I visited home after living in NY for a year. I sat next to my father as he scanned my Facebook profile pictured on his laptop, because it’s all he can see on my page without being my friend. He cringed at any that showed a tad too much skin for his taste, of course disregarding the lack of cringe with how many more he approved of in comparison, and his lack of cringe at any more skin shown by any one else.
He’s Facebook friends with my sister, all my cousins, even my best friend, but not me. He won’t friend request me, and I won’t request him. If I did, I’m sure he would accept, but I don’t I want him to, because dispite my page being absolutely fine, I don’t think I would be free from his judgement. He goes through these mulling-over-my-profile-pictures–nights often, probably in hopes to find a reformed conservatively Social-media represented daughter one day. He won’t, because… unattainable standards. He adores my free nature but hates my openness, loves my confidence but hates my pride, loves my sociability, but hates the company I keep (for no logical reason other than he does’nt know any of them), wants to know everything about my life but doesn’t want access to my whole page, so he limits his judgments to my profile pictures. It’s contradictory, a constant fight for balance, and its just him being a father. I love him for it.
Before I go on, its important to note that I’m NOT the one; I’m not the girl you will find thot pictures of on her page. No duck faces, no mannequin brat doll plastered make up, no Kylie Jenner lips, none of me contorting my stance to show off what ass I might want to draw attention to, barely any full body at all, let alone any of me wearing even shorts. You will however find an overwhelming amount of pics of me showcasing my ginormous smile with people and things that make me happy. My page represents me as a social, happy, popular, goofy, open, confident, and outgoing person. I mostly post events cool things my friends do, funny animal vids, feminist content, pro-black content, and lots of pictures.
On this particular mulling-through-my-page night where I sat next by, my father cringed at three pictures. I saw which they were, reevaluated them and, in retrospect, did not find two of them as flattering as I thought they were back when I posted them. I removed these photos, not only because I no longer cared much for them, but also it would make my father happy. The third photo, however, I somehow could not part from. I knew it was for more than a superficial reason.
This photo is a very, very, sexy photo; the only one I have shared publicly of its kind. It is revealing of my curves, professionally taken, and of me in a bikini laying on a rock with my back arched and a splash of fantastically timed ocean water encircling my body. It is a beautifully constructed photo. But none of these potentially attention seeking reasons are why I love it, and its every reason why my dad absolutely hated it.
I grew up in La Jolla CA, the Beverly Hills of San Diego. My parents emigrated there from Iran hoping for a good life for their children in the US. They picked the best neighborhood they could find. What they were completely unaware of, was how heavily white supremacist standards of beauty was condensed into the neighborhood they chose, and the constructed marginalization of people who looked like us. I grew up surrounded by white privileged surfer kids in a surprisingly conservative city and was always pegged as “a fat hairy Mexican.” Never mind that I was a competitive swimmer and, in actuality, was very fit. As far as being identified as Mexican goes, I was offered work cleaning houses while walking down my own block in high school, sent to the Spanish speaking kindergarten class every week, was forced onto a bus to go home after school, expected to be a trouble maker, a hooker, pregnant, dumb, or a dropout, and was always afraid of crossing the boarder for fear they wouldn’t let me back into the U.S. Never mind that I’m nothing close to Mexican, because it doesn’t matter. I’m brown, and I was taught to hate myself, so I had a very skewed perception of what I looked like based on how I was treated. I was called “big butt” (a huge insult to the whites then), told I needed Jenny Craig, picked last at any sporting event, was the object of cruel “gross” pranks in truth or dare, and so much more all by the 5th grade. I switched to a more advanced swim team in middle school and quit soon after because the kids made fun of my hairy legs. My mother just recently told me, “If I had known what this place would do to my kids, I would have blown it up years ago.” -insert Middle Eastern pun here-
Since growing out of La Jolla, I have discovered other aspects of life, people, society, and self-image, and I am thankful to have done so very early. I have developed more truer and loving eyes for my body as it is. I have a vast understanding of racism and body shaming. If I had at any point in my life actually been fat, the body image lesson would still be the same, but because I never have been, I have come to further understand the disgusting skewed perception of those privileged white kids and the bullying effects of their conditioning.
This photo is of me at my heaviest. It is of me on the same rock I would sit on at every holiday, when I would feel too lonely to play with other kids for fear they wouldn’t like how I looked, and I am surrounded by the same water my “team” would swim, down the street from my racist grade school, in the same city that taught me to hate myself.
I didn’t quite understand why I had an attachment to this photo until now. The photographer, being from out of town, asked me to take him to the most beautiful beach, as San Diego is known for its beaches. I shrugged and said, “I guess people find La Jolla Cove pretty,” while I only saw it for its ugliness. He was enamored by the scenery while I reluctantly climbed onto that rock for this pose. I love this photo. It’s my “Fuck You.” Sorry dad, the picture stays.
Photo by Kuande Lamonte Hall