Tuesday, March 27, 2012

StoryTime: I Wasn't Ready...But I'm Still Me

I love my hair. I love it when it's wet and fluffy, retaining water enough to soak two towels. I love it when I'm detangling it in the shower. I love it when it's twisted and kinky, or in a slightly lop-sided afro, and I love it when it's straight; I love it because it makes me proud, because it's mine. What I do not love is the responsibility, the burden, the unwanted and unwarranted advice that comes with being a natural haired girl who will occasionally straighten her hair.

Last weekend I finally went into a salon to get my ends trimmed. I've been natural almost a year now and had done most of my hacking trimming on my own; whenever I got out the shower from shampooing and I saw straight, annoying ends, I cut them and kept it moving. I hadn't done more than pick my hair the three days leading up to it and so I walked in with a cloud of curled, kinky hair six inches tall.

When explaining to the receptionist what I needed her blue eyes widened and went from my face to my hair. The stylist I ended up with knew exactly what I was talking about and lead me right over to the basin. Before washing she delved her hands deep in my mass of waves, an admiring smile on her face. She asked me what I did to it and I told her. Soon a few other stylists came over and touched, petted, fawned, and asked general questions. I felt more proud of my hair than I ever had before; these were professionals and they said I'd done a good job so far with the transition (could they have been lying? Sure, but we all know that look stylists give one another that say "Chile, please." None of that occurred.)

Leaving the salon with bouncing, blowing hair, I felt hot. Like literally, my hair rarely laid flat on my neck when in it's normal texture and now it was surrounding my neck and shoulders; this is Texas, it gets hot. It was longer than I ever remember it being; for a year of growth I'd surpassed my relaxed length by nearly two inches. I was proud. I felt beautiful, just as I had when I walked in. It wasn't a big deal; it was still my hair and I was still me.

It didn't become a big deal until I went into work that next day. I'm not too fond of a lot of attention, but with straight hair, I was suddenly a star, bombarded with "Ooohs" and "Aaahs." Everyone wanted to touch it, sifting it through their fingers like silky gold, eyes wide and admiring. Others wanted me to flip it over my shoulder or shake it out. And suddenly it wasn't just the attention I was weary of.

Comments starting flying in. "Why don't you wear your hair like that all the time?" "Your hair is so beautiful like that!" "I'm glad you finally did something with your hair." One woman even told me that I was much more attractive than when I had my hair in that "Afrocentric mess" I usually kept it in. And I kept silent; everyone has opinions, but damn did these hurt.

You see, I don't get complimented on my natural texture much, if at all. Other natural women will smile when they see me, or ask what I use, and brothas love to tell me "Right on, sista," but otherwise? All's quiet on the western front. But these people who saw me everyday were suddenly lauding and in awe of my beauty as if they'd never seen it before, as if with my hair the way I love it, the way God intended it, I was so much less than beautiful. And it hurt deep in the part of me that craves acceptance and understanding. I was the same girl last week, was I not beautiful then?

I wasn't ready. I love the way my hair is, in any form, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't ready for the backlash. I didn't know it would be such a big deal to so many people what I did with what God gave me. And that's when it clicked; these people don't know me and don't give three damns about me, they're just spouting opinions. If they did know me or care, they'd know how sensitive I am about physical critiques. They'd know I wasn't as hung up on my hair as they were and keep it moving with a simple compliments, not ones that made me feel as if I'd been petted and slapped simultaneously.

I won't be ready next week either, when I wash away the silky straight strands and replace them with coiling, twisting tendrils. I already know the questions are going to come. The looks are going to follow. And no one will be wanting to pet my hair, or run their fingers through it as, indeed, they may lose jewelry in it. Instead they'll shake their heads, "tsk" and go on critiquing someone else.

And you know what? I'll still be me. And that is more beautiful than any head adornment one could ever wear.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Different & Special

"You're still on that?!" she asked all incredulous. "If you don't stop wondering what makes you so special, other people are going to start to wonder what makes you so special."

And from that conversation, you've got the following blog post.

I have never thought I was the sh*t consistently. There are days when my hair is just right, and the jeans are wicked tight and I look super bad, no lie. Never though have I woke up every morning thinking I was someone inherently special, even though given my life and small talents I've been told so repeatedly. At thirteen I was the youngest poet at a weekly poetry meet in another Podunk, Texas city (and not the 'roses are red, violets are blue' type poet but a..."my hands seek to outline your frame so I can mimic God when he created you" type poet"). I was in advanced classes, as previously blogged, throughout most of my secondary education. I kick ass at Mortal Kombat and word games. I rock.

