Light Skin vs. Dark Skin? What About Me? (A “Peanut Butter” Chick’s Story)

(Part II of “Kendrick Lamar’s Fiance is Light-Skinned. SO WHAT?!!)

“Teach me how to flirt.”  I awkwardly asked my best friend.  That had to be it.  That had to be what it was, why I felt like the twin sister of the “Invisible Man” when she and I went out together.  “Um, okay.  You just make eye contact,” she responded as she continued applying her make up.

“What if I do that and they don’t look back or worse, look away?”  I asked anxiously.  My BFF stopped and thought for a moment and then said, “I’ve never had that happen.”  Well, shit!

And that was my introduction into the socially awkward world of clubbing and dating.  I didn’t start really clubbing until after I graduated high school.  I was a geek in every way and although I wilded out in the privacy of my home, I just couldn’t bring myself to show that part of me in school.  Too many eyes.  Too many expectations.  I was senior class president, vice-president of the drama club, three time state champion in the Speech and Drama competitions. Voted Most Talented, Most Likely To Succeed and Most School Spirit.  If there was a club, I was in it.  If there was a cause, I was for it.

I eventually did find love my senior year.  He was my first real boyfriend, my first real everything, so many of my worries about male attention were eased for a year and a half.  Then we broke up.  One of the worst times of my life and that’s when my best friend and I immersed ourselves in the club scene.

Did I mention I was a geek?  I didn’t know many of the social rules.  I thought if I went to the club, looked pretty, danced, had a good time, then some guy would naturally be drawn to my energy.  And I really did have a good time.  I love to dance.  Even to this day, when I go dancing, it takes me to another place, it is truly my escape.  That’s the one place I don’t care who sees me or what they think, it is my get away.

But no matter how many times we went out (and we went out often), the guys always flocked to her, not me.  I became extremely self-conscious.  And although I still loved going out with her, I had to prepare a script to tell myself why this guy who I thought was fine, chose her instead.  Don’t get me wrong, my best friend is beautiful and deserves all the attention she received, but damn, so was I, so what was I doing wrong?

That questioned was answered for me one night I went out with another good friend of mine.  He was interested in getting into exotic dancing (no joke and has become quite successful since that time). We decided to go clubbing so he could practice some of his dance moves.  He had already demonstrated some of the moves at my house unknowingly witnessed by my then six year old nephew who immediately changed into his underwear, cowboy boots and proceeded to grind on the  dining room wall.  Yeah, that happened. But I digress.

That night changed my entire perception about my guy magnet dilemma.  The club we went to had separate rooms with different types of music, so I found myself in one room and my friend found himself drawn to another.  Like always, when the music started, I completely got lost in it.  However, this time, something odd happened, at least for me.  Guys were flocking to me?  In droves.  I hadn’t drastically changed anything about my appearance and could not figure out what was going on.

Then it happened.  Two beautiful, very fair-skinned women walked into the club and the attention shifted.  I was in disbelief. It started analyzing.  Surely the reason I hadn’t gotten action at the club couldn’t be because my best friend was lighter than me, surely that couldn’t be it.  I flashed back to a conversation we once had where she revealed what she believed her strongest asset was when it came to attracting guys – her skin color.  However, she didn’t say that proudly, more so with a hint of sadness in her voice and I didn’t understand why I picked up on that then.  Looking back, I think what was behind that was, “There is so much more to me.”

After I came to accept that at the Memphis,TN clubs, light skin rules, I stopped trying so hard when we went out.  Of course, it still would sting when a guy would approach her, she not be interested and he then finally “notice” me afterwards.  I developed a firm diss rule when that would happen.  I’m not a fallback bitch.

That was in my early twenties and was a very confusing time.  My first love and I had broken up, but were still going back and forth with one another.  I was in college, working as a part-time teller while performing in plays.  And more than anything, I was trying to find myself.  In some ways, those who fall into the strict definitions of “light skin” and “dark skin” have it easier.  Most men have a specific preference, so there is not a lot of back-and-forth about it. However, the peanut butters, like myself, get confused as to where we fit into the debate.  I am not a red-bone (although I’ve been called that but was quickly corrected by a “true red-bone”) and I am not the deep cocoa brown color that is often associated with the motherland.

I have heard the worst said about both sides.  I have participated in the bashing when I felt slighted, insecure and those are definitely thoughtless moments of my life in which I am not proud.

And looking back, perhaps some of reasons I didn’t have much luck was really due to my flirting. I sucked at it.  Perhaps I felt so intimidated by my BFF’s confidence when it came to pulling guys that my confidence completely dwarfed in her presence.  I know many women of all shades who have no problem pulling guys because they know they have it going on.

Through a lot of self-discovery, I released the invitation to be seen and evaluated by such shallow measures.

Yet, when I hear songs with silly ass phrases like, “I want a red-bone girl” as if that is the utopia of existence or receive a flyer from a club promoter captioned “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin” or when some pro-black guy tells me I am too light and act “too white”, I am reminded that colorism is a real and unfortuante phoenmen .  Some folks call it color struck. And many proudly proclaim their preference as if it is a score board around somewhere. And everybody has the right to their preference about melanin, nothing wrong that.  Then again, maybe everything is wrong with that.

 

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  1. […] It was the Facebook post seen around the world. Activist Rashida Strober publicly slammed Kendrick Lamar for dating and getting engaged to a light-skinned woman, Whitney Alford, and this set off a firestorm of controversy. Most of the controversy has not been in Ms. Strober’s favor, it got so bad that she has received death threats. The controversy has also opened old wounds for many “light-skinned” women who struggled just as much as their dark-skinned sisters for a place of acceptance. Be sure to also check out part II of this post, “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin? What About Me? (A “Peanut Butter” Chick’s Story). […]

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