Women’s History Month: What makes a woman beautiful?

flowers-3935584_960_720My current poet obsession is Rupi Kaur, a world-renowned best-selling author/illustrator. Her two poetry collections are FIRE. I share a few of my favorites below.

I don’t want to talk about the impossible beauty standards we impose on ourselves and each other. I don’t want to discuss the contrived concept of beauty that changes with each season, each new trend. I don’t want to carry on about how the same beauty rejected on one woman is embraced and celebrated on another. I get enough of that nonsense on television, in advertising, in music, in literature, on Instagram, in my own miseducated head.

yes
it is possible
to hate and love someone
at the same time
i do it to myself
every day

-rupi kaur

Sloppy. Tired. Flabby. Scarred. Stretch-marked. Misshapen. Ungainly. Ugly. I spent too much time equating myself with these words. When I reached my saturation point, I took myself to a Korean bathhouse, paid the little fee, and subjected myself to a personal Cersei Lannister parade. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Enough.

There I was with my naked Black, wild-haired, post pregnancy self among a bunch of bare Korean women. I clutched my towel to my breasts as I tried to walk with as much nonchalance as I could muster through the locker room and into the shower room. I found the nearest shower head, blasted it, and let the water’s heat be my shroud. As I sudsed my skin, I looked around and noticed that no one gave a damn about me and my nudity. I noticed their bodies and their nudity; none of them cared about that either.

I stole away into the steam room. There alone, I had an intervention with myself.

we all move forward when
we recognize how resilient
and striking the women
around us are
 
-Rupi Kaur

“What’s wrong with you? You just decided to stop loving me? How dare you! After all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve brought you through. Birth. Your first steps. I steadied your hand and gave you the power of a scribe. I weathered disease and infection, cuts and bruises, bone breaks and ankle sprains. I’ve helped you reach a state of ecstasy…in more ways that one. I carried you through school and college. From state to state, city to city. I ran for you, danced for you, roller-skated backwards for you. I carried and birthed your children. I protect your soul. I breath and eat and eliminate and sleep for you. You’re really going to do me like this?”

My body was pissed.

“Naw,” I said. “You’re my everything, Girl. It’s you and me, Baby. I’m going to love you right. I swear.”

I emerged from the steam room gasping for breath but otherwise committed to feeling brand new. I walked with my shoulders back and my head high through the shower room and back into the locker room. I left my towel behind. I found a full-length mirror and regarded my reflection.  I looked myself in the eyes. I stared myself down from the top of my head to my painted toenails.

No, this wasn’t the lithe, supple body of my teens and 20s. Still, it was a champion. A survivor. A thriver. All it needed was love. With a bit more self-care and pampering, a bit more self-adoration, and a slight change in diet, I could FEEL like my old self again even if I could never quite look like my old self again.  I needed to be okay with looking like whoever and whatever I looked like in that moment and every moment thereafter.

I found myself smiling that kind of smile that starts in the soul and triggers the moon. There I was again. Beautiful Nikki.

i want to apologize to all the women
i have called pretty.
before I’ve called them intelligent or brave.
i am sorry I made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is the most you have to be proud of
when your spirit has crushed mountains
from now on I will say things like, you are resilient
or, you are extraordinary.
not because I don’t think you’re pretty.
but because you are so much more than that

-rupi kaur

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One thought on “Women’s History Month: What makes a woman beautiful?

  1. Ananya Vahal says:

    I felt this blog in my soul. Thank you sharing your vulnerability and insecurities with with us as well as your confidence and self-love. These are complex feelings that we all experience about our bodies and it is great to hear you put it in words. I also love Rupi Kaur! ❤️

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