I work in a predominantly Black environment and, with the exception of a couple of people from high school, I have mostly Black friends. So while I'm familiar with the sometimes ignorant and asinine things White people say regarding race, I don't often experience these things for myself. In short, I'm not used to being around White people anymore.
Still, when I learned that my coworkers and I were going to be treated to makeovers in promotion for the release of some movie, I wasn't thinking about what types of things the makeup artist would say. I only wondered if she would know what to do with Black skin.
On the day of the makeovers when I walked into the room and saw all of the various shades of brown laid out on the table, I felt that despite her own lack of melanin, this woman might be able to do a little something.
And she did, really.
Her skills weren't the problem. It was the conversation that accompanied them. Still undecided about whether or not I was going to let her paint my face, I watched as she worked on another one of my coworkers, who we'll call Mary.
From the instant Mary sat down, the makeup artist wanted her and every other Black girl in the room to know something very important about her.
"You look just like my fiancé’s mother," she said while beginning to apply the foundation onto Mary's face.
This was obviously coded language. She was attempting to let us know that we could trust her, let our guard down, and relax because "she's good with Black folk." Even if the only way she knew to do so was to tell a woman in her thirties that she looked like someone's mother. And, as an aside, I would bet good money that my coworker looked nothing like her man's momma. She just wanted us to know that she was the lucky recipient of some Black dick.
Thankfully, Mary handled it like a pro.
"And I'm assuming your fiancé is Black." She winked at me afterward, letting me know that she too had noticed the woman's desperation.
While someone who was truly "good with Black people" might have picked up on the exasperation in Mary’s voice. The makeup artist did not.
"You know it!"
She was proud of this Black man, chile.
In an attempt to change the subject, I asked her how long she'd been doing makeup. She said before she even came to this country. So naturally, I wanted to know where she was from. She said Armenia.
I remember thinking, "Oh she's something like a Kardashian."
As she's applying the lipstick, Mary says, "Sorry, my lips are really big."
First of all, her, lips weren't that big. But just as I was opening my mouth to tell her, right there in that moment, not to apologize for such things; and making a note to specify later, never in front of White people, the makeup artist said, "Oh honey, I paid good money for lips like yours."
Just like a Kardashian.
Still chatting the makeup artist wanted to know if Mary was single.
She told the makeup artist she was.
"Oh my God I just came from [another place occupied by mostly Black women] and they were beautiful, so hot but all single. And then I come over here and it's the same thing. What is going on?"
Despite her all of her backwards comments, she did a decent job on Mary's face. And more than anything else she applied two sets of lashes. And though I haven't purchased foundation since my junior prom, I'm a sucker for lashes. So I sat down in her chair.
And like a broken record or the regurgitation of a psychology article, the makeup artist wanted to talk about the perpetual singleness of Black women. "I just don't get it. You all are so beautiful and still single. What's wrong with these men?"
Except we weren't all single.
She'd just asked me if I was seeing anyone. I told her I had a boyfriend. My friend Victoria, who recorded the whole makeover process, is married. And the last two women whose faces she was going to beat were married and engaged. Really, the only single one was Mary. But still her assumption must have been that Black=Single. Or even worse, that single was some type of condition that needed to be fixed, a disease to be cured. And she was determined to force us into that box.
After I reminded her of the relationship status of everyone she'd met, I really had nothing else for her. But Mary wanted to offer rationalizations.
"Well, you know with Black men there's a lot of incarceration, underemployment, a lot of them might not be men we would be interested in dating..."
As you might have gathered by now, I'm not close to Mary. Still, I whipped my head around in an attempt to send her eye message that if it could have been translated, it would have sounded something like, "Gurl, why the hell is you talking about the ails of our community in front of this White woman whose connection to and understanding of Black folk is limited, at best?!"
There are certain things you don't discuss outside the house, especially with people who don’t know the family.
I sat there silently as she continued working on my face , but in my head, I thought "Hell, and so many of them are out here chasing after White girls with bought Black girl features... White like you." Which immediately reminded me of Bianca Lawson's speech to Julia Stiles in Save The Last Dance.
"White girls like you, creepin up, taking our men..."
Hand to God, I generally don't have a problem with Black men dating, having kids with and marrying White women. I don't live my life thinking of other women, Black or White, as competition for men. But what I don't appreciate is White women who've been with a Black men for a hot second or hell, even decades, feeling like they can speak on the plight of Black women or our relation to Black men. That's not the type of information you can glean by having a couple of Black girlfriends or even being engaged to a Black man.
As someone who likely only had that one Kardashian-feenin Black man in her life, I wish she had just applied our lashes and kept her ignorant opinions and inaccurate observations to herself.