“I agree not to embarrass you.” I’ve had to sign contracts like that before – agreements binding me to behavior that isn’t too loud or too wild or too crazy or too fun or too… More
I need to talk this one out with my favorite therapist: my keyboard.
I’ve been tagged in all the things and murmuring in the groups and dryly commenting snips of my opinion on my Facebook timeline, but then I thought – wait, what am I so afraid of saying out loud? I haven’t held a title in 11 years and I’m completely and fully retired…but I’m still tight-lipped under the fear and shame of actually speaking my mind. I’m still afraid of not sounding like everyone’s favorite sweet, demure, mild-tempered, crown-wearing inspiration. I’m still living under the censor of Miss America.
But I’m not a titleholder any more. I’m a bold, fierce, grown woman who is ready to fearlessly and fully step into her purpose and calling. At least, I’m trying to be. And with that dedication of rebuking inhibitions, let me tell you what I really think – or at least, ask the challenging questions:
I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…
1. Miss America Organization, what do you think are you doing? (Hear me saying that in my most disapproving Mom Voice) Why are you dragging your heels and deliberating over what is very clearly a cut and dry decision? Netflix, CBS and NBC all acted more swiftly and justly than you – and they are for-profit entities. In taking time to “properly” “investigate” (those are air quotes, by the way), you are putting one wealthy white male’s fragility above hundreds of thousands of strong, brilliant, ambitious women you claim to represent and uplift. You’re brushing off all of our #metoo stories, all of our social platforms, all of our hard work and dedication to becoming our best selves and helping the next wave of young women to climb upon our shoulders and achieve higher. Shame. On. You. Suspension? Really? That’s lazy. It’s ineffective, it’s inconsiderate, it’s rude. You, too are a victim of your own censorship; your own imposed keeping-up-appearances lifestyle. It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade. We all know, well-behaved women seldom make history (thank you, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich), so let’s put some hot sauce on these unsalted boiled carrots. It is 2017! In the year of the #metoo campaign, the silence-breakers being our persons of the year, with the march of the nasty women in pink pussy hats, you know better.
It’s time to get raw and vulnerable, and pull the plug on this middle-ground girl-next-door façade.
2. When people find out I was Miss Michigan, their gut reaction is, “Well, gosh I can see why, you are SO BEAUTIFUL!” I choke on my immediate response and accept the compliment – truly, I appreciate the kind words. What makes me gag a little is that people STILL think all we do is smile and wave and say “world peace.” They don’t know about the years I spent practicing my cello until my fingers were numb and immovable; they don’t know about the hours I spent dancing until my toes bled and physically training my body to do beautiful and amazing things on the stage. They don’t know about the hours I spent writing and speaking about the need for cultural diversity at all levels of everything that is American, and how much better humanity would be if we took a moment to empathize and converse with someone of a different background. They don’t know about the time spent writing and rewriting my life view essays, training, and crying, and holding my sisters’ hands as we work ourselves raw to put ourselves through school, and add something worthwhile to our resumes – all so that we can climb just one more rung in the ladder that is still a white man’s world.
The masses still think we are just money-making babes in bikinis and most of them associate us all with Trump’s Miss USA ties. Well, The Miss America Organization is vastly different from the Miss USA Pageant – at least it was until the news broke out. Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House. It’s disgusting. To the MAO Board, it is your lack of action that is putting ratings, broadcast backing, viewership and support in jeopardy – not the CEO’s deplorable behavior. If you say you’re different, be different. Do the hard thing. Be bold. Be fearless. Maybe we just need a woman of color running that place. We made it happen in Alabama. Let’s get it done in MAO.
Today, the MAO in the news is nothing but a mirror of the same demeaning, dismissive, heartless, thoughtless, disconnected attitude towards women and genuine character that we see in the White House.
3. Miss America is NOT just another beauty pageant. It used to be. It was made to be. But it has since evolved into the largest scholarship organization in the country, helping to put young women through school and repay student loans. It is the only “pageant” system that requires talent on and off the stage. We have intimidating academic aspirations and accomplishments; we donate hours upon hours of our time and talent to spur our society onto some better version of itself; our cultures, practices and skin tones and bodies come from all curves of the globe; we eat right, work out, take care of our families and friends, and we look damn good doing it. It’s time that the state and national leadership – reflected this. Why isn’t Miss America being run by a woman and backed by a thoughtful, compassionate, world-changing, forward-thinking, culturally and ethnically diverse, Board?
