When I was 13 years old, my good friend Caroline told me, ” Wow, Alex….your body looks like a stripper’s!” After she said that, I was beaming. I couldn’t help it. I thought to myself, “That is the nicest thing anyone has said to me all year!” I was being genuine. At the time, I was completely unaware of its fictitous association with human trafficking and prostitution. I only understood a stripper to be somone who was womanly and confident about her body. When my friend said that my body looked like a stripper’s, to me she was saying as “Wow, Alex…your body looks very feminine!” ……and she was right! No one had ever told me that before. At 13, I had very curvy hips, thick thighs, a flat stomach, and perky breasts.
Earlier that year, my parents had sent me to an all girls boarding school in VA, about 100 miles away from Harrisburg, PA, my hometown. In Harrisburg, PA, I was the only African-American student in my class from kindergarten to 8th grade. Because of presumed stereotypes of African-American culture, I was never viewed as attractive while I was growing up….at least it felt that way. No guys ever had crushes on me, no guys ever asked me out on dates, no girls ever gossiped about me going out with another one of my classmates. In their minds, the idea of me having a crush on a guy in my class was impossible. I specifically remember my classmate Angela in the 4th grade saying that I couldn’t have a crush on my classmate, Colin, because he was white. From then, I assumed since no boys in my classes had any crushes on me, that it was because I was black and my blackness made me “un-feminine” or not physically attractive.
I carried that idea with me to boarding school at age 13. So when my friend Caroline told me that my body looked like a “stripper’s” I took it as, “Wow! Your body looks physically attractive. Guys are gonna love that!” I was a teenager. I meditated on that compliment for weeks. I felt attractive.