How to Love an Artistic Woman

August 24, 2016

Disgust

Image courtesy of unsplash.com

Do not try to clean up her messes. Relinquish the need to keep all of the shelves stocked with everything standing neatly in its place. She does not need you to replenish her cupboards; she needs you to pour into her soul. That is what she will ask of you time and time again. That sometimes insatiable and often maddening hunger for her soul to be feed is what has driven many lovers before you away; she is a ravenous beauty and a deeply rooted beast.

Get comfortable with paint splattered on the walls and wine staining the bottom of the glass and lights that stay on until 2 a.m. Let go of the need for a normal kind of life. An autopilot kind of life. A bottom line kind of life. A “honey-I-made-your-coffee-just-right” kind of life. Do not ask her when she’s coming to bed.

She will come to bed. Eventually. When she does, she will wrap herself in you like headphones tangled in keys at the bottom of a purse–inadvertently, recklessly, a labyrinth of your bodies like she never even left.

Resist the urge to sling words like “sensitive” or “emotional” her way as insults. The world demonizes too many of us for what are simple displays of sheer humanity. Reward her with kisses on the nape of her neck for being one of the courageous few to strip herself of the facade.

Drop the cape. She does not seek salvation; she seeks purpose. Identity. A place in the world that she can unabashedly call her own.

Proceed with caution. She will not hand out points for showmanship or slick lines. Take everything you’ve ever learned about how to woo a woman and hurl it out the window. Let her peel back your layers. Be brave enough to peel back all one thousand of hers.

Remember she is not glass; you can hold her tightly. Despite what history might dictate, she will not shatter. Kiss her scars for good measure. Lick her wounds with fervor. Run your fingers over the burns of her past. Taste every story still standing on her skin. Read every poem still being written from her sin.

Teach yourself not to be afraid of the dark. She gives birth to her most striking art in the darkest places under the dimmest bulbs.

And when she shows all of her colors and emits all of her light, do not ever be afraid of that either. Stand in her sun; soak up her rays. Recognize the exquisiteness of her spectrum.

Love her because she is equal parts whiskey and wine. Love her because she is both a mess and a Mona Lisa. Love her every time she pulls you apart and puts you back together again. Love her when you’ve run out of words. Love her when she’s run out of words. Love her urgently. Unforgettably. Undoubtedly. Paint her in the watercolors of your adoration. Love her because if you dare to love this artistic woman, you may be the first person to ever love her the way she’s craved her entire life. Love her because if you dare to love this artistic woman, your love story will become the kind of masterpiece she couldn’t have ever crafted alone.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Through Thick and Thin

August 16, 2016

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I am on sip number one of Jack and Coke number two when he announces that he likes his women thick. And although I relinquished the inclination to knot myself in his frame awhile ago, the comment still stings my ears in a familiar fashion. I don’t like it. I try to brush it off and keep swaying to whatever the DJ is playing, but the words stick to my back like damp sweat under a dress on a hot summer’s night.

See, Black women are supposed to be thick. We’re expected to be thick. Our bodies are meant to swirl and curve and swerve and spiral in delicious and astounding ways. If they don’t do all of the above, we’ve somehow betrayed the norm and defied the preferred standard. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned and am now fighting to unlearn. That is what I’ve been told and am now working to untell myself. And, it is difficult to carve a new truth after years of the world force feeding you tablespoon after tablespoon of bullshit.

See, I’m learning that the gap between what Black women are “supposed” to be and all of the many things that we actually are is colossal and wide and deep and not quite close enough to being bridged.

I don’t want to write self-love anthems or body image anthems or any other anthems for that matter. I want to write the truth and serve it on the rocks. And the truth is my body does a lot less swirling and curving; it does a lot more standing straight. The truth is I’ve been known to settle in the mirror for a few minutes lifting my butt and fantasizing about what it would look like if it were “just a little bit bigger.” The truth is I am a ball of contradictions – a woman who urges other women to define themselves for themselves while still untangling her story from the raucous narration of Black men.

It is that narration that resounds every day while I fight to mold my own thoughts about the body I inhabit. It is that narration that crept up on me on Sunday afternoon in aisle 11 while I was simply trying to grab dishwashing detergent. It’s that narration that has made me an expert comedian when it comes to cracking jokes to my male friends about my less-than-rotund butt. It’s that narration that rolls off my tongue anytime I bop and sing Drake’s line, “And your stomach on flat flat/and your ass on what’s that.” It’s that narration that I am trying so hard to unhear after 26 years of letting it fill a few chasms in my self-esteem.

I would like to tell you that I am giving it all up–the appetite for validation, the listening ear to the body types I’ve heard Black men prefer, and the complicated relationship with my silhouette–but, that wouldn’t be quite true. Because most revelations about this life don’t come in singular Eureka moments or striking sweeps of the heart. The ways in which we grow up and unbind ourselves from the same shackles that shattered us are complex and unending, complicated and never quite complete. The ways in which we evolve and step into the fullness of ourselves are not nearly neat or seamless enough for the conclusion of a blog post.

There will be another moment when a Black man announces that he likes his women thick. I’ll still flinch on the inside. I’ll still wonder when it became kosher to stick the possessive pronoun “his” in front of an entire group of people. I’ll still grapple with drawing parallels between his statement and my view of my own body and womanhood. I’ll still be a mess of contradictions trying to throw away all of the puzzle pieces and reconfigure them the way I want. But, I will remember that I penned this piece and I hummed this hymn. I will remember that for a woman who has spent years writing her own story, it’s about time she started narrating it as well.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

 

 

A Heart’s Guide To Clicking Unfollow

August 9, 2016

 

 

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Mindlessly jump on Instagram for the twenty-second time that day with your feet digging into Virginia Beach sand. Soak up the fact that you are exactly 201 miles from home, and although this is not the tropical getaway you hoped for at the start of 2016, it’s the first trip you’ve taken for leisure in two years. That counts for something. Inhale the happiness that comes with traveling simply for the sake of relaxation and a few good, hard laughs with the friends who know you inside and out. Breathe in the little bit of golden fortune that life has offered you in this particular moment.

Then stop scrolling when you see his photo.

Wonder for approximately one minute and fifteen seconds why his photos are even still popping up on your Instagram feed. Contemplate what stopped you from deleting him sooner. Peer at the photo and then read the caption three consecutive times. Ruminate about the woman next to him in the photo. Observe her curly hair. Her toothy smile. Speculate about who she is and how she got pulled into his orbit. Make up facts you’ll never be able to verify like “She’s probably into yoga” or “I bet she owns mason jars” or “She’s definitely the kind of person who remembers to bring reusable bags to the grocery store.” Tell yourself she’s everything you’re not, and observe your confidence as it shrinks three sizes.

Feel like a jackass. Keep staring at the photo.

Recall that time three months ago when you called him at 5 p.m. on a Sunday and tried to pretend everything was normal, like you routinely called him at 5 p.m. on Sundays to chit chat about the weather. Then recall the time six months before when he sent you four lengthy texts in a row, gray blobs of emotions you couldn’t decipher. Remember how you responded by telling him his words were “ambiguous” and “overly decorative.” Relive that time three years ago when he couldn’t gather the courage to walk toward you and you couldn’t summon the nerve to walk away.

Feel like a jackass again.

Read the photo caption once more before you decide that the older you get, the less recklessly you will handle your heart. Remember that you are more of an adult now than you were three years ago, or even three months ago, and your tolerance for emotional masochism is withering away. Admit to yourself that most things are hardly ever as complicated as you and your stirred up soul make them out to be. Confess that once you strip this story of its melodramatic decorations, you are left with a tale as old as time: boy meets girl; it does not work out. Bite your tongue until you taste the bittersweet blood of reality.

Observe your confidence as it expands two sizes. Sink your toes deeper into the sand.

Remind yourself that most feelings are not like the neatly packaged lyrics of a Taylor Swift refrain. No, most feelings are a hazy and disjointed mess of flashes that will yank you around until you choose to steer the ship of your own spirit.

See this instance for what it is. Decide that your heart has been battle-tested enough. Choose to steer the ship of your own spirit.

Click unfollow.

And when Instagram asks if you really want to unfollow him, do not let the cancel button tempt you. Don’t let your thumb hover over it for long. Let it go. Say goodbye. Bid farewell to the social media ghosts of bygone lovers. Decide your present joy is worth much more than pollution from the bullshit of your past choices.

And remember that this life is a continuous unfolding of the things you take on, the things you let go, and sometimes the things you cling to for far too long.

Xoxo,
Tyece

On Love and Podcasts: The First Half Of 2016

August 2, 2016

 

The brisk January day when I said I was open to love

The brisk January day when I said I was open to love

I’ve teamed up with State Farm® as part of its Color Full Lives campaign, an initiative that promotes positivity & empowerment and celebrates all women in the African American community through a multitude of experiential and digital engagements. You know how this works-views, opinions, and musings of the unscripted kind are all my own. 

Somewhere in between our tapas and bottle of wine, I told my friend that this was the year I would be open to love. That was back in January, when the air was brisk and my heart was wide open. Like everyone else around me, I was pumped up with the kind of blind and inflated hope that ushers in a new year.

It’s August now. The air has grown thick and humid, and this heart of mine is more of a spectator to love, than a veteran recipient of it. Since that dinner in January, I moved my twenty-something self much closer to the District of Columbia, started swiping left and swiping right despite vehement declarations that I would never download Tinder, and watched time tick in the weeks that one man stopped texting me. And through it all, somehow, I’m still open to love – less as an eager pup hoping it manifests for me romantically, and more as an ardent and spirited observer of how that love has taken shape for people in my orbit.

