Tag Archives: marriage

Chasing Time: A Reflection of Thanks(giving)

19 Nov

Time flies whether you are having fun or not.  My childhood seemed to linger like thick molasses while my twenties flew by like short school days.  Before I knew it I was post-30, highly educated, minimally motivated, hundreds of miles away from home but finally at home with myself.  When I turned thirty I had all kinds of epiphanies.  I woke up loving myself some myself, and intentionally purging negativity (thoughts, people, pain) out of my life.  For the first time in what seemed like forever I wasn’t afraid of what that might mean.  Affiliations be damned.  So-called friends be damned.  Popularity be damned.  I was going to speak my mind, tell my truths, and let the chips fall where they may.  They fell, but there was no destruction.  Coming into myself was a beautiful process that I am still walking in unapologetically.

On the brink of another year it seems like just yesterday that I was ringing in 2012 in my mother’s living room.  There was no wine, no fireworks, no benediction , no kiss on the lips at midnight, just me and my family staying up long enough to say we did, and greeting each other and the new year with hopeful anticipation of realized dreams…finally!  This would be THE YEAR (just like 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, you get the picture), which was the echoed mantra I internalized year after year at New Year’s Eve church services and sermons that promised me a renewal of my dreams if I just believed…and waited.  So I have believed and waited, but I am shifting my expectations because the process of waiting is exhausting.  And sometimes when you  have been waiting what has been years and feels like lifetimes you think that perhaps you have been doing it wrong.  Maybe I didn’t believe good enough.  Maybe my waiting was not good enough.  But in reality it was.  I have had several accomplishments this year, but they are not necessarily the ones that “count” in the eyes of others.

I have been struggling lately with not knowing what to hope for when throwing borrowed pennies in wishing wells and laying on bended knees begging for something I don’t know I really want or need.  The world tells me I am supposed to want what they say I should want as a woman (i.e., marriage, children, etc.).   Society prescribes the things we are supposed to hope for, pray for, wish for, and wait for.  But what happens when the hoping and the praying and the wishing and the waiting never yields results, or is different from people’s expectations?

Despite my successes, a lot of times people feel sorry for me when they realize I am single with no babies.  When I say I am happy, they don’t believe me.  They feel sorry for me.  They assume that my extended singleness must have me tripping ‘cause they don’t know of any blackgirls who aren’t checking for marriage or being somebody’s mama.  I guess I’m different.  I didn’t grow up fantasizing about weddings or picking out baby names.   But then again, I was a morbid child, and marriage and pregnancy was too ubiquitous to mean anything significant then.

I am at the age that when  I go home and see folk I haven’t seen in a while they ask if I am married.  No.  Engaged?  No.  Seeing somebody special?  Not really.  Well, what am I waiting for?  I’m not waiting for anything.  Don’t I want children?  Maybe, not necessarily.  Don’t I know time is running out?  All the time.  My biological clock ticks like a time bomb.  So, can I introduce you to somebody?  Hell no. I’m good. Folk don’t know what to do with me and my progressive ideas.  My answers don’t sound quite right, they say with expressions, not words.  Well, what does your Mama say?  Nothing, I’m grown.  I can’t help but look down at myself when I remind them that I am not a child, to make sure the grownasswoman body I walked in with was still the one that was visible. I love the way countryfolk think children, regardless of their age, can be admonished into submission and/or compliance by a parent.

As we near the end of another year, and I brace myself for the curious questions and inevitable disappointment in my responses, I am reminded that the things that make me feel most significant and/or uncomfortable are part of the process of growth.  I don’t have to feel like something is wrong (with me), or that my life doesn’t measure up because it is different.  This year, like last year and next year, I am going to be fully myself and see what happens.  A lot can change in a year’s time.  Love, marriage, and having babies doesn’t take a lifetime, but self-love, inner peace, and stability has taken me every year of my life until now.  I am going to focus on the latter.

On the Queerness of Self Love

14 May
Tattoo on inside of someone's fingers that says "self love"

Self Love by Artnoose

While conducting a seminar with college students about self-esteem, Yolo Akili heard a young person say something that remains an important touchstone for those of us trying to do liberatory work in our communities. When talking about loving oneself, a Black woman said, “Self love? That shit’s gay!”

I’ve turned this statement over in my head a million times as it so accurately and unintentionally reveals so much about the constructions of sexuality in our culture. “Gay” has become an all purpose insult that means something is not cool, wack, aberrant, and not worth your time. How deep is it that loving yourself is a weird and unworthy pursuit? If self love is gay, what is straight? Is straightness self hatred?

I want to be clear that I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a cis gender man or woman engaged in loving consensual relationships with cis gender women or men. Like with race in our country, the problem isn’t necessarily white people, but how whiteness as a problematic social construct impacts everyone. Similarly, I would argue that straight people aren’t the issue but the way straightness and heteronormativity operate in our culture are serious impediments to self love and self actualization.

