If Mr DogBiteDrunk hadn’t just lost a fight with his mistress’ dog over R100, I might have been able to ask him what he meant by that statement. Instead I gave him his anti-rabies shot, declined his offer to be his ‘miss party’ at his upcoming birthday bash and watched him walk out the door, which he left wide open as he screamed behind him, ‘Ehhh doctor, please close YOUR door for me’.
Book of Negroes beautiful.
I laughed. Actually that’s an understatement, I burst out laughing, I threw my head back while my pen left my hands to land on the desk in front of me and rolled back in my wheeled seat. I knew what he meant but no one had ever described/complimented my ‘look’ in such a way. I knew that in his raw (drunk) state he was best expressing his appreciation of my dark skin and natural hair. Maybe if I had had a weave and my skin tone was a shade lighter I might have been Solange beautiful or just beautiful “beautiful”. Only a thought.
But never mind that, that day I was “Book Of Negroes beautiful” and if I had money, in ANY currency: Yen, Naira or Ugandan shilling for the number of times men told me how much they loved my dark skin, called me an African queen or said I was beautiful and went on to express how much they love dark skinned girls, then I’d be singing:‘I get it in till the sun rise/Doing 90 on a 65/Windows rolled down screamin’ I’m/Paid, paid paid/I’m so paid.’ It’s not like I go around asking for it, these men tell me about my dark beauty as if they were created to tell me that, as if it’s MY human right to know and their human right to let me know, as if tomorrow He cometh on clouds of glory.
Growing up I was never cognisant of my darker skin tone. To be honest I wasn’t really cognisant of the fact that I was a girl till midway through my 23rd year, which about sums up my care for beauty. I knew my mother was lighter than me, my father darker than me and I was somewhere in the middle of the love they made that night. School was chilled, I never had a boyfriend. I wasn’t excessively told I was beautiful, I never cared. My concepts of beauty came from kitenge material, music performances and watching my younger brother dance to kwasa kwasa music.
I do remember once in my teenage years seeing a child who must have been about 2 or 3 years old, with the richest dark skin I had ever seen- I mean she was a beautiful Sudanese dark. In that very moment I remember thinking, ‘I have to marry a dark man (or at least have sex with one) I want my children to look exactly like that’. That was my natural gravitation to dark skin, my awareness of what beautiful is.
Then I get to a certain age and these titles and beauty concepts are thrown at me like a shot put ball. ‘Here dina-Ruth, catch.’
And you know what? I love it.
Now the reasons I love it are numerous, but number one on my list is that I literally stepped from not knowing I was a girl to being outrageously beautiful overnight. Can you say score anyone? I’ve heard many dark women campaign just to be beautiful not ‘beautiful for a dark girl’ let me say this, I’m right there with them supporting the cause, with my placard and my voice because if someone came up to me and said, ‘Oh you’re pretty…for a dark girl’, I’d punch them- in the throat so the next time they’d really have to think before they speak. So I’m not against you sister, what I am saying is this how magical is it to be called beautiful because of the way the sun hit my ‘great great somebodies’ skin and activated their melanin which was passed down, and (thankfully) not diluted, to me.
I often wonder how it happened. Maybe one day, between the years of 2006-2014, some beauty-editor authority-person decided to go on safari, magically walked into the deepest forest of Africa, found black people and discovered that, surprise, surprise, they actually HAVE dark skin and that could be beautiful too. She or he (I don’t discriminate), immediately sent word to every important society person in Milan or the other and boom overnight every woman with dark skin (not just Alek or Naomi) was allowed to be called beautiful. And just as quickly our men* caught on to that truth and ‘Usain Bolt/Caster Semenya’ ran with it.
*by ‘our’ I mean black men and by ‘men’ I mean some not all.
I once heard a famous African-American comedian who make a joke that if Alek Wek was the definition of black beauty then he didn’t want it or something like that. I recall being instantly offended in that moment. But now since Book of Negroes beautiful it’s cool. You see we’ve now entered the beauty arena and who cares about the other teams’ head start. I’m an African, I know how to train hard, how to run and win and win and win and…
If I’m not some man’s flavour then it’s ok. Really. I’m not even being nice. If a man walked into a restaurant and the waiter said, “Good evening sir, tonight we have two specials: chicken and fish” and dude orders the fish, that’s not saying anything about how good or bad the chicken is. All that’s saying is he prefers the fish. That chicken might be so good that it puts that man in a coma but he prefers the fish and I, for one, will not waste my time trying to convince a n*gga to choose the chicken. Let him eat fish.
So dina-Ruth now that society says dark skinned women are beautiful and its trending, you’re happy? Hmmm, yeah maybe a little. I’m also extra happy because fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) that small acceptance has helped to awaken our own actualization. Now we actually don’t need them to tell us about our beauty. We ‘shea butter, throw the lightening cream out, wear kitenge material to work, #melanin magic everything’ own it. In fact I’d like to send a quick shout out to ‘society’ for the push. Today loving ourselves, tomorrow maybe giving our land back? Maybe. We have faith in you society.
If you see me on the street feel free to call me cocoa skin, dark beauty, African queen. Imma river dance all the way to the end of this trend. When the craze stops and those beauty-editor-authority people move onto the next ‘undiscovered but not really cause it was always there’ beauty Imma be the last person holding on this gravy train like those people who wore peddle pushers in 2006.
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