Prologue: The ass is discovered.
I have a fat ass that can be traced all the way back to the ninth grade. I was walking through the parking lot of my high school with my older brother when this dude on the basketball team called D. Bell stood back to take in the splendor of my 14-year-old body and declared, “John, yo sister got a nice shape.”
“Shut up, D. Bell,” my brother responded, but as a lame freshman who didn’t have a ton of friends at the time, this pleased me. I knew those light-wash, low-rise jeans really bubbled out my ass, but I didn’t exactly know what to do with that. This was clear because I paired my sexy jeans with an oversized yellow T-shirt featuring some sort of chemistry pun. Having a desirable ass appealed to me even more because I didn’t have to try at it, as opposed to every other beauty trend that seemed like too much work. But just wearing tight jeans? That I could do. D. Bell was my first stop on the long journey to figuring out what to make of this cumbersome thing gifted to me by my Italian ancestors.
The ass is reborn.
After college, I lived in St. Louis for three years. Once, a woman at my neighborhood post office stopped me as I was about to leave and said, “I just gotta ask. Do you get a lot of black men hollering at you all the time? Commenting on you? Cause you’ve got a nice curve. A nice shape.” This was right after I had moved to STL, and I had noticed a slight resurgence in the attention my butt was getting. I told her that. “Oh, well, you will.” That wise prognosticator was right, and soon there were plenty of mostly African-American dudes at the gas station or the club or the sidewalk who, uh, rediscovered my ass. Now, like most women, I don’t really care for unsolicited comments on my body. But this re-popularization of my curves was a reminder of how what’s desirable for women’s bodies varies largely based on region, culture, and race. I’ve had essentially the same ass for the last twelve years, give or take a few pounds or a few inches on the rise of my chosen jeans, and yet my ass has been received differently depending on the venue.
The owner of the ass suffers an Ass Identity Crisis.
I moved to Los Angeles last summer, and I can’t quite figure out where my ass and I are at on that roller coaster. On one hand, the percentage of fat asses of any type is much, much lower in LA than it was in St. Louis. Everyone I see on the streets and in the clubs is tiny and perfectly coiffed, and I feel like I’m back on the East Coast trying to regain my comfort with being an outsider. At the same time, there is a barrage of asses in our faces every time we pull up YouTube. Oiled-up asses and gold asses and hilariously bouncy asses. We live in a weird time where asses are on the main stage, but what kind of asses? Really fat ones? Big ones on otherwise skinny girls? White ones that can’t really jiggle effectively or asses of all shapes and colors? IS MY ASS THE RIGHT KIND OF FAT?!
The ass is over it.
I keep reading think pieces from people declaring the joy all of us curvy girls should feel at our moment in the sun. How it should be a relief, like when I moved to St. Louis and was “normal” again. And you know what? I feel nothing. What if I didn’t need a hero or someone to come along and tell me my ass is the right kind of fat now?
The ass is a deadly weapon.
Up until now, loving big asses has been a fringe perspective in the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot was like a 90’s hip-hop version of the Pied Piper, and I think Nicki Minaj did a damn good job at tapping into that. “Anaconda” is hilarious and makes me feel good about myself, but not because she’s straight-up cheerleading fat asses. It makes me feel good because it’s a woman poking fun at the way the media looks at her and using it as a fucking deadly weapon. I mean, if you don’t view the lap dance part of that video as Nicki essentially murdering Drake with her ass, then we must be watching different things. Her maniacal take on the whole thing is great to me, but I’m not sure the rest of the world is in on the joke.
The ass is insulted.
Sure, all of the pop stars currently monetizing their asses are overly sexualized, but it’s not even that I have a problem with. It’s the laziness and obviousness of the attempts that I find insulting. Jason Derulo loves a butt that looks “like two planets”? That’s the weirdest, worst simile I’ve ever heard. Meghan Trainor says that “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”? J-Lo, Patron Saint and Godmother of the ass industry, has to just do a series of close-ups of her famously insured ass in a desperate attempt to remind us that she invented the whole thing? Doesn’t the obviousness of that make you sad? Don’t even get me started on Iggy and her overtly lame attempt to get in on the action too. I’m definitely going to go ahead and direct you to actual black women who have thoughts on Iggy and her ass and her rapping, but she’s the most glaring example in a recent trend: It’s like all of these pop stars heard Beyoncé’s honest, almost furious self-confidence or Nicki’s cheeky celebration and jumped on the ass train, losing all of its humor and authenticity along the way.
The ass is arbitrary.
Jason, Meghan, Jenny, and Iggy are trend-whoring, and it’s not empowering or clever. Besides, fat asses have been desirable in the black community for ages, so the idea that now they’re officially “in” just because some white people in the media are paying attention to them rubs me the wrong way. What’s currently trendy in women’s bodies is at best arbitrary and at worst culturally elitist, and I can’t feel good about myself for chancing into it based on a hearty bloodline and a corn-fed upbringing. OK, my fat ass and I are going to climb off our high horse now. Cheers to you and your ass; I’m praying that you can figure out whether or not it’s the right kind of fat based on your location, background, and the current preferences of mass media.