for me.  For all women.  Now, I don't mind receiving compliments from strangers.  Sometimes it serves as a confidence booster.  Compliments followed up by blatant harassment when I am obviously disinterested is problematic.  I challenge anyone reading this article to research and educate others on rape culture.  We all play a part in ensuring women are respected, and seen as equals in society.  Let's start the conversation with the basics: NO MEANS NO.

S/N: I talked to my friend about the incident, and how it made me feel.  He was very receptive to the feedback. 

For more statistics on rape in the United States, click here.