Black Girl, Interrupted

February 7, 2018

Something about him gives me pause and makes me drop my fork mid-bite. He’s standing at the soda machine, pouring cup after cup of water and gulping it down. I don’t want to feel uneasy or afraid – maybe he is just a thirsty guy in need of some hydration after a hard day of work. But, I’ve lived long enough to know that my gut is an accurate compass. It hasn’t ever led me astray.

When he drops the cup into the trash and exits the restaurant, I breathe a silent sigh of relief. But once it’s my turn to leave, I catch a glimpse of him again, this time standing at the bus stop. My feet move more briskly; my strides become intentional. And then I hear “Hey!” Short pause. “Hey!” Again. This time louder. My heels start hitting the pavement faster. Click. Click. Click. Clickclickclickclickclick. “Hey, Fantasia!” (I presume because that’s his closest reference to a woman with a haircut like mine). By the time he yells it again, I’m jetting down the stairs to the metro, peeking over my right shoulder to ensure he’s not there.

He’s not.

And, then I begin to tell myself that maybe I just made it all up. Maybe it was all in my head. Of course he wasn’t going to hurt me. Maybe he wasn’t even talking to me. But, then a more strident internal voice disturbs my misgivings. That voice tells me what I know to be true.

My gut is an accurate compass. It hasn’t ever led me astray.

I don’t feel relaxed again until I’m on the train, unwrapping my scarf and settling in for the trip to Eastern Market. But, by then, my evening has been both punctured and punctuated by that memory. All of my excitement to go on a solo date and attend Morgan Jerkins’ book signing has disintegrated into thin air.

Later that night, Morgan talks about being a black woman in the world. I lean over in my chair, nodding and smiling, trying to inhale all of her black girl magic for a moment in the future when I know I’ll need it. She tells us about a time when she interviewed Claudia Rankine and asked the poet how she deals with microaggressions and other weights of black womanhood. What is her armor made of? How does she wake up every day and get ready for the world?

“It’s not that I have to prepare for the world. It’s that the world interrupts me.”

This is what Claudia tells her. It’s the first time during the hourlong book talk that I whip out my phone and type the two sentences into my notes section.

Because isn’t that what so much, too much, of being a black woman is? Interruption. Intrusion. Folks sticking their feet out and tripping you while you are simply trying to hit your stride.

I’ve been deep in my thoughts and thick in my feelings lately, stuck in my own head and unsure of how to spill it out on paper. I’ve been thinking about my womanhood–how I strive to move through the world and how often that momentum is thwarted by people who never even think twice about it. People who don’t care to think twice about it. People who don’t have to think twice about it.

Perhaps my presence is radical. It upsets the balance.

Perhaps my presence is enigmatic. It defies understanding.

Perhaps my presence is infuriating. It incites enmity.

Perhaps my presence is majestic. It demands respect.

Perhaps my presence is worrisome. It unearths insecurity.

Perhaps my presence is overlooked. It paralyzes compassion.

Perhaps my presence is human. It reflects the world.

Yes, I yearn to glide through this life without any more of the breaches or bullshit. But, now I know that there is no armor or bulletproof vest that will save me. There is no formula or process to follow. There is not one way to prepare for the many interruptions to come. My momentum is predicated far less on preparation and far more on resilience. Perhaps that is both the power and plight of being a black woman.

Xoxo,
Tyece

For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Stories to Tell

January 17, 2018

Photo by Christian Fregnan on Unsplash

The world will continue to shout that you should be softer. You’re not quite sure when you began to hear this demand, but somewhere along the line you did, and it started soaking up space at the pit of your stomach. Somewhere along the line someone told you that you needed to dull your edges if you ever stood a chance of being loved and understood.

For a brief moment, you believed them. You wanted so desperately  to be adored, particularly by black men. You wanted to be a woman who felt warm and inviting, someone a man would be more inclined to stroll over toward during a balmy evening at a rooftop bar. So you worked hard to shrink yourself. Temper your confidence. Tone down your strength. There you were, a shell of the woman God created you to be, trying to shatter this angry black woman stereotype that you never birthed in the first place.

Yes, the world will continue to shout that you should be softer. It is an echo that will reverberate in the back of your ear for the rest of your life. On conference calls. In boardrooms. In bedrooms. On first dates.

Measure your tone. Speak slowly. Sprinkle some sugar on your words. It is an unwritten decree that will find its way into many conversations, both solicited and unsolicited.