As a mother of half-white sons, I wonder what they think of me. I wonder how they see my role in their lives and how that translates to all women – all Black women. I wonder if I’m raising them to be the kind of man that will not only NEVER call a woman a c*nt, but would also bravely stand up to the kind of disgusting man that would. I wonder if they will not look at a woman as “other” or “less than.” I wonder if they see my hard work and will in turn do that hard work themselves, or if they will just expect other woman to pick up the slack for them. I wonder these things. I lose sleep over these things. I pray that my boys will grow into men that know better. Men that wouldn’t bring another white man onto an already monochromatic team – men that will deliberately look to work for and with and uplift women of all colors – men that will be honorable and make just and fast and swift decisions with compassion and care, putting the safety and peace of mind of others before their own selfish gain…and I wonder how my sons would feel if someone said those awful things about their mother and I wonder how they would feel if no one did anything about it…
Last week, at the pinnacle of the viral #metoo movement, I shared an Ebony article on Facebook. It was a passionately-worded piece wagging its finger at all of the #metoo hype, as if to say, “Hey! We’ve been saying this for a decade and the movement was started by a Black woman!” While the article did feel a bit ragey, with its give-credit-where-credit’s-due feel, it highlighted several things:
- Black women are overlooked
- Black people’s problems tend to *stay* Black people’s problems
- Celebrities with high-profile scandals have a vast reach
- White celebrities can get ish done
I even wrote a disclaimer on my article-share, warning my friends and followers to not be turned off by the title and tone. I urged my friends to read it. Read it because hey, this isn’t new. This is all races, all sexes, all genders. And it’s a whole lot easier to ignore abused people – especially when we’re shouting from the margins.
Well, I had a friend. That one (sometimes three) friend(s), that did have to say something about – by my own words – “playing the Race Card.”
He expressed his thought that justice is great, why bring race into it? Just be grateful this is getting attention!
I saw red. I saw flames. If I had laser eyes to shoot at his fingers on the keyboard via the inter webs, I would have aimed and fired. We went back and forth a little, but then he did something amazing that I never expected. He took it to the DM.
And it went down. But it went down beautifully.
He asked me to explain how we missed each other, why his challenge to my article-share insulted me, and how he can be a better ally.
Yeah. He asked how he could serve me.
And by the time we exchanged stories, we were both in tears.
We saw each other. We heard each other.
He asked …how he could be a better ally.
This is my DM response to him, (some parts edited for this blog and names removed), and it’s something that all well-intentioned white people should read before they roll their eyes at yet another angry Black woman that makes everything about race and gender:
[TLDR Version: Privilege is real. We live in a constant state of gender and race humiliation. It happened to me, too. Believe us. Whether its racism or sexism, believe us.]
The first time I ever saw white privileged was when I was going through my divorce. Yeah. I know it sounds weird. My first time. But when you’re Black in America you only see the negative attitudes towards your own race and not the actual privilege of being white. That’s not our side of the story. When he and I decided to split, I was the one that was depressed and miserable in the far burbs so I was happy to move.
But I had spent the majority of our marriage as a full-time mom/student with part time gigs. I didn’t have a resume, savings or a sustaining job. Every day while I was still home with the kids, he would come home and say: did you get a job yet? How many applications? Any interviews? How about an apartment? When are you leaving? The pressure was maddening. I wanted to punch him and throw up and run away crying all at once. Every. Day. I felt unwanted and lazy and rejected.
But then I realized he wasn’t deliberately bullying me. He just had no idea. He didn’t have a resume. He’s never had to sell himself on a piece of paper to strangers. He’s never asked strangers for a job and he’s never not gotten an offer for a job he asked for. He lives in a bubble of privilege where he’s never had to go without or rely solely on his own talents. He’s never had to worry that he wouldn’t get an interview because his name sounds “exotic” or “weird.”
He’s never had to worry that someone would look at him and think “a man can’t do this” or “a dad can’t do this.” That is privilege. But people always think a woman can’t do this or a mom isn’t as committed as a childless person. These are things I choke on daily.
He had no idea how difficult it can be to get a job especially when you’re not a white man.
You aren’t humiliated by others for the color of your skin.
I just got a lotus tattoo for my birthday. Beauty and blessings springing forth from the mud. X— made some mud comments about me in sixth grade. Again, not your reality. Not even on your radar. But it was stinging and humiliating. It made me feel ugly and less than and unlike and unaccepted and rejected and reminded me that I will never be one of you.
My new ink is my peace with that. I know now that I am beautiful and talented and radiantly intimidating. In first grade I had to change for gym class alone because my changing buddy’s mom found out she was undressing with a black girl and didn’t want me around her daughter. And that, too. All the time: Black girl. I hate it when people say, “so this Black person — no offense — was talking…” Why is “Black person” offensive? I’m not sorry I’m Black. Does my Blackness offend you? Why are you apologizing? I am Black! Say it! Black isn’t a bad word. N** is. Black isn’t. Neither is white. Say it. We are our colors and we all deserve to be seen.
