You’ve Been Served

Ok, whew. I’m on my way to an author talk. A big one. I won’t say where until it’s over.

The last time I had a public event, I got served. Yeah. I’m being *sued.*

I laughed. For one whole day, I laughed.

And for the next eight weeks, I was sick with anxiety. I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Again.

I doubted myself. Every decision I ever made. Even things I couldn’t control. Am I too smart? Too pretty? Am I intimidating? Am I too good at too many things? Am I SO much that I deserve to be knocked down a few pegs? Do I deserve to be reduced to feeling as attractive and worthy as a maggot?

I knew I was being gaslighted. I knew this in my head, but suddenly any help or hope was //just// enough out of reach to leave me thrashing in despair. Like being stranded in the ocean while a plane passes overhead, too big and too far and too occupied to care.

So I shrank away, afraid of who I could talk to and who I could trust. I retreated. I fell into a deep depression — the kind you need pills for. My blood pressure spiked. I became apathetic about my existence. I gained 15lbs. I wanted to die (CLARITY: I wasn’t going to take my own life. But if it *happened* *on its own,* my arms were open wide. Come for me, End. Take me. I’ve had quite enough now).

Outwardly, I strutted with an unwavering voice, my chest out and head high. But when I returned home, worried I was being followed or stalked, I’d triple lock the door, turn off all the lights, cover the windows, and wither, shrivel up. And cry.

I’d glare at any man that smiled at me. I’d swat any approaching eyes, afraid they’d molest my curves, or foreign hands teasing to violate my skin, or sneaking invasive noses stealing my scent.

I was ashamed. For being a bad victim. For being the kind that fight. The ones that fight are the ones that are a threat. And the ones that get punished. And then they come for you. They rip you open again. They snatched my giant scab off a nearly-healed wound. Tearing my flesh and leaving the unpigmented vulnerable white tissue of my psyche exposed and stinging.

The street light went out and I thought it was intentional so that I could be attacked in my home in the dark. No light. No witnesses. I heard knocking once and was certain they were coming for me to shut me up for good. Every car riding too close was a threat. Every doppelgänger sighting left me overcome with nausea. My children. How can I protect my children from this foe?

I haven’t written or confidently played my cello since. I stopped recording my podcasts. Someone was finding my shows and giving one-star rating just to be hateful. I felt like I had been cursed. Cursed for not being a silent and submissive survivor. Cursed because I showed resilience and excellence instead of shame and humiliation. I was being punished. Because I had the audacity to thrive in spite of it. And for too long, I let that be my story. For two months I let them win.

But then, something clicked. I don’t know what or why or when exactly — sometime in September or October — I was just over it. Zero fux. Not one. Je m’en fous. I wasn’t giving this monster of fear any more of my energy. I am bigger and better and braver than all of this. Naming the demon disarms it. My silent suffering had been giving it satisfaction. But I’m beyond that now. My truth has always been my greatest weapon. I can’t say I’ve survived worse but I’m doing The Worst as we speak…so there’s that.

My darkness has passed and I’m working on regulating my blood pressure. I’m not paranoid anymore. And while there’s still no end in sight, it’s not consuming my thoughts. I’m jumping back into writing music and stories and prepping my voice for a podcasting return.

I am protected. Shrouded in love. I have a powerful team. I’m gone be alright.

And so…it’s time to take the stage again. Here I go, on my first event since July. To talk to and perform for 100 high schoolers. About life. About writing. About choices. About bravery.

I’m ready. ♥️

#thefearlessmoveforward #thehibouleans #andshewillflourish #octaviareese

Episode 001 Pure Lies


“No one will ever want you – you have three kids.”

Yes, that’s an actual quote from an actual human on the topic of me leaving my husband. I felt cursed. I felt like I was damaged goods. I felt like this person was right. Until I started dating again and I found out that they were very wrong. I could get a date! I was desirable – I was attractive – I was wanted! But then, I started to have doubts.

