The platonic love of my life, Molly, and I created two weird, completely unlike us, not in any way real, characters and decided to eat every Pumpkin Spice thing we could find at Target. There’s content coming all October.
I had every intention of writing an end of the year post the last week of 2017, as per the usual here, but that week just blew right by me. Then it was January. And it was January. And it was still January. This January lasted forever and it just felt so...dull. Like the whole world was in an unwanted hibernation. Which, it sort of is.
January is for processing - winter is a time of grounding, incubation, hibernation. I think most of us want to wake up on January 1st a whole new person, with new goals, ready to attack the world. All I woke up with on January 1st was a slight headache from all the vodka and gin I had drunk the night before, and a sore arm where my best friend's pit bull had fallen asleep on top of me. Change takes time. January and the early months of the year are about letting the the seeds of our intentions bed in and begin to grown in our minds and our hearts. We calm down from the frantic excited energy at the end of the year and let our thoughts and dreams for the coming year really cement. And that doesn't always require action. If actions come, wonderful! But, there's a whole year ahead of for manifesting your dreams, and I think sitting quietly with them for a while was an important part of my process.
We're now at the end of what was a beautiful, if not taxing, February and I feel a little surer of what I want 2018 to feel like, and ready to take the whole year getting there. I'm giving myself space to grow, and as I turn 30, space to celebrate what I've already done. As I look over my ideas, and outline loose plans, I find it best to remind myself of a few things - affirmations to remind me of who I am, lest I get discouraged.
I am strong and ready.
I have already accomplished great and difficult things.
I am more powerful than I can imagine.
Good things are wanted for me.
I am supported and loved.
What have you been up to this cold and slow winter? What goals are you setting and working on? How have you affirmed yourself?
Until next time.
So. It's my half-birthday. I know to most people it's not a thing, but it's totally a thing to me. I will take any and every chance to look back and reflect and assess. For the past two years I've written myself a letter and sealed it for the next year. Since my next birthday will be a landmark - I'll be turning 30 - I thought I should publish this year's letter. I was inspired by Evan Rachel Wood's piece about turning 30 for Nylon, and found myself echoing a lot of the lessons she learned in her twenties.
I'm in the last six months of my twenties, and this decade was nothing like I thought it would be, but it was both the best and worst one yet. I learned a lot. A lot. I went from being a dumb kid to being a decent adult and pretty soon I'm actually going to get good about sticking to a budget, calling my family when it's not a holiday, and eating my vegetables every day - it's a growth process folks. Poor attempts at humor aside - these are the big lessons I learned. These are the ones that kicked my ass and made me cry and made me wake up and changed me and made me into the person I'm proud to be today.
Build Good Relationships and Start With Yourself There are a ton of platitudes about how you have to love yourself first - and they're all true, even if they are corny as fuck. It's damn near impossible to really be there for someone else if you're not attending to your own mind, body, and spirit first. It isn't being selfish - it's necessary for your health. Furthermore, if you don't the wrong kind of people will leech onto you, exploit you, abuse you, and make it that much harder to take care of yourself and those that you care about. I am an empath. I love people and I always want to help people. When I was younger, I was a fucking garbage dump for people who didn't give a shit about me - just what I could do for them. I had a series of codependent relationships with narcissists and selfish people. When I was finally able to cut them out, I realized I needed to turn my emotional intelligence inward and care for myself the way I cared for those people who had broken my down. I built myself back up. I, now, have the best relationships I've had. I invest in people who invest in me. I have a much better bullshit meter and I can tell when someone just wants something from me and doesn't want me.
Go Places Alone Take time for yourself. Get comfortable being by yourself. Be your own friend. Don't miss that concert or that movie because no one wants to go with you. If you can't be around yourself and feel good about it - you can't really feel good about around other people. Being introverted and an empath - I need to be alone. Being around too many people literally exhausts me. I need down time after social gatherings; I can catch people's shit and hold onto it like it was my own shit. I treasure my alone time - but I had to grow into that space. I had to truly be left alone by people I thought cared and learn how to be okay being with only me.
