By Tanay Adams
I love my body. A simple sentence with four words, and only one of those words with two syllables. Its simplicity in syntax is incredibly misleading because though these words are few, not many folks can utter these words and truly mean them. This is true especially for Black women who are often taught to cover and feel ashamed of our bodies before we even get a chance to meet them. From a young age, our bodies’ opinions and feelings and how we wear them are constantly placed on us by family members, peers, men, and society, through multiple mediums and in aggressive and violent ways. Our bodies are often hypersexualized, critiqued, and imitated like objects, making it hard for us to make a home within ourselves genuinely.
In the midst of all the ugly, this pandemic has uncovered between 2020 and this year; the one thing I’m glad it brought was solitude. Solitude brought its friend introspection. They both met me in my living room during quarantine and pushed me toward a journey of re-establishing and re-grounding myself in myself to survive everything happening within and around me. Because I was no longer leaving the house for the first time in my life and had no one near me to constantly compare my body. It was just me and the mirror. Being by myself made me want to reconnect with my body, as she was the only other body in the room, and as I got to know her, I realized I didn’t know her at all. She wasn’t the villain I had created in my head, and she wasn’t those things other people said she was; she was simply a part of me that I hadn’t fallen in love with yet. I had fallen for my wit, intellect, laughter, and the things I could do with my body, but never the body that birthed those things.
To make amends and convince my body that I am ready to love her, I must court myself and show my body love daily actively. When I say, “I love my body,” the word “love” is a verb for me and something that I must do for myself so that I can say, “I love my body,” and it is a statement of fact one day. Showing our bodies acts of love is incredibly important for us Black women because we hold generations of trauma, along with our own, within our bodies. We often do not feel safe within these bodies that we carry. Every day on TV and social media, we see bodies like ours violated, ridiculed, and unprotected, which further detaches us from our form and estranges our relationship. My wish for Black women is to actively love our bodies and show them the gentleness and care that we want from our partners. For Black women who have not yet fallen in love with their bodies or are trying to heal their relationship with it, I offer some of my favorites for courting myself and building a stronger connection to my body. These are the ways I love my body:
- I dedicate love songs to myself. I love, love songs! It doesn’t matter the genre or the artist, I love songs about love because everyone describes love differently, and none ever get close, but it’s nice to hear them try. When I used to listen to love songs, I used to imagine myself singing them to an imaginary partner, or an imaginary partner singing them to me, but I realized that because these scenarios weren’t ever happening; these songs were starting to make me angry. During quarantine, I’ve started intentionally singing these songs to myself, and holding myself while I did it. Suddenly the words become so much more, and when I place myself as the one singing and receiving these beautiful words; I realize that I deserve them all and I’m so thankful for myself in that moment.
- I take my time moisturizing. Showering is a common part of the day, and as Black women I know we have several lotions, creams, and butters to keep our skin hydrated, so moisturizing ourselves is a common thing too. What I’m suggesting is that you take this action and regard it as a form of self-worship instead of just something that you just do after a shower. Light a candle or incense, turn on some Ari Lennox, stand in the light of the sun or moon, and moisturize each of your limbs and parts intentionally. Notice the way your body feels under your palms, thank your legs and feet for carrying you through this world and massage the lotion into them while you do it. Truly rehydrate your body and breathe new light into it.
- I buy nice underwear often. Before, underwear was just another garment I bought like socks, but since I rarely have a reason to wear pants; I’ve started seeing myself in underwear more often. This has seriously made me step up my underwear game and made me curious about how my body would look in different colors, cuts, and textures. Seeing my body in lace or electric colors reminds me to have fun with myself and that my body exists for my pleasure before anyone else’s.
- I wear perfume to bed. I don’t share a bed with anyone, and some nights I really wish that wasn’t the case. It’s like loneliness gets amplified when the sun goes down, and of all the times of day, this is the time I don’t want to be the only body in this house. To combat the negative feelings that come with this realization, I spray my favorite sensual perfume on my body before bed and fall asleep with the decadent smell all around me. Though I may not be sleeping next to somebody right now, and it kind of sucks, I realize that it sucks more for the person missing out on this great smelling body in this soft warm bed. It reminds me that sleeping next to, and with, this body is a luxury and I am the only one deserving of that luxury right now.
- I dance for myself. At the end of the, “work-from-home” day, my body feels incredibly stiff from sitting, and instead of just moving to my couch for dinner; I like to dance for myself. There’s always music playing in my apartment, and the places that feel tight can easily be stretched with some twists, twerks, and body rolls under my living room lamp. I love moving to music and seeing my body bounce and bend to my favorite songs; it feels like a celebration of the things my body can do and I am thankful for how it allows me to move. It’s a bit meditative too. When I dance, I only have thoughts of myself and the music around me, and how beautiful it all feels.
I admit that I am still very much on my journey of healing the relationship I have with my body, and somedays I need a lot more than a shower and some nice perfume. But it is still important for me to actively show her love, especially in the times where I am extra critical of her because that’s when she’s needing it the most. This is the way that our Black bodies deserve to be loved, and we should be the ones to introduce it to them if we can, and when we can.
Tanay Adams – Tanay M.A. is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Tanay’s passions lie in holistic education and creative/poetry writing; both are heavily influenced by her love of Black Women, and her love of creation. You can follow her on Instagram @theamazingtanayzing.