50 SHADES OF GREY

On December 2, 2013 by Kunle Barker

Race, ethnic background and colour have never been an issue for me, they have sometimes been an issue for others but never for me. So it’s strange that over the past few weeks, I have thought of little else, and it’s all Kidney Bean’s fault. Of course, I’m joking, but there is an element of truth to my unpaternal statement. I guess I have to start at the beginning.

I am of Afro-Caribbean background, my parents are from the West Indies and although you would have to scale quite a few branches of our family tree to find anyone from Africa, I have an African name. Mummy Bean’s heritage is slightly closer to home with her parents’ coming from Scotland, and the Midlands, or ‘Black Country’ if you will. The irony of the fact that it’s Mummy Bean’s family who hail from the Black Country has always amused me.

Although we are both British these differences in ethnic heritage have raised a few questions, questions which have never before been broached in the 14 years we have been together. For example, we discuss the ethnicity of names: should Kidney Bean have a name that reflects her ethnic heritage? Mummy Bean is not a fan of this idea and comments that Kidney Bean’s ethnic heritage is not just Afro-Caribbean, it’s also Scottish so should she have a Scottish/African name. Mummy Bean has a point and for the rest of the day I refer to Kidney Bean as McKidney Ademola, which puts a swift end to that conversation.

I’VE GONE A BIT DAPPY

Strangely, the biggest debate in the Bean house is not that of names, race or even religion. The hot topic is, what will Kidney Bean actually look like, and more precisely what skin tone will she have? I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with great friends and family where colour was never an issue so it’s disturbing me that now it seems to be so important. What’s happened to me? I can’t help it, I just can’t stop thinking about race, about what skin tone Kidney Bean will have. I fear that I’m turning into a racist!

Over the next few days, Mummy Bean convinces me that I’m not a racist, but that I do need to stop obsessing about the skin tone of our baby. We are only five months into this pregnancy and the range of issues it has raised has really surprised me, with this issue the most surprising of all.

My obsession is becoming a bit of a problem as I keep staring at children in the street and wondering if that is what Kidney Bean will look like. I almost stopped one little girl to enquire if her father was, “The same colour as me”. Can you imagine explaining that to the police? I was even caught in the queue of a restaurant holding my arm up against another man to see if we were the same skin tone as I wondered if Kidney Bean would look like his daughter. As I held my arm up to his, he quickly sensed that something odd was occurring and looked over at me; startled, I looked back and said, “alright, Bruve”. Just for the record, I don’t speak like that, I have never spoken like that. What the hell is happening to me? It seems I’m not only turning into a racist, I’m also turning into a member of NDubz. It’s an awful situation, I’m a nocuous mix of Dappy and Nick Griffin, I’m Dappy Griffin.

I guess it’s natural to want to have an idea of what your child looks like. It’s a way to connect, to try and form a relationship with them before they arrive. In some ways, I think this is even more important for fathers. How does a father bond or form a relationship with a baby before it’s born? A mother feels the baby growing, feels it develop, feels it move. A mother has a constant reminder of this wonderful process, and whilst this has its drawbacks, it also means that a mother feels and indeed is literally connected to the baby. I’ve found it hard, I almost feel like I’m treading water just waiting for the baby to arrive. I guess for a mother, motherhood begins immediately, but for a father it takes another nine months. I think this is what is fuelling my obsession with colour. I’m trying to connect with our baby, I want to be a father now, I don’t want to wait another four months.

I will wait, and it will be fine. For now, I will have to make do with the daily conversations I have with Mummy Bean’s baby bump. It’s natural to wonder what your baby will look like. Will they inherit your husband’s proud nose or your blue eyes, it’s natural and perfectly normal. In the end, when all is said and done, none of it really matters anyway; you will love your baby unconditionally whosever nose they have. To be honest, I’m already unconditionally in love with Kidney Bean, and will be so whatever she looks like.

One Response to “50 SHADES OF GREY”

  • Christoph

    Your blog is fantastic and I don’t know why, but knowing you’re black makes it funnier for me. Please don’t take offence from that, I just find that black, men mostly, have comedic timing that other men don’t, like your solution to the Rubik’s Conundrum had perfect timing for me, albeit it’s written form. As I’ve said previously, I’m two weeks from the birth of my daughter and the things you’ve said have had me literally laughing out loud. (I had to fight the urge to just put LOL there!). The arguments I’ve had that you’re having and the Conundrums you’re getting caught with are so similar it’s almost painful to read, feeling my own painful memories seeping in from my own encounters. I await your next blog posts gladly, hoping I see more of my struggle in your words as it brings me comfort knowing we’ve fought the same fight; being on the outside of it all compared to our partners. Brothers in arms? Who needs that when you have ‘Pregnancy Brothers’.

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