I read the way some women write about love, and the anguish of losing it. I listen to the way some women sing about it, saying they would rather die than to exist in a world without them. I read about how some women feel the man they’re with is their entire purpose for being, that he is her everything. I enjoy taking in their experiences as a voyeur, because I feel very detached from the experience of being hopelessly, madly, deeply in love.
I have an awful lot of friends. I don’t mean Facebook friends. I mean real, If I die tomorrow this is where I keep my toys. Please dispose of them before my mom finds them, or they end up in an evidence locker,” because I watch too much Law and Order SVU friends. For any situation I may ever find myself in, I have at least 3 people I can call to get me out of it. I am very blessed in this regard. For this reason, it’s hard to keep up with everyone. I don’t see or talk to all of these friends every day, because who has the time? Whenever possible I schedule time to spend with my friends, and this often means a long ass pow wow wherein we catch each other up on what has happened in our lives since last we spoke or hung out.
Today was such a good day. Emphasis on was. Ever since the election I’ve been caught in a space between being highly motivated to take responsibility for my life and contribute something good to this world, and crippling fear over what our soon to be President is going to do to this country. Today, I was on the good side of that. I was on the side that my forever President Barack Obama encouraged me to be on per his farewell address. After watching Being Mary Jane, I thanked God for opening my eyes to the fact that it is always a good idea to work on yourself before you commit to someone else. I even wrote a little about it:
“If you subscribe to the beliefs and teachings of any higher power, then at some point in your life you have hopefully endured some experience that showed you the principle of perfect timing. We call it God’s perfect timing, or His perfect plan for our life. This guiding principle gives us peace in knowing that everything we need is ours according to His perfect timing. With that being said, is it so illogical to believe that if I am not in a relationship right now that maybe I don’t actually need that right now?”
As I was typing this, I casually asked a co-worker how she was doing. I could tell from her posture that she was really going to tell me the truth.
“You know at the end of 2016 I told myself 2017 is going to be about me. It’s not gonna be about my kids or my husband, it’s gonna be about me, and that just didn’t happen. I’m telling you Jessica, value this time now. Be present in it, because you’ll never get this time back.”
Feeling even more assured that I am on the right path, I typed this out with such vigor, conviction, and pride. Sometimes we need a reminder that time to ourselves is a valuable commodity that every woman doesn’t have. The love and companionship of another person always seems to be at the forefront of our desires, but I decided a while ago to put myself at the forefront of my desires. I have this time to myself for a purpose. The phase after this is a husband and possibly children, and we all know that one must be selfless in the role of wife and mother. I tell myself all the time I can’t be more eager to commit to someone else than I am to commit to myself. With this burst of energy and certainty, I responded to emails about upcoming events, execution of plans for my brand, and I felt so good adding things to my calendar. And then I really looked at the calendar. I mean I really looked. I looked forward, and I realized that Valentine’s Day is coming up, and that I have to be okay being alone on that day too, and my whole day went to shit.
I don’t care what anybody says, it sucks to be alone on Valentine’s Day. You can be as happy and content in your single life as you want to be, but when Valentine’s Day comes, and everyone around you is getting shit and feeling loved and shit, it sucks. I can’t even solidify plans to have a girl’s night out, because my friends aren’t reliable when it comes to that kind of thing. So I started thinking what can I do by myself that won’t also make me feel lonely? I googled and came up with zero good ideas. I mulled this over in my mind a hundred times. What do I really want to do? What would I want to do if I had a guy? And then I realized that it is a whole ass month away. I climbed down off the ledge in my mind, and said relax bitch, it’s a whole ass month away. Let’s worry about it when it comes. I will check in with you in a month to let you know if I dipped into my 401k to pay a matchmaker. Standby.
I can’t remember what year it was, but at some point in middle school I got my period for the first time. It was so dramatic for no good reason. My mom, my brother, and I were at dinner at this restaurant that I refuse to eat at even now. I went to the bathroom, saw that it had happened, and scurried back to the table to whisper it to my mom. First of all she asked how I knew. I was so annoyed like, “What do you mean? You signed off of on the sex ed papers like three years ago, I know what the hell is happening here!” That coupled with my brother’s snickering because he figured out what was happening added to my embarrassment. To make matters worse, my mom called damn near every woman in our family to tell them the good news (this is not newsworthy). After she made her obligatory phone calls, we took the longest drive to Wal-Mart ever. Why? Because, this is when my mom decided to have “the talk” with me.
