Dear Little Black Girl,
I don’t even know where to start or what to say to you. I know exactly when I lost my confidence and how that affected my entire life. Losing my confidence at such a young age affected every thought, every dream, I didn’t want to be seen because being seen meant you saw my black skin and for reasons unknown to me my black skin wasn’t beautiful.
I lost my confidence at 14 years old. At Chaparral high school at lunch. I was a cheerleader and I had a crush. There was a boy on the football team #36 on varsity. I liked that boy. It was my very first high school crush. He was senior and very popular. I knew his brother. His brother and I went to middle school together. I was “popular” in my own right plenty of friends, and family that that loved me and confidence through the roof! I was in ASB, drama, dance, track, swim..if there was a team I was on it! I loved people and interacting. I loved high school. Everything about it. I noticed my friends getting boyfriends. I wanted that too. I had every other high school experience. I longed to kissed in the hall way like the those pretty blonde girls with the hair that caught the sun just right. I wanted to have a boy hold my hand and tell me I was “beautiful” I wanted #36 to hold my hand and just say my name🤣 # 36 was a senior. He black just like me. Dark skin..just like me. He laughed at my jokes. I wrote him a letter. (I loved writing letters I used to write EPIC LETTERS 4 pages like Aaliyah) I told all my friends everyday how much I loved #36. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t going to marry that boy! We were going to have babies! Pitch black babies with Afros! All I had to do was tell him I like him. I waited for a pep rally. I was in the dance portion of the pep rally, we had just slayed it, the rally was ending a couple of my friends flanked me and I approached him.
“Hey, umm I was wondering if you’d like to go to the movies with me sometimes?”
He turned his face like he smelled the most disgusting odor emanating from my body. He curled his lips, look down his nose and said
“What the fuck? You think I’d date a burnt bitch like you? Ugly bitch”He started laughing at walked away.
I haven’t been same since that day. I’m crying now as I type this.
I physically felt pain in my chest. My face ran hot. I tried to pretend the words didn’t hurt but my brain forgot to fire neurons or something and I ran crying to Mr Cravens class. I could breathe. I never been called ugly…( to my face at least) and am I burnt? Is he talking about my skin? I’m the same color as him? So I he ugly too? Does he only consider me ugly because I’m dark skin? I had all these thoughts. I told Mr Craven what happened.
He cried too. Prior to that day I was the spunkiest kid on the planet. Full of hope Mr Craven was my favorite teacher and I told him everything. I would get to school early to tell him mundane 15 year old girl things and I would share my writing with him, just share everything. It was his prep period he got me some water and let me cry. He said.
“I’m sorry that happened to you. People do things to look cool”
Why did I have to be crushed for him to look cool? I went into the bathroom and studied my face in the mirror. Sure enough he was right I was “ugly” I had this skin that was just black girl skin. I wasn’t light. I wasn’t dark. I was just regular black girl black. I had braid. Big lips, beady little eyes. There was nothing on my face that make me look and see “maybe that’s cute..my nose is kinda cute” I stayed in the bathroom with thoughts swirling my head. “Did everyone hear what he said?” “Does everyone think I’m ugly?” “Why wasn’t I just born lighter?” “I wish I was pretty. I just want to be pretty for one day so I can have a boyfriend.” I was confused. Growing up in Temecula, you live in an all white town. The black boys in Temecula were few and far between in 1999. There was maybe 15 black families in the whole town! When you’re 14 and “dating” you just typically are attracted to the person who looks like you. I was rejected so harshly by own it just tore me down and honestly shaped the way I dated for years. I didn’t date black men after that. I didn’t even associate with black men after that. I felt like they were always laughing at me and I wasn’t “pretty” enough for them. After I was called “an ugly burnt bitch” I began to over sexualize myself to get attention to feel “pretty” my brain had already adopted the belief
“You’re not beautiful, men don’t find you attractive, black men don’t find you attractive, your black skin is ugly. You are ugly…then you better be funny. You have to some quality or you’ll never get a boyfriend”
