Dead Man Can’t Email.

Incoming Email from Anonymous Acct:

I miss you baby… I’m sad I haven’t received my correspondence I was promised.. I’m a cheerleader of your gift and blessing to paint pictures through words. I’m perplexed by your continued disdain for your most loving ex you’ll ever meet…. I know that is hilarious to you…. I follow you and your compositions when I’m able and I’m a fan of your growth… I speak in this fashion because I don’t particularly agree with the word proud of someone.. I believe that is reserved for parents and elders when expressing there positive feelings for there offspring or younger family… I always knew you’d provide positive feedback for youth as I do also from the belly of the beast… I miss you though real spit… I root for you in all your endeavors know that! I am upset that I have been cut off from every other outlet in order to converse with you… I love you Kendria and I don’t practice this relentless pursuit of anyone I’m content with who I am and not whom I used to be. What I need from you is a consensus as a adult that you no longer want to hear from me and I will respect your wishes love. Peace and love. 

Can someone identify this lying MF because I need to know where to ship my Fuck You to. 

Word to the unwise: I don’t care about what you talmbout.

Back TF off of me for good. My heart and my love is no longer a game piece for niggaopoly.

That’s not personal, that’s a whole blanket statement.

 

~j

Falling in Love w/Fly Weights

“I looked good on his arm

As if I were candy paint decorating his suit jacket

Cherry red on suicide doors

My sepia arm dripping in jewels like daytime glitter.

Alternating from faux to French diamonds,

Because every girl needs costume and real jewels.

Accessorizing his east side accent like English language blanketing German subtitles,

the paparazzi loved the way we made an entry,

Arms criss crossing melanins.

We looked fly together

But I was interlocking elbows with an anchor that could halt the Titanic….”

~nomaD, J.York, October 2018

To know me is to know how much I love pictures. I come from a picture taking family. My grandmother owned all the cameras and never fell short of snapping her favorite polaroid to capture photos of the moment. It’s been almost a year since she passed and the one thing I’ve wanted to do was go to her house and look at her old picture books. I know if I do, all those people will come alive in her dining room for me one more time.

Gmom looking through polaroids while Gdad was kinda over it.

Pictures are my thing and it’s no secret that I had hoop dreams of learning photography and specializing in black and white shots. I have several clouds saving pictures for me, including Google and Amazon, as well as a site called Smugmug that I found years ago. My photos automatically upload to these clouds so there is never a shot or video that gets deleted w/o the ability to be recovered from somewhere. As of recently, the newest social trend is to give us a glimpse back in the past. It started out on Facebook but now Google and Prime (as well as others I’m sure) have made it where you can check out the photos you took from “on this day”, circa whatever year. Every day for the past few months, I log onto Prime and do something I’ve never been good at doing: deleting pictures. I delete every and any trace of photos that have my ex in them, no matter how fly the picture looks. On Google, you can do a face recognition, so I did that and removed him completely from my Google cloud. Prime requires me to do this every time they prompt me with a flashback. And I oblige it, daily. Matter a fact, let me check now.

 

I do this daily. I remove all evidence of him from my life and from inadvertently “popping TF up” when I least expect it. I know I can’t possibly scrub my IG and FB page clean without some help, but the least I can do is get those fauxtoshoots off my clouds. All my clouds are too high up to be holding onto this many pictures of Polyester Peter. But you know why there are so many pictures (there are HUNDREDS)? Because we looked so good together. I mean, we looked F L Y !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On our worst days, we could snap a picture that would make my eyes flutter hard enough to kick the 808s in my heart. He was always game to snap as many pictures as I wanted him to. I thought he was just as eager and excited to see us frozen in beauty the way we would be. It wasn’t for ‘likes’ or for public consumption although I made the mistake of sharing our flyness with the world (something that will NEVER happen again. My weddings guests will have to read braille to know what’s happening).

I just loved him. I love pictures. We were fly. It was a triple lutz win worthy of an audience!

But that’s all we ended up being: fly LOOKING.

We were anything but mid-flight.

Yep. We were a crash that looked pretty during the fall. The reality was I was holding hands with a gorgeous weight. For all the times I stared intentionally into his eyes, I fail to understand how I couldn’t see the lies I was being told or the fact that he was an anchor on my hand. A body of bricks. Concrete love, and I was lost in his jungle putting on makeup and pretty dresses.

Venice Beach Plane Failure – during a long period of silence between the two of us. I didn’t know he took this.

Which brings me to the point (finally) of this blog.

It is all too possible to fall in love with a fly ass weight. What does this mean? It means the person (male or female) that you have entered into a relationship with has all your love but no wings, no feathers and no ability to help you fly. No matter how hard you pull them in the direction of up, they will always bring you down. It might not necessarily be on purpose at the onslaught, but there comes a point in the relationship where I believe they make a choice to love you ill and pull you towards ashes and dust. I happen to believe if we are “returned” to Earth after our demise, six feet back into the ground, then our lives are not meant to be lived there; we are supposed to be on the up and up until they lower our caskets or spread our ashes. But there are times when we meet and fall in love with people who can only offer us first base. As the relationship progresses, you start to see the ship isn’t moving and every time you cut the anchor free, another hindrance finds itself in the way of your partnership motion. Congratulations, this is falling in love with a fly weight. 

That weight might dress well, have beautiful eyes that beckon your staring and their skin might appear to be made of golden sunrays but that doesn’t mean their arm doesn’t require a forklift or that their love isn’t the foundation for being grounded. No matter how much they support your grind (which is usually just above the surface) or how often they call themselves “your biggest fan”, they will begin to treat you in ways that don’t reflect what you expect (or what their mouth says). Soon enough, you will become disgruntled and sorrowful when you look around you and see your flight has been halted. Realizing letting go might gift you your travel back will undoubtedly be a painful recognition.

Let go anyway.

Flies vomit when they land btw. .. on whatever they’ve landed on.

The question becomes why is this person a ‘weight’ instead of a wing? Well, there is often one simple answer (although depending on the situation, there may be several more): Jealousy.

The wrong person will see your natural flyness (including but not limited to the way you look, the personality you own, how you carry yourself, how you handle life, how you chase down and achieve your goals and where you are in life) as a hindrance to their personal greatness and the relationship overall. I’m not sure why it is, but some people don’t notice when a person is trying to BUILD WITH them instead of against them. I’m sure it’s associated with whatever baggage they have in tow. But their blindness can keep you out the sky indefinitely while interlocking arms with them and snapping selfies for the gram. Your IG feed can easily become your relationship’s only means of protein.

Jealousy is dangerous, ugly and unloving and it camouflages itself as support, love, and light. But in reality: welcome to the darkroom. It will either kill you or stop your train. Muthafuckas will take from you when they are jealous of you and in a relationship with you. Money itself is too simple. If they know you as a hustler, they will see money as replaceable; they can’t take JUST that (although they will take that too). They take/want your soul. That’s where the satisfaction comes from. Your spirit. Your confidence. Your pride. They take one feather at a time from your wings until they’ve grounded you in a position where they can start trying to mold you into who they now believe you should be to or for them. Their greatness is defined by how weak you are for them. If they can put you in a position to compromise what YOU think, want, know, deserve and push back against, they feel empowered. If they, in their insecurities and fears, shortcomings and missteps, can put an ounce of mental control on us, to tame us, to mend us towards fixing their shit and not working on our own, to pull us down from their words, their ill-fated love, and poor decisions, then they have empowered themselves even more. The more power they collect, the bigger they grow and better control they have over something (usually these people have little control on anything else in their life).

We, the women of great internal power and audacious love, LOOK good on their arms. We look fly. It tells the world what they can pull and keep. It shows people something.

“Look who (s)he walked in with!!”

“How did (S)HE get HER?”

This is ego-lower self food, and it does more speaking on their behalf than they are willing to do for themselves. That’s why they accuse you of caring so much about what other people think. It’s not because you do and they know this. It’s projection baby!! When I tried getting back w/my ex in the late summer of 2017, I hosted a party shortly afterward with my friends. He got mad that he wasn’t invited and accused me of caring about how my guests would look at me if they knew he was back around. Let’s be 100 tho: I couldn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about who I choose to love and why. It was never that. It was all about what I thought about it and I wasn’t ready. But that grassroots attempt at a mindfuck almost worked. THEY care what other people think. Don’t fall for the projection!  Their (wo)manhood has plenty of stock invested in the “fly look” of the two of you that is based on your flyness PRE-their ass.

Here we are: these daring, brilliant, talented women with exquisite beauty that we don’t even rely on. Women who know ourselves.  Women who care for our loved ones. The villagers. Women who uphold honor, love, and respect and demand all of it. Women who build the table and pull out our own chairs. Women who aren’t content with chasing dreams; we massacre goals and create new ones to tackle.

To have US on their arm shows the world they are fly.

Then WE look fly in pictures.

No one can see our secret: that our arms are attached to weights.

And no wing can fly above an anchor. The only means is cancellation or cutting the ropes. It may be one of these most painful retractions of your life. You will ask questions that won’t generate responses that kiss it, kiss it better. Your trust may be broken as well as your heart and your mental state might be challenged for a period of days or weeks (and for some, months). You’ll indeed feel HEAVY as fuck !!!!!!!!!!!

Photo by ANKH Productions

As if you weigh 3 tons and can’t be bothered to pull your weight throughout an entire day (or you may instantly feel great, unbothered and ready for a do-over with a better candidate). But trust me when I say releasing the hand/arm that you are holding, snapping pictures with and looking good next to (also known as a WEIGHT) will open the sky up for you. The sidewalk will become a liftoff. You need not run. Just keep walking.

I assure you, as God and myself is my witness, you will be flying before you know it. While there might not be a hand to hold onto during your ascent, don’t trip. Fuck em and feed em’ concrete! FLY sis. Evict any negative energy from that person (pictures off cloud, phone, old gifts, left items, etc) and move UP with your life.

Fly until you fly into someone already up there, looking for you….we gotta learn that stopping to catch your breath doesn’t mean to pick up worm unless you’re eating it.

Don’t accept less,

Don’t be sorry,

Photo by ANKH Productions

and never settle for being grounded after you’ve left your mom’s house.

~J

 

***Dedicated to my sisterfriend that inspired this conversation recently. I hope you know who you are <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resentment: Stages: Sips from My Lemonade

I’m on this stage. Image may contain: one or more people and people on stage

Usually, there is an artistic accompaniment. Maybe a band. A host. Lots of mics to choose from or colorful lights that can be changed depending on the mood of my speaking. There is usually poetry here.

Today, there is none of this. The stage is dark with burnt edges that have a stale smell of smoke. It’s empty. There is simply a stool and white spotlights that all aim in my direction. You can’t see anything other than …..

-me.

This is the stage that I am on.No automatic alt text available.

I cannot leave or abandon it until the showing is over and I will only know it’s over by the dimming of the overhead lights. Welcome to my newest one-woman show.  Please, kindly take your seats and enjoy the ride.

Unlimited tea and lemonade are included in your ticket.

Stage Left: Resentment

This is a bitter tea. As it goes down my throat it leaves a strong hint of habanero on my taste buds. My tongue may feel singed but I understand this to simply be part of the process. Water has yet to help with the inferno slowly building from the back of my mouth to the traces of my lipstick.

Sadness has subsided or at least put on a new outfit. Blessings can be hard to hold onto once you step foot into this world of emotion. I can feel the stage floor turning red and becoming too hot for my feet to stand on.

I walk through this place sometimes, listening for the sound of cologne hitting his wrists. Waiting for the dogs to hear his truck turn onto the block and run to the window. I sit and binge watch television while doing homework and working on the ball – wondering how it is that on television when men fuck up, they somehow make it back to their ex’s front door, lacking their ego and humbly dedicated to resolution instead of dissolution.

But maybe that’s just for Hollywood and Love and Hip Hop.

