Monday, October 12, 2015

Your Thing

Every Black woman (Caribbean, Afro-Latina, African American, African, West Indian - whatever the fuck you call yourself!) has to have a thing.  A place, a time of day, a corner of a room,  a notebook in her mind where she can escape the world and be.  My thing is the sauna.

I spend most of my life hiding my fat, short, brown, lumpy body. Long tunics are preferred to short belly showing shirts. My butt is covered, always, by some kind of apparel.  My body is most comforted when covered in layers of fabric in my ever present quest to camouflage myself and pretend no one can see me.

But not at the sauna! I saunter in wearing a light robe and then SPLAT! it all comes off.  You don't like it? Too bad for you cause I ain't putting my clothes back on until I'm good and ready. This thing, this Thing! It is so important to me.  I work out at the gym, sure.   But I have no delusions of transforming this body into a skinnier version of myself.  At best my goal is to lose a mere 40lbs.  And, if I do, I will still be overweight (very overweight.)  The real purpose of my gym time is to end up in that sauna 40 minutes later for 20 more minutes.  Forgetting or re-calculating, crying or talking myself into doing something I've been avoiding. I doze there sometimes or I daydream about some idiot guy I have a crush on.  I envy the bodies of others, or I thank God I have a fat ass! 

My life is stressful, but my problems are trifling in comparison to some women. Imagine if I had a guy beating me up?  What if I was in a shelter with 3 kids?  Or, what if I had a debilitating mental illness that I could not control with medication?   What if I was a newly released convicted felon?  That's some fucking stress!  There are many Black women in our country who are living these realities. And still, my reality is mine. We all need a thing, some Thing, like Virginia Woolf's room of one's own, to manage stress.  A doctor told me recently what has become my favorite new saying, "There's nothing stress can't do."  Heart attacks, bad skin, poor sleep, obesity, stomach ailments - "there's nothing stress can't do."

The wooden planks and the overpowering heat of the sauna assure me I'm alive.   My nudity demonstrates a bravery I may never replicate elsewhere.  The negotiation of naked bodies that seem to me, and to the world, so perfectly thin and perfectly white, makes me arrogant in my otherness.  I feel strong, acceptable and mostly, accepted, still capable of feeling, of walking back out into this crazy world.   

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