The "however" in that is that I rarely, if ever think any of the things I do are extraordinary even with these myriad of people telling me they are. It's what I'm supposed to do. For example, at my job there is Bingo day where, if people make sales, numbers go on the board and the first person with Bingo wins a prize. I never play. When asked by my supervisor why, I simply told her I come to work to work, not play games; my paycheck is prize enough. The managers love me, my stats are incredible and when we do musical chairs/team switches, they cross their fingers that they get me. But I look at my stats, well below the average (which is a good thing) and feel deep inside that I could do better.

And that is where my insecurities, fears and hang-ups come from: the idea that I could always do and be better than I currently am. The past two years of my life have been spent combating this deep-seated doubt in myself, nestled tight behind my heart and hidden by my analytical mind under the cloak of being "real." It's good to have a healthy dose of humility, and for that I'm grateful, but more than that I'm still learning to accept and love myself as I am in this moment.

The times where I remember distinctly loving myself and where I was in my life are the days I went on walks with my iPod in flimsy flip flops along a Texas highway, days where it rains and I get to watch as the world refreshes itself, days where I lay in pools of sunlight and just feel good. I love myself the most when I'm alone to appreciate my own depth, my own simplicity, and those small, natural things that bring me joy. Finding joy outside of myself? A lot harder.

I tend to be quietly outspoken, simple, in complex ways and shy away from being too 'in your face.' That and I find it hard to trust people when I first meet them, leading to my type cast role as the "shy girl." I'm not shy, but I am watching, waiting for a person to show me who they really are, and what they are about before I come into and share myself with them. For a lot of people, that's not how it's done; people seem to be more open with their true selves right off the bat, whereas I think I value that part of me too highly to just give to everyone. Glimpses of that part of me are seen all the time, but quickly masked by smart-assy comments, jokes or silence.

It's a conundrum; I value myself highly, but don't think highly of my talents and gifts or much of my personality. What I've learned, or rather am learning, is that it's the combination of all those things that make me someone special. Everyone is made up of the same things, just in unequal measures and some with little known or little used spices thrown in. I happen to be one of those people with that extra "umph" I think, something exotic to the average palette; I don't get much praise or even much critique as so few people have actually tried me to know and be able to judge, and those who have, have had small tastes, never the full course meal.

As of late, I haven't had to convince myself I'm special; lately I've just been feeling it. I think the realization had been planted deep, like a seed for a tall, strong tree, and it's just been waiting on water. I think I just needed someone to actually treat me like I was special before I could come to accept that known fact for myself. And I'm glad I know, because now? I'm never going back to being that bland burger, the sun in denial of it's glow and power. I'm not going back to the place where "different" and "special" were just words. Instead I'm travelling to that place where those words will no longer need to be said, they will just be facts.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Storytime: Being The Black Kid

I remember one day very long ago when I was younger, maybe seven or eight, when I realized I was black. It wasn't a shocking realization as my parents had me reading about our history, and I wasn't blind to the differences in my skin tone and that of other people. But one day the sun was shining beautifully through an open window, and a breeze blew away the curtains. The sunlight hit my skin and I noticed how lovely and brown it was, how warm the undertones of it was. And for a good ten or fifteen minutes I marveled at the range of colors my skin had, from the pale palms of my hands, the dark brown of my elbows, the slight red under my cheeks...such beautiful color. And from that day forward I was proud of my skin...well until puberty, but I digress.

The first time I ever felt ashamed of being black was in high school. Up until then I was acutely aware of being very smart and typically being one of very few black students in Advanced Placement classes. In said classes whenever something about black history or black women was looked at, the room immediately turned to me for the perspective. In middle school I gave them what they wanted; I was sassy and factually funny but as time wore on I became so annoyed with always being looked to. At the time I wasn't really searching for myself, but I grew tired of people telling me who I should be.

In high school it got worse as I tended to be two classes advanced, and the black students dwindled down to three or four from seven or ten. I was quiet, and insecure and tended to stay indescript in all my classes while silently making the cut in them.

But one day in history class during black history month we were going over slavery. I'd long given up on learning anything from school on black history and instead was reading a book of Langston Hughes. Then some girl raised on her daddy's farm with freckles and horns on her F150 said that slavery was "millions of years ago" and that black people should just "get over it already."