Check In and Ask Yourself Hard Questions I had a theater teacher who made us "check in" every time we gathered for class or rehearsal. Just one or two words about how we felt. No explanation, no qualifications, no judgement. Check in with yourself and always ask yourself two questions: “What am I feeling? And why am I feeling it?” Answer as deeply and honestly as you can. And don't judge yourself for the answers. Adapt, change, adjust, but don't judge.
Say I Don't Know and Ask for Help You don't know everything. You can't. It's literally impossible. Tell people you don't know if you don't know - and then volunteer to figure it out together. Don’t be afraid of asking questions—any question, anytime, to anyone - be curious, be childlike. There aren't dumb questions - but there are assholes, and do you really care about the opinions of assholes?
Be Authentic and Honest and Speak Your Truth and Trust Your Intuition Be honest. Just be honest. It doesn't matter if it isn't necessarily the nicest thing you've ever said, but lying spares no ones feelings - least of all you own. Say no to people often. Tell the truth at all costs. That extends to how you dress, how you act, what jobs you take, what people you spend time with. Be authentic in all of those things and let who you are deep down inside show in your words and actions. Speaking of deep down inside? Listen to that voice deep down inside and let it guide you. It knows what's best for you. The more honest and authentic you are, the easier it is to hear that voice. Don't make people guess, don't let them assume, don't play games, don't think they can read your mind - BE. HONEST.
Own Your Shit Everyone has shit. Traumas. Ticks. Quirks. Fears. Insecurities. We all have shit. Own your shit. It's your shit. Claim it and be freed from it. Don't use it as an excuse for anything. Don't try to pretend like it's not there, even though everyone can smell it. There's no air freshener that's gonna cover the smell of that kind of shit. BE. HONEST. You've got shit. We all do. Own it, before someone tries to take it from you and use it against you. Yes, there are some monkeys in the jungle who are going to try and throw your shit and their shit at you. But if you own your shit, they can't throw it at you. And if they try and throw theirs at you - well, you've been handling your own shit, so you'll know just how to deal with it.
Success and Money Success means a lot of different things to people. Your own meaning of success will change. The truth of the matter is - it's not an exact science, no matter what you call it. It's luck, and skill, and timing, and preparation, and talent all thrown together. Some days you're gonna feel successful and some days you won't. The most important part is to define it for yourself. Money is not success. Money isn't real. If you get caught up thinking too much about money - start singing the old Prince tune, "Money don't matter tonight, and it sure didn't matter yesterday. Just when you think you you've got more than enough, that's when it all up and flies away.That's when you find out that you're better off makin' sure your soul's alright. 'Cause money didn't matter yesterday, and it sure don't matter tonight."
Social Media Isn't Real Your Instagram feed is not an accurate representation of your life - no matter how authentic you are on it. Neither is your Facebook wall, your Twitter feed, your Tumblr blog, your Snapchat story, your LinkedIn profile, or your personal website. They're snapshots. They're a curated highlight reel. And that's true of everyone you know. Don't you dare lurk on her Instagram profile and start comparing yourself to her. It's not even 180 degrees of a full circle. It's all fake.
Don't Be Ruled By Shoulds There's no magical age that you're going to turn and everything is going to fall into place. Life just doesn't work like that. Stop thinking that you should be married by that age, or you should have that kind of job or you should feel some type of way about certain news, or you should whatever the fuck. Those are all just as real as social media - they're fake as fuck. You move at your own pace and you do things when they feel right.
Texting Texting is a highly fallible form of communication. Don't have important conversations over text message, call them or meet up. Don't get goaded into text arguments. Things get misconstrued really easily. Don't confess your feelings over text. Do take screenshots and keep receipts. Especially if you know shitty people. And we all know at least a few shitty people.
