I remember the first time my body amazed me. It was in my grandmother’s bathroom, and I was in elementary school. A full-length mirror hung on the back of the white wooden door as if it were patiently waiting for visitors to notice it.Well, one afternoon, I did.
My menstrual cycle had begun that year, and body changes were underway. Tussy deodorant and bra shopping were already in effect, but I was fascinated by the emerging stripes on my hips. They weren’t there before, and seemingly overnight they had made their debut. I was enchanted by how they intentionally traveled around my curves-in-progress. There I was, on the toilet seat well past the flush, admiring the marks that looked like tribal drawings.
They didn’t scare me. I remember smiling.
My fingers traced them briefly as I looked in the patient mirror, my new friend who was introducing me to the wonder of myself. I gazed at the lines on my fingertips. I counted my pulse using the little thumping vein on my wrist. I noticed the slight bend of my eyebrows. My new friend showed me a little dip at the small of my back, and I giggled. Mirror was magic. I didn’t want to leave the bathroom.
Before this moment, I had always seen mirrors as diabolical agents of reflection with the sole mission of amplifying my dark skin. Every time I looked, I hated what God had made.
Why didn’t I have long blonde hair?
Why didn’t I have freckles?
Why didn’t I have almond-shaped eyes?
Why wasn’t I white?
Why wasn’t I pretty?
All of this shouldn’t have been floating around inside such a tiny soul. But the constant ‘dark’ jokes, though said in jest, still led me to some deep waters of self-hate. A few years prior to my magic bathroom day, I’d even tried a small dab of my grandmother’s bleaching cream—to start the process of correcting God’s mistake.
I scrubbed my knees with extra soap to make them lighter. I even squinted my eyelids and tried to shape them to make me look “exotic.” In my prayers I kept ordering anything other than Black, but nothing worked. I felt stuck in my skin, and I wanted a refund.
But that day in the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of Beauty and I loved her. The new tiger stripes were my tags of welling womanhood. They made me feel strong where I felt weak inside. I thought Mirror was my foe, but we just misunderstood each other. She wasn’t designed to highlight the thoughts of others. Their words were merely stickers on my exquisite brown skin, and I had the power to remove them. I held the authority to cover myself with the oil of truth, so those stickers wouldn’t have a place to stay. Mirror wasn’t there to taunt me with perceptions but to magnify my essence and let the truth shine through: that I was exactly how God made me to be and there were no mistakes.
I still struggled at times with my Blackness after that day, but the self-hate eventually dissipated. By the time I reached 9th grade, I was calling myself Hot Chocolate. My skin no longer repelled me from admiring God’s handiwork. Anytime I heard one too many “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” comments, I visited the nearest bathroom and my friend, Mirror. My reminder. My checkpoint to be sure I was still who I knew I was.
Later I would discover sides of Beauty that Mirror couldn’t show me, like how my voice can be cozy like soothing hot tea or feisty like hot-peppered greens. How my “no” is a complete sentence to protect my peace, and my resilience is extraordinary. I discovered my warm heart and my side eye.
I learned to examine and embrace all of me. I learned that my beauty was both complex and exceptional, and that Mirror was simply her partner. I learned that magic-bathroom-day could be every day as I developed a self-care routine to appreciate my body’s journey through womanhood. My showers and baths slowed down, moisturizing became ritual, and I massaged my feet every night. I also checked in with Mirror to be sure I was pleased and at peace with who I was before my head met the pillow. I still do.
Beauty, I still am.Leave a Comment