I dreaded it. As much as pre-teen me loved hanging out with my friends, I hated this part. But I knew it was coming. We would walk through the mall in typical teen girl "V" formation, looking cute and clogging up aisles. Eventually, one of my friend's would say "Hey, I need some new clothes. Let go in here." I would smile, but inwardly my heart would sink.
It's not that I wasn't into clothes. I loved a pair of fitted jeans and a cute top as much as the next girl. The problem wasn't the activity. It was my size. I was chubby and awkward. I was the "before" in those transformation side by side pictures. I was not what anybody would consider beautiful and I knew it. I was the fat, funny friend in any group I was in. Of course, it wasn't my title of choice. I didn't race to sign up to be the chubby, "sassy" sidekick. It just kind of happened.
For the most part, I didn't really focus on it. I had accepted my fate. I would always be the girl who hot guys approached to ask about my hot friend. I would always be the girl who told my friends who were three times skinnier than me "Girl, stop! You are NOT fat!" And I would always be here. The girl standing by awkwardly as my friends tried on clothes that would never fit over my inconvenient curves.
Now I wasn't a hater. I didn't begrudge the girls who had the privilege of swiping an outfit off of the mannequin, because it would actually fit them. I was happy for them. I was sad for me. But this wasn't the hard part. The hard part came when one of my well intentioned friends would notice me standing there and say "What about you, Megan? Do you see anything here you like? What about this?! You should try this on!"
I'd study the shirt that was way too small for me. I'd pretend to think hard about it, as though it was really an option for me. "Naw, its not really my style." Truth was everything we were looking at just didn't apply to me. My tiny friends couldn't understand that though. These sizes clearly didn't fit me. They would insist for me to try something I knew wouldn't work. Sometimes they would wear me down. I'd come out of the dressing room looking terrible thinking maybe now they would understand. My situation wasn't the same as theirs. Instead I was met with silence and blank stares.
Honestly, I still feel this way. Sports eventually helped me drop the weight and I'm now what many would consider petite. However, I still feel like the misunderstood girl trying to explain my situation. Only this time it has nothing to do with my pants size. It has to do with the color of my skin. It has to do with the struggles of my people. I'm the girl who stands there awkwardly while people try and tell me how I should feel about being Black in America. They tell me that if we would just cooperate with police, and wouldn't make everything about race, we would fit into this world so nicely.
I just want to shake them. I want to say "I wish it were that simple! It's not!" Frustrated, I go ahead and decide to step out and be vulnerable. I show them just why I feel the way I do. I leave it all out on the table. Black history isn't going to come out looking neat and pristine like a mannequin. It's messy. It's painful. I know it's uncomfortable to talk about, but we need to. Please don't respond with silence. Please stop acting like this is all in our heads.
Some folks are mad right now. They are upset we're still talking about Beyonce's Superbowl performance. They are annoyed we were moved by Kendrick Lamar at the Grammy's. They still don't understand why some cried tears of joy when Barack Obama became president. They cringe when we shout "Black lives matter!" They say these reactions are reverse racism. They say these statements are anti-white or anti-cop. But that isn't our heart. We are not out to put down the shades of skin that don't match our own. We know that pain all too well.
We just got tired. We grew weary of standing by watching the world only model the things that would never fit us. We realized that in order to see our culture acknowledged, we just might have to create it ourselves. Please understand: Our joy has nothing to do with you. We're just relieved that we are starting to see the things that fit our culture and sound like our voice. Celebrate with us. Don't be mad that we have a small rack dedicated to us, when the whole store was hand tailored for you.
Pre-teen me just wanted my curves to stop being treated like an inconvenience. Black and proud me just wants the color of my skin to stop being a liability. I want our names to be recognized for the incredible work we have done, instead of being highlighted as yet another tragedy with a hashtag. I want to live in an America where there truly is liberty and justice for all. I mean, really that's what most of us want right? We want equality for ALL. But in order to really achieve that, you can't be offended and get defensive whenever someone mentions that the portion sizes definitely aren't even.
When we step out of these rooms to reveal our struggle, take a good look. Realize that it takes courage to open up to a world that doesn't seem to understand where you're coming from. But we know that we must. We must stand awkwardly before each other and have these conversations. So let's talk.
You can find Megan on Facebook.