Or Geist.

Carmel perhaps? Fishers? California? Morocco??

Where exactly is this space in the world where people (men or women) who fuck up their relationships actually take a moment to realize the damage they have caused and try to EARN their spot back? Do those type of people actually exist? Or, better yet, am I even that type of person?

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and closeup

It’s like swallowing a horsepill full of urine; you kinda feel pissed on but you kinda feel like THE urine.

Oh love,

How I have waited for you to show back up at the doorstep

like a stork delivery

minus a return receipt

and I undo the locks and open the door

eyes staring into soul windows with curtains drawn

we pull each other in by the scent of our connection

and figure it out. You tell me,

you came to figure it out.

And we do. Like they do on tv.

Oh love,

how I have waited for you to show back up,

at the doorstep.

Ready.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzp2vUp3kyo

But alas I don’t live that poetry life anymore. I thought I was in my forever space and it was another temporary person with a lifelong lesson. I get angry because I wonder when will I gather up enough lessons in my binder to be able to meet someone that isn’t just a summer school teacher? When will the moment come when I inspire another person to be his greatest self and vice versa? To reach WITH me? I want to BUILD with someone; not sit around, playing house like God ain’t watching and life ain’t short. It’s maddening.

I’m angry at myself. I don’t know if I should be, but I am. I look through my hindsight lenses at stuff I overlooked, things that could have saved me but I want to see and believe in the great in people and in return, it usually gets me toodamnopen and vulnerable. I begin to lose my power. I get mad at myself for not doing a better job of self-protection. I get upset at how I love – how intent and full it is. I can’t stop the train once it pulls off. When I love, I go into the veins of my soul and suck the blood through a coffee straw just to put life into this new relationship. I was recently told that I lose myself in my relationships.

And that was a dose of ouch and wow to be honest, although not surprising. I’ve always known that, but I thought I had it under greater control more recently. I exhaust my and that other person’s love when the end draws near because letting go has never been my strong suit. My last texts to XXXXX were fresh off the live wire. I was angry, in my feelings and resenting the idea that I should be chasing him. In the weeks after, once the tears began to clear, I continued to allow resentment a space to dwell in, inside of me.

There were days that felt like an inferno replaced my heartbeat (and still are). Every breath was a cross between mourning what we had while trying to accept it is over. I felt like I changed my course to follow love again only to end up at the same fork I’m always at; this definitely sparked a seed of anger that was growing into an Oak Tree.

But the thing is, if I pretended to not be outraged and displeased, the resentment would stay and become baggage: baggage that I would never unpack. So I opened the door and welcomed it into the living room only.

There were no bathroom breaks and I only offered one complimentary mug of lukewarm water to quench its thirst. I acknowledged it silently. Then publicly. Then it began to release itself.

As I sit on and through these different stages and take slow sips of my lukewarm lemonade, I must face my own mirror at every interval. I am nothing if I do not confront my inner demons while acknowledging the ones in others that I do not wish to encounter in others again. I could write a blog about all the things that my ex did that made me unhappy and hurt my feelings, but then I would just be a victim. That is also a planting field for resentful feelings.  I could also write about how my therapist is helping me see ME in a whole new light and damn it feels good to have that, but shit, the ‘aha moments’ are like:

This stage of sour lemons is natural. I don’t feel embarrassed or like I’m not where I should be in life. I went all the way this time. I put it all on the line and I fell off and still held that tightrope with my bare hands until the yarns cut my skin open and the blood loosened my grip. I’m not sure if I’m sitting on this stage, or if I fell onto it, bloody and out of breath.

Maybe we were both exhausted. And then, I paused and thought about my role. The things I’ve done and said at times weren’t the greatest or most poetic. At times, they were flat out wrong. It made me wonder if we are both relieved in some way. . .

The exhaustion is over. The show has ended and the people have all left the venue. The fight is done and the stage lights are beginning to dim. Maybe I didn’t fall on this stage of resentment. What if my instincts were already here, waiting on my physical to arrive while watching real life play out. And now that I have officially stepped foot into the building, I can go. I can gather my toys and go. Ever since I spoke it aloud, the universe has beckoned me to free myself from the pitfalls and dangers of resentment. I also had to come to realize maybe XXXXX has resentment towards me too and what if that’s fair? Well, now we are both free again to be who we are and where we are. I would be a crooked ass liar if I said that it doesn’t hurt that we can’t be our authentic selves with each other.

And sometimes, that hurt feels like anger….resentment.

But I free it. I free the anger. I free the pain. I free myself – from this stage and the inside of this particular arena. And if you are reading this, let this be a reminder or a form of inspire that it is natural to feel outraged or enraged by situations that occur and things people do. It doesn’t reduce you in size, character, strength or power – it simply makes you human. It is my belief that it’s actually more healthy to give yourself the space to be the human that you are and to authentically FEEL instead of running and fronting in front of the mirror. Once you sit with yourself – study it and understand it’s origin as well as the role you played in its existence, then you are giving yourself the path to let it go. And that’s all resentment is good for…letting go of.

But in order to do it, you have to first allow yourself the room to feel it.

I am proudly learning yet a new journey from the comfort of the warmth in my chrysalis. A rising will soon come.  I

 

~j

 

WOMAN’ing: Ch 69 – The (re)Tired Red Cape, Part V of V.

You know why this is Chapter 69? Nothing to do with sex. Everything to do with no matter how you slice it or what way you turn it, the results are the same.

I NEVER intended on being Superwoman.

black-wonder-woman-e1426461792686

Never.

But once I decided to adult, I was immediately outfitted for my red flowing cape that would hang off my back no matter what outfit I put on. When I wear a dress, there is a long, flowing cape behind me. When I wear a suit, the cape is blowing in the wind and sometimes wrapping around my pants legs near the thighs. In sweats, my cape looks like it doesn’t belong but it’s still there riding my back like a cliché phrase about monkeys. And when I am naked, there she is: my cape. My big ass red cape, hanging from neck as if it were sewn into my skin.

Am I to never depart from this role of superwoman?

What’s funny about this title, is there are countless songs dedicated to the independence of women, particularly black women. For some reason, black women have to make their independence known to the world but the dosage must be in small teaspoons at a time. We wouldn’t want to emasculate the men or intimidate other women. We also wouldn’t want Jill with the Stringy Hair to feel like we were coming for her space right? So when we go to the club dancing to I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, and songs that fit that culture of music, we must make sure we only spell it out once so as not to offend others. Lol. Superwoman – the title that nearly every black woman has but no one really wants.

Folks think we want to be superwoman and that is simply not the truth. We were not built to maintain life and all of its ups, downs and mediums, all the stress and trauma, the good and the great, alone. I don’t believe that. I believe it’s possible to never spend your life with someone else. I believe it’s possible to try love and decide for yourself that you are better without it and that’s ok. But I also believe that we were made to have a partner. The fact that pickings are slim and partners, true PARTNERS, are few and far in between has made more women Superwoman than ever intended to be. We have to be responsible for EVERYTHING. EVERY DAMN THING. We are not just head of household, we are the head nigga in charge and for those that don’t like that term, sorry. That’s the way the saying goes . .  .

“**yelling at maximum lung capacity*

I’M TIRED OF BEING SUPERWOMAN DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!!

We are the preacher, the teacher, the mother, the daughter and sister, the wife or girlfriend and for some, the side chick (you may not like a woman’s choices but  that doesn’t mean she isn’t out her making other Super fucking decisions). We are the  bread winners, the cooks, the maids, the stress relief, the emotional beings, the love leaders and the dream catchers. In addition to all of this, we must be responsible for goals, dreams, spirituality, teachings, education, orgasms, and manage any mental health issues or problems we may face, all while spending up to a week per month bleeding and trying not to be pissed off about it.
WoooMFinSah.”

Nothing stops when we have kids. It doesn’t stop when our cycles have us bent over the toilet trying to vomit up our mistakes of the last 3 weeks. Nothing ends because we have a bad day or are struggling through another bout of depression. Nothing stops for us – we must keep going.

I know, I know, all of this is true for men and women, white and black.

Welp, I’M TALMBOUT BLACK WOMEN TODAY!!!

While I do believe that women of all races are tasked with holding the world up on their shoulders, it’s no secret that black women are expected to hold the world while flying through the air without dropping a single thing, all while looking good for our flip floppy ass men. If you are a white woman reading this and find yourself offended by the idea that your privilege prevents you from being spoken for in this particular blog, then I advise you not to return here because there is more where this comes from and I can’t tell you when I will vent my black life opinions and experiences and won’t hold them back for sugary words and friendly comments. Besides, if we were being absolute 100 about it, what it means to be a white superwoman is a completely different definition than the black woman’s experience as such, AND someone is always looking to cape for a white woman whether it be white men, BLACK MEN, society, the community, etc….. A white woman’s superwoman cape is always at the dry cleaners and she never takes it there herself. A black woman’s cape is always attached to her MFing back.

We are the ones that seem to be continuously pushed to the bottom of the totem pole no matter how hard or fast we climb. Our men turn their backs on us at the drop of a white tear, jobs act like they don’t see our qualifications despite our continuing advancement up the education meters and journalists try to refute any good information released about us at every opportunity to click-clack their typing fingers.

I had another blog that I started writing on this topic but decided to start over from scratch after a viral FB thread that I scrolled upon. By now, you may have seen it and might even know some of the women commenting. I don’t at the present time know the origin of the thread or what brought about the tearfully white comment but a precious and privileged white woman left this in a black women’s comment section: “I wish I could have been born a black woman because you all are so strong”, or some derivative of bullshit like such. The post has gone viral because of the eternal dragging that she received, but the comment and the subsequent responses got me thinking about the title of superwoman and our addictive disdain of such.

Superwoman Can’t Die…

…Because if she does, the rest of everything that has been dependent on us for survival will fold and not many of us will chance that. Either we have to be taking care of the kids or going to work or working on our schoolwork or cooking and cleaning or tending to our men or finding out they are cheating and caring for our own feelings or caring for ailing family or marching on the frontlines or pushing our not-for-profit or having contractions while signing paperwork for keys to new buildings after burying close family members and remembering to feel beautiful inside and out. Much like a run-on sentence, there are no breaks and or breaths. We push through and plow unbroken grounds in search of ourselves all while trying to maintain our professional and personal lives. Sure, as I said earlier, this is nothing no one else hasn’t experienced. No, you don’t need to be a black woman to go through this. But as a black woman, I guarantee the Superwoman title is exacerbated by a thousand knots. Let’s use that FB comment I saw for example, which you can find here. One of the commenters shared some screenshots from a black man that inboxed her separately asking if “all white women were considered ugly” and how “in his opinion, most of them look better than black woman, who look like dogs” or some other type of animal he referred to us as.

Wait –

Bish what????

We can’t even stop to take our fucking worn down heels off before we have to stand back up, cape blazing as usual, ready to defend ourselves and our sisters because some flagrant ass nigga thought it necessary to socially degrade us as a whole while casually forgetting that his blanket statement would also include his mother and any other black woman in his life. But I don’t know, some black dudes act like they were pushed out of Jill With the Stringy Hair’s snatch. FoH.

And for that, we must be on at all times. We must always be in charge of who we are. If we don’t command and demand our respect and for that of our sisters, we will be disrespected at all costs. You don’t get the title of Superwoman because you get up and go to work every day. You get it because YOU are work…every day. It takes work to go beyond every barrier set in place to be the ending factor. Superwoman has to be dedicated to herself in an unforgiving way that opens up the valley for her ascent. But she’s hardly ever traveling alone. There is always family, friends and lovers in tow. . .

