To The Man On A Friday Night Who Insisted That I Smile

March 13, 2017

You are not thinking about this anymore. You have taken scores of footsteps since that moment. You’ve probably downed a few more beers. You’ve slept and worked and laughed and done all of the things simple people with simple lives do. But, I am almost certain that you are not thinking about this anymore.

But I am still thinking about this. I am thinking about this enough that I jotted down notes about our interaction one night while lying in a hotel bed somewhere in the Financial District. I am thinking about that five minute exchange between us that left me with too many words I should have shared that night.

I did not smile as I leaned over and asked the bartender for another glass of Sauvignon Blanc. More specifically, I did not smile at you. I did not smile at you because I did not want to, and that should have been enough. It should have been adequate. It shouldn’t have called anything about me or my character or the tone of the night I was having into question.

But it wasn’t sufficient for you. A woman electing to keep her countenance solemn was not OK because somewhere written in your book of life, “Pretty women should smile.”

And when I still did not smile because I was acute enough not to merely bat my eyelashes at a backhanded compliment, you asked why I had an attitude. I told you that you were misusing the word, that an attitude is simply a feeling, and every human being has an attitude at any given moment of any given day. I shared that I am a writer by nature and a communicator by trade, so words matter. If you wanted to chat about attitudes and such, I required you to come more correct than that.

I still did not smile.

And the last thing you said to me is what’s been burning in the back of both of my ears. The last thing you said is what’s left me replaying that conversation and gritting my teeth. Because “Pretty women should smile” didn’t work and “Why do you have an attitude?” also crashed and burned, you tried a new conversational tactic. You told me that these situations–where men engage with me and insist that I smile–would happen often in life. You told me I should just get used to them.

I told you to have a good night.

But, what I wanted to tell you is that your so-called wisdom didn’t translate. It didn’t seep somewhere deep into my psyche and galvanize a change in how I respond to men like you. You can’t teach me the things I’ve already learned and experienced. See, I have known how some men think some women should behave since the moment my hips began curving like Coke bottles.

You are not the first man who insisted that I smile. You absolutely will not be the last.

I have been told to smile on street corners and in the same breath been called unkind names. I have crossed the street at intersections that would not lead to my destination in order to avoid head-on collisions with men I don’t trust. I have worn the war paint of averted eyes coupled with straight lips. And in spite of all of these things, some days I still lose the battle of making my way through the world as a person and not a possession.

i know these things are nothing new. These words are a drop in the ocean of how women who do not smile upon command feel. Women have had the seemingly innocent sins of men stuck to them like gum on the bottom of good sneakers forever.

But, today, I had to get your gum off of my good sneakers. So I penned a few sentences. I did not fancy them up. I did not paint them in my poetry. I did not do them the artistic justice they probably deserved. Because pretty women should not necessarily smile. But they should let their words take shape before something uglier inside of them does.

Xoxo,
Tyece

On Being a Corporate Creative

February 21, 2017

I’ve teamed up with State Farm® as part of their 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 along the line, I threw away either/or and picked up this and that. Somewhere along the line, I quit trying to commit to just one, linear, easily identifiable road and instead started making sense of my identity as a corporate creative. To paraphrase a tweet I recently read, I started to realize my plurality. I began to understand that the path I’m sculpting is complete with twists and turns, but it does not necessarily include some sort of fork in the road that will require me to choose one route.

My heart doesn’t vibrate accordingly to one passion. Instead, I am an assortment of layers. Interests. Skills. Talents. I am equally invested in my career in corporate communications and my creative journey as a writer. So, these days, my mindshare is devoted to everything from considering heading back to school to get my master’s to outlining what’s in store for my second book. And while I’d like to think this path, its consequences, and its sacrifices are unique, they are not. Instead, more women–both those close to me and those I observe from afar–are balancing multiple businesses, deriving income from various sources, and leaving their mark in more than one way.

I listened to strong examples of women like this in the latest “special edition” Color Full Lives podcast episode. As you may recall from this blog post last year, the Color Full Lives podcast, sponsored by State Farm, combines the 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. The ladies are back with a limited edition run of the show, and they kicked it off by giving us a glimpse into how they’re running businesses, taking risks, and making headway on their goals.

We reunite with the ladies just as Angela has recently opened a juice bar, Fran is planning an 11-city wellness tour, and Tatiana is beginning work on a science fiction novel. Outside of these key projects, they are all also nurturing their personal lives, developing self-care and wellness regimens, and growing other professional endeavors. I identify with each of their demanding balancing acts and gleaned several gems from their conversation.