“You are now able to become a mother. I am not the vagina police, so I am not going to tell you what to do with yours. But know this, anything a boy tells you, he will go down the street and tell another girl the same thing. Anything you ever do in this life, you need to be able to proudly look at yourself in the mirror the next day, and be okay with your decision. If you feel the need to have sex, call your sister,” she said while driving to the farthest Wal-Mart possible upon my request.
“Why can’t I just talk to you?” I asked innocently enough. Isn’t this the kind of things mothers and daughters discuss based on every sitcom I’ve ever seen?
“I would advise you not to,” she said matter-of-factly. You know that voice moms use when you know that’s the end of the conversation? That one.
That was the first and last conversation I ever had with my mother about my sex life. In her defense, I don’t ever remember not knowing what sex was, or where babies come from. No one ever sheltered us from that kind of info. If we asked a question, the adults in our lives told us straight up. Although, I don’t ever recall asking anyone that cliche question either. So the part of that conversation that freaked me out was looking in the mirror, and being proud of what you see. I was such an independent kid that I felt I had been responsible my whole (short) life, but now I am responsible for making sure I don’t create another life. That part was easy. There are more ways not to get pregnant, than there are ways to get pregnant. So I never worried about that. What gave me anxiety was that I needed to like myself. I needed to be proud of myself. I had to trust my own decision making. But there was never a talk about that. No one ever told me the importance of loving myself, or trusting myself because they all assumed I did. That’s the danger of being an extrovert. People always assume you have a bottomless pit of confidence to be so outspoken and outgoing, but that just wasn’t the case for me.
The reason I have such deep admiration for Diane von Furstenberg is because she so accurately summed up how I’ve always felt about my life in saying, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” I always knew who I wanted to be. I just didn’t know to give myself the time, space, and patience to grow into her. But, this year I did. I made a point to be nicer to myself, to be patient with myself, and more than anything I learned to trust myself.
Last story (for now) I promise. My Manager/sister/friend and I were in the midst of one of the many meetings we had before relaunching this site. She started asking me an array of questions that I knew I should have the answer to, but I was afraid I would choose the wrong thing. I got insanely overwhelmed and started to doubt whether I should do any of this at all. “Okay let’s stop here. If you are going to go through this meeting with a defeated attitude, then let’s regroup another day. You know what you’re doing, and you have to trust yourself. I am not going to make these decisions for you,” she said, and she gathered her things and left. Initially I was like well damn!
But, she was right. How can I undertake such an immense project with no sense of confidence in my own decisions? It’s my brand, and my site, so I have to make these choices. I had a major come to Jesus moment, and look where we are. The site is doing so much better than I could’ve ever hoped for, and I’m so looking forward to what we have lined up for the coming year.
The lesson to trust myself did not come easily, in fact I’m still working at it. For example, it is very sobering to learn that a guy you have been dating for three months has a mixtape (and a trash one at that). Y’all I found YouTube videos of this clown rapping, and I just felt awful. Epic effin failure. The lesson of trusting myself came from failure, and from recovering from those failures stronger and wiser. When you allow yourself to see the other side of failure, you become less afraid, and much more empowered to just live. Whatever your goals are for the next year, be patient with yourself. You don’t know everything, and you cant expect yourself to. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to start. Be nice to yourself. If you fail, it’s okay. You’ll grow stronger in your recovery, and this is usually where you see God show up the most. And trust yourself. Your path is your path. If you listen too much to other people’s advice, they will talk you right off of your path. Seek wise council, but trust yourself. This is where confidence grows. This is where you grow.
I have this friend named Meredith. We were once co-workers who are now great friends. She lives two streets over from me in a gorgeous co-op building, and is one of my favorite people in the world. This is greatly due to the fact that she knows everything about everything, and I always leave our conversations a little more enlightened than I was before. Hence, I look forward to our weekly or bi-weekly chats over overpriced smoothies or coffee in our hipster Brooklyn neighborhood. (Seriously though, why are we paying that much for blended vegetables and fruit topped with bee pollen?) A few weeks ago we were sitting in our favorite cafe, which is often heavily populated by families whose children have too much authority. This cafe alone has made me reconsider motherhood. Those children are little terrorists as far as I’m concerned. At any rate, we still managed to get our catch up session in over the screams of a child who clearly did not want a gluten free cookie.