I choose to be queer. My choosing queerness has a lot to do with the scripts that exist for straight men and women’s relationships. Take the recent box office smash, Think Like a Man. So much of what is prescribed for straight couples is for women to change themselves into what they imagine men want from them.  You can see it if you want to but it’s essentially a feature film length infomercial for Steve Harvey’s similarly titled book. It had the requisite gay jokes (for both men and women) and many a strong black woman cut back down to size. By thinking like a man, you ensure that he gets what he wants, sex, and women get what they want, a man. This reductive view on what motivates straight relationships depends on strict gender roles.

Straightness/heteronormativity sets up roles for men and women that serve a capitalistic agenda more than the building of loving relationships. The script is simple; find a member of the “opposite sex”, date, get married, buy a house, have kids and do all of this as an individual family unit. Our culture will sell you the tools to properly achieve these ends, to properly conform to gender norms that will hopefully help you attract someone to walk down the aisle with you. Buy this men’s loofa and women will be all over you, buy this lady razor and your man will love to get close to you. Selling people the idea that they are somehow insufficiently performing their  gender, and therefore not attractive, reinforces a sense of self doubt and looking externally for validation, which is great for capitalism. You have to do something or buy something to be worthy of relationship. What a queer thing to say that my relationship with myself is important and I should invest in it over and above my ability to pull a partner.

And this is why I and other queer folks are giving Obama’s announcement regarding gay marriage the side eye. Leveraging privilege for certain types of households does nothing to address systemic inequality or combat discrimination that queer folks face. Why do romantic ties afford rights and access that would otherwise be denied? And I use the word “afford” deliberately because so much of what is obscured about marriage are its roots and continued relevance as a financial institution. Love takes a backseat to the structural realities of couple privilege in our culture. Society continues to give us messages that marriage is valuable, perhaps even at the expense of our own personal safety and freedom.

Self love is awesome. It should be celebrated and encouraged, not derided because it hinders an economy that’s dependent on folks feeling insecure. If loving yourself is gay, I don’t want to be straight.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places…

19 Apr

I have no choice but to blame my little brother. It’s his fault that this shenanigan publication finds its way into my mailbox once a month. Something about selling magazines for a band fundraiser. It was either this or a subscription to House Beautiful so I chose the lesser of two evils, or so I thought. Previously, I sort of boycotted Essence magazine, only picking it up if it was laying on some friend’s coffee table or in a doctor’s waiting room. But, alas, now I am confronted with its ridiculousness every month. The May issue brought Jill Scott’s bright-eyed and smiling face to greet me and I thought “maybe I’ll actually give this one a read instead of tossing it in the pile by the fireplace.” So I opened it up and went straight to page 92 to read an article entitled “Why Don’t We Get Married.” I should have known better, but instead I chose to be naïve, deluding myself into thinking this just might be an article about the myriad reasons why Black folks choose not to marry or why they are not allowed to marry. Including the fact that some of us aren’t even interested in marriage (either personally or politically) or—Gasp! Shock! Horror!—that there are actually Black gays and lesbians who might just be affected by this pesky federal ban on gay marriage! Of course, this was not the case.
Instead it was an article that quickly devolved into talking about what’s wrong with Black women and what we can do to “fix” ourselves to be better mates for Black men. The article was a reprint of a Q&A style discussion with about six Black women and men and was moderated by the Essence Relationship Editor Demetria Lucas and comedian Finesse Mitchell, whose qualifications simply listed him as “Dating Specialist.” As an aside, I’d like to know where to go to buy one of these certifications that makes you a specialist, expert or guru ‘cause somebody’s gotta be sellin ‘em – maybe I’ll check eBay! But I digress, much like the quality of the article, which trafficked in the same tired stereotypes of fat, lazy, loud emasculating Black women who can’t get or keep a man. Lucas kicked it off by asking where all the fellas have been hiding. According to the “brothers” present for this Q&A session, there are hoards of Black men at the gym where, apparently, they are safe from the clutches of Black women since NONE of us EVER work out! As a matter of fact, according to Finesse Mitchell, “the young chicks and the ones who just broke up with their man or who are trying to lose baby weight are in the gym. But women who have a man? They stop going to the gym.” There are tons more of these little nuggets in the article, check it out if you can stomach this kind of nonsense. However, the final straw for me was Essence’s willingness to traffic in one of the most dangerous yet powerful trends in popular culture’s current fascination with Black women’s love lives: the myth of scarcity.
The article ends with Lucas soliciting a little dating advice from the brothers for the single sisters looking for love. Who are told simply but poignantly “Don’t date like a man. Guys are constantly shuffling women, and women think they can do the same. But your deck runs out…” It’s this kind of “reasoning” that silences black women and ushers us back into an uneasy alliance with a “benevolent” patriarchy. Under the guise of brotherly advice, Black women are basically told that we just don’t have the option to be picky; there simply just aren’t enough brothers to go around. We need to find a brother, good, bad or indifferent, close our mouths, stick with him and hope he proves Kanye wrong by not leaving us for a white girl. But, what Essence and Finesse Mitchell left out is that the myth is only a threat if we can safely assume all Black women are only and always interested in dating Black men. The rub, however, is that we can’t assume that. Black women find love, sex, companionship and community in so many dynamic and amazing ways and we are selling ourselves short if we think there simply ain’t enough loving to go around!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers

%d bloggers like this: