Category: personal growth

To Unlearn: What I No Longer Believe to be True

unlearn <un·learn>

ˌənˈlərn/verb
discard (something learned, especially a bad habit or false or outdated information) from one’s memory.
——
  1. College is the only or surest way to succeed in the modern world. We know no examples. Bill Gates. Oprah.
  2. Smart people always make good decisions. If you are smart, you cannot be wrong. Ever. Duh.
  3. No one will ever truly look out for you, with the exemption of your family. Family members – the ones you do not choose – are the only people you can trust. Surely, everyone is ultimately out to get you in the long run. If people leave, even when their appointed season in your life is over, that is the zenith of betrayal. Off with their heads! Every institution – even the most blessed, pure, and loving – has its limitations. That can’t possibly be ok.
  4. You cannot set boundaries with family. “I love you, mother… Thanks for calling the third time today… Yes, yeah… I’m on the look out for my future husband. Of course!…. Yes, a medical doctor, yes, medical… I have the criteria list seared into my mind… I’ll review the scroll right before I head out to work… Oh yeah… yeah, it’s morning here – kinda early….”
  5. Life is not meant to be enjoyed. What is happiness? Struggle is life. Struggle defines life. Despite the fact that you only get one chance at living, why would you actually enjoy any part of it? This is not a game. #struggleislife
  6. Men are on the fuckboy spectrum. Therefore, can they really ever be a partner and ally? Not one man is worth the time of day. They’re all such good men, and yet leave behind throngs of broken women in their wake. I mean, why expect respect and harmony in a relationship when all he really needs from you is a warm, cooked meal and a warmer body? I mean, really, #NotAllMen, amirite?
  7. True love eludes women who are decisive, inquisitive, and have at least one degree. The more degrees you attain, ladies, and the more you desire out of life and people, the worse off you are in the love department. Facks on facks. And you’re over 30?! We all know you tuck your degrees and diplomas and career under your pillow, bitter, lonely woman. I mean, can you even cook?
  8. The goal in life is perfection. Live up to everyone’s expectations at all times. This is the true measure of perfection. If no one complains about you, and you’re worn ragged as a result, who can fault you for being exactly what is expected? At this point, you’re perfect!
  9. People’s opinions of who you are and what you do matters immensely. Again, it’s amount molding yourself to the pleasure of others. You’re a humanitarian, after all. The only life you’re gifted cannot possibly be lived according to the terms of the personality gifted the body. Benevolence is cute, but my opinion of who you are and what you ought to be matters more than the love you ought to generously dole yourself.

things we carry, chapter 2: autopilot

this is when you attempt to feel the world around you, but cannot
this is when you attempt to douse your nervous system in extra stimulants, but nothing

and there you sit
so many things to be done, you’re thinking
so many orders to give and many more to receive
so many things to say and things to hear
so many items to cross off
so there you sit

unbothered and numb
numb and unbothered

not even the dark roast and quickening heart beat gets you up

you have managed to move your body just enough
just enough to get you right here

so
you don’t move at all

fuck it
we’ll try this again tomorrow

midtown

holding off from; giving permission to: a poem

 i am quitting that which i have yet to start
and apportioning time to nothing
i am abandoning things i have not committed to
and signing up to not participate
this is the game i play alone
suspending myself in air, barely hoping respite
awaiting the time i’m given the nod to continue
as if anyone is waiting for me
i am figuring out my unhappy
without thinking about it at all
i am whispering through a crowded room
while everyone is looking the other way
i am winding up the clock to watch it tick down
living within its minutes aimlessly
i am elsewhere and nowhere, someone and everyone
and everything’s nothing in between
i am doing this all over…

 

nola
as inspired by Lorraine Hansberry

  1. the unending African vs African-American debate, and the assumption that the former are inherently a better people (and not merely because of continental pride)
  2. melancholy
  3. silly, lazy men
  4. the idea that black women do not or cannot support each other
  5. the fact that people actually live boring lives but pretend not to
  6. respectability politics, especially as perpetuated by the marginalised
  7. the “what about me?”, #alllivesmatter narrative: fuck feelings attempting to dictate self-love
  8. the currency of sex
  9. writing paralysis due to fear
  10. erasure
  11. typing in every individual work experience after uploading my resume on your website
  12. racism and sexism

The Self-Proclaimed Good Guy

pouring wine
You’ll have to excuse me; I need some space to get this out.

