"Here," I said to my friend, Crystal, passing her my iPhone and a Sharpie, "draw these Chinese characters on my arm."
It was 2010 and my girls and I had rented a hotel room in the Gaslamp Quarter for Halloween. A couple of dudes they knew showed up to pre-game. Crystal was wearing Party City's most expensive Cleopatra costume, the one that comes with all of the accessories, even an arm bangle. She took in my costume: a black dress I had pulled out of the back of my closet and a cheap black wig with clip-in pink extensions. She shook her head, "Okay, but no one's going to know who you are."
One of the dudes looked up from his drink. In the reflection of the mirror, I saw a grin pass across his face. His eyes dropped below my waist before he reassured me, "Oh they gonna know."
As soon as we hit the streets, guys in every direction hollered at me, "Nicki!!! Heeeeey Nicki!"
Nicki Minaj was a little less than three weeks away from releasing her debut album, Pink Friday. She became as famous for her butt as she is for her bars.
I love that my ass is big enough to body double for Nicki, but being shaped like Nicki Minaj in a city full of Taylor Swifts has its challenges. Recently, I was at a coffee shop pretending to work on my memoir, when a thin blonde walked in wearing a pair of white-fringed shorts with a twee saguaro cacti print.
"Those shorts!" I hissed at my roommate.
He looked at the girl and then looked at me confused. Those shorts didn't mean anything to him. They hadn't broken his heart by refusing to be a part of his wardrobe. A few weeks earlier, I'd begun my annual summer mission to buy a pair of shorts. Just one pair. Just one pair that fit properly and didn't make me question whether I could pull off butt cleavage at my age. One pair that allowed my legs to get some sun, but didn't make me look like I was wearing denim panties.
I'm a 31-year-old woman with a Forever 21 budget—thanks, grad school!—so I started there. In a dressing room hardly wider than I am, I attempted to break no less than three laws of physics trying to cram my thighs into those shorts. Fail. Next, I tried a pair of shorts from the plus size section that easily pulled up past my thighs, but slouched down off my hips.
What's harder to buy than shorts? Bikini bottoms. They're either baggy or too small and give up the battle to cover my rear before its even time to reapply sunscreen—beach wedgie. Fun. I'm too large for the Large, but not large enough for Plus Size. I'm like Goldilocks in these clothing racks searching for that third "just right" option.
Usually that means sundresses and sundresses mean chafing. In the winter, my tights-covered thighs whoosh past each other with ease. In the summer, my bare thighs get just sweaty enough to create friction. In an amazing feat of self-destruction, they will rub themselves raw. I used to just slap a big ol' Band-Aid across any sore spots. Then at a professor's Easter brunch, I noticed a classmate stealing looks at my lap. I realized that while seated my dress rode up enough to make my Band-Aid fully visible. I wasn't sure how to explain to him and his wife and their toddler over deviled eggs what the hell was happening between my legs. After that, a runner friend put me up on Body Glide. If "Thick Thighs Save Lives," Body Glide saves thick thighs. Runners slick it on to prevent chafing. I will never go another summer without it.
My body in summer's bright colors proves to be too much for some folks. At a business conference, I once had a manager pull me aside, "There's been complaints. Your clothes are too busy."
"Like revealing? Tight?" I asked her confused, tugging at my yellow, knee-length dress.
"No," she said. "Like too much color. Lots of patterns. Look around and dress like everyone else."
I could see her teal bra through the slit cut in her shirt. I looked around. Did she mean dress more like Sue who was wearing her mother's lime and orange paisley dress from the '70s, or our HR rep who was wearing a fuchsia blouse or my co-worker who had on white skinny jeans? None of those other women had been pulled aside and chastised. I wondered if it was because I have boobs and thighs and breasts and hips that I'd been singled out, or if it was because I was the only person of color in the room? I wanted to tell her she could dress me in khaki from head-to-toe and still couldn't mute this Black Girl Magic. But I kept my mouth shut, kept my wardrobe, and kept cashing checks. She never brought it up again.
Before I let the summertime struggle defeat me, I remind myself that some people are paying lots of money for implants or torturing themselves in the gym doing squats for the booty genetics blessed me with. I just have to figure out how to get rich like Nicki Minaj, so I can get all my clothes custom tailored to fit my rear.