Learn How To Swim and Stop Waiting To Do The Thing Everyone is scared of something. Sometimes we can get so scared about something bad happening we get paralyzed and do nothing and bad things happen anyway. That's life. Bad things happen. Sometimes we worry about them so much we cause them to happen. My worst fear was drowning. I was so terrified of drowning; I never learned how to swim. That makes a lot of sense, right? I learned how to swim in my twenties. I'm still not a strong swimmer. I'm still very tense and scared in water, but I won't drown. I know that much. I stood up to my worst fear. It made standing up to the little ones that much easier. I don't need to be afraid some boy won't text me back - I fucking know how to swim. Stop being afraid. Stop waiting to do the thing because you're afraid - whatever the thing is. Just do it.
Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt One of grandfather's favorite sayings and one of the truest. Don't speak just to fill the air with noise. Make people earn your words. Take a few moments and think before you respond.
Say Sorry and fucking mean it when you do. Correct your wrongdoings. You are going to fuck up. Everyone does. You don't have to BE a fuck up, though. And don't expect an apology in return. You usually won't get one.
Dance. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. You don't have to be good. "Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion" - Martha Graham. And when you dance, whatever gross energy you're carrying around - leave it on the dance floor.
Sing. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. It gives you a voice when you feel like you don't have one. Sing in grocery stores and the shower and your car and at concerts and when you're dancing. Sing it loud and play your music louder.
Forgiveness Forgiveness is really just understanding. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. Understand why they did it. And let it go. You wouldn't have done it that way. It hurt you. It's also over. If you want to keep them - you can't keep punishing them. If you don't want to keep them - carrying that bitterness will only hurt you.
Be a Vessel. Fill yourself with love and kind words and thoughtful actions and carry them to everyone that you meet. If someone is struggling, carry them. Give them food, or a cup of coffee, or just a few minutes of your time. Be someone safe for those that you love. You will always need a vessel, and you even when you feel like you have nothing, you will need to be a vessel for someone who has even less than you do.
Pay It Forward It's as simple as it sounds.
Read Reading captions on social media doesn't count. Read goddamned books.
Travel Even if you can't afford to go far, go somewhere. Broaden your horizons. Accept invitations, go outside of your comfort zone, be open.
Our Thoughts Become Reality So think good, empowering, helpful thoughts. It's hard. You might have to lie at first. But, tell yourself good things about yourself. Think happy thoughts for others. Be thoughtful and watch how your life changes.
Show Up and Be Present Don't give anyone half attention. Show up and be present, or don't go at all. Don't be on your phone when you're out with people, don't be half engaged. Be all the way there and be around people and things you feel comfortable showing up and being present for.
Imagine Life Without When you start to get frustrated - say in traffic or in line at the grocery store - imagine life without your dependable car, without the money to pay for groceries, without the time to buy yourself healthy foods, without the reason to have somewhere to driving to. Then take a few deeps breaths and check in and ask yourself if you're still frustrated. Repeat until gratitude replaces frustration.
Never Forget That You Used To Ride The Bus You came from somewhere. We all did. Some of us came from the hood and used to ride the bus. Some of us came from acne covered faces and headgear style braces. You weren't any worse than anyone back then, and you're not better than anyone now.
Quit Your Goddamned Job If you're unhappy there - leave. Success is circumstantial and money isn't real, remember? Your health is more important in the long run.
Write Everything Down Write down your appointments, and meetings, important phone numbers, grocery lists, etc. If you tell someone you're going to text them, set a reminder. Don't trust your brain to just remember. Write shit down, and hold yourself accountable to your word. You are only as good as your word.
Eurocentric Beauty Is Fake Blonde hair, blue eyes, and slim figures aren't the end all be all of beauty. Beauty is honestly deep inside. The prettiest looking people are sometimes the worst. Embrace yourself. embrace your inner beauty. Embrace your ethnicity and things that are unique to your people and your family. Honor your ancestors and love your body. It's got to carry you through this life and that's going to be so much easier if you aren't fighting with it every step of the way.
