You See, I’m Very Poor

I felt something annoying poking into my chest, right in between my breasts. I looked down under my shirt and exclaim “Crap, my wire is coming out, I’ve had this Target bra for years!”  Something about it sounded strange, and sure enough I look up and my friend is staring at me oddly. She goes, “Um, that’s why, you’re not supposed to have bras for years.” This is when the Good Times laugh track cues and I stare sheepishly into the camera. Except there is no camera. I am poor without an audience and that’s the worst kind of poor.

 Last week my hooptie/pimp mobile had a dead battery and needed a jump. I suppose my friend and I staring absently at jumper cables and trying to Google on our phones how to jump a car made us look like we needed help. A nice man was kind enough to stop and help us. He got the car started in no time and in my excitement (stupidity) I managed to step out of the car and lock the key inside with the engine running. This is my life. The guy looked at me wildly, “Why would you do that? We just got the car started?!!”  I looked over at my friend. She is aware of who I am and therefore was not surprised. “Because I’m stupid,” I replied. This stranger then goes into panic mode jibber jabbering about locksmiths and what to do. I let him finish—I can be polite.  But finally I said, “I’m going to go get a hammer and break the back window open to get into the car. I can’t afford a locksmith.”

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Image from: twitgoo.com

 Fast forward a week later, I’m driving around, it’s hot as balls so I turn on the A/C and I can’t figure why the air is not getting any cooler.  Well, that would be because I now have a trash bag taped into the space that used to be my window. I even keep a spare window (trash bag) in my purse just in case some teenaged hooligans rip it off…or the tape falls off or whatever. So no A/C for me. I pull into the grocery store right into a spot between an Audi and a Mercedes. I didn’t want to park there but I have to slide the car into whatever spot is easiest to maneuver out of because my car has no power steering. (I count no power steering as a form of exercise).  I go into the grocery store and head to the food court, I’m not there to shop but to pick up some family photos myself and the kids took a few weeks ago. Some people go to portrait studios, others go to Walmart…I went to a curtained off area in the Safeway food court. It was $18 and when I showed up for the appointment I half expected the guy to pull out his iPhone and take our pictures with it but he actually had a camera, thank God.

 Anyway, the woman hands me the pictures I ordered but of course that wasn’t all. She goes into a spiel about different packages and poses, and pricing points. She wanted me to spend more money! I immediately zoned out. Here I sit in yesterday’s clothes (choosing to stay the night at a friend’s house because going home would use up too much gas), and my window is a trash bag. I look up at her and I realize she’s asking me about any additional photos I would like to purchase. I open my mouth to speak, “No, thank you for asking. I can’t. You see, I’m very poor.” I said everything except that last part– I decided to spare her those exclusive details of my life. However, I have said this phrase to people before. I have bras and underwear twice the age of my youngest daughter… no, I can’t afford the deluxe picture package for $299.00, but I’m flattered you thought I looked like I could.

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When my jeans get holes in them I wear them anyway and just put on some heavy eyeliner and make it the “rocker chick” look. My kitchen sink is leaky but I won’t call the apartment maintenance to fix it because they may decide to be petty and demand I do something unreasonable like pay my rent “in full”. I can’t remember the last time my electric bill came in a white envelope, instead of the yellow ones they mail out for past due notices, and I have a trash bag for a car window. I am very poor.  It’s my own doing, part of living life to the fullest and having no concept of delayed gratification. Things are only worse when I go into a depressive state and become even more so indulgent and irresponsible. I need some discipline. I am not just bad with money but I’m not making any money right now sooooo I’m not a math genius but this does not bode well for me. Anyway, all this to say that I’m just going to own my poverty, I am who I am.

 I left the grocery store, family photos in hand (the $18 ones, of course) and walk over to my car. I notice a well put together guy giving me the flirty eye as he’s walking in the same direction and talking on his cell phone. Hey, I’m still wearing yesterday’s clothes but maybe I still got it! I close in on my car and I notice in horror (maybe only slight horror—I won’t be dramatic) as he stops outside the Mercedes I was forced to park next to. I take out my two keys (I have two broken keys that I have to piece together to make one key that I can use to start the car) calmly get in, and after several tries start my car and drive off with my trash bag flapping in the wind.  He was probably a snob anyway.

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Image from: ashy2classy.net

The Cracks Begin to Show

Sometimes I feel like I empty my soul onto these pages. I’m giving, it’s draining…

Being hurt kind of gives me a sense of entitlement, I feel as if I deserve good things. Security, nurturing, happiness. When my quest for these things don’t turn out well I feel exposed once again. My full, sensitive heart is seen for what it is: Damaged. Cracked. Wasted.

I’m always the girl fighting for a cause, wounded but passionate about my beliefs. For whatever reason I believe in you and your hustle and your path in life and your soul. You’ve touched me. And for a second I thought you could see me for who I was. Happiness is a chase, perhaps we’re both tired of running. But I see you. And I miss you, though you were never really mine.

Why Is This A Thing?

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Image from: tasramar.com

Oh, it’s just so adorbs to be awkward, right? I mean, you got your Zoey Deschanel, Ana Faris and I can’t walk by a hipster without hearing the latest insight about Awkward Black Girl. (I, for one, have never seen an episode but I am fairly sure if I ever watched one I would probably be “you go girling” at the screen a la Ricky Lake circa 1995). However, *YAWN*, I’m over it. Not to sound bitter, but this whole awkward stuff? This was not cool when I was in high school. I call bullshit on the whole thing. Awkward certainly does not mean a 6 page spread in Vogue, a size 2 figure and alluring blue eyes…not where I come from anyway.

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Image from: features.rr.com

I think of myself (and my oldest, dearest friend) as the original awkward black girls. If you had spoken to us in high school we would have bombarded you with wise sarcasm, talked incessantly of our love for the rock band Korn, and casually mentioned suicide all in the same breath. We were all about laughter in the wrong moments, uncomfortable love confessions to crushes and bad clothes. I mean, I was in marching band and she was a flag girl for crying out loud!! (And I say things like “for crying out loud”) The shit that is portrayed as “cool” on television now, I’m sorry to say it just wasn’t true about 10 years ago and it still isn’t now. It gives young girls the impression that it’s ok to be yourself as long as you’re absolutely adorable about it, and of course you have to be secretly hot. So wear those bifocals your optician prescribed, but also wear miniskirts with cute sweaters and spout feminist mantras every now and then. Oh Hollywood, you have skewed reality again.

I didn’t have that story in high school. The popular cheerleader was not my dense arch nemesis because she didn’t even know that I existed. Nor was the captain of the football team strangely attracted to me because, guess what? He didn’t know I existed either. I was not bullied to the point of slushies thrown on my face in a comical matter– but I did hear them whisper about me behind my back and in some way that was worse. It was as if I was not person enough for them to even address me directly. There was a dark side to the “awkward” because it was not a bragging right it was something that left me feeling isolated in the most painful way.

Even in adulthood I’ve had a hard time curbing it in my professional life. I met a divorce lawyer at a work function and in response to hearing his chosen occupation I said “Dun dun DUUUUUN!”  Shit was hilarious, right? No. He shot me a weird glance and carefully avoided me the rest of the day. I can’t turn a corner without clipping it slightly with my shoulder, I time my sarcasm wrong, I get sweaty palms when anyone of the opposite sex talks to me when I am not inebriated and WAY too many people on the streets of DC have seen my underwear because of a gentle cool breeze! Awkward is not the thing to be! I feel I want to be normal and articulate, and arrestingly gorgeous. But I’ll always be a little weird, a little off and a little inappropriate. I’ll always need makeup in my life to earn a second glance from the guys and my personality will always be an acquired taste. It took me a long while to finally accept myself as being different from everyone else and to conclude that I will always be peering into lives of others from just outside of the box. With that, comes the oppressive feel of isolation the frustration of being misunderstood and the struggle to maintain a healthy self-esteem. So, no. I must say I do not appreciate Hollywood glamorizing the concept the “awkward girl”– especially if they can’t tell the truth about it. Guys will not think you’re hot, you will not be hilarious (not to everyone, anyway), you will not be so readily accepted into society because last time I checked, the definition of awkward was not “super cute and fun”.

