I overheard something amusing earlier today. A patient’s attender had apparently asked for me, but she didn’t know my name. She asked the nurse on duty where that ‘fair, brown haired’ doctor was. The nurses conveyed the message across in the exact same terms, and it amused me to no end, because I’ve never been referred to as ‘fair’. What made me chuckle louder internally was that if my father ever heard anyone calling me ‘fair’ within earshot, he’d probably have a coronary.
I’m a mix of colors. I suppose I was a standard fat white baby when I was born, but a lifetime of playing too much in the sun, horse riding, a fair smattering of assorted sports and swimming, and the ever present tropical sun, have ensured that I never went back to the baby’s pink bottom thing I was back in the toothless days. Which has always been a particular thorn in my father’s side, him of the bone white complexion. He always had issues enough that my mother wasn’t as white as him. Add to that the shame of a daughter who was clearly headed to the other end of the skin spectrum, and it was one blow too many for his fragile ego. My entire childhood was peppered with a steady upkeep of comments about how dark I was, and naturally in succession, how ugly. There was this one particular incident, an Eid party when I was twelve, where he called me out to say hello to his friends. They all asked the standard ‘how is school’ questions, and my father answered for me, saying, ”Oh, she’s just an average student. Everything about her is average. At least if she’d inherited my looks or color, she’d have something good about her.” The comment was met with laughter from some of his friends, and awkward smiles from the others. And I stood there, in all my twelve year old offended pride, and announced, ”What’s wrong with my color? I like my color!” This time, all of them laughed. My father pulled me out to stand in the middle of the room, and said something from his usual repertoire of back-in-his-modelling-days, if-only-you-had-my-color-you’d-be-worth-something- spiel. Followed up with his standard ”See, what you look like right now, nobody likes that. Nobody’s ever going to want that.” But I was properly worked up at this point, and I informed him that I happened to be a very nice color. There were tons of white people who went to the beach trying to get to my precise color. And I still remember the faces of each and every one of his friends chortling at that statement. Including my uncle, who’d had enough of my embarrassment, and goodnaturedly told my father to shut up and leave me alone.
I guess it’s more than a little strange that I’ve made a full, full circle from that point, and come back to where I was then. I was only allowed clothes in certain shades of beige, brown, and gray, because I couldn’t ‘pull other colors off’. I think I was sixteen, when my aunt, exasperated with the contents of my suitcase, tossed half my clothes in the Salvation Army bin and replaced every one with popping reds and pinks and purples. ”You dress her like a medieval widow!”, she told my parents, to which my father replied calmly, ”it’s what she can wear, with her coloring.” And then confiscated the brightly colored clothes, when we flew back home.
I remember coveting red, and blue. I wanted blues so much. The first time I bought my own clothes, I bought four dresses in the same shade of blue, because I loved that cerulean so much. Overkill, I know, but it made sense. And unsurprisingly enough, the same shades still peekaboo in my closet now. Only more normally interspersed with other, more taboo colors. Maroons and emeralds and royal purples, lots and lots of glossy black, some pink (even though I loathe it), and even the occasional bumblebee-butt yellow.
But more than anything, I’ve settled into a peaceful coexistence with my own color. My father, I think, never will. He went off last month and bought me a ‘designer’ dress worth a comfortable $300, in the same drab beige as the curtains in my house, the same tired color I wore almost as a uniform at home. But at some point, we stop being the broken children of broken parents, and start repairing ourselves, because we cannot repair them. His logic is still the same. His daughter’s too dark for actual colors to look anywhere good on her. By someone else’s reckoning, I am, amusingly enough, ‘that fair doctor’. And somewhere in the middle, I am my own spotty, tan-armed and pale-legged, dark circled and healthily scarred color.
Just that I like my version of it. Because I’m more than my color. And I happen to like that.
Until next rant,
Your ever lovin’ Cookie ❤