My Body Is Art; You Cannot Ruin Me

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.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Your Social Activism May Actually Benefit From A Cleansing Social Media Detox

In the craziest year of our lives, sometimes there's value in taking a break.

We are living through, unequivocally, one of the most dangerous, unstable, chaotic periods of any of our lives. From COVID-19 to crises of police brutality to the mass exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations, the world outside seems to be looking more dystopic every day. What can be done about it? For many, activism involves heavily posting on social media to keep others aware. However, this comes with a net negative cost — increased levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness about the state of the world. Why might this be? After all, in past eras activists have endured comparable and greater levels of abuse and relentless torment from oppressors. Why, now, are people getting so easily burnt out?

Keep Reading... Show less

Reading is a relaxing activity that provides many benefits. Everybody reads books (when they are not watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or making Tik Tok videos) to distract themselves from reality for a while. Many do not realize the positive impact that books have like reducing stress, assisting with sleep, improving cognitively, and strengthening the mind. In honor of National Book Day, there are many great novels that you can read to mark this special holiday. Here are the best ones to check out.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).

Netflix

"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have always felt left out because of how I look and who I am. I have always felt like the elephant in the room, literally. I have always been shamed for my size. For the longest time, I cared so much about what I wear and who I wore certain things in front of. I never wanted to wear shirts that would show a lot of my arm, located above my elbow. I wouldn't wear shorts that didn't go to the tip of my knees, at least. I never wore anything remotely tight, where you could see every curve, roll, or imperfection. I was so insecure about myself, and not many of my friends knew.

Keep Reading... Show less

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Celebrities Stealing Designs From Small Fashion Labels Is NOT A Good Look, And They Need To Pay Up

When larger, more established figures or brands steal from lesser-known independent creators, they are taking opportunities away from these creators while also profiting from someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B recently collaborated on their new single "WAP," with the music video also being released on Friday. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B posted photos of themselves on Instagram to celebrate the premiere of "WAP." An independent designer quickly noticed that the rappers' matching tops were copies of a top she had designed last year.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

When You Have A Disability, Finding A Job Is Twice As Hard, Believe Me, I Know

We have got to create a safer work environment for people with disabilities.

"My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically." – Stephen Hawking

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

7 Books That Are NOT In The Young Adult Genre That Will Change Your Life

Young Adult isn't the only genre that exists, so here are seven books that any book lover wanting to try something new will love.

One of the most popular genres in literature that everyone has read at least one book from is Young Adult fiction. Now, I personally can say that, in the past, I have been one of those people that only read from the YA section of the bookstore.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just reading one genre, it's good sometimes to venture out of your reading comfort zone into the other book genres of the literary world.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance and power of words. The perfect example of this is literature and its impact on the world. Books have always played a crucial part in human lives, from how we are able to expand our knowledge to how we pass our time.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments