What if we loved the way our backs arch and our thighs move when we walk freely, without our stomachs sucked in and our chests poked out?
What if we loved how our hair looks in the morning, a tangled mess is only a mess if we claim it to be, so why not let our wild manes flow freely?
What if we licked our lips and tasted nothing but sweat from our pores, reminding us we are alive and our bodies are working?
What if we loved our skin of ivory, caramel or dark chocolate and didn’t feel the need to stay out of the sun for fear of laugh lines or bake our bodies in ovens for fear of porcelain?
What if we wore what we loved and not what makes our bodies look thinner or fitter or thicker?
What if we spent our evenings giving away Eskimo kisses with naked eyelashes and bare dreams?
What if we spent midnight howling at the neon signs that act as our runway lights—our barefoot soles feeling the summer asphalt as if they were clouds floating us to the heavens if only for one night?
What if we ate the entire pizza on our own, by candlelight—feeling the cheese melt on our tongues like snowflakes and kiosk dippin’ dots. What if after we finished that last glorious slice, we didn’t feel an ounce of remorse, but instead, we slipped off our leopard print robe and walked proudly past the bathroom mirror, purring like the felines we are?
What if we said, “Screw 5:45!”—and instead slept till eight in the morning, rolling out of our beds, slipping on princess gowns and gum boots without ironing our hair and dabbing our skin with products tested on those we deem lesser than us?
What if we smiled with our teeth instead of our lips?
What if we loved with our eyes instead of our hips?
I slip off my red heels that cause my feet to ache,
Then I dig my toes into the earth,
Reminding my body that my body is mine,
And I shall love myself how God intended me to be,
And I shall love myself how I deem necessary, and celebrate what each year does to my body—evolution at its finest is my reflection in the mirror.
I bought these diamond earrings with my own sweat and time spent. They look lovely—don’t they, darling?
Tonight I’ll welcome you inside for conversation and a cup of tea.
I’ll remind you that you’re a man not because you fit the gender role, but because you challenge it, as you brush my cheek with your hand of leather deeming me sunshine in an endless night.
As an educator in the public school system, I see what insecurity does to our children daily. I watch when young girls don’t eat in the lunchroom because they don’t want the boys to see them chow down on a hot dog. I notice when they let their hair hang in their face and hide behind over-sized sweatshirts, as if they somehow are creating a barrier between themselves and the rest of the world.
To this day, I have to remind myself that I owe nothing to anybody but myself. I owe it to myself as a woman, as a human, to follow out my own destiny and live life on my own terms. I am magic, and it took me 24 years and a handful of failed romantic relationships to truly begin to realize how much spirit I fully possess.
My hope for women and men, is that no matter how old—whether they are 15 or 65—they will challenge gender roles…they will challenge society…they will look in the mirror and see the power seeping from their pores…and not only will they see it but they will utilize it. I want my words to inspire the girl in the over-sized sweatshirt or the woman in the turtleneck covering her bare skin, to let the world see what’s underneath.
Author: Emily Gordon
Image: Flickr/Megan VerHoef
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Katarina Tavčar