When I got ghosted the first time… and then the second time… and then the third time… all of them saying, “YOU’VE GOT THREE KIDS!”

Yeah, homie, I know. I was there.

The next time it came up, it was a two-fer. This person said the same for him and for his friend – yes I was romantically involved with friends – not at the same time; years apart; the first gave his blessing. But anyway… this person told me for him and his friend precisely why I was fun, but not a keeper.

Then came this one wildly attractive guy that I had a crush on – now, let it be known, I have crushes on many people, frequently. People are attractive, and for me, 98% of the time, I’d rather silently admire someone from afar than actually try to get to know them. I think it’s important to acknowledge attraction as a normal and natural thing – and a thing that can exist within itself as only that – a crush. People, especially people we are attracted to, don’t need to be owned and kept. Why are we so incapable of acknowledging beauty without trying to own it? Anyway, that’s another show. THIS show, is about the crush that jumped the entire gun to break up with me before we even talked about having a date because I already have kids and that’s something he wants to experience for the first time together with someone else.

Road to Relovery Tavinda Media

And finally, most recently, I was just told, “You’re like the perfect woman! But you’re divorced and have three kids. I want to have kids. If we have kids together, my first kids won’t be your first kids.” 

Yep, I’ll say that one again – my first kids won’t be your first kids.

Now, let it be known, I would rather be single and happy than feel guilt or shame for having three delightful children with a man I very much loved at the time. Those boys were made from love and they are the very epitome of it.

And we are a package deal. It hurts my heart to think some men would rather abandon the treasure of loving me because it means they’d also have to love my children. It makes me ache to know that they’re missing out on three of the best children in the world. That is entirely their loss – times four – and if they don’t want to find out how awesome my kids are, they don’t deserve me either.

I’d also like to point out pointedly point out – that as a pansexual – only cis-het men have expressed this concept of sperm-egotism; women and non-binary people I have dated couldn’t care less – they embrace me and my little darlings.

My personal opinion, I am pretty fucking awesome and I have no doubt that if and when these men find their life partners, they will always wonder about me – they will always wonder, what if I had given Octavia a try.

And you know why? Because kids grow up. Children are temporary fleeting treasures that are here for a few moments and then off on their own to adult in the wild. When the children are gone, what’s left but the two adults that raised them and whatever partnership they have is fully exposed. Children are neither bandaids nor baggage. They can’t save a relationship up against the ropes and they certainly shouldn’t be a barrier between two hearts that desperately desire each other.

Since I have been prematurely rejected more than five times with this – but you already have kids – response, I decided to take this strange perspective to the socials and to ask for others’ ideas on the topic.

Tavinda Media Road to Relovery

Many of the responses were confirmation bias – trashy insult; they’re intimidated by you and this is a neg to make you feel small; it’s just an excuse for being noncommittal; this is fragile masculinity afraid to parent a child he didn’t produce; immaturity avoiding responsibility… but then there were a few I hadn’t heard before, something on the topic of purity. This is the angle I want to explore and then destroy…

Follow @RoadtoRelovery on instagram and Facebook.

Or email me, Octavia Reese at roadtorelovery@gmail.com or octavia@tavindamedia.com

Head over to Road to Relovery the Podcast to listen, or search “Tavinda Media” in your favorite podcast app and subscribe!

Introducing Road to Relovery, the Podcast

Hey everyone — guess, what? This beaut [ pr. “beyoot] of a blog is turning into a podcast! Starting this month, Tavinda Media is putting these very articles on the air and I can’t wait to share my new vision of Road to Relovery with you.

Some new things coming up: another facelift for this web site and I’ll be adding new voices to the table, too. Each episode could feature me, several guest co-hosts or even a panel of other lovely people to discuss some of these very topics — and more!

My vision is to keep talking about these real life issues and keep reminding you — yes you — that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re going through. Don’t hesitate to reach out with feedback or questions, and don’t for get to rate, review and subscribe to the Road to Relovery podcast!

Join me on the socials, too: @roadtorelovery and on Facebook.

Octavia Reese Road to Relovery

Me, on Purpose

“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 Black or too…human…

Some were official legally binding documents; some were impossible cultural implications where every day was a new adventure in shame, humiliation, disappointment and emotional terrorism. You look ridiculous. No one will ever want you. Be more like Michelle Obama. Put your contacts in – people like you better with light eyes. Straighten your hair or people will think you’re uneducated. Tattoos make you look cheap…or criminal. You think you’re so smart. Who put you in charge? Sit down. Oh, you’re not a real author. Wow, you’re so talented you make me sick. Don’t pierce anything on your face. Beauty queens don’t do that. Moms don’t do that. Pastors’ wives don’t do that. Don’t wear bright nail polish – colors aren’t professional. Don’t sit there. Don’t sit there LIKE THAT. Don’t wear that. What if people see you WEARING that? Don’t dance like that – don’t dance at all. No clapping. Smile more. Talk less. Stand up, suck it in, bright eyes, chin up, butt tucked. Shave your legs. Shave everything. Except your head. Don’t talk to that person.

Don’t smoke, don’t swear, don’t talk too long or too loud. Don’t hug someone too long. Don’t kiss anyone. Don’t hold hands – actually, no PDA at all. Don’t even act like you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and for the love of all things holy, don’t live with them! People might think you’re… doing intimate things together. Don’t read any racy books or visit any controversial web sites. Don’t go into Victoria’s Secret, or shop for anything… intimate. Don’t talk about bleeding or …periods. Don’t let anyone see your tampons. Or leakage. Be discrete. Act like you don’t bleed at all. Oh, really nothing about the bathroom. Don’t let air escape you – no burps or farts. Oh, God don’t fart! Don’t overindulge in… things… Only drink water. It looks healthier. Don’t drink…alcohol. Or at least, don’t let anyone catch you drinking alcohol.

Actually, don’t let anyone catch you doing anything. Just stand still, look pretty, be docile and polite.

Because if I don’t submit to these things, people won’t like me.

And if people don’t like me, they won’t support me. They won’t talk to me or appreciate me. They won’t want to be seen with me. They’re going to judge me and talk about me. They’re going to reject me. Don’t give them a reason to reject me! Don’t disappoint anyone! Don’t let anyone down! Everyone must like and admire me!

But after all of that molding and adapting and cinching the moral corset, guess what? There are still people that don’t like me. There are still people that refuse to work with me. There are still people that can’t handle me doing my best.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

― Dita Von Teese

So after all of that exhausting (and pointless) people-pleasing, what happens?

What happens when I let someone in? What happens when I open the door and welcome someone into what I really think and feel? Will they be disappointed anyway? After years of trying to present myself as one perfect thing, who is more deceived? The person that thought I was someone else or me — for stifling my personality, silencing my inner voice and denying my own truth?

People say you should never meet your heroes. Because you find out what they present is usually a façade. A sham. An act. An impossible standard even they couldn’t meet. What happens when we grow up and realize even the most flawless looking role models have been leading a double life? Eventually, all skeletons demand release. Eventually, all masks crack. Eventually, pretending isn’t worth it anymore. Who are you, really? Are you putting all your energy into being someone else? Or are you being yourself on purpose?

2019 is my Flourish year. It’s the year that I’m being Octavia on purpose. It’s the year that I stop catching accidental glimpses of my talents and start intentionally bringing out the light burning within me. It’s the year I stop apologizing for being awesome. It’s the year I quit playing small to make others feel better. It’s the year I realize not everyone is equipped to love me, support me and accept me, on purpose. It’s the year that I stop trying to please and impress people that would probably never like me anyway. It’s the year that I stop worrying about how to be one of the cool kids. It’s the year that I finally stop stressing about how to win the attention and acceptance of people that don’t know me and don’t want to know me. It’s the year that I stop trying to be safe.

I’m not safe.

