I stayed up until 3 a.m. watching CMT channel’s Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (DCC). I was on the verge of tears because these awesomely talented, beautiful, gracious, dignified and smart women were on a mission to be members of the worlds best cheerleading squad. Their beauty was being validated left and right.
Suddenly, I intimately understood why I was on the verge of tears: I couldn’t remember my parents telling me how beautiful I was. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard my parents telling me about how beautiful I was on the inside either.
I’m not saying they “never” said I was beautiful but if they did, they said it so infrequently it never registered. I can’t remember an occasion to save my life.
It quickly was becoming more apparent I have spent most of my life trying to get others to validate my exterior beauty while ignoring my inner beauty. In fact my dysfunctional bug light attracted other bugs just as dysfunctional. All of us were looking for the same validation. Frankly, it’s a miracle I’ve made it this far.
I also remembered having the deep desire to do what DCC did since I was six years old when I spotted a New Jersey pageant for young girls on TV similar to Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get in the car and go.
We lived in the Bronx so it wasn’t that far, I reasoned. I begged and begged to no avail. Of course it was already too late for me to participate in that particular pageant. Nevertheless, I wanted to do that. I considered myself a princess and felt strongly it behooved me to win a beauty pageant.
Familial body language
Unfortunately, the body image my parents reinforced was that I had an undesirable body type. I was not overweight until I moved away from my family in New York city and became isolated in California.
|My hot date for a formal awards dinner|
I remember Dad telling me how fat I was. My parents were so obsessed with my weight they took me to see my pediatrician who was only too happy to show me a growth chart that said at the rate I was gaining I would obese as an adult. I am obese today.
My father put the entire family on a diet. I remember open face hamburgers on rye bread with mozzarella cheese, onion and a tomato slice. I remember getting busted for hiding Oreos in my chest of drawers. I hated it when Dad yelled at me. I also remember wanting more and more food. A full tummy was a happier me, I thought.
Whenever we went shopping I couldn’t fit into the latest styles because I was “husky.” My mother groaned, mumbled, and huffed and puffed because clothes in my size cost more and were hard to find. Clothes in my size were hardly fashionable. They were downright ugly in many cases.
Whenever my paternal grandmother, Whelita, took me out shopping she always remarked how my selection of clothing was limited because I was fat. In fact, when I was 13-years-old she told me I would not be successful in America because my skin was too dark.
I am Afropuertoriqueno, black Puerto Rican, and she was white Puerto Rican. She also had no use for and disliked my mother because she was black Puerto Rican. She opposed the marriage mostly for that reason.
What Whelita failed to recognize was my mother had stunning natural beauty, i.e., high cheek bones, deep brown eyes, full supple lips, and a smile that could melt the heart of any man. She was incredibly intelligent and more than happy to “submit” to her husband. However, that didn’t matter to Whelita. She had no use for my mother because she didn’t find her beautiful enough.
Stylish clothes were scarce
When my mother took me shopping she and I were frustrated trying to find clothes in my size. I hated shopping for clothes because I didn’t fit into the latest fashion and I had a reasonable sense of style. I generally wound up with clothing that didn’t complement my body type or were a little too mature for my age. Basically, since I was “fat,” i.e., size 12+, my clothing choices were pitiful at best.
|Bakersfield Hotel during spring college softball tournament|
Shortly after I graduated from high school I figured out that I could eat whatever I wanted and throw it up later. The sooner I vomited the less food stayed in my system. I did this for a few years and got down to a size 12. I was normally a size 16+. I loved the way my new body looked. I took jazz dance every semester of my junior college days. I also was an NCAA athlete playing on two local college softball teams.
I remember doing everything I could to keep the weight off but binging and purging worked better than any diet. The downside was a lowered immune system but I looked great. My then boyfriend loved my body and I loved that he loved it. I remember fitting into my first pair of white Levis and my first mini skirt. They felt great and I looked hot.
One time my sister and I went to the County Fair together and I distinctly remember getting dressed for the occasion. We were on a mission to catch us some fellas. It worked. We looked hotter than ever. We had absolutely zero problem getting guys attention and begging for our phone numbers. Guys were whistling at us and I never felt more feminine, alive.
