For Myself. As a Woman.

For Myself. As a Woman.

In elementary school, I lived in a mostly black community. I would always change schools because my parents were going through a very rough time in their marriage and were still growing up and learning how to function as adults with a child and careers. I was a mixed kid—Indo-Caribbean and White. Because I wasn’t black, was mixed, and was always the new girl, I was severely bullied. I donned nicknames such as “Bigfoot” and “Chewbacca,” to name a few of the nicer ones, as my Indian heritage granted me an abnormal amount of hair on my arms and legs. Not only was my appearance odd, but I was a very gullible and innocent child, so it encouraged others to treat me as an easy target for bullying. I would get books snatched out of hand, assignments ripped apart or stolen, braid pulled, tripped, and kicked out of class (because my reacting to having my hair pulled created too much of a disturbance during quiet time). I’m quite grateful for these experiences, though. They made me tough and allowed me a glimpse into how miserable I could’ve been if I ever took any of it personally. I know that my bullies were all hurting or had been hurt, and so I am sorry that they felt so much pain that they deemed it necessary to take it out on someone else.

In middle school, I went through puberty; My hips got wider, my menstrual cycle began, I started growing pubic hair, and my breasts grew. I used to curse the day that blood stained my underwear that first time. It was a sign of change. That something was changing inside of me and I’d never be able to go back to who or how I was before. It scared me, yes. What scared me more was the physical changes. Moreso, people’s responses to these changes. I could not decide the size of my breasts nor the width of my hips, so why did they look differently at me? I had to wear higher necklines, looser clothes, anything to hide what my body was changing into–A woman. I was ashamed, highly aware of the two mounds of flesh now sitting upon my chest. I felt every shoulder that accidentally bumped into them in the crowded halls, every bounce when I walked down the stairs, the soreness of an undersized bra aer a long day, eyes stealing a glance when I wore the wrong shirt. My middle school uniforms made the development a torturous process, as it was a tight shirt you could not wear a hoodie over. Middle school was not the worst time though. The adolescent years were.

High school was the most challenging of years, in regard to body image. I remember my freshman and sophomore years; I wore solely hoodies and loose pants and shirts. I hid my body as much as I could, insecure and feeling like a balloon. In junior year, I started shedding the hoodies and by senior year, I was finally confident enough to wear lower-cut and tighter clothes. I finally dressed how I wanted and gained an abundance of confidence, finally learning what clothes and styles I liked on my body.

Then I moved from home and started college. Let me say, low confidence has nothing on paranoia. I started getting cat-called on my way to school, a phenomenon I had never experienced in all my years of living in Hawai’i. It scared me. I’d never felt so dirty. I wanted to hide away and go straight back to the styles of my freshman year. The first few months of living here, I did. I wore unflattering clothes and didn’t look anyone in the eye. I tried to be invisible. However, I recently decided enough is enough. I AM a woman. I wasn’t going to let a man’s snide comment determine how I feel about myself or how I dress. A man at the bus stop once told me I “had it going on.” I do. But, I didn’t want to hear it from someone like him. Nor any of the other hecklers and hasslers of the city. “I like your hair, shawty,” or “Don’t ignore me,” or “Are you lost baby”? Just a sample of the things men have said to me in passing. I ignore them all the same. Because to protect myself as a woman, I had to learn to adapt quickly to my new environment.

How to live. I am living. For myself. As a woman.

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