Why My Black Doesn’t Always Feel Beautiful

black-girl-looking-in-the-mirrorI would like to start off by saying that, of course, I know that black is beautiful because there is no shortage of beauty in the African and African-American community. Velvet chocolate skin tones, slender and toned bodies, curvy and full bodies, bone structure so stunning that it defies the laws of aging, I could go on and on. It helps to have public figures that embody the old saying, “good black don’t crack”that so clearly applies to people like Michelle Obama, Gabrielle Union, Sidney Poitier, even Oprah – who, at 62 doesn’t look like any grandma I know. We are a community that has redefined beauty from the days of Grace Jones to Tyra Banks and I, for one, am proud to be apart of it.

.. but sometimes being a black woman doesn’t always feel as beautiful as it should be. Sometimes my black feels like a cloak that makes me invisible when I’m in a room full of other females. Sometimes I resent the comments, “you’re pretty for a black girl” or comparisons to Beyonce or Kerry Washington – the “exceptions” to peoples unconscious bias. Of course, I am keenly aware of my desired features that makes me one of these exceptions, even to be thought of in a general sense as beautiful is more than a lot of girls get no matter what race. And yet, I am considered pretty because of my “white” features; my hair, my eyes, the subtle things that bring out the Native American and Asian traits mixed in my blood that afford me skin that appears milk chocolate brown and yet bronze and shimmering in the sunlight. I was fortunate enough to be showered with compliments about how beautiful I was growing up, and that coupled with the confidence and healthy self-esteem my mother instilled in me have made all the difference in combating these sometimes fleeting moments of insecurity.

I should, of course, preface the rest of this article with the fact that I am somewhat disengaged from the black community. I date mostly white men, have mostly white friends, and live in Denver, Colorado, which could be considered snowy white in more ways then one. I understand and realize the difference in my experience simply because I’m usually standing next to a white girl, and most likely one with that is gorgeous and blonde and the “ideal” aesthetic look for most of society. As ubiquitous as the #whitegirlwasted and #basicwhitegirl tags are, men of all races and ethnicities, including black men, are substantially more drawn to women who look like that over women who look like me. Articles about the black experience of online dating have asserted that black women are the least likely demographic to get “matched” online and studies done by sociologist like Kevin Lewis  corroborate this theory. The least liked demographic, that’s what I have to go up against.

So even with a healthy self-esteem, and desirable physical qualities, you can understand why my black doesn’t always feel beautiful. It’s not only white girls, latino and asian women are just as likely as white girls to garner more male attention than I am. For example, I work part-time at a sports bar to make extra money, and I work with mostly white girls and exclusively other females. On the day to day most the girls I work with get asked for their numbers, and are constantly flirted with by our younger male crowd. In the time that I’ve worked there I have gotten one number and zero from any prospect I would actually date. While it doesn’t usually bother me, from time to time it’s hard to find myself attractive when I’m consistently being over looked by girls who are clearly in another physical spectrum then I am.

People (mostly men) will comment, “well you can’t fault someone for not being physical attracted to you,” and, of course, they’d be right. Regardless of my race, people are allowed to have their preferences. For me however, it’s not about that at all. For me it’s about the lengths I have to go through in order to be considered good looking to the select men that might be attracted to black women. The black women that most men find attractive have long (extensions) hair, skinny waists, and shaped and toned asses. They have luminous skin, mainstream clothing, and have to be void of any “ghetto” accent (whatever that is). To be considered beautiful by most of society I have to change almost everything about me, or at least fix what I have, into the mold of what “black beauty” is.

So no, my black doesn’t always feel beautiful. It feels like a struggle, it feels like a burden, it feels like a chore. There is constant tug-of-war between accepting who I am as beautiful and feeling the need to do more in order to even be in the game. At the end of the day, more times than not I can look into the mirror and feel attractive, or at least passable – just like any other twenty something female, but that is a luxury and a pleasure that most black girls don’t have. It’s not enough to have a few gorgeous celebrities represent our culture, or even campaigns like #blackisbeautiful because African and African-American women can only deem themselves beautiful if they feel it inside, and I for one understand if inside, they don’t.

