I’m light-skinneded. The first time I heard it, it was said in a way that suggested I was special.
The second time I heard it, it was in a way that strongly suggested that I thought I was special and that I definitely wasn’t. Both times were by family.
The first time, I was 5. My momma was doing my hair. Making it curly. “Curls for the girls, waves for the babes,” she said. “My baby handsome!” she said all smiles, so big and proud.
“You gon’ have that boy more conceited than he already is”
“My baby ain’t conceited. Tell em what I told you, Michael!”
“I’m not conceited, I’m just confident,” I said and they all erupted in laughter.
“Ooh! And my baby so smart!”
“And he light-skinneded, he gone have all the girls.” my aunt said matter of factly.
Later on that day, I was looking in the mirror. An accident from a year ago had left this small bluish-gray scar the size of a period right on my eyeball.
I used to like to look at it, not knowing it was slowly giving me cataracts.
My new little brother’s dad walked by. He wasn’t light-skinneded. He dark. I thought it made him look tough. Like Wesley Snipes. I guess he didn’t like it all.
“Stop looking at yourself all the damn time! Think you sexy or some shit because you light skinneded.
I got a light-skinned son too!” The next day there was a picture of his light-skinneded son next to the mirror in the adjacent frame where my picture hung.
When I started kindergarten a few weeks later, I got my first girlfriend. Everyone called her Li-Li. I told my momma I liked her. She told the Li-Li’s mom. Her mom told Li-Li.
She came up to me one day while we waiting for school to open. I hid behind my momma’s leg.
“I like light-skinneded boys. Do you wanna be my boyfriend?” I said yes. “Okay. Bring me a present tomorrow.” The next day I brought her a ring my momma gave me.
She’d had it for a long time said she hoped she’d have a daughter. She didn’t until nearly 15 years later, after having already birthed 5 boys. I gave the ring to the little girl the next day.
“Put it on this finger. This one is for marriage. You can get me one of those later.” I put the ring on her middle finger. “Come over here.” We walked to the area for backpacks and jackets.
She kissed me and lifted up her dress and showed me her panties. “If you bring me something else tomorrow I’ll let you touch it.” Then she walked away. I was a fucking John by age 5.
The next day I brought her a candy necklace and she let me touch it. We broke up after she let another boy touch it for letting her use his eraser. He didn’t even let her have it.
He just let her use it.
She called me at home. She had a lot of sisters. They all kept wanting to talk to me. The kept laughing. I asked my momma if I should hang up. “If you want to.” I hung up. She called back.
“Why’d you hang up.”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did you break up with me?”
“I don’t know.” I really didn’t.
“Is it because of Markus?”
“Well, he’s my new boyfriend.”
I hung up again. My older brother was visiting. He was 6. He lived with his Grandma and went to private school. He talked funny, like the white kids on TV. He didn’t have a girlfriend.
He thought I was cool because I did have one.
“What’s wrong with your girlfriend?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend” My momma yelled from downstairs to pick up the phone.
“Why you hang up on me?” Her sisters laughing in the background.
“Is Markus your new boyfriend?
She called back. “Stop hanging up on me.” Giggle, giggle. f only I knew this was going to be most life until the early 20’s.
“If you be my boyfriend I’ll let you touch it whenever you want.”
“You hafta tell me you love me and call me baby from now on.”
“Huh?” I said confused.
“And tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Bye. “ Click. I walked back into my room and my brother had used all the good Legos to make a piece of shit rocket I could have made in my sleep.
“Are you sad that you don’t have a girlfriend anymore?”
“I do have a girlfriend. I hafta call’er baby.” I broke his rocket. He punched me in the face. My momma came up.
“Michael! I told you to stop messing with your brother fo’ he kick yo ass! Got to bed!” Lesson learned. Girls were mean.
A few days later, I was at school and I was hanging around the older kids. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I had snuck out. We were playing tag. One boy tagged me hard.
It was actually a push. I fell to the ground hard. Ripped my jeans and scrapped my knee. I started to cry. One of the older girls helped me up. She was pretty and had long braids in her hair.
“Lee’dat lil crybaby alone! Ya know he gotta white momma! That’s why he so light-skinneded!” I tried to hit the older boy. That made the other older kids laugh.
Then they all started pushing me. One of them took my backpack and kicked it across the yard. I went and got it. And tried to leave, but the older boys wouldn’t let me.
They just kept saying “white momma” over and over.
The pretty girl and her friends helped me get away from them and walked me back to the area for kindergarten kids. My teacher, Ms. Henry yelled at me.
After school, I was walking home with my momma. Whenever we walked guys would whistle at her, and try to get her attention all the time.
“Yo baby! You gotta man!” and “Yo come over here and let me talk to you!” She would always put up her hand and say “I’m married!” She wasn’t. My mom had never been married.
I asked her, “Momma are you white?” She laughed. “Hell no boy! I’m just light!”
We got to our apartment complex. We stayed in apartment 8 so we had to walk by numbers 1-7 to get home. There were always people outside. Men, women, other kids.
One of the men was a Mexican named Ray, and he lived with his wife, Charlene, a really dark woman, in apartment 5. Ray and my mom were friends and they always talked.
Ray taught me how to peel an orange. His wife didn’t like that and didn’t like my mom.
Charlene was outside with some of her friends.
When my momma walked by, one of Charlene’s friends said “Hey Myesha, you got such a handsome son!” “Thank you! Michael, tell her thank you!” I mumbled back a thank you and hid behind her legs.
We started walking away and I heard Charlene say loudly: “I can’t stand that yellow bitch!” I looked up at my mom and she had a weird smile on her face.
She took me in the house and told me to do my homework. She walked back outside, and few a minutes later I heard fighting and screaming.
My momma came back 15 minutes later, her shirt ripped and bloody and tuff of hair in her hand. She saw me standing by the door she went upstairs, changed and came back.
“Did you finish your homework baby?” I shook my head. “Well let’s do it then you can go outside and play. Okay?”
While doing homework I saw that my momma had a bruise on the cheek. “Momma. Why do people get so mad at us for being light-skinneded?
“It’s light skinned, Michael,” She wrote it down. Made me say it until I got it right. “ And people just get jealous. They blame you because they think they want what you have.
It’s really sad, but not sad enough to stop them from getting they ass beat. At the end of the day, Michae, you still black.”