I posted this as a guest blogger on Christelyn's great blog Beyond Black and White - as soon as I figure out how to link, I will, but please visit her blog! It is as entertaining and informative as she is!!
Weight is a sore, almost taboo subject with black women. Being fat for black women isn’t the death knell that it can be for women of other races. Black women wear our extra pounds proudly, show them off in the finest clothes, bind it up in expensive girdles, and shake it like nobody’s business on the dance floor. We use words like “thick”, “healthy” “meat on dem bones”. We have made fat the norm - from Monique, to Gabby, to Madea, and that Pine Sol Chick – more often than not, a black woman in the media eye is usually overweight. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is questioning or challenging this…
Everything – funerals, weddings, graduations, ground hog day, days ending with a ‘y’ – is celebrated with food. Food comforts us when no one else will. It’s our drug, dulling the pain caused by a world indifferent to our needs and wants. And it is killing us.
Since last Friday, three women that I know have passed on. No, I’m not use the nice words for this – three women – two good friends of my mother’s and one brilliant caring friend of mine – ARE DEAD. Way before their time. My friend - a nurse, a mother,and a comedian that could make a statue laugh – had a heart attack sitting in her car. She was on her way home from work. They found her the next morning. DEAD. She was a big woman: she would always tell me that one day she was going to join me on my walks. Like me, she had diabetes and high blood pressure. Like me, she ignored the signs of trouble – failing eyesight, tiredness, aching limbs, headaches – put her cares in the “hands of Jesus”, and kept right on eating. Eating. She would get upset when you got on her about her food choices. Or about how her weight fluctuations were affecting her hormones – she was getting the rash on her neck and damn near growing a beard.. “Ain’t nobody’s business but mine”….. She was 43. She had two kids. She had a husband. Now her business is their business – they have to bury her, and go on without her.
My mom’s friends were sisters – Mary and Deb (not their real names). Mary was her close friend – she died last Monday, after being in the hospital for over four months. Diabetes had taken it’s toll on her – both of the legs had to be removed at the knee. Her heart, which wasn’t the greatest anyway, was weak from damage. She spent four months suffering in between morphine shots. My mom visited her as often as she could, and everytime she would come away from the hospital, haunted by Mary’s constant high pitched whine. Finally, mercifully, after enduring bed sores, phantom pains, and a body that refused to heal, she closed her eyes forever. She was 60. Large and in charge, first one down, last one up from the table. A woman that didn’t know a stranger, and could love anyone – gone. DEAD.
Her sister Deb, tried too late to reverse the damage that being seriously overweight had done. She had emergency surgery - bariatric bypass surgery. She lost over 100 pounds in a six month period, but because of complications from her illnesses, the surgery never healed quite right and she caught an infection. She died this morning. Three doors down from where her sister was. I remember the last time I saw her before her surgery , we were at a church function. She had a problem with the circulation in her legs so she had to use a walker to get around. I remember her using her walker to get down a flight of stairs, hobble over to a table, and have her nieces get her a plate. They went back twice for her. I remember her smile, how she would say the fastest Grace (‘Jesus wept’) and how she had to take breaths almost after every sentence that she spoke. She could sing Mahalia under the carpet…. Now she’s gone….she was 57.
Is it worth it ladies (and gents)? I know that most of us aren’t at that level yet. But we all know folks that are – more than a few. At what point do we decide that we had better start backing up before we crash? When do we see that Thick is turning into Morbidly (which means Death is a comin) Obese? When do we stop glossing over the fact that our daughters are being passed over, not because of hair or skin, but because, at 15, she is well over 100 pounds overweight. This story – we all can tell it about someone we knew. Or we will be able to tell it… When do we take the blinders off?
The BWE movement has opened our eyes to many things about ourselves that we didn’t want to see – OOW rates, 70% or higher unmarried BW, the mammyfication , entrapment and self-enslavement – but little by little, we are changing. Mending. Growing. I’m hoping that it doesn’t take yet another epidemic of black women dying off to seriously address and conquer this issue.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
This is me and my Dad at my eighth grade graduation. I chose this picture, and this time frame (the Seventies! Groovy) because it was at this age that I realized the importance of my having a Dad.
My earliest memories of him was sitting on his lap and singing "our song":
Daddy: "I loooooove....."
Daddy: "My good ole sweet......"
This drove my mom nuts, which is the main reason we sang this song. We still sing it today...
By the time the above picture was taken my Daddy taught me:
How to BBQ anything - hence the reason I write a weight loss blog...
How to plaster, patch and repaint a wall - don't ask....
How to replace a kitchen and a bathroom sink..
How to lay carpet..
How to fight - not that windmill stuff, the hook-jab-cross-BAM-lay-a-nigga- out-fighting
How to fish and hunt and shoot...
How to change a tire , the oil and filters, and most belts in my car...
Basically, I think that he wanted his eldest to be a boy( I have two younger bros), but since that didn't happen, and I sure as hell wasn't going to be left out of anything, he went right along with the program. My bros and I still argue about who is the most spoiled out of us - the girl, the baby, or the Marine. But we all know who's little diamond encrusted pinkie our Dad is wrapped around. To this day, all I have to do is look like I need something....it's there.
My dad did realize that he had a girl tho....and while Mom was teaching me social graces and the importance of waiting for the right guy ("You get pregnant, the streets will be your new home"), Dad was making sure that no one got out of line with his little girl. If he didn't know your "people", sorry! If your "people" weren't quite right - nope!
If you came over looking anything less like a gentlemen (no braids, no afro with a hat in the middle) you got your feelings hurt. Bad - my father made up the Dirty Dozens...
And you did not mess with the Princess. Only two have tried - between the ass-whoopin by me, then my bros, then (the piece de resistance!) the quiet but effective threat by Daddy, I don't think either one of them has messed with anyone else since.
My Dad gave me my sense of adventure and humour. There wasn't anywhere that he felt that we couldn't go or experience. The South, both Coasts and Overseas - he made sure that his kids understood that this was OUR world too - and we had as much right to trash it as anyone else! He could cuss you under the table and make you want to be his best friend afterwards. He could charm, stall, and cajole you into doing anything his way - traits I'm proud to say that have, and as I get older they get better!
My Daddy was MY Daddy - when I got home, he was there. When I needed to share triumphs, tragedies (She had the SAME PROM DRESS ON), problems or just talk - he was right around the corner, across from the kitchen, in his easy chair, watching Roller Derby.
So, by the time I graduated from junior high, I was ready....worldly, confident, kick-ass ready!! Ready to take on high school, college, life - head on! I knew more at 14 that most people know at middle age. I will be the first to admit that I was - and still am- spoiled rotten, but as I look around at the state of families today, I don't regret how I was raised at all...
It saddens me that our young, beautiful, vibrant black girls are literally being thrown away...some never knowing how a father shapes you. Never knowing how it feels to be the apple of your daddy's eye, never feeling safe and protected against the Boogie-men, imagined and real. Never having that back up, that person that would knock that weight off of your shoulders when you both knew it was too much. Not knowing what it is to have a full time Daddy, not just someone that drops off money and takes you to the park for an hour on the weekends...when it's your turn.
From birth to around age eleven are important years for girls. The first man to hold her, tell her that she is beautiful and strong, to adore her, to make and keep promises to her - that should be Daddy....that's how girls grow into women that make good choices in love and life. She should be able to see a loving relationship between Mom and Dad. It's not enough to be there, fathers and mothers - you have to BE THERE....Legally, in body and spirit. Your little girls - our future Black Women - deserve that and more....
" I loooooove - Daddy!! My good ole sweet.....DADDY!!"