I’m not predictable. I’m vulnerable and real. I am the kind of hero that is graceful and messy and beautiful and flawed

What to know when dating a White man

Token. Yep, that was me. For the first 22 years of my life. I was raised in a 99% white world so when I started dating, I only dated white men (and started late, too; first date at 17). There were other Black men in that remaining 1% but being the fierce and stubborn woman that I was [am], I refused to date them just because they were Black.

So I still dated white men, then I married a white man, divorced the same white man, then dated a string of others. So while 2018 me hasn’t seriously dated a white man in about three years, I would still say I’m an expert on interracial relationships.

That’s why, when a friend shared an excited conundrum,  I’ve got a white man on my heels! What do I do!? I showed up and taught her everything I know. So, darling sister Women of Color, here’s…

WHAT TO KNOW WHEN DATING A WHITE MAN:

Disclaimer: This is a collection of learnings and not a reflection of any one person in my past, and yes each of these comes from experience. Of the white men I have dated, they have all (to my knowledge) been cis-het-white men.

1. White men are lovely, BUT most of them aren’t aware of their white privilege. Be wary of the ones that appear woke but aren’t. This might come out in him minimizing your goals, diminishing your struggles, dismissing your experiences of racism, or being obtuse to the importance of black excellence, representation and speaking your mind. When he shows the first sign of this: GOODBYE.

2. If you meet his family and his family makes racist comments and he doesn’t stand up for you: BYE.

3. If he ever makes racist comments himself because “you’re close like that,” BYE.

4. If he shows you off to his Black friends or only talks about all his Black friends, or talks about all his Black friends as “Black friends” and not friends period: BYE.

5. If he doesn’t introduce you to his friends, family and basically keeps you a secret, EFFING.GOOD.BYE.

6. If he has a pet name that has anything to do with race like Ebony Goddess: BYE BYE AND ROT IN A COLD DARK CAVE.

7. If he only dates Black women or women of color: WHY then BYE.

8. If he doesn’t want to talk about race issues with you, BYE.

9. If he doubts your expertise and questions your authority but accepts the same answer from a white person: [side eye, pick up bags and leave TOUTDESUITE]

10. If he makes any comment like, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to date a Black woman,” or “I’ve never had one of you before,” BYE.

BONUS: If he asks you questions as if you’re the spokesperson for all minorities, GET.OUT.

Congratulations! You can now successfully identify interracial dating red flags and and spare yourself the shock, agony, horror and disappointment of being served microracism in your home.

~OR

2018: Arms Linked & Armored in Love

This has been an incredible year. Mind blowing in all the best ways. There were some unpleasant events (mostly revolving around the political circus that has become American government, which turned on the kitchen lights to a social infestation of roaches feeding on hatred and a lust to conquer people, acquire power and money and then invent new ways to justify their vile means of doing so. However, out of these awakenings, we have advanced to a next level of doing better – talking about racism, sexual assault, corruption, and setting firm boundaries with what we, as a unified people refuse to tolerate, no matter how much money and power you have. We have rebirthed movements, protests, and coalitions; and for this end, I’m grateful for the tumultuous events and the ever-jolting media headlines.)

I’ve also had surprises of divine caliber (an artistic collaboration with a dear long-distance friend, which led me to a 17-year reunion with a Detroit dance sister, who happened to be looking for new members for her dance company, just on the cusp of me retiring from my former group; the blossoming of many beautiful intentional friendships; my inspiration to reboot my Hibouleans series for print, send myself on a signing and performing tour, finally record and share Secondskin, the theme to my book score; the brilliant beginnings of a brand new full-length novel; an unexpected move to the home of my dreams, and a taste of the sweetest of blended family life).

Last year, I set some goals for myself: five boundaries for behaviors I will not allow, and five invitations to what I will allow. And while among other resolutions, including working out daily, becoming a vegetarian, and blogging monthly, which slipped miserably between the cracks of life, I am proud to share that I coolly and calmly maintained my commitment to my five boundaries.