Be who you are rather it boring, basic, mainstream or something that can’t even be labeled. For every person that appreciates and loves you there will be five more that hate your guts—may as well DO YOU.

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The original awkward black chicks! Me and the bff Traci (apurplepaintbrush.com)

 

 

 

Identity Series: Sins of the Father

The most crushing blow after my relationship with my second child’s father fell apart was that I knew my identity would be forever altered. On paper I was just another statistic…when I fought so hard not to be. I am a black woman with two children with different fathers. Different last names. Different hair. I wake up in the morning and force myself to look in the mirror. “Chin up, this is your life and you are NOT a statistic.” 

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I fight against it on all levels but the major thing I fight against daily is being the baby mama that brings the drama. The romantic relationships I had with my children’s fathers did not end well, and that’s putting it lightly. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s a problem that remains the business of myself and those two men—it has NOTHING to do with our children. This is a bit embarrassing for me to write but I have to be real and transparent about where my mind took me and how I got out of it.

The Divorce

 I will say it until I am blue in the face, I do not believe in divorce. I am still shocked that this is where I am and something that I’ve experienced but it’s certainly undeniable at this point in time. We did things the right way, my ex husband and me. We fell in love, we made vows and went home together to start our little family. It was beautiful. He was excited about the pregnancy, attentive and helpful, then overjoyed upon her arrival into this world. We raised that little girl together for the first 3 years, laughing with her and at her, changing her diapers, doctors appointments, potty training, play dates, etc. We created very solid memories of us together raising this little girl.

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Things fell apart between us. Our marriage was no longer working and some hard decisions had to be made. I left with toddler in tow.

There Will Be Blood

When I left, I hardly left a trail of peace behind me. I was fucking angry. I was left alone to raise my daughter on my own and I wanted vengeance in the form of the house, the car—hell, I’ll take the little mole on the side of your cheek, too! I arranged for him to come get her every other weekend and beyond that I wanted no communication. Co-parenting? No, thank you. I don’t care what you do when she is with you because I don’t want to talk to you for two seconds longer than I have to. I took on so many unnecessary burdens because my anger made me petty. I was doing it all! It was absolutely killing me waking up at 4:45 in the morning to start the day and coming home lonely but hustling for this child—because that’s what it was all about. I marched to the motherfucking sound of Independent Ladies and was the first one to throw my hands up to it. YES, that was me. 

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Image from: Waiting to Exhale Movie

I was a crazy baby mama. My refusal to address my ex-husband as a human being ruined any chance we had toward healthy communication regarding the welfare of our child. I didn’t even realize until almost a year later that he missed her and was more comfortable with a joint custody set up instead of the every other weekend slot I had decided to fit him into. Furthermore, I had to realize that I was dealing with a bit of jealousy that I had to let go. For some reason my mind begged the question, “How can he have so much love for a little person that we created together and have none for me?” I blamed him big time for the separation of our family but in my quest to punish him I realized that in the long run I would only be punishing our little girl. 

The Worst Laid Plans

The second time around did not begin as blissfully as the first. I was in and out of an uncommitted romantic involvement and suddenly found myself pregnant. I was not ready to add to my family—I wasn’t even sure the definition of my family at the time. We were in love but we knew we weren’t compatible enough to make things last with just us, much less adding a baby to the mix. I was scared and resentful and still mourning the demise of my marriage. I funneled my emotions and became downright volatile. I spent most of my second pregnancy alone, suicidal and in counseling contemplating whether I should endanger the pregnancy by finally submitting to taking anti-depressants. I could barely afford my life as it was and I was barely hanging on to my mental faculties.

Her father couldn’t be there for me in the way that I needed. Fuck it, I’m done. He was young and naïve and managed to do every single thing wrong. I shared my thoughts with him on the situation, wrote him off and lapsed into a cold silence. He ran away and he stayed away. After she was born I knew that when he did finally come to get her that he probably paraded her around his many “female friends” and it broke my heart. Just as I knew that when he said he was going to come see her and couldn’t make it for whatever reason that this would just be a pattern of disappointment in her life that I would have to explain to her over and over again. He hurt me, he was hurting me and he would hurt her. He needed to be held accountable to me before I could trust him with her. If he can’t love and show respect for me as her mother, there was no way he could do the same for her.

Wrong again

It hurts my pride to admit it even today, but I was wrong. I had to get a grip and relinquish control. Like it or not I had created a little life with this man and I had to just let things be. When she goes with him I have no control over what happens when I am not there. If I didn’t trust his judgment I never should have lay with him in the first place. I needed to stop projecting all of his romantic shortcomings onto his father/daughter relationship with her. We’re all human beings, free to do what we want. No amount of nagging or cursing or nastiness coming from me was going to change that. At some point you just have to choose to live your life and let chips fall where they may. The sins—real or perceived—that the fathers of my children committed against me, has nothing to do with their role as Dad in their children’s lives. I was failed by a husband and a lover… I cannot speak to their abilities as fathers.

I give props to single mothers all day everyday…but one thing I won’t do is pretend that I can provide things that only a father can. You will never find me giving shout outs to single moms on father’s day…because we can’t be fathers. I love my mother and I respect her as a woman, look up to her, even. But she can tell me I’m pretty all day and that means nothing to me unless it comes from my Dad. I have been a dork all my life and a large reason why it has never bothered me as much is because my Dad loved me for who I was. He would always ask about the latest book I was reading, have me improvise music on my clarinet because he loved to hear me play, and have me read aloud during bible study because he loved the sound of my voice. I have been very blessed to have my Dad in my life and it would be a shame for me to deny that to my daughters because I’m batshit crazy and have my issues of hurt and rejection. Sure, they can make it through this life with only me as their parent, but as long as their fathers are alive I’m not alone in raising them. 

I know what I have to do as a person and as a parent, so I focus on that. My daughters are with me the majority of the time, I know I need to provide for them, do their hair, play with them, bathe them and love them because that is my job as their mom. I coordinate with their fathers and we talk about what’s best for them when necessary but it’s not my job to micromanage their interactions with their fathers. If Daddy disappoints and if Daddy lacks it is not my job to say I told you so or use it as a tool of wrath against them. It’s my job to comfort my little girls and remind them that these men were once loved by Mommy very much, and they will never hear me say a negative word against them.

The Scientist

I woke up this morning to receive my 6 year old downstairs. My ex husband drops her off to me every morning before work and picks her up in the evenings on his designated week to be with her. She’s tired because she stayed up late to watch the fireworks. I’m tired because I stayed up all night drinking. (The ugly shift from spending time alone to being lonely took place suddenly and the sadness caught me off guard.) I lay her down on the couch and go back to my room thankful for the chance to maybe catch a few more minutes of sleep. As soon as my head hits the pillow and my eyelids close, I pop them wide open again as I hear the sound of retching. I tilt my head up listening intently…the two year old is moaning. I go over to her bedroom door, creep it open slightly, and there’s a precious girl lying in her own vomit and stool. She wakes up and looks at me expectantly. I mentally rearrange today’s plans to include washing a load of clothes at my parent’s house. Which is more gas used to get there, more money, more time. More, more, more.

Sometimes in still moments I hear the Coldplay lyrics play on repeat in my head “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard…”  I don’t know why I have so much difficulty sometimes. I used to be a wife, I had a full time career, I ran a household—I was nailing this five years ago. But I’m not even that person anymore. I’m more fragile than I used to be…tired. If I had the money for counseling I wonder if I would go? She’s throwing up again…I should go

 

Poetry Is Awful

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Image from: ww.urbanghostsmedia.com

RUIN

Rose bush with sharp thorns that scrape and bleed

I was injured by beauty, brought down to my knees

I am ashamed of the person I’ve grown into

Silently waiting for you to fall in, too 

 

You’re better when you’re yearning, wanting me from afar

I am better when I am jaded, sarcastic, heart hard

I’ve mixed up the roles and fumbled around on stage

Forgetting that people only worsen with age

We missed the chance when we were young and free

When you were pure you and I was vanity

Soft kisses, hard couches, my fingers in your hair

You led the way and abandoned me there

So much time has passed since I first let you in

Your home within me lies in ruin

 

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Thinking of you I have so much to gain

Loneliness, sorrow, jealousy…pain

You’ve left an impression I will never be the same

Stain