“It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.” Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
When I was in middle school, I dealt with a lovely trio of bullies. Those few years of any tween’s life are generally pretty awkward: from the physical and emotional rollercoaster of puberty to getting accustomed to a scholastic life of shuffling from different classrooms and getting the hang of lockers over cubbies; there was just a lot going on. Bullies just add another fun layer to the already inherent challenges. But I digress. I like to think that I had this natural wherewithal at 12/13 to realize that this was just a chapter in my life and wouldn’t define the rest of it as I struggled through each and every day of those years. But still, when I think back to that trio of girls, I realize that for years, I still subconsciously wrestled with their torment.
I never really told anybody about it. How they would follow me around when they were bored or feeling like they needed to assert themselves, calling me names like “half-breed” or “cat eyessss.” My “cat” eyes where what made me stand out. I’m Black and I have these light, hazel colored eyes that tend to get even lighter certain times of the year; it’s a pretty uncommon skin to eye combination. I had never really thought about my eyes prior to middle school. Strangers always commented positively (our curiously) on them, but to me, they were just things that I used to you know, see. My Black grandfather had bright blue eyes, so I was used to the “mismatch.” While other girls started to experiment with make-up, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to make my eyes stand out any more than they already did. I would pick up a wand of mascara and in my head, hear the trio’s faint, taunting whisper, “cat eyessss,” and put the wand down. It wasn’t until I started high school and one moment in particular that my insecurity started to corrode.
I was in Debi Young‘s make-up trailer where she was in the midst of transforming an actor when she said she had something for me and my sister and pulled out two little compacts of eye make-up for us; it was my first piece of make-up. It was also the last time the middle school terror trio’s voices popped into my head and taunted, “cat eyessss.” This act had finally gotten it to shut up. Debi smiled as she said something to the effect that she wanted two special girls to have a little something special to treat themselves. Just as powerful and lasting had the actions and words of the trio of bullies been were the actions and words of Debi Young. It was from that moment that I decided if I was going to listen to anybody about how they saw my eyes and in turn me, it was going to be somebody like Debi and not those catty (pun intended) girls from back in the day.
That all being said, I kept that little compact for years, long after I had used it all up, because of what it represented. Tomorrow, I have a special event to go to and have decided to treat myself to a “just the eyes” make-up session at this hair and makeup studio in New York City. Here’s to seeing (literally) and celebrating our authentic selves, Have a great weekend, everyone.