 

On writing“You have to allow yourself the slot to write, but allow yourself the slot to think. There will be times when you set aside time to write and that whole time, nothing comes out. ” – Tatiana

While I once considered writer’s block to be a complete cop out, Tatiana’s words now ring more true than ever for me as I work on my second book. Curating a body of work from the ground up is equal parts thinking and writing. A book is ultimately just as much what the author thought and felt as what that person ended up pouring on to the page. I’ve learned how to be more graceful with myself so that the thoughts and feelings have time to take shape, trusting that the words will always follow.

On understanding your worth and the value of your work:  “You can’t work for free forever; it’s just not sustainable. But how can I do that and still be fair and still be a businesswoman?” – Fran

This was one of those quotes that stuck with me long after I listened to the podcast. Fran, like many other bloggers and online content creators, has offered tons of quality content for free for years. She’s now transitioning to offering services at a price. It can be a tough and uncomfortable passage to move from free content to paid products and services, but I have found most people, myself included, usually reach that tipping point. It’s a natural evolution if whatever you’re offering is filling some sort of void in the universe. So, I’ve learned it’s important to confront your value head-on and stand firm in what you know you’re worth. When you do that, your magic reaches the right people.

On remembering to show gratitude:  “With the people that work with me, I just like to make sure I’m very grateful…when people mess up, we’re so quick to get upset, but it’s really important when people do things well to let them know they did a great job.” -Angela

I’m a sucker for handwritten notes, and thank you notes are no exception. I just recently sent out a slew of them for everyone who participated in the Love Me Well project and also dropped a few on my colleagues’ desks after a big event we hosted last month. It’s easy to move through life at hyper speed and forget to thank people along the way. But, I’ve never seen a boulder pushed uphill without at least three or four pairs of hands behind it.

I’m unsure where my windy corporate creative path will take me. I can’t quite pin down what’s next or even what it will take to get there. But, I do know that there are timeless tenets like allowing myself time to think, acknowledging my value, and remembering to show gratitude that will always keep me lifted and move me through.

This post was sponsored by State Farm, as part of their Color Full Lives campaign. For more information, or to contact an agent, please click here.   

Soft, Beautiful, Bright Black Girl

February 15, 2017

I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you laugh hard and often, loud and unapologetically, with all of the might that your chest can withstand. I hope you cock your head back and kiss the sky with your cackles.

I hope you smile. I hope you smile not because some semblance of a man on a street corner has insisted that you turn your lips upward, but instead because there is something about this life that feels good and wonderful and brilliant. I hope you smile because you still uncover treasures in dark corners and find pennies in the holes of your pockets. I hope you smile because there is someone, some thing, some energy in your orbit that makes this life worth smiling about.

I hope you wear marigold and neon pink and fire engine red. I hope you fill the world with color and passion and spirit and vibrancy. I hope you radiate every shade of the spectrum and splatter your paint on life’s blank canvases. I hope you buzz and skip and hop and dance and strut. I hope that when other people see you, they instantly feel you, and that when their eyes meet yours, something inside of them wakes up from hibernation. I hope you never leave any place or any person the same way they were when you met them.

I hope you keep poems on your nightstand and bible verses in your heart. I hope you always have words to anchor you and quotes to carry you and sentences that rock you to sleep when the waves start rising. I hope you find solace in bell and Nayyirah and Nikki and Audre. I hope you are armored with all of the wisdom and solidity you need to build bridges over choppy waters and claw your way up crumbling mountains.

I hope you love without pretense. I hope you love in a boundless, unlimited, the-world-is-wide-open kind of way. I hope you love even after your heart has shattered. After your window panes have been broken. After you have bloodied your knees praying to God that some sort of change will come. I hope you still love without pretense. I hope you give of your wild love without reservation.

I hope you choose every day of this beloved life to remain soft and bright in a world that would rather have you be hard and darkened. I hope you let sunlight smooch your cheeks and moonlight brush your lips. I hope you never let the deck of cards stacked unfavorably against you keep you from giving this world all of the goodness you’ve got.

See, I’ve learned that this existence is full of contradictions and injustices and untidy truths. I’ve learned that black women hardly ever become angry in the blink of an eye, but instead stitch together bullet proof vests with the thread of every heartbreak and transgression they’ve ever survived. I have learned that remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is a choice. It is an intention. It is a battle and it is a risk. Remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is increasingly more difficult than just wearing your armor and moving on through.

