If I go to a family reunion, give or take a handful of people, I'll look like a friend of the family. Growing up, my brother looked like a browner shade of my mother. I, on the other hand, was a mirror image of my paternal aunt and resembled the crew on my father's side from Missouri. As I get older, my mother's mannerisms have started to appear in me. But up until my late 20s, nobody ever said I looked like my mother, always my father. (And I'm not complaining 'cause he's a handsome "bird," as my grandfather would say.) My paternal aunt's nice on the eyes, too, so again, not complaining.
But what I thought was really cool about my mother and great great aunt was that they made a point of making sure I embraced my brown skin growing up. My mother was relentless about me having black Cabbage Patch dolls, Barbie dolls, coloring books, and even fiction/nonfiction books. I didn't realize it was a big deal until I was in college and beyond, and it kept coming to mind while watching the 2011 documentary "Dark Girls."
Am I "too dark" for him?
And then there was another guy (pretty sure he was from St. Louis) who I used to hang outside with and sit on the bicycle rails to talk to. I noticed she would look irritated when she saw me and would purposely walk in the other direction. I never thought much of it until one day she blurted out "You're too dark for him!" when the two of us were alone. My head snapped back, and I just stared at her. It was beyond comprehension for me to hear one chocolate girl tell another one who she could and couldn't be interested in solely on the strength of complexion.
Why my dating record looks like a pie chart
At the age of 35, I can count off eight legitimate boyfriends. And three of them included a biracial man who was German and black with green eyes, no. 2 looked like T.I. if he had a gap in his teeth, and no. 3 looked like a hood version of the country singer Brad Paisley. (Actually, it's scary how much he actually does look like Brad Paisley. I asked him early on could I see a photo of his parents just to make sure.) Even in high school, I regularly flirted with a Mexican friend of mine (R.I.P., he died in a car accident) through my teenage years and a Guatemalan friend in my Honor's English class.
To this day I've never seriously dated a white guy although I got plenty of kisses from a college friend (and I am so not mad at that). Side note: That guy was smitten with Hershey-complexioned girls, but that's another blog entirely. I've also had to repeatedly deny that I didn't date one particular white co-worker who I regularly hung out with at a previous job. He was very cute but had a girlfriend, and I'd never disrespect anybody's relationship nor did either of us even humor the idea. (However, the rumors continued after we hung out even after I quit that job. Gotta love the Chicago Blues Festival, amiright?)
But back to my mother and aunt ...
Recommended Reading: "Why 'scientific' studies shouldn't define what's beautiful"