Friday, July 29, 2011

Liberation

The first time it occurred to me that something was wrong with my body, I was in the fifth grade. Where my breasts were sprouting, my hips were rounding out and my thighs growing thicker my fellow classmates, being of the mostly thin, WASP-y variety did not have the same problems. Or shape, for that matter.

First, I noticed a disturbing pattern among all the 90s era waif models while flipping through magazines with my friends; none of their thighs touched. Initially I told myself that it must be some trick of the camera or computer. But then I started looking around and realized with horror that none of my friends’ thighs touched either. If they were standing flat footed I could read that same magazine on the other side of them clearly through the space between their tiny thighs. I spent the rest of that spring semester (which was historically considered the best time of year at our parochial school as our uniform got to consist of shorts for the warmer weather) never comfortable in my favorite uniform again. I was far too aware of the way the cuff of my shorts left indentations on my abundant thighs, rather than hanging effortlessly from slim hips I did not possess. I developed some odd way of walking around my thighs that had to look every bit as strange it sounds, but seemed better at the time than allowing people to see my thighs rub together when I walked.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What If.

It dropped in my spirit around my birthday in April, coming, as it usually does, without me even noticing it. A fleeting thought that became a seed, blooming brighter every time the thought became more frequent.

Which it did.

It happens, at different intervals, sometimes months, sometimes years, but it always feels just as it always felt every single time it has come over the last six years. A flowering beneath the surface I try to quell, an ache in my chest I can barely ignore but try to anyway. A flutter, low in my stomach when my mind speaks his name without my permission.

Which is often.


I explained myself, my wistful pensiveness, to the girls when they came for my birthday.

“You are such a soft baked bitch right now,” they said, their eyes sparkling and their lips stretched wide towards their hairlines, barely containing their delight at seeing me this way, as I so rarely am.
“Oh my God, look at her face!”


And I hate that I have friends who not only call me a soft baked bitch, but whom can see straight through my defenses.


In April, it was a raindrop. A tiny, but steady leak in the walls in the back of my mind where I often shove him. By May, a quiet brook, rippling through peacefully, but not really disturbing anything. By June it was a river. And by July, if that thought were an ocean, it would drown me.


Right beneath the surface floated the question that always accompanied the downpour; what if?


What if I hadn’t been afraid?
What if there had been no distance, emotionally, literally?
What if I were not the type of person to instinctively shy from the vulnerability that comes with feeling all the things I knew I felt?
What if there had been no him and her and others?


What if I hadn’t been so afraid?



And so, as I often do when I am unsure of how to proceed, I opened my blinds wide one night and sprawled out on my bed in the moonlight. I looked up in the clear Texas sky for the star I convinced myself when I was six that God lived on, and childishly, wholeheartedly still sometimes believes he sees me through. And I asked. Asked why this kept happening when I was fighting so hard to stop it. Asked why I am the way that I am. Asked what the unfinished business was here that keeps this bubbling over no matter how tight a lid I put on it.

When I was done talking, to the stars, to Her, to Him, however you believe, the answer cut through me like lightening almost before I had time to close my lips; because you have not used the words I have given you.

And so I promised I would. I would say what I had been holding, trying to tear apart, trying to hide and ignore for all this time, if only He, She, the Universe, would give me a sign that I was supposed to.

And just like that I got it.

Fairly quickly. And in such an unexpected way I almost missed it and dismissed it. But there it was, right in my hands; what I had asked for. What I’d been asking for.


And I tried. I did. To no avail.

Maybe I should have tried harder. More than likely.

But I am not, unfortunately, a creature so emotionally resilient that my most vulnerable places can be exposed for that long.



So again, I put it away. I build dams and walls and patch leaks where this thing, whatever it is, might seep through. I mourn, as I always do when this happens, and ignore the fear that I will not get infinite chances here.
That I might always have to live with the possibilities of the what if.