Eat That Thing Donuts are delicious. Eat the fucking donut. Go for a walk in the afternoon. It'll balance out. Stop depriving yourself.
Be Patient and Believe Sometimes life sucks. Be patient and believe that it will stop sucking. Eventually, you'll be proven right.
Dream Don't sensor your dreams. Thoughts become things and dreams are just fancy ass thoughts. Look back at the dreams that have already come true.
Have Courage and Be Kind
And that's it. I turn 30 in six months. I've never imagined what my life at 30 would look like. When I was much younger and much more self-destructive - I didn't think I'd live to see 30. That is a hard truth to sit with and admit, but it's the truth. I didn't allow myself to look that far ahead and really think about what it would mean, I had no concept of this part of my life - because I was either unrealistic and assumed that adulthood just meant marriage and kids - or because I didn't think I'd still be here. I don't know what the next six months are going look like, let alone the next ten years, but goddamnit, I can't wait to see it actually happen.
Until next time.
De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. - Zora Neale Hurston "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
I have one regret in my life. It's not minoring in Gender Studies while at the University of La Verne. I declared it my freshman year after taking my first Gender Studies class, then dropped it. Adding a minor would have added an additional semester and I didn't want to spend the time or money. How foolish I was at eighteen. I've been a lifelong feminist and am dedicated to smashing the patriarchy, and I just wish I had a piece of paper that backed up my knowledge when I get on my feminist soapbox and speak to it. However, I didn't do it. I regret it so much I've considered going back to school for a certificate in the subject, because I've got things to say. I don't come to you today as an academic or scholar. I come to you as a lifelong learner with lived experience who wants to make something clear; misogynoir is not Santa Claus. Misogynoir is real as fuck.
Oh, but what is misogynoir you ask? Misogynoir is misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. It was coined by queer Black feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term to address misogyny directed toward black women in American visual and popular culture. Bailey first used the term "Misogynoir" in a 2010 essay entitled "They aren't talking about me..." The term describes the specific type of discrimination experienced by black women, "I was looking for precise language to describe why Renisha McBride would be shot in the face, or why The Onion would think it’s okay to talk about Quvenzhané the way they did, or the hypervisibilty of Black women on reality TV, the arrest of Shanesha Taylor, the incarceration of CeCe, Laverne and Lupita being left off the TIME list, the continued legal actions against Marissa Alexander, the twitter dragging of black women with hateful hashtags and supposedly funny Instagram images as well as how Black women are talked about in music."
That's great, but why are you talking about it now? Because my tweet storm fired off earlier this week wasn't enough.
I know it wasn't enough, because someone hopped in my mentions asking me what black women don't get and to enlighten them, as if google wasn't free, but my emotional labor was. Universities offer classes on race and gender studies all day. Tumblr and twitter are hotbeds of information if you know where to look. But, since it's still irking me, allow me to put it here and put it simply for posterity. Black women get hated on, regardless of what we do. And I am not talking about a black woman individually, or myself. I mean BLACK WOMEN TM as a group. As a group, black women are hated by society and we don't get shit. You want a list of what black women don't get? Good, because I have one.
Things Black Women Don't Get:
To Be Girls - A study recently completed by Georgetown University found that American adults view black girls as less innocent than white girls. The study revealed that adults think black girls seem older and require less nurturing and protection than white girls of the same age. It also found adults think black girls know more about sex than their white counterparts. This study was done across racial/ethnic and educational backgrounds. Similar to how Ryan Lochte at 32 years old was a kid, but 12 year old Tamir Rice was 12 was "big for his age" and "could have easily passed for someone older", black girls aren't afforded the privilege of being girls. In American, black girls are disciplined much more often and more severely than white girls, both in the educational and justice systems.