That’s Just Your Opinion: 90% of Writers in my Generation

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.41.20 AM.pngIt was pretty early on in my blog that I started doing  That’s Just Your Opinion pieces. I loved the idea of taking an article I had recently read and playing devils advocate to a popularized thought. It’s been a while since I published one and when I came across this article, I felt somewhat compelled to write a response. However, while my other TJYO pieces focused on playing devils advocate against that particular writer, this will focus on the opinion of, what feels like, many online bloggers and writers today. Hell, even I can admit to jumping on the “our generation sucks/can’t/ is ruining dating and relationship” thought process – but honestly when you think about it, it’s really not quite the epidemic that is written about so virally these days.

Piece: Why Outgrowing Tinder Was The Best Thing To Happen To My Love Life (and about 50% of all Elite Daily, Buzzed, and Thought Catalog articles) 

Author: Michelle Santoyo (and others) 

WTF: Our generation is destroying dating. Our generation is afraid of commitment. Our generation has a fear of rejection. These sentiments and others like it plague the internet. While everyone has an opinion, it’s clear to see where the majority lands on the issue of sex, dating, and the tragically named, “hook-up culture”. We’re the “Netflix and Chill”, “I’m not really looking for anything”, swipe right twenty-somethings and it’s completely social acceptable to be theses things except, oh wait, frowney face, frowney face, frowney face it’s also slowly responsible for the entire decline of dating – DATING!

The Claims & Evidence: (as a reminder, this is the section where I take direct quotes and statements from the article and deconstruct why it sounds incredibly one-sided. This article in particular is LOADED with things that just seem contradictory to things like facts and general consensus.*) 

“Life in your 20s is rough when you’re constantly being reminded of how your life should be.” [[ yeah society, stop reminding us of this “nonsense” in regards to having careers and finding quality relationships and possibly starting families. NO MORE REMINDERS!]]

“Millennial men have forgotten about this magical thing called a date….While there is nothing wrong with a literal night of Netflix and chilling, it has become the new dinner and a movie….Instead of asking us out to dinner, guys ask us out for drinks.” [[You want to know the real culprit of these changes in dating destination? Money. That’s right, our generation is easily the most financially burdened of any generation and shit’s expensive! Rent is expensive, food is expensive, a dinner date and a movie, even going dutch is like $35 dollars.]]

“We are a generation that is afraid of commitment, but not afraid of sex after a right swipe and three drinks.” [[ actually the only reason our generation is afraid of commitment is because there’s a rampant fear of missing out (the cool kids call it FOMO, because, of course) on the three drinks and sex section of life.]]

“Tinder gives us a false sense of hope for men who want nothing more than a casual hookup.For example, I had been on three dates with Sam*. I had a great time with him each time. He was tall, handsome and had a great job.” [[obviously he had a lot going for him. If these were the only criteria for what this girl see’s as “desirable” we have way more problems then I thought and seriously low expectations for people we would date]]

“He’d text me good morning and goodnight, and he did the typical things any guy into you would do. A few days after date number three, I received a call from Sam. He told me he didn’t have work the next day and asked if I would like to meet him for drinks. I was in bed with a Lush face mask on, so obviously I said no.”[[ good, good, take your me time girl. Way to keep your own life going while also dating.]]

“I put my phone down to resume my night of relaxation only to have my hotline bling again. Sam was calling. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: “Hello?”

Sam: “Vanessa. What are you up to?”

Me: “This is Michelle.”

Sam: “Oh sh*t, wrong person.”

Me: *Hangs up*

[[the whole above interaction sounds awkward as fuck to me.]]

