The Other Side of the Brown Paper Bag

Many of you don’t know me. Well, you KNOW me, as I have metaphorically cut myself open and bled the contents of my insides onto these pages. I guess I should say more accurately, you don’t all know what I look like. So lemme tell you. I am short. Not so short that I can’t see over the steering wheel of a car, but short enough that some of my male friends have to hug me around the head. I am light, the color of butter when you start to melt it, possibly even lighter. Ok I am lying, there is no possible about it, I am MUCH lighter than butter. I have semi long hair that is naturally curly and, and the moment, is blond. I have a small nose and mouth though my lips are still full and pouty. I have a round face. I’m fairly thick down bottom, the hips, ass and thighs of every other black/hispanic/dancer girl I know, balanced out by being pretty Playboy up top as well. I say that to say that I have what is considered by many a fairly nice shape. (I might agree with you on a few given days but today is not that day…or tomorrow.) But the most important thing to remember about this bad dating ad description is that I AM LIGHT with LONG HAIR.
Ahem. Do you see where this is going?

I work in the mall, at an overpriced handbag store where people with overinflated egos come to shop or people who haven’t quite realized that the key to looking like you have money is not, in fact, to wear logos at every given turn. Tonight I am at work, and a marginally attractive black man enters the store who is quite striking. Not because of his looks (oh GOD no) but because he is AT LEAST 9 ft 7 inches tall. I smile and speak to him as I am supposed to do, welcome him to my store and ask if he needs help finding anything in particular as he has the lost and bewildered look that most men who come into my store tend to have. From behind him I hear the slight mumbling of what could be, “Bitch!!” and out crawls a little pigmy from its hiding place behind his broad shoulders. For the rest of their painfully uncomfortable 30 minutes in the store, I had to deal with her smart underbreath comments, the rolling eyes, the sucking of teeth that I would expect from your typical hoodrat ignorant bitch. Finally, when it is time to ring them up, I scoop my hair over to one side over my shoulder as I tend to do when I have to lean over and do not want my hair to fall in my face. “Oh THIS bitch!!!” pigmy hisses through her teeth. Finallly I am fed up.
“Excuse me is there a problem ma’am,” I exaggerate the word because we both know she is neither ladylike nor worthy of the respect I am trying desperately to continue to give her.
“No. There isn’t.”
“Are you sure? Because you seem to have been quite disgruntled since you walked into my store.”
“Its just you siddity light skinned bitches think you’re so fuckin’ cute.”

Sigh. I hate having to give hoes a few on company time.

Her boyfriend, head hung low, wisely stepped back away from the counter and tried to fix his attention anywhere other than the site where this problem was about to occur. Because OH YES there was about to be a MUTHAFUCKIN’ problem.

“Maybe the problem,” I said through clenched teeth, “is not that I THINK I’m cute but rather that you KNOW I am so FUCKIN’ FLYY and it kills you that you are not. Or maybe a light skinned girl picked on you when you were little. Or maybe your family told you were cute to be a dark skinned girl and it has subsequently driven you to this lazy ho behavior that you are displaying in my store, but either way it goes I would like to warn you that you may let this pretty face fool you if you so choose but it would not be wise of you to call me a bitch again until you are out of my earsight. And that, ma’am, is not a warning so much as it is a telling of the future if you so choose the wrong path. Now would you like to further ruin your credit and charge this bag you can’t afford or would you like to get out of my store?”

Cue fake smile from me.

“I saw you lookin’ at my man when we walked in, smiling and shit all at him-“
“That is a part of my job and I would have spoken to you had you not been completely hidden behind him as you are 3 feet tall and he is 10 feet tall. I spoke because I get paid to. Your man ain’t that cute. However, if you’d like to stay around for a few minutes, my boyfriend is coming to pick me up and I will be more than happy to show you what us siddity light bitches consider in our league.”

(Granted I do not ACTUALLY have a boyfriend but she didn’t know that.)

As if on cue, Mr. Wonderful appeared, handsome as sin and EXTRAORDINARILY FLYY in a suit that costs more than her life and said, “Baby you ready to go?”


