Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eight is Enough

One: Last year during my trip to Botswana, a local woman did a double take after hearing me speak.

"Where are you from?" she asked.

"US," I said.

"Agh!" She perked with surprise. "You look like Botswana woman. You have Botswana fi-gaah."

Two: Arriving in Botswana this year, the customs agent droned her questions: nature of visit, number of days, country of residence, country of birth. Hearing me say "USA" twice, I noticed that she hovered above a thought before deciding to speak it aloud.

"You look African."

I thanked her and asked what would distinguish an African woman from a black American woman.

"Your fee-chaas," she said, using an index finger to make a circular motion around her face. I thanked her again, smiling.

Three: Chatting with my hosts as we were leaving a cafe, I overheard two ladies comment as we passed their table about being surprised at my accent (funny. me. from Wisconsin. with an accent) and that I looked like I was from "here."

Four: I'm riding to the airport, leaving one city and on to the next. The team that hosted me has become like a new family. We were discussing my return trip in the fall and about how deeply I appreciated these trips feeling like homecomings. Not in the cliched "return to the motherland" kind of way, but truly a place that feels intrinsically familiar. I told them about my events, being assumed Botswana. About my "fee-chaas." About my "fi-gaah." We all laughed, and they all nodded. Unloading the truck, one of my new friends stopped me, discreetly, to compliment my body frame. "It is nice," she said, plainly. "Not too big. Not too small. Right in the middle."

Five: I've been tugging at my clothes recently and bypassing the garments that, suddenly, hug too tightly. Well, I can't say "suddenly."  This slow expansion of my waist has been in the making since fall, one large fry and turtle sundae at a time. Not that I plan to excise either from my diet, I just think I got a bit liberal, forgot that, without exercise, my body will turn those fried and fudge-covered treats into a plethora of unwanted dimples. And, now, I've reached my personal outer limits where I'm wincing at mirrors and editing my favorite outfits. I don't want to spend the summer bemoaning my body and not wearing my best skirts and sundresses. I know what I have to do; I even packed my gym shoes on this trip.

Six:  Like most women, my relationship with my body has been a storied one.  I've had seasons where I was much bigger, but I've always been ... um ... formidable. Amazonian, even. As a preteen, my petite mother and I were confused for sisters. (Now we get confused because she's ageless!) She wouldn't let me buy a mermaid dress for prom and I thought it was because I was too heavy. Back then, I didn't appreciate that what I have are called CURVES and she just didn't want me to hurt nobody at prom. Ha!

I attended predominantly white schools, so all of my peers who were considered to have great bodies were still a size 6. Yes, I was aware that there were different criteria for "white girl's good body" and "black girl's good body."  Best I could tell, though, the credentials for a black girl's good body still involved dimensions I didn't have: rounded breasts, a tiny waist and an ass you could rest your algebra book on.

Seven: For the past decade or so, I've come to truly love my body --dimples, frame, thick limbs, curves. Thanks to Botswana, I will strut about knowing that my body isn't an accident.My Love likes to tell me that my body is ancient, a silhouette of womanhood that has been exalted since the beginning of time (Reason #3865 why I love him).

Eight:  I have Botswana fi-gaah. Not that I needed a reason to affirm my body beautiful, but I'll cherish this one. For life.