The June day when I celebrated love, also known as my sister's wedding (photo credit Jazzmin Awa-Williams and Dejah Greene)

That beautiful day in June when I celebrated love, also known as my sister’s wedding (photo credit Jazzmin Awa-Williams and Dejah Greene)

Perhaps what I’ve learned most is that being open to love means just that – being open. It means extracting lessons from both the monumental and the molecular, keeping an ear out and an eye open for any pebble of wisdom you can garner from anywhere. I’ve collected a lot of that wisdom this year from podcasts. From the essayists behind the Modern Love podcast to the rapport between husband and wife duo Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson on #RelationshipGoals, there’s always something new to be gleaned from people’s perspectives on human connection.

And then there are the ladies of the Color Full Lives podcast.

Color Full Lives, a new podcast sponsored by State Farm, combines the sharp and influential voices of American radio personality Angela Yee, self-proclaimed “Duchess of Tech” Tatiana King Jones, and lifestyle influencer Francheska Medina, known for her brand Hey Fran Hey. During each episode, the women share their perspectives on everything from branding to diversity in tech. But, the episode that tugged at my heartstrings was episode 3 where the women broke down the raucous, unpredictable, and grey world of dating and relating. You can listen to it here.

 

Here are a few standout gems from the episode.

On trusting your partner in the age of social media | “If you have to look, you already know what it is.” – Angela

On balancing a public online presence with your private life | “I have a duty to protect myself and my family. They are people who did not sign up to be this public person.” – Tatiana

On dating a man’s potential instead of acknowledging his reality | “I’m a sucker for some potential. But, lesson learned. I’ve been burned too many times with that one.” – Fran

On not settling | “I’d much rather be single than be with the wrong person.” –Angela

On reconciling what a person looks like on paper with who they are in real life | “We tend to assume markers of success mean something about the mind of the man, but it’s not the case.” – Fran

On relinquishing the idea of saving or changing a partner | “Put your capes away! Why bother?” – Tatiana

These are all lessons we learn along the way if we are lucky, and early on if we are smart. But, we’re not always that smart. If there’s anything I’ve learned and heard reaffirmed from the women, it’s that the cobblestone road to love is a hands-on experience, a fight in the ring, a jump in the mud, and a dance with the devil. But, like the three of them, I am trying to both learn from my mistakes and laugh about them along the way.

That hot July day when I was surrounded by love

That hot July day when I was surrounded by love

I’m not sure how else “being open to love” will manifest this year. I don’t know if it will crystallize in some way or remain shapeless, coming to me through sound bites and spectatorship. But, what I do know is that I’ll remain open to whatever love – or podcasts – have to offer.

This post was sponsored by State Farm, as part of its Color Full Lives campaign. For more information, please visit https://www.statefarm.com/finances/

When You Really Are A Gem

July 27, 2016

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Adapted from Sunday Kind of Love, July 17 edition

I came to know those walls the same way my fingertips knew the maze of muscles in your back–familiar and foreign, all at once. There was the Tracy Chapman poster. The coffee table from West Elm. The drawing your ex-girlfriend sketched using only ink pens. I knew exactly where you kept the ice trays; I popped three cubes out once and dropped them into a drink you made for me–lemon juice, Jameson, and a touch of water to even it out.

Your father died when you were young. Your mother is still in Sierra Leone. Your favorite beer is Stella Artois. See, my romantic life is laced with half-baked histories about men who no longer matter. I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not proud of this, I’m not proud of how I’ve never been able to embody Lauryn Hill’s advice not to be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

That night was stale with the scent of familiarity. The loss of novelty. The final flicker of the spark. It didn’t feel like the first night I came over and we joked with our Uber driver on the way from the bar or that time we split a bottle of wine and listened to Kid Cudi. No, that night was our default, our convenient place, our skin-deep status quo.

And when we found ourselves on separate sides of the couch, only ankle deep in a debate about whether or not people are happiest when they’re in love, I stopped you. I casually said, “Well none of this really matters because we’re just kicking it, right?” And in some crevice of my heart, the part of me that acknowledged I am a gem trying so fiercely to be a hard rock, I hoped that you wouldn’t agree. I hoped that you would stop me and tell me that I was wrong; I shouldn’t say things like that.

But, you didn’t. You fell silent and when I asked again if you agreed, you softly said that you did.

It has been some time now since you answered with that stroke of silence. We no longer stitch ourselves into the threads of each other’s Friday nights. To say I miss you would be an overstatement, but to say I don’t think of you would be a myth. Except I think of you now the way that women in the autumn of their twenties think of men from their past, with fewer floods of nostalgia and more trickles of appreciation. Because in some strange and contorted way, I needed you. I needed you to remind me that I am not a woman who ever “just kicks it.” I needed you to show me my heart grew two sizes too large to have maintained a charade of indifference. I needed you to be there during a season simmering with young, wild, and free whims of the twenty-something kind. I needed you to carry me just far enough away to feel fire, but not so far away that I couldn’t find my path back home.

Xoxo,
Tyece