My manager finishes the sale for me as I rush in the back to hurry and change so that I could leave in the outfit I had on before work, just to make her more envious and then I strut back on the floor. The couple is still there as they had to run another credit card because her first one was declined as I predicted. My manager says to me, “Do you have class tomorrow?” The girl cuts in with, “You go to Howard don’t you?” a sneer distorting her words.
“Yes I do,” I reply.
“Hmm yeah you look like one of those Howard bitches.”
Slapping my shades over my eyes I say, “Don’t I?” I toss my long blond hair over my shoulder, Mr. Wonderful grabs my hand, and we leave the store, him laughing because he’s never seen me quite so bitchy and me secretly seething.

Catty comments aside, the AUDACITY of this ho!!! She didn’t know me from ANYONE, and yet she immediately gave me shit because I am light. Why do we do this to each other? I have never been so accutely aware of my color as I am with my own people. Why? Because they won’t let me forget it. What have I done, other than be born of a complexion completely outta my control? When I was growing up, I wanted to badly to be darker, wanted so much to just be “black” so maybe I wouldn’t feel so left out. I denied my mixed heritage despite the obvious signs that I could not hide. I wanted so badly not to be the bitchy light skinned girl everyone assumed I was, but rather just La. But to no avail.

Maybe that bitchy display proved that hoodrat bitch right; maybe I have become the bitchy light skinned girl I was accused of being for so many years. But I have put up with SO MUCH SHIT from black women, just because I am light… the stares, the smart ass comments, the competition, the cattiness, the compulsively pulling their men tighter to them when I walk by. I have had so many women dismiss me without my ever saying a word, had so many people cut their eyes at me, call me out of my name that I have started to anticipate the evil anytime I have to go out in public. I can’t tell you how many times my sister and I have walked into a room and immediately alienated 98% of the women present without ever saying or doing a thing.

My question is why? Why are you this way? And is it really my fault?

For years, I have heard the sob stories, the beautiful dark skinned girls who dealt with slights because “light bright and damn near white” was the “in” thing to be, the girls who tried to bleach their skin because they thought to be beautiful was to be light. I have seen the movement towards acceptance, the “black is beautiful” mottos tossed back and forth with an air of superiority, as though their empowerment must be to our detriment. And why, WHY have we ever let this us vs. them mentality come into our communities? Are we not oppressed enough that we must enforce the same practice of division that has been perpetuated in us?

Where are the stories from the other side of the brown paper bag? Where are the stories about the light skinned girls who have been called bitches, hoes, golddiggers, stuck up, siddity, have even been denied the right to say that we are black? WHERE ARE THESE SOB STORIES?!? Am I not allowed to say that I too have had a complex about my color born of darker women’s insecurities just because someone has erroneously taught them that I am better? And just because someone has fed them this bullshit does this mean I have to suffer for something I don’t even believe?

I am tired of it. I am tired of being looked at as though my mere prescence in a room is enough to tear a relationship assunder. I am tired of being told “black is beautiful” when many of my “fellow” black women do not include me in what is considered “black”. I am tired of not being able to tell my stories of fear, of insecurity, of maliscious and cruel behavior perpetuated on me by women darker than I because somehow magically everything is to be made right in my world by the fact that I am light skinned with long hair. I am so tired of having the stories of the issues that lighter skinned black women being hushed because apparently to speak the truth is further cause issues for the darker skinned woman.

Sigh. This is all bullshit.

Before I die, I will publish a book. It will be filled with stories about the specific and distinct issues that light skinned black women face from inside our own race. It will be a book where women can vent, where we can create our own slogans of empowerment, tell our own stories without fear of retribution, name calling or diminishing of our hurts. It will be something for our daughters to read so that they won’t treat each other the way that we do. Because obviously our generation is too far gone. But maybe it will help them to treat each other better. It’s about time that some stories from the other side of the brown paper bag be told.

One thought on “The Other Side of the Brown Paper Bag

  1. Good post. Ok. I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts to words because emotionally I can relate to what the other woman was rudely expressing (she was insecure and felt instantly rejected by the sight of you), intellectually I know that both sides of hurt and pain caused by the brown paper bag must be heard. And her pain does not provide a free pass to discount yours. *** The biggest underlying fear that seems to be running on both sides is one of space. As in, if this is considered beautiful, then is there room for my looks to be considered beautiful as well?This is a real fear because in our society there is most defintely a hierarchy, and in order for something to be on top it has to be propped up by an uglier bottom. The only way to counteract this if for a ‘grassroots’ movement to establish the differet varieties of beauty. So good. Write your stories and have your daughters write theirs. I look forward to reading additonal ‘other side of the paperbag posts.’


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