“I just don’t subscribe to the toxicity of positivity that we live in these days,” she said.
“Elaborate,” I said inquisitively.
“This constant need everyone has to be so positive about everything all the time is just toxic. Bad feelings serve a purpose too.”
I stumbled into my dark house with tears welling up in my eyes. My purse dropped to the floor like there was an actual brick inside. I stripped off every piece of clothing I had on. My makeup stained sweatshirt was the first to go, and the tears were falling faster than I could wipe them away. By the time I made the short walk to the bathroom, there was a trail of personal effects that I couldn’t be bothered to clean up. Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I turned on my shower and leaned against the tile until I saw the steam form. I tilted my head back, and stood there naked and exposed for the second time today while my makeup, my tears, my anxiety, my fear, my sadness, my everything ran down my body and down the drain. I looked at my white ceiling, and I wondered why can’t it be this simple? Today I faced my fear. I stood nose to nose with my fear, and I said take your best fucking shot. The fear of the not knowing is worse than the knowing, I thought. And so rejection came out and kicked my ass like Diamond in the conclusion of Player’s Club. Rejection tossed me around like a rag doll, and left me feeling insecure and alone. I tried to fight back. I will not go silently into the darkness. Not today bitch. But rejection said that’s cute girl and tossed me right back on the floor.
If you are new here, welcome! You should probably stop now, and go to my About Me page so that you’re not completely lost. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Promise.
If you are returning, heeeeeyyyyy!!
Have you ever noticed that in life we tend to accept the things we feel we deserve? We only go after the things we know we will excel in, because we are afraid to fail. We subconsciously seek out partners we are comfortable with even if they aren’t good for us, because we don’t want to face rejection from someone better. BTW, it takes far too many heartbreaks to learn that comfort doesn’t always equal happiness. We settle for jobs that don’t feed our passion, because we would rather have the safety of guaranteed cash than to risk the unknown. We will accept mediocrity and unhappiness simply because we are afraid. That fear manifests itself into self-sabotage, as a means to avoid having to face possible disappointment. The thing is that when we play it safe, we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience the fullness of our capabilities. I have done that my entire life without realizing it.
Apparently at some point very early on (I can’t recall exactly when because I’m no spring chicken) I experienced a rejection so troubling that I ran to that feeling every time I wanted to go after something greater than what I had. Whatever that pivotal rejection was wounded me so deeply, and shattered my self-confidence so immensely, that even as a 29 year old woman I still lean on that hurt as an excuse to settle.
Here’s an example. Allow me to take you back. Insert 90’s era sitcom dream sequence here. There was a guy who I formed an amazing friendship with when I was an 18 year old freshman at Georgia Southern University. I thought so highly of him, and so low of myself that despite his constant professions of love for me over the course of our friendship, I never fully allowed myself to believe him. I thought how can this amazing guy really feel this way about me, when he can have anyone he wants? I rejected the idea of him loving me so vehemently that I did the most destructive things to shut down any chance he and I would’ve ever had of being together. I completely sabotaged myself. In my mind it was better for him to not know he was the only person I wanted than to face him telling me he didn’t feel the same way. This man came to my literal rescue time and time again, and talked me down off a few figurative ledges for years. But, my complete lack of self-confidence made me overly sensitive to everything he would say and do, causing us to mutually push each other away. For years, I was haunted with thoughts of what if? In retrospect, the unknowing was far worse than what it would’ve felt like for him to reject me.
