Janelle Harris shares a personal story of her battle with self-esteem.
Every morning, I wake up and say the same thing: Thank you God for another day. Thank you for organs and parts that function properly and the little things, like teeth and eyelashes. Thank you that, even though my body doesn’t look the way I want it to, it works the way I need it to. The Lord and I share a little chuckle and I throw the covers back to run into my day.
Then I slap Him in the face because I spend half my time comparing myself to other women. I wish my hair cooperated like this one’s does. I long for another chick’s smooth complexion. I envy another woman’s put-together look. I mean, hair flawless, skin perfect, teeth like something out of a Colgate ad—before the Photoshop touch-ups. And then, bless the Lord, there’s me.
More than anything, I measure my body against the beautiful women I come across here in D.C. Wish I would’ve known before I moved here that being stacked and shapely was a citizenship requirement. On the platform waiting for the train the other day, for example, I saw a sista about my age with a brickhouse body that would bust her right to the front of the line at any video shoot. Man, I thought to myself, must be nice to have that figure.
In the midst of my daydreaming, I propped my hand on my side and almost threw my fool self on the floor. I know full well I ain’t got no hips. My palm slid right on off because it didn’t have anywhere to stop. So I gangsta-leaned against the wall instead, certain that my hourglass-shaped homegirl over there could host her hand, my hand and maybe somebody else’s with no problem at all. Not that she’d want to, but at least she’d have the option.
I probably end up girl watching as much as guys do, and I don’t wave a rainbow flag by any stretch of the imagination. They’re lusting, I’m envying. I’ve never been enamored with the outer Janelle. There was never really an opportunity for me to be. Those folks whose parents raise them up to not have a filter and say exactly what’s on their minds kept me abreast of my physical shortcomings when I was a kid. They didn’t let anything slip past and gave me a full report about their findings on a regular basis: big lips, buck teeth, bad skin, chunky body.
But when I’d go home, all hurt because somebody teased me, my mom’s reaction was always the same: concentrate on school, just ignore them. So I grew up having been the smart girl, the funny girl, the nice girl, but never being the pretty girl, the confident girl, the girl that everybody wanted to get with. So now, it’s difficult to receive the compliment of being called beautiful after 20-some years of being told the complete opposite.
Sometimes, just to be crazy, I’ll cruise over to a plastic surgeon’s website and look at all of the wonderful advancements modern science has made in the way of chiseling a woman’s body into perfection. If the good Lord didn’t stack you up, a licensed reconstructive surgeon sure enough can. I fantasize about chatting with Metro Girl, hands on both of my brand spankin’ new hips for no good reason at all. Just steady talking, switching hands and perching them on my new hindparts like I’m doing the Macarena. Me and her, talking about whatever it is that Coke-bottle shaped chicks talk about. I sure thought I’d be over this by now. I’m good and grown, with bills and taxes and life insurance. But I’m still weighing myself against pretty women like the awkward little girl I was once upon a time. I’m working on it, though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to strut into a room and own it just from my look alone. But personality? Now I got a lot of gorgeous chicks on that one, hands down. Shoot, if personality was booty, I’d be Bria Myles. Alas, it’s not.
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