We are grinding for everyone at once to a point that we don’t know if we are putting ourselves first or last anymore. At the same time of our Super Grind, we are watching our sisters be killed by the police at a rapid rate. We are holding names like Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines close enough to our hearts that we can feel their final breaths. We stand in the front of the protest lines with signs and grief and strength unfounded because we refuse to sit quietly while our men are hunted, our children are unprotected and our women and girls become easy targets for police assaults and murders. It’s a weight that sits on our hearts relentlessly and even when our emotional hope is drained, we still stand in resilience and solidarity with each other. This is why I say this isn’t about white inclusion. Sorry, not sorry. White women will never know what it’s like to hold the house up, keep self together and watch our families be ripped apart or worse, to be on the burying side of a racist system that supports the hunting and killing of black people. This is a daily occurrence. There are instances that happened last week that we may never hear about and those women, those black superwomen, will experience their losses and grief alone. They won’t have the nation marching and begging for rights that should be a no-brainer for every human. Even when our home lives are in an uproar, we still find time in our stress to care about someone else and see to their needs. 

Superwoman can’t die. She can’t pass away quietly in her sleep or take a vacation indefinitely and leave her calendar book at home. Superwoman must always be on. If not, who will? If we don’t get it done, who will? Who’s going to take the overflowing trash out the door without us having to be a reminder or do it ourselves? Who gets the furniture moved and the rooms changed for a fresh feeling in the house? Who will fearlessly climb up a southern flag pole, snatching down the offensive confederate flag all while knowing the repercussions of doing so will be grand? Black women, in particular, have this Superwoman thing down to a science. When we do ask for help, we have about five to ten minutes maximum as a grace period to allow for it to start to get done. After that time is up, we toss our cape in the wind and fly to solve the shit ourselves.  Recently I saw this meme:

Recently I saw this meme: black-womenIf this isn’t a perfect description of superwoman, I don’t know what is. I almost want it tattooed on my arm but I never wanted the title of superwoman to begin with.

The Title We Never Signed

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Photo Credit: Roberto Nencini

Superwoman is a misleading title that none of us signed up for. I didn’t grow up with my head in comics and I was never a fan of Superman or any of the other Marvel heroes. The closest I got to that type of stuff was enjoying the Thundercats theme song but even still, I never watched the show. On the flip side, I never expected to get married, birth two kids and live in a suburban household with the perfect Ken-doll looking husband. I didn’t grow up with adult expectations and no one ever really tried to implant anything on my psyche. I just grew to know that one day, I would be able to do whatever  I wanted to do with my life and I was looking forward to it (adulting per a teenage mind, smh). I did a mad dash out of the house at 19 and never looked back. But in hindsight, I’m certain I wasn’t looking forward either or else I may have noticed the big ass red cape standing in the way of the door that I would have to put on in order to exit.

I came flying through these Indianapolis streets, cape blazing, weave blowing with crooked smile on my face in attempts to save the world from itself. I offered up every saving grace I could muster from a couch for flagrants to sleep on to my credit for niggas to fuck up. At one point, I had two apartments in my name, neither of which was home to me anymore. Saving people is what I grew accustomed to doing until I counted more losses as a result than wins. But my never-ending flight through the sky was far from over.

My sister has been a single mom for 20 years. She worked her way up working customer service for a pizza company to earning her MBA and becoming a senior analyst at her company. In addition to that, she’s a professional accountant, an Uber driver, computer savvy to the highest degrees and has done all of this while raising a daughter alone. My mother is an only child, much like the daughter she birthed. She has been a caretaker since I was a junior in high school. One after another, a sick family member would make their way into our lives and deem my mom responsible for their well-being until their death. She has been fixing meals, running errands, going to doctors appointments, talking to hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, washing, cleaning, bathing and caring for as many as six people consecutively over the past 21 years. Let that marinate: TWENTY ONE YEARS. She did all this while going through her own health crisis including but not limited to breast cancer that, at times, left her hospitalized on several occasions. All of this took place while she was raising a daughter. As I wrote about in a previous blog, my aunt has struggled with depression for as long as I could remember. Her depression was intense and she would spend days in the bed sleeping or melancholy in spirit. Although she was a married post office retiree, she was expected to hold the house down. She paid the mortgage, the bills and since my uncle couldn’t read, she took care of anything that came in the mail and all things in between. My uncle, although a very great uncle to me, was not a great man to my aunt and definitely not the head of household. Still, he treated the home as if it were his and like she was a squatter. It’s not a lifestyle I could condone for myself but my aunt handled her business, through her depression and a relationship that was detrimental on herself. She may have seemed weak to other folks but as an adult woman, I can see how thick her cape actually was. #CapeStrong. My grandmother was the second oldest of five living children. I’m not sure where her amazing strength of life originated from, as she seems to be the only one of her siblings with the tenacity and the resilience that she possessed. She was blessed to love and be loved several times in her life. I know of three men, one she was married to and two who were long-term mates, who had her heart but not her mind. Each of these men passed away and while I was not around to meet my grandfather and see my G-Mom’s strong will, I can only imagine it based on what I have seen: she never grieves. Not the way most of us do. When the last love of her life, the man I refer to as my grandfather, passed away somewhat suddenly (no disease…he fell and hit his head), my grandmother never let anyone see her cry. No tears were shed at the funeral and just like all the other friends and family I bid farewell to alongside her, she was stoic in her demeanor and always found a reason to flawlessly smile. I’ve written in blogs about the day I was leaving my house a few years back and saw her outside crying. Her tears were so huge I could have stepped inside of them. I will never forget it because I had never seen it. I saw her try to wipe them in enough time for me not to notice, but I did. I often find myself thinking of that day and wondering what caused her tears. Was that day a culmination of life??? …a climactic moment of weakened shoulders hoisting a tired red cape?? She has Alzheimers now and truth be told, I don’t know how she could not have it. How could one store as many emotions away as she did and be the matriarch to her family AND her friends and it eventually not wear her thin in some way? I think being superwoman stole my grandmother from us. 14054582_1059928167431556_446721301327248467_o

No one signs up for this invisible role of impossibilities. We aren’t numb, non-humans who fly across the sky without catching a breath. We aren’t superhumans and we aren’t God, although each of us has the presence (IMO) of God within. To be super is to be excellent. Glorius. Splendid. Marvelous. These are all synonyms associated with the word itself and I don’t deny that they fit every black woman I’ve ever met. But it’s hardly a round-the-clock situation. I belong to a group called The Healing Circle, where women post their prayer needs, vent, uplift, cheer up each other and more. It’s a safe, sacred space on FB (can you believe it) where women have gotten to know each other simply through trying to empower each other throughout the day. I see first hand through this group that every day isn’t a great day. Some days are mental game changers and others seem like finales. There are moments where we have nothing but questions and feel undesirable to even ourselves. Our gears get tired, our immune systems get weakened and we struggle sometimes through bouts of depression, anxiety, and panic. Superwoman, by comic definition, would never experience these things and therefore she would always be able to fly with ease. There is no trouble that scares her backward and there is no past that she just can’t get over.

But in the real world, our past effects our current decisions, our hearts are bruised and at times broken for extended periods of time and we are in and out of confidence depending on who we are and where we are in life. Times get hard and we aren’t detached from how it makes us feel. Things need to be done and we aren’t in the position NOT to do them. #FuckItIWillDoIt. We are in the process of forgiving, understanding and moving on, on a daily basis. Four out of four women are trying to forgive someone right now for some type of transgression. I made up that statistic and I highly doubt I’m wrong.

We don’t want this fucking cape yo!!!!!

We don’t. We have earned our crowns but these capes are overrated…yet so necessary. If not us, then who? After so long of caping for thyself, it becomes hard to let go of the ropes. Trusting another person to take of things the way you know you would can be such a stressor that it’s just more simple to BE superwoman at all times.

We don’t want to do everything ourselves. I have proven it to myself, my family and the world that I can handle life. I can make a way out of no way. I can sleep without electricity until I get paid, I can humble myself and talk to Citizens Action Program to help me with winter assistance. I can swipe my food stamp card at the grocery proudly. I can weather the stressful storm of unemployment and I rock THE FUCK out of interviews. I can work for Goodwill and Target for minimum wage during my maximum 30s. I can swindle, scam, scheme and finagle my way wherever I NEED to be. I can and I will maintain my household at all costs. There is no question about that. Now I want some help. At nearly 38 years old, after having been on my own for nearly 20 years, I officially want to retire this ugly ass red fabric that is weighing my back down and I want someone to help. I want some contribution to these bills. I want to be able to buy myself something without taking from something else. I thank God that I no longer need to ask and give my uterus up in order for the government to give me assistance, but even if that weren’t the case, I don’t want to do all the talking. I need someone else to call the plumber and the mechanic. I want some help washing dishes because sometimes I let them pile up too much.

I have two dogs and when it’s vet time, I need help dammit ! I want to not have to pay for my own entry, drinks, and parking; I want to be treated like a Queen by my man. I want my friends to give friendship that is truly unconditional and in return I seek to provide the same. I want them to reach out to me when I’m struggling and can’t do so for myself. I want to let them know that I am thinking of them when they think they are all alone. And everything that I want for myself, I want for every woman who is battling this superwoman role. It feels good to accomplish stuff that people think you can’t, but after so many accomplishments, sometimes, you want to kick back and relax.  There is an ever growing list of expectations associated with bearing this title of super. You become EXPECTED to take care of things and to have it all together. Sometimes tho, you fucking don’t want to ! You want to stop being the caretaker for the day and stop feeling like you can’t grieve your losses. You want the bills out of your name. You want help raising your child. You want a loving ride home from the hospital and you want get well soon flowers hand delivered. This isn’t about having a man. This is about not doing every damn thing ourselves, all the fucking time. That help can come in many forms…companionship is merely one.

Even superwoman needs a day off.

But if history has taught me anything, it is that our role as Superwoman is immortal.

Eternal.

It is forever.

Superwoman can’t die.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t often want to retire our tired, red capes and just be women. 

 

~j

befunky-collage

WOMAN’ing: Ch. 25, F*#@ It, I’m On One – Pt IV of V

It was the night of the Michael Jackson and Prince ICON party at the Vogue…I had bought tickets weeks prior and was stoked to attend the party that would include live performances, lots of music from both artists and their musical friends, as well as a huge dance floor to party the night away. I got cute. I wore a tutu blue jean dress with some cute hand gloves and put my hair up in some funk-driven style. It was my guy and I’s first time going out to this type of setting and we had plans to set the dancefloor on fire. We arrived and were able to make our way to the front of the stage just in time for one of the many dope performances planned for that night. I saw a few people I knew and gave out hugs in between getting myself ready for a long night of sweaty foreheads and  tired feet. My guy stood behind me as the artists began to take to the stage and prepare to sing. I stood in front of him looking at the stage when I started feeling dizzy. I’m a smoker and thought maybe it was from that and would subside in a minute but it didn’t. It progressed forward with the dizziness moving from my head to my eyes and then I started to sweat profusely. It hit me so suddenly and so hard that it was almost hard to deny. I stood there trying to see if I could tough it out but at the point that I could feel the sweat running down my head (mind you, we had just arrived about 10 mins prior and had not done anything but walk from the door to the stage), I knew what time it was. I hesitantly turned to him and said ‘I need to go outside, I’m having a panic attack.’ He didn’t miss a beat or ask any questions; he just turned and came out w/me. I walked as fast as I humanly could from the stage to the front door. More people had arrived so the crowd was thicker and I was moving so fast, I didn’t really know if he was still behind me or not. The band began as soon as I got to the front door but I felt like if I stopped, I would drop dead. Literally those exact thoughts.