Now there were two other black students, a boy and a girl, and they kept their eyes on the round tables and out-dated books below their noses. The rest of the class, consisting of Hispanic and white students either nodded or just looked on. I kept my eyes on the other two black kids, the boy with his sagging jeans and white tees, the girl in a top reading "Baby Girl" in glitter and extremely tight jeans and heels. They weren't going to say anything.

I silently put my book down and turned to the girl. I remember as if it were yesterday what I said: "Our people were put through physical, psychological, emotional, mental and so many other stresses at the hands of people who had kidnapped us, raped us, killed us for plants, for money. We were told we would never be good enough to have respectable jobs, we were spit on and had dogs put on us. Us in this room personally have not been directly effected, but long term, all of us are still struggling with being in a country that never intended to treated us as people but as items and animals."

She retorted that it was years ago and we were not directly effected. To which I said, verbatim mind you, that studies still showed that a white man would get a job over a black man even with identical credentials, studies still showed that black women more than any other were over sexualized, and that inter-fighting and racism between different color black people as a result of leftover slavery mentalities were still very real problems. I ended by inviting her to opt in to hundred of years of being treated as less than a person, less than an animal, as an item. I invited her to be cheated and lied to a la "forty acres and a mule!" I also invited her to kiss my black ass.

My teacher wasn't too pleased with my harsh tone or choice of language. She pulled me aside after class to let me know she should write me up...but she never did. She said that if I hadn't said anything, she certainly would have. She commended me for having my facts straight and told me that she was proud of me on a human to human level not just a teacher to student level.

And the pretty farm girl? Went around for a week playing the victim card, saying I called her a racist for no reason and hemmed and hawed. She shut up about it whenever she saw me though, until she had her friends behind her and I was alone reading. She came up to me about a week later and said she didn't appreciate me calling her a racist, and without looking up from my book I stood, and I told her a hit dog is usually the one that hollers loudest, and that I had never called her a racist - her own guilty conscience had done that and I walked away.

Being the black kid was never difficult for me. I was always aware of it, and always proud of it. Being the black kid did set me up for some unwarranted attention, but once I stood my ground, once I let the world know I was Tes, a black girl, not a black girl named Tes, it was never an issue for me again.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tes and Gratitude

Sometimes my emotions sneak up on me. I go through my days pretty much thinking and doing, and in the spare moments feeling. For awhile I haven't been really getting in my feelings, just scraping the surface.

So this morning I wake up singing Brian McKnight's "Never Felt This Way." Just woke up humming, then all out singing. And I stopped and sat for a second and really felt what it was my soul was telling me with it's song choice. My heart suddenly felt so full and big, as if was waiting on me to notice it's swelling before growing even bigger. Sitting in silence I felt entirely and with all my soul grateful.

I didn't realize my heart wasn't broken anymore. Isn't that strange? For so long I'd been walking in this life like a broken woman, like anything good coming to me had to have a catch or an underlying method to hurt me. For so long I'd been masking the brokenness behind superficial friendships and meaningless chases with dudes I really wasn't into, trying to bide my time until I could tap my little heart and not feel that throbbing pain of a bruise. I didn't take the time, I suppose, since starting this journey through and to myself to check on the heart of me to find that those stitches have since dissolved; I spent so much time on my mind and it's labyrinth on the way to understanding that the heart of me just got an occasional tap to be sure it was still there, still beating. My heart's healthy and happy, and so full of love for life...it's a strange feeling

And in feeling that I felt gripped with joy and gratitude to a higher power. Because I couldn't have done all this by myself. I'm not religious, but I woke up thanking God. Not only for what I've acquired by myself through what he's given me, but for the people he's put in my life, for the opportunities he's given me and for, above all, the ability to see the gift that each one of those things are. My parents, my friends, Tarzan, and this moment in my life where I feel like I can finally look my happiness in the face and not look behind my shoulder to see if something bad is sneaking up on me are all really big gifts. 

Gratitude is a big thing, and a thing I don't think a lot of us actually feel. I think we feel thankful for a couple things but get so bogged down in the bad things, in the things we wish we could change but can't, the things that still hurt that we forget to be humbled by the really awesome things we do and have. I know I'm guilty of it, and so when gratitude snuck up on me in addition to all these other happy emotions no lie, I cried (Remember when I had said that too many emotions, good or bad and I bawl? Oooh chile, I ain't lie).  

