By Stacie Evans
I am not supposed to be beautiful. If I am famous – a singer, an actor, maybe I can be pretty, maybe striking, maybe exotic. Because then I am an exception, I can break the rules. But me – plain, ordinary, everyday woman – no. I am not supposed to be beautiful.
If I am beautiful, equations don’t square. If I am beautiful, where is the logic in keeping me hidden, selling me relaxers and skin-lightening creams. If I am beautiful, there is no need to cover my thick, nappy hair, hide me in the kitchen, shame me for my hips and thighs, mock me for my lips.
So I am not supposed to be beautiful. That is the forever domain of light women, of white women, of any-shade-brighter-than-mine women.
My neighbor, walking home beside me in sixth grade, told me I was pretty. He said it with a clearly confused wonder, “You’re actually pretty,” he’d said. He couldn’t understand it. But then he worked it out, settled me into a category that explained how I wasn’t ugly: “It must be because you don’t have those nasty liver lips like most Black people do.”
Because even at 11 years old, he understood that I wasn’t supposed to be beautiful, that beauty in my face was some dangerous anomaly, some breaking down of natural law.
I am not supposed to be beautiful. My mother and her mother and all of her foremothers – we, none of us, are supposed to be beautiful.
And yet. And yet. And yet.