Coffee in my Left hand, ‘Something someone told me about myself that I never forgot’ in my Right

The topic for May 2nd is “something someone told you about yourself that you never forgot”.

I’ve been thinking about it all day, trying desperately not to write the first thing that came into my head. The thing I’ve never forgotten is negative, and I wanted to write about some inspirational, lovingly sweet thought I’ve clung to for years. But that’s not how memories work. Imprints are not always inspiring. They can be scars, however healed and forgiven; never forgotten.

Picture it, Sicily, 1985…lol. Undergrad, freshman year (shout out Illini!) First time away from home, 17, bright eyed and naive ASL. I’d recently broken up with my high school boyfriend who’d gone to another college. No biggie, I was making friends and matriculating it up!

Enter X. That’s not his real initial and I refuse to bestow upon the memory something catchy. Anywho, started seeing X; just hanging out, no trips to the movies or anything. At first it was cool, real college-y or so I thought. When the hanging out started to become more and more infrequent, I got up the nerve to ask him why? He was surprisingly candid when he said “there’s this other girl I like more”. Ok, that stung but I pressed forward. What does she have I don’t have? “Well, it’s like this: why try to be a garbage man, when you can try to be a doctor”.

Whoa.

I felt like I’d been pushed down a flight of stairs: bruised, broken and out of breath. In his little analogy, I was not the goal. Not the pinnacle. Please add to the insult that he told me who the girl was. And if you’ve studied self hate and colorism in the African American community at all, you can instantly picture this lovely, redbone beauty, with long hair and thin facial features. He’d perpetuated 400 years of stereotypes in a matter of seconds.

Hurt and emotionally reeling, I ran to the dorm of a good guy friend: crying, snoting and heaving. In between breaths I told him the story, and the role I was assigned in the analogy. He put his arm around me and said “don’t let Freshman dudes tell you nothing, especially that one; you are beautiful and smart and too good for him. You’ll find somebody…”

Thank God there was a good man nearby ready to mop up the tears some other skallywag had caused. Someone to validate and affirm years before those were terms we even used.

Shortly after that, Good Dude and I started dating (most of y’all probably saw that coming). Maybe the ‘thing someone told me about myself that I never forgot’ was actually the lovingly sweet words said after the cruel, heartless ones. Funny how even the imprint you remember as awful, still had a purpose…

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