Wednesday, 20 June 2012 01:44

Present and Presentation by La Vonda R. Staples

Written by

Everyone knows the popular image of a man is to be tall, dark and handsome. In America we also love "big." It is nearly a certainty that the tall man will be the first man of our nation. But that's only one side of the coin. Today, I'm thinking about the negative stereotypes laid upon the shoulders of big people. I'm a big person so I speak from experience.

We are always at fault. If we get hit over the head with a bottle by a small person we should have just taken it like a man. In a dispute, the person with the biggest shadow is always the aggressor. Even though the small person may have killed the big person's dog, drunk his liquor and called his mother three kinds of whores, the big person, just by size alone, is assumed to have the ability to somehow absorb emotional harm as well as physical harm.

I'm a cosmetic sales lady. I'm a writer and a scholar. I'm unduly vexed by the fact that in my daily life, just because of my size, I'm not permitted to be angry, to respond in kind to meanness, or to just simply take it like a man because God sent me here taller than the average man and more stout than the average woman. It's the biggest and one of the cruelest types of profiling which exists on our planet today.

The small people know this and they use it to their advantage. They can secretly perform a passive aggressive action and when the big person finally gets enough? Well, they should have had more class, elegance, dignity, etc. than the person who is actually the source of the trouble. I don't get it. I probably never will.

My size does not make me less sensitive. I am not a brute. A bulldagger. Or a battle axe. I'm just one tiny creature of God's creation trying, desperately, to make my way in this world. It's not a usual occurrence but it happens with such regularity that it IS on my mind this morning. The tyranny of bigness is one of the callouses on my soul (thank you Dick Gregory for this phrase) and the wound is irritated, from time to time, to the point where it is not allowed to heal. I've adapted to this by learning to smile and therein lies the forced adaptation of yet another stereotype. The stereotype of the gentle giant. Or in American culture the Black woman as "mammy;" always willing to show compassion to those who show no signs of appreciation of her sacrifice. Always ready, with breast and with big strong arms, to shield those who would be better off learning how to fend for themselves. After all, mothers are not immortal, are they?

If I hear one more time, "you're a big girl, you can take it," I don't know what I'm going to do. I cry just like anyone else and my heart can break, maybe easier than the next person as I'm generally alone and sometimes lonely. I would like to share my lair with a strong shouldered friend. But when I walk into a room, wearing my heels, I'm about six foot two. I weigh a good deal past the 200 pound mark but not halfway to three hundred. I look like I could easily defend a quarterback. But you see, I'm a girl and the last thing I ever want to do in this life is to wait for a hit which will knock out some teeth or blacken my eye. Yes. I'm afraid of pain especially the type which causes permanent physical evidence of the event. No. I'm not a fighter. No matter what my physiognomy may suggest. I cannot help my presentation. But how I present is an obstacle of which I must smile often and whisper even more, in order to overcome. I didn't make myself but it always seems I must negotiate a world fraught with stereotypes regarding race, sex, and size. The presentation, again, cannot be helped but somehow it has become the imperative of the big girl to be the bigger man and not react to sheer, unadulterated ignorance.

So here I sit and here's where I make my stand. I can tell you. I can show you but that doesn't really mean anything now does it? You don't know what it's like to be viewed as a type of beast when you step into a room, do you? Or you might and you have yet to internalize the good and bad of it. There is some good in being able to see above the crowd or the mob. There is some good in having a first glance at the sunlight. There is, perhaps, even greater good in the feeling of acceptance in who you are and how you're made. One day, sooner or later, I'll shrink like little old ladies do (Insha'Allah my life to be so long). I'll more than likely miss towering over every woman and nearly every man when I walked into a room wearing my five inch heels. All those comments, punches in the arm, men who tried to wrestle me, and short women who attacked me and then played victim, those things and more will be just a memory. I hope so. I really do.

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