Despite it all, here I am, knocking on the door of August, the familiar ache faint but still present. The longing I feel at different intervals, sometimes months, sometimes years, but that always feels just as it has always felt every time it has come for the last six years, still a raindrop falling steadily, and me with no idea how to turn it off.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Missing the Mark

I have a couple different subsets of friends.


There’s my best friend since 7th grade, who transcends all subgroups because she knew me and loved me when I thought it was cute to wear dark brown lip liner and silver lipgloss.

There are my college friends, who are probably my longest, closest friends, as we have been miraculously, permanently and co-dependently in each other’s lives for almost ten years now.

There’s my adult friends, whom, despite being new, know me almost as well as I do and would, quite literally, do anything within reason (and a few things out of reason) for me.

There are my online friends, many of whom overlap the previous categories, with whom, after six years of blogging/facebooking/tweeting, etc., I have formed varying degrees of close bonds.

And then there are my pre-Grown Up Job work friends.

These girls were the friends I made when I was still working a shitty retail job fresh out of college, long before I ever spoke Sa.llie Mae’s name. It was a simpler time. They also have the distinct honor of being the last friends I will ever make on the job as I REFUSE to make friends at work (but that’s another post).

Over long shifts and lulls in foot traffic, we got to know each other. And somewhere along the way, even with a few bumps in the road, we became friends. I was incredibly grateful for these girls, who were friendly and helpful to me when I knew no one, turning me on to restaurants and bars and manicurists and even my orthodontist. I didn’t hang out with them as much as they hung out together (I imagine because I A. spent a lot of my time out of town with those friends described above and B. they likely assumed I didn’t like doing much of what they did (shopping, drinking, dancing) because I had to turn down many of their invites though the reality was I was just broke and depressed) but my early years in Houston are commemorated with tons of pictures with these girls in them; us over sushi at the company Christmas party or at the after-hours gay club in Midtown or a group picture at a joint birthday party for me and the other sole black girl in the bunch. These girls were my lifeline.

Now though, our lives are all changing. To some degree we have become friends who see each other for the capital letter events: Birthdays, Weddings, Baby Showers, etc. And perhaps it is because the time between our outings can stretch on for months that all the changes are so pronounced.

And I am reminded of all the things I “should” be doing that I am not.

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate the wedding of one of our ex-coworkers. Over dinner and drinks from the open bar we talked about newborns and as-yet-to-be-determined wedding dates and living in foreign countries and new jobs and ex-wives. Later we danced to music that reminded us of places we’d danced until the lights came on, and coerced the bartenders to mix up a round of shots for the entire reception, like the old, younger days.

But for the most part I couldn’t help but feeling like I was right where they all had left me.

Living in a city I hate, working the same job I’ve had for four years, dating people only suitable for making you guys laugh when I tell you how the date took an egregious turn. Here they are getting married and having babies and moving to China and getting engaged and buying houses and I could not help but sit there and wonder to myself, “What the fuck have I been doing?”

The thing is, I don’t really want any of those things. Well, maybe to move to a foreign country. The nomad in me would be all over that. But I have made my peace with not having those things or with having them later in life after I do the things I DO want to do. But isn’t that what these benchmark events do to you in your 20s? Remind you of all the ways you are failing at being a 20-something?

For the record, I should admit that these girls have NEVER made me feel that way. And if they’ve ever thought it, they have kindly said it behind my back. They have coached me through long distance relationships and listened to my bitching about my mom and told me where to go if I travel to some of the places they have been. They’ve never been anything but supportive of me and my choices. But sometimes I think wouldn’t it just be easier to just color inside the lines?

Wouldn’t it just be easier to find a guy who makes me at least marginally happy (though, these girls have actually found GREAT guys), get married, have some babies, get a dog and a house and an SUV? Certainly it would take all the stress out of living. Or rather, I suppose, introduce other, more controlled types of stress. From this side of the fence, it looks easier, more manageable and secure, kinder on the psyche and better for the wallet. Isn’t that what all these social institutions are for anyway? Then my life could be, for the most part, made up of these benchmark events, the holidays and birthdays and weddings and anniversaries that come year after year, God willing.

