(Image: Quill Lemons for GQ)
In the same way that middle-aged dads have become accustomed to not taking their shirts off by the pool, I’ve been trying to be perceived as little as possible my whole life. Like, not even seen with my own eyes. I don’t stop to catch a glimpse of my reflection in a dressing room (if it fits, it fits!) or at a shop window. I don’t carry around a compact mirror like a real woman (this is my only litmus for womanhood and it doesn’t fit me). And what I’ve learned, from being this way, is that not taking every chance to look at yourself and assess the damage overtime only contributes to not fitting into the standard definition of “conventionally beautiful.”
If God created me this way—on purpose—it throws the whole “God is merciful” thing out of the window, I think, because a merciful God for sure wouldn’t have let me gain weight, lowering my social capital as a direct result, no? Ugh! Thankfully, by Somali standards, I am conventionally beautiful. I mean, the pinnacle of beauty for my people is being tall and having a long enough nose to look down on others with, so in that respect, I’m a total hottie. Also, wellness is factored so heavily into beauty, in my culture, that I’m considered beautiful because I have no diseases? If diseases could exempt a thin woman from being seen as beautiful, by American standards, a lot of people would be scared. (No offense to anyone living with a disease. My bloodline is riddled with all kinds of diseases, including diseases of the mind, so it’s only a matter of time before taking pride in my lack of diseases will be embarrassing. In the meantime, let me have this one thing.)
My people were called “skinnies” in the film Black Hawk Down. We’re sort of known for having zero body fat. It’s our thing. And spiritually speaking, it’s my thing, too. The ancestors guiding me are size 00, making me a thin woman at heart. I think that not looking in mirrors for so long only reinforced the delusion of my spiritual skinniness, that living within me is a thin woman and she’s always liable to pop out, unprovoked. I call this woman Amber, as it sounds like the word for cunt in the Northern dialect of Somali that I speak, but it’s also a fairly common name for a white woman.
Amber is who I pin all my pure id tendencies on when I want to skirt accountability for being a mess the way thin women can. Oh, I’m subtweeting? That’s Amber. I forgot to say goodbye before hanging up the phone?? That was definitely Amber. I’ve posted more than one selfie this week? It’s above me now, as that, too, was Amber. Amber is a convenient scapegoat for a wildly inconvenient mode of existence. It’s a mode that is only tempered by the many-a-times that—after moving through the world like someone deserving of the same privileges as thin-bodied women—I was left with the dreaded feeling of having to reconcile who I look like with who I am.
In recent years, I’ve learned that my inner Amber makes my energy hostile to white women who dominate so-called fat women’s spaces. Psychically, I remind them of the women they’ve defined themselves in opposition to. The women who rejected them on the playground and dated the boys they had crushes on. The women who got to live their fantasy of being “small fat,” or what I like to call being Raven Symone-pretty. To them, everything about me—from my intelligence and confidence to even where God placed the fat on my body—calls my victimhood into question. Victimhood, after all, is what most of these women really want more than justice. They want a claim to an axis of oppression, so they can righteously speak over black women and live out their deep-seated racist fantasies to dominate us. You see, their delusion is a victim complex and my delusion is a victor complex, so we’re inherently incompatible. Their For Our Fat Asses By Our Fat Asses spaces are simply unfit for me. And that’s fine. I refuse to join any club that wouldn’t accommodate my vastness while making its whole thing hinge on the concept of vastness, anyway!