I boldly – yet lovingly – consistently said, “No” to behaviors, conversations and situations that were unhealthy for me. And in doing so, and checking-in with friends for support and reinforcement, I was able to evolve into a stronger, healthier more fierce level of myself. So, this year, my annual reflection and dedication is a collection of the wisest sayings from my dearest friends; the friends that have seen me, encouraged me, loved me and helped me hold the heaviest of things.

  1. Love doesn’t mean Yes (NH). Loving someone does not mean that you are required to spend precious time, money and energy, performing or enduring something that is not helpful, pleasant or healthy for you.

Your love is not contingent upon martyring yourself for their comfort. You can both love someone, and lovingly walk away saying, What you’re doing right now is not good for me, and while I love you, I do not have to participate.

  1. If you need someone, they have power over you (JR). JR gave me this perspective when I shared my relationship mantra with her: I’m not going to be with someone because I need them; I’ll be with them because I want to be with them. I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.

She told me that if/when you do feel like you need someone, then their power over you is knowing you can’t survive without them. It is so important to remember that our survival, healing or growth should not hinge on someone else giving it to us. If we allow them that power, we might be at their mercy in more ways than one, and they will continue to take advantage of that imbalance.

I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.

  1. I’m not responsible for your feelings. If my boundaries upset you, it’s your decision to be insulted (JR). Another bit of JR wisdom here. My personal growth, as I invoked in my 2017 post, has been in boundaries: drawing lines for what is best for me and not pushing them to appease others over myself. She reminded me that I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable, and if they don’t like my rules, that is their decision.

 

  1. Little information and strong boundaries (JR). She’s full of fantastic –isms isn’t she? This was my lesson later in the year, when I realized that oversharing some personal information with friends or family can be unhealthy for both them and me. I need to share wisely and keep up those boundaries, only letting a select few into my private circle.

 I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable

 

  1. You don’t revolve around your life; your life revolves around you (JM). Between summer and fall, when I was rebooting my novella series for print, I suddenly became overwhelmed with tasks – and I was doing them all on my own. I was in the middle of a bad business situation with someone I planned to hire for my books and I was tiptoeing around a difficult conversation, afraid of seeming like the bad guy.

JM reminded me that this book – and any other part of my life – is MINE, not anyone else’s. The only person that needs to be proud and satisfied and happy is me. That means I need to step into the chief executive role of my book company, and start to make all my self-imposed demands revolve around me. I cannot let myself get tossed around by obligation; I am the center of my own universe.

  1. God doesn’t contradict [godself] (JM). Ok, she actually said “God doesn’t contradict himself,” but I am dedicated to releasing God from the confines of gender pronouns (too many people really think God is a white man in the clouds), so I exchanged the pronoun [insert grin here]. Anyway, I was in the midst of some intense imposter syndrome at this point.

Sometimes, as most artists can relate, I just want to create, share it with the world and hope that someone also appreciates and accepts my gifts. But as soon as it goes out into the world, I think, “oh crap…I what have I done!” I was embarrassed and ready to retreat after making such a huge fuss over my book.

Self-publishing is intimidating because I don’t have an agent and publishing company to back me and remind me that my work is fantastic. They’re not there to tell me that because they have longevity and credibility and they’ve studied markets and trends for decades, the people will devour what they’re served. When it’s my own show, I’m basically asking strangers to take a chance on me and my adventures and hoping, desperately, that they’ll enjoy it.

Self-depreciating thoughts flooded my conscience. I felt like I was sabotaging myself and that I should just stop trying to be anything other than a mother, like so many others in my past had told me: Octavia, you’re doing too much, your priorities are off, you’re being selfish and irresponsible. Just sit down, shut up, raise your kids, clean your house, keep your husband happy, stay married.

I wanted to rewind five years and submit to being unremarkable. Unremarkable, predictable, stable and safe. Then JM asked mid-crisis me, “Are your books, talents, visions, musicianship, passions and calling from God or are you just doing this yourself?”