With all of that said, it is SO crushing then, when I say to someone, for example, a white significant other, “Babe I had a weird experience today and I really feel like it was racially motived,” and he says, “nahhh I don’t think so. Maybe you did something wrong.” That’s the most devastating thing. When people in the majority point fingers at me and accuse me of playing the race card.
When I experience something and feel sad and violated and discriminated and someone that couldn’t possibly be able to relate blows me off and says they don’t believe me — it’s a terribly crippling feeling. It’s gaslighting. It’s crazymaking.
If I say “this feels racist,” BELIEVE ME. Please. This is my world, not yours. Please believe me that something hurts and it’s not fair. What if we went to the doctor complaining of illness and he doc says, “Mmmnah I don’t think so. Stop whining!”
The last place I worked my coworker rubbed my knee under my dress when the two of us were alone in a conference room. Later he “brushed” past me rubbing his body on my butt. Twice. And then when we were leaving that hospital site, we were alone in an elevator and he stroked my face. Twice. Because I looked tired. I wanted to slit his throat and set myself on fire.
When I reported him to HR, the woman said,” nahhh I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound like X—. Maybe he meant…”
By this time I was numb and tuned her out. Here’s a woman WHOSE JOB IT IS TO TAKE MY REPORT and she didn’t believe my story. #metoo
This happened to me! And she didn’t care. Now, sidebar, there is another dynamic between women where unsolicited sexual advances by an attractive man are not crimes but compliments. Part of me wonders if she was jealous that X— was flirting with me and not her?? Who knows. I don’t care. The point is that she didn’t believe my experience. But she’s not me. Don’t tell me my truth is not true. Now this part is for you and your brilliant girls: when they come to you, and they will, and they say, “Papa someone made me feel weird today,” BELIEVE THEM.
Don’t ask what or if they did anything to deserve it. Don’t tell them “nnnnnno I don’t think it’s like that. Why are you forcing some issue into this?“
Don’t assume they’re just girls making things up or being dramatic or being emotional or too sensitive or being [insert negative idea about women here].
Listen. Believe them.
They will need you to just believe them. And hold them. And validate them. And tell them it’ll be ok. And tell them you’ll do something.
And then… do something.
February 1 marked Trump’s first day of his first Black History Month as President of the United States. His speech was the first of a (nother) series of (more) embarrassing statements, this time implying that he was neither aware of historic abolitionist Frederick Douglass nor informed that Douglass is dead and has been for nearly 122 years.
Following his perplexing speech, best summarized on The Slot, Trump’s spokesperson answered questions with the same confounded ignorance.
“I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer said.
Well, they’re back.
Trump and team’s foolishness has resurrected an entire army of dead presidents and iconic civil rights leaders to thwart the destructive plans of this orange-ish villain and save us all from ourselves.
Frederick Douglass rolled over in his grave and began a Twitter account to not only help educate the very monochromatic and Black History-dumb White House administration but to also energize the resistance and, apparently, put his name on the 2020 presidential ballot. In fact, Trump’s foolishness has resurrected an entire army of dead presidents and iconic civil rights leaders to thwart the destructive plans of this orange-ish villain and save us all from ourselves.
Douglass tweeted to Trump, “Gearing up for 2020 campaign…and you thought dead registered voters were your biggest problem.”
His running mate? No less than Queen Moses herself, Harriet Tubman. The two have since adopted a campaign slogan in response to Spicer’s absurd statement (which I developed for them, you’re welcome!) “Doing More than More and More. Doing The Most,” developed their campaign website, and have awoken other leaders from their tombs as well.
It’s true, the long-deceased American icons won’t stay dead while Trump brashly and thoughtlessly undoes centuries of their hard work.
This team of magically invoked super heroes includes Douglass’s wife, Anna Murray Douglass (@FLOTUS20Twenty), Sojourner Truth (@SojoTruth2020) and former president John Quincy Adams (@NortoriusJQA).
While some have been waiting for the second coming of Christ to get us out of this, it looks like all we need right now is a comic book-worthy team of dead abolitionists and presidents. In addition to being highly entertaining, the Douglass campaign is already awakening sleeping lessons of the past, shining a light on our very powerful African-American heritage and giving a timely voice to our ancestors’ contributions. Looking forward to history leading the resistance from beyond.
Doing the Most for America.
It’s time for the annual Pro-Life Rally in Washington. I was there when I was 17. I was a staunch Republican. I regurgitated the propaganda like a good Catholic girl. I chanted, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!” at the top of my lungs and even in my sleep. I saved my stop sign poster. I pinned it to my wall.
About a year later, my heart hurt. I felt like I had let myself down. I felt like I had betrayed my faith, my voice as an American citizen, and my honor as a Christian to love my neighbor. I took my poster down. I closed my mouth. I started thinking and listening more than yelling and parroting. That was the beginning of the end of my affiliation with the Republican party. But that’s another story…
Morally and ethically speaking, I am still pro-life. Politically speaking, I turned my back and here’s why.
