When I was eleven, I remember looking in my bathroom mirror at my body. I was a bit big for my age. My cheeks bulged when I smiled and my thighs and hips were wider than almost all of the other girls in my grade at school, including my sister who was widely known as “the pretty one”. Most nights after showering I’d step out onto the bath mat and inspect myself, praying that miraculously I would emerge from the steam skinny. I never did, and I’d dry myself off each night and head to bed disappointed that my body was still the same.
Even so, for some reason that night was different. I had started my period a few months earlier, so when I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought “This is a woman’s body. This is what women look like.” I had stubby leg hair, patchy pubes, thick thick thighs, tiny breasts, and awkward, protruding hip bones. Instead of looking away quickly, as I often did when I saw something I didn’t like, I tried to conjure up the image of a woman that looked like me. I thought of Beyonce Knowles.