I grew up around full women, in every sense of the word. 

They were full of opinions, full of knowledge, packed plates full of flavor with full figures to match. The women in my family wore their curves with pride — their favorite comeback to anyone bold enough to comment on their bodies was “women pay good money to look like this.” As a girl at their table, I would’ve paid any amount to be them, to have a presence that commanded respect the way theirs did.

Growing up my nickname was “Flaca.”

I was tall and skinny with a body that looked little like the women I admired, and a shy, meek demeanor, uncharacteristic of the loud Puerto Rican women who raised me. While they sat at the heads of the table, I listened on the side as they teased their husbands, “I’m a whole lot of woman, you think you can handle all of this?!” Their hands danced along their curves while they sang the words.

Their confidence seemed effortless and impossible to emulate. I wanted to fill a room with my presence as much as they filled jeans with chichos. I wanted to complain alongside them about how uncomfortable fajas were and how no matter what la dieta said, cafecito con queso was essential to the mornings. I wanted to talk about my body with the love and light that they held in their voice and believe it.

I’m now 26 years old and the quick metabolism that everyone attributed my thinness to, has slowed down.

My thighs rub to a crisp and there’s no gap between them. My tummy has a pouch that bloats up especially tight after a plate or two of my mom’s pernil, and my butt has grown in almost every conceivable way. And I am happy. I smile while I fight with my denim in the mornings. My high-waisted pants press into my side and my chichos fold over them.

I longed for this day.

I sit at my mother’s mesa with the women who shaped my curves and debate what the right percentage of spandex is in our clothes. 

Now, when we’re packed into someone’s living room and I feel a pat on my butt, my titi asks “Oye nena, where’d you get all that?!” My mother and titis excitedly await their favorite answer, “I got it from my mama!”

While my friends panic over the realization that we no longer fit into our college-era crop tops and our hips and thighs are begging to be freed from the skinny jeans we once worshiped, I’m practicing gratitude. I mourn the body of the girl I once was and praise this body of the woman I am becoming.

My mother taught me to mold these curves in the same way she taught me to swing my hips in a figure eight, taking up space with each step.

When I look in the mirror now, I think of each time I complained about how thin I was and how my mom and titis would grab their bellies or butts and tease, “Tomá you can have some of mine!”

Now I finally do.

Thanks to them, I’ve grown into the space they kept for me, with enough room to swing my hips con calma. I’ve grown into a body big enough to house the voice they taught me to raise and strong enough to sit confidently at whatever table I choose.

Now, when they call me from the kitchen, they yell “Nalgona.”