So I sit here now older and wiser, yet I’m doing the same thing again with my career. I thought that I was such a risk-taker, especially because so many other people regard me as such. I thought that making the big move to the big city meant I was showing this huge act of faith, and that alone should be enough to carry me through to the next level. I didn’t realize until a few months ago that I wasn’t really doing as much as I should/could. I got so comfortable that I started to feel antsy. I started to feel discontent and restless in my spirit, because something in me knew that I wasn’t doing enough. I have wanted to put more into this site and into my brand for a while, but I was so afraid to fail in front of everyone. Like, could you imagine being Meek Mill and taking L after L with everyone watching? The horror! I kept thinking I’m not good enough yet, give it a few months. Lose a little weight, then try it out. Save up some money, and then do it. I made excuse after excuse, until I finally ran out. I did that thing we all do when we run out of answers: pray. It’s actually the first thing we should do, but hey I’m human. One night in my bed I cried so hard that I started to pray, and then I started to cry because I was praying so hard. I kept asking God to help me to see what was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to be disciplined enough to commit to consistently taking steps to create a better life for myself. I didn’t realize I was just fighting against myself. We always think to fight the external enemy (whatever yours is) but sometimes you are actually your own enemy. Sometimes the voice you keep hearing telling you that you can’t do something is actually your own, and that’s some scary shit to realize. Why would you speak against yourself? Why would you tell yourself you couldn’t be better? It’s because on some level you are just trying to protect yourself from potential failure, and/or disappointment. I saw that by hiding behind fear, I was holding myself back from so much.
So I promise you, my readers that you will get more from me more consistently. I won’t be afraid anymore. I am out of my own head, and out of my own way to make this site better. Let’s grow and laugh together for a while, shall we?
Let’s just jump right in. I basically consider myself the spokesperson for single black women who haven’t given up on love, but who aren’t pressed about finding it either. We are a unique breed often spotted in the wild minding our own damn business and flourishing. It burns my biscuits when I see those Instagram accounts devoted solely to telling black women how they should deal with being single and/or what they should do to find a man. They have those nonsensical captions that say shit like, “Keep your head up, your king may be watching from afar.” How about you keep your head up just because you’re supposed to keep your damn head up? But I digress.
On to the point here. Non-single people mean well I’m sure. You approach conversations with your single friends about single life and dating with the best of intentions, yet you seem to end up being kind of a dick about the whole thing. Somehow you end up saying some very problematic things in an effort to “comfort” your single friends. So, as the self proclaimed spokesperson let me just tell you, you have to chill with the following statements:
1) “You have to stop looking for a fine ass dude. I wasn’t attracted to my husband at first, but look at us now.”
First of all sis, stop telling people you low key think your dude is ugly. Even if your husband now looks like Boris Kodjoe to you, as opposed to him looking like a gremlin initially, stop telling people that. Moreover, some of you who say that actually have attractive husbands to begin with. So why should you get to walk around married to Idris Elba, and because I’m single I should just take whatever I can find? What kind of shit is that to tell someone? We all know that a person can become better looking to you as you get to know them (if you like what you’re getting to know) but don’t tell me that I should settle for a dude who looks like Flavor Flav in the face off rip. Second, I consider my children. Won’t someone think of the children?! Life is hard for unattractive kids. I know, because I was one. Lastly, unattractive dudes don’t know they’re unattractive. Why? Because there are sooooooo many chicks who genuinely don’t care about looks (good for you guys). Those girls are willing to date Sloth from the Goonies, and treat those guys like royalty, so those guys really don’t know they aren’t attractive. In fact, they have women lined up for the opportunity to be with someone, anyone. So they too walk around treating the Ciara’s of the world like Future, not knowing they look like burned bacon. In summation, an unattractive guy can be just as trash as a fine guy. It’s a vicious lie that ugly guys treat women better. Have you seen Peter Gunz? He’s a failed rapper who looks like a thumb, yet look at how he’s treated the women in his life. What I need you guys to know is that we aren’t looking for Ralph Angel (although it would be nice) we just wanna be attracted to our significant other, and that’s not too much to ask for. It’s insanely offensive to tell your homegirl to settle for someone she’s not attracted to, just so she won’t be alone. Hard pass bro. Hard pass.
2) “You should read this (insert shitty book filled with shitty dating advice written by shitty person).”
From what I can gather, the happiest marriages are the ones in which two people commit because they want to. There are no romantic comedy like antics. There are no tricks, or rules, or handbooks, or worksheets. If it’s meant to be, it should just happen without us having to use Jedi mind tricks. I don’t want to trick someone into being with me. Those books are trash. Next.
3) “Maybe your standards are too high.”
