I’m wearing my fat and juicy parts out forever
I’ve never gone back to girdles. I won’t diet again. And I will never go back to people who think I should be grateful for their interest.
by Alanah Nichole Davis
When I was five years old my mother brought home a box of mangoes from a co-worker. The box was unsuspecting as was the pile of peculiarly shaped fruits with thick skin and a sun-kissed orange tone. I was told by my mother to wait until after dinner to have one, not to eat the skin, and to eat around the seed. After dinner, I darted toward the box and picked up a partially green mango. My mother then instructed me to pick one that felt soft, fat and was more orange than green.
It was the first time I heard the word ripe. I sunk my two large and then gapped front teeth into the skin and peeled it back.
The flavor of the mango transported me through diaspora diluted West Indian heritage traits, I could feel the breeze of an island I’d never been to on my neck, the sound of a bushel of mangoes knocking sturdily in a tree off in the distance and a gentle reminder from my ancestors that I wasn’t no unripe mango, I had no clue what it meant then. I love food and food loves to stick on my fat body. Society has difficulty seeing me the way 5-year-old me saw and still sees mangoes, as desirable, spiritual, and necessary.
My mother would urge me to girdle my stomach and back with spandex tight enough to burst an unripe mango seed straight through the center of its sweet orange meat, through its thick skin, and into the ceiling of the Episcopalian church I grew up in. I trusted my mother’s voice and for years without question I obliged her requirement of me to don my white bloomers, stockings, girdle, underwired bra, undershirt all with near-constant reminders to suck in my gut.
I spent years jailed in spandex and barely breathing before realizing that society (my mother included) was often drinking from the same cup of beauty standards all in the name of nothing sweet really. Even the body-positive movements and communities I see growing online today in my adulthood are steeped in the male gaze and infused with the unsweetened juices of patriarchy, far less desirable than the squozen juices of any mango.
The summer I decided to let go of the victory that having a girdle on for hours would bring, I remember how freeing it was to leave my jail-like jar of spandex at home, my tummy control tights at home, and the voices of everyone and what they might say or think about my fat body in the trash where they always belonged, yes even my mother. It was hot and my skin was dark, the kind of dark people tell you to avoid when you’re already darker than most people can take. I didn’t care. My dimpled, fat, dark-skinned arms were out in tank tops in varied colors paired with khaki Bermuda shorts that were about 2 years behind in production for plus-sized girls, I didn’t care I was going to get my looks off.
I could see it in the boy’s eyes that summer and many after though most of them were never bold enough to say it, ‘Here comes Alanah’s big ass’. Because I didn’t fit into their ritualistic cup of drinkable beauty standards, I was invisible to them in most contexts, but allegedly mostly sexual. They didn’t worship my body type like they did others, at least not in public. For years in my adolescence, those very same boys let their curiosity about my body known. I’d allow the silly exploration of the juices in my fatter cup because very simply I was curious too. But it was always in secret. In abandoned apartments, the back seats of cars, always in the shadows.
Why would someone want to hide a ripe mango fruit like me? Mangoes need sun and deserve to be eaten.
I often chuckle to myself now about how I thought I had missed out on something in not getting those things, still not really getting those things. Those of us with fat bodies are not afforded the protection that thinner bodies are. But fat bodies are worth more than skulking in the shadows. Our bodies are worthy of appreciation and honor.
No different than that summer in my adolescence I still refuse to wear a bra or any undergarment that might restrict the flow of the way my body moves. I am a full-bodied cup of ripe mango juices. This body is a ritual. Men have still not learned to worship me or my body the way they should. After all this time men and women alike still go on thinking that their curiosity should be enough for me. Imagine if I had just stared at that box of mangoes in my childhood without ever having tried one, I would have lost one of the greatest loves of my life, mangoes.
I’ve never gone back to girdles. I won’t diet again. And I will never go back to people who think I should be grateful for their interest. I suggest they take it up with their God. I rebuke fatphobia in all its forms. Our bodies are holy in all of their fat glory.
I’m wearing my fat and juicy parts out forever. That’s my fat body politic.
Alanah Nichole Davis is a mother, essayist, cultural worker, social designer, and philanthropist from The Bronx, NY based in Baltimore MD. She is affectionately referred to as Baltimore’s Godmother for her ability to foster, support, love, and build everything she touches.