We got outside of the venue and I walk-ran to a picnic table in front of a sushi restaurant that sits next to the Vogue. I sat down and could barely see anything. I was so dizzy and scared and sweaty  and all I could think was ‘I need to be out of these clothes.’ My guy was there and I could tell he was scared but at this point, my breaths had shortened and I was dry heaving for air. I unzipped the front of my dress to let some air get to my body, no longer concerned with anyone who might see me. Logic time had passed; this was me trying to find my safety net. I felt like I was dying. I am not sure what dying feels like but that is my best guess. As I struggled to get a whole, relaxed breath, my entire body became drenched in sweat. I’m sure I was shiny because I was so sweaty from head to toe and I was shaking from the inside out. Nothing about me was put together and I could not find my footing. I was terrified and so was he. He sat with me, holding my hand while I continued to try to just catch a whole breath. About ten minutes passed before he asked if I wanted to leave; I said yes. Party was over before it began. He had to walk to get the truck and I could tell he didn’t want to leave me but I told him I was ok. When he disappeared into the dark, I cried as best as I could. I think I cried so I could see if I had ANY control over anything in my body. I cried because I was scared and worried that I would be dead when he got back to me. When he got back with the truck, I got in and we went home. I had the window rolled all the way down, face towards the wind and the seat leaned back. The panic attack was starting to subside but it felt like if I moved or blinked too fast or hard, it would resurface. It was the first panic attack I had since 2010 but since it wasn’t my first panic attack, I recognized the symptoms and was able to remove myself to a ‘safer space’ (loose term) until I could get home.

As we come to the last two blogs of the WOMAN’ing series, I had to take a minute out to discuss mental health issues. I am not here to be a doctor in literary form and not only do I not have all (and in some cases any) of the answers, I also am not sure of all the different types of mental disorders that people suffer from. I do realize this is not solely a woman’s problem and that men suffer from many of the same things I have discussed throughout this series, however, women are expected to be emotional yet in emotionally in control of ourselves. We are expected to be the nurturers and the ones that bring the ‘love’ aspect into things but are also expected to be ok. We are expected to not need help, professional or personal. We are expected to have this side of us together, when in fact, all of the stimuli we receive in trying to be everyone’s everything often has negative mental effects on us, therefore exacerbating any mental deficiencies we may have or worse, creating new ones.

I have had a pill bottle full of depression meds for two years now. When I moved, I considered throwing them away, but they now sit in my office as a ‘break open in case of emergency stash’. I have never taken meds before. I got them in the middle of 2014 when I thought I was going to lose my shit. I have never so much as twisted the bottle. The weird thing is when the doctor handed me the pills, I felt some sense of relief having told someone that I was going through a severe depressive storm that I was not yet able to pull myself from even with the tools in hand. Having him hand me those pills that I knew I would never take made me feel good because for the first time, I had told someone that could help me that I was depressed. I don’t particularly want my personality to become dependent upon depression meds to be able to make from hour to hour so I’ve never taken them but I did find myself on a lightning end to my depression. I am going to speak very candidly from this point forward on three different things regarding mental illness:

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety/Panic disorder
  3. Mild/Severe Personality Changes

Shall we?

Depression is not an Adjective:

Growing up, depression was not something that I was not privy to. My aunt suffered from depression from the onset of her mother’s death when I was like 5 or 6 years old through current. I suspect her home life with an emotionally abusive husband did nothing to help her through it. I would hear her talk of her racing and scattered emotions and since I spent a lot of time with her, I would see her go through them sometimes. She would sleep through whole days and wake up not knowing if she was at the beginning or end of the week. I assume she was doing a lot more crying than I ever knew of, but her face always told a story of weariness and tire. She looked emotionally spent when she wasn’t in a good mood and I know now that was part of the depression but as I was growing up, as much as I understood, I still didn’t. It wasn’t until I realized I was battling the same type of mental demons that I fully got the impact of depression and how debilitating it is. While on the outside, it looks like ‘why doesn’t she just get out of the bed’ or ‘why do you stay’ or ‘why won’t you ‘ yada yada yada. Everyone outside of the window has all the answers for someone else’s life but few for their own.  My first conscious dealing with depression was in the early 2000s when I was, much like my aunt, in an emotionally abusive relationship. I do not blame him or the relationship for my depression; it was just part of the saddening motivation. People use the word ‘depressed’ so flagrantly. It’s been as whored out as ‘woke’ or ‘overstand’ or some of the other words that lose their meaning over time because we have removed the true definition for them in our conversations. Depression is not a fleeting sad moment. It’s not someone passed away and you’re grieving. That’s called grieving. It’s not you lost your job and now you’re stressed. That’s called stressed and there might be some sadness associated with it, but tears and sad faces don’t equate to depression. Depression is in your brain. It’s the overwhelming sense of sadness and even fear when you get a promotion and everyone is cheering you on. It’s the death of a loved one that renders you unable to continue; you can’t get out of bed, you can’t go back to work, you can’t be bothered to talk to other people. It’s you existing solely in your emotions, whatever they are (they aren’t always sad). It is physical. It is being down on yourself about everything from a simple catalyst. Depression can be triggered but it need not be. It is a silent creeper that is relentless in its pull on your coattail. Depression simply put is a beast that can’t be resolved by someone coming over and making you laugh. It isn’t helped or cured by someone telling you that you don’t feel what you feel or you are kidding and lying to yourself.

While society still struggles to know how to deal with depressed people and learn constructive, healthy ways to address and assist them, depression gives no  fucks and the flippancy or unbotheredisms of us as a people tend to further an individual’s depression higher up the charts. It’s dangerous to say you are depressed when you are just sad.  Sadness is a part of life and for some people, so is depression, but the two are not inclusive of each other. The danger of using those two words interchangeably lies in confusing people into believing that depression is as easy to suffer from as apple pie in a white family’s oven. It’s not. Depression has it’s chosen ones and I do believe that it can be developed as well (not just the way your brain was wired at birth), but it’s not what occurs when you stub your toe and can’t get over the pain so you lay down and don’t move while watching tv. Depression wants solitude, silence, loudness, movement, tears, anger, fights, help, hugs, phone calls, shouting matches, more tears – depression wants EVERYTHING and yet nothing helps until it does. It doesn’t always have a ‘sad’ face and sometimes, you know you are going through another bout simply by your physical reaction to things. I have no ‘answer’ or solution for depression and curing the mind and heart of such a dangerous place. But I do know we need to stop just tossing it out there as an adjective. It’s not a way to describe how unhappy you are at the moment. It’s a mental imbalance. An emotional meat-grinder. A growth stunter. Depression is not an adjective. We have to be responsible for our language because it creates cultures and beliefs that sometimes aren’t true.

Stop saying you are depressed when you are sad.
Stop telling people they are just sad or ok when they say they are depressed.
Stop being dismissive. It just creates a wider funnel for depression to drown the sufferer in.
Stop using it like it’s candy. If you aren’t depressed, that’s great. If you’ve never suffered from depression, that’s great. Don’t pull yourself into a storm you don’t understand because it’s a disservice to those who do get it.
Depression is not an adjective. It’s a legit illness.

Anxious for the Panic Room

I still remember my first panic attack. It was at my mother’s house. We were standing outside on a warm summer day and both me and my mom were standing at the back of my stepfather’s truck when this  rush of sweat came over me just like at the Vogue most recently. I stood as long as I could until I had to go sit on the porch steps to catch my breath. I tried to act like nothing was wrong although I was completely terrified because not only was I profusely sweating, but now I was dizzy and my heartbeat was racing. I went into the house, laid on her living room floor and prepared to die as I cried and begged God not to let me pass this randomly on my mom’s living room floor. Clearly, I made it. But it would take talking to my friend at the time to help me make sense of what happened and even then, I still didn’t believe it. Not until I had another one and began to read about panic attacks.

On the soul food series, Terri suffered from panic attacks. They attempted to address that silent stressor but when I was watching, I couldn’t understand it. I never understood it what was going on with her or why. After I became in tune with my own, I went back and rewatched the season w/Terri’s attacks and what a difference a panic attack makes. Shit! I completely got it and truthfully, that is EXACTLY how I felt. Watch this ten-minute clip to see the randomness and the accuracy of panic attacks, at least from my experience:

That is a legit interpretation of panic attacks, even down to the way Bird reacted. My guy was similar in reaction….while he didn’t sing old church hymns to me, he was scared and tried his best to offer comfort and bring me down. He told me in the days afterward how frightening the situation actually was. I am not sure why my panic attacks started. They aren’t frequent and sometimes  there are years in between them, but when they happen, THEY HAPPEN!!!!! Listen, all over the web you can find articles and pages dedicated to panic attacks, what to do, why they happen, etc, etc.

This one is pretty well detailed in the symptoms.

That fear of dying is so real. You literally feel like this is the end and OMG why is it ending like this of all ways?

Of course, stress, whether internally (your own personal stress) or external (adopted stress of loved ones), can bring on an attack but when they will happen is anyone’s guess. The unpredictability coupled with the fear associated with panic attacks keeps me on edge when I find myself sweating or feeling nauseated or dizzy. Most times it’s nothing, but the fear persists just the same. The last attack, I tried the methods that are often suggested including trying to stay mentally calm, taking deep slow breaths (which is hard when your breath is stunted), getting air but I can’t say how much they helped.  There are anti-depressant meds you can get to help with easing the frequency of attacks but they don’t stop them completely and to be perfectly honest, I’m a bit over the idea that everything can be solved by a little pill somebody created out of who knows what. Finding the route cause of your panic attacks would be the greatest hope one would have for fighting back and I’m sure there is some type of natural supplement that could assist. I don’t have them frequently enough to have invested much energy in combating them, but if you are reading and aware of some natural cures or something aside from popping pills, drop it in the comments !!! Talk back <3

Fuck It, I’m On One

 

I have only tickled the fancy of the surface with this blog. Mental illness issues are abundant yet they are shunned and whispered about. To me, this portion of my journey through my womanhood includes being honest with myself about who I am and how that affects me in positive and/or negative ways. Being honest with yourself means owning up to your mental strengths….and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if you have an IQ of a genius or daily struggles with bipolar disorder, owning your mental space is what will allow you to continue to grow. It’s what allows the necessary help get to you even if that’s a depression prescription that you never take. But somewhere tiptoeing on the axis of womanhood, there is a silent creeper that affects millions of women but we hardly see it as news or hear it about it in conversations.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) came into my life about five years ago when a dear friend found out she was suffering from it. During the beginning days of her period, she would get irritable and jumpy. What would usually be a simple argument would be like WWIII and anyone could get it !!! She was given some meds to take and I can’t remember if they were birth control pills are anti-depressants, but with her emotions being an absolute mess on a monthly basis, she tried them. I think the results fell in the middle of the spectrum. In the blog prior to this, I talked about the effects of aging and how I feel about it. I wrote about how my period has changed over the years and become an untrustworthy (although reliable) reminder of my womanhood every month. One thing I failed to address was PMDD and how it suddenly appeared as part of my PMS symptoms. I am self-diagnosed so there is room for me to be in error on this but I’m about 100% I’m correct. Real quick, cause you know I love definitions:

Dysphoria – A profound state of unease or dissatifaction. Dysphoria may accompany depression, anxiety or agitation.

Out of nowhere, over the last 3-4 years, I noticed a change in my personality that occurred at the exact same time every month: during my period. Let me back up first. When I a teenager and even throughout the majority of my 20s, I didn’t suffer from any PMS or sickness or mood alterations when I had my cycle. It was business as usual on all other fronts. The closer I got to 30 and then afterward, I started to develop PMS symptoms and cramping which I have charged to the game as aging. But these last few years, I noticed something else. Something new. Something a bit more dangerous. My attitude: tolerance, patience, conflict resolution – all greatly affected and down in numbers. In other words, I have none of those things. My tolerance and patience levels are zero and my conflict resolution is sarcastic at best. Now whatever you have imagined it, quadruple it and that’s me barely “able to can” as Awesomely Luvvie would say. I have screamed so loud that I’ve become hoarse. You want to talk about uneasiness?? Lord Jesus, I can feel myself shaking internally and I know it’s time for everyone to hit the deck, she’s about to blow !!!  Then the next day, I’m looking and thinking back with embarrassment like ‘who the fuck was I?’