Rubs temples. Most of us are not asking for much I swear. Why are we always asked to adjust our expectations, but no one is telling guys to step up? We are not viewed as whole to you people unless we are attached to a guy, yet no one is telling these guys to be good guys. You’re comfortable telling women to think like men, but you’re not telling men how to be men? How does that make sense Steve? Believe me when I tell you, most of our standards are really reasonable, so this perpetual desire you people have to fault us for guys not wanting to commit has to stop. At some point, you have to consider that maybe a guy is responsible for his penis, and not me. Just a thought.
4) “Women these days don’t cook and clean like their grandmothers did, that’s why they can’t find a man.”
You gotta stop comparing us to our grandmothers, whom you’ve never met. You cannot expect for women today to behave like the women of yesteryear when you are not the men of that era yourself. I have literally had guys try to explain to me why a woman should offer to pay for the first date, yet those same guys will argue that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Where the hell do you expect for this mystical woman to get the damn money from to pay for the date then? If you can’t change a flat tire, fix a broken pipe, or qualify for a home loan, then how is it fair that you want a full turkey dinner by 6:00 PM when I have to work just like you do? If you aren’t providing a life that lends itself to a woman being able to stay home, and be the domestic home maker of your dreams, then how about you shut the hell up? And newsflash, no amount of expertly fried chicken, and meticulously cleaned baseboards is going to make a guy put a ring on it if he doesn’t want to. Will I cook, and clean? Sure, because I too am hungry (constantly) and I too enjoy a clean house. If I am tired from working a 60 hour work week; however, can’t we just order some take out and chill?
Okay, where do I begin? First off my mom worked really hard to keep my brother and I hella fresh. Style, fashion, and appearance are a big thing on my mom’s side of the family. So much so that my grandmother will legit shade you if you are a woman not wearing earrings, or “something on your lips.” I cannot tell you how many times I have heard her shade the hell out of my mom with a casual “oh I guess you ain’t gon’ put nothing on yo lips huh?” This is followed by a sincere stare over her glasses until you comply with her passive aggressive suggestion to put some manner of lipstick on. My dad’s side of the family, not so much. My dad doesn’t place much value on materialistic things at all. I almost think it was a form of silent protest against my mom for him to not give a shit how we walked out of the house looking. Hence, when my brother and I would spend summers with him in South Carolina, it was a fashion free for all. My style was at the mercy of whatever the good Lord put on my spirit to wear that day. This was my time to be experimental with my look. Yeah, we’ll go with that.
99.9% of my family lives in South Carolina. So summers with my dad meant summers with my whole family too. My dad’s family meant well. They truly did. I didn’t realize until I was much older that they just didn’t have a lot. At my dad’s mom’s house we would eat mayonnaise sandwiches, hot dogs, and generic corn flakes with canned milk. We would run around the yard all day playing with bow and arrows my great grandmother made out of sticks and twine. “Now whatever you kill, you have to eat,” she would say. Hence, we never killed anything. At night, my brother would catch fire flies for me, and put them in a mason jar. I begged my grandmother to poke holes in the top so my fire flies could breathe, and she obliged. Before bed, I would lay in the bed with my great grandmother and watch the black and white version of the Beverly Hill Billy’s, because they didn’t have cable. I would always try to get her to admit that she was secretly the granny from the show. I don’t think I realized that woman was white for a long time, but in my defense they looked an awful lot alike. My mom’s parents spoiled us rotten. When we went over there we had all the good snacks, trips to the mall, my Big Ma’s cooking, and I could watch music videos all freaking day. Now this was the 90’s. The heyday of music videos. This is when I realized that Lil Kim was the shit. Her persona, and image were everything to me. I never fully understood her lyrics (thank God, I was a child for crying out loud) but I knew I wanted to command respect like she did. All little black girls who grew up in the 90’s wanted to look like Aaliyah (if you didn’t I don’t trust you) but I wanted to be a boss like Lil Kim. I watched the video for “Crush on You” like it was Shakespearean theatre. I mean I was tuned in. I knew the choregraphy, decided that the blue scene was my favorite, and inadvertently knew all of the lyrics. I never wanted to be overtly sexual like her, but based on what I saw, no one effed with Lil Kim.
