Tag Archives: single

Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.

14 Nov

2011 has garnered a lot of conversations centering on the undesirability (hence un-marryability) of (professional) black women.  Black women have been fed unsolicited and unnecessary information about how to correct and prepare ourselves for our soulmate without giving us the credit due grown ass women who routinely (and effectively) handle our ish, look good doing it, and write home about it.  By mid-year I was already exhausted of the black woman dramas that were being written about (but not by) black women.  It was almost as traumatic as last year’s For Colored Girls

In response and in reaction to many of the speculations around black women and their experiences of being single, I began to write poetry excerpts, sometimes owning my feelings, sometimes distancing myself (as is evidenced by the first and third person techniques).  The following poem is featured in a recently published anthology, With This Ph.D., I Thee Wed: Experiences of Single African-American Women Professors.  I use the poem to think through my internal dialogues about single professionalism.  I am still thinking through…

Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.

sexy.

thirty years later

nakedness prevailed in dim lit rooms

smelling of sour musk and

dull like water,

she longed for silver touches

on her skin, violently brown and calm

and longing to be touched

after years of reckoning

she did not want to be another man’s invention

but rather his salvation

becoming whatever it was he wanted

in the moment, sacrificing herself

to be everything he needed

subsiding his aggression,

swallowing his wonder,

tracing his steps with her fingers.

she was not told about love

only the loneliness it left

and the possibility of scorn

and the vulnerability and visibility inherent in

nakedness

she was told

desperation is never sexy

self-conscious.

ness,

i lose consciousness

when faced with the self-awareness

that swallows me, cradling the duality of roles I play.

professor by day, woman by night.

but not superwoman

and not strongblackwoman,

just woman.

vulnerable and newly aware of childhood scars

and moles like mama on my face.

working these curves because it gives me more than attention,

but ambition,

and power.

because between these thighs is as much treasure as my brain,

and my heart beats strong for every wrong I ever made.

i am self-conscious of the image i see in the mirror facing me.

a seeming fraud, a scam artist

a black girl docta

holding all these damn credentials

in my hands

& a ringless second finger

pushing away doubt and doubters because I can do this, be this

sanctified.

she remembers

falling to her knees and praying loudly and silently at the same time.

loud enough for the people to hear her on the back pews

saying lines of scripture long memorized and silently begging God to hear her

this time,

save her from herself, this time,

& her ambitions,

& fierce independence,

her feminist, can-do-bad-by-her-damn-self self.

sassy.

seemed to my mother another word for acting grown,

womanish,

too big for my britches,

and she felt it her right and responsibility to wear me down,

or with switches harboring her own stifled sass,

wear me out

until I learned how to watch my mouth

but as I grew older,

sass,

kept my tongue sharp like a razor,

with words of fire rising in me,

words on fire forcing me to speak my mind and speak out about what I thought,

no longer under my breath in intimidation, but out loud and lyrical

in a take-it-or-leave it tone

and a take-me-or-leave-me way.

& so often I got left

quintessentially single

statistics startled me

from whitegirl fairytales

& my own flagrant fantasies

so I married me

a ph.d.

to stifle the possibility of loneliness

& it spoiled me with the possibilities & promises

of permanence and prominence

being enough

when stable arms were not there

my ph.d. sweet talked me like the man who never stayed

& the one who never showed up in the first place

this education thing is what mama promised me

what daddy left as a viable option

what the church ladies were so proud of

my ph.d. is not a substitute for a husband

but it is my destiny, my soulmate

the reason I changed my name

& everything I fought so hard for

this must be love.

AFTERTHOUGHT (later morning musings):  I think it is important that we learn how to celebrate ourselves both inside and outside of relationships–or perhaps see our relationship with ourselves as the most significant one we will ever have.  Loving myself intentionally has been the most difficult, yet necessary, feat of my life.  There were times, this year, when I questioned my successess, questioned my accomplishments, as if I had somehow done something wrong by “doing me” and prioritizing my life goals.  This would have been one of those moments when after reading an assanine assessment of why Black women are perpetually single I had a temporary lapse of individual judgment, and wondered, sometimes out loud and oftentimes to my friend girls, should I have not pursued my Ph.D.?  Should I have not devoted my twenties to self-improvement?  Should I have settled?  The answer is no, hell no, to all three questions.  I became a feminist during my pursuit of a Ph.D.  I became a feminist in my twenties.  Being a feminist urges me to never settle… for anything… less than I deserve/want/need.  So in many ways my Ph.D. was my salvation, my awakening, an irrevocable investment in myself and my consciousness.