But then you will remember sitting in the back of an Uber one night and asking a man–a man who you fought hard for and lost big for–what he thought of you. And the first thing he’ll say is “You say what you mean and you mean what you say.” It will become one of the highest compliments you’ve ever received, and you’ll never care to be called beautiful again. You’ll want to be known, and loved, for saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

The world has decided that women without sharp edges are easier to consume. And it seems like sometimes that’s all this world wants to do –absorb you without ever getting to know you. Devour you. Digest you. Make a meal out of your brown skin and beautiful eyes. But if you are sharp and if you have stories and if you speak with the conviction of a firm-and-brimstone preacher, then the world can’t eat you up so fast. It can’t figure you out. It can’t just suck you up and sit satiated while you dissolve at the bottom of its belly.

You were not handcrafted by heaven to be soft. You were not designed simply to be consumed. You are not here to live a miniature sort of life or assuage the insecurities growing like wildflowers inside of others.

Shout. Be loud. Stay tough. Take up the space. Allow the walls to crumble for the people who are worth letting in. Protect yourself when you need to. Dismantle your fear when you should. Let your energy rearrange the room and let your laugh suck up all the air.

Your sharp edges do not preclude you from being fragile. They do not mean that you aren’t sensitive or complex or affected by the way tides turn. Your sharp edges simply mean that you stopped being afraid of your own strength a long time ago. You quit apologizing for your sunlight. You decided to claim more space.

Not everyone believes in just eating you alive. Know that and believe it. Keep it somewhere in your back pocket for a winter’s night when it feels like love always proves to be a losing game. Some people will dare to peel back your layers and savor you one story, scar, and sharp edge at a time.

Xoxo,
Tyece

There Is More Love Left.

December 28, 2017

 

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

I’m about to hop on I-83 and head back home after Christmas when two iMessages from my best friend pop up. Enclosed are screenshots from what I presume is some sort of horoscope website. The blurbs do exactly what blurbs like that are intended to do–reaffirming things I’ve believed or wanted to believe, corroborating my truths, and resurrecting sentiments I’ve felt somewhere deep underneath my skin.

2018: You are supposed to learn how to let your garden feed you. This year is about finishing up what began in 2016, and allowing yourself to thrive in it. It is about making serious relationship commitments, becoming more financially stable than ever, and adjusting to your highest vision of yourself – because deep down, that’s who you’ve been all along.

I almost don’t want to absorb the paragraph. I would rather let it slide off my shoulders and land in puddles on the pavement. I don’t want to think about my garden or how, as the previous paragraph stated, I’ve been stomping all over it this year. I don’t want to consider how many more flights of stairs lead to the highest vision of myself. I don’t want to remember how much I’ve been clawing to become a financially solvent, real-life adult. And, I certainly don’t want to think about serious relationships commitments. But, somehow, the paragraph attaches itself to me and I can’t quite seem to let it go.

Finishing up what began in 2016 implies returning to the most free and unencumbered version of myself. I loved that woman. Some days, I miss that woman and I wonder where she went. And then I remember that I locked her neatly in a treasure chest this year, alongside vulnerability and trust and openness. 2017 was the year of folding myself up into ornate and beautiful stacks that could not be destroyed. Because somewhere along the line I learned that love, or anything that resembles it, requires you to undo yourself. And, this year, my heart and my stomach and my knees and my elbows could not withstand the weight of unfolding once more.

But, something tells me there is more love left.

There is more love left on each of the puzzle pieces of the woman I became this year. Fragments of that woman are wedged in between the couch cushions of a therapist’s office on the plaza level of a high-rise condo. Bits of that woman are sprinkled on the balcony stairs of Alfred Street Baptist Church. Parts of that woman are stuck in between the pages of GRE books. Slivers of that woman are still on this blog. Scraps of that woman are somewhere in the sand of Virginia Beach. That woman is both everywhere and nowhere, scattered and contained, here and already on her way to the next stop.

Yes, there is more love left.

There is more love left somewhere in the canyon of my belly and the chasm of my laugh. Somewhere on the right side of my body, sandwiched in between the loopy curves of a tattoo. Somewhere on the left side of my body, sprawled across a sea of bare skin. There is more love left on my lips and my thighs and my neck and my spine and all of the other residences where sometimes I swore that there could not possibly be any more love left.

There is more love left.

There is more love left underneath the layers I bundle up in and the masks I wear and the walls I build. There is more love left behind my eyes, a pair that stared into the mirror of a bar bathroom not too long ago as I wondered whether I’m designed for the kind of love so many of my friends have already seized and sealed. There has got to be more love left somewhere in my tangled hair and my tender heart.

Yes, there is more love left.

There is more love left even after breakdowns in the bathroom and nights spend switching between SZA and Solange. There is more love left even after that one evening in a Philadelphia hotel where I played Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams on repeat and woke up in the middle of the night with my tummy twisted into one million knots. There is more love left even after I ripped my way through a bevy of lovelorn emotions with the soundtrack to prove it.

My God, there is more love left.

And, I do not know whether that love is in crevices or ravines or corners. I don’t know whether that love is hiding or standing in broad daylight. I don’t always know where that love will come from, nor do I know where it will lead. But, all I know is that somewhere underneath the sun there has got to be more love left.

Xoxo,
Tyece

That Tangled Something That You Feel

December 19, 2017

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Buried somewhere in my email inbox is an eight-message thread from February 18, 2013. A few thousand words. A mothership of emotions. Line after line exposing my bluff.

I liked him. A lot. More than I should’ve. More than I said. And it’s easy and almost irrelevant to state the obvious now, but somehow it wasn’t so simple then. Back then, I wanted so deeply in my gut to be unbothered. Untethered. Unaffected. Unattached. I wanted every part of my identity steered by a prefix that meant “not.” I yearned not to be so many things that I never took stock of everything, every bit, and every broken piece that I was.

I’ve been thinking about that girl I used to be a lot these days. I’ve been thinking about how the distance between what she feigned and what she actually felt spanned for acres. I’ve been thinking about that email thread. Ive revisited it on occasion. Sometimes for inspiration. Sometimes for a jolt to the joints. Sometimes for a reminder of how far I’ve come.

I don’t know where in the web of dating women begin to suppress themselves and shape shift into people they are not. I’m not sure who teaches us to tone it down or play it cool or pretend to be something we simply aren’t. I’m not sure when we begin to contort and curve so as not to seem too much of this or too little of that. But, I know that we do these things. And maybe we do them for so long that then we have to fight to undo them. We have to untwist our limbs. Unleash ourselves. Lay waste to all of walls we fought so hard to build.

That is where I am now. Untwisting. Unleashing. Laying waste. Making peace with the deluge of emotions I bring to any relationship. Appreciating that I am not a woman who is easily contained.

And while the hard truth is that I am still somewhere in between frozen and thawed out, I’m done shape shifting. I’m done accepting fragments of affection. I can no longer just get along with a love that’s only good enough. There comes a point where you grasp that grown women learn to stop playing pretend. There comes a point where you connect with another human being on this planet and begin to honor that tangled something that you feel.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Unbearable Weight of What If

October 23, 2017

There are some things still tangled in the boughs of your belly. Memories. Mistakes. Mayhem. Men. You’ve been carrying them around with you not realizing that these are not just things, but instead they are bricks. Weighing you down. Collapsing your core. Holding you back from the freedom to fly.

You will not know it. You will not know that every time your mind flickers to that memory or dances with the devil, your center of gravity sinks. You will not know it because it is so easy, or so it seems, to walk lightly even as your insides are cloaked in the weight of what if.

What if? You hardly ever say it aloud, and yet the idea still sprints through your mind, a stampede of fantasies you can’t quite seem to surrender. What if you reached out again? What if it never happened? What if you didn’t say that? What if you destroyed the memories of what was and penned a new story on a crisp set of blank pages?

And, perhaps most poisonous of all, what if he still thinks about you too?

This last one is the brick that weighs one ton, a theory you have dressed your heart in for months on end. It is the reason why you have grown cold and left your soul in limbo. It is the boulder pulling you down the most.

What if?

You will not know the toxin of what if until reality replaces reverie, and you aren’t left to wonder anymore. You will not know just how much what if was weighing you down until you let out a loud cry on a Sunday evening, your skin and hair still drenched from the shower, a hot pink towel wrapped halfway around your body. In that moment, there will not be anymore what ifs. There will only be you, your boundless curiosity, and the photo of him with his arms draped around another woman.

This is not what if. This is what is.

This moment will become your redemption song, a severe but necessary jolt to bring you back to what’s true. What’s real. What is yours and yours alone. This is your baptism by fire. Your blend of blind rage and breakthrough. This is the flash that will finally give you the freedom to fly once more.

You deserve a life that does not hinge on hypotheticals or doors only left halfway ajar. You cannot breathe off of sheer possibilities; you require much more air than that. You are the sum of stars and moons and entire galaxies; can’t you see how much love you have to give? You cannot fit gallons of your heart into a test tube of a man. They will spill over, only for him to tell you that you are the one who made this mess. You are not a woman who has to settle for fractions of affection; the totality of someone’s love is your birthright. Know that. Honor that. Cherish that. Preserve that. Do not spend another moment of this life overloaded by the weight of what if.

Xoxo,
Tyece