- I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 1). I’m the sort of Christian that leads with my heart. Compassion. Empathy. Gratitude. Not contempt, condemnation and fear. When I took the required ethics course at my very conservative, very born-again, very evangelical high school, it forced me to think. I can’t say it had the outcome they expected, but think I did and for that I’m grateful. I couldn’t understand why all these Christians that powerfully led with their faith and spewed out Sanctity of Life rhetoric around fetuses were also passionately pro-war, pro-gun, pro-defense, and pro-death penalty. If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred? If it is a law to save the babies, then also make it a law to destroy your guns, disassemble your bombs, resolve conflict with peace, and abolish the death penalty.
If all life is sacred, then shouldn’t…all… life be sacred?
- I’m Pro-Choice because I’m Christian (Part 2). God gave us the gift of choice. And what God gives to us, shouldn’t we pay forward? Love? Forgiveness? In acknowledging the holiness of our God-breathed existence, shouldn’t we honor the way that God created us, which is in God’s image, with free will? Free will is a God-like quality. That. Is. Terrifying. We are little gods running around the planet. But instead of giving out free will like The God, we use our free will to take it away from others. Wait what? Yeah. No. That makes zero sense. How dare we deny God’s gift to each other to make our own decisions! If we restrict or diminish what God has given us, we are elevating ourselves above God. By withholding God’s gift of free will, we are interfering in God’s blessing and ultimately condemning ourselves. Respecting free will is respecting our God-given gift of independent thoughts, ideas and values.
I chose to have my children.
- Personal preferences shouldn’t be laws. I like chocolate cake. That doesn’t mean in Octavia’s country red velvet cake is illegal. Those that enjoy red velvet should not be mocked, ridiculed and imprisoned. If you want red velvet, eat your red velvet. I will have chocolate. Enjoy. It’s your body, eat what you want. Ok, my cake metaphor is hokey. I’m no anarchist. I think laws are necessary. I think people should be held accountable. But laws are necessary for public health, for the greater good, for things that universally affect, protect and care for all of us. The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.
- Pro-Choice does not equal pro-abortion. No one loves abortion. Have you ever seen anyone get excited and throw a party because they’re having an abortion? Absolutely not. The thought of it makes me sick. But being a parent, what crushes me even more is an unwanted, unloved, and uncared for child being born and forced even deeper into the margins, made to be invisible, desperately trying to survive and make a life, ultimately falling into the cracks and statistically, crime, drugs, prison or death. Where is the sanctity in this life? Who is rushing to adopt all of the children that might be forced to exist? If abortion becomes illegal, someone had better start building the biggest and swankiest home and school for all of these children and also providing top-rate prenatal healthcare, birthing luxuries and post-partum care for all of their mothers. Better yet, this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs. What would happen if we held men as accountable for providing for and caring for their babies as the mothers? If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t have one. It’s your choice. I chose to have my children. I can’t imagine if the tables were turned and I were forced to abort.
The choice to abort a pregnancy is a very personal, private, difficult, heart-aching decision that has no business being on the public agenda.
- The Pro-Life agenda is punishing women for having sex. It isn’t about the babies. It’s about condemning a woman for being a woman and enjoying being a woman. It’s about forcing her into shame because she tasted the pleasures of sex and doesn’t want (or isn’t equipped to take on) long-term consequences of a child. Ridiculous variations of this include forcing her to fully fund arrangement of funeral services and burying her aborted child or even the threat of imprisonment for murder. But why is it always the woman that is dishonored? Her body will be wrecked from the inside out. She will struggle emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. Who has compassion for this woman? I don’t even want to start ranting about cases of rape or incest. If this is a shame game, it takes two to make the child, so please, bring in the father. Bring the man in! Inflate his insides and stretch his abdominal skin 500x the normal size. Implant a 10lb parasite that rubs on his organs, sits on his bladder, pinches his nerves and kicks his lungs. Slice him from rectum to urethra. Let him bleed for two months to recover. Let him suffer along with her and the two can collectively wear the shame of procreation. Back to point No. 4, if this is about guilt and consequences, make the daddies personally fund every ounce of healthcare required to have a healthy pregnancy, birth and post-partum recovery. And let him raise the child.
…this birthing hotel should be funded by all the men that fertilized these goddesses’ eggs.
Also, criminalizing abortion is not a decline in abortion. It’s a decline in healthy, medically-sound, legal abortions and an increase of dangerous quick-fixes and botched shortcuts. If a woman is determined not to have her baby, she will find a way not to have her baby. Believe me. We are resourceful. This is dangerous. This is terrifying. How many women will be put at risk for permanent damage or infection – or mental breakdowns – because they’re inducing miscarriages or inflicting self-harm? This is the ultimate punishment. And for what? Having sex?