Recently, I had the distinct displeasure of meeting a young man who was apparently confused as to why women would not want to be with him. I’m a good man, said… we’ll call him Gregoire, “I don’t get why a woman wouldn’t want to be with me“. I blinked into my phone, reading the Book of Lamentations of the Self-Proclaimed Good Guy. Yet, I gave Gregoire the benefit of the doubt: I asked questions, gave him space to elaborate. It wasn’t that Gregoire, the good guy was actually complaining about relationship troubles. We all have them. The singles among us all think we deserve decent people to be with, because we are decent, fun-loving, ambitious people. No, no, it was that Gregoire, the good guy felt as though because he was a decent person, women ought to be flocking to be with him. It was confusing to him why a woman like me, udee, would not automatically see his goodness and sign my name on the dotted line to be with him forever …or for the night. Ugh, who knows!

Le sigh.

There is nothing unsexier than an adult displaying their acute failure to grasp reality. Humanity requires a baseline level of decency in most cultures. You don’t get rewarded for being baseline nice. And your reward for baseline decency should never be other people. This should never be your expectation! Tell me, how does your being a decent, nay, good person, mean that you expect your reward to be a binder full of women? Women have become the prize to be won when you offer your seat on the train to the elderly, eh? Or perhaps when you drive your more than tipsy female friend home from the block party, you expect your reward to be what, a snog maybe? Or maybe it’s her romantic attentions you want? What do you appropriately reward a man who decides, in his infinite goodness, not to defer to inappropriate behaviour, or assault or outright rape? …and we wonder, still, on this side of the 21st century, why feminism is relevant.

It is emotional manipulation to tout your goodness as sacrifice for others, because (a) what metrics have you employed to calculate that your level of special and alleged sensitivity is deserving of female attentions? and (b) you’re simply not that special – no one is. In the face of sounding too morbid, even after your death, after a period of mourning and healing, life will continue to move on without you. You do not deserve other people. You do not deserve a woman. We are not property.

It’s actually terrifying to think, as a woman, that there are men out there who take their chivalry aka goodness aka decency and expect women to queue up to be with them. What unbridled entitlement! Upon explaining to Gregoire why this was not at all tolerable, I still don’t think he understood. He thought I was hating on his confidence as a guy. After all, he mused, I’m not ugly. Ah yes, my dear Gregoire! It is that you are handsome that you ought more access to a woman’s emotional and physical body.

I had had enough and proceeded to distance myself permanently.

Street Harassment & Bystander Responsibility

I went back and forth about sharing this story: how to share it, where to share it… I imagine it’s often hard to tell stories of intervention as the person who intervened without listeners/readers assuming you’re trying to give yourself a pat on the back. Well, I don’t care; I’ll share it anyway. Someone probably needs to hear it more than my assumption that I ought not tell it.

If you’re active on social media, it was impossible to ignore the viral video that circulated the web streets on street harassment in New York City. While the buzz of the video was still making its rounds, I got hip to the NWAP podcast. Episode 18 tackled the issue of street harassment in a way that I haven’t heard before: black men asking a woman, as the case was, questions and listening to how they can make streets safer for women who experience street harassment. This was a crucial discussion, and I learned quite a bit; particularly on how to intervene on a situation I identify as street harassment as a bystander.

