I Don't Have an Hourglass Body, but a Health Scare Taught Me How to Love Mine Anyway
When I first started dating after ending a long-term relationship, I quickly began to catch on to the expectations men had of me — particularly because I'm a Latina woman. Most of the messages I receive from men on dating apps allude to or directly reference my "thick Latina body," my "curvy Latina body," or "my fat Latina booty"— laughably, none of which exist. The last time I was single, Tinder was not even a thing yet and the BBL body was barely securing its chokehold on US beauty standards. Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Nicole Richie were the standards of beauty at the time, and I was a late bloomer with a robust body type not shared by anyone in my family. As a brown girl, I had the absolute lowest self-esteem growing up in white institutions and having a predominantly white-passing and light-skinned family. Not fitting into what society deems as "beautiful" made me feel like I was not worthy of respect or love. I remember trying to starve myself at 14 with the hopes I'd wake up looking like Tara Reid.
Fast forward to 2020, and the beauty standard was once again not in my favor as a relatively straight-bodied Latina. People would tell me "you're too skinny" or "you're not thick enough," or "you'd be cuter if you had some booty." For as long as I can remember, I've been told by men, by my family, and by the beauty standards dictated by society that I'm either too much or too little. I grew tired of being told that my body is not as it should be and that it needs to change. As a grown woman, it was my job to unpack and unlearn so I could finally learn to love the skin I live in.
A Health Scare Gave Me Perspective
When I discovered a lump in my left breast in the fall of 2019, everything changed. Doctor visits increased, tests were never-ending, and the idea that I could potentially have something terribly wrong with my health snapped me out of whatever false ideas I previously had about myself and my body. So what if I didn't have a perfectly curvy or stereotypically "Latina" body like, let's say, Jennifer Lopez or Salma Hayek? Why do I have to meet that standard?
My body is literally the vehicle that takes me through this life. How can I possibly hate it, hide it, or curse it? I'm blessed to have all my limbs, I'm lucky to be able to walk, see, and hear. Who cares if I don't have a tiny waist or a fat booty?! I wanted health to be my beauty standard. As a result, I had to form a stronger relationship with myself and really learn to tune in and listen to my body in a way I never had before. Healing myself has been the biggest determining factor in how I feel not only in my body but about my body.
Loving Myself Began With Embracing My Sexiness
Living in the US and dealing with the US medical system has been hard. I was fortunate not to have cancer but was diagnosed with cystic breasts, cystic ovaries, and a thyroid issue that doctors are still trying to figure out. My tests are still ongoing and my cystic breasts are still being monitored and investigated. I've been having ultrasounds every six months for the last two years, and I might have to do that indefinitely to be on the safe side. I've had to mentally prepare for anything, and while doctors didn't want to use the C-word just yet, they were testing me for it, and it was really scary. Being faced with the possibility of surgery or the C-word made me think, "Why the hell have I been hiding myself just because I don't look how other people think I should?" If I didn't have my breasts tomorrow, I would forever regret not showing them off more, not loving them more, or not expressing gratitude for them.
I wanted everyone to see me, and I wanted to feel like my own brand of sexy and empowered. I began to change my wardrobe from loose-fitting tops and pants to tight ones that accentuated what I feel are my best attributes. Crop tops and low-cut shirts entered my life, things I would never wear before because I didn't think I could "pull it off." I realized these were insecurities planted by years of hearing the same thing over and over: "You're not thin enough," "You're not thick enough," and "You're not curvy enough." I took it to social media in what I like to call my "thirst trap" phase. I had never posted a sexy photo of myself because, quite frankly, I never actually felt sexy before. To me, sexy was reserved for women who look like Nicki Minaj. And as silly as it sounds, simply by putting myself out there, I was able to overcome a lot of the fears and insecurities I had. It wasn't about the external validation: it was about taking up space and feeling good about who I am.
I Had to Deprioritize the Male Gaze and the Media
As we witness the slow deflation of BBL culture, I think it's important to remember that beauty standards will always change and tend to do so every decade.
As we witness the slow deflation of BBL culture, I think it's important to remember that beauty standards will always change and tend to do so every decade. While some of our bodies and features will naturally fit the beauty standard — after all, BBLs were designed to re-create some Black and Brown women's natural bodies — we've seen how damaging it is when one type of appearance is applied as a standard for everyone. Tall, glamazon-looking women in shapeless jeans were popular in the '90s, while the toned, slim women of the '80s wore shoulder pads to look more masculine for the workplace. We have to be the ones to make room for fat, disabled, trans, and nonbinary bodies. We have to be the ones who say, "No, this is not who I am, and it's OK." I really had to take a step back and look around. Everyone is chasing something they can't have because capitalism requires that we are constantly looking for acceptance and belonging from a place of lack and unhappiness. The media pushes us to reach for unattainable, fatphobic, cis Eurocentric standards that lock us in a cycle of buying things to keep up instead of being grateful for the things that actually matter in life: our friends, our families, and how we show up for them. Last weekend, I went to the beach and saw every type of body imaginable — not a single person looked the same. So why do we expect all Latinas — or anyone, for that matter — to look the same?
Stereotypes and standards of beauty are such an archaic and unevolved way of looking at people and the world today. In this day and time, everyone should be allowed to feel good in their bodies.
Stereotypes and standards of beauty are such an archaic and unevolved way of looking at people and the world today. In this day and time, everyone should be allowed to feel good in their bodies. I've simply chosen to step off this oppressive bandwagon. When I made a list of what was important to me, an hourglass body type wasn't on there — neither was a fat ass, and neither was anything about my appearance. If we really look at what is important right now, it's not misogynistic beauty standards; it's finding a true connection with our community and our chosen families as a way to create healing and change. I'm not comparing myself to others or allowing outside influence to control my self-esteem anymore. I hope it's this generation of Latinas who find peace in our bodies, no matter what the outside world wants of us.