To Be Positively Pregnant - Both Beyoncé and Serena Williams released the most beautiful maternity photos I think I've ever seen. And in less than 48 hours both were targets of think pieces about why their photos were useless and didn't matter. Becky (literally, her name is Rebecca) had to open her mouth and say Beyoncé's photos were tacky, because she didn't understand the black cultural references in them. Rosie had to invalidate B and say pregnancy doesn't look like that. She's Beyoncé. She could eat a McChicken and make it look magical. Get the fuck over your internalized misogyny and hatred of black women, Rosie. Similarly, the photoshoot done by Serena Williams, who won the Grand Slam while fucking pregnant, was criticized and it was said it should be the last of it's kind because again "pregnancy doesn't look like that". I don't care if my pregnancy won't look like Serena's. My ass doesn't look like Serena's either; I am not about to win a Grand Slam anytime soon. What I do care about positive media portrayals of black pregnancy. We're bombarded with negative criticism, even though black pregnancies aren't easy. Pregnancies and labor are generally more difficult for black women because of systematic racism in health care and lack of access to health care, period.
To Be Mothers - Black women aren't allowed to have positive relationship with motherhood. Slavery, white supremacy, and racism have created negative portrayals of black motherhood and permeate American culture. "The truth of the matter is public ridicule is not reserved for Black mothers who are celebrities. We see especially visceral reactions of hate and judgment for Black mothers that have lost their children to state sanctioned violence and or extrajudicial murders by law enforcement officers. The disdain for Black mothers is not reserved for a specific 'type' of Black mother. However things like lower financial means, age, martial status, number of children, gender presentation, and sexual orientation can intensify the hate their families receive." - Gloria Malone
To Be Vulnerable and Soft - Do I even need to talk about the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype? Kerry Washington summed it up when doing press for Django Unchained, "Look I can see how it’s not particularly feminist to play the princess in the tower, waiting to be saved. But as a black woman – we’ve never been afforded that luxury. There was no man coming to save you; it wasn’t part of the story. In some ways, this telling is a statement of empowerment." Django Unchained is problematic as fuck, but Kerry makes a damned good point. Name another black damsel in distress? We don't get to be that. Vulnerability is a form a strength, and I'm glad I stumbled across that blog post earlier this week. But this is not a thing that is largely accepted for black women.
To Be Complex - Black women are put in a box. We're stereotyped. We are not nuanced or containing multitudes. In Grad School I wrote a paper that said every black woman on television at the time was a prominent black female stereotype; mammies, jezebels, magical negroes, and angry black women. And while Shonda Rhimes is writing complex and well-rounded women, she is the exception to the rule. Black women suffer greatly from one-dimensional stereotyping. I can't count the times I've been told I'm "fill-in-the-blank" for a black girl. Black women are not thought of as complex, interesting, multitudinous people.
To Be Pioneers - The historical accomplishments of black women are overlooked. Did you know black women invented laser eye surgery, closed circuit television, and caller ID? They fucking did. A black woman invented rock and roll. Sister Rosetta Thorpe was one of the very first great gospel artists who crossed over and gained mainstream success, performing with a racially integrated band, and although guitar playing was for "men" she beat several men in guitar battles at the Apollo. She was one of the first black artist's to have a tour bus with her name on it, she was openly bisexual, her wedding was a concert for over 20,000 fans, gave Little Richard his first public performance, and toured in the UK before the "British Invasion". Where is this woman's biopic? And yet, Chuck Berry, or worse, Elvis, gets credited with inventing rock and people ask me what I'm doing at rock shows. Um, black women invented this shit. Along with my next bullet point
To Be Punk - I've already written about my experiences as a black girl in what is considered a white space and how it affects my enjoyment of the scene. Something that I thought about recently and how much annoys me though? How come black women are neglected in the scene when Poly Styrene founded the X-Ray Spex and Ronnie Spector was the godmother of Punk?
To Drive - Say Her Name. Sandra Bland.
To Own Their Culture & Be Celebrated For It - Culture Vultures are fucking everywhere, do I even have to explain this? Cornrows, hoop earrings, colored contacts, AAVE, extensions, large lips, big butts, whatever it is that black women have naturally and culturally doesn't belong to them. When we do it we're mocked, when other girls do it, they're praised.
