The last time I wrote about being “fat” was in 2020, sharing that “It weighs heavy in my mouth like the additional slices of crackers with gently laid cream cheese and strawberry jam I swallow at 2:03 am, after promising that the previous and the previous would be my last piece.”
Fat. This time, it doesn’t weigh heavy in my mouth. It is my mouth – my cheeks and face. When I tug at it, I feel its stubbornness. When I see it in the mirror, I think of the chipmunks. Not in a sad wicked way but in a sarcastic way that says, “if someone told you you’ll look like this and laugh, would you believe it?”
Unlike others who can wrap their wholeness or being to their weight or exist in a world that does it for them with judgment and without permission, when I look in the mirror, instead of saying, “I am fat,” I say, “see your fat this or fat that” and pick my body apart like a poem in revision. When I look at my body, I think adjust, breath in, change, damn!, exercise, fat, grown, hide before I think love.
In my mother tongue, when the bones on your neckline are visible and your skin sinks into your chest, someone would say “wo konga aya e.” A Yoruba phrase meaning, “see the well on your chest.” These days, I take delight in going back home to my mother to be fed and fill the well on my chest.
Less than one hour from my arrival at home, my mother always put pots on the stove and makes the food known to my lineage in Abeokuta, Nigeria. She stirs the pot of Amala, a thick brown paste made of yam cassava, and serves it with Gbegiri, a bright yellow soup made out of beans peeled from its skin, boiled, and cooked with palm oil. Next, she adds Ewedu, a green-vegetable slimy soup with stew and pieces of meat.
As my stomach fills up with my mother’s love, I remember when I was seven, my seventy-something-year-old grandmother, Alhaja, would come to my primary school right in time for the break period and ask me to step out of the class so she could feed me milk and cake in the hallway. When I was fifteen years old, Alhaja would fry stew, buy provisions like milk, cereal, peanut, bread, and fruit juice, and ask her driver to travel almost an hour to my boarding school to see me and remind me to eat.
The other day, I watched the weight loss journey of a Youtuber who lost over 160+ pounds, and I thought, “This person just lost me – a whole me and some change off their body.
On Hinge, when selecting the six pictures to impress potential suitors, sometimes I pick the ones that do not show my entire body. I can’t help but marvel at how a body could look shaped up, ready to carry and toss through pictures, but it feels and looks different because I know it more intimately than a public eye.
On bras. Ten-plus years ago, if someone had told me when I got my first bra that this thing, I wanted to wrap around my chest to feel woman would now feel like a cage, I would have called them a liar. Staying primarily at home, the pleasure of a bra was no longer using two fingers to unhook them as I stepped off my final train or bus and walked to my house after a long day. Or snatching it from my chest and through the neckline of my clothes and exhaling in relief as I walk into the house.
When I saw an old friend last summer, she complimented my then-formed legs and toned arms. Then, out of self-consciousness, she talked about her “pandemic body,” saying she needed to lose it soon. I couldn’t help but think, “Not the body that kept you alive during a pandemic or shielded you from being sick, a pandemic body?! Someone would kill to put their dead loved one in your pandemic body just to have one more touch, kiss, and hug with them alive.”
On better days, when I look at this body, I acknowledge it has done well and grown in all the places Alhaja holds when she hugs me and kisses my cheeks. This body is my mother’s investment and hand-crafted love. I tell myself that I have done an excellent job feeding it and “Alhaja will be proud of me.”
Every now and then, when an unsolicited ad for shapewear, slim teas, and push up bras wanders on my social media page or browser, I think, there was a time when this body didn’t need girdles or shaping and I would look at it and think, home. I would feel it and think, take care of it because when next we meet, Alhaja will ask if I have been doing right by it.