The average baby is around 7lbs. I barreled onto planet earth at a bulky 8lbs 14oz. That is to say that I have literally been more than most people since birth. I am extra. I do the most. These are slang ways to say that I am flamboyant, garish, goofy, try too hard at pretty much everything, and I’m done saying sorry for it.
I never wanted to be all this– so loud, so opinionated, so aggressively feminine. I grow bashful when thinking about the excess of my own atoms. Yet, this is me. I do not exist in affect. I am all the things I declare myself on paper: a good sister, Golden Girls superfan, good daughter, poor driver, lightweight at the bar, good friend, bad mathematician (only due to lack of interest in the subject), writer, victim who survived, great dancer (no matter what my youngest sister says!). Genuinely, I wish I had a pokerface. If only my eyes didn’t gush with ardent sincerity. If only my mouth could resist babbling earnest sentiments. My speech lacks strategy. I possess no agenda outside of wanting to love everyone and be my own best advocate. Life would be easier if my purpose ran cooler, more calculated.
But I’m extra. I crash into every day like I collided into life: overzealous, joyful, and HYPE. My mouth has always been a sparkplug; my head– a supercharged factory; my heart– the biggest fuzzy blanket you can always take shelter in. The average woman’s heart is 118 grams, but mine feels much heavier. The contents of my heart do not go to waste. Rather, profound feelings motivate me to love as a verb. I send paragraph-long texts to friends and family like I’m a modern day Lord Byron. When I take a liking to someone, I tell that person. Being this sincere defaults to uncool. Cool roots itself in a lack of effort. Every area of my life receives so much of my energy. That’s why I’m tired all the time.
Media portrays femininity as an asset. From Jessica Rabbit and Lola Bunny in my childhood to every female celebrity today– society ensures that we perceive femininity as essential to the visibility of women. The punishment for butchness is often violence. I do not discount that. The practice of feminine woman-ing is a different story. I am the girliest girl to ever girl. Bless my mother’s attempts early in my childhood to give me freedom to select whatever my interests were. I confounded all progressive efforts by screaming for pink, beginning ballet at 3, and obsessing over princesses. My parents never pitted my girliness against my strength. I outran all my male peers, could slay each one of my classmates in an arm-westling tournament, and largely, navigated the world with unbridled moxie and adventure. My frilliness didn’t instill a fear of getting dirty.
The classroom was less forgiving about my extra. Chalkboards were guardrails to my energy, each plastic seat a straightjacket I wanted to escape. Teachers documented their “concern” for my boisterousness– how they needed to save me from my own confidence. A young woman with confidence is a threat. She rebuffs the narratives stripped to her. So, even if they weigh her down, they do not stop her. I could not be stopped. Academically inclined, I rarely struggled with schoolwork. My teachers did not have to like me, but the metrics of the grade scale reminded me that I am good enough.
These confusions surfaced later. As an adult, my femininity is constantly pointed to as a weakness. The girliness didn’t end in childhood. I joined a sorority in college, wear heels semi-regularly, and sport a full face of make up like warpaint every day. These markers flash like an alarm in so many conversations. There’s a tomboyishness associated with queer women that I lack. I feel a certain outsiderdom because I’m “not bi enough”– not in terms of sexual preference but presentation and interests. But, just like identifying my queerness, it all comes back to being true to myself. The true me is cheesy, flashy, bubbly, uncool, vain, and girly. My selfhood doesn’t bend to my social identities.
That is not to say dating men is any easier. So often, I see a flicker of recognition. It flies across his eyes, the shooting star of conscious– that he didn’t think I was smart until he began to listen. And now, he is threatened. So, he cuts me with his words, infantliizes me by reminding me how pretty I am while intentionally steering the conversation where he is a subject matter expert. Even there, in his verbal safe haven, I am too big, too much. I have a soft spot– it’s what I do for a living. My post-graduate roles have been largely administrative, and I’m embarrassed about that. Although I have sat across the table from men who I outearn by a significant margin, the title bruises my ego more than I admit.
A previous supervisor referred to me as “that sorority girl” regularly. More than once, I’ve set across from a human man-spread who felt compelled to advise me on how wearing make up and skirts communicates slut. To which I thought, “then I would be having a lot more sex”, but I digress. The men who harassed me always ensured that I knew what a privilege it was to be a target for their disdain. What a honor to have the towering oak of me pruned by such small people!
The truth is that they are cutting me down to size. “Who are you, obstinate young girl, to believe you can speak, that you have rights, that you can sit at the table?” I can see it– how I am intellectually underestimated before I open my mouth. The assumption is that I’ve invested my life’s resources into my appearance rather than my intellect. That is a scarcity narrative. We can be all things. We can be many things. There is not a limited selection in the business of being. And in response to their earlier questions (please excuse my language), “Motherfucker, I am me, and while I don’t owe you an answer, there are obstacles far greater than you still quivering in my wake”.
Despite everything, all the natural disasters trying to shrink me, I never exited a trauma smaller than I entered it. If anything, I grow larger every time. So, if there is any proof that nothing destroys us, extra is that evidence. I try to celebrate my abundance now. This celebration is the refusal to police myself or apologize for my natural existence. Women already apologize for so much, and I cannot add my selfhood to that list. Instead, I rejoice. What a blessing it is to carry so much life in this one body! What a miracle it’s been to love everyone I love! So, praise be to the extra. Hallelujah to my uncool, corny, absurdity. I raise my hands in thanks to the poetry of growing under everything that wanted me to think. Amen to unapologetic. Amen to extra.