But unlike so many of the tears I've shed in the past couple years, these didn't hurt. These didn't sting and weren't bitter. I felt happy and humbled and just...joyous. I smiled through each and every tear and just felt grateful for every thing that I've got, even for the things I don't have. Family, friends, falling in love...God really snuck up on me with it all today. And even for that I'm grateful. Feel a little like a punk for admitting I cried, but definitely grateful for the feelings that brought it about. 

Be grateful you guys. Every thing you have that enriches you is a gift. Every thing you don't have that weighs others down, is a gift. Everything you are and everything you are not is a gift. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Musing: Marilyns and Jaynes

While watching a clip from one of my favorite movies "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" a thought struck me a few weeks ago. I couldn't really place it so I shrugged it off, knowing it would come back later and today, while listening to a song from Kill Bill Vol. 1 ("I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield" by the 5, 6, 7, 8's) the thought struck again. I'm about to wax philosophic, pop culture style.

The world is full of women wanting to be Marilyn Monroes. They study her mannerisms, her quotes, her way of speaking and strive for that same uniqueness that make up the iconic and enigmatic woman. More often than not though, these women striving to be Marilyns become Jayne Mansfields.

Now back when Marilyn was Thee Woman, there were a lot of women trying to find their stride in the world of moving pictures and with the blonde bombshell on the scene, very few had an actual shot unless they were a "Marilyn Monroe type." And there you have Jayne Mansfield. See, Jayne Mansfield wasn't deeply and importantly talented nor really deeply or importantly interesting, but she had a body for days, blonde hair, and a sometimes crass personality a la, "The Marilyn Monroe Type."

So while Marilyn is somewhere being Marilyn, shying away from too many spotlights and trying to find love, happiness and meaning in her life... Jayne is traipsing about, filling in those blanks left behind while never quite hitting the mark. Is she funny? Sure, but not witty - they laugh at her more than with her. Is she sexy? Yes, but more in the shimmy "look at me!" type of way instead of a smoldering, classy sexy. In short, she's always a step behind.

In this life, there are too many women in the world claiming to be Marilyns when they are indeed Jaynes and Marilyns diminishing their light pretending to be Jaynes. The difference is this: what are you seeking in life? Who are you in life? Are you intrinsically the same in all aspects of your life or do you have different "personas" for different people, places and situations? When defining yourself do you have to use the words "like" or "as" or "I'm a (insert name here) with/without the (insert feature here)?" Simply put, are you being your true self, or who everybody else wants you to be - who everyone else is?

For the longest time I thought I was a Jayne because people treated me like a Jayne, and so I behaved like a Jayne. Only later in my relatively short life did I realize being a Jayne is a waning popularity contest; did people like me? Yes, but only because I was pretending, only because I was being a second rate version of someone else. I was a Marilyn pretending to be a Jayne trying to live up to be a Marilyn...isn't that funny?

All the time I thought I had to be extra to be noticed when in actuality all I had to be was me. I'm witty and funny, sarcastic and sweet, and so many other things that it'd be a cryin' shame for me to pretend the rest of my life to be anyone else. Am I unhappy? Sometimes. Do I sometimes wish there were a rule book entitled "Being Yourself When Everybody Wants You To Be The Same?" Definitely. But would I trade it? Not for nothing in the world. You see, Marilyn went down in history as one of if not the sexiest, coolest women ever, whereas Jayne? She went down as a Marilyn knock-off. And in the end, wouldn't it be wonderful if, by being yourself, you changed the course of history, or at least changed someone's mind? Wouldn't it be great if you went out in this world as you came into it, as yourself?

Be a Marilyn Monroe in a world full of Jayne Mansfields, but don't do it by proclaiming it or by literally being a Marilyn Monroe: do it by living your life, your way. Be someone special by just being who you are.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tes and That One Word

I wrote a short story about my day on Twitter earlier but it seemed lacking in so much that I had to just come here and put it all in perspective.

I was taught by my father's mother that as a lady I didn't work on cars. I wanted to mind you, but I just never learned because ladies, as set in stone by my Nana, didn't do those sorts of things. So it happens that I'm 21 years old and barely know where the oil goes. Instead, my grandmother taught me that as a lady, a cunning one at that, I could coerce more knowledgeable people to help me and so far she's been right.

Tonight my car's oil light went on. I'm not surprised; Amber (that's the car's name) has a leak in the oil gasket that's getting a lot of blowback to the rest of her under carriage. It'll take approximately seven fifty to fix. I know this about Amber already. But if I have the hood up? Nobody knows that, as my face is a constant state of confusion.