My friend and I aren’t the only sufferers of this. I mean, there are enough of us for them to concoct another lab pill with a commercial attached (but be careful on taking meds because the symptoms could be as small as a rash to as final as death..lol). One day we were talking about it and how people who don’t and have never experienced it don’t really understand how heavy and detrimental the symptoms can be. Men of course totally don’t get it and with both of us, it showed up so late in life that people are looking at us like ‘well you weren’t this way just last year.’  Yeah well, DUH MF !!!!!

If you add PMDD on top of a nervous and mental system that is known for panic attacks and a depressive nature, there is no telling what you might get. I once had an ex tell me I had personality issues. I had another tell me that I go from zero to a hundred really quick and then my currency seems to think something along the same lines. Everybody can’t be wrong, but that doesn’t make them right. I wonder how much of what we experience in life effects us in our menstrual cycles? I recently obtained a therapist and will have my first appointment with her soon. Something that I have wondered about in regards to personality & bipolar disorder, as well as PMDD, is do the people on the other side of us take our mental issues seriously enough to attempt to NOT trigger them?

Here’s an example: Accountability is something that is big to me. I am not always in the right and while criticism of myself may be hard to digest at times, I still understand that I have to be responsible for the things I say and do and how they make other people feel. Even if there is something mentally different about me, I still have enough ‘norm’ about me to know that I have to respect how I’ve made folks feel even when it’s bad. For me, a person holding themselves accountable is HUGE so when you avoid accountability or deflect (which another pet/personality peeves), it has the ability to instantly take me to 100 depending on what time of the month it is (and sometimes NOT depending on that at all). I’m an only child and so was my mom so I didn’t even grow up with cousins my age. There was no one else to put the blame on when something was messed up. I’ve always had to be called to bat for what I pitched out so it’s a hard pill for me to swallow when I see someone can’t be accountable for the things they’ve said and done. So again, I go back to the question of triggers.

Are the people on the other side of us taking our mental issues seriously enough not to trigger them? Are they being accountable? Are they deflecting? Are they being condescending? The list goes on and is based on individuals but me accepting that there is something different about how I am mentally and emotionally wired, be it once a month or daily, is also me saying to you if you plan to stick around, please try not to toss gasoline on an ever burning flame.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me.

But it’s definitely something I’ve wondered more than a handful of times. Mental health is hardly addressed enough and especially not in the black community. Those who have mental illnesses or suffer from anxiety or depression or PMDD or [insert illness] need the assistance of our loved ones as much as we need doctors, prescriptions, and the rest . . .

That is greatly important and I can’t begin to stress how much so in one blog. We don’t don’t need to be coddled and treated like babies. It’s not that. But if we acknowledge an illness, please don’t tell us we are lying or tripping or need to ‘take it to the altar.’ Those of us who believe and trust in God have already done that and this is the part of faith where you WORK. We don’t need to be patronized or made fun of but rather that you are cognizant of words and triggers and actions that create funnels for depressive or manic episodes and reactions. If you already do that, then keep up the great work !!! 

In the meantime, if you suspect (or know) that you suffer from of the aforementioned or other mental illnesses, please seek the appropriate help for you. Trust your gut and your instinct. Talk to someone in confidence and if possible, seek counsel. I was recommended to the Christian Theological Center which has a sliding scale for therapists according to your income. Mine is about $30 a session.

Click this link for their information.  

Again, I didn’t write this blog with a bunch of answers and suggestions. Simply my story as I inch my way closer to 38. I hope somewhere in this, someone else becomes free enough to be open with themselves first about their mental illness, deficiencies, and issues.

I’m still the shit regardless of whatever makes me less than perfect. I love the fact that imperfection is something I cannot achieve because I truly feel like (at least on my good days) that I can accomplish nearly anything I set my mind and heart to. Perfection seems to hard to obtain so it’s better that I am flawed in the ways I am. It also allows me to empathize with folks.

I wish more people had that same empathy and understanding. Although this series is called WOMAN’ing and about being a woman, men suffer mental illnesses just as much as women. And our society is too full of people who don’t know how to nurture us appropriately.

May the high horses they ride in on catch a broken leg. Hashtag PutEmDown. 

Blogtrack:

“I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don’t change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you’re taught to cry in your pillow
But I survived

I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
I found solace in the strangest place
Way in the back of my mind
I saw my life in a stranger’s face
And it was mine”
~Sia, Alive 

 

 

WOMAN’ing: Chapter 21, Pt II – The Pussy Police Officers *updated

A casual stroll down my Instagram feed ended with me being stopped dead in my tracks at one of the posts from someone I follow.

I’ve been following the young lady that I once helped raise when she was barely able to read on her own for the last year or so. She’s so beautiful. She’ll be twenty-one on November 21st, which is ironically the birthdate of my partner now. She has an incredible singing voice and does feature spots quite often from what I can tell. She has a Soundcloud page too. On this day what popped up on my feed wasn’t her singing or somewhere with her red hair blowing or smiling. She was ……posed – in what looked to be a professionally taken picture of her in nothing but her panties. She had some type of coat covering her breasts but she wasn’t ‘wearing’ it. Her face was stunning. Makeup was done nice, hair simple and cute and her features are just beautiful. I really hope beyond what the world is telling her in order to be next to her, that she knows she is gorgeous!!!! When I saw that picture, I felt so many different feelings and the first being ‘where the fuck are your clothes?’

But ….the last thought I had, as much as it bothered me to see her like such, was who have I become that  I think I can be on the pussy patrol, stopping and frisking women for their right to do whatever makes them happy, at that age, at that moment on that day. She’s a twenty-year-old young woman who has been to college, is no one’s mother yet and talented AF ! Kendria, stop cyber-side-eye  policing this adult young woman, especially when you were quite similar at her age. #letherlive #GetOffHerAssWithTheSideEyeBeltsAndExtensionCords

Whew! What juxtaposition.

…and on that note, FUCK THE POLICE.

NO, I’m not talking about the boys (and girls) in blue right now (but really, they can get it too). I mean fuck the PPOs. Who and what are the PPO’s?

*foul language ahead*

The Muthafuckin’ Pussy Police Officers. The people who really think it’s their job to dictate who a woman is and what she does and whether or not she’s still ‘qualified’ in PPO’s eyes to be considered a [respectable] woman. Still don’t get it? How many times have you scrolled past a meme like this:

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Or have you read about how black women who get their hair dyed blonde don’t like being black and secretly want to be white?
Have you ever scrolled past a long thread of heauxteps and friends that are going in on black women for the choices they have made about their lives and how those choices somehow equal a diminished sense of black pride? What about the folks that talk shit about strippers but make no mention of the skeletal remains that are stinking up their walk-in closets? Or the folks that are constantly talking about what a woman can wear and be acceptable? Or how long her nails can be before she is considered ‘too ghetto… or how she wants attention when she wears a short skirt, breastfeeds in public or wears colored contact lens and hair weave … the list of reasons people sign up to become card-carrying PPOs is forever growing and I’m sure there are new instances added daily that speak on what makes a woman and what breaks one.945868_969728873082675_3146413067454980451_n

To them – I say fuck you.

yes

Let’s divide this part into three sections:

  • -Woman 
  • -Thou Art
  • -Assumed to be Loose …..But I’m going to start from the end and go up.

 

“Assumed To Be Loose”

I live for word definitions:

loose

lo͞os/

adjective

  1. not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached.

synonyms:      not fixed in place, not secure, unsecured, unattached

  1. (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely.

synonyms:      baggy, generously cut, slack, roomy

verb

  1. set free; release.

            free, set free, unloose, turn loose, set loose, let loose, let go, release

 Boyshorts as outside clothes, twerk videos, ass shots and pumped up breasts aren’t anything ‘new’ so to speak, but with the continued rise of social media, they’ve gained some traction because everyone is wearing it and doing it for all to see. Pole dancing is more acceptable today than it was when I was wrapping around one and girls holding blocks of money and making it rain on each other, themselves or a random brown kitchen table is part of our society’s norm. But these things, while coveted to the sight, are things that get women labeled as a certain type of woman. Because only a THOT would come outside in short shorts and only a stripper hoe would have desires of learning how to work the pole. Right?

  1. LOOSE – the adjective definition #1. – not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached.  Synonyms – not fixed in place, not secure, unsecured, unattached

– Women are considered loose as much as society can loosen us up. We are’ not fixed in a certain place’ according to the #PPO Academy graduates. We are INsecure (which leads to our off the cuff, loose behavior) and unattached. Perhaps if we had a man, we could fix ourselves? Or if we went to church and prayed our hoe away, we could come back out as saved and great –

-but wait. …

You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife, right? Ok so women who are hoes, thots, loose ones, fast ones, etc. are forever lost causes but that’s already been discussed in a blog by me. You might recall from a previous blog, I discussed ‘hoes’ and how ironic it is that hoes still get fucked when so many men don’t respect them. But if you don’t respect her and you’re fucking her, does that not speak to what you think of yourself? Idk….this blog isn’t really on that again. This is about the fact that any one person, male or female, thinks they even have the right to label a woman anything aside from her name or a name she’s given herself. I can’t believe I’m about to use this woman as an example but she’s a really good one: Kim Kard.

She’s always called a hoe and a thot and a host of colorful other names that don’t sound like Kim, Kardashian, West or Woman. Why is this? Because she did a sex tape with Ray-J and made bank from it? OR is it because we know she had sex with Ray J and women can’t have sex without being whores? Clearly (if you saw the tape), they had some type of relationship that extended well beyond that garbage hotel action and Ray J’s lack of knowledge of what to do in such a situation (you thought it too) so it has to be something else right? Ok well, she got married for 72 hours. She also dated Reggie Bush. She now is married to Kanye West. Let’s toss a random person in there for shits and giggles….we’ll call him Arnold. So let’s do the math of what we know – KK has slept with at least four different men, two that she married, one who is the father of both of her kids, one who she made a sex tape with and then turned it into an empire (no matter what anyone thinks of her) – Yep, she’s a certified loose, thot dressing hoe.#Sarcasm

Can you see the tom foolery or is it just me? But the policing doesn’t stop at our panties. It is a head to toe makeover that the #PPO are constantly (pa)Trolling women to give them. Now apply this to women all over. If you sleep with X-amount of men, you are a hoe. If you wear X-type of clothes, you are a thot. If you’re black and you die your hair blonde, then you want to be white. If you’re a bigger woman at a buffer, you’re obese with an eating problem. If you wear heels all the time, you’re ignorant to the natural needs of your feet. If you still wear bras, you haven’t done your research and need to retrain your mind to think bra-less because that’s what real women do. If you take too many selfies, you are too confident, stuck up, narcissist and need to chill. If you aren’t smiling in public at all times, you’re mean, evil looking or mad at the world when “come on babygirl, it really ain’t that bad.”

The #PPO can strike their badge authority anywhere. They are loose with it. They aren’t attached to any one woman; these rules apply to all women everywhere and especially the ones raising up future women. The Pussy Police Officers will come for your neck the minute they think you have dropped the ball on being a card-carrying woman, ESPECIALLY if you are a BLACK WOMAN. I believe ALL women are subjected to the PPO, but black women just seem to have it worse (of course). People like Trick Daddy, Kanye and various other rappers who’s tracks get twerk’d to by the same women they tear down, are brutally insensitive and downright disrespectful to black women as if it were a sport. It’s nothing to see a black man do an interview and speak some vile shit against black women as if his mother were born lily white as the snow. We’re fine as long we’re their fucking fake ass  video props but when it comes to real life, we are worthy of their PPO disrespect.  So they’ll fuck us, make us into hoes to talk about, use us in their videos for low wages and ass smacking but then call us out because we’re not living up to what they think a real woman is? Geeez, some men really are looking for a daughter to fuck. They want a girl they can tell what to do for 12 hours and a woman they can fuck ‘like a hoe’ for 12 hours. Who lives up to this? #PPO nellyThere’s a guy whose name I can’t remember (why would I) who has a YouTube channel dedicated to stereotyping us and talking against us. He has millions of followers and believers. As much as my fellow sisters and I ignore this shit and try not to let it bother us, it’s hard not to feel something from that type of shit. Simply put: it hurts. But we superwomen and know our strength so we keep pushing regardless…and the #PPOs continue to patrol our city and cyber streets to teach us, not from experience, how to be good, wholesome, society-accepted women. I reject that shit and say fuck that and fuck you! And while there are plenty of women PPOs lurking (I have some on my FB page), the men seem to have this position on lock! I guess considering they started off as girls, they CAN tell us a thing or two…I just don’t know how accurate it would be. I have never understood how the saying ‘a woman can’t raise no man’ can be accurate when speaking of a single woman raising her little, growing boy but somehow a grown man CAN re-raise a grown ass woman?

As my girl Naz would say, MUTHAFUCKAFORWHAT??!?!?!?! Kinda like the hoe concept – it’s as if she’s doing it on her own, but we all know she can’t be a hoe without hoe-ish assistance.

Yes, woman is often assumed to be loose. I use this phrase a lot and even have it in a poem. Of course, it stems from the movie title of Woman, Thou Art Loose, but it’s missing the ASSUMED so I’ve added it where it goes. Our bodies are the topic of discussion daily. We are told what we can and can’t do with them and even had a governor who is now running for VP of  the USA try to force those who have abortions and stillbirths to BURY the remains. We are often punished for having sex – Punished for how we look – And told what we can feel. Welcome to the Academy for PPO. The Muthafuckin Pussy Police Officers. Oh how I wish they would use LOOSE in the verb way and let go of us. Just let go. Set us free. Let us fucking be the types of women we WANT to be. Hoe or otherwise dammit.

We all eventually wake up from our slumbers and it’s hardly ever because this harsh society tried to guilt trip us about our decisions… Women go through so many phases of living before they get to the woman they want to be. No one can dictate what those phases are or when they will happen (although there is a projected set of ages for some stuff) but you can bet your pointy little finger that her experiences will make her the phenomenal woman she is growing into. Do I want to see a girl I knew when she was illiterate on IG in her tshirt & panties? Nah. But do I have the right to tell her to sit down? Nope.  I don’t have that right. I can stop it from showing up in my  feed but I don’t have the right to PPO that young lady like I work for Sagamore.

PT II – THOU ART – Tomorrow.

“THOU ART”

art

/ärt/

noun

  1. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

  2. The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

Ahhhh…..When I tell you I adore definitions, I really mean it. I teach using the dictionary and definitions as inspiration when I do workshops because sometimes, seeing the meaning of a word can create an entire poem. Or maybe it’s just me.

Thou Art – I decided to break this blog up by way of the title because all three separations hold their own accuracy and worth. When women are LOOSENED (verb – let go, set free), we are given the reigns and rights to embrace our art. Even when walking through the valleys of the shadows of wasted breath and opinions, we are art. We are living, breathing art and that in itself is intimidating to many. Looking at both of the ART definitions, it’s easy to fit a woman into that which is art. But are we really appreciated for our beauty and/or emotional power? Our beauty, that thing that is always on the chopping block for the local PPO to dissect for accuracy, seems to always fail to be good enough for others. Which is perfectly fine to most of us but quite honestly, as many of us as there are that are confident and who we are and what we look like and don’t care what outsiders have to say, there are just as many who are still fighting the good fight for their self-esteem and self-worth. Everyone wasn’t taught confidence and there are plenty of women still wrestling with their beautiful who just don’t need the extra bullshit voices of folks who get hard dicks and clits from tearing down others. God forbid we were weave (self-hate), fake nails (fake woman), or enjoy watching television/television shows that are primarily white cast. Either we aren’t woke enough, black enough, woman enough, angelic enough, flat stomach-enough, virgin-like enough, Christian enough, lkjd;lajfol;disajropweuifopjadl;fjkasl; j OMG THIS LIST GOES AND GOES AND GOES!!!!

But isn’t that the point of art? Isn’t art supposed to be dressed up or dressed down? Doesn’t art make people look? Doesn’t it capture your attention and curiosity? Art is abstract. It is unconventional. It breaks rules…carves its own lane. Women are art. We are similar to pieces that hang in local museums for people to gawk at and ponder over. No two just alike, we are all these unique pieces of creative works and the fact that there are people who still don’t know how to appreciate all of our differences (and similarities) is proof that there is much work left to do regarding the right to be a free woman. One of my fondest NYC memories is from my first trip there. There was a black girl walking to the corner to wait for the light to turn. She was dressed head to toe in things that didn’t make sense to the average eye. She had tennis shoes, leg warmers, leggings, a couple of shirts, a mini skirt, and a funky hairdo. Initially, I did a double take. Then I smiled because I realized something: She was free. No one was staring at her and no one was questioning her mental ability, her womanhood, her sexuality, her discernment, choices or otherwise disrespecting her. That’s when I instantly secured my ‘I will love you forever’ attitude towards New York City. And while we may always get funky looks, ignorant questions, and pointed fingers, if you can just be ok with YOU, when you see YOU, then fuck this society and it’s flagrant opinions:

  • ” I saw some gray hair in your head old lady grandma” * followed by laugh*
  • “looks like you’ve gained more weight. You need to diet” * followed by laugh*
    “You need to stop eating so much” * followed by laugh*
    “Why you got that shirt/dress on when you know you’re too big for it” * followed by laugh*
  • “Sooo you’re 30+ now…when are the babies coming” * followed by laugh*
  • “That’s a cute guy I saw you with for the first time…yaw getting married?” * followed by laugh*
  • “You know you can’t afford that baby” * followed by laugh*
  • “Ewww put that cleavage up, don’t nobody want to see that” * followed by laugh*
  • “Honey you need to stop losing weight. You look sickly” *followed by laugh*
  • “Cover up” * followed by laugh*
  • “I saw some dents and pricks in your thighs….better leave Long’s alone girl, * followed by laugh* “

Everything isn’t always a damn joke and some jokes are centered around true thoughts. Do people ever tire of making a woman face whatever they think she hasn’t already seen before they did? Whether it’s weight or children or her hair or who she loves – do the #PPO ever stop to wonder that they might be bringing up a very sensitive topic? Do they ever wonder if they are hurting feelings? Or just straight pissing folks off?

No they don’t.
Their sole job on earth is to police the pussy until its all out of 9 lives.

For some people, women as they are, are simply never enough.

But to me, Thou [is] Art.

WOMAN

I’ve written this blog several times. If you look around my site, you will find this type of blog written in several different forms. I had that epiphany as I started to finish this blog up. I’m always talking about this and I  guess it’s because it irritates the FUCK out of me. Like seriously, I never go around trying to teach men how to be men and for that matter, I don’t even try to teach other women how to be them. I discuss the basics that typically stretch across the board for all women and especially black women. I talk about being free, being yourself and embracing who you are in this moment of your life. My standing is pretty solid: I think women should have the freedom from other opinions to live their lives as they see fit and to change/grow as they deem necessary. There is always room to grow and the right loving people will call you out on your bullshit, so any faults undiscovered by self are often aired out when dealing with your relationship to others. It is so complex to be a woman – we have to smile while we walk around bleeding and feeling like crap. We still have to work while our breasts are leaking and lactating all over the place. We are the nurturers, the mothers, the sisters and the lovers. We must remain in touch with our emotions but not so much that others see us as emotional. O.o #MFFW

We have to dress pretty while not dressing slutty while remembering to cover up while breastfeeding but also to show cleavage when we go out but not too much or you’re a thot, but not so little where you are considered a prude. Lol.

I do not subscribe to this bullshit.

You cannot tell me how to be a woman.

You cannot try to be my daddy and my husband.

You cannot out-woman me.

You will not change who I am.

Only the course of my life’s journey can do that.

WOMAN – Thou Art [yet] assumed to be loose, but I see you.

I see us.

Simply put – We’re the shit. Keep doing you love and let’s all raise our middle fingers in solidarity to the PPO!!!!

Woman, thou Art.

The only thing loose is the lips of the passerbys.

Commas & Decimals: Not All Strippers Are Created UnEquals

The first time I saw a woman with ass shots was in the year 2002. The first time I saw someone get persuaded into doing drugs was around 2001. I turned 21 in 2000 and I swear as I am a black woman, I will always hear a chick called  ‘Frenchie’ smacking her ass on the climactic part of Juvenile’s Back That Ass Up. She danced to it all the time and at a particular point of the song, she would get on all fours, take her hand and repeatedly slap her butt (so loud you could hear it downstairs) until Juve popped back in with the chorus. #Brutal. I STILL hear that whenever I hear that song. The same can be said for many other things: Bombs Over Baghdad (Outkast) holds a special place in my mind and Second Nature by Destiny’s Child makes me think of a woman named Blu.Then there was Allen Iverson, Bud & Merlin Santana. Mystikal and Roy Jones Jr. The memories are as thick as the some of the women were. This is where I learned that celebrities were regular folks, how to appreciate the music of all genres and how to scarf down back to back boilermakers.It taught me that people will serve you disrespect based on the choices you make and will say you deserve it. I used to get smacked on the ass so hard that it would leave handprints that I had to walk around with…but I was expected to take it. It was assumed that’s what I liked or at least what I deserved. Certain Victoria Secret smells (mostly discontinued) still make me feel like I’m walking down to the basement again.  What basement?

The Strip Club basement.

Let’s just jump right into it shall we?

Would you respect me right now if today was 2001, my name was Butter and I was a stripper? What if I told you I slept with a former Pacer player for some racks as they say now and was sent back to the hood of Sherman Forest Apts in a limousine at the crack of dawn? What if I said I saw a man drop a $100 bill on the floor and I schemed with another chick to distract him while grabbing his $100 so we could split it?

Would you respect me like you do today? Think about it before answering with a proverbial ‘sure I would!’ Think about the way you see me…

me – as in – Januarie York.  The poet, the chick that’s always putting together some women’s empowerment demonstration and the avid blogger.

Would you look at me with the same potential, the same abilities, and compassion as you do Januarie York if this was 2001, my name was Butter and you knew I danced nude for Superbowl? Would you want to get to know me or befriend me? Would you have nice things to say about me? Would you be willing to listen to me do a poem or ask me to feature for you? Would you trust me with your audience? Invite me to keynote?

Or would you banish me to hell, make frequent social media posts about how I am all things evil and swear to the God you barely believe in that I am nothing more than a dick sucking whore who takes her clothes off for dollars and gives black women a bad name?

I wonder what the real answer to these questions is. Nah. I know. The answer is no. You’d have no respect for me and would probably label me and swear to the heavens above you that I don’t respect myself.

Just a couple of years ago, God blessed me with a vision and a means to execute it. I held an Oprah-inspired ‘Legends Ball’ that ended up being more than I could have ever dreamed it to be. Every  woman left the two-day experience changed for what I hope is forever. Tears flowed, testimonies were shared and trash was burned. By the end of the weekend of events, I was tired but I was proud. Recently I worked to put together a photoshoot called Black Girl Magic Crown, with basically no idea what it would end up being. All I knew is I was going to invite a handful of women to do a shoot and my imagination and writing skills would take it from there. It turned out to be quite empowering and yet another opportunity to see my fellow sisters embracing themselves, each other and laughing out loud.