And if I’m honest, there is still a little voice in the back of my head (that sounds remarkably like my mother) that wonders what is wrong with me that I don’t want all this?

What does it say about me that right underneath my feeling like a failure, I felt relief at the fact that I don’t have anyone other than Honey to be responsible to? Am I holding on to the free-wheeling persona of my 20s far longer than I should be?

I’m not entirely sure.

But at the reception, I decided not to focus on that. I decided to focus on how happy my newly married friend looked. And how much I loved being able to do the wobble with another friend here all the way from China. And the fact that, at the end of the night, after I finished dancing in 5 inch heels like I have neither a degree nor a daddy at home, that if ever I decide to change any of those benchmark adult events I’ve yet to participate in, I know some sort of way, I can manage do that too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Loose Ends

This is a story in three parts. This is the first part, though not the begininng...


I know I have a choice. I can sit in this parking lot, inhaling the strange amalgamation of curry and maple syrup courtesy of the Ethiopian restaurant in front of me and the smell the air in the south holds right before it rains. I can stay in this rental car, running my hands through my hair root to tip, unconsciously ruining the curls my hometown hair stylist spent so long fashioning, and not go in. I can call my QQ back and tell her I am too chicken shit to take the advice I’ve been giving all my loved ones for so long; mourn, deal and be done. Or, I can take a deep breath and pretend that I don’t feel like I am gonna vomit all over my open toe flats, and just walk in the door.

I’m out of the car like a shot, hustling to the door before I can convince myself to go meet my best friend at a gay club downtown like I’d planned to do before this little detour. I weave my way through the throngs of brown sugar skinned men who have spilled out of the Ethiopian spot, smoking sweet cloves and talking in low voices. One of them catches my arm as I walk by, and I am so completely lost in my own neurosis that I jump straight out of my skin and back in again.

“I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to scare you, but you were about to hurt yourself,” he tells me gesturing down at a pothole three feet wide and just as many deep that I'd been completely oblivious to. Jesus. I was this close to busting my face open on the concrete. That would have a great first impression after all this time.

I murmur a thank you and start back towards the door before he stops me again with a shout from behind.

“Hey!” I turn. “It won’t be so bad. You look beautiful!”

I smile what is probably the most grateful smile I have ever smiled in my whole damn life, sending up a little bit of thanks to God for kind words spoken by strangers.

Walking up the stairs to the front door, I am immediately taken aback by how much this bar is like him, would be a place he would like to hang out. I smile a little bit, my nervousness only slightly abated by familiarity with some part of him he must still be after all these years.

I open the door with more strength than I really feel, and I see The Great Houdini before I even realize I was looking. He's perched atop a stool in the middle of the bar, a glass and a beer in front of him, smiling at me like the first time I ever knocked on his front door.

“Hi,” he says, hanging back a bit, waiting to read my mood, as usual. I want to say something witty or mean or funny to break the weight of this reunion. And I’ve got nothing.
“You came.”
“I came.”

He hugs me, his hands firm and familiar with the curves of the back he used to travel with his fingertips for hours. And though we’ve changed, the years making us almost strangers, there is a connection there, unsevered, that has bridged us from We Back Then to Us Right Now.

We sit and talk, cautiously at first, but before we find the natural rhythm of volley we used to enjoy, the proverbial boat easing from a hard rock, to a tranquil float.

At one point, hours and many drinks later, not drunk but definitely less tense, I throw my head back and laugh, full and genuine, a laugh I haven’t heard escape my lips in years, having long since sought to quench any remnant of me as I was back then. With him.

I want to be healed.
For good, this time.

Part 2: Undone

Friday, July 8, 2011

For the Fourth

I am not a preacher. I am the daughter of a southern Baptist minister, but that is really another story for another therapist. Despite that pedigree and a proclivity for giving good advice, I don’t preach. I am human and flawed and ridiculous like the rest of you. I have done nothing so great that I deserve to preach.


But I have to say this so bear with me anyway.