I’ll go right ahead and say it, I know what street harassment looks like. And I know the difference between a man paying me a compliment on the street and a man demanding my attention in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Street harassment takes on many styles, colours and flavours. I have experienced street harassment from all kinds and races and ages of men in all kinds of settings: walking to the corner for soup during my lunch break, driving in my car on the way to the gym, exiting a restaurant with friends after a dinner party, waiting for my Uber ride from the airport… Just about each and every time, after the occurrence (despite my putting my best game-face on, keeping my eyes ahead of me, raising my voice to alert onlookers, etc.), I was left rattled and sometimes near tears, unable to understand why a stranger would speak to me, wag their tongue at me, attempt to touch me, or whistle at me in this manner. I didn’t ask for this kind of attention; it’s fucking horrifying!

So shame on men out there who deny the occurrence of street harassment, claiming that men will be men or that this is what to expect when women look good or whatever. When an elderly white man drives his pick-up truck way too close to you on a 45 mph street, gains your attention as you look over wondering what the hell is going on, thrusts his tongue out at you provocatively, all while you are both are driving, then come talk to me about me making this shit up. Ch’! Lemme breathe.

I was in NYC about two weeks ago, about to cross the street in Times Square. The circumstances of what I was doing there are irrelevant, despite that the writer in me wants to paint a pretty picture about what Times Square looks like at 8pm after daylight savings time. I was standing about two steps behind a lady. In typical manner, I was taking in her attire; I clearly need to up my fall boots game! A gentleman approached her, trying to strike up conversation. I could see her glance at him, shake her head and attempt to angle her attention elsewhere. He kept speaking, inching closer to her, saying things I couldn’t hear. Anyone could see she wasn’t trying to have a conversation with him, even though I was standing behind her; anyone could see she was becoming uncomfortable. Body language can be such a universal mode of communication.

So I stepped beside her (the man was on her left-hand side), and ignoring the man, asked her which direction was whatever-the-hell street I was already heading too. She barely really answered my question, but took a large step away from the man and closer to me, giving me her attention. The man said something along the lines of hey I was talking to her, but seeing as now we both ignored him, he walked away. The woman then resumed her position, turned to me and thanked me, saying this is why I hate coming to Times Square. We chuckled sympathetically, the crosswalk light came on and we went about our separate ways.

Now that I recount that story in written form, I’m tickled by how quickly she identified that I was re-directing her attention because I knew she was being placed in an unconformable position. This man wasn’t paying her compliments, he wasn’t asking for directions, he was harassing her. He saw her discomfort through the fact that she was shaking her head at him and he continued to speak to her, entering her personal space to continue his monologue. The. Utter. Privileged. Gall! It’s never quite enough to non-verbally decline attention as a woman, is it?

From what I picked up from the podcast, this is what bystander responsibility and intervention looks like: de-escalating a situation (hopefully!) before it even becomes one; re-directing attention, and ensuring victims/potential victims feel safe to exact their own agency.

I will never meet this woman again, I don’t even remember how she looks! All I know is at that very moment, in Times Square, one less street harasser was prevented from ruining her whole damn evening. Not because I was on my hero grind (I’m the oldest of five children, I have special setting for that), but because I thought I would care enough to act like I gave a shit about this stranger and her welfare.

writings beudeeful
So I can’t really call this first date an actual first date. It was more of a first-time meetup. Let’s not be delusional. It was a meet-up. I was curious, and I generally look forward to meeting allegedly dope people my friends introduce me to. I’ll be honest, my initial mantra was: please let him be tall and good-looking. Who doesn’t want to chuckle over drinks with an attractive man? After a full day of work and some consideration, the mantra became: please just let him have a decent sense of humour; I’m easily entertained anyway,and it’s been an impressively long day.

I re-touched my lipstick, checked my hair, parked, took a deep sigh, and wove my way to find my date dinner ‘n’ drinks partner for the evening. After introductions and pleasantries on backgrounds and initially nervous cackles on my part and discussions on mutual friends and another round of drinks, we were being silly and cracking up like long-time buddies.

Now, as a woman beyond her quadranscentennial year of existence, I’m acutely aware of the type of energy I surround myself with – especially when it comes to dating, meeting potentials, whatever. I’m of the school of thought that believes when coming out of your home to share some stories and make connections over a meal with someone, you would take caution to, you know, act like you want to be there, act like you’re not naturally inclined to misogyny (dude, what?!), act like you don’t subscribe to Twitter logic, act like you read more than text messages from your boys to enhance your diction and thought-processes …you know, do the usual things grown-up adult males do.