So it happened tonight that a very tall, chocolatey man steps down from his Range Rover to help me and my little hoopty. I explained what I thought was going on and he proceeded to take the oil from my hand and put it in the car while I went to buy another bottle. Once those were figured out he then checked my lights, my under carriage, my brake fluid and let me know I had an oil leak. To which I replied "No? Really? That's such a shame..."

After it was all done I thanked him ever so much and started to get in my car when I saw him writing something down. Slipping his number in my hand, he gave me a giant smile and told me if I needed anything to call him; I smiled and said a polite 'thank you' and let him drive away first. All ten digits; his name was Thomas . And then I remembered something.

The guy I'm into, his name, starts with a T too. And he's taller than this Thomas dude. Probably with worse eyesight, but just thinking about him made me remember that this dude here? Couldn't compare. Sure, Thomas was sweet enough to help me with my car, and that's a lovely thing not a lot of dudes do for women anymore. But...he's not it for me.

Awhile ago, that would've been it. I would've been all over poor Thomas before his lights fully disappeared around the corner. But now? That number felt foreign in my hand, like someone had handed me a Martian monkey wrench and said "Do something." The guy I'm into means something to me to the point where this "potential" somebody? Doesn't measure up to what I feel for him right now. That's odd for me.

I'm scared of what that means for me. Does that mean me and this dude, Tarzan, are exclusive in my mind? And what are the implications of that? When I'm literally throwing ten digits of an attractive ass dude to the wind, where in my past I would've kept them as at least an option what's that really saying about who and where I am now?

I'll tell you. I'm not the same girl who was running after attention from men who I didn't care for. I'm not the same girl who's rushing to be someone to someone else. I'm just a girl who's fallen in love with a guy. Am I still insecure? Very. Am I still working harder to be confident? Definitely. But now that there's this calmness in my spirit from knowing that someone, somewhere thinks something of me to wait on me to get there? Nobody's worth throwing that away for.

The romantic in me is all out and vulnerable. Be gentle, ya'll >.<

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tes Does Not Like Waiting

I forget what I was dreaming about, or if I was dreaming at all. All I remember is a phrase repeating in my head over and over in my state of unconsciousness until it got so loud and big and full I couldn't sleep any more until I wrote it down. And so, in the middle of the night, in the dark with no glasses on I found a piece of paper, a pen and wrote a love poem. I hadn't written a love poem with someone in mind in so long it took me a while after laying back down to calm down that giddiness with not only writing, but with the feeling of writing for someone after so long with no one to really write for.

You see, I used to write love poems to get the lust out of me. Looking at me you wouldn't think I'm that kind of girl, but I totally can be. It's never something I talk about or that too many people know about me, as I tend to, when I like someone initially, side-step every innuendo and double entendre until it literally hurts to do so anymore and even then, I'll only slip in one or two before I rein in that piece of me and replace it with a gentler, sweeter part of me, something a little easier to handle. So the conundrum becomes denying a part of me it's time to shine until the right time. And to me, there's never a really right time for me to let that part of me out on someone.

You see, this guy I'm into, he's noticed it a little bit. Okay, maybe more than a little bit, but I'm not sure if he knows how much of it there actually is. And there's so much because there's never been someone like him in my life who has pretty much all there is to have to excite me; other guys have bits and pieces, maybe something quirky about them I'm into but they never made me feel anything one way or another. So all this pent up sensuality that's had nothing to do but stew and mold itself to my creative mind is finally thinking 'Maybe this one...?'

I'm not going to say it's just a sex thing, (because with me and my mind it's never just a "one function" sort of thought) but an overall want to be in this person's presence. To hold this person's hand. Lay across this person and watch tv. Kiss this person. It's the physical that I miss so much because it's the only thing I can't have right this moment. Everything else is lining up fine; we're getting to know each other and getting real comfortable with each other, albeit we haven't necessarily had a fight yet (which, I'm not sure why he's waiting for...) but regardless of the distance we're learning each other. Which is dope.

But sometimes a girl wants to be held at night. Sometimes a girl wants to snuggle up, or wrestle. Sometimes a girl wants that physical, palm to palm sort of closeness to mimic the closeness she already feels in her heart with a person. And that's where I'm at right now; craving the closeness. And like with a lot of the things I've been feeling lately, I'm thinking I'm not the only one.

The fact I've managed to tastefully say everything I've wanted to say is a feat in and of itself and at this point I think I can leave it as it is.

So what's a girl to do when she's missing something so trivially vital, something that most couples tend to neglect or not appreciate? Is there anyway to get over it or is it just a really mean waiting game?