Twitter #teenagememories: praying for a bigger butt and lighter skin

 Dear Readers,

#teenagememories is one of the topics trending on Twitter tonight. When I went to participate, most of my #teenagememories centered around my beauty, or what I perceived as a lack thereof. 
As a teenager I was a tall, lanky *no curves to save my life. Think Popeye's Olive Oil. :)* dark-skinned girl who always had her head buried in a book. I was not exactly the standard of beauty for teenage boys. What was the most hurtful was being rejected by black boys. There was nothing special about me in their eyes. I wasn't fair, did not have light eyes and my hair wasn't especially long. I was just black. Nothing "exotic" to speak of. Even more horrifying, I was unfortunate enough to be a "homely" dark girl without the proverbial "ghetto booty." If you're homely and black, the least you can do is have "junk in your trunk." 

Those awkward teenage years were exacerbated by:
a) the lack of beauty role models with my skin tone, body type and hair texture;


b) the bully who made it his business to torture me.

My bully was an overweight and tar-baby-dark guy who girls completely ignored. As author Richard Sennet points out in Respect in a world of inequality, “The condition of "not being seen" had produced a desire to avenge." Truer words were never spoken as it related to this situation. To make matters worse, this bully saw in me his most hated feature. Every day he was forced to confront the thing about himself that caused him the most grief (his skin color).
As a teen, I did not have the knowledge of self to know that his issues with me ran deeper than he cared to realize. I was only the face of his problems and therefore an easy target to confront. His real issues stemmed from generations of black self-hate that was encouraged during times of slavery when the darker slaves were relegated to picking cotton and working in the fields while the lighter ones (those who more closely resembled their European masters - usually as a result of interracial rape) were able to remain as house slaves and have the opportunity to be educated. 

Since I did not have that wisdom, my years were spent trying to get me to a standard of beauty that would be valued. Day in and day out I prayed and begged God to give me the type of butt that black boys would appreciate. While I had the butt aspect covered with God, I used Ambi (and some of you probably know it well) religiously and with the urgency of a death row inmate eating his last meal. As for the hair, I had that covered with a combination of hot combs, relaxers, and braids. Whatever style would make me seem more attractive.  

It wasn't until years later (hello Black Studies classes in college!) that I had the strength to confront my color demons and work through the self-hate. While I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, I've often wondered whether my bully had the same chance. I hope it's true, but who knows. You can't combat issues that you never actually acknowledge. As the say in AA (or so TV tells me), the first step is admitting you have a problem. 
Of the issues that I am dealing with today, I'm happy to report that my outside beauty is no longer one of them - mostly. While I do have those rare moments when my thoughts are transferred back to those teenage years, it never lasts for long.  For those moments, I surround myself with uplifting scriptures, poems and songs.



Some of my faves are noted below:
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Can you tell we love India Arie???


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