I went to get my jeans altered today at the Korean tailor. I’ve always had an issue with jeans, you see. I have to buy a size that fits my hips but then they never fit my waist. Let’s just say my hips are significantly wider than my waist. But I love the way the tailor said it today. He said as he was grappling with ways to alter my jeans, quite drastically I might add. He said in his thick Korean accent, “You have ‘good’ hips and small waist…”
I’ve never referred to my hips as “good” hips before in my life but I think I will from now on!
That got me thinking about these labels and names and adjectives we refer to ourselves with that really, consciously or not, have significant impact on the ways we think about ourselves. What if we just changed all that? And really were intentional about the words we use?
I am reminded of the Rastafarians of Jamaica who are very intentional about the words they use and they even amend words to more accurately capture a concept or a feeling. Instead of the word “oppression” they say “down-pression” because there is no “up” in oppression; ‘ded’-icate becomes ‘liv’-icate and ‘under’-stand becomes ‘over’-stand. When Bob Marley sings in “Buffalo Soldiers” he describes them as ‘stolen from Africa and fighting on arrival’ which is not the way that many history books describe Africans brought to this country. They always “fought” the reality of slavery.
The fact that the Rastas are so deliberate about creating a language that more accurately reflects their experience and truth is admirable and emboldens me to rethink my words.
I’ve always had a problem with the word “minority” because there is nothing “minor” about me or anyone else labeled that in this country. And the term “slave” does not reflect that slavery was imposed upon a people and they were “en-slaved” as opposed to that being their existential self. I believe these words and many more have far-reaching effects on what we think about ourselves.
I know I’ve probably said the worst things to myself, more than anyone else has ever said to me. And I am done with that! Consider the words, the names, the labels we give ourselves.
I am beautiful, wonderfully made with the divine coursing through my veins and through my “good hips”!