Sharee Silerio

The days are officially shorter, 90-degree temperature highs are behind us (hopefully) and we can already taste holiday feasts and sweet potato pies. The last quarter of 2019 is here. Fall has arrived, but I can’t stop thinking about the summer pool party that shifted the way I see myself.

For as long as I can remember, my body and I have had a complicated relationship. From my dark, sun-blessed skin that stuck out like a sore thumb in my predominately white neighborhood, to being the tallest girl in the room, then the girl with the full-figured friends (so my mom calls them), I have always not liked something about the way I look.

So much so that oversized t-shirts were a regular part of my wardrobe. Not because they were comfortable. But because they allowed me to hide. They allowed me to protect my bosom from the grasp and gaze of the world.

Hence, when I went to Fluffy GRL Movement’s Curves N’ Waves Pool Party, I was nervous. You could probably see it written all over my face. A swimsuit party? With swimsuits? Skin? Bodies? My friends, exposed?! Nottttt meeeeee.

As anxious as I was, I was also ready for something new. A new way of being. Living. Becoming. So, I put my colorful, tropical print bikini top and fold brief bikini bottoms on. I pulled my light washed capris jeggings over my legs and put on my white, waist length, see through, floral print coverup. I put my sandals on, got in the car, and drove to Collinsville Aqua Park to enjoy myself. The plan was to live vicariously through everyone else – to watch other women be fluffy, fabulous and breathtaking from a distance.

As I walked up to the table to get my wristband, most of my nerves melted away. Everyone was welcoming, full of joy and ready to have fun. I looked around and studied the caramel, porcelain, chocolate, peanut butter, hazelnut and butter-skinned women in bright bikinis, thong bikinis, glorious one pieces, colorful crop tops and embroidered coverup skirts to die for.

Every woman was different and beautiful in her own right. It was powerful to witness, especially since we live in a culture where the media tells us what is or isn’t “beautiful”. It constantly prescribes pretty like who we are is an ailment, making us feel inadequate, insecure and unworthy of love.

The first step to becoming your best self is to accept who you are. Ebbi Nicole, founder of Fluffy GRL Movement and host of Curves N’ Waves Pool Party, is helping women do exactly this.

As I walked around the aqua park, taking photos as a member of the press, several women asked me “When are you going to take that off?” I’m sure they saw right through my bs, but every time, I answered, “I’m working right now, but when I’m done ‘working’ I’ll take it off.” They didn’t call me out on it – yet – but they did offer encouragement: “Girl, do it before the party is over. Take a pic and post it with the hashtag #fluffygrlsrock!” “What are you waiting for?” “Getting warmed up, huh?”

They didn’t criticize or judge me, but they didn’t want me to remain hidden in plain sight, either. They saw that I wanted to be free but didn’t realize how simple it was…to grab a hold of it…to be it…in that moment. Hiding had always been easier for me.

As the pool party wound down, I counted how much time was left for me to bare it all – if at all. Two and a half hours turned into an hour and 15 minutes, then an hour and 15 minutes turned into 60 minutes. The event was coming to an end, when I remembered the last thing one of the ladies said to me. As I was taking more pics, this beautiful, tall, thicklicious goddess looked me up and down, asked me where my swimsuit was, then said “Take that shit off.” I wanted to be mad at her, but I couldn’t be.

Her words electrified my spirit, shook my core and awakened me. I marinated on her words for a bit, which at face value, meant nothing more than take your clothes off. LOL. But as I kept thinking about it, I realized that she was saying so much more. She was telling me to shed who society told me I was supposed to be or look like. To remove the shame associated with my body and the way it showed up in the world. She was telling me to take my rightful place as a beautiful, black queen and let the world know that I am perfect exactly as I am.

I slowly walked to the restroom and took several deep breaths. I went into a stall, closed the door, then slid my jeans down my legs. I kept my cover up on, because, well – baby steps – but it was still a lot for me. I went to the mirror, looked myself up and down, then whispered to myself, “this is you.”

One step at a time, I walked back to the party – the laughter, the dancing, the smiles, the uplifting conversation – and felt right at home. I was free, emboldened and ready to conquer the world. In that moment, I realized that I am beautiful – inside and out – and that no one can make me believe differently unless I give them permission to. I was reminded that when it comes to the way I perceive myself, what I see when I look in the mirror matters the most.

In the party’s last minutes, I was able to enjoy what I had been missing by trying to hide the first hour and a half. The vibes were out of this world and more supportive than I had ever experienced anywhere else. No one was cutting anyone down, but hyping, lifting each other up.

Some of the fluffies and fluffettes took risks together on the 50-foot water slides while others twerked the night away in pools full of glee. From the fabulous photo backdrops, lit tunes, hula hoop and dance contests, prizes, gift bags with goodies ranging from lube to a facial mask and one of a kind slide-ons to fluffy girl snacks and grown girl drinks – it was truly a celebration of who and what it means to be and love oneself unconditionally.

I have never felt so much love in one place, amongst all women – and it is all owed to the evening’s authentic, gorgeous inside and out, fearless, bomb host – Ebbi Nicole. She created a space for me to truly, lovingly see myself, and I am sure it was the same for everyone else there. You could see it glowing from their souls like rays of sunshine.

Forget a Sweet 16, Dirty 30 turn up and everything in between. Curves N’ Waves is everything when it comes to ringing a new chapter in. I can honestly say that I am a changed woman because of Curves N’ Waves Pool Party, and I look forward to next year’s event!

Sharee Silerio is a writer, director, producer and blogger. When she isn’t creating for The Root or Curly Nikki, she enjoys sharing her journey to discover wisdom, become whole and fulfill her dreams at SincerelySharee.com. Take a peek into her #BlackGirlMagic via ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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