To those marching: good for you. I support marches and protests and anyone speaking their voice. But I ask you to stop and consider why you’re marching. Would it be better to share compassion to women going into an abortion? Or maybe you could volunteer at Planned Parenthood to help educate women on how to prevent pregnancies in the first place. Maybe you could even start a young women’s self-care initiative to help girls validate themselves rather than looking for approval and acceptance through sexually pleasing a man. There are so many alternatives that are equally pro-life but not anti-women.
Carrying a child is a blessing; a magical God-like honor. And it is an honor for her to choose her path. Let the woman decide for herself. Stop talking and start listening. Be a vessel of compassion, not contempt.
Do you ever have epiphanies on the toilet? I do. Here’s one…stay with me…
The Toilet Diaries: December 2, 2016
This morning as I changed my feminine product, emptied my bladder and bowels, I got chills. The chills of relief when all the waste I’d been holding inside for 8-plus hours finds its exit and I can relax. I felt my body melt into itself exhaling, “Ahhhh this feels better.”
If our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul.
I remembered being a child and laughing hysterically with my best friend at the phrase, “What a relief!” in response to having a nice long steamy piss.
But all this relieving eviction of body product got me to thinking…if our physical body so desperately needs to release, surely the law must be consistent for the whole soul: emotions, spirit and psyche.
Have you ever tried to hold your pee when a convenient toilet escapes you? Perhaps you’ve experienced the horrifying “prairie-dog” effect when your body just can’t make the dog stay in the hole. For the love of all things holy, why can’t the careful walk to the toilet also be the swiftest? The gush of blood when you just weren’t prepared. Eating that one wrong meal and you can’t keep the food down. And don’t your eyes pop out of your head if you try *not* to sneeze or do it with your eyes open? Or worse yet, martyring yourself trying to hold your gas for mutually the fear of embarrassment and the olfactory safety of your neighbors, but you finally reason with yourself to free the trapped air and your heart sinks into your pants when you feel that it’s actually a shart? Please, dear God no!
It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.
Heaven bless the perky rebound after throwing up too much alcohol or a disagreeable dish. Freedom. The cosmically orgasmic sneeze when our bodies reject a sinus intruder. Yes! More! Finally taking that Austin Powers-long pee after a good night’s sleep. Hallelujah! Making it to a toilet when your intestines have had enough. Pure ecstasy! Feeling your body deflate five inches once you release a massive gas pocket. Slow, wordless smile.
It is nothing short of torturous misery to try and hold in vomit, poo, pee, gas, or a sneeze – and it is equally all things glorious to release them.
For our physical bodies to function properly, the ugly must come out, up, down, AWAY. And into the air or down the drain. Are we properly cleansing our minds, spirits and hearts of its waste too? How do you practice the letting go of old memories and heartache that is certainly rotting and creating toxic fumes that prevent us from healthy function? I came up with three categories that sum it all up for me:
Fire is a timeless symbol of not only power and passion but also equally life and death. The phoenix sets itself ablaze only to rise from the ashes again. Burning incense is a universally sacred practice. Two ways to burn yourself clean: first, sage. Smudging is another ancient practice of purifying space, energy and literally the air around you by smoldering leaves or sticks. The second is by naming your filth – write a letter to someone you need to forgive, write down the missteps that are anvils to your soul. Maybe it will be paragraphs; maybe it will be pages. Write it all down, weep over it, and then light it up and let it go…safely of course.
Nothing says out with the old like in with the new. The order doesn’t matter. Sometimes the arrival of something new can push the old aside. Other times, you’ve successfully eradicated your spirit gunk and although its exit is healthy, you’re left with a void of what was. Cleansing yourself through newness can be anything – something powerful that you create, design, develop; a therapeutic shopping spree to signify change; the first ceremony of a new tradition; moving or relocating to start anew in a new place; find a new way to give back to the community. Dumping your spirit’s waste in this way can be your renaissance.
This is my personal self-care favorite. Being. As an extrovert, I tend to find my energy among people, but I also have introvert tendencies and need to indulge in delicious hermit-like moments to find my balance. Part of my soul-cleansing process includes quality alone time. This isn’t the avoidant type of me-time that includes eating comforting lime chicken or steak tacos (La Pasadita is the best – corn tortilla, onions & cilantro) on my couch in droopy sweatpants I’ve had since high school and watching made-for-TV movies from the 90s (you know the ones with Tori Spelling and Joanna Kerns…). Although these moments feel GREAT, I mean the actual art of being. Unplugging, looking inward, opening your soul to let go of the old and bad and ugly, and welcome in love and compassion and light. Meditate, pray, go to a sensory deprivation chamber, go off the grid for a few hours – heck, try a whole week! Delete the site history of the internet browser that is your soul and refresh your deepest core.