So yeah, after having slept on it, I embrace my sexy, self-conscious, sanctified, sassy, single self!  You can call me Dr. SSSSS!

Living Single

7 Feb

Living Single TV Show Female Cast

I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ourselves and leave that way there’s an expectation of partnering in the interim. And while you are granted a bit more of a reprieve from single shade* in queerdom, there’s still a palpable partner privilege that operates. Couples only hang outs, automatic invites to your partner’s friends’ functions, less unwanted amorous attention because you’re read as off limits, more respect for your time as it’s obviously being impacted by another person, etc. I’ve had the unfortunate but not uncommon experience of losing friends to relationships, only to be heard from again in the equally unfortunate but not uncommon instance of the break up. As a non-partnered person I also feel some pressure when hanging out with half of a coupled couple. I sometimes sense suspicion of my intentions. It seems non-partnered people are read as a roving threat to relationships. There’s always some pop culture plot point where a generally good person, usually man or masculine, is tempted by an evil single seductress who doesn’t give a damn about the existing relationship. Y’all saw Obsessed right?

As I age, I am curious about that moment when singlehood switches in peoples’ minds from the willfulness of youthful independence to tragic pathological existence. I think that timeline is too short maybe even non-existent for straight women and while there’s a bit more leeway in queer community, there comes a point when casual dating isn’t cute anymore or perhaps even possible because folks are booed up. It has me wondering if there’s room to maintain a single life as an older person, like still dating in your 50’s and 60’s? And how do you find folks to date if all your peers at that age are married or partnered? I mean the Golden Girls had it rough but they’d all been married before. I really struggle with this as someone who is ambivalent about romantic relationships, particularly as constructed in this society.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal.  “I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner” leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. “Forsaking all others” doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family. Why do mother-in-laws stay getting a bad rap?

And yet, there’s something really real about co-dependence in a culture that doesn’t value interdependence. A romantic partner is expected to be there, in “sickness and in health” in ways that we don’t demand of friendship. Subsequently, a spouse or partner has legal and social rights that a friend does not. For queer folks this is particularly important when unsupportive biological family can legally trump chosen family. Our legal system actively limits who we can call on which reflects and exacerbates social beliefs about relationships.

I have a more playful, flirtatious way of thinking about intimate relationships which usually rubs up against (and not in a good way) a social expectation for monogamy. I have romantic friendships that are not quite platonic, sexy time friends that aren’t quite lovers, close kindred spirits that should really be on my insurance before a romantic partner. And while pop culture flirts with poly possibilities, it never quite goes all the way. There are an endless number of songs that reference men cheating or women cheating on their boyfriends b/c of the supposed sexual prowess of whomever is singing/rapping the hit. So while there’s a tacit tolerance of cheating, intentional polyamory remains off the table. And even with an occasional “my girl’s got a girlfriend” and “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” women are tools for male fantasies, heterofying homosocial sexual behavior.  Folks are more into the illicitness of affairs and the freakiness of multiple sex partners than building articulated intimacy with more than one person. I digress…

I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds, where folks can center any relationships they want whether it be their relationship to their spiritual practice, kids, lovers, friends, etc. and not have some notion that it’s more or less important because of who or what’s in focus. I want to feel like I can develop intimacy with people whether we are sleeping together or not that I will be cared for whether I am romantically involved with someone or not.  I want a community that takes interdependency seriously that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other.

I didn’t just dream this way of relating to each other up. Other cultures and communities throughout time have had more options in terms of how they construct connection. And we are doing it now. Folks are creating interdependent relationships and community that disrupt popular perceptions of appropriate partnering. I just wonder what it will take to get more of us to honestly evaluate the realities of our love and determine whether we are actually getting what we want. Love is abundant, not scarce. Why would we ever want to limit or narrow its flow?

Asking for a Lift …From the Bathroom TOSD from Mia Mingus on Vimeo.

Sincerely,

Living single

Hat tip to Zachari C. for bringing her brilliance to the piece.

*Single shade – the general social derision of single people and singleness

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