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.