Through Thick and Thin

photo1 (2)

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

 

 

 

Sometime After 2 a.m.

SURRENDER

They tell me nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m., and I agree. Nothing good ever happens after that time, but surely, sometimes glorious and golden things do. Sometimes in the gray hours, the ones where night bleeds into morning and sin blends into sleep, we are our truest selves. Our most unlatched selves. In the gray hours, we let down the guards and open the gates, reprimanding our inhibitions and shoving them into the corner for a long overdue timeout.

WYAO April general promoThis Write Your Ass Off April post was published as part of my Sunday Kind of Love newsletter. Read the full essay here

Write Your Ass Off April is a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Ready to do this thing? Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 

Before The Sun Rises

COMPLICATE-3

I’m going to leave before the sun rises and begins to tell you all of my secrets. I’m going to leave before light creeps through the blinds and writes the first line about the story behind my eyes. I don’t want you to read that story. Not now. Perhaps not ever. Instead I want you to remember the one you read last night in dark places through hushed tones, the memoir written in the dip of my back. It is OK if you know that story. It is likely you’ll forget it tomorrow. But the story behind my eyes–that story will take you years to read and lifetimes to let go. That story is 100 chapters with 500 ripped pages. That book is too heavy for most men to hold.

So I’m going to leave before the sun rises.

I’ll slip my boots back on and glance over at your wiry frame, wondering whether this is the start of something new or the end of something wickedly fun. I’ll kiss you on the cheek, whisper “Sleep well, love” and grab myself an Uber. I’ll only say “Good morning” to the driver when I climb in and “Yep, this is perfect” when we get close to the address where my car’s parked. For 18 minutes and 30 seconds, we’ll drive through the city in silence as I crave a shower and my own sheets. I’ll blast Purple Rain on the drive back to my apartment, greet a pissed off Roxy when I open the door, and smile at myself when I look in the bathroom mirror. “Who do you think you are, Tyece?” I’ll ask through a laugh.

This is what it’s like to leave before the sun rises.

Later that afternoon, Wale’s Sabotage Love will come on the radio, even though it’s five years old and wasn’t even ever that popular when it dropped. The lyrics instantly pull me back to a much more complicated and fragile time. At the three minute and 15 second mark, the words will sting with truth:

She the shit, she the one
She need now, she ain’t never needed love
Let her go, let her leave
This is something that could never, ever be
Said her heart’s in a cage, cause if you never love, you could never hate

Maybe that is why I always leave before the sun rises. Because once the sun shows up, the cat’s out of the bag and my heart’s out of its cage. After the sun rises, my secrets are yours and I’m forced to confess all of my sins. After the sun rises, all bets are off and that story behind my eyes sits on an empty shelf for you to read.

So, I’m going to leave now. Before the sun rises. Before the day starts. Before the bed’s made and the truth I left behind on your sheets starts to speak. Yes, I’m going to leave now. Because I’ve always been better at leaving than I have been at staying.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Only I Know

heal

Too much. It always felt like too much. After that humid and haunting night in a Cambridge apartment, my breasts and my thighs and my legs and my eyes and my skin and that feminine je nais se quoi always felt like far too much. Heels were always too high. Shirts were always too low. Skirts were always too short. Dresses were always too tight. Too, too, too. Always too much.

So, I covered up. I didn’t want to play that game of Russian Roulette every time I stood in the center of the closet. I didn’t want to try things on only to tug them off, my mind spinning with the possible nightmares of what my clothes might say without me even speaking a word. I found solace in scarves and the security of camisoles tucked under v-neck tops. These were my solutions. This was my new way of life, the only option if I stood a shot at comfort in the skin I was in. And when I watched my girlfriends bare their arms and expose their breasts, I scolded myself for wanting the same luxury and liberty. I reprimanded myself as a reminder that those days were over; how dare I flirt with disaster and invite this to happen to me a second time?

Invite this to happen to me a second time.

That was the kind of quicksand thinking that sucked me under for so long.

I want to tell you how I got from here to there. I want to pen this narrative of who I was then and who I am now and how I clawed my way out of the quicksand. I want to package it all up and tie it with a bow and make sense of the past five years. I want to show you how I moved from church altars to therapists’ couches to dumping my pain onto pages. I want to make it beautiful, but there are some memories in this life that will forever remain ugly.

See, the past five years are jagged and jumbled. And some days the only reminder that I’ve somehow risen from the ruins is an article of clothing. Cotton and inconsequential, on my body one moment and removed the next.

crop top and rollersI posted a photo on Instagram yesterday–me in a pair of hot pink rollers, leggings, and a crop top. It didn’t seem like much because on the surface it was not. It was what girls do, our new age form of documentation. But, only I know how incredible and long and exhausting of a road it’s been to get there. Only I know the newfound freedom that comes with feeling comfortable baring any sort of skin without second guessing and convincing myself to cover up. Only I know what it means to pull a crop top over my head without machine guns blowing off in the back of my mind.

Time is always healing me. God is always healing me. The Universe is always healing me. This life is still lathering Neosporin all over my scars. But, my feet planted on solid ground reveal evidence of miracles, of second chances, of fighting hard, and of bouncing back.

Xoxo,
Tyece

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s me. It’s you. It’s her. It’s her too. Take the time to absorb women’s stories. Hear them out. Respect the outlets in which they choose to share and show their scars. It’s never too much. Give them the space and time to heal and rise above the ruins.

This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, #WYAOApril. 

 

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Free Spirit and The Artist

We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.–Nikki Giovanni

GG: The Free Spirit

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve tried to hide my heart for most of my life. It always seemed to beat too loud and break too easily. I remember being a child in church, trying to stay calm while the choir sang. The music created electricity in my veins that made me want to dance up and down the aisles one minute and fall out bawling on the pew the next. I was a quiet ball of intensity, infatuated by the contrasts of joy and pain, trying to be happy, but always questioning.

I imagined myself an old soul, a captivated free spirit, having been here many times before. I knew how to change the mood in a room, to uplift and relieve tension. How to contain storms that were constantly rising and falling inside of me without breaking a sweat. I don’t remember what it felt like to be a light-hearted, uninhibited child. I always had to be careful. My home life was strange and we had secrets. So I learned how to pay attention to make sure we appeared normal. I worried about what would happen to us, to me, if anyone found out.

Read more of GG’s story here.


 

Kesia: The Artist

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve always been a storyteller. In middle school I came in every Monday with a story to tell my friends as we sat on the windowsill in our homeroom. At the time, my mother was in prison. I was sharing a small room with my younger brother and living with a family that had three daughters, girls who had been my friends for years. I remember once my half-sister came to visit from Florida. She was an only child who lived with my father and her mother. She marveled at the fact that all us kids lived in that small house. If it appeared fun to her, that’s because, most of the time, it was. This is the thing about being one of the “unfortunates”: If you survive, it’s because you learn how to spin gold from the thread life has given you to hang yourself with. That’s what storytelling is.

Read more of Kesia’s story here.