20. Bad Mama Jama

20. Bad Mama Jama

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Bad Mama Jama

I think that whatever size or shape body you have, it’s important to embrace it and get down!

~Christina Aguilera, Marie Claire

While I was working as a tutor at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, South Carolina, I worked with a student named Darla. When I first met her, she couldn’t look me in the eye while talking to me. She also had problems with anxiety and got so nervous around people that she literally shook. Basically, she was a mess.

As I tutored Darla in math, she began to open up and share her background. She had previously been a swimsuit model and had won swimsuit competitions run by some mainstream companies. In fact, she met her ex-husband at one of these competitions. At the beginning of their marriage, she said, she had been like a trophy for him and he loved showing her off to other men. As their marriage progressed, he became more and more controlling. A few years into their marriage, Darla got pregnant. After giving birth, she had trouble losing weight. This angered her husband and he became even more abusive. After years of his abuse, Darla left.

By the time I met her, Darla’s self-esteem was shot. Prior to her marriage, she equated her value to her looks. Now weighing more than she ever had before, and having been abused and belittled for years by her husband, she thought she only had value as a mother.

She shared that she was attracted to a gentleman we both knew. Unfortunately, she was sure that because he was so attractive and she had gained weight, there was no way he would be interested in her.

The curious thing was that Darla saw beauty in me. She said she wished she looked like me. Now, I am way bigger than Darla. We aren’t even close in size. I’m not an average plus-size woman; I’m super-plus and I’ve got hips and thighs for days. And even though she didn’t know it, the guy she liked was hitting on me daily. So I knew it wasn’t about looks. It was all about Darla’s confidence.

One day, as we walked into the Teaching and Learning Center for a tutoring session, Darla commented that when we entered the room, every man turned and watched me. I knew this was my chance to show her something that would begin to shift her thinking.

I asked Darla, “How did I walk into this room? Did I walk in like I owned the building? Did I walk in with my head up and shoulders back like I was the baddest thing moving, like I heard “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” playing just for me? Or did I walk in with my head down like I was afraid or ashamed of who I was?”

“You walked in with confidence,” Darla said.

I asked her if I was the size of a model, or if I was one of the larger women in the room.

“You are a larger woman,” she said, “but it didn’t seem to matter. You are beautiful and everybody knew it.”

Then I told her something that I would repeat to her many times in the coming months and something that I have shared with many women since then. “The thing that will always command attention is confidence,” I said. “I walked in here like I was the baddest thing moving, and in their minds they wanna know what I know that makes me walk with such confidence. A real man is looking for a real woman, a whole woman. He’s not looking for some broken down woman that he has to piece together. A real man, a King, is looking for a Queen who can rule and reign with him. A real man is looking for a real woman who knows who she is and loves herself.”

I know Darla didn’t believe me, but she smiled and nodded. Every time we met to go over her math, I would take the opportunity to build her up and tell her how awesome she was. That semester ended and I continued to tutor her in another math class, making sure to speak life into her every chance I got. I often wondered if my words were sinking in.

Time went on and Darla graduated and I thought I would never see her again. Then one day, about six months after graduation, Darla came to campus for career counseling and came looking for me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The woman who couldn’t look me in the eye when we first met, who trembled from nervousness and never smiled, was now smiling from ear to ear. She looked amazing!

The Darla I knew rarely took time with her appearance because she felt like her weight made her unattractive, so why try? Now she had her hair and make-up done and was wearing the cutest outfit.

“The thing that will always command attention is confidence,” I said. “I walked in here like I was the baddest thing moving.”

But that smile told the real tale.

Darla ran and hugged me. She thanked me for everything I said and did for her. She told me that it took some time, but one day it clicked; she realized she was worthy of living an awesome life and she decided to do just that. She told me that she would never forget what I had done for her and that she was making a deliberate effort to make the same type of impact in her daughters’ lives.

Also, she’d gotten up the courage to approach our mutual friend and was waiting to see if he would make the move to call her. And then she said the best thing of all.

“I hope he calls, but if he doesn’t, I’ll be fine. That just means there’s someone else out there who will appreciate me for who I am. If he doesn’t call, it will be his loss.”

“Girl, you are so right,” I said. “And you know why?”

Without missing a beat, she said: “Yes! ‘Cause I’m a Bad Mama Jama!”

~Regina Sunshine Robinson

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