I just wanted so badly to accepted. I became the smart, “funny” girl the class clown with big boobs. I knew I was not beautiful, but I was funny and everyone couldn’t be funny. I went through high school dating whoever would date me basically because my self esteem was just so low. My grandparents told me everyday “you’re the most beautiful girl in our world we love you” that didn’t matter… I went to Chaparral High School where the most beautiful girl in THAT WORLD was a 6 foot blonde with a BMW and a Dooney and Burke tote bag. I couldn’t compete. My standard of beauty was Kokoa Lawson. Kokoa was one of the only black girls in school (I want to say there was like 15 of us maybe 12..it wasn’t a lot of us🤣🤷🏾♀️) Kokoa was statuesque, smart, we had drama together, she was like moving art to me.. and she had a boyfriend… Kokoa was living the dream! ASB president, a boyfriend and she always wore her hair in this perfect poof and had like matching bows with her letterman jacket…She was visually Dion from Clueless and it was the early 00’s so Kokoa was the shit…but I wouldn’t say more than 5 words to her in high school because my confidence was so shot. All I could ever do was say stare and say “hi Kokoa” like she was a Beatle or something and scurry away like a fan 😂(We besties now she like my sister, we brunch, have play dates, she in wedding we reconnected on Facebook as adults THANKS INTERNET!)
The death of my confidence in high school affected every single thing I did. I didn’t approach boys anymore because I was so scared they were going to verbally “Carrie” pig blood me. I didn’t even feel human after that day. I can still see the faces of the boys who laughed with him. Many of them are still my friends to this day and I wish I could ask them.. “why did you laugh?” Or “why didn’t you say something”
Better yet why didn’t I stand up myself. I wasn’t such shock I couldn’t move. I hate that saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” ….bullshit.
For nearly 20 years those words wrecked my soul and my view who I am as person. My black skin was not ugly. #36 just didn’t love his skin. He saw himself in my black skin and instead of say “No, I don’t like you like that Shayla” his pride was broken and he was embarrassed a little black girl approached him in front of his friends.
I prayed for years he would have daughters. That he would have to wipe tears like the ones that fell from eyes. #36 called me through Facebook messenger, about 3 years ago and he apologized. He and I met back up in adulthood and I wasn’t mean to him. I treated him with kindness (even though my heart was jumping out my chest and I wanted to hulk slam ass) when we met in adulthood he didn’t apologize but over the phone he said “you were always so nice to me after and you didn’t deserve that at all, I’m so sorry. It’s bothered me all these years” it had bothered me too. I lacked self esteem which lead to poor choices in men, and no self worth. 14 is a very formative age, that instant drained every ounce of confidence I had. The confidence I displayed was a bit of an act. I seemed confident to the eye but beneath he surface was a hurt 14 year old little black girl.
I waited so many years to hear an apology. The apology was great it closed the chapter on the most painful moment of my adolescent experience with “dating” but the real work that needed to be done was inside. I had to heal the you.. the little black girl inside of me, crying and confused on Mr Cravens desk. Beauty has nothing to do with how much melanin is present in your skin. When I was younger I thought the lighter your skin the more beautiful you are, so I’d stay of the sun, and pray I got that Michael Jackson disease and I would just wake up light and “beautiful” flawed logic. The media has always only shown one kind of beautiful so little black girls don’t see themselves. I love how that is changing. I wish there was a Lupita Nyongo when I was in high school ( we had Alek wek but if you didn’t know fashion you didn’t know her.)
I love that there is this revolution of color! Dark is beautiful! Light is beautiful…if you have skin…it’s beautiful. Little black girl if I could go back in time. I’d tell you, you’re so beautiful you don’t even know what you’re going to make later. Little black girl you have the most colorful life of anyone I’ve ever seen. You’re not “burnt” your Sunkist and glorious. Your skin is not YOU! you are comprised of all that is majestic and great. Little black girl your black is beautiful and don’t let ANYONE tell you any different.