Now let me explain to you what I looked like during the summers of my youth. I had a lot of hair. A whole lot. I would’ve been natural hair goals if social media were a thing, and it was cool to be natural back then. I had big dreams of being on a Just For Me relaxer box, but alas my day in the sun never came. There was no edge control, or curl puddings, or YouTube tutorials, or things of that nature back then. I either got box braids, or my grandmother’s best friend would press my hair using Vaseline and a hot comb off the stove. To this day, nothing has ever gotten my hair as straight as good ole Mama Carrie and that Vaseline. I got my first relaxer at 15, and still I swear that Vaseline press out was the straightest my hair ever was, but once that humidity hit it, it was over. Anyway, there would always be about a two week lag between the time I arrived in South Carolina, and when I got my obligatory summer braids. Mind you, I am living with my dad who knows nothing about doing hair, let alone natural hair. Hence, my big head of hair was at the mercy of the sun and humidity of Spartanburg, South Carolina. I was a…interesting looking kid. My brother swears this isn’t true, but you always look better to the people who love you most. Just to add insult to injury, I woke up one day and had boobs. They came out of nowhere, and I wanted nothing more than to hide them from the world and myself. As soon as my grandmother saw that I needed bras, we went to JC Penny’s and bought all of the training bra sets. It should be noted that I grew out of them almost instantly. She made me swear that from that day forward I would wear a bra every day for the rest of my life. Bras
Now that you have a good idea of how unfortunate looking I was, let me set the scene for you. My dad would put us in this summer camp at the same church every year. The cool girls of the camp were the girls who attended the church, and knew everybody. They weren’t particularly pretty, it’s just that I didn’t go there, so I was automatically wrong.
Each morning there was a praise and worship hour. This entailed the pastor of the church making you recite a scripture, and what it means to you. Let me just tell you that as a kid, no scripture meant very much to me. Life hadn’t fully kicked me in the balls yet, so I didn’t have a real understanding of the word of the God. I could recite a scripture, but I couldn’t give you a testimony about how it changed my life, because I had only been living for like ten years. After this embarrassing show of what I didn’t know about God, we would sing hymns, and then it was off to the gym before class started. I am irritated right now thinking about the fact that we had full on school in the summer. Why couldn’t we catch a break? Anyway, during this intermission we would all gather on the stage of the gym, and sing the latest songs, do dances, share gossip, and get roasted. Mostly I always got roasted. But guess why? They roasted me for being flat chested! If you know me now you know how insanely funny that is, because I am faaaaarrrrr from flat chested. I was like dude I’m developing over here, but how was I gonna prove that in church? So I just endured this relentless teasing every day. There I was with puffy hair, spaced out teeth, in the finest biker shorts Wal Mart had to offer, being joned for no good reason. Why didn’t I wear any of the cute stuff my mom packed for me? I don’t know. Again, this was my experimental phase. I think I enjoyed the freedom that came with my dad not giving a shit about appearance, and when in Rome, right? So this one day we are on a field trip, and my size 28B training bra was being the blow. So I dip off to take it off and hide it in my backpack purse (totally breaking my vow to Big Ma. Sorry Big Ma). For some stupid reason I left my purse out unattended, and one of the popular girls saw my bra. I will never forget that bra. It was green plaid, and had a front clasp. So this evil whore pulls my little bra out and starts tossing it around to everybody. And their overriding question was “you don’t have boobs, so why do you have this?” My thing was many of you are overweight, and therefore have boobs by default. My shade game wasn’t up to par back then, so I just sauntered away and cried somewhere. So you see, camp for me was some real bull shit. ‘Twas a cruel, cruel summer.
There we are in the gym once again singing all the hits of the 90’s. The popular girls of course ruled this too. They always sang the good parts of the songs. Let me put it like this, there was no way you could be Monica in the “Boy is Mine” if you wanted to join in. You were Brandy, or you didn’t get to play honey. So they get to “Crush on You” in this unspoken playlist, but they didn’t know the words. “This is my chance, but am I ready?!” I thought to myself. I whispered to one of the popular girls that I knew the words, but I wasn’t fully prepared to perform. They had just made fun of my bra, so this is a tough crowd. Being the little angel that she was, she yells “Jessica knows it!”
