Wait, that's not what this post is about. The point of this post is that while relaxing on the beach and at poolside, watching all the skinny Japanese mothers rocking bikinis while their spookily well-behaved children play quietly, a bit of a body issue has come up. Or I should say, come up again. You see I have big thighs. Well, relatively big thighs. Many refer to my kind of thighs as black woman thighs. Basically when you have black woman thighs, this means that your thighs are thick. No matter what. When I was three my thighs were thick. At my skinniest my thighs were thick. I could go on a full-on hunger strike and when I was driven to the hospital to have a feeding tube forced down my throat, I would be a bag of bones ... with thick thighs. That's the way black woman thighs work.
And sometimes I see skinny Japanese women on Hawaiian beaches and I think, "Man, I'll never look like that," and that makes me feel kind of sorry for myself. Because I live in America and they tell us certain things, like that any decent woman should feel bad about herself if the words "stick" can't be applied in a description of her physique. No one would ever describe me as a stick, though. At my fittest, I got "Serena Williams."
But then the jealousy cloud kind of rolled away, not just because I'm in Hawaii (I mean c'mon, son, how can you feel bad about yourself for too long in Hawaii?), but also because there are a lot of skinny chycks in tennis, but the only person who's had thousands upon thousands of editorial words dedicated to her shape is Serena Williams. In fact, one might argue that much of Serena Williams popularity stems from the fact that she has black woman thighs and doesn't look like everyone else in a tennis skirt.
What does this have to do with literature? Well, I have a number of black woman thigh issues when it comes to writing. Sometimes I wish I wasn't a romantic. Certain critics would have adored my book if my main character had remained a down trodden sad sack. Sometimes I wish that I didn't find humor in just about everything. Most prize-winning books aren't funny. But then again, most romantic characters aren't as damaged as mine. I doubt there's a RITA in my future.
This was a bit of a pre-sales hiccup for my debut novel, 32 CANDLES. My editor couldn't think of any comparables, that is books that mine could be compared to in order to make it more desirable to booksellers and readers alike. I couldn't think of any comparables either. Apparently, this issue was brought up during several sales meetings, but was never quite solved. "It's like Sixteen Candles meets E. Lynn Harris," said one exec. "It's like John Hughes wrote PRECIOUS," said another. "It's sort of like Bridget Jones but not really," said my editor. No one could settle on one description.
So basically 32 CANDLES has been thrown at the public with fingers crossed and assurances that it's different but you know, worth reading. During this process, I've sometimes found myself looking at other books, and thinking, "Why can't I write more like that? Why do I have black woman thighs?"
But then I look at my favorite writers and realize that they all have black woman thighs. Marian Keyes somehow manages to be wildly romantic and wildly depressing at the same time. In a country that is obsessed with the popular kids, John Hughes could not stay away from triumphant nerds. Tananarive Due cannot call her living dead vampires. They're Immortal, and they're uncomfortably both religious and sacrilegious.
The truth is, that if some affordable plastic surgery came out, that allowed me to replace my black woman thighs with a long set of flesh-covered sticks, I wouldn't get it. Most days I love my thighs. I realize my thighs are part of me and part of what made me attractive to my husband and the men I dated before him.
And it also occurs to me that we all have black woman thighs. Writing quirks that we sometimes imagine not having, but wouldn't give up even if we could. So now I'm wondering what are your physical and literary black woman thighs? Let me know in the comments.
Ernessa T. Carter is the author of 32 CANDLES. Her next novel is like Terry McMillan's WAITING TO EXHALE meets Salman Rushdie's THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET. No, not really ... but yeah, kind of.