Black Girl, Magic Crown

Black women are my heart. I’ve said this before. I love us! I love us more than these blogs and words will ever be able to show and I get easily pissed off and offended when I see other people trying to take from us whether it’s our goods, our bodies, souls, minds or hearts. I fight as best as I know how for us. I’m not the best that ever did it, but I’m not one sitting down quiet either. In short, I am just Januarie but Januarie gives a fuck and lots of them.

So it should be no surprise that I am willing to go to bat for the women and girls that society, including other black people, are quick to cast away. The ones deemed hoes. The ones that pay bills by stripping. The ones making  decisions that don’t necessarily reflect their crown. I am so here for us and do you know why? Because once upon a time, I was that chick they talked about. I was the one that society had deemed useless and considered a castaway because of the very conscious, unbiased decision I made to become a stripper at the age of 20.

Stripping is a part of my past that is never too far behind. It’s one of those things that once you’ve done it, a part of it lives inside of you forever. Are you broke and struggling to make ends meet? “Maybe I could go dance somewhere” will undoubtedly pop up in your mind. Need to get some fast cash to do something, go somewhere or make a down payment on something? “I could do it out of town for the weekend.”  Oh and the holidays, Lord the holidays: “if I go to XYZ-Club, I can easily pull $XXXX and get Christmas out of the way.”

Stripping isn’t something that just leaves your mind like an old job. I never think about the time I spent working at Target unless I’m sharing a testimony about working. But every single day that I clocked into Target and every time I had to ask a question on that big, bulky walkie-talkie communication device in my brown Goodwill khakis and my I Work Here Bullseye shirt, I thought about stripping. More than a few times, I cried because I wondered why I ever stopped if $7.25 per hour was all I was worth. A hustler’s mentality is not easily disposed of. When you go from making cash deposits every day to waiting for a week or two and getting the equivalent of a good or bad night, depending on where you live and how hard you hustle, it can be rough to stay straight.

It’s why the recidivism of people leaving and returning to their state of hustle is so high. The speed and ease of making fast money are never too far from the mind. Besides that, other people aren’t always comfortable with letting you outlive your past. It’s been well over ten years but I s till get pictures and funny looks from recognizable men who wonder if I might tell on them as if I GAF. One man I had a ‘situationship’ with is the uncle of a young man I consider my brother. And we won’t even get started on the inboxes that ocassionally show up full of expectation….or the ones that try to ‘deter’ folks away. Lol. #NiceTryButFail I don’t live IN my memories, but my memories are mine forever. I seriously would never strip again. I’m a completely different person now and I’m too damn old! I have no regrets on what I’ve done and I use this  information solely as testimony and to bring about a new perspective, but I can’t lie and say during the rougher times, a fast solution didn’t (or hasn’t) come to mind. In reality, it’s not something I would do at this stage but damn how good might it feel to be rained on when I’m trying to save for my future????!!!! I’ve worked very hard to claim my rightful place as an upstanding community member worthy of respect. You know how they say being black means you have to work twice as hard to prove you are just as good as everyone else?

Well, being a stripper means you have to work thrice as hard to prove you are worthy of respect.

When I read and hear people talk about strippers, I always find myself asking the questions that this blog started off with. If today was the year 2000 and I was a 21-year-old named Butter, would you have the same choice words for me? I’m sure the answer is yes because as a stripper that means either you are too stupid to utilize how smart you are, or you’re simple thot with otherwise no future. Stripping is supposed to strip you from being able to be a proud woman of any race and especially the Black Race. How dare we let our other sisters down when the war on black women needs as many non-corrupted, high horse saddling, kind hearted troupes on the ground as it can get? How dare we shame our families and friends by indulging in a life of sin and debauchery complete with removing clothing off in exchange for dollars! What God do we serve???!!!! 

People are policing and cyber check strippers as if the skeletal remains in their closet aren’t running out of casket space. I’m so over this notion that one person’s individual (perhaps secretive) dirt is sitting on a higher echelon than others. It’s not. Dirt is dirt and it all turns to mud when it’s wet. Is stripping the ideal lifestyle? Nah. I’m not going to tell that lie. I wouldn’t want my daughters to be strippers and I knew of some mother-daughter duos. But not everyone will have the same experience stripping just like not everyone started for the same reasons. I’ve tried to write this blog several times and kept feeling like I was missing the mark and the point I wanted to make. I don’t have regrets. I called myself a stripper, a dancer, an exotic dancer and I took pride in what I was doing, as I should have because I was doing it. No sense in doing something you are embarrassed about. When I was out in public people didn’t look at me and smell the smoke and alcohol on me. They didn’t see a woman who gave lap dances and practiced to become proficient on the pole. They just saw a young woman. A young black woman. Possibly someone with potential or someone who had it together. There was no ‘presentation’ of Butter the Stripper on me that I knew of. Strippers blend in with the crowd just like I do now. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve listened to of folks belittling women who choose to be dancers while not knowing the woman they are talking to or in front of used to be one too. Strippers are holding the door open for you at the grocery store. They are breastfeeding their children in public. They are suffering PMS in the middle of the month and trying to get rid useless men and heal their broken pieces. Strippers are attending funerals of their parents, siblings, friends and loved ones. They suffer miscarriages and give birth without epidurals. They hold hands, fall in love, cook like Masterchefs and have been known to keep clean houses. They want the best for their life and the life of their children. It’s not all about dick, drugs and alcohol. Please forgive the private dancers of the world for not being one-dimensional ass shaking, dollar-grabbers and that’s it.

Damn….

“Ain’t I still a woman?”

~Sojourner Truth

In plain English: Strippers are just like you. Well, aside from the chosen employment. But since folks love to pop off, here are a few bullets detailing some of what you know about strippers vs what you don’t know:

What you know:

  • She’s a stripper.
  • She works at X-club (why do you know this info?)
  • She takes her clothes off for tips.
  • She probably doesn’t file taxes. (but do you really KNOW this?)
  • She receives tax-free dollars. (or does she?)

*****Note how what you actually KNOW is all surface driven. You basically don’t know shit without asking.

What you don’t know:

  • What made her start dancing
  • Does she know her worth (it is assumed that a stripper has self-worth/self-esteem issues and while I absolutely DID have self-esteem problems, not everyone does.)
  • What is her point/motive for being there? What is the rhyme to her reason?
  • Who is she
  • What her family life was/is like
  • What type of friend is she
  • What her relationship with her father is like
  • What is her plan
  • What type of woman she is (although it’s auto assumed that she’s a simple whore w/little to no depth otherwise she wouldn’t be a stripper)
  • Whether or not she’s in school (this is said to be cliché, as if it’s a bad thing that strippers still desire being educated. When ‘regular’ folks go to school and graduate, it’s celebrated. When strippers go to school, they are clichés and ain’t gonna do shit w/their degree (a degree that probably has a lot less debt attached to it btw))
  • If she’s there on her own free will (this is a thing guys. Women and girls are trafficked all the time. Sometimes they are sent to the strip club to get money. Ask me how I know…)
  • Whether or not she’s tried to quit and the associated complications

It’s so damned easy to make assumptions about people and their lifestyles but we hardly put as much energy into finding out why they got that way.

If you recall from my Black Girl, Magic Crown blog, I spoke a bit on the idea of “letting hoes be hoes” and how silly it is. That’s some more surface shit right there. You don’t have to sit back and let someone destroy their life or their body. You can step up to the plate and be willing to take the hit in an effort to show them their internal Light. It’s the same with strippers. It takes so little energy to think you know the ins and outs of a dancer but you don’t have to make assumptions.

You can actually talk to some and pick their brains without trying to belittle them or shame them, just like these women did. You can ask questions that might help you prevent younger girls from following a life that is often glorified in rap songs.  Around 2001/2002, there was a young girl who worked with us for at least a year before anyone found out she was a freaking teenager. Fake ID and lack of familial guidance landed her right on our stage. And you know what? We loved on her as sisters. Can strippers not be sisterly?  I’m not sure if the camaraderie I experienced is still a viable part of strip clubs today, but we, for what it is worth, were a family of black[listed] women that protested together, fought together, fought each other but got right back on track and loved each other. We gave each other whatever it was that we had been missing in the first place. I got fired for protesting how the women were treated by the staff at the Sunset. I’ve been taking these bullets since I was old enough to learn that black women weren’t the mean bitches that society swears we are. When you’re young and don’t know any better, you think it sounds cute to say “I can’t be friends with women.” That was me prior to dancing. I was so scared that all these women would try to fight me or bully me for being the new chick. I was more fearful of the black women who quickly became my family at the time than I was of the men who had been disappointing and disrespecting me since I was born. 

You need other women in your corner and I don’t care if you are a teacher or a stripper, First-Lady or last in the food stamp line. Black women need each other  and there’s simply no sugary substance to coat that statement with. We are magic as individuals and there is strength in numbers. Strippers need strength too.

I walked in the club with enough innocence left to make me foolish and enough street smarts to learn quickly. By the time I rolled the baby blue, big bodied Buick through the Passion parking lot for the final time, I had been changed as a woman three times over.

“Well hello book. This is my dancer’s book where everyday from here til the end, I will write a page about the club. Who am I? Butter. My real name is Kendria. Butter, my alter ego, has become a part of me that no matter what happens,  I’ll always remember. So here’s the start of what will hopefully be the end soon. 

~6.18.02”

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19 Yrs old; Just before I started dancing.
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Right 21st Bday. Wrong Foundation.
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Out celebrating life

The club was my college. It taught me how hard I would champion for black women and how lovable we are. It revealed men to me in a way that school never did, momma never talked about and dating could have never shown me. Stripping empowered me. Yeah, I said it. It EMPOWERED me. It was my first shot at seeing my beautiful, inside and out. While there was years worth of work left to do (and undo), it still sowed something into me that I had never experienced before; confidence. It built me up and then it broke me down and didn’t stop breaking me until nearly three years after I quit. Try adding ‘exotic dancer’ (which I did sometimes) on your application and it won’t be long before you high tail it back to acrobatics and other weird shit on the stage.

I found friendships at the club that were unbreakable and lasted for decades until time and life journeys pulled us apart. I can’t possibly put everything in this blog that happened to me while dancing. There are stories that I shouldn’t have lived to tell about or at the very least should be embarrassed about, women who I had to learn to forgive and men who broke my beliefs. But it didn’t stop me.

My journey was still mine to take and mine to travel. I’m still here. I’m no less a woman today because I was a stripper ten years ago just as I was no less woman ten years ago because of what I did. You can color it up with a slurry of insults and name calling but at the end of it all, I was still a woman. We were all women and the best part: we were unapologetic about who we were and what we were doing.

 I survived my own ratchet behavior and youthful Yolo mentality only to arrive in my 30s as a respected and published author, poet and dare I started saying ‘Keynote Speaker!!!’ And I’m still climbing !!! MANY of us are. When the manager who hired me, Jesse, passed away a few years back, it was my first time seeing most of those women in nearly a decade.  Some were still dancers (it’s a hard job to quit) and others were onto other things. Several had graduated and put their degrees to use. I know of lawyers, teachers and abroad teachers, choreographers, nurses (not CNA’s…which is not a knock to CNA, but I am making a point here about societal assumptions), artists, poets, musicians……..

I know women. Women who made decisions on what to do with their lives at one point, that made us LOOK like we were lesser women. Women that indulged in a fast life for awhile but knew there was more to us than thongs and dollars. This blog is devoid of most of the negative aspects of the club because that’s not why I decided to pen it. I wrote this because it’s been on my heart to write for well over two years now. I wrote it because I am curious of how come I’m so ‘respectable’ now? The same person I am today, I was then in the sense of core of my personality and what is important to me: love. The same woman that wanted to recreate Oprah’s Ball, the same woman that wanted to do a photoshoot and writes poems for women is the same woman who packaged up and handed out at least 10 ‘easter baskets’ to my sisters. That’s the same woman who offered places to stay for several and lost a lot in the process of trying to help others. I’m not the greatest person because my heart is big and I love women: my point is when you are judging strippers from the outside, have you looked within yourself or even those you keep close at what type of people they are??? I mean, just because one is not prancing around under the black light and holding the pole does not make them any more righteous or upstanding than those that do. KNOW THIS IN-FORMATION!

