“She had the kind of body that would probably intimidate, any of them that were un-southern, not me cousin” – Andre 3000
Growing up in North Carolina (pronounced Noire Ka-lina if you’re from the Wood) without sisters or an extra “X” chromosome, in the dark ages before the dawn of Living Single and Family Matters, in a household where a year-long subscription to Boys’ Life made much more sense than one to Essence, you could probably understand why I was privy to very little info about the opposite sex.
In fact, if it were not for the precocious antics of Kenny aka “Bud” of the Cosby Show and his relentless weekly pursuits of all things small, brown and Huxtable, I really don’t know where my insight into the lives of those little brown girls I became so fond of would have come from as a kid.
And though thoroughly documented and confirmed by Kenisha Johnson, my grade school brown-eyed secret muse, followed by a sustained teenage tri-obsession with Rudy Huxtable, Ashley “Bel-Air” Banks and singer Shanice, I can honestly admit that despite my consistent Thursday night Cosby cravings and clamoring for an “I Love Your Smile” Pt. 2 remix, it was brought to my attention that I had never really considered their shoes.
No, not the physical wear and tear or brand name label, but figuratively-speaking what it took to occupy those little cocoa brown bodies day in and day out in a world that still seemed to prefer its women with several extra shots of milk and whip cream on top. As a boy, I honestly couldn’t have been more oblivious or clueless to the so-called complexion hierarchy or “pecking order” of beauty, as Andre 3000 alluded to
“This saddens me, I see the pecking order / Quote-unquote “bad b*tches” work the whole floor / Those that get laughed at sit off in the corner / Like a lab rat nobody want her”
and how it seemed to usher some girls to the front of the line and behind the golden ropes into VIP, while steadily keeping others on the curb freezing wishing they’d stayed at home. I was in my own world trying to get my own girl. Besides, I had a lot of other things that kept me more than preoccupied: sports, Sega genesis, a perfectly curved part in the front of my fade, Jordans, getting my braces off, and my engineering of the best pick up line to combat “Kevin Hart syndrome,” known to be deadly in female dating circles or modern male height deficiencies formerly known as “Carlton Banks disease” (Hey, Im 5’8 and needless to say, it kept me busy).
When I got to college, however, I noticed on several occasions that my appreciation for brown skinned women suddenly came under fire. Apparently, to many of my female peers, my dark skinned Omar Epps-like complexion and dress made me a likely candidate for those black men that solely dated light skinned females and white women. Heavens to Murgatroyd!
And though I explained several times that even though I found women of multiple hues attractive, it was brown-skinned women that seemed to captivate me more often than not. It didn’t go over too well. Plus, having a light skinned girlfriend at the time didn’t help my cause either.
In years since, I’ve noticed remnants of the same phenomenon. Whenever I’m out with a woman that happens to be dark skinned like myself, either on a date or just out for a bite to eat, I’m usually on the receiving end of several smiles and frozen eyes from female onlookers. To me their eyes suggest I’m doing something daring or heroic. “Look at him! They do exist!” I imagine this is what it was like for President Obama when black women first realized his wife’s complexion didn’t fit the lighter skinned stereotype of the “wife of the accomplished black guy.”
One time, while out with one of my exes, I was actually congratulated by a black woman for dating a darker skinned woman, “Go ‘head, Currrtttiiisss!” I was caught off guard! I didn’t know if I had won some black community cash prize, an Obama dating affirmative action tax credit, or a NAACP Image award (doesn’t almost everyone Black person seem to get one of these at some point). I had heard before through female friends of mine, that at times we as black men (especially celebrities), haven’t been the most hospitable to the darker shades of the diaspora, and therefore, had cemented the idea that lighter was better but was it really this pervasive?
I wondered if I was to travel this road all my life. Forever turning dark skinned women off with my very presence who had already made up in their mind that either I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to date them. Personally, I thought this sh*t was cray. Then I wondered if I ever had a daughter someday, if she might have justification to think the same way despite my love for her. Maybe I’m making wayy to big a deal of all this. And then again, maybe I’m not.
So far, I’ve honestly had girlfriends of all complexions from Vanessa to Denise, and if it just so happens that the woman who captivates me most is a doppelganger for Grace Jones, then I don’t mind putting in more effort to show my sincerity. After all, I surely believe my little Rudy would deserve the same from her “Bud” someday.
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