I found my first gray hair on my head when I was 14. Gray, wiry, ornery even and it audaciously stuck out the front of my hairline in a place of prominence. People who noticed it said it was “good luck” or a mark of wisdom. What it is, is hereditary. After I gave birth to my first born at 25, more silver sistren joined the original one and I began my journey with hair dye not to soon after. Even though I gave up the creamy crack over 20 years ago, I didn’t break up with Ms. Clairol until I had the occasion to sit on a mat in Nigeria almost 5 year ago and have all my hair shaved off my head as a part of my initiation to the Orisa Osun. Prior to that, I had dyed close curls, big juicy afros and two sets of locs black, dark brown, Black Girl Auburn (trust me, issa thing) and red. As my hair grew back in after I returned to the states as an Iyawo, it returned unencumbered by pigment in shades of mostly silver and sometimes white.
My first gray pubic hair was discovered in my 30’s. Same characteristics as the first one found on my head, but this one also kind of stood out with a boldness that made me uneasy. It was longer, coarser, and clearly had no intention of being easily hidden. So I removed it along with rest cause ain’t nobody got time for that. The hair on top of my head is becoming increasingly more white. In the morning, when I look in the mirror, I can also see small grays appearing in my eyebrows. And the hair down there, well, as the saying goes, as is above, so is below. What the hell?
I made a declaration on social media recently that I wanted to enlist the help of my sisters to create a space to talk about aging and Black women’s bodies. I want to know how other Black women feel about it, grapple with or embrace it and I want to capture images of mature black femme bodies. Paying my therapist and spending time at the river over the last year to help me vanquish the
ghosts of Christmas past that had taken up residence in my body and manifested as depression and anxiety, has given me insights about what I believe (d) about myself. I am a product of my generation and environment. I reside in the land of the X sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials and I have been spoon fed certain sensibilities. I was raised in a generational footprint that was told that success/happiness/worth is tethered educational attainment, work position/title and marital status. In order to get the part, you had to look the part. Growing up in Prince George’s County Maryland, looking the part had a recipe…long perfectly permed hair, PHAT, but not FAT, and being brown, but not really, preferably lighter skinned. In my 20s, 30s, hell, even in the better part of my 40s I could play the part. Firm hips, thick, but not too thick thighs, nice boobs and notable hair…always the hair. But somewhere along the way, as I transitioned from Billie to Mama Omi, my body did too.
Soft….everything is, soft. I know there are things I can do to firm up what I’m working with, but between you and me, sometimes I just don’t feel like it and when I don’t feel like it, I don’t. It’s almost a rebellion or a mini revolt. I want to take naps, drink wine, listen to music, and have someone rub up on this 50 year old booty. I work hard for the liberation of my people, I am mothering an adult son and a prepubescent one, I’m single, I’m menopausal and I’m fuckin tired. I toggle between feeling empowered to do what I want to be pleased/empowered with where I am in the skin I’m in and feeling hella old, anxious or judgmental. Some days, when I’m looking in the mirror at my body and I get a gander of my breasts that once lived closer to my clavicle instead of my sternum where they do now, I’m pleased to see them look heavy with the weight of having carried milk and smelling like honey and molasses. They are full, beautiful and brown. Other days…. all I can hear playing in my head is the childhood camp song “Do Your Ears Hang Low”.
Aging is evidence that you ain’t dead. Maturing is evidence that you have lived and are applying what you have learned. I also think that maturing is about relearning and undoing beliefs or practices that are toxic and keep us in a state of dis-ease. I want to learn about loving this body consistently where she is right now. I want to give thanks for her journey and where she has been, but I don’t want to pine for days gone by (or jean sizes for that matter). I want to claim acceptance and joy with this body. To take each day as an opportunity to survey what has been gifted to the soul that resides in this body right now. From the stretch marks etched across belly, hips and thighs to the fine lines winking out around eyes and the weight the rolls and fluctuates, its all mine and I want it to be all good. I want to experience sexual pleasure, passion and romantic love with this body, the one I have right now…gray pubic hairs and all (could be TMI, but this is my story/journey with body positivity, so deal with it).
Let’s see where this journey leads us.
Homage to My Hips
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
Saddi Khali, Christopher Charles and Yours Truly
Body by Omi