Dating & Marrying Ethnic Men

For Colored Girls, Who Look in the Mirror and Think They’re Ugly When They’re Not

I can’t recall what I said to him that causes him to pick me up onto my feet and drag me into the bathroom. He stands behind me, mahogany hands gripping my skull, his long fingers gathering my hair back from my face. He leans into my body, pinning me to the sink, my face is nearly inches away from the mirror.

“Look at yourself” he demands.
“NO!” I push back against him and claw at his hands but to no avail.
“Tracy, please, look at yourself.” I flail and buck against his body.
“Look at yourself in the mirror….”, he pleads.

I can’t move my head, so instead I divert my eyes down and away. Tears are streaming down my face, emotion boils inside of me. I am hot. I am dizzy.

“You’re beautiful…”, his voice shakes with anger,“you are so beautiful….why don’t you see it? How do you not see how beautiful you are? Who did this to you?”

At my lovers violent insistence, I am finally forced to stare at a person I do not know and do not want to know.

I howl in pain at who she is.

Who did this to me…..

I don’t see myself in the mirror. I only see through and past my reflection, because I too, have learned to not look her in the eye for fear I’ll have to consider her a human being.

I look at the black girl in the mirror like everyone else does.

I don’t.

I have seen no one in the mirror as I’ve done my hair and placed contact lenses on my eyes since the age of 12. I have seen hair, and holes in ear cartilage, I have seen acne and I have inspected teeth, but I see no one in the mirror.

I see no one in the mirror because the mirror is a reflection of my reality, and thus, no one is in the mirror.

No one has stared back at me for years, until this here night, as I fight and scream and attempt to turn away but am unable to. I am forced to see.

I’m grateful that my lover, a younger man, whose courage to push me over the edge and was only matched by his willingness to be there to catch me as wept in his arms and shook with fear.

It was only because of his empathy and many long nights that he and I spent similar to this one that I was finally able to let go of so much hurt, humiliation, anger and resentment caused by the blatant disregard of men, women, life, culture, civilization, books, movies, religion, society, adults, and parents, shown to me throughout my life.

There is a long list of people whom contribute to black female invisibility, but the biggest culprit of all is us as black women and our collective silence and willingness to keep these secrets. We’re not protecting anyone by chewing our own limbs off.

The victims of abuse and suffering often internalize the pain they feel from being neglected; it becomes easier to remove yourself from the equation instead of proving that the math is wrong and that your answer is correct.

Beauty doesn’t live in the mirror of many black women, and contrary to what you may think, this is not a “complexion issue” because my ‘light skin and good hair’ didn’t save me.

Whether ‘black’ is to defined as a culture, a race or a hue of skin tone, we, the victims, still take on ‘black issues’ because we internalize these messages before we even understand what they mean and how they affect us. The way we react to the circumstances of our lives is as varied as the individuals own self perception and identity.

You may look at me and think I’m beautiful, and I’ve been told as much, as often as any woman would want to hear it. But this still doesn’t make me see or feel beautiful.

I don’t recognize beauty, which for a woman, is an attribute synonymous with value in nearly every culture. Women are celebrated in all cultures but this black one.

I don’t see beauty that looks like my own staring back at me from society.

I only see thighs that are too thick, and legs that are too muscular.

I see fat that doesn’t fit into the clothes that are handed to me from racks in stores; and I see discoloration and Ambi products to help me “even” my tone; and I see flesh that causes men to stare and hands to grope; and I see cellulite that needs to be removed; and a pussy that needs FDS deodorant and feminine hygiene products to mask its dirtiness.

I see body parts that have earned me nothing but foul names, unwanted attention, shame and rejection.

I don’t see beauty in my life as a lover, a mother, a daughter or a friend held captive in a body with brown skin. The face of the black affection, acceptance and friendship are agape, and twisted into a community scream. These black women have no use for this black woman.

There is neither nature nor nurture.

Maybe I stopped feeling beautiful at about the same time I stopped looking in the mirror…

Was it the night after the rape, or the day after when my face had swollen and my left eye was closed shut and no one asked me what happened though everyone stared? Had someone, indeed been hurt, then people who have shown concern, no?

Was it when the black men who were the protectors of my innocence became the sexual predators of my childhood? There is no beauty to be found in the sneer of a black man who has over stepped his boundaries.

Was it when my black body did what it was designed to do and became pregnant with life after making love to a black man in an attempt to sooth the hurt from losing my black father to death and black soil?

There is no beauty to be found in silently being called a ‘whore’ by the society you live in. My inspected ring finger itched, glaring eyes of old black women and looks of disdain at the curves of my body forced me to hang my head to please them. Thousands of brown eyes and I am to blame for the sexual misconduct of an entire race as I make my way to my low income job to feed the breathing proof of my imperfection.

There was no beauty in offering my black culture the ‘gift of life’ that is my beautiful daughter. The hospital staff belittled and insulted all of the young black mothers that came through their door.

The low expectation of black women to ‘keep their legs closed’ is expressed as laughter by the nursing staff at the Jersey City Medical Center. They insist to each black women that came through its doors that she will repeat her crime over and over again, “you’ll be back next year”, they say.

The black women of my home town laugh as they repeat this ritual as part of the pre-story of how our black families came to be.

An animal is not celebrated for breeding. I’m never without being reminded that my bundle of joy is a burden and punishment.

There is no beauty here.

There is no beauty in being a ‘single mother’, a ‘welfare mother’, or ‘baby momma’, and certainly none found in becoming the most hated and vile creature slithering through the sticky soot of black America.

The ugliness in the mirror is the cause of my being discarded and neglected by everyone who should care, including my own child’s father, my own family and everyone else that I’ve ever loved.

If only I could be someone else.

It was because of him, this black man, that I discovered my voice. Through his whispers, and consistent place by my side, even as I fought him to leave me, I began to recognize he beauty in the mirror and the power of my words.

“Who did this to you…..”

His tears washed away the filth allowing my reflection to be seen clearer and more accurately despite my inability to recognize my own beauty.

Were it not for his special eyes that helped me see through the dust of my own tribulations I would not be here.

He begged me to tell him who did this to me and when I did the power of those words shattered glass and someone suddenly appeared in the mirror where no one stood before.

For the colored girls who look in the mirror and think they’re ugly when they’re not, I want you to know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I see you.

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