So everyone crowds around waiting for me to embarrass myself. “Go ahead, rap it, since you know it so well,” they taunted me. “Okay, but someone has to start off the chorus, so I know when to come in,” I said. So they start singing the chorus, and I am getting into my Lil Kim mode. Then I come in with “ayo shorty won’t you go get a bag of the lethal.” I had her cadence, mannerisms, inflections, and moves down. I nailed it. They were floored. I had redeemed myself to the cool kids, and as long as I was willing to perform Lil Kim’s verses of ”Crush on You” in a church gym, nobody really made fun of me anymore. So there you have it. That is how Lil Kim saved an awkward little black girl’s confidence at a bible summer camp.
Every day I have more than enough of what I need to get through the day. I open my mind, body, and spirit to receive abundance in every area of my life. I repeat this silent prayer to myself over and over again while I walk from Seventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue to attend an event at Pier 92. My brain is overloading on anxious thoughts about financial liabilities, weight, writers block, career, and the fact that I am now more afraid than ever to be a black woman in a city living alone. I pass by about a hundred NYPD officers, and wonder “is he one of the good ones? Is she?” I pass through a myriad of smells on the homage to what I only now realize is a trade show for menswear. There’s the intoxicating allure of Thai food, ramen, and cookies, which is drowned out by smells of poverty and the people who think they’re too good to pick up their dog’s shit. Isn’t that just like life though? One minute your mouth is watering for the good things in life, and the next you choke back vomit from the shitty parts.
I finally arrive at the Pier, and take the elevator up to the venue space. The room is full of up and coming designers with their minimalist chic designs, and clear acrylic chairs (that I want to steal and take home to my place). The sun drenched space is buzzing with influencers, buyers, and “cool kids” carrying Budweiser bottles, because this is a sponsored event, and basically my main reason for coming. It looks like Solange and Alexander Wang had lots of urban hipster babies, and they all met up to meet their long lost siblings. There are Doc Martens, Yeezy’s, Stan Smith’s, grey dyed hair, and bull nose rings as far as the eye can see. My plus one has yet to arrive, so I take a leisurely walk through the maze of clothes in search of the bar. I finally see an opening to the outside area, and peek my head out to find my way to the booze. “Bar? It’s this way,” says a black girl with long locks. “Oh was it that obvious?” I retort with a laugh and a thank you.
New York is notorious for old industrial sites that someone re-functions into a cool space for hosting random events. I pass by a huge, rusted, metal contraption that I’m sure once served an important purpose here, as I follow the sounds of Future mixed into a Rae Sremmurd track. My calves are burning from my morning run, and lugging laundry up four flights of stairs. There is a pleasant breeze coming off the water, and life feels kind of cool. I grab a beer, even though the last time I drank a regular Budweiser was in college, and it didn’t end well. I sit on a plush white couch adorned with Budweiser logo pillows decorated with the American flag, and text directions to my plus one. As I sit, and vibe to the music, I am filled with pride in my city. It makes me so proud that Atlanta artists and producers basically rule music right now, and then an unexpected rage creeps up inside of me. I look around at all of these non-black people dancing and laughing to our music, doing the dances they’ve seen young, black kids from Atlanta doing on Instagram, wearing and selling our style of clothing, and I feel overwhelmed with anger and jealousy. They get to put our culture on for novelty and profit, enjoying the fruits of what it means to be black to us, and I am angry at their unknown privilege. I wonder if they have any concern for what is happening to the people from which their style and dance originated. I feel angry that they get to turn a blind eye to it, and pretend it’s not their problem. They get to walk the streets without fear, and anxiety of what will happen to them if a rogue police officer plays judge and jury on the street. They get to look at the footage of those men and young boys slain by police officers, and not feel the pain and fear of knowing they could be next. Do they have to fear for their sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and friends the way we do? Did they spend a difficult week at work surrounded by people who don’t look like them, and have to put on a happy face over the sadness of the weaponizing and devaluing of their skin? They have the luxury of just living their lives without trying to figure out ways to protect themselves, and their children from the people who are supposed to protect them. I just sit there and wonder if they know, or if they care. Every stare feels like an insult. Every fake smile fuels the fire within, and all I can do is hold my invisible crown and think “you do not move me.” All the while I am thinking about all of these things, they continue to dance, and to laugh, and I wonder when we will ever be as free to be black as they are pretending to be black.
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