My Body Is Art; You Cannot Ruin Me

My Body Is Art; You Cannot Ruin Me

A love letter.

I do not tolerate catcalling, discrimination, or oppression. That is to say, I have no problem retaliating against those who oppress me. However, I am no ice-woman, with the ability to freeze bigots before harsh words can escape their mouths. The words still come, they still sting, I just choose to fight back.

I was leaving work several days ago when an older gentlemen approached me. My guard instantly goes up whenever I'm approached by an older white man, but I was still at work, so I painted my face with feigned optimism and agreed to speak with him. He told me he is fascinated by American culture. I wasn't quite sure what he meant. This is when he asked the question.

"Do your parents care that you look like that?"

I felt my voice rupture in my throat. My knuckles turning white; ash.

"What do you mean?"

I instantly became aware of my pink hair wrapped into a printed head scarf, my visible tattoos, heavily powdered face, and large septum piercing.The aspects of my appearance that reflect my cosmic insides, that decorate my body and reflect my spirit.

"The nose ring, the hair, all the tattoos. Do your parents care?"

I felt myself becoming uneasy. Aware that I was still in my workplace, speaking to a stranger. Knowing that if I were on the street, I would not tolerate this blatant disrespect towards my body and appearance by a man who I'd never met. My stomach churned with all the lives I wish I'd lived, all the people I wanted to shrink myself into who were not as big of a target for ridicule.

"No, I don't think they care."

I withered under the weight of what I wanted to say. To bellow at his right to question my appearance. His white misogyny that was never considered radical or different.

"To be honest, I'm very intelligent and driven, and I don't think my appearance changes that."

I wondered why I cringed complimenting myself in the face of someone who had just degraded me. I was not brought up to boast my talents, skills, or accomplishments, but I felt like I had to prove my worth to this man who'd only based me on my outward appearance.

"How old are your parents? What do they think about this?"

I gulped, recalling all of the arguments I'd had with my mother over my nose piercings, my affinity to inking visible places on my skin, and how my hair looked much better as a natural dark brown.

I gulped the powder residue on my lips, the purple lipstick, the bold, overdrawn eyebrows. My face beneath the makeup splotched with constellations of scars and discoloration. My harsh contour a sharp reminder of the tongue beneath my cheek.

"My parents are in their fifties."

I don't know why I continued to answer his questions, satisfy his curiosity. I felt like I could not get up, could not escape his bigger, whiter, older grasp around my tongue. His assumption that only young people, young parents would support a child who wanted to look so "obscene".

"Interesting. I'm fascinated by how parents raise their kids these days."

My fists crumbled. My inner cheek bleeding from a hard bite.

I remembered the early high school girl who barely ate to keep her body bony. Who bleached her hair and clipped in weave, shrinking into dresses that exposed her inner thighs. Her legs the fragile limbs of trees. Her tongue a leaf, afraid to hold weight. The swallowing of air instead of food, the loss of appetite, the hollow.

I am heavier now. Fifty pounds, scarred, stretched, ridged with mountains of cellulite. My skin has saved me from every time I tried to destroy it. My skin has held together the avalanche, the sandstorm, the grief. I decorate myself with jewelry and color and makeup and tattoos and I look lived in. I have never been more content with this beautiful, broken body.

I thanked the old white man, and walked away.

I did not retaliate, did not claim my body as a holy space, did not cast away his hyper-masculinity with my earth shattering body positivity. I said nothing. I answered his questions. I stayed silent while his words stung my insides.

It is impossible for women to always remain strong in the face of what society has taught us to succumb to. The male gaze. The opinions of others. The standard of beauty of being numb, of being holy, of being untouched and unpierced and unaltered. The "natural". The silenced. The good-behavior-cut-tongue-short-breath-weakness.

My parents taught me to listen and respect elders. I taught myself not to sacrifice my worth to endure toxic masculinity and disrespect that threatens my spirit. I am unapologetically unique, I will not change. I am not afraid to question anyone who threatens the security of my palace heart. Sometimes, my tongue will be too heavy and I will not find the words to say. In those times, I forgive myself.

If you dislike my body, I understand. Everyone has a different opinion of art. I will continue to live in my it, decorated like a Pharaoh's tomb. I am magic, I am dawned in grace. I am nineteen years of rebirth, of growth, of shatter. I am more than the colors I paint myself with. I am more than the words that have haunted me. I am more than the dirt, than the grief, than the hurt.

To My Body: I am sorry for holding my tongue when I should have spoken. I promise I love you. I promise I'm still here.

Cover Image Credit: Selma Wo

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?


A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.


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