What I remember most about that night was how sexy beautiful I felt. I was on top of the world. I finally achieved the sense of beauty I’d always wanted.
Consequently, whenever I went to night clubs I had no problem getting guys to ask me to dance or if I asked, they declined less frequently. I lived to be a hot, gorgeous woman with manifold male options.
I was desperate for men to find me attractive. Since my father didn’t identify me as beautiful very often I was desperately seeking attention from men who did. I just wanted to hear a man tell me he loved me. I was willing to go to any length to catch and keep a real man. Sadly this included compromises such as doing drugs, getting drunk, partying all hours, sexual promiscuity and anything else I could do to be validated by men.
It should be no surprise the reason I married my late husband had absolutely nothing to do with having formally cultivated a relationship. The sex was outstanding, he was hot and that was it.
I always knew I would never be as pretty as those supermodels. I remember looking at photos of me when I was an adolescent and thinking I was ugly. It wasn’t until a few years before my husband died that I was beginning to love who I was and how I looked. I was beginning to think that who I was and what I looked like was enough.
Song of Solomon
I took a Song of Solomon class at my church’s school of supernatural ministry. It blew my socks off. I learned that this book of the Bible is a love letter to us from Jesus. He loves us so much, he wrote us a love letter. Think about this for just a second: The One who ignited the Big Bang, separated night and day on earth and gave up His life for his bride, the church is in love with me? Really? Me?
The entire book is an allegory of how God sees us as beautiful and how much he loves us. This love is not sexual. It’s beyond that. He desires an intimacy that goes deeper than any relationship on earth.
Nina Landis, a former IHOP-KC worship leader, taught the class. Mike Bickle taught her and she lived the reality of Song of Solomon for 10 years. I registered for her class because it was evident she had a firm foundation and was passionately in love Christ Jesus. Her passion was incredible, exciting and contagious. This thirty-something instructor was having a mad love affair with Jesus. I wanted what she had.
By the time I finished the 10-week course I was speechless. I had no idea God loved me that much. I discovered he not only thought I was beautiful on the outside but, more importantly, he found my inner beauty even more attractive, pleasing. That construct escaped me all of my life.
I never felt that kind of unconditional love that also included a Creator who though I was the apple of His eye. Raised Catholic, I thought God was all about punishment, fire and brimstone. Grace was a nice concept but if my brother’s third grade nun, Sister Annette was any indication of God’s grace, I was doomed.
Imparting beauty to my children
One of my daughter’s many nicknames is “pretty girl” and my son is just plain handsome. I make sure they know how “hot” they really are on the outside. However, I also tell them how beautiful they are on the inside. I remind them that if Jesus is Wonderful, Beautiful and lives inside of them then guess what? They are wonderful and beautiful also.
|My wedding day|
I make sure they know I love them by saying it everyday. I also make sure they know they are incredible people with a heart of gold. They make me smile, laugh, cry and proud. I consistently tell them that God doesn’t make junk so whenever bullies harass them, I remind them of their true worth and how beautiful they are on the inside as well as the outside. Besides, ugly doesn’t live in my family.
For myself, I am just now starting to see the outer beauty despite the fact that I am obese. Whenever I wear a baseball cap I see my father. In fact, before I turn on the bathroom light when all I see is a silhouette, I see my father. When I get all dolled up, makeup and all, I see my mother. I obviously have her smile and I kinda like it. When I have no makeup on, no hat, i.e., I just rolled out of bed I look like both of them.
It’s kinda hard to hate your parents when they are staring at you in the mirror.
However and more importantly, I am beginning to see my inner beauty. It was there all along. I have a soft spot for many things. I enjoy people who don’t have an agenda. Then again, who doesn’t? I have always been quick to forgive, always wanting reconciliation and defend those who I love passionately. I will sacrifice whatever I must so my friends and family are safe, sound, whole and well.
Beauty and the beast
On one occasion my teen-aged sister ran away to San Francisco. I was petrified at the thought of what could happen to her. When I finally made contact with her I immediately dropped what I was doing, skipped work and met her in the city. She was upset, which hurt me deeply. I could totally relate to her pain but, more importantly, I could relate to why she left. Regardless, I told her how important she was to me and how frightened I was that she was in the city alone. Fortunately, I talked her into coming back home.