Nevertheless, when you connect with someone unexpectedly and it feels comfortable and fun and you actually get to like said person and date one leads to ….sporadic silence[1] and the reason for said silence is actually nothing, i.e. he’s not busy, doesn’t have a sig other (that you know of), didn’t die, didn’t procure a goldfish that died, here’s what I do:

1 | Re-apply my lipstick
Dating over 25 years old ought not include shedding tears over potentials who don’t really desire you anyway. And MAC lipsticks have excellent coverage girl! Get you some; autumn is upon us and these darker shades are lushhhhh!!!

2 | Reach out. Like, once.
You liked him, right? That’s legit. Extend the desire to hang out again, that you had a good time… Why wait to tell someone you thought dinner and drinks was a dope time for you? You’re not 22 anymore; stop reading Steve Harvey; own your feelings; say something. But, like only once or something. No need to grovel over iMessage.

3 | Replay the good moments of the night
Personally, I like to replay moments. I do it constantly. It helps me process. So good or bad, I’m constantly replaying scenes of interactions in my head. It always makes for a great brunch story anyway. See? I do it for the people!

4 | Create respectable distance for myself
So sporadic silence and lack of a second date has occurred to me enough times to figure out a coping mechanism: if I liked the fellow and I’ve reached out only to be met with my own echoes, I give it some time. Even if I get a casual, non-committal “hey what’s up?” text (we all know these annoying texts that are more ornamental than functional), I tend not to respond. I’ll wait for all the sparkle of my time with you to wane out. I don’t believe in wasting my emotions.

5 | Move on
You’re not a dating humanitarian. No one wins the Nobel Prize for blowing up someone’s iMessage until they respond and agree to another date or meet-up or whatever the hell people are calling these interactions these days.

—–
[1] What I call sporadic silence: after the amaze date/meet-up, you barely hear from each other. Communication is painfully halted and/or piecemeal , if not, completely non-existent.

toes in the sand

Where are the articles about dating and relationships for the woman in her late 20s?

…for the single woman on the precipice of 30, the single woman who is still growing in her womanhood, the single woman who has purposefully given up the college scene, but finds the “older crowd” a little too…married with kids. This the single woman who is self-aware and self-confident enough to know that rom-coms are a scam and most dating advice online is click-bait.

There is so much growing up that takes place between 22 and 28 – it’s the difference between having been able to legally drink for a year and finishing up a graduate program/negotiating a starting salary. After 25, you’re truly an adult, making adult-ass decisions, such as replacing your college love for vodka with an appreciation for wine and brown liquors. You’ve come to the point where the weekly Thursday-Friday-Saturday party scene is unsustainable. Thursday is for staying in (it’s usually wash day for me), Friday is reserved for socialising over drinks and appetizers, Saturday – you’re tired; it’s a Netflix night, and Sunday is for brunch and long naps. Listen, you’re grown, the over-excitable large party scene is only needed once…maybe twice a month. And you’re more apt to gather among friends in cute shorts over a grill, sipping homemade sangria anyway. Why all the loud noises every single night of what ought to be a restful weekend?

Dating for the post-25 year old is a different kind of beast, seeing as you’re becoming a different kind of woman. You’re more calculated about your time (‘no’ is a stand-alone statement), the language you employ is more robust (you code switch like a mutha!), your expectations have taken shape and heightened. In all, while still a creation in progress, you’ve become a much more defined, fleshed-out woman than your 22-year-old self.

For the sake of musing and to end my seeming laundry listing of how peculiar this specific age group is, I’d like to highlight a few realities that are perhaps unique to women who are actively dating between the ages of 25 and 30:

1 | Younger men are largely still immature, even though they will argue tooth and nail that they are not. It’s just true. Yes, there are the occasional exceptions, but dude, give it to me straight, how many exceptions have you met lately?

