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I got BAWDY... dysmorphia

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

The longest and most toxic relationship I’ve had has been that between my mind and body. The two fight between what I know and how I feel. I’m stuck somewhere between this journey of relentless self-love and being like 15 minutes on the other side of incessant emotional trauma. I have tried to both physically run away from my mind and mentally detach from my body. Innate resilience plays a big part. Dissociation another. In the mix is my determination to be my most healed self. I’m doin’ alright but like all healing, it’s work.

A lot of the work with body stuff is unlearning all the shit that told you what your body was or wasn’t before you got a chance to fully decide for yourself. Genetics plays a big role, geography another, then there are cultural and outdated societal norms. Let’s not forget various trauma. For me, the result was body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphia is an extreme focus on particular parts of the body, with a tireless desire for modification. It’s literally this voice in your head telling you all the ways that your body is inadequate and imperfect, no matter how much you work to improve it. (Pictured below: high school, grad school, and post grad school. In every photo body dysmorphia told me I needed to lose more weight.)

 

My history with eating disorders and body dysmorphia spans over 20 years, so I intentionally make an effort to be kind to my body. That means enjoying meals I eat, deliberately putting effort into cooking and also taking pictures as way to celebrate this beautiful canvas of brown that is my body.


I don’t remember when it started, but at some point, the desire to be “snatched” for my birthday became a thing. In the past, I restricted my diet and upped my work outs in preparation for an outfit or pictures. By putting unnecessary pressure on myself to lose weight for my birthday, I unintentionally reaffirmed this idea that my body as-is was not enough. And it also added preventable anxiety around a day meant to celebrate me.


This year was a little different.

My love-gift to friends & family.
Pre-birthday brunch 2022

I began 2021 with a commitment to being kind to my body by only exercising as way to celebrate my physical capabilities and not to punish myself for what I ate. ‘Cause one thing I’ma do is eat. It took a lot of patience and deliberately shifting my thoughts about my physical self, but overtime I became much less critical of my lil meat sack. I ended 2021 in the healthiest shape of my life. I felt strong, and toned and excited for ways to cultivate my athleticism in 2022.


And then I got covid.

I went from working out every day, to getting winded just walking to the bathroom. By the end of January, I felt completely out of shape and uncomfortable in a body I had just made peace with.


Then it hit me; why should I only make peace with the parts of me that are smooth, flat and even toned? My body has proven to be this amazing well-functioning thing that does a really good job of healing itself. I spent a lot of time physically ill in 2021, so after recovering from the vid, I was just really happy to be healthy.

 

As a way to intentionally celebrate my body I had an intimate photo shoot. My iPhone was used to capture me in all my almost nekkid glory. I felt sexy and also awkward and hot and sweaty and uncomfortable, but also fine as hell. I sipped wine and had to say, “Fuck it.”

My skin is real sensitive and I haven’t worn a full face of make-up in years. Did I want to be contoured and highlighted and shimmered tf down? Absolutely. Good makeup is an artistic expression that I love. But because my skin doesn’t allow it, my make-up routine consists of lip liner, plumping gloss, (attempts at) a winged eye, hella mascara, and filling in my thick eyebrows where the hair doesn’t fully understand the assignment. For a sexy shoot, I wanted a little boom bam pow in the face but…adult acne be daring me to test my limits.


Naturally, I feel awkward af…unless I’m newd and in front of somebody’s son. In front of the camera, I tried not to give the thoughts in my brain too much air-time about the parts of my body that are dimpled, discolored, uneven, bumpy, jiggly and otherwise imperfect. The parts of me that roll and fold and shine with sweat that generally make me uncomfortable were on full display. I had no time to stress over how I looked or felt in a lace bodysuit. I instead, countered negative thoughts by re-affirming my bad-bitchness. As the camera snapped away, I caught glimpses of myself in the mirror.


It could have been the wine, my comfortability around my homegirl, that fire sunset light or maybe an accumulation of unlearning countless ideas around my body and beauty. But as I moved my body in different curve-appealing positions—I began to feel like the shit.

 

If you asked me what part of my body I loved the most, I would undoubtedly tell you at least five things I could change about my body before securely answering. Body dysmorphia says: I have slight hip dips, and stretch marks, and a soft belly, cellulite and a butt and hips that could stand to be larger. But me, I think I have really nice arms.


I threw javelin in college and fell in love with weightlifting after noticing muscles form during my freshman year. My grandmother loved showing me her younger-years photos with her muscular arms and legs in a tank top and tiny little shorts. “I ain’t never lifted no weights baby. Just hard work and carrying children,” she’d laugh. I love my arms.

I used to go lookin’ for men to tell me they liked my body because I hadn’t decided to yet. I hoped that their words would affirm the soft and fleshy parts of me were just as beautiful as the flat, muscular or otherwise deemed attractive. Seeking outward affirmation is a dangerous game to play. Giving someone else say-so of your view of yourself will never bring you inner peace. It will in fact do the opposite.


The last time I spoke to my ex husband was at a dinner with a mutual “friend” in 2020. I thought that after our split we’d allow sordid romantic history to be the past. I thought we could remain good friends because we actually liked each other as people. Imagine my surprise when at dinner he said, “Carmalita got big and I never left her.” After our mutual “friend” said her boyfriend would break up with her if she ever got fat.


“Excuse me, what in the literal fuck does that mean?” Was my response. “The largest I ever was with you was 175…I’m 200 pounds now and I’m still not big.”


He shrugged and said, “I’m just saying. You gained weight and I stayed.”


Ten years prior when we dated, I was about 145 pounds. My weight yo-yo’d but I got back down to my college weight in the second year of our marriage, after being in Los Angeles for a year. 145. 160. 175. 163. 185. Just another ten pounds less was always the goal. I hate that those numbers seem to be etched in my brain. I hate that the healing work other people refuse to do on themselves results in verbal harm to others.


Sitting at that table, I burned with fury at his audacity and also the effect of his words on me after not being together for years. At the time, 200 pounds was the largest I’d ever been. I would later gain six or seven more pounds, determined to love myself through a growing body and anyone’s remarks to it.

This is not about him, or any other person with an opinion on my body and how it looks—whether negative or affirming. This is about me reclaiming and redefining the relationship I have with where is home for the rest of my life. I don’t want to fight this battle anymore. Here I am beating the shit out of myself emotionally, because some other folks beat me up. Now how does that make any good sense? If somebody got mugged and beat up they’re not finna go home and put another beating on themselves. And then continue to give themselves a few punches and kicks daily because they got jacked. Why are we this way with our bodies then?


Nowadays, when I find myself being overly critical about any part of my physical self, I ask— “Who told you that was true?” And then I make a decision to tell myself otherwise, and then keep telling myself until this new information is as etched in my braid as all that other BS.


And once I’ve arrived at a place where I feel comfortable enough in my skin to take pictures, then upload those pictures to the World Wide Web, I guarantee the last thing I want to see is men from all walks of life sexualizing this beautiful body of mine. (More on that later though.)

It is important to note that I do not take/post pictures to get attention from men or because it feels good to watch them virtually slobber all over me on the internet. Quite the contrary.


There is liberation in posting iPhone pictures that have not been retouched, filtered, Facetuned, cropped, color-corrected, smoothed out, “even smoother’d” out, pinched, cinched, snatched, enlarged, lightened or edited in any way. These photos are a raw representation of the love, respect, adoration and hard work I put into my mind and body every day.


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