Whether it’s just my peer group or simply the common thread of adulthood, the daily tidal wave of couples, engagement, marriage and anniversary photo collages on social media is overwhelming. The only remedy is the equal abundance of cynical e-cards and memes mocking the romantic posts perpetually shoved down our lonely single-people throats. And to finally push us loners into a spiral of independent agony is the digital dating industry and their persistent ads telling us that being single is not acceptable. Swipe this, meet here, and connect on that to find your mate, your match, your partner, your other half. What if I don’t want to? What if I’m already whole by myself?
Tell the Ghost of No Significant Other Present to back off
Well, if you’re feeling the negative weight of solitude and the grasp of singleness is tightening around your wrist, tell the Ghost of No Significant Other Present to back off. Stop swiping, searching, and then rolling your eyes at your dating apps for failing you, and try these ways to enjoy your shining solo self:
- Do that one thing. You know, the one thing you said you’d do if you only had the time, money, opportunity and then reserved it for, well, maybe when I retire? Yeah that. Stop waiting. Do it now. You can’t control when your life partner will stroll into your world, but you can control how you maximize your Me Time. Since you’re not on any hot dates, schedule in whatever it is you keep putting off. Maybe it’s writing a book, going back to school, learning a new skill, visiting place #38 on your Bucket List – whatever. Stop making excuses, and do it. Do it for you.
- Date yourself. OK, confession time: I love reading and writing in crowded bars and restaurants. Weird, I know. Somehow, it’s energizing for me. The hum of voices, the array of fashion, the smiles, laughter and awkward body language of strangers…it’s actually pretty entertaining. When everyone else is out with the squad looking to pick up a date, or couples that are actually on a date, I somehow feel even more empowered to be anti-that. So go to the movies, go for a walk, rent a bike, drive to somewhere you’ve never been and have a picnic. The possibilities are endless. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t leave home and experience life.
Join stuff. If you’re uncomfortable with too much of yourself, then it’s time to get out and meet people – without romantic expectations. Just meet other humans with similar interests. Join a social club, volunteer at a non-profit, take a series of dance, art or cooking classes, get active in your place of worship, purchase membership to fine arts circles, find a book club or lecture series. Heck, start your own group if you can’t find one you like. Make sure it is something that meets regularly – weekly or monthly – so that you can begin to cultivate new connections. You never know; you might just find your tribe.
- #Friends4Lyfe. Being an intentional friend isn’t something that came easy for me. I didn’t realize until my own marriage was over that I had no close friends left of my own – everyone that had been a “friend” was actually closer to my once-spouse. (FYI, don’t be me. You need friends and your friends need you.) I had to rebuild friendships and find ways to make new ones. Schedule time for your pals and do things together. Even if it’s a phone date or just meeting to go shopping or work out together. You need each other.
- I know I will find you; I already love you. This is a line from a dear friend’s song that she wrote when she was single. She was longing for love and sorting through the feelings but didn’t have the person to receive all her adoration and affection. So she sang about it. If you’re confident in the love-to-come and just can’t stop the excitement, then don’t fight it. Write your future partner love letters, songs, create a photo album of yourself to give to them. If the passion is already there, let it speak; your person will be there soon.
- Don’t live with your parents. Just don’t. Even if they’re supportive. Even if you’re saving money. Don’t.
Cheers to loving yourself first.
There you have it. If you want to be in a relationship, just hold tight. Don’t dwell on your boredom or loneliness – you’ve got yourself – and yourself is pretty awesome. I’ve seen some extremely interesting couples out there, and if they can find each other, there’s hope for you yet. There’s hope for all of us. Cheers to loving yourself first.
A cartoon I saw yesterday left me with a knot in my throat. It showed First Lady Michelle Obama looking masculine and irritable, when compared to her potential replacement of the Republican-Party-Hopeful persuasion. There are so many things wrong with this image of her that I had to look away. It infuriates me that a strong, educated, strikingly beautiful American woman can be drawn so viciously. I refuse to link to it here and glorify the artist for his disgraceful work.
But then I considered my own identity issues as a Black Woman. I thought about how we’re shamed for not being good enough, pretty enough, educated enough…but then we’re shamed anyway, even when we blow those expectations out of the water. The truth is that we can never be good enough because someone will always find a reason to complain, nag, and diminish our value (enter the first stop on my Road to Relovery: validate yourself first) – even if you’re a double Ivy League graduate and the First Lady of the United States. I thought about how the physical attributes that kept me away from the cool kids table 20 years ago are the same things the cool kids are spending millions to have synthesized today.
