Once upon a time I was just another fat potato of a young Black human being. Sturdy if underdeveloped, thick thighs and a round bellied. I was sickly, plagued with bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and mystery rashes. I loved glamour, I took tap and ballet classes, I loved to dance around naked in my bedroom, I loved to slink around in only frosted eye shadow, and my Mom’s high heels.
I told myself epic tales about how constellations formed and gender bending goose named Goosey Gander. I had a crush on my babysitter’s punk brother and sometimes he let me wear his studded leather jacket. I planned to marry a handful of people and transport them and my other lovers to live in a castle in Scotland. I had Superman sheets and every night when I said my prayers I said made sure to remind God that when puberty came, I’d be very happy to have the chance to be Superman but prettier with bigger boobs.
I worshipped glamour and drag queens. I liked to wear shiny raspberry lip-gloss and practice my walk. Sometimes my Mom would let me wear my hair down, it was almost down to my butt and soft and fluffy and I felt like the most beautiful creature in the world. When a beloved bathing suit left me with striped tan lines I pretended to be a zebra. I laid in the sun for hours desperately trying to attain the smooth blue, black perfection of Grace Jones’ skin, I felt desire and the need to be this beautiful thing.
My body was this wonderful little machine that sometimes lagged and felt terrible and hurt, but it was the spaceship I navigated the universe in. It wasn’t the best body, I knew that. I knew that sometimes I turned blue around the beds of my fingernails and shivered for no reason, or I felt huge feelings and vomited or shook and it was just how it was. I got sick a lot, I fell down a lot, but my body was weird and wonderful.
I spent hours dreaming about the things my body would do when I grew up. I fantasized about having big perky tits and a big black cock. I envisioned myself as a six foot tall amazon in five inch heels, bald-headed and Goddess like. I saw myself like the woman in that song, big thighs short skirts. I dreamed this fantasy shape shifting body to embody sexiness and the things that made me tingle between my legs. I dreamed of embodiment and freedom.
I wanted to look how the lyrics of When Doves Cry made me feel. I couldn’t say that when that song played and I danced and thrust my pelvis and ran my hands over myself that I felt sexy. I had that feeling, the tightness in my private parts, the heat that spread across my skin and I knew that is the feeling I wanted in my whole life. I knew sexy and understood desire even if I didn’t know the words. My body built itself a vocabulary in pleasure.
I learned to keep my discovery a secret, to hold my dearest wishes close to my heart because I heard what happened to fast girls and bad girls, sluts and whores. I heard the tone when some dumb bitch of a girl got herself in trouble with her short skirts and big thighs and the way she walked and talked- got herself into trouble. I learned that my Blackness made me suspect and ugly and excluded from the glamour I worshipped and dreamed of.
I didn’t know the word rape. I didn’t know the word molested, I only knew the vocabulary of pleasure my body learned. I didn’t know the words that took the swing out of my narrow little hips and made me blush when I tingled. I didn’t know the words that stripped me of that feeling and those dreams, but I learned to be afraid of them. Of myself. Of what I might make someone do.
I learned shame and planted it in my body. I let it grow and turn my solo sexy dancing into nights of obsessive exercise and thousands of sit ups done in my bedroom at 2 AM to flatten my stomach. I let it turn into starvation and diet pills and self esteem that shattered every time I took my clothes off. I let it blossom and take over, enough so that when I had good orgasmic sex for the first time with another person I didn’t tell anybody. I couldn’t because my body and my desire made me wrong.
I knew what happened to dumb bitch girls and weirdos. I knew that my dreams of being a big dick queen had to die so I could live. I knew that my Blackness just wasn’t going to help my situation. I learned about rape and bad girls in short skirts, sluts and whores. I learned to water my shame garden with my own tears, my own vomit and rape culture. I learned to hold my swagger in and bury it under legs closed tight, skirts to my knees and hours of hard lessons learned in how to be silent, how to be small, how to bury the body I’d once loved.
I had to learn to believe in my own inferiority, my wrongness.
Now I am a big potato. A chunky old Goth person with shifting genders in their head and heart and a fat butt and the Queerness worn like a cape. I try to remember the feeling of my hands on my body as I dance at home in my underwear. I try to remember dreaming of embodying sexy like the big dick Femme Queen I am in my heart. I try to remember when all I had was what my body told me and language meant so little. I try to remember when I limp down the street, I let my ass swing and hold my head up high. Walk like it’s the 31st and rent is due.
I have learned to honor the love that fat potato of a young human being with glittery dreams and no vocabulary for being so in love with themselves. I remember to take back what was stolen and again wear my skin like a ball gown and my pleasure like jewelry meant only to please myself.
I remember to trust the tingle between my legs, the dreams of glitter and sweat and bodies like mine and not like mine. I remember to trust the jiggle that runs from the back of my knee to my lower back when I walk just right, I remember to look at my body, this weird clumsy body, body in the process of breaking down- this body that lets me down even as I dress it up.
I remember to love and trust above all things my Blackness and my heart and my body.
This remembering, this reclamation, this existence will never again be so pure and wordless and free. This is okay too. I can look back and remember, but the longing for the innocence of having no vocabulary for myself and my feelings and my body has cooled. I will remember and try to embody the love and potential my body holds.
Thank you for teaching me baby potato me. Good job baby.