I Chose the Shorts



Pink Shorts and White Tank Tops

Despite his gruff sensibilities and his sudden awkward pauses when we cried, my father was a good daddy for girls. He was careful to keep the romanticism of movies in check with reality. “You know, Osheta, you don’t have to get married someday,” he would remind me at the sweeping close of every Disney princess movie.

He was observant of our gifts and called them out often. “I loved your thoughts on your school’s rules about chewing gum, Osheta. Tell me more.” And he always pointed out what was beautiful about my body. When I’d skip through the living room in my pink shorts and white tank top, he would exclaim, “Red suits you, Osheta. It brings out the rich brown in your skin. Your legs are made for shorts. You should have Mama buy you two more just like those.” Even though I am the “thickest” of the four Whitney Women, I didn’t know there was something wrong with having wide hips, a full bottom and a tiny waist. We are all beautiful—Daddy told us so. And with the Whitney girls, beauty comes in many sizes.

Paint-Splattered Leotard, Black leggings and Jazz boots

Through middle school and even well into high school, I didn’t worry about my body. When a friend asked me if I loved having a big butt like the rap song, I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. So she told me to watch MTV that night, come back, and tell her what I thought. So I did.

And I laughed because, clearly, this man was a comedian. Clearly, he was being ironic or at the very least facetious. I had a big butt and I was nothing like the girls in his video. So, I told my friend that, yeah, maybe I have a big butt, but a big brain, too and that’s better. My weight never crossed my mind. I was too busy loving the other parts of me. But, a part of me wondered if Sir Mix A Lot was the only man I could attract with this big bum of mine.

Gold and Blue Birthday Bikini

I turned 18 on a scorching hot Texas day. My new college roommates wanted to throw a big pool party, so we invited the cute, stoner boys in apartment 3B to meet us at the pool for lunch. Since I had the car with the best air conditioning, we took it to WalMart where I bought myself two birthday presents—a gold and blue bikini and my very first Cosmo magazine.

The lingering question of men and dating and my future as a bearer of THE BUM hung around me as I entered into this new, more adult, more fit world of women. Each page turn was a step further into a world where women had sex in the first month, commanded the boardroom better than the guys and owned shoes that cost more than my first year of college. Cosmo also gave me a critical eye. I learned how to identify a “cankle” from a mile away, why I should hate my muffin-top, the fastest way to get “amazing abs and ass” so I could lure Mr. Right (who is definitely NOT Sir Mix A Lot) and eventually, how to experience the holy grail of womanhood—the one-hour orgasm!

Black Yoga Pants and Black T-shirts

Everyone was too thin. All the dancers with their swan-like necks and perfect buns—they were all too thin. My instructors, too. Women with perfect arms, strong cores, long muscles—bodies hardened by years of dance.

I was too wide. I could tell when the ballet instructor put her hands on my hips and said, “Maybe you’d be more suited for modern dance.” But this was my major. I was passionate about telling stories with my body and teaching girls dignity with theirs. I wanted to prove my ballet teacher wrong, so I spent hours in the studio perfecting my technique, all the while hating my curves and my too big feet. I was determined to be right but, afraid that I was wrong, I began hiding behind yoga pants and T-shirts.  Every once in a while, the instructors would remind me that the dress code was tiny skirts and thin leotards but I was too scared to see my body every day in the mirrors.

So, I chose to hide.

Maternity Everything

All three babies came quick and fierce. One after another after another. At least, that is what it seemed like to my body. As soon as I began recovering from the weight gain of one baby, another would announce herself. I didn’t care though—you’re supposed to gain weight! I was grateful for the hips that promised an easy delivery and grateful for the softness of my belly—an easy place for my new babies to nestle into. I ate what “the baby” wanted and reveled in the cold New England days on the couch.

I was hiding again, this time behind the veil of motherhood.

Heavy Winter Coats, Thick Cable Knit Sweaters, Long Underwear

Half of the year in Boston I spent gaining weight. Apple cider donuts, Halloween candy, Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas Hams became the menu of my fall. When my girlfriend told me that it’s normal for our body to hold onto weight when the weather dropped, I rejoiced! No more obsessing. It was logical and necessary to continue hiding my body under layers. Boston is cold and no one would blame me.

Half the year is spent gaining weight under layers and the other half is spent frantically burning it off before the first frost.

Maxi Skirts, Tank Tops, and Again … Shorts

Now we’ve come full circle. We just donated all of our winter wear and I’m left with thin layers—cotton maxi skirts, spaghetti strap tank tops, sundresses and shorts.  In California weather, shorts are a staple but I’m worried about showing my gapless, dimpled thighs and the stretch marks near my underbutt. I hate that I even know what an “underbutt” is! I’m back to shorts but not back to the confidence of a girl who was daily told by a very wise father, “You are beautiful.” I long for the blissful ignorance of the girl who has never opened Cosmo or Self or read a disgusting tweet by her once-favorite crooner.

The weather in LA is forcing me to come out of hiding. The bright sun beckons me to step into her light and I want to—Oh, how I want to—but the legs, the butt and the muffin top worry me. I worry sitting in the carpool lane with sweaty knees under boyfriend jeans. I worry at the park when I realize my yoga pants are my last clean pair.  And I worry when I wear the maxi skirt with the geometric design that I think is cute and then a friend posts this picture to Facebook and I think, “Omg! Am I really that wide?!?!”


I carried this worry with me straight into the quiet time in which I came across a verse about being anxious for nothing and casting all my cares on God. “Could God care about my ankles and thighs?” I wondered. “Does God want to talk about my weight? Is the Holy Spirit fashion-savvy? Because it would be great if he could hook a sister up with guidance on dressing for my size.”

While those questions may be a theologian’s (or psychologist’s) playground, I didn’t get answers to them. I sensed one word in response to my prayerful thinking. One word in response to my worry. One word to call me out of hiding:


I realized, I had a choice.

I could choose to listen to the voices of vanity that say a certain body type is most desirable. Or I could choose to lift my voice to say, “My body is beautiful. My shape is perfect for me right now. I don’t need to be a size two to have an awesome sex life. Confidence is sexy—cankles, dimples, stretch marks and all.”

I could choose to dance again, simply because I love it and not because it’s an amazing calorie burner. Or I could choose to do diets, exercises and weight loss plans I hate because of their “proven results.”

I could choose health for my pride’s sake or I could choose health for the Kingdom.

I could choose to come out of hiding and meet my new friends in this outdoor wonderland that is California. Or I could stay under my layers: layers of doubt, layers of jealousy, layers of fear.

I could choose to keep suffering in jeans in 80-degree weather. Or I could go to the thrift store, take a deep breath and choose a new pair of shorts.

I chose the shorts.

I chose my voice. I chose fun.  I chose to come out of hiding.

I’m choosing freedom this summer.


What, my Lovely, will you choose?