If you follow me on the twitter, you know I spent the holiday weekend in my beloved hometown, leaving my best furry friend with my daddy, hanging out with my best friends, having drinks with the man I used to think I was going to marry. It was wonderful. I needed it so badly. I needed to hug my best friend and watch her face light up as she talked about her engagement. I needed to lie on my aunt’s couch and eat her potato salad, and hear my daddy say he desperately wants me to move back home. I needed to see my little brother’s handsome place, and look at his drawings in the appropriate awe that his talent deserves. By Sunday night I was exhausted, having not slept more than 4 hours at a time over as many days. But I was happy. A contentment I haven’t felt in a long time and didn’t realize I needed.

That all changed at about 5am on the 4th of July when a drunk driver barreled into my mom on her way back to my aunt’s house.

He ran a red light. Hit her head on. Had she not, in her own words, “stood straight up on her brakes”, he would have T’ed her. And probably flipped the SUV she was driving. He never hit his brakes. He plowed over the median and hit two more people before his car finally came to a stop, and he got out and ran.

This is what the car my mom was driving looks like now.



Everybody, every single person, walked out of that crash alive. My mom, who is sore from a previous back injury that is now even more aggravated, walked away with not a scratch on her. Not a single scratch.

When they eventually caught the driver, who'd fled down a dead end, and brought him to the hospital, he was so drunk he was incoherent. Didn’t know where he was. Didn’t remember hitting three people top speed. Didn’t know what kinda car he drove. Nothing. We would later find out he had three warrants out for his arrest, one of which was leaving the scene of an accident, and shouldn’t have been driving anyway. But that is an entirely different story.

Instead my story is this. I may be grown, but I am also living in a city completely isolated from my friends and family, with the exception of my mother. It is now, as it often was when I was growing up, my mother and I and then the world. And had he been less than 2 seconds later, had she been turning 2 seconds earlier, had she not stomped on her brakes, had he been going just a bit faster, he would have sent me back to Texas a motherless child.



All the little ways our lives have been uprooted and turned upside down since Monday at 5am are trivial. A nuisance, yes, to have to spend hours on the phone with police officers and insurance claims caseworkers and rental car company employees. And yes, my mother is terrified to drive, bursting into tears even on our drive back to Texas when she would see a guardrail out of the corner of her eye. But all these things are merely additions that create the sum of this entire situation: every time you drive drunk, you change someone’s life.



This life.

This life.

This one.

This life.

And this one.

Not to mention your own.

At the very least, this man has changed four lives: most importantly the three people that he hit, but he is the fourth. That is not even to count their families, our family, his family. That says nothing of whatever lasting damages that will linger, financially, emotionally, psychologically.

Is it worth it?


I am hardly going to tell you not to drink. I surely don’t intend to stop. But I am going to tell you to not get behind the wheel of a car. Stay where you are. Call a cab or a friend. Hell I have friends or connections in most major cities; I can find someone to come get you. Or at the very least, take a nap in your backseat, as I have had to do on occasion. I will not pretend that I will never again drink to the point of drunkenness or that sober living is the answer. But I will tell you to think. Think about the damage you could do. We are all interconnected, even if we are strangers. Think about how far and wide the ripples of your decision could reach. Is it worth it?

Please don’t have anyone go to sleep content and at peace and wake up a motherless child.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bridesmaids

You know how most women have that thing where, in the presence of a wedding they are all breathless, and excited, mentally photo shopping their head on the bride’s body and inwardly changing all the things about the planning/rehearsal/wedding/reception they would do differently? Or maybe glancing at their date wistfully, beaming them psychic signals that one day they really hope the girl up there in the white dress holding a bouquet of irises is them, with date in tow?


Yeah… I don’t got that.

When confronted with the prospect of attending or participating in a wedding, I find myself filled with a mild, but very real panic. Do I have to go? What is proper protocol for my role in this whole situation? This is all followed by my initial genuine befuddlement; Oh. People are actually doing this, huh?

