I really, really didn’t want to write this piece.
Truth be told, I really didn’t want to write another Beautifully Brown post ever again. It’s been three weeks since the biggest inspiration for the column left this earth. My father, Michael Martin—who I mentioned over and over again in my first BB post as the real reason I grew up feeling beautiful in my skin—passed away the day after his 67th birthday.
The fire to continue, to write about what it means to be a brown woman full of confidence and with her head held high, died when he did. I’d been giving myself daily deadlines to finish what may well be the hardest thing I’ll ever write in my life. “OK, let’s get this done by 1…no 2…OK 3 for sure.”
Then I’d give up and promise myself I’d start again tomorrow. But every tomorrow, about mid-paragraph, I’d find myself too numb and uninspired (cruel irony) to write about my father, my true friend. Writing about him in the past tense is a shock to my system.
My father’s purpose was to raise his daughters (and son) in a way that would allow us all to feel strong enough to speak our truths and be bold enough to, say, begin a self affirming column like Beautifully Brown. Yet with Father’s Day coming up, there is no denying that there is an emptiness in my spirit. As we get closer to Sunday, I find myself looking in the mirror and seeing his eyes, his nose, his lips—and complexion. I've asked myself, “How can I possibly keep claiming this inside-out strength when the man who made me feel that way is gone, forever?”
But what I can’t do, as I’ve watched other’s do, is curl up in a ball and give up. So I decided to come back from a two-week hiatus, and fill this space up as a way to honor the lessons only a daddy could give her baby girl. Mommy may teach you how to wear lipstick and walk in heels, but if Daddy isn’t the first man in your life to tell you you’re beautiful just the way you are, you could find yourself searching for that assurance the rest of your life (mind you I said could).
Black girls and women should be reassured constantly of their beauty and Black men play a big part in this assurance. My Daddy did so. Still this isn’t a post to brag or boast about how perfect he was (because he was still human and flawed), I just needed to pull myself out of my sadness and thank him publicly during the first Father’s Day holiday that we won’t spend together. And while that’s the hardest and saddest part, there’s some good in it all.
His lecture about how he overcame his first job disappointment, knowing that he was beyond qualified but passed over because he was Black (and dark), and many others stories will always inspire me. Lessons from my father are the reasons I’m here, in this moment, repping for brown girls without hesitation. He prepared me for the criticism, the jokes, the teasing and the journey. Because it’s a real journey for many of us to always stand firmly in our own two as dark women in this world sometimes.
Brown little girls need Daddy to tell her she’s gorgeous and pretty and lovely, just the way she is. I was able to look Dexter in his eyes, and not feel ashamed of my complexion because my Daddy, who was the biggest, strongest superhero in the world, said that I was pretty.
What I know is that a father's words matter.
While he’d never take credit for being the underpinning of my success, I have to send a personal, but of course not final, thank you to you, Daddy. The life I am shaping for myself wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for your witty encouragement and for you letting me be who I wanted to be, when I wanted to be her. Thank you for letting me sneak mommy’s lipsticks and try them on, and for letting me attempt to curl my own hair (after Mom told me to stay away from them curlers). Thank you for letting me dress myself and declare my own identity. Mommy would lie out the frilly dress and flats, but you’d let me run around in my rain boots, shorts and sweater (seasons all the way mixed up)! Thank you so very much for raising me to be a beautifully brown young woman—to have confidence and genuine pride. Thank you for your stories. Thank you for honoring Mommy. For honoring Black women. Thank you for honoring me.
Happy Father’s Day, Papa M.
Your Chocolate Drop
Melanie Yvette Martin is the Editorial Assistant and Beauty and Style contact for EBONY.com and a lover of all things beauty for brown women. Follow her on Instagram @melanieyvette and on Twitter @theffgal.
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