Notes on Beauty: The Bathtub

Me and Mama at a family function somewhere in the 90's

Innocence is beautiful. She is the color of paper clouds plastered to lavender construction paper. Her skin darkens as she sits at the meridian between privilege and illusion. She looks likes she hasn’t eaten in days, but those are her family’s standards. She will force herself to fit into her world and mines, but for now she has nothing but naivety. Innocence is not a cute little black girl child.

It might be useful to distinguish the difference between Innocence and myself.

My adolescence resembled the dance between the moon and water. Controlled by the darkness of a past that I did not know, like water I shifted with my surroundings. Unlike me, Innocence wasn’t surrounded in alienated beauty. She knew beauty because she didn’t carry the guilt of an unknown history. Innocence saw beauty as the boundless breeding of her privilege. Beauty could not exist in a foreign environment.

When my beauty became conditional, I became cute. I was apt to the generational curse of unrealized beauty. In my youth, I did not understand that I was subject to my skin color and my vagina. I did not understand that the insecurities of my mother would attach to my psyche for me to sort out at a later date. I loved being cute because cute felt good. I lived in my cuteness because it was safe, and I basked in childhood appreciation as far it would take me.

As I came into the world, my mother was beginning to blush with womanhood. She was learning of her own beauty, and she was building her own boundaries. I was a passenger on her boat, so I followed her direction. She followed the direction of her mother, and we continued this dance of wading in weary waters.

I did not know that I would find permanence in the wade pool that reeked of lye, sodium hydrochloride, and blood. My eyes became wide as they adjusted to the sight of black women bathing in the warm waters. There are many times I remember sitting in the bathtub and watching a stream of bleach kiss the water. The bleach made my skin more accessible to the bend of the curves. It became easier to move with the indifference covering my body. Adolescence was a guided dance, so I grabbed the curves of earth’s edge with ease.

Mama was young, and she believed that the ring of dirt in the bathtub would tame us into our place. The bathtub enforced the conditions thriving outside of those muddy waters. Beauty created a ring of darkness inside of me. Expansion ceased because cute was my condition. By the age of 5, I carried unclaimed guilt that never allowed beauty the room to grow and become freedom.

I was still a cute little black girl child.

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