Dear lovely readers,
I have been single for a little while now, and as all my close friends know (because I complain about it a lot), men have been around me like moths around a flame (or like flies around shit). Like most of you know, I have low self esteem, and I lack confidence on a lot of areas, my body included. I’m not blind, or deaf, though, so I am forced to accept that I fit into the world’s ideal of “attractive black woman”, because a lot of people have told me, and because the guys that are suddenly flying around me are not interested in playing Monopoly with me.
But all these men, all this attention, all these “you’re very beautiful (for a black girl)”, don’t change how insecure I feel inside. Because I grew up, and I was the only black girl, and there weren’t a lot of people telling me how pretty I was. I grew up around some girls, that, objectively, I found unattractive, and, because society found them attractive, but didn’t find me attractive, I somehow deduced that I was even less attractive than them. And I grew up fine, believing I wasn’t pretty, because I didn’t really care. I was smart, I had great friends, I had a terrible living situation that I had to deal with, so beauty really wasn’t a priority. I didn’t go out of Ninove much, except to go to Brussels, where I would suddenly be hit on a lot more, but I always just assumed it was because there were more foreigners there. So at some point, I started believing (even though the insecurities remained), that I was attractive for foreigners, but not for white people.
Jad is the first person who made me realize all this; because he was the first to tell me (even though it was extremely biased, and in my opinion, not true) that I was prettier than all my friends and that society was the reason I believed I was ugly and all of my friends were attractive. And I never believed him, I never really cared, again, – until now, really. I left Ninove, I left the racism, I moved to Brussels, and traveled to more big cities, and apparently, I am perceived as attractive anywhere but where I grew up (which probably led, unconsciously, to my insecurities). But what I realized, is, that, I’m (or at least, I was) not perceived as particularly unattractive either in Ninove – I just don’t count. When my male friends would tell me about the girls they found attractive and the ones they didn’t, I didn’t make it to any list. I was black, I was invisible, I wasn’t relevant for their list. And I think that is the thing that destroyed my self esteem as a child/teenager, that is why I only found white actresses/women attractive, that is why I grew up having to accept black beauty (not just ‘my’ beauty, but really, just the fact that black women are attractive as a concept). I do not need men’s approval now, but I guess as a child/teenager, I did a lot more. And, far from getting their approval, I simply didn’t count.
And, the things I am hearing now go from, “You’re really beautiful for a black girl”, to “I have never been attracted to a black woman before”, passing by “For a black girl, you’re a 10, for a girl, you’re a 8-9.”, passing by “You have such Western features, you’re really pretty!”, and so on and so forth. And that’s why, when Femke said “You’re a very beautiful black girl… No, wait, you’re a very beautiful girl, period”, a couple of months ago, it made me happy. Not happy because I need approval, but happy to be part of the list of ‘girls’ – not just on that list of ‘black girls’, where I’m mostly alone. But I guess, mostly happy that I have friends who realize the impact that the extension “for a black girl”, can have.
I probably would have had better self esteem had I grown up in a place that was more open minded, but I’ll live. It just hurts me to see black celebrities, black women in general, and think “WOW”, and realize that I wouldn’t have thought that a couple of years ago. Because not only did growing up there make me feel like I didn’t count, it also made me feel like other black women didn’t count. And that might be why, right now, I’m overly proud of my beautiful black cousins, and it might be why, right now, I feel so pissed off when I see some of these girls – some of these people, who made me feel like I didn’t exist, who made me feel like my culture couldn’t be taken into consideration -, feel like they have the right to appropriate anything – anything that is ours. Because it’s just a phase – liking ‘our’ music, trying to dance like ‘us’, talking like ‘us’, laughing at ‘our’ cultural jokes, wearing ‘our’ clothes, thinking they know our culture better than us, that they belong with us; while a couple of years ago, we didn’t even matter.
And I go to my family parties, now, and I’m prouder than I’ve ever been; and I take pictures with my cousins and caption them “Flawless”, because I feel like we are, and I tell my cousins that they’re beautiful, because they need to know that they are. And I don’t want them to grow up feeling like they don’t matter, I don’t want them to grow up, feeling like the only fun thing about their natural hair is that it can stand up, I don’t want them to grow up, thinking that they’re not flawless.
PS: This is about me, being black, but I have other friends, other friends who don’t look like the rest because they’re not (100%) Belgian, but who were also kept out of all lists and also didn’t count, even though they’re more beautiful than most girls walking around in Ninove right now. And that fucking sucks too.