“No, no, this is part of my divine purpose.”

“Ok, then. And those beautiful children – did you just roll over and decide to make them yourself because you wanted the responsibility, or are they gifts from God, too?”

“They’re gifts from God,” I mumbled like a toddler when mom is schooling you hard.

“Well, God doesn’t contradict himself. God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”

And scene.

“God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”

  1. Caves form character in ways crowns never can (JS). This was the lead message in a sermon series at my church called Caves & Crowns, where we spent several weeks studying David’s life and lessons. Most people know only two main things about David – that he single-handedly took down Goliath when he was young, becoming a hero and a legend all at once; and that later in life as king, he slimily took Bathsheba because he wanted to and he could. What we rarely hear is how he spent the time between Goliath and Bathsheba hiding from Saul in caves. It was the darkest and most unpredictably dangerous season when he was able to create and learn the most. Those caves were studious, prayerful and reflective. The time in exile is what seasoned his character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power. As I hustle like crazy to achieve my goals, I know that it is these lean and uncertain times when I will remember what is the most important.

Time in exile is what seasons character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power.

  1. Fear fears love (JS). Another lead message from my church. This series was called The Heist and we studied ideas that imprison us. Fear can be crippling but it is real. Fear can also be a teacher. Some people pair fear with faith, but the only true way to fight against fear is with love. This spoke to me at the time because I was seeing insecurity and jealousy in people I love. There was a lack of trust because their fear was stronger than love. Love builds trust, but fear fosters insecurity. And now, I carry this with me when I have my artist imposter moments – I create – music, art, stories – because it is my passion and my love. If I feed my fear of disapproval, then I’ll be repressing my love of the craft. I will continue to create because I love to do it, and I won’t stop because I fear rejection. Love is greater than fear.

Love is greater than fear.

  1. If it’s not a f*ck yes, it’s a hell no (basically, all of the friends). Instructions: apply liberally to everything, including relationships, shoes, dresses, all accessories, furniture, apartments, vehicles, concert tickets, employment, friends, vacations and pets. Do not dilute or rinse. Does not always apply to food.

 

  1. I love you and I would do anything for you (CJ). Omigod. This one made my cry. And I have had other versions of this from my crew over the last 2-3 years (DS, GP, AH, LW, KP, ST, RS).

I’ve been in the Fine, I’ll Do it Myself, modus operandi since I was probably 7 years old. And while I’m eager to help others if and whenever I can, it often takes someone to shove help in my face before I accept it. I’m almost always too ashamed to ask, and when faced with an offer, I’m hesitant to accept. It’s not just because I’ve watched others live life with their hand out, always asking to latch onto someone else’s prosperity, and I don’t ever want to be compared to them, but also because I don’t want to need anyone (see No. 2 above); I don’t ever want to feel like there’s a debt I could never repay and have someone hold that over my head.

I have been in so many relationships where every good deed or gift was expected to be matched or repaid. I don’t want those obligations imposed on me. BUT. When there are true gifts, those that come from the purest and most honest places of love, there is no other expectation but to support each other. I have to remember, it’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to accept a gift. I’m grateful for those that have helped push me along. I couldn’t be here without you. You’ve encouraged me, watched and cared for my children, fed me, cried with me, laughed with me, laughed until crying with me, moved me – literally packed me up and moved me across the city, run errands for me, counseled me, and held me.

As you can see, I have some pretty incredible people in my life. I’m grateful for all of them and all of their wise words. We’re going into 2018, arms linked and armored in love.

~OR

Octavia Reese Abracadabra

MAO, You Know Better

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.

Miss Michigan Octavia Reese
(C) misswaynecounty.org

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…

~ OR

Believe Me, Too

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 becausmetoo snipe 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.]

 

PRIVILEGE

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.

HUMILIATION

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.

BELIEVE ME

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!”

#METOO

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.

~OR

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