I wasn’t allowed to be Black growing up. As I was taught to strive for greatness, the image of greatness was not Black greatness. The image of greatness I saw did not look anything like me. The image of beauty I was shown was 90s heroin-chic; long, cadaverous, pale, curve-less. And the image of success I was shown was…well, any lawyer or doctor (or both) with a giant house, beautiful kids, 90s heroin-chic wife, fancy car, multiple vacation homes…yep, the upper-middle white man of the 90s was my hero.
But before I go too deep on the double standards I’ve watched evolve over the last decades that absolutely turn my stomach (again, the shame and rejection of the Black woman’s figure by mainstream media, “Omigod Becky look at her butt,” to the booming booty boosting industry giving non-Blacks our shape; the cannabis industry turning from Black street crime and thousands of imprisoned business-savvy young brown people to a legal, medical multibillion dollar industry profiting non-Blacks, etc.), I want to offer the following tips to assist in a successful interaction with the Black goddess of today:
- Do know my name. Do everything within your power to call us by our own unique name – not to be confused with that other Black woman you met once, talked to, worked with or grew up with. In school, I was The Token for many years and everyone knew me by name. Enter new Black family stage right; suddenly everyone started calling me Nora. Not my name. I realized I was just filed under “The Black Girl” in their minds and when there were two of us, ERROR 404: Black Girl Name Not Found.
- Don’t conditionally compliment me. That means, don’t be surprised that I speak a certain way or have a large vocabulary. Don’t say “wow, you speak well …for a Black girl.” And while you’re at it, drop the mom clause too, i.e. “wow, you look great…for a mom…”
- Don’t ask if our hair is real or ours. Assume it is, close your mouth and move on.
- Don’t compare us. I am not Michelle or Whoopi or Kerry or Serena or Beyoncé or Iman or anyone else that you’ve seen on TV. Unless it is a comparison to compliment, just accept that many of us don’t fit into your boxed definition of Black Woman. Best once again, to just close your mouth and move on.
- Do join us. Women are strong, powerful, divine vehicles of life and yes, we can do all of that thing that you’re doing pregnant and in heels. Men, please stop asking us what we can do for you and let us do our thing or maybe even, dare I write it, offer to help us. And to my ladies, women of all colors, cultures and creeds need to stick together. Stop the girl-girl hate, cat fighting and competition. How about we take each other out on friend dates.
- Don’t tell stories. We don’t care about that one Black person you know. It’s ok if you don’t know any other Black people. Actually, no it’s not ok, but if it’s your reality, then so be it. You don’t score “OK With Blacks” badges by telling us about someone you met or asking if we saw the last Tyler Perry movie or episode of Scandal or Empire. Just relax and act normal.
- Do let us be ourselves. We’re not all comics or athletes. Again, relax. And maybe just keep the lips sealed one more time.
- Don’t say “I’m not racist.” You are. We all are. It just depends on what you do and say with your initial prejudices.
- Do be aware of your prejudices. Name them. And if you’re a forward thinking human-loving being, then you’ll know better which thoughts and reactions to push aside and how to move on without being awkward.
- Don’t admit to not understanding #blacklivesmatter. Just don’t. Close your mouth. Google it.
- Do understand police tensions. It’s not right that young Black kids dislike or fear the police, but it does make sense. It is sad but true and don’t forget that our Black history with law enforcement is drastically different from your non-Black story.
- If you’re going to assume anything, do assume we’re just as American as you are. I’ve been asked so many times where I’m from. Here. I’m from here. Just like you. We sing the same national anthem, cheer for the same teams, and drive on the same side of the road. If you haven’t noticed, America is actually quite colorful. And it is an astoundingly beautiful thing.
It happened. The binge watching. The time-stunning world-gulping addictive blackhole itch that only Netflix or OnDemand can scratch. First, it was Shannara, a fantastic escape to post-apocalyptic Elvin-run Earth that I first visited in the 90s with my brother. Druids. Allanon. This Allanon is hot. 1997 me didn’t envision him like this. 2016 me approves.
Next it was X-Files, like the good and faithful nerd that I am. It’s been nice pretending to be a tween again.
Then Mr. Robot. I tried. I really tried. I haven’t given up. But there’s something about the curiously attractive cartoonish features of the main character that entrance me in his face; not to mention his monotone, rhythmic – humming to near-numbing – monologues combined with the smog-filtered cinematography that lull me right to sleep. I haven’t noticed my eyes have closed and I’ve rested away several hours of my life until the silence of the electronics’ auto-sleep jolts me awake.
Ever since having children, I hate the silence. Because it’s when there’s nothing on that I hear everything the most. Creaks. Motors. Fans. People laughing a block away. Someone’s engine. Dogs barking. Of course, my own thoughts are loudest of all.
And I just miss my kids. When they’re awake, I miss the nonstop cycle of giggle-scream-whine-cry-guffaw-mom!-cry-scream-I’m hungry! And of course tripping over them as they stay underfoot. Stay. Six eyes on me as I mount my porcelain throne. I draw the line when they ask to see what happened. Just leave. They abide by sitting outside the door and commenting on the smells, asking when I’m done, sliding notes and finger tips under the door.
