Brown and Proud

by Maricel

I am a brownie. In the Philippines, when being white is now the new black, I choose to embrace my identity and start loving my burnt skin.

While growing up, I’ve had enough moments denying myself the right to be comfortable with my color; the right to be happy despite being labeled a negrita. Even children at young age knew the preference over white and fair complexioned kids. Somehow, they are regarded as neater than their brown-skinned contemporaries, even if in reality, this isn’t always the case—a belief internalized by society that is discriminating to us who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in a mestiza lineage.

When I reached adult years, I’ve had several instances when I was swayed into believing that being brown equates to being ugly. Yes, at some point, I hated my color. I hated seeing myself in the mirror knowing I am darker than most of my friends. I grimaced in the fact that when I stand side by side with someone who has a lighter shade, the truth becomes too apparent for people to ignore. This, and all the other flaws some people have pointed out to me, destroyed what little confidence I built for myself. Yes, I’ve had enough experience with bullies. During these unfortunate encounters, instead of facing the problem head on, I shied away from any occasion where I have to delve and ponder on the issue. I knew somehow the bullies would eventually stop reminding me what’s not acceptable about me… I get on. But once in a while, I would ask myself perennial questions.

I wondered why people have to had different shades or different body structures… or facial features. Now, this is funny. Imagine what the world will be like if we all look perfectly the same? And during those times that I was blinded by my insecurities, I drowned myself in the thought that indeed, I was ugly. I knew nothing but make a gross comparison of my physical with what I was wired to think of as normal or beautiful. It took years to finally shed light onto my dark perception of my physical flaws—to embrace what and who I am—to be comfortable in my own skin and to fully contain my shame. It took me 3 decades and now, I have passed that grueling phase.

I am doing it by choice. Somehow, you have to choose to accept yourself, embrace your imperfections and be happy with it.

Those who have gone through the same road I’d been to would know that it wasn’t an easy road to take. The damp bed covers and pillows, if only they could talk would stand to attest as witness of those hard times. However, you need to stop hurting eventually, not for anyone else. Self-acceptance is key and this could be attained by embarking on a deep self-examination and contemplation to fully realize that your worth is not defined by your color or any physical attribute worthy of society’s reverence. What you do with what you were endowed with—physically, emotionally, mentally, with all the flaws and all, is what will define your worth.

Not long ago, I’d hide myself in the shade because I don’t want to get browner than I already was. During my trips where I got sun-kissed, I tried protecting myself with sun blocking creams in the hope that I could get away with getting a tan, however after the allergies I have now, I decided I won’t use anything on my skin again when intense exposure to sun is certain.

Today, I would stay in the sun for as long as I can take and I am not afraid of the zebra stripes I would get after. Or being completely burnt. Because no matter the amount of whitening creams I get my skin covered, or gluta products I consume, in the end, I would still go back to my original color. An hour of exposure in the sun is enough to turn me from my light brown complexion into dark chocolate. And now that I am loving the sun even more this summer, I no longer cringe in disgust for the possible off-shading I would get. Those thoughts are what would kill the fun. Brown or browner, I don’t mind. And I am no longer bothered whether you find me beautiful or disgusting.

I am a woman who equally enjoys the company of the sun as much as I do with rain. I am a brownie (as my nephew would call me and my other nephew, Jorge). I am darker than many women I know but no less than any one of them. I know my worth—my color doesn’t define me.

Be white and beautiful. Be brown and beautiful. Be a person of any color and choose to be happy with it. Enjoy your uniqueness.

As for me, I’ll bask in the sun any chance I get because the heck, summer only comes once a year!

Be brown and proud! 😀