Meet the Old Me

The pandemic is hard. That’s why so many people stay in denial and run around mask-less, endangering people’s lives. For awhile I was jealous of the people who could be so cavalier about their health and the health of those in their lives. I want to get my signature Senegelese twists, grab a macchiato with a friend, or simply go for a jog in the mornings before the heating of the day.

The new normal is scary for me for a lot of reasons. I’ve gained some weight due to decreased movement and increased stress-eating of random foods I haven’t eaten in years. I have kept my hair in protective styles for years and returning to this natural style has been challenging.

Working out, eating right, and doing my hair all require mental and physical energy that runs quite low for me as a caregiver.

The last few years or so of my life have been difficult, but I’ve also had quite the glow-up. Losing over 80 pounds got me out of the danger zones for diabetes and other weight-related conditions. It also had the fringe benefits of things like getting asked out on dates and not being ignored when trying to order my non-alcoholic mixed beverage at the bar. My image has even been in print on the web and hardcopies since dropping the weight.

While I will never advocate losing weight for societal approval, the reality is that we live in a size-ist, society that treats womxn differently based on appearance. I was finally adjusting to this “new” me and the way that people treated this more slender version of myself when all of a sudden ‘Rona comes around and the “old” me starts to resurface.

Awhile back my therapist helped me realize that one of my biggest fears is gaining weight, taking up more physical space, and returning to a state of invisibility.

Of course, I should be able to take up space with my bigger body and shorter hair, but because patriarchy and White supremacy are so pervasive, I find myself apologizing for my existence.

I set out to lose weight because my health was in danger. I also wanted to be able to lift my mom when she fell. Although I’d been bullied about my weight growing up, I knew that I couldn’t let other people’s opinions be a motivating factor in my commitment to leading a healthier life. Eventually, I found myself outside of the diabetes danger zone and better equipped to take care of my mom.

I also experienced firsthand the reality of thin-privilege for the first time in my life. Always known as the sweet, sassy, curvy Black friend, I often felt like an afterthought among peers and was blatantly ignored by society (fat-phobic “jokes” aside).

But once I dropped the weight, things changed. Suddenly, in a world where the White male patriarchy reigns supreme, I was seen. I was no longer ignored by the bartender and I was even occasionally asked out on dates!

But now, with a rounder face and without the swinging Senegalese twists, I feel exposed. Like I have been getting away with a charade for the last few years, but the truth about my identity as a big girl with coarse, cropped hair has finally been revealed.

As I started to spiral into a black hole of fear, anxiety, and depression, a talk with my father helped bring me back to what matters.

Yes: I look different and, as a result, some people may treat me differently. But the changes in my appearance are not due to some personal failure. Instead, they are illustrative of my commitment to keeping myself and my family safe amid a global pandemic. My fluffier waist and coiled hair are badges of honor, as I choose to honor my mother and my father.

What a relief it is to be reminded that my value does not lie in my appearance but in the way I love and care for others and myself. I am now ready to re-prioritize my physical health and commit today to get back in shape so as not to undo all of the hard work I did. My family still needs me to be strong for them and I cannot wait to get back to that place of strength again.

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