I wish I could go back and impart to her how beautiful she is in God’s eyes. I wish I could have reinforced how perfect that love is and that no man, drug or whatever would ever be a reasonable substitute. However, that was the monkey on my back ever reminding me how ugly, useless, stupid, worthless I was. That monkey soon became a beast and my already low self-esteem sank even lower.
Since I didn’t have a positive sense of myself I couldn’t give one away. I wish there was a way to go back and say those things but when she moved to New York with her husband about 10 years ago I cried like a baby. I couldn’t believe she was leaving. I resented her husband taking my sister to the east coast. It was as if he was ripping my heart out. Tears still well up when I think about the last night we spent together in California.
To this day, I miss her a ton. She is a beautiful woman and mother. If I could, I would remind her how much I love her and how beautiful she is inside and out.
I have my awkward moments and idiosyncrasies but Jesus made me. The God of the universe not only knows the number of hairs on his head but I am created in His image. I am beautiful because He is beautiful. Kris Valloton illustrates this best in his book, “The supernatural ways of royalty.” Here’s a profound excerpt:
Recently I was leading a prophetic training session at a ministry school. We began the class by talking about the primary purpose of prophetic ministry and started to say that our first priority as a prophetic person is to find the treasure God has hidden in the life of each and every person He has created. In the middle of telling them that we are to “discover and call out the greatness that the Lord had hidden in the lives of people,” one of the pastors joined us from another room. I had never met him before and I was unaware at the time that he was part of the leadership team.
Before I could go on, he said, “I have a question for you.”
“Okay,” I responded, “What is it?”
“I think God is great,” he said.
“Yeah, and … did I say something that made you think I don’t believe that God is great?” I asked.
“You said that people are ‘great.’ I think you are teaching a doctrine that promotes pride in people by trying to discover the greatness that is in them,” he continued.
I was becoming just a little “fried,” so I responded, “I believe that religion emasculates and castrates people in the name of humility!”
We were sitting in a room that had a beautiful picture on the wall next to us. I pointed to the painting and said to him, “Let’s pretend that you were the artist who painted that picture.”
“Okay,” he said, looking a little uptight.
I motioned to the picture and yelled, “What a stupid-looking painting! Those colors are terrible! That thing is so ugly! I paused for a minute. “Now,” I said to him, “does demeaning the painting somehow glorify the artist?”
“No!” he answered.
Now I had him cornered, so I continued, “Not only is God Himself the one who painted us, so to speak, but Jesus was the one who sat in the chair and modeled for the masterpiece! Remember, we were made in God’s image and His likeness. We didn’t create ourselves. God created us. We are the work of His hands. When we tear ourselves down we aren’t being humble, we are being stupid!”
He looked stunned. He said, “I have three theological degrees, yet I’ve never been taught this.”
The Supernatural Ways of Royalty
by Kris Valloton and Bill Johnson
Chapter 9, pgs. 103-104
I don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore. I don’t care whether they find me beautiful. ugly, funny, witty, stupid or a screw-loose. My identity is in Jesus Christ. My Lord is beautiful but, more importantly, He finds me beautiful. Nina taught me that I am successful because I love Jesus and he loves me. The end.
Here’s a sampling of what He says about my beauty:
Song of Solomon 1, 2
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful. Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. Your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” Songs 2:14d
Song of Solomon 4
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you. You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, my bride. How much more leasing is your love than wine and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice. Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb.
|Backstage during Easter play|
Jesus goes on and on in this vain. What I am trying to do now is accept it unconditionally, without question.
I am beautiful. It doesn’t matter how much I weigh, what I wear, whether I have makeup, my hair is coiffed just so, or if I smell like garbage.
I. Am. Beautiful. Period. Disagree? Don’t care.
ABOUT BORICUA CONFIDENTIAL©™
Boricua Confidential chronicles my new life as a single mom of two kids after my husband died from cancer on our son’s seventh birthday. Join me on this journey of change, revival, reformation, discovery and new direction ordered of God. Being a widow ain’t easy, that’s for sure. I refuse to rollover and die. Quite the contrary. I intend to thrive from this crazy life. You can’t keep this woman down. If I’m down, I won’t be for long.
God created me to bounce back. Watch me.