Author: Shade Babalola
“I was adopted from the age of four”, my client Femi said as he sat in the chair directing his gaze at me intently”. He is tapping his long slender fingers on the arm of the chair and his tapping forms a gentle rhythm as his fingers go up and down. Tap, tap, and tap. I find the tapping distracting but I don’t wish to tell him to stop. My gaze wonders over my client and I fix my gaze on his hair. I can’t take my eyes away from the amount of gel he has placed in it. It gives him such an unusual look. It reminds me of the 60’s when this particular hairstyle appeared to be a popular trend amongst black men. It looks so outdated now, it doesn’t seem to fit in. My client shuffles awkwardly in his chair.
I think about how much this hairstyle was condemned during the emancipation period when black people were encouraged to appreciate their afros and refrain from using gels and relaxers in their hair.
“I can’t remember much of what happened in my life before that time” .Femi continues, “My adopted parents were kind and I was always encouraged to fit in but I always felt different”.” I couldn’t place my finger on it Femi said but I know that I always stood out”.
“My difference followed me to primary school and stuck with me in secondary school”. “It has, been with me throughout my career”. “I was teased at school because my parents were both white”. “They both dotted on me and would sometimes both pick me up from school” “I loved them both very much” “but a connection was missing” “On one occasion I am sure it was my birthday they arrived together at the school gate”.
“The following day at school I was mocked by the other kids”. “You’re black and your mum and dad are white they said”. “Femi is an alien, you must have dropped out from the sky”, they jeered. “They called me the black alien from then onwards”. “I became so withdrawn that my loving parents had to change my school”. It wasn’t helpful I still stood out”. “I still couldn’t fully connect with my peers”.
“My parents were beautiful souls, but even the love they had for me couldn’t heal the pain I felt towards myself inside”. “My adoptive father would take me fishing at the crack of dawn and would tell me how much he loved me and that I was a Yorkshire man”. “But I didn’t feel like a Yorkshire man” “I was so different from everyone in the village”. “My skin looked different, my hair was different it was fluffy and curly and gingerish in colour”.
“I didn’t feel like a Yorkshire man as much as my father told me I was one”. “I felt like the black alien” “The name I was called in the playground”. “One day they had a competition to see who had the most pointed nose” “They prevented me from entering the competition”.
“They said my nose wasn’t flat enough and that it wasn’t noble enough and that I needed to form my own competition for flat noses problem is no- one else in the playground looked like me”.
“I would follow my father fishing every Sunday as my father and I harnessed our fishing rods into the river my father would tell me how much he loved me”.
“He would choke up as he said it” “He knew I was struggling with my sense of self and my identity but he just didn’t know how to tackle it how to work around it and how to fill up the empty feelings within me”.
“I would go to bed at night wondering how my parents could love me so much when the world hated me so passionately”.
With that we ended the session. “Femi see you next week”. I say, as he closed the door gently behind him.