My depression and anxiety has manifested itself in a number of self-hating and harmful ways and it becomes easy to convince myself that my appearance is what’s wrong. I recognize that at the root it is often about me not being enough and a desire to somehow become someone other than who I am. It’s easier to believe that my thighs or my skin or my stomach or my hair is what’s causing me so much grief than to confront the fact that something real is wrong and that something is beyond my control.
I grew up watching a lot of comedy with my dad. It was the 80s. I loved Punky Brewster and polka dots. I barely knew how to count to 10; there was no way that I understood George Carlin. But I watched anyway, laughing when my dad laughed, nodding when he did too, desperate to feel a connection in that living room where the giant wood-paneled television set sat on the floor. It wasn’t until I saw Whoopi Goldberg on stage with a white shirt on her head to resemble the flowing “long, luxurious blonde hair” that she wanted in order to appear on The Love Boat that I stood up a little straighter. There was something about that monologue that meant more to me than any other joke or comedy routine that I had watched in that living room. There was something about that joke that bridged that gap between performer and viewer for me, although I doubt that I was able to articulate why it meant something to me. Had my father – or anyone – asked about my thoughts on it, I would have responded with simply, “It’s funny!” Despite this childlike inability to explore the depths to which this joke reached me, I did know that it was something unlike any other joke that I had ever witnessed. I wasn’t just watching Goldberg perform this routine, but I was a part of that routine. It was my story too, and one that I would carry with me like a disease for two tragically painful decades.
I have forever been surrounded by white girls.