Working While Black: My Boss Told Me Not To Get Too Muscular Like Serena

February 18, 2016  |  

working while black


As told to Veronica Wells

As a child I was always confused about the way different cultures interpreted physical features, especially on women. It’s not like it is now, with women of various ethnic backgrounds running out to plastic surgeons to get what many Black women are born with naturally. I remember watching “The Nanny” and there were disparaging jokes about a woman’s behind being too big.


In my community, the Black community, the bigger the booty, the better. As I got older, I would come to learn our beauty standards don’t always apply to the mainstream.

Fast forward 20 years. Now that I’m in my early thirties, I work for a small interior design firm. When I say small I mean, I’m one of 5 employees and three of them are part time. Needless to say, my boss and I spend a lot of time together. And as a result, we just happen to share bits and pieces of our lives with one another.

My boss is about 30 years older than me but we’re both women so there are some things that stay the same regardless of age. She told me she was thinking about dying her hair. And I told her I was working on losing a few pounds.

When I said a few I meant it. I’m a thick girl. Plenty of skin over my bones but I’m not fat. I’m just, as a few men have told me, solid. But there were a few areas I wanted to tighten and tone. I hit the gym, to work on strengthening my arms. And I practically walked around in squat position, determined to lift my booty.

As the weeks and months passed, I guess my boss got the impression that she was a part of my fitness journey. Simply because we had that initial conversation and she would see me change into my workout clothes at the end of the day. I didn’t mind. At first, I thought she would be a supporter. And at first, she was.

But as the changes in my body became more and more apparent, she became less and less able to hold her tongue.

One day, as I was on my way to the gym, having just changed into my work clothes, I got the sense that she was looking at me, staring really.

Thinking, she was going to compliment my progress, I turned to her and smiled.

I could see her thinking for a second before she opened her mouth.

“You know, Marcia, maybe you want to only focus on cardio now. You don’t want to put on too much muscle and end up looking like that tennis player…what’s her name?”

I thought to myself, “B*tch, you know her name.”  I couldn’t say that though. I need the job but I’m also not one to let stuff slide either.

So once I’d composed myself, I said, “You mean Serena? I actually happen to think her body is beautiful. Actually, she’s been my fitspiration. You know, all body types aren’t the same and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

I punctuated my sentence by looking her up and down, deciding to keep my thoughts on her shape to myself. Judging by her pathetic attempt to rationalize her comments, I think she got the message.

As she was stumbling over her words, I held up my hand and shook my head, to signify that there was no need. Then I smiled politely and wished her a pleasant goodnight.

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