But, still, I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you wear neon pink and keep poems on your nightstand. I hope you love with reckless abandon and let the sunlight smooch your cheeks. I hope you pen words and stir souls and enkindle the people around you with your undeniable rays. I hope you remain soft and bright. I pray you remain soft and bright. There is no greater rebellion for a black woman in today’s world than to forego the armor and elect to remain soft and bright.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Rip Through Me

February 6, 2017

I’m on my way to drinks with a friend when I realize I’m passing the restaurant where you serve part-time. My eyes dart through the window of the barely lit dining room and a fraction of my beating heart hopes to see you. It is the fraction that misses your laugh and jokes and carefree way of gliding through the world. It is the fraction that wrote you letters and returned to the last thing I penned for you any time a pang of wistfulness pulled at my gut. It is the fraction flooded by nostalgia, the part of my heart that lives waist deep in the recollection of when things were good.

And, yet, when my eyes dart through that barely lit dining room, there is another fraction of my beating heart that hopes not to see you. It is the fraction that knows memories are fun house mirrors, distorting our versions of reality. It is the part of my heart that holds hands with my mind, the two both worn thin from the emotional gymnastics my early twenties put them through. It is the fraction flooded by practicality, the part of my heart that lives waist deep in the recollection of when things fell apart.

I did not see you that night.

But, still, my memories of you are land mines, recklessly dropped across streets of the District.

On the way back to my car after drinks, just as the last traces of flashbacks fell away from me, I passed that Cheesecake Factory. It was the one where we had dinner on my birthday. I idled there and let myself get lost on a dark Clarendon street. I listened to my steps slow down as my heart sped up, the highlight reel of that night suddenly far too fresh in my mind. The Grey Goose before dinner. The way we both looked dressed in all black. Your encouragement that I wear the heeled boots instead of the flat ones. Your hand casually tossed across mine in the back of an Uber. The driver who said you were a lucky guy. The way we made waves rise and crash when night melded with morning.

My memories used to be loaded guns, cocked unflinchingly at my peace of mind. My memories were once defunct compasses, always leading me back down dead ends by way of phone numbers I promised I’d never dial again. But, now my memories are not much more than memories, emotional currents that rip through me and eventually find rest.

That night, I gave those thoughts permission to rip through me. And, sure enough, they eventually found rest.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Field Notes From the Fallout

January 24, 2017

Photo by Pedro de Sousa, www.unsplash.com

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

One. You must let your heart break. Your strong will and your rock solid resilience are not a match for the tornado winds of heartache. Your precious hands will not hold your heart together. So let go. Tilt back. Fall free. Crash hard. Resistance does not serve a heart that’s already splintered.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Two. Your heart knows things long before your mind will accept them. Your heart, your intuition, that feeling you get at the pit of your belly – those are your strongest compasses, and yet you still question them. But your heart knows. It always does. Your heart knows the very moment a connection bears a crack. Your heart knows that in the grand scheme of human connection, those cracks often times become craters.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Three. There are the shifts that happen and the courage it takes to recognize them. There is the moment two people break and the moment they choose to articulate it. These two moments are hardly ever the same. The tug of war between reality and reluctance has almost always resulted in a ripped rope.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Four. Your heart’s somewhere in between the breakdown and the breakthrough. She vacillates between letting go of something old and holding out for something new. So let the pendulum swing of the present teach you what it will. Allow the in-between moments to minister to you in the ways that only they can.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Five. Your heart will break one thousand times over in one life span. It will break because of lovers and friends and half-lovers and family. It will break because of the Universe’s relentlessness and the unpredictable ways in which the wind blows. It will break when you expect it and it will break while you are fast asleep. We do not get through the tunnels unscarred; we do not sail across the seas unscathed. So, yes, your heart will break one thousand times over. But it will mend itself one thousand times more.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Six. There is something beautiful about the way the ground rips apart when your heart breaks. It splits your world wide open and gives way to new galaxies.

Gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. This place is no longer your home.

Seven. You are every last one of your broken bits. You are the sacredness of your shattered pieces, the patchwork quilt of your tattered threads. You are the magic of your split skies and the grace of your new galaxies. You are the sum of your jagged edges, enchanting in the way your experiences melt together.

So, gather up your broken bits. Your shattered glass. Your tattered threads. Build castles from your fractured pieces and call this new place your home.

Xoxo,
Tyece