I Promise not to Be “Too Exotic”


Years back, I was taken to “Meet the Parents”. As soon as I stepped in through the door, my “would-be mother-in-law commented, “You look too exotic!”

I did not quite understand, if she meant, as a “dancer” or because of the clothes I was wearing. I had my cute knee-high outfit made of Africa print, with a cute matching head wrap [yes, before they were “Etsy”, “Instagram” famous, they were doreen-famous:)]. IMG_1767

I wondered, for a minute, if she had never met an “African”…yes, the continental not Diaspora type. This was the South, in one of those conservative towns, where women had to struggle in the 2000s to join a fight and protest “Men’s Club”.

Then I remembered that I was not the first of his son’s “would-be” that she had met. In any case, her son had spent umpteen years with Africans in Africa. She must have seen one with “exotic clothes or features”, so I thought to myself. Needless to say, the rest is history. I consider that the beginning of the decline of my approval rantings into the clan.

So, when my friend recently said the same thing to me, I wondered, “What is so exotic about me?” She had seen me last week wearing a “whiteman”’s suit, shoes and carrying a white man’s bag. My hair is white, like the wise elders of our society. My smile is mainstream corporate/international business. Which part is “exotic”?

Is it because, I speak English with “an accent”? Americans say, it is British, the Ugandans, British and Scottish say, “It is American”, and the South Africans also say, “It is British.” Or is it because I wear long earrings, some made out of African print?  Is it because i eat, “native food”, as one of my African American relatives told me? Or because, the way I dance reminds, another one of my African American relatives, of Sarafina? [I must confess with shame, I have never [thoroughly] watched the movies; I have caught glimpse of it…but not all of it.

As I go out today, I Promise not to be “Too Exotic”. But if I appear so, please remember that, I am simply Too Exotic; they don’t make many of my type!

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