Mustard, by Kadijah Bangurah
The chlorine fumes burnt my nose hair as I soaked in the mustard colored tub.
“Ouch!” I winced as the liquid entered old cuts and wounds. A tear rolled down my cheek as the gas irritated my eyes. Despite this, I had to stay strong. I was tired. Tired of being ugly. Tar Baby. Darkie. Burnt. I had heard it all. I wanted to finally be that beautiful blonde, blue- eyed woman I saw in the covergirl magazines. I wanted to be like Heather. Heather got all the boys without trying, and everyone liked her for her beauty. Her amazing, olive tone skin with her long, brunette hair. I, on the other hand, with my dark skin, kinky, short hair, and my big nose got no one. After this month, however, I would have taken a big step in the positive direction. My lips started to separate and my cheeks started to rise as I imagined how beautiful I would be after a month of taking these. If this bath succeeds, I would move onto my face, no matter the detrimental consequences. I would be as light as my half sister who my father favored over me. The water flowing down my cheeks finally came to a halt. I would finally be pretty. I squeezed my eyes and looked at the brown clock on the wall. Only 1 hour left until the start of my new, beautiful skin. Suddenly, I heard the keys to the front door start to jingle.
“Crap!” I immediately remembered that my mother was coming home early today. Her project at work was basically almost finished and she was waiting for a new one.
“Oshun!” My name echoed through the hall as her footsteps grew louder. I quickly jumped out the tub and tried to lock the door. However, it was too late.
“Oshun how was y-” she stopped mid sentence and turned her head as the fumes entered her quarter sized nostrils. “What’s that smell?” My eyes grew bigger than the sun.
“I-” I couldn’t think of an adequate answer. I just stood there in shock. My mother inched close to the tub. It’s almost like she knew instantly.
“Ba- Baby how could you…?” Her voice started to tremble as her eyes started to water. One thing I was willing to do was alter my skin. However, I would never want to disappoint my mother, one of my closest friends. Disappointing her was like I disappointed the world.
“Mom- I’m sorry” Tears immediately began to fill my eyes as her dry yet comforting fingers grabbed my right cheek. My heart dropped to the floor as I realized how much I hurt my mother.
“Why?” She questioned as tears flowed down her cheeks. My mother made a face that she’s never had before. Usually she was mad which was shown through her pointy eyebrows, but she looked like a mixture of sad and concerned. “Your skin… it’s so beautiful! It radiates God's precious energy. It’s so silky… so smooth” My lips started to tremble as my mother pulled me in for a hug. “The sad thing is I can’t even blame you. I used to feel the same way about my skin in grade school. I’ve always wanted to be lighter- and always hated my skin. I told myself ‘my nose resembles that of a monkey, my hair is too kinky to be nice.’ But then I realized, the only reason we are hated is because of our uniqueness. American society fears what isn’t normal to them. Our kinky hair, our chocolate skin, our broad nose- it’s all rare. That’s what makes us beautiful. The European beauty standard was started at the beginning of time to make us feel ugly, when we are nothing close to ugly. We are golden. Here, put your hand against this tub” my mother ordered me. I slowly placed my fingers on the tub.
“You see that? My mother asked me as she dropped her suitcase and sat next to me on the edge of the tub.
“No“ I sniffled as I grew curious about what she could be talking about. How did the tub connect to the topic?
“Look at how gorgeous your skin looks against the mustard, look at the beautiful contrast” I glanced down at my hand. To be honest, my skin did really pop out and look nice against the color. A small smile started to take over my face as I thought about how much my skin popped. “And look at these deep, beautiful dimples… they are to die for” she continued as she placed the tip of one of her brown acrylic nails into my dimple.
“You know mom, this is one of the first times you’ve ever called me beautiful” I murmured.
“I thought I said enough while picking out your name. Oshun means goddess of love and beauty. In Yoruba culture, she is the most powerful of the orishas” My mother broke the hug between us and her coffee brown eyes looked directly into my soul. “And looking back, I couldn’t have picked a better name.” Tears started to roll down her plump cheeks again as she embraced me for a final hug.
Despite what my mom told me today, My ideas didn’t change..Maybe for now I’ll only stick to contacts and flat iron my natural hair. The perms and the nose exercises. The bleach would have to wait until I was mature enough to make a good and well informed decision. Maybe I’ll exchange my all black wardrobe for a mustard wardrobe and call a day.