“The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was by a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field.
“Why you crying, girl?” Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face.
“Well? Is you?”
I blinked, paused my crying. “Is I what?”
“Now you look a here, Eugenia, ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” I sobbed.
Constantine sat down next to me at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, somthing we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me.
“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.” Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums. “You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe”
“Oh, it was delicious to have someone to keep secrets with. If I’d had a sister or a brother closer in age, I guessed that’s what it would be like. But it wasn’t just smoking or skirting around Mother. It was having someone look at you after your mother has nearly fretted herself to death because you are freakishly tall and frizzy and odd. Someone whose eyes simply said, without words, You are fine with me.”
Oh goodness, if you haven’t already, drop whatever you’re doing and go read The Help or, better yet, get the wonderfully performed audiobook. Rarely do I read a book so good that I read it into the wee hours of the morning but The Help is that kind of book. I finished it at 2:00 am, sobbing my eyes out and called my mom wailing about what was going to happen to Mae Mobley. I can’t wait to see it translated to the big screen with the phenomenal Emma Stone playing Skeeter.