It’s not that I don’t believe in love or marriage or that I spend all day plotting bitter ways to convince people that forever is fleeting and Santa isn’t real. Really it’s just that despite having experienced quite a bit, I still feel so green. Like there is more to do. Like I am not ready to settle down. Like the prospect of my joining my life with anyone else’s while there is a 2 leading my age makes me want to become Muzak in the wedding background; present and adding to the ambiance but invisible.

Even at my age, I have YET to participate in a bridal party. Not because I don’t know anyone who is getting married. Oh, contraire, mon amis. EVERYONE I know is getting married (and half of them promptly divorced). I have been to tons of weddings and bought every manner of gravy boat and coffee maker and flatware set you could imagine. But because I am playing a game of hide-n-seek with marriage and I am REALLY good at it, I’m still crouching in my hiding place as marriage lurks around the corner, really close to me and silently repeating my marriage mantra in my head, “Please don’t see me. Please don’t see me.”

I have treated marriage, and largely weddings, as a sort of don’t ask don’t tell situation. I KNOW they are there, but I don’t know anything concrete about them. I don’t know who plans what or pays for what or what the fuck an oriental lily is other than a politically incorrect flower. I know next to nothing about diamonds. The only things I know about my wedding is that there will be an open bar. A friend of mine once made a comment about needing to meet with her wedding planner about selecting a charger and I thought she was buying her fiancée a car.

So imagine my absolute horror and delight when my best friend of 247 years FINALLY got engaged after 10 years of being with one of the greatest guys on earth.

When he sent me a pic of the ring, while smartly not telling me when or how he would propose, I promptly sobbed over the steering wheel of my car for an hour. I still have the message she left me after he proposed on my voicemail; “How you gonna not pick up when I call to tell you I’m engaged?!” I was so damn giddy, hoping I’d have long enough to find an industrial strength waterproof mascara and trying to figure out when I could get home to help her go look for a dress.

Then one day she sent me an email. “Hi bridesmaids!” it said at the top and then it hit me…

Oh my God, what the fuck am I supposed to do?

I’ve never been maid of honor for anyone and anyone who has ever met me will tell you I am neither a maid nor honorable. But now, suddenly, I have to make up for damn near 30 years of ignoring what the hell goes on during a wedding and it’s planning.

I am SCREWED.

My best friend, bless her lovely heart, having known me now for 158 years, was absolutely sweet about my panic. “The point is that you will be there. And we will be together.”

She’s perfect. So, I did what any clueless maid of honor would do for someone who loves them so much that she isn’t even letting on that she is terrified you will ruin everything she has waited ten years for; I Googled it.

Y’all. There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF RESULTS. Which makes me feel somewhat better because that means I am not the only clueless MOH in the world. But it is also more confusing. One site says I should plan the bridal shower. One says I should leave that to her mom. One site says I should pretty much be pitching in with everydamnthing the bride is doing. One says I should allow her and her fiancée to do that at their leisure. And what the fuck is arranging a receiving line? I am ashamed to admit that my first thought was sexual ‘til I figured, this might be in a church. That can’t be right.

I am a mess. I need a maid of honor to hold my hand while I hold her hand through this whole thing, ‘cause I am exhausted. From a Google search.

Once she set the date I figured I could focus on those fun and frilly things as it drew closer. Instead I decided to focus on practical things like a budget. A couple plane tickets to and from Georgia, a bachelorette party, bridal shower, dress, shoes, jewelry, hair, makeup, gift, a small penguin to perform circus tricks at the reception. All in all it will cost me just a little bit of dignity as I am SURELY going to have to start hitting up some local amateur nights to pay for plane tickets alone.

In all honesty, I am not abundantly worried about my ability to figure any of this out and make sure that my best friend of 477 years has the wedding she deserves. But I am SHOCKED at just how much I didn’t know about the entire process. I am sure that I need to give up some part of my membership in Womanhood for this. But really, I’m just a girl, not yet standing in front of a boy, asking him if we can have an open bar. And, if I got that important part covered, isn’t that better than years of wedding studies?