Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Issues Growing Up Had Nothing To Do With Skin Tone

After watching Light Girls I don't know what my skin tone is anymore. Am I dark skinned? Am I light? Is there such a thing as middle brown skinned?

At the tender age of 28 I can now recognize that my skin tone wasn't the issue growing up. My skin tone had no involvement in the issues peers saw in me. I went to an all black elementary school, all black middle school, and a high school mixed with all races. Then to top it off I went to and graduated from an HBCU. There were a few instances growing up where people were picked on based on how dark they were, but I wasn't one of them. For the most part, my skin tone looked like everyone around me, except the teachers in high school. They were mostly white and Hispanic for strange reasons.

Anyway, at certain ages I was picked on for liking to read. Kids weren't supposed to love reading books. Even in schools now, kids don't expect other kids to actually pick up books and read them. I loved to read. I stayed purchasing books from school fairs with my parents money until my creative brain started to outgrow those books. Borders was my favorite spot until all the stores shut down and I was forced to start going to Barnes & Nobles. Thanks to my parents not wanting me to read the now famous urban fiction novels, V.C. Andrews books became one of my biggest addictions throughout middle school years. However, I recall an instance where a student hated my reading habit so bad that while on the bus they snatched a book out of my hand and threw it out the window.

I was also teased for being skinny. Family members and adults loved to say, "Is that all you're going to eat?" They loved to try to stuff more food down my throat with their words. At least that's how I took it. Then in school I had to hear it too. Someone one year accused me of being bulimic just because I was using the restroom right after lunch in order to not get stuck doing it in between those last few class periods left in the day. Of course I changed up my routine to avoid any accusations like that anymore. They were being cruel because if anyone in school really thinks their peers have an eating disorder they'll go talk to an adult who can do something about it. Even now I still cringe when people start talking about weight around me. I try to shut them down almost as soon as they start, but it doesn't work for all.

Of course my hair was also an issue growing up. It's never been super long and never had a moment of being laid (bone ass straight). Peers notice that too. However, I was inspired by singers, actresses, and anyone else who was doing more than perming, wrapping, and braiding. At a certain point my peers started to really show their individualities. They had their own hairstyles they loved and were fashionable when it came to clothes. My parents didn't want me to have that much creativeness. I had braids throughout elementary with perms in between, permed and wrapped hair throughout middle school, and then in high school I was able to do a little more creativity but with braids. Basically it was braids and perms for the longest. I started experimenting with color in college because there was more room to creativity. Then I did color using only braids though. There were black braids, blond braids, red braids, and a blend of all colors because I had a shortage of money and a little of every color once. I also got a sew-in and glued in weave for the first time during college years. Trying out new hairstyles is fun and in the last couple of years I've discovered wigs. I'm a natural with an addiction to a good wig every now and then. Since the creativity wasn't there at one point in time, I also have an issue with people trying to force their views of what would look good on me. A little criticism is cool, but if I like it you should like it too because it's not on your head.

I said all that to say so many people are about to write think pieces from the Light Girls documentary. Their words can go so many ways from what was broadcast. Seriously, that documentary was all over the place. My plan was to pull a specific part and write about it, but this felt better. These were my issues. I was never tempted to lighten my skin. Loving a book was my awkwardness. Being too skinny in a world where thickness rules was my weakness. Not having that creative control over my hair was my weakness.

Were the issues discussed in the Dark Girls and Light Girls documentaries a part of your childhood or did you have other issues like me to deal with?

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