Lately I’ve been working with an increasing number of black women dating white guys. The funny thing is that their struggles and the questions they ask me about dating white guys remind me of myself a few years ago.
I am a “typical” African man’s woman with a guitar-body shape, and even at a very early age, I knew that I drove guys crazy with every “calculated’ movement of my body especially my rear side. And being somewhat of an athletic tom-boy, I had so many opportunities to do just that. I was in their face but just out of touch kind of thing. I probably would have been slapped with a sexual harassment suit here in Canada –and that is why I have toned it down. But in many African cultures, this is part of everyday man-woman interactions (women know men are hypnotized by a bouncing-booty and love to tease them guys), as long as it’s done in a culturally tasteful and socially acceptable way.
But as I started to travel more and meet men from other races and cultures, my confidence in my “sexy body” was challenged – in some ways. When I found myself attracted to a white guy, all I could think of was how “different” I was from the types of women white guys are usually attracted to (all these were stereotypes I bought into based on movies, the media and fashion magazines).
Even when white guys showed some interest, I didn’t give them much of a chance because — in my mind — they were not attracted to me but the idea of me. I would sometimes ruin my dates with questions like “why are you attracted to me?” And if the poor guy said anything that included “exotic” I’d get so pissed off because again -in my mind — he had “jungle fever’ and this “bush-babe” wasn’t playing jungle doctor.
It took me many years to accept that white guys could fall in love with a black woman for who she was but most importantly that there are some white guys out there who are attracted to JLo -Beyonce backside.
So when black women – a majority of who like me love their big rounded butts — say to me “I know that he is attracted to me, but I am not skinny”, I ask them “And…?” And if we are comfortable with each other, I might teasingly say, “Oh My God! Does he know you have a big butt?”
But it’s not just black women alone who struggle with body-image stereotypes when it comes to interracial dating. I’ve found that even white woman and Asian woman struggle with the same exact concerns and worries when they are dating someone of a different race. It always seems like something is not “right” about how we look to the other person — and the media, TV ads, magazines and the internet just keep making us feel even more “inadequate’.
My opinion — this is not based on scientific research or anything — is that how we feel about our body is a reflection of our struggle to define our personal relationship with ourselves (who am I?) and with others (who are you and how do we get along?) at any given time.
The natural desire to “get along” and feel accepted, for all of us, starts from the moment we are born. If you were raised by parents and in a social environment that encouraged you to love your body as well as your feelings, unconditionally, you learned to be in awe of the human body as one of nature’s miracles (rightly so). You also learned to occupy and have a healthy relationship with your body-what it looks like, how it feels, how it functions-and as a result are at home in it. This is where you feel dramatic and full of vitality and bounce, a place where you can find and make a paradise for yourself and for those you love. When you meet a man or woman you are attracted to, you get plumped up like a boisterous rooster, your fullness ruffling every feather because you feel comfortable enough in your body to invite others in.
But very few of us are raised like this and despite our career success or business achievements, the body is where we have self-doubt, feel timid, anxious, and insecure.
We may have sensed at a very early age that our parents (however much they tried to disguise it), were expecting some-body more “perfect” looking. We were deprived of the emotional and sensory information we needed to distinguish between what is inside and what is outside us. Our natural inclination towards perfection, meant for our inner qualities, is somehow transferred to the perfection of externals.
Without this proper inner focus, we’ve come to accept that what defines us is someone or something outside of ourselves. And everywhere we turn somebody outside of ourselves-peers, teachers, media, advertising-is there to remind us we are not in a state of perfection. The different pressures to look a certain way to be popular, important, or visible; to be considered “good enough” to be part of the “right” crowd; or to attract the “perfect” partner-all operating at the same time-are especially severe for those of us in Western societies where there is a sort of requirement for “everybody to look the same” or as near as possible to that, if we are to be “certified” as sexually and socially acceptable.
This is what worked for me — and is helping many of my clients not just accept themselves as sexy in every environment but also exude an inner as well as an outer physical presence that has character, vitality, mystery, along with sex appeal.
1. Challenge the body image notions and stereotypes that society imposes on us…
It is possible to escape the consumer culture and media pressure, lessen the stress of “not fitting in” and recover your authentic “essence,” but it doesn’t happen overnight or with simple will-power alone.
It starts with you making a decision to provide yourself the emotional and sensory information you were deprived and which would have helped you distinguish between what is inside and what is outside your identity. You have to come to terms with knowing that who defines you is someone and something inside you and not outside you. You-and only you have the power to define who you are and what you will identify with.
Some of the questions that can help you in that direction are:
Ø How best can I uphold my deep values with the body I have?
Ø How can I tell my body that I think it’s sexy just the way it is? (This is not about “If I had a perfect body or the body that I dream about,” but rather “I have a body that is waiting on me to ignite it with love, passion, and magnificence.”)
Ø How can I help others love the bodies they have?
Do not be afraid to express who you are and what you identify with even if it goes against what is being glamorized as the norm. Every time you receive or come across information weigh it against your personal definition of sexy. See if there is something that supports your personal definition, learn from it and apply it. If nothing supports what you personally consider sexy, toss the information away. You know your body better than anyone else and you don’t need an equally insecure and unhappy person telling you how to feel secure and happy in your own body.
2. Become truly happy with something that is “unique” about you…
Becoming truly happy with your body is not the same thing as denying or trying to rationalize the self-critical voices interrupting your view of yourself. Rather, becoming truly happy with your body means adopting a non-judgmental attitude toward yourself. It’s the ability to see things realistically and objectively as they are and being “okay” with what is. It is about knowing deep inside you that you do not have to be classically beautiful by societal standards to be inexplicably “sexy.” But more than that, it is about seeing your body with “new” eyes, seeing it as a reflection of something far more intelligent, wise, ancient, and sacred; then feeling comfortable enough about this to invite others in.
Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you begin to see your body in a different light:
Ø If I am constantly trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, what does that say about me?
Ø If I changed all the parts of my body and replaced them with new ones every couple years, at what point would those new parts switch from being “not me” to being “me”? Would I be the same person?
Ø If I’m not (fat, skinny, short, tall, unattractive, attractive, etc), then what am I and who am I?
Ø If I woke up one morning, only to discover that all of my memories and consciousness had been transplanted into the body of a movie star or model (who is a total dumb-ass, narcissistic, immoral, etc), what sort of person would I be?
Ø Is there an “essence” to my identity which if it were taken away, I would cease to be?
3. Let go and let your body be!
Everything the body can do is potentially enjoyable and alive with possibilities, sense of well-being, even ecstasy. But for you to experience the limitless abilities and adaptabilities of your body, you have to allow a certain degree of vulnerability and surrender of body-control if you want to free yourself and your body. This includes letting go of any investment in holding on to fear, shame, anger, and so on. It also means allowing yourself to dream, to fantasize, to experiment, and to create your own sexual animal. For many of us this means breaking free from our neurotic fear of the erotic and transcending the deeply embedded negative beliefs and counterproductive attitudes we hold.
The following questions will help you get started on breaking free of the need to “maintain control” that does not make sense to the body. Thinking deeply and honestly about these questions and the answers you come up with will help you relax in intimate situations and may put you in contact with areas of yourself you may not have met before as an adult.
Ø What does letting go mean to me?
Ø How do I feel about letting go?
Ø Why do I feel that I have to be in control?
Ø What emotions, feelings, and reactions come up when I think of letting go?
Ø What vague feelings of dissatisfaction, self-consciousness, disillusionment, or shame about my sexual nature and sexual desires make my body tighten up?
Ø What would happen if I were to let go?
Ø Are there other ways in my life in which I find it hard to let go? Why?
Ø Is there anything I am afraid will happen if I am not in control?
Ø What other little ways can I be less in control throughout the day? How do I feel about that?
4. Add fluidity and elasticity to your body…
Your body is a symphony of vibrating strings and membranes that can contract and expand to give you a feeling of ease and fluidity in the body, making it easier to manage mental, emotional, and body tensions. A body that is fluid and at ease allows you to move easily between states of consciousness and unconsciousness without hesitation or fear. Being able to move easily between states of consciousness and unconsciousness will bring you into an awareness of what was previously invisible within you.
There are many meditation exercises that are effective in helping us feel mobile, relaxed, and fluid in our bodies (and you don’t have to stick with one to the exclusion of others). I personally find free-style dancing that allows the body to find its own spontaneous expression a fabulous way to express the most delightful facets of our inner-directed uniqueness, sensitivity of soul, and the eloquence of a dynamic body. The dimensions of experience you can meet within yourself through dance are without limits. You may find yourself stimulating skin cell renewal and revitalizing body tissue. You may even find exercising more fun and maintaining your ideal weight easier.
5. Reconnect with your spiritual self…
The body’s relationship to the spirit and the struggle of the spirit is often neglected in the discussions about body image. Yet there have been a lot of studies, with more coming out all of the time, that show that people who have body and spirit harmonic alignment also have a positive self and body image that does not depend on the numbers on the scale, or on a tape measure, or a clothing label. They are less anxious about the aging process, and rather than fear, deny, or fight it, they embrace their aging bodies as the living stone on which the story of their lives is written on.
All of us, at any age, can increase our spiritual awareness and give our bodies a sense of peace, safety, and meaning. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to regularly attend church, or go to a synagogue, or mosque to reap the benefits of living fully in your body.
I personally believe that spirituality is a belief and a sort of deep “knowing” that you’re connected to something greater, something larger than yourself. It is about your way of thinking, feeling, living and being with yourself, with others, and with the world around you. It is where you find meaning, peace, safety, and connection.
When the body feels safe and at ease, it is able to let go and be more natural, sensuous, and vibrant. However, you need to avoid over-spiritualizing sexuality and inadvertently obstructing the natural inner flow which knows the body best. Over-spiritualizing can sometimes cause you to be over impressed with the human mind and mechanical efforts to be spiritual and sexual-you will be missing the point!
When you begin to see your body as intelligent, wise, ancient, and sacred, you will begin to treat it as believers treat their temples and shrines-as a place to be revered and preserved in all its intricate and mysterious magnificence.
You will no longer be driven by the need for perfection but by fascination with what the body knows and does intuitively. As you learn to turn to your body for wisdom, guidance, and strength, you will no longer be obsessed simply by how it looks, but by its creativity, inventiveness, and resourcefulness. You will no longer be driven by comparisons to others but by an attitude and lifestyle that fits with your own definition of magnificence.
As you begin to enjoy your body as lusciousness and intoxicating, you begin to feel “perfect” in your own right. Rather than continually trying to move and challenge your body to look and perform to meet some-one else’s standards, you will want rapport with your body-your living, intelligent, wise and sensuous collaborator and best life companion-until death do you part.
Young or old, thin or fat, short or tall, you can make your body naturally sexy. You may not be able to reverse the aging process of your natural body, but you will sex up your body with the gleeful exuberance that combines the outer youthfulness of a young person (strength, stamina, muscle tone, flexibility and passion for life) with an inner eternal youthfulness that comes with confidence, wisdom — and with age.