But when they’re sleeping or with their dad, I miss that complete disregard of privacy and breech of personal space. I miss it like…like a mother misses her children.
Ironically, since I put in my two weeks and was instead granted an immediate exit, thus walking into an unexpectedly needed yet desperately underfunded 2.5-week sabbatical, I’ve had the most frustrating experiences with my decrepit and ever-expiring netbook paired with a deafening case of writer’s block.
So, childless, workless, and afraid of the silence, back to the téle I go. There’s this one thing I keep hearing people talk about. Orange is the New Black. I usually don’t follow TV fads or jump on the hype. I likes what I likes and I’ll watches when I want to watches. But I’ll watch it because I’m curious, not because everyone else says I have to watch it. So, three years later, now I’m curious.
And I’m hooked.
What stood out to me the most, and what has finally cured my temporary case of writer’s block, was in Season One when the skinny mousy yoga lady says that one part that finally starts to ground the main gal.
“You have to remember that. It’s all temporary.”
I had one of those weird reactions like looking behind me to make eye contact with my neighbor because obviously there had to be a witness to this woman on Netflix that just said the thing that I always say – to myself, so that I don’t ever give up; to my friends, so that they don’t ever give up. But oh yeah, I’m alone. So I smiled to myself. I get me. High five.
Maybe that’s why I love the show so much now. Because it speaks to me where I’m at. No not “prision;” but my not-ideal situation.
I never made a conscious decision to be in the circumstances where I am now. Yet I don’t feel that I’m being punished any more than I feel imprisoned. That’s life. And I know that I have to keep going. The bad days are not forever. While it seems like they will never end, they are just as long as the good days I don’t ever want to end.
The other side of knowing that a not-so-ideal situation is temporary is having the hope that the next season is better. Or in the least, it will be a new change. A new adventure. Perhaps a new definition of hard-challenging-difficult-maddening, but the adapting will be distracting enough to feel at least temporarily better than the old bad.
archaica feeling of trust.
My hope is holding onto the possibility that things will change. Improve. Shift. Having faith that this sucky spot right now is not what God has intended for me. Why would I have such a huge calling on my heart to do certain things if they were only fake dreams, toying with my childlike wonder and optimism?
I don’t believe in a God that teases. I don’t believe in a Universe that beckons me towards a distant rainbow and then chuckles as I fall into a bottomless canyon on the way to paradise.
No. Hope is why I go skipping and singing through the zoo with my children as if nothing else matters in the world except that moment. Because it’s true. That glorious musical-like family performance at the zoo is just as temporary as my unintentional sabbatical that has already disappeared and died.
It is as temporary as my girlish figure. It is as temporary as my pregnancies. As adapting to raise one child. Then two. The intense heartache of losing a third. Then welcoming a fourth. As temporary as our first family vacation. Our last family vacation. It is as temporary as an infant’s first steps. Gone as soon as they happened. He’ll never take another first step. The first day of kindergarten. First lost baby tooth.
Life moments are fleeting. Life itself is fleeting.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hope is and always has been one of my three recurring life themes. The other two are Life & Death.
So while I laid my sabbatical to rest last night, this morning I awoke to a renaissance. A new life beginning today, where I quite literally hold a family’s hands as they say goodbye to one loved life; and within hours, watch several families crumble to their knees in gratitude for a temporary extension of their own loved ones lives.
Today I feel whole. My greatest gifts have finally been paired with a great need. Life from Death. And in the temporary phases that are life, I Hope that the painful times seem short and the precious moments linger…
YES. There’s nothing I can add to make this any more powerful or spot on. Nailed it.
After the release of her game-changing, brilliant video, Formation, and the stir her Superbowl halftime show caused with dancers dressed like Black Panthers, Beyoncé is blowing up everyone’s feeds everywhere. And one thing I am shocked/notshocked to see is white outrage about both.
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a Beyoncé fan. I’m not a fan of any of the pop divas. I don’t have anything against them; it’s just not music that interests me. So Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah, Adele, I apologize, but I’m sure you and your massive success could not possibly care less that I would rather be listening to punk or classical. The only reason I’m pointing this out is to make sure you know I’m not a Beyoncé fan. This is not about defending a beloved star.
Let me tell you what it IS about.
The vast majority of Black people…
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My goal of committing to a word a day in January was a success! But I don’t want to stop. It was a fantastic experience of intentional daily reflection. Still, a word a day was a bit aggressive. I’m going to do a word a week.
Sprinkled with some online dating facepalms.
Because honestly. I need to be the change I want to see in this digital love circus.
TOPIC COMING SOON – false intimacy.
Yeah. Sit on that for a minute.