Am I good, respectable black gal now since society accepts how I’m currently living my life? Because I don’t live my life FOR society….and therein lies the problem with strippers. 

What society sees as disposable filthy sex workers, I see as beautiful [black] women who may need a bit of guidance OR who are absolutely in total control of their lives.

I see magic!

Power!!!

      I see my sisters.

 

I love you. Fuck what society says.

 

These Hills Are Too Damn Big: Lessons from the Runway

Runway #9 (I think) – Runway modeling is freaking fun and glam !!! I would never have thought I’d be able to model sometimes. ….but the best part of my experience with participating in hair and fashion shows are the lessons that inadvertently place themselves in the line of my eye fire. How dare I learn something about LIFE/LIVING from modeling ?? I am so thankful that I have been blessed with modeling opportunities.

Sometimes, they reiterate old lessons and sometimes, they usher in new ones dressed in gowns with a popping lip 😉

Yesterday’s fashion show was no different and it was at high school, which meant we modeled on school floors, which is equal to no carpet!!! Nothing but shine and reflections !!!!
lol.

I made the mistake of only grabbing one extra pair of shoes on my way out that morning: A pair of black lace booties, along with the shoes they requested I bring, which were a pair of butterfly pumps that I just bought about a month ago. These just happened to be the pair of heels I had in the car when I went for the fitting. They loved them and paired them with a cute dress and it made all the sense to everyone for me to wear those….it made sense to myself. I knew then that me wearing these shoes may or may not be a problem, but I thought I could do it. I take chances on myself. The reason these shoes were even in the car was because I had taken them to work with the intent of getting my feet acclimated to them. They are a half size too big but not because I don’t know what size I wear. They run big and I don’t remember reading that about the shoes, but seeing as tho they were online purchases, it’s always a chance being taken. I got them and realized the half a size is the difference between shoes flopping and me walking flawlessly in them. But they are pumps….I just thought I could make it work with them because they are pumps with no platform and a low arch. SO I never returned them for a smaller size. Also , I think I was concerned that I would get the smaller size and not be able to fit them at all, then I would end up w/o these cute shoes. I basically have the same result tho from keeping them. More on that later…..

Back to yesterday morning… I should have grabbed some other pumps but I was still sleep….i was out late and up until 2am fooling w/my hair, so I was still sleeping at my 7 AM rising…..eyes open, but I was sleep.
Fast forward to the show. We arrived at the school and still thought ‘i can do it’ while casually listening to my instinct question my life choices ….
then we rehearsed ….to my surprise they put me first.
I’ve never walked first. I’ve lead my segment before ONCE and that was a choreographed segment, but I have never walked first out or last out. That is a lot of pressure. Every position in a runway show is a pressure filled spot because all eyes are most definitely on you, so there is no time for insecurities. But to be the person who starts it off or ends it, you have a hint of extra weight on top of you because you are either showing the audience how yaw are about to bring it or how you go out with a bang. With that being said, when she pulled me to start first, the first thing I thought was ‘oh no, but these shoes”. … Sheeesh, but I pumped myself up and said internally ‘you got this’. …I also may have chuckled a bit at God’s sense of humor…..I’m SURE God was sipping tea when I started walking…
..So I walked in them. Horrific.

Even the ladies of the boutique saw it and as I walked and struggled to keep these shoes from flopping off my feet, someone said ‘come on januarie, you can do better than that’ …I realized quick that whether or not I choose to claim myself as a model, I HAVE modeled before and people expect XYZ out of me. Just like in poetry: Folks expect me to come out with a long poem, perhaps about love or black people or maybe even a story. But they expect what I have given them in the past. At this quick rehearsal, I was not giving what I had given in the past.

I was giving something new: I call it, ‘I can’t walk in these’. Lol, I gave them the I Can’t Walk iN These Heels’ treatment…..I struggled to get down to the end of the runway and every time I got to stop, I was able to regain control of my feet in these shoes. It didn’t help past four steps.
I thought to myself ‘what you gonna do goofy?’

Have you ever try walking with your back straight, eyes focused, face on fierce, showcasing an outfit, on a slick floor w/fall potential in shoes that are too big?

When we got back to our area, the ladies had me try on a second dress to walk in. I initially tried to play it off with my black booties, but I knew the pumps would look better with the style of dress. It was requested that I wear the butterflies. Now, I had to walk twice, three times if you count the final all-model walk. From the rehearsal to the start of the show, which was at least over an hour, I contemplated what to do….I was excited because I was walking twice. But I was stressed because I was thinking ‘ there is no way I can do TWO shitty ass walks…I ain’t come out of town to look like I need OFF the runway fast” ….
What to do….do I suggest I wear the other shoes?
Play it off with these shoes?
Stuff them and practice now?
Do I ‘forfeit’ and say I can’t do it? Will I be a disappointment?
Will I let myself down? What if I walk in them and fall?
What if I walk and they fall off my feet?
How will I play THAT off?
How will I be invited to walk again?

Oh, the wonder-filled mind of januarie and all her selfie-questions. I’m usually the quietest person in the room no matter the circumstance, but please believe in my head, I have a whole lot of thinking going on, about SOMETHING.

Finally, it was nearing showtime. We went backstage and I had both of my shoes there. We had about 15 mins before our turn when I had the bright idea to put toilet paper or napkins in my shoes. Sure it was a less than ideal situation and I would likely not ever do that in real life, but for the sake of the runway, surely I can handle some TP in my shoes if it means my shoes will stay on the back of my feet. I tried it. Matter a fact, I tried several versions of this shoe stuffing. I stuffed the tips, the sides, the tips AND the sides. I balled up the napkin, I folded the napkin. I put my feet in first, I put them in last, I put them in after the paper then put more paper on top of my foot. I tried so many fucking versions of self-help and after each time that I felt mildly secure in, I would go practice on the surface. After a few tries, it helped. At one point, I thought it a good idea to leave them on but then my feet started hurting and I figured that would do the walk a different type of injustice. So I took them off and right when it was our turn to line up, I put them on.

But not before my instinct had her day in court. I sat on the floor envisioning myself making a fool out of myself for three excruciating walks down the runway. I sat Indian style and silently asked myself: which one of these would make you look like the bigger fool? Suggesting that you wear the butterflies only once or walking in them both times. I knew the booties did not go with both dresses. They just didn’t and personally, I couldn’t let myself NOT try to make it once. If I made it and made it well, then I could keep them on for the second walk. I sat there as time was winding down and our turn neared and then I just said it.

I looked at the ladies and moved in closer and said ‘I don’t think I can wear these shoes both times, they are too big”…..I briefly explained that they were new and too big and I would be willing to try if that’s what they really wanted but that I just didn’t want to look like fashion roadkill……just that simple. And like that, it was over. I would go out in the butterflies, and when I came back to change, I’d wear the booties. I still thought I could do these butterflies once. I had practiced with the tissue enough to build a lil bit of confidence.

And then it was our turn.

I made sure my heels were tight as I could get them, with my feet secure in their place thanks to the tissue. And I was first, and just like that, it was my immediate turn:

The music started and strut (as best as possible and slow) out to the runway, turned, stopped and got ready to go hard. I went ……and that is exactly what it was: HARD!!!! By the time I arrived at the middle of the floor for the first stop and pose, I felt like snatching those shoes off my feet and walking w/a bounce and a smile. People were videoing and taking pictures and I could hear my instinct saying ‘nah, you will NOT get me bad’….but anyone who was videoing probably did get me bad….I got to the end and it felt like I was out of breath….I turned and walked back down and was so thankful the next girl was coming out to take the attention off of myself. SHIT!!!!! FUCK!!!! DAMMIT JANUARIE!!!! <<<internal voice…..

Instead of posing at the end, I admit I diagonally walked to the back in a take off method: meaning, you would have thought I was about to run. I wanted OUT of those shoes. I wanted OUT of that hard situation that lowered my model-confidence and I felt like prevented me from wearing the shit out of such a cute dress !!! I was so concentrated on those shoes not falling, which was truly fucking with my walk quite a bit…I felt crooked and timid and was distracted that I didn’t even put my hands in the pockets the way I intended on.

Got to the back and was out of those shoes before I was out the public eye. I love those shoes. They are so freaking cute and full of colorful butterflies against a white background w/solid blue stiletto heels. It saddens me that they were my problem.

But I threw those booties on quickly. I felt like I was putting myself back on solid ground. I put them on while I was being zipped into my second dress. Yes, this is comfort. I wasn’t even bending down.

Got back to the lineup and then back to my turn and my second stroll. I strut with all I could. I felt better. I felt my confidence come back. I felt like turning around and saying “yes bitches, I CAN walk, don’t get it twisted’….lololol

I didn’t.
I got to the end with ease, walked back past the people with good feelings and hopped in the line for the final walk and did that with confidence all over again. It worked.

AND NOW,
The point:
“these hills are too damn big”

Sometimes, the hill looks like it cannot be scaled. Like there is no way to get up or around it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as us defeating ourselves before we arrive at the competition. Either we train our brains to dream in negatives or we put ourselves in the line of fire and then expect to be able to compete with it. I put myself in the line of fire by not mentioning on DAY ONE that those heels might be a problem for me to walk a runway in. Had I said so, then they would have never been in my possession that day, never would have been a problem and I could have had three flawless walks back to back. Had I gotten some rest (sometimes, you just gotta live a lil tho), or woke myself up out of lazy-decision making mode, I could have brought with me better choices to walk in. I have 100 pairs of shoes. This was unacceptable. Oh vey, all the preventable problems we allow INTO our lives -_-

Finally and most importantly….COURAGE.

Courage is the difference between standing back, looking at the hill
Vs.
Standing back, looking from the hill.

Courage means standing up to face the problem head on and not being afraid to confront it. Not being afraid to make a suggestion at how to get over it. Not being so over-confident that you fool yourself into believing you can do things that you can’t do. And let’s face it and be honest: There ARE some things that we can’t do, no matter what the reason why. That’s life. We can approach a lot of stuff w/a superhuman mentality, but that won’t work if the situation is impossible. Hills are tricky. Some are huge, some are small.

Some are tall while others are not up that high, but the arch is a killer. Some hills are steep with a slippery surface, others you aren’t afraid to put your foot on the ground and know you have a solid platform. Some are up on platforms that are ridiculous. Other’s need the platform in order to be a hill….some will hurt, some won’t, some will leave bruises and other’s will require a lot of concentration to make it beyond.

Not all hills are created equal.

And not every one can be scaled. …however, it IS ok to try. It’s ok to be confident in yourself and say ‘I can do this’…..that’s the only way you will learn when you can’t ! And when you can’t, there is NOTHING wrong with stepping back and altering the situation, if possible, to fit your needs…..mountaineers don’t climb Everest without the necessary equipment and spending weeks and months prepping for the high altitudes.

Not all hills need months of preparation, but every heel needs some practice.
Practice doesn’t really make perfect either, contrary to what you may have heard.
Practice simply creates a blueprint of confidence. Practice makes you able. Practice tests and shows you just how ready you are.

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Yesterday, I practiced using my voice outside of poetry. I confronted every possibility I could think of happening if I walked in those heels….and I thought of what the solution or prevention could be. Once I decided that I knew the best possible answer, I spoke up and saved myself and the boutique and the other models the embarrassment of me being so prideful that I walked in shoes that made me look like I didn’t know why I was there. I did, however, give my best in the butterfly pumps, all while gaining a new life lesson:
Never be afraid to look a hill in the eye and make a safety request on behalf of the people, yourself included,

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And then,

Get to climbing. <3