The Amount of Money They Deserve - The pay gap margin the worst for black women. Link.
To Be Fictional Movie Characters - Do y'all remember the outrage when it was rumored Zendaya was playing Mary Jane? Even though she wasn't actually playing Mary Jane, despite having the personality, acting skill, and physical beauty to make a bomb ass Mary Jane Watson? People tried to hide their misogynoir behind her not being a natural redhead, but Kirsten Dunst is blonde as fuck, and her hair got blonder as that franchise wore on.
To Be Characterized Positively In The Media - I touched on this earlier. But seriously. Think of black female characters on TV. Mammies, jezebels, magical negroes, and angry black women. We're always seen as loud, vindictive, petty and always ready for some mess.
To Be Depressed - I've already written about how black women are more prone to depression, and less likely to seek help because the internalized and cultural myth of The Strong Black Woman.
To Have Any Feelings That Aren't Anger - "But it wasn’t until recently that I began to see that the popular 'black girl with an attitude' trope was just a way to oppress and undermine black women and our ability to engage, connect and feel. These negative traits are consistently pinned on black women, depicting us as angry even as we calmly state an opinion, or as having an attitude when we are justifiably angry. Who cares if we are understandably angry about the countless black people murdered in the past year? The stereotype has parallels in the “strong black woman” and the “strong independent woman” (of any race): all limit our ability as women to emote, as if the only emotion we can express is anger and our only quality is strength." - Leah Sinclair
To Be Desirable - Studies have revealed that black women are the least likely demographic to have success with online dating, because of stereotyping and racial bias.
To Have Their Moment - Viola Davis couldn't accept her Emmy the way she wanted to, without a white woman telling her it wasn't about race; even though it was a historic moment for black women. Rihanna couldn't get her Video Vanguard Award without Drake trying to make it about his undying love her.
To Date People - Megan Markle started dating Prince Harry and the response was so racist Buckingham Palace had to issue a statement telling them to stop with the fucking racism and remind them of Queen Charlotte who was black.
To Be Healthily Sexual - Black women are reduced to either a mammy or a jezebel. It is the ultimate Madonna or Whore complex. Taken from the second source; "The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty - even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory." Black women deserve to be able to have relationships with sex.
To Be First Lady In Peace - Michelle Obama got the short end of that deal from day one, and she was the most educated, best First Lady this country has ever seen. Not only was misogynoir rampant in criticisms of her; so was transphobia - instead of being called a statuesque beauty, which she is, she was called a man.
To Be Praised - Everywhere you look people are trying to bring down black women in general, because they hate us so fucking much. OR. They're rewarding other women for doing the same shit. Taylor Swift made the same video as Rihanna, but she won a VMA for it and Rihanna didn't.
I'm over it. I really am. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston, one of my favorite books, and the book from which I quoted at the beginning of this was written 80 years ago. In it, the black female protagonist Janie, searches for love, spiritual liberation, physical satisfaction, and a way to defy the laws of gender and race. She says the black women are the mule of the world; “worked tuh death,” “ruint wid mistreatment,” yet strong enough to carry impossible “loads” nobody else wants to “tote.” However, through Hurston's storytelling, Janie is allowed to have a fuller and more complex existence than that traditionally afforded her in either literature or life. And that's all I fucking want for black women.
I am not going to let society's disdain for black women stop me from doing anything I'd like to do. I am not going to let it make me feel like less of a woman or a person. I am going to embody #CareFreeBlackGirl-ness with every fiber of my being. However when you deny misogynoir, you help perpetuate it, and that's what I'm not about to do. I am going to call this shit out when I see it, and kindly link people right back to this blog post. I'm not one of the people who thinks ignoring the problem means it goes away. We need to call out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and fuckery in general in order to end it. And we will end it. The patriarchy will be dismantled in my lifetime. Believe that. If you'd like to learn more, follow these women on twitter. They will school you.
Until next time. xo