“Needless to say, I now refer to Sam as Dick. He obviously had been seeing multiple girls at the same time. “How could I be so stupid?” I thought to myself. Then, I realized it wasn’t Sam; it was me. How could I expect someone I met off Tinder to only be seeing me? We are a generation of girls who grew up with Disney princess stories, and now we have to deal with this f*cked up world of dating.” [[ there is literally SO much wrong with this paragraph alone that I do not even know where to begin. a) why are you referring to him as a Dick? He asked you to go out first before he tried calling someone else. b) he called the wrong girl qualifies him less as a dick and more as a dumbass, so, there’s that. c) but seriously, how could you be so stupid? It’s Tinder and you’ve been on 3 dates. Literally how could you be stupid enough to think you two were exclusive?! d) just read that last sentence slowly…. I want to bold it below because she actually hits the nail on the head without even meaning too.]]

“WE ARE A GENERATION OF GIRLS WHO GREW UP WITH DISNEY PRINCESS STORIES, AND NOW WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS F*CKED UP WORLD OF DATING.” [[ we only think of this as a “fucked up world of dating” because of those exact stories. We had movies, TV, and society constantly telling us how perfect meeting your “soulmate” was so suppose to look and how effortless building a relationship was. We believed in meet cutes and gentlemen callers and exclusivity from the jump and now we’re offended when reality kicks in. And to be honest our real world of dating is entirely less f’ed than the disney versions. I mean Ariel wanted to be something she wasn’t to get a man. Belle enslaved herself and then fell in love with her capture in the process. Jasmin was betrothed to a sociopath and then ended up dating a homeless guy. Things were not all rainbows and butterflies. Also they were all like 16, sooooo.

“Tinder relationships are bad for your health and should be completely avoided at all costs.” [[ouch, sounds like she really had a bad experience, you know, health wise. I also tend to hate statements that tell other people what’s best for their health unless it’s from a doctor.]]

“If you expect to find a meaningful relationship on Tinder, it will suck all of the romance out of you and leave you bitter to the idea of love. Several failed first dates later, I realized I had outgrown Tinder and deleted it once and for all. If you’re looking for someone to have some late-night fun with or just want to meet new people quickly, then by all means, use Tinder to your full advantage. If you’re sick of futile first dates, then stay far away.” [[ this is the point in the article that I knew I had to write a “That’s Just Your Opinion piece. I know tons of people in meaningful Tinder/OKCupid/Bumble/Hinge relationships. Online dating is becoming the norm (feel free to read Aziz Ansar’s book, Modern Romance for a researched based and hilarious take on this phenomena) I also know that first dates in any situation, can be awkward and uncomfortable – their first dates!]]

“Who cares if you’re a single 20-something-year-old?” [[Answer: literally no one]]

My Opinion:

You want to know the truth about “our generation” (which is such an annoying phrase anyway) – the truth is we’re all a bunch of whiners, cynics and generalizers. We’re also completed contradictors of our own wants and desires. We want to use technology to meet and get to know people but we don’t want dating to be personable. We want relationships to grow organically but hate when our person of interest doesn’t want to be exclusive right out the gate. We’re all strong feminist but also still feel owed this “disney princess” fantasy of finding Mr. Right. We hate that everyone is getting married and having babies but are dissatisfied when our single girl lives of drinking and first dates leave us lonely. The title of this piece was Why Outgrowing Tinder was the Best Thing for My Love Life and yet it sounds like it was just a bad thing that made her feel so jaded and unhappy.

Of course, I know that writers write what they know and usually this is based on personal experience but I’m not even convinced that her positive spin on a typical and negative experience convinces anyone with this article. And to bring it back to the bigger picture, I don’t think our generation is suffering in the dating and commitment aspects. People are still getting married and having families and are happy, at least if we are to believe the complaints most people our age have about their Facebook newsfeed. What is also true is that people are getting married later, having kids later, and it’s socially acceptable to date multiple people at the same time and just have fun. Complaining about it after the fact and generalizing that it’s things outside of ourselves that destroy dating is harsh, unfair, and extremely irritating.

But, that’s just my opinion. Comment below with yours!

xoxo,

Chelsea