We were passing on the concrete stairs between the main building and the choir and band rooms. He was coming up; I was going down. I don’t remember if I said something first or he did. I don’t even remember exactly what was said, except . . . “Thunder thighs.” In front of everyone else on the stairs. I could, even today, take you to the exact place I was standing when he said it.
Hippo Hips. Thunder thighs. Names I’ve carried around for over 20 years now. Names that – as my aunt suggested once – I carry around quite literally, perhaps, in extra pounds on those parts of my body. Perhaps as a way to shield myself or the way I acknowledge what I was called even without wanting to do so.
These words stick.
I’m reading a lot of things these days that stick – they stick to us as labels, and they stick into us as projectiles. Someone says that homosexuality is a “lifestyle.” Someone has a bumper sticker that says, “10 out of 10 idiots support Obama.” Someone focuses on Gabby Douglass’s hair or suggest that the Jamiacans swept the 200m because they were black. All of these statements – honest expressions of someone’s opinions though they be – wound. They devalue the people to whom they are applied. They take away the powerful, painful, beautiful stories of each person at whom they are lobbed. They wound, even if that wasn’t the intention behind them.
I’m not sure why he called me “thunder thighs.” It’s not because my thighs are big; I can tell you that. It’s because somewhere, someone taught him it was worthwhile and valuable and empowering to judge people on specific attributes – their weight, their skin color, their gender, their political affiliation.
Somewhere and somehow, we have all learned this. It’s a lesson we need to unlearn . . . and now.
Today’s post is part of Jennifer Luitweiler’s #denythelie link-up. Last week, Bruce, Jen, and I were talking the ways that “sticks and stones” have wounded us. If you’d like to share your story here, I give you my word that this is a safe place. (Any derogatory comments will be deleted.) Or feel free to write your own post and link it up at Jen’s blog today. How have words wounded you?