Kill Them With Confidence

I’ve been writing up a storm these days (short stories, mostly- they’re my specialty for those who don’t know) and I’ve been having so much fun. Now it’s not so much fun for my blog, because my blog is my real life- but creatively, I couldn’t be in a better place. For instance, I’m working on a story now and in the story, my main character is a stripper- a headliner as a matter of fact- and it made me think about my dream of being a stripper myself.

Before you get all judgmental, let me explain. Someone once asked me what I would do if I was free and completely unafraid. When I thought about the answer, I figured out that besides owning a restaurant and writing to my heart’s content without starving like an artist, another thing I’d do is become a stripper. Most people laugh when they hear me say that- because I say it with an absolute straight face. But after the laughter, of course they ask why. And when I thought about why, there was only one answer: because to do that job and do it well, you have to have a confidence that is unmatched- and more than anything, I want that confidence. Now, after I give this answer, most people burst my bubble by reminding me that a lot of strippers are afraid and insecure on the inside, struggling to make it, fighting coke habits- all that yucky stuff. So, in response to that, I had to tailor my answer. To do that job, and do it well, what they have, even if their lives are a mess- is confidence in their sex appeal– and that’s what I’m missing.

Now, I don’t have to tell you people how hard it is to be a plus-size girl these days. People take so much pride in ripping you apart- they attack the very essence of your physical self and then when they’re done, they twist the knife deeper by implying that your size is your own fault (because you’re lazy and you eat too much), that’s it’s easy to lose the weight- and that (and this is my favorite part) you should simply learn to take a joke. I love a joke as much as the next person, but this is serious… very serious. Anyway, when that’s the world around you- confidence is hard to get, hard to keep, and hard to show.

*As a side note, I know that people of other sizes, races, sexual orientations, religions, and ethnicities get attacked on a daily basis as well- and I’m not trying to nail myself to some fat girl cross and imply that we have it worse- but this blog is about my life- so I have to write my experience- you guys get that, right?* Moving on…

I have this theory that when we raise our young women, we give most of them a complex because we imply (consciously or subconsciously) that they can’t be both beautiful and smart- that they have to choose one. I have seen this in action. Pretty dumb girls who think their looks will get them everything, and smart girls who don’t even bother with their looks because they’re convinced they’re not destined to be beautiful. I was definitely in the latter group. When I was young, I must have heard a billion times how smart I was. How my grades were going to make me the doctor in my family, how the fact that I read books all the time was going to make me rich- all of that. I can’t remember anyone ever telling me I was beautiful. I mean sure, I was “cute” on school picture day, and whenever my mom made me wear a skirt- or when I took one of my many “Student of the Month” photos- but I don’t think I was ever called attractive on a consistent basis. Add that to puberty making me plump and glasses in the sixth grade, and that is NOT a recipe for confident. Now this is not to say that I never had anything to be confident about. I was almost to the point of arrogant about books and reading, and school- I just had zero confidence when it came to what I saw in the mirror every day. I know that what’s inside matters more, but if you’d asked me what I saw when I looked at myself- I would have said a fat nerd with glasses. And that’s it. I didn’t see anything good about my outward appearance- and that’s indicative of a bigger problem where it matters most… on the inside.

The after effects of this thinking ranged from sadness, to anger, to finally- apathy. I stopped caring about what I looked like on the outside- because it didn’t seem like anyone else did. Everyone else was just focused on me being so smart, so I tried to focus on that too. I didn’t meet boys- the ones I crushed on didn’t notice me, and the ones who expressed interest in me were rebuffed because I didn’t believe them. I realize now that it wasn’t because I was unattractive- it was because I thought I was. I had no confidence about my appeal to the opposite sex. This went on for years, and laid the groundwork for my stripper dream. It didn’t help that I seemed to be surrounded by sisters and cousins and friends who flipped their hair, popped their gum, switched their hips and had boys falling all over themselves to talk to them. I didn’t have any choice but to hang out with them (it was better than hanging out by myself at the library- which I also did, by the way) but most of the time when I was with them, I felt inadequate in some way. And the beat goes on…

As I cruised into adulthood, I discovered more flattering clothes, started paying someone to tackle this hair and got eyeglass frames that didn’t make me look like a grandmother- and I felt better about myself. My social life picked up, and so did my sex life- and we all know how attractive that can make you feel. But I have to confess that it’s still an everyday struggle to show confidence, to feel confident- at least about my appearance. My friends are some of the most beautiful women I know- they’re all intelligent, talented, fabulous, fearless. And they all know it- and show it. They attract men like bees to honey- but like I said, I’m still struggling. I just don’t project what they project- and sometimes it makes me sad, like they all have some special magic that I’m not privy too. I’m proud of them- and we have a lot of fun when we hang out together- but honestly I still see that 13-year old girl, feeling inadequate and unattractive, feeling dim surrounded by everyone else’s light. Sometimes it’s so real- I can smell my own fear, my own doubt… my own lack of confidence. I don’t see a fat nerd with glasses when I look in the mirror anymore, but I don’t see a sexy, plus-size, dynamo either. Most days, I see a kind of cute Shameka, who has brown eyes like my Grandma Bert and awesome hair (when it’s done). I think my outfits are cute, but most days I liken myself to an adult Punky Brewster- comfortable, casual, colorful. I still don’t take the kind of care with my outward appearance as other people I know- because somewhere inside, I still think that it doesn’t matter- because no one is noticing me anyway. When I feel myself slipping into that, I try to pull back- but sometimes it’s really hard. It’s pretty tough when you have something people commonly make fun of; but when you don’t have confidence you make it harder by warring with yourself, as well as the world. I know I do. And I wish there was a magic switch I could turn on to make me more self- assured- but alas there is not… I guess there’s always that stripper dream .

I’ll have to keep tuning up my insides though- ultimately, it’s the only way to project my light outward. I know that most of the time I only see what my mind believes- so I will continue to work on changing my mind. No matter what though, one of the things I do have confidence in- is my ability to push through, to keep going. And to write it all down…

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