Brown Girl Blues
By Rachel Werner
“Yes. I cut myself.”
“And NO, I am not white.”
“But YES, my mother is.”
These sentences I have said aloud. But the monologue I’ve pieced together for my own ears is:
Everybody is a little bit crazy. So that’s WHY I am ‘crazy.’ Being alive is h-a-r-d; ‘though if I was walking around pretending like it wasn’t, my behavior would finally be considered ‘normal.’
I mentally rehearse saying every week on the streetcar headed to family therapy, when I can’t tell if the sweat accumulating under my armpits is from the oppressive humidity in tight quarters—or my incessant anxiety.
Not even the clinic’s AC offers any relief since it feels like I’m being greeted with an icy cold backslap as I trail my mom through the sliding doors to the lobby, thinking:
“Today’s the day I’m gonna say it.”
But I never do.
I also never want to step foot into this office again. Talking to a psychologist is a colossal waste of time. The only thing I am getting better at is lying to adults. Which isn’t curing my “body issues” or depression. If I had more money or street cred, drug addiction might be on the list too. But I don’t. So there you have it.
Who is this for again? Four people in a room blabbering on as if the nonsensical mashup of events I’ve lived through are being unraveled in a healing circle they’re magically creating by talking at me. Digo mierda. I stopped wishing for normal the summer I turned eight. I got a whole new family, address, school, wardrobe…all in less than a week. The only possession I kept was my name. Actually the spelling did change, but since the pronunciation stayed the same, I figure it ain’t worth fretting over.
Folks imply I’m much better off now than where I came from. They fail to notice the world is regularly ending for people like me. Which is why I hate talking about “what’s wrong?”. I’m not broken just because I don’t fit the stereotyped narrative that’s on ‘repeat’ in another person’s head.
You know what I do need—actually, what the world needs is a positivity call center. I want a hotline to hit up for when I need to hear another living person explicitly say how beautiful, brave, and brilliant I am (rather than assuming I’m chronically angry or tragic) simply because I happen to have brown skin.
Where’s the “medically-approved” space to share the things that put a crown on my head? The parts of the certain days I actually look forward to in the morning. Like acing the bio midterm; crossing paths with my crush at the bus stop; and knowing I’m our puppy’s preferred cuddle buddy.
So, Doctor, I don’t need a “remedy.” Diagnosis devalues my existence. Like my spirit, my words are strong. I can’t be seen without being heard. Unfortunately you—like half the world—never does.
Rachel Werner is the Content Marketing Specialist for Taliesin Preservation; guest faculty at The Loft Literary Center & Hugo House; a We Need Diverse Books program volunteer; and a book reviewer for Shelf Awareness. Having previously contributed print, photography and video content to Fabulous Wisconsin, BLK+GRN, BRAVA, Madison Magazine and Entrepreneurial Chef, her current passion project is The Little Book Project WI, a community arts and nonprofit bi-annual collaboration.
© Rachel Werner
Photo Credit: © clivewa / Adobe Stock