I recently watched Dark Girls, a documentary on African American culture. The focus was on prejudices based on skin tones within the black community and how this leads some women to devalue their skin and hair. Each women told a personal story of how she was disgraced by the shade of her complexion. Of course I am aware of this cultural phenomenon. However, hearing women of all ages share their intimate stories puts it in a perspective that would make any woman emotional on behalf of these challenges.
When I was a child, I was so envious of dark skin. First, you should know, growing up, we were the only white family on our block. I would swim with the neighbor children and watch the sun bounce light off their dark chocolate skin. On the playground, so many of the girls wore the plastic marble ball bands to hold their braids- which seemed to stand up, defying gravity. My little sister and I were so jealous of those hair bands! (Along with gravity-defying hair, of course). Hair that could twist and mold one moment and appear soft to the touch the next.
We got our wish for those marble ball bands once, but our braids fell limp. I suppose I thought the magic came with the bands. But that experience made me realize the girls on the playground just had magic hair that I would never acquire.
Everyone in our neighborhood had a special unique skin tone all their own.
Back at my crayon box there weren’t enough crayons to express all of my neighborhood playmates. Only one color to express my family though: Peach. When I asked what color we were, my mother said we are “white.” Confused, I responded, “No, we are peach,” and I ran to get the correct crayon to prove it.
Our Barbies we had collected up until that point were all the same color: Peach. The only variation was hair color. At this point, I asked for more colorful Barbies. That Christmas I got a Hawaiian Barbie. She had coffee skin, almond eyes, and long black hair. She was my favorite Barbie. My mother remembers this story and says at that time Hawaiian Barbie was the only non-Caucasian-looking Barbie she could find.
I’m really not trying to open up a can of worms with this entry. However, what struck my heart the most in the documentary was the little girl of around 3 or 4 who was asked to identify the ugliest and dumbest child. Each time, the African American girl pointed to the darkest of all of the images. And the prettiest, smartest child she believed was the lightest image. That experiment is a heart-crusher. If not, go get your vitals checked.
Below is CNN’s version of a similar experiment.
Without knowing the history and socioeconomic influences, she envies the light skin girl with the light hair and light eyes. And without knowing the history and socioeconomic influences, I envied the girls in my neighborhood with the chocolate brown skin and the magically soft hair.
Why do we always want what we don’t have? Why can’t we appreciate the beauty of others without depreciating our own beauty? Why do we grow up and cast judgement on others for being slightly different from us? I suppose this is the human condition. But just because it’s how we lean doesn’t mean we can’t learn to stand up straight, you know?
Please tell someone they are beautiful today. You truly are.
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”
Song of Solomon 4:7
“No Pain, No Gain” -Jane Fonda. My sister and I were Jane’s leg warmer partners in crime and side cramps. My sister’s journey with Dyslexia told a different story about pain and gaining.
As my mother would begin Jane Fonda’s warm up on the VHS, my sister and I would be changing into our bathing suits over tights, scrunching up Dad’s long socks (they came up taller and on us looked like those leg warmers worn on the video- we thought). We would get into mom’s blue eye shadow until it was more like forehead shadow. Our hair in HIGH side pony tails mimicking our favorite backup Fonda “fly girls,” we were finally ready to show these ladies how it’s done!
This was so common in our home that we wore out the Jane Fonda video tape. My mother always laughs at this memory of us, yet my sister and I take our Jane Fonda VERY seriously- so no laughing people! We were little girls then, but Fonda and her hotshot posse’ of long-legged sweat band sporting 80’s workout divas made tiny me and my little sissy feel extra fierce.
Years later in school, my sweet little sister would not be feeling so fierce any more when she was the target of bullies. They called her: illiterate, moron, idiot, retarded, and more names I know she has buried deep and hopes to forget. She has a learning disability called Dyslexia. She is severely Dyslexic and she didn’t really catch onto reading until around the sixth grade. She thought reading would be her ticket to being “normal” and making friends. The better she could learn to read, the fewer panic attacks she would have when teachers would make her read aloud in front of class “for her own good.” And fewer tears she would cry because of nasty name-calling jerk wads.
She went through a whole lot of emotional pain on the playground, pain when she got any tests back, and pain in her bedroom alone after school- yes, she had pain… But my sister would tell you her GAIN had nothing to do with her pain. Her gain came from her time in drama class. She gained motivation to stay in school through High School performing arts programs. She gained trust back with her peers when she sang in the chorus. She gained confidence in herself when she was the lead in the school play. She gained independence when she put herself through college by winning talent competitions in scholarship pageants. She has represented organizations like Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic along with advocating for school arts programs as both made such an impact for her. And yes, in case you are wondering, the shy little girl who couldn’t read did graduate college. Boom shaka lacka. Hip roll Fonda!
She continues making gains every time she reads a word and each day she goes to work. She makes gains by proving her former teachers wrong, those bullies, those mean snotty classmates, tutors, and everyone who must have been so dumbstruck by her sparkle that they all acted like fools around her, I suppose.
It wasn’t in all the hardship that my lil’ sis found her fabulosity, it was in the moments like dancing in front of the television to Jane Fonda’s Workout video. Fonda fly girls for life xx.
This entry was in response to a Daily Prompt from WordPress’ Blogging site:
Do you agree with Jane Fonda’s favorite exercise motto, “no pain, no gain?”
www.whotalking.com for photo