My last entry was about me trying to bleach my skin as a kidlet.
Now I want to talk about some of the fallout that has followed me to this day.
First I’d like to tell you that until I was about 30 years old I hated my face. When I say that I hated it, understand that my face became the focal point of every insecurity I had. It was not just about feeling ugly, it was about having the wrong fac,e the worst face, the face that explained to me why so many people turned me down for dates, why sometimes random men stop to tell me how ugly I am, why I spent years afraid to hug people because my make up might get on them.
And of course I was wearing make up to cover my shame. My filth. My unacceptable self.
My face was my enemy.
I did things to my skin because I believed if I just tried hard enough, spent enough money, bought the right products I could at least not make people ill to look at me.
I wish this was hyperbole.
At one time I endeavored to take pictures of my face. Most of them with me wearing make up. Outwardly I was showing off my changing make up application skills and personally I was trying to use exposure therapy on myself and make myself look at my own face directly as other people might see it.
Here you can see about 110 pictures of my face. Make upped and damn if I don’t miss how adventurous I was with it.
Sometimes during that process, each and every one of those pictures made me want to die. I wanted to delete them all so nobody would see my shame, my skin, my face, my big huge fucking flaw.
Part of those feelings came directly from Whiteness.
Whiteness tells me that my nose is too big, my face is too dark, I am not really ethnically ambiguous enough to be exotic. I might be cute but beauty is not in my reach.
My face holds secrets.
For years I didn't tell a soul I tried to bleach my skin. The depth and breadth of the shame I felt for drinking the koolaid still gives me a fluttery anxious feeling in my chest. I remember sitting and listening to a friend, a fellow woman of color go on a diatribe about women who bleached and how self hating they are and how they want to be white etc etc.
I remember I went home and looked at myself. I wrote in a diary how much I hated myself for buying into the lie. I told myself I was an evil sell out who was probably going to always be filth. I told myself I did not deserve to experience solidarity with other women of color ever in my life.
I fully understood that I deserved whatever I got.
For the simple act of being young with low self esteem and believing that something as simple as “fixing” my skin color would fix my self esteem and life, I decided I deserved an eternity of misery.
On one hand I wanted other Black people, Black women especially to find out and hate me. I wanted to be punished because I believed I deserved it for what I had done.
Years later, about two years ago I got a rash on my forehead and it resulted in a pitch black large mark on my forehead. I went straight out and bought lightening cream and only after a few weeks of use did I remember that I was allergic to one of the main ingredients and I got another rash.
Then I tried to ignore it.
Now after months and months of gentle skin care the mark is fading but it is a reminder to me of a time in my life when I bought the whiteness beauty, when I bought the idea that a matter of skin bleaching could only be down to one reason, that I would be-no my Blackness and my love of my Blackness would be forever tainted.
Right now I don’t loathe my face.
Sometimes I’m not thrilled with it but I am not ashamed anymore.
I feel that for me, it has taken me aging and my face taking a proverbial beating and going through that self hate and slow learning to accept my face to get me to the point where I can say with some confidence when I see woc being buried under the pressure of whiteness and white beauty ideals I get it.
From the Nigerian and South East Asian and other WOC making millions selling Whitening products to the women who flock to those products, I can’t hate them or be angry at them because I understand and as they say, there but for the grace of God(s) go I.
So really, be gentle my friends. When you see these stories and you are outraged please, be gentle because it is a thin line between self love and self hate.