My name is Naomi. Like my namesake, I have been tempted to change my name to Mara which means “bitterness”. I have a lot to be bitter about. All of my life I have been bullied and mistreated due to the color of my skin. I have black skin. I’m the darkest in my family. Even they have a big problem with my complexion. I was the black sheep of the family. I never felt loved or accepted by them.
I once overheard one of my aunts, ask my mother, “Are you sure she’s yours? She’s so black. We don’t have anyone in our entire family that is black like that.”
And my mother’s response still hurts me to this day. “If I had known that she would be so black I wouldn’t have named her Naomi, which means ‘my delight’ and if I weren’t a Christian I would have aborted her. I couldn’t give her up for adoption. Who would want her?”
None of them believed that any man would want to marry me. All of my sisters, including the youngest one got married. I was in my thirties and still single. I didn’t have any boyfriends. The boys at school shunned me. None of the girls didn’t want to be friends with me. The girl I thought was my friend only acknowledged me when we were outside of school. After a while I stopped being friends with her. I would rather be friendless than to have a fake friend like her. It hurt, though. And being friendless meant that I was lonely.
I was very smart, though and did exceptionally well in school. Some of my teachers were kind to me and encouraged me but there were some who weren’t. And I got bullied a lot at school by the other kids. They called me “tar baby” and told me that I looked dirty. Some of them rubbed my arms to see if the “dirt” would come off. Many times, I ran off to a quiet place where I broke down and cried. I got no comfort at home. I hated my life and I began to wish that I had never been born.
I was about to commit suicide when I was 16 but was stopped by a voice which told me, “Lay down the knife; don’t hurt yourself in any way.” The voice frightened me but I obeyed it. I never tried to kill myself again after that. Instead, I continued to work hard in school and went to university. Life on campus hadn’t changed. I was still treated like an anomaly. I tried to ignore the stares and the remarks. I remember one guy asking his friend, “How could you tell under that blackness that she’s pretty?”
Graduation was fast approaching and I wondered what I was going to do after I left university. I didn’t want to go back home and I was sure they didn’t want me to either. One afternoon, when I was in my dorm flipping through a magazine to see if they had any jobs posted and I came across photos of various models. One of them was as black as me. I couldn’t believe it. She was a model! Someone had hired her. I began to consider modeling. I was tall and slender.
I looked for the contact information and I called them. I was told go in which I did. I wore my best dress and a little makeup. The receptionist told me to have a seat. About twenty minutes later, a man walked in and asked me to stand. I did. He told me to walk about for a bit which I did. Then, he turned to the receptionist and instructed her to book me for a test and photo shoot. He nodded in my direction and then quickly walked away. The receptionist gave me a form to fill out which I did. She told me when and where to go for the shoot. I was very excited when I left the agency.
After I graduated, I became a model. I got lots of jobs and I soon realized that in the modeling world, it doesn’t matter how pale or how dark you are and that you don’t even have to be beautiful or pretty as long as you photograph and model well. My unconventional look got me noticed. Pretty soon, I was getting a lot of jobs. I loved modelling and working with different clients. I met terrific people and traveled to so many places. I especially enjoyed going to Paris. It was there I met Dathan, the photographer I was going to work with. His mother was German and his father was Nigerian. We did a photo session together and it was a blast. Afterwards, we went for lunch and right after that, we began dating.
I don’t exactly know when it happened but I fell in love with him and I thought he felt the same way. Once while we were making love, he whispered, “I love you,” in my ear and I clung to him and whispered it back to him. I always imagined that one of these days, we would end up getting married and raising a family.
Well, I got pregnant and when I told him, I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for. He became very reserved and when I mentioned marriage, he told me flatly that he couldn’t marry me. I was stunned and hurt. I was willing to give up modeling to be his wife and raise our child. It didn’t matter where we ended up living. I would have followed him to the ends of the earth if he asked me to. “I thought you loved me,” I cried.
“I do, Naomi. I love you so much…”
“Then, why won’t you marry me?” I demanded, frustrated and very close to tears. “Is it your family? Are you afraid that they wouldn’t accept me because of my dark skin?”
He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “I can’t marry you because I’m already married.”
I stared at him. I couldn’t believe what he just said. He was married? All this time I have been involved with a married man? I had to sit down or I could have collapsed. I began to cry uncontrollably.
He rushed over and pulled me into his arms. “I’m so sorry, Naomi. I know that I should have told you that I was married but I was afraid to. I wanted to be with you so badly.”
I let him hold me until the sobs subsided and then I pushed him away. “Please leave me alone,” I said.
“Leave me alone!”
He stood up and quietly left the room. After he was gone, I got up from the chair and went into the bedroom. I lay down on the bed and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. The next day, I flew to New York where my next assignment was. I somehow managed to get through that photo shoot and the others which followed. I told the agency that I was pregnant but I didn’t tell them who the father was. They weren’t upset or anything. They let me continuing modeling until I began to show and then they had me do jobs which didn’t require any physical exertion. I modeled until I couldn’t anymore.
I stopped modeling after I had Alia. She was beautiful. She had Dathan’s complexion. I had enough money from my modeling to last us for a long time. I doted on her. She was a happy baby and filled me heart with so much joy. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dathan. I was still very much in love with him. I wanted to call him or send him photos of our daughter but I couldn’t. I have to keep reminding myself that we have two separate lives.
I don’t feel any bitterness toward Dathan or my family or my classmates from school and university. It has no place in my life now that I have started reading my Bible again. I know now that it was God’s voice I heard that day when I tried to commit suicide. He saved my life and I’m very thankful. If He hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met Dathan or had Alia. My only regret is that Alia isn’t going to be raised by both of her parents. When she is older, I will tell her about her father and it’s up to her if she wants to get in touch with him or not. Right now, I am raising her the best I can with God’s help.
I was inspired to write this fictional story because of Nyakim Gatwech, the South Sudanese descent African American model who is teaching people not to be afraid of the dark. She has been dubbed the “Queen of darkness” and had an Uber driver suggest that she bleached her skin. She’s proud of her black skin. “Black is bold, black is beautiful, black is gold… Don’t let American standards damage your African soul.” 11 year old Kheris Rogers started a clothing line, “Flexin’ In My Complexion” with her sister after she was bullied at school. She recalled when the students had to draw themselves for an assignment, the teacher handed her a black crayon instead of a brown one. All of her classmates were African American but she was the darkest.
Kudos to Nyakim for breaking down the barriers of conventional beauty and encouraging others to do the same. And way to go, Kheris, for creating a fashion line in the hopes of instilling confidence in other young girls who face bullying because of their dark skin. There are many shades of beauty and black is one of them.
Source: Modeling Wisdom