2 | Take the dating game lightly. While finding the kind of guy you’d like to settle with might be your ultimate aim, right now you’re dating. Don’t take every single date so seriously that you wear yourself out. Many dates, you’ll wind up sipping wine across from an absolute joker. Trust me, when brunch rolls around Sunday, you can cackle about it with your girls.

3 | Go with your gut about the whole damn thing. If communication sucks and you’ve been clear about your thoughts on the matter, go with your gut: it’s probably not going to work. If you think he’s harbouring more drama than you need in your life, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. If talking to him seems more forced than natural, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. Don’t ignore the spidey-senses you have. You have ’em for a reason.

4 | Your mid-twenties are an awkward time altogether. Guys at this same age range most likely aren’t going to have all their shit together – much like you might not; let’s be fair. Know what you are willing to deal with and be up front about it, because you should always go with your gut (#3) and you’re dating anyway, right (#2)?

5| Say what you mean, dammit. At times, this would mean you’re more communicative than he is. Maybe that means you actually initiate a telephone conversation to clear the air, rather than resorting to strained text message conversations. If there is any worth or merit therein, invest accordingly. You’re a grown up now; own the responsibility of your emotions, perceptions and thoughts.

No Te Enamores (Do Not Fall in Love) by Martha Rivera Garrido


Do not fall in love with a woman who reads,
a woman who feels too much,
a woman who writes …

Do not fall in love with a
cultured,
magical,
delusional,
crazy woman.

Do not fall in love with a woman who thinks,
who knows what she knows and also knows how to fly;
a woman confident in herself.

Do not fall for a woman who laughs or cries while making love,
who knows how to convert her flesh into spirit;
much less one that loves poetry (these are the most dangerous),
or who would stay half an hour contemplating a painting
and who doesn’t know how to live without music.

Do not fall in love with a woman who is interested in politics
and who is rebellious and feels immense horror at injustice.

One who likes ball games and soccer
and does not like to watch television at all.

Or a woman who is beautiful no matter the features of her face and her body.

Do not fall for an intense, entertaining, lucid and irreverent woman.

You don’t want to fall in love with a woman like that.

Because when you fall for a woman like that,
whether she stays with you or not,
whether she loves you or not,
she,
a woman like that,
never returns … 

By Dominican poet, Martha Rivera Garrido


[original poem]

No te enamores de una mujer que lee, de una mujer que siente demasiado, de una mujer que escribe… No te enamores de una mujer culta, maga, delirante, loca. No te enamores de una mujer que piensa, que sabe lo que sabe y además sabe volar; una mujer segura de sí misma. No te enamores de una mujer que se ríe o llora haciendo el amor, que sabe convertir en espíritu su carne; y mucho menos de una que ame la poesía (esas son las más peligrosas), o que se quede media hora contemplando una pintura y no sepa vivir sin la música. No te enamores de una mujer a la que le interese la política y que sea rebelde y vertigue un inmenso horror por las injusticias.Una a la que le gusten los juegos de fútbol y de pelota y no le guste para nada ver televisión. Ni de una mujer que es bella sin importar las características de su cara y de su cuerpo. No te enamores de una mujer intensa, lúdica y lúcida e irreverente. No quieras enamorarte de una mujer así. Porque cuando te enamoras de una mujer como esa, se quede ella contigo o no, te ame ella o no, de ella, de una mujer así, JAMAS se regresa.

Martha Rivera Garrido (Fragmento de Los Amantes de Inbox de Papel, 2014)

small things | #3030poetry

…and as for me, it’s the little things

i swear i don’t require much, you know
shoot, and how do you teach the seemingly insignificant

a hand gently placing on the small of my back
a pull-in before an embrace that ends only after i feel something
i sit back in reflection, washing down feelings with wine
she looks back at me curiously, i know i know
you want to feel relaxed again, in control
that everything around you is doing what it should
the warmth of sunshine caressing your scalp
the stillness of sunday morning awakening 
maybe closure need rely on the absence of others
she leans in to kiss my forehead
find you again