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Archive for the tag “frenemies”

“Naturally” Supportive????

Hmmmm I feel stuck, blog family.

I really do.

My work rival/bully was in the office today, and I don’t speak to her much. But every now and then, I will pop in to check on her and ask how she’s doing.

She’s been attempting to go natural (and I’ve joked that once again she’s copied me). Some days have been more successful than others. Ok, most days haven’t been successful.

Because hair is a sticky subject for black women, especially those doing the natural thing, I haven’t commented on her hair. Because trust me, I’ve had my fair share of moments where I felt downright ugly.

The truth is I do think her natural look, while she is still trying to figure out what works for her, is probably an improvement from her relaxed hair that had no life, no movement and straw-like. But I was taught early on, if you don’t have nothing nice to say, or you don’t know what to say, shut up.

So I popped my head in the office, and I mentioned my latest product obsession. I really like it a lot. And I wanted to share it with her.

Then it happened. She said no one mentioned her hair save for a very kind, chatty, liberal white woman (who once lived in Africa with the Peace Corps). She said even me not giving her a compliment caused her to feel like her efforts were in vain. She even said she felt invisible. When she mentioned to our co-worker that no one complimented her hair, she did what most nice people try to do.

They were in the break room and two other co-workers came in. Kind, chatty, liberal oohed and awwed over homegirl’s hair and asked the other women, don’t you like it? Welp, as sister girl told me her story, she said she knew the other women didn’t like it and to avoid further embarrassment of seeing the looks on their faces, she purposely opened a cupboard to not look at them.

This broke my heart.

Keep in mind I was recently invigorated by watching an amazing discussion featuring Melissa Harris Perry and acclaimed pioneer in black feminism bell hooks. And they talked about black women, and our esteem and our bodies and shaming and fighting negative images and stereotypes of ourselves and I was cosigning and nearly in tears at how profound they were, and another sister was hoping I’d step in and lift her up.

We’ve had beef though. So more often than not, I don’t see her as a sister in the collective sense, because there have been times she’s stepped on me and seemed to take delight in my discomfort and set backs.

So this dysfunctional relationship that we have continues to challenge me spiritually.

She said she supported me, she complimented me, so it hurt that I said nothing.

I had no real response for her.

So I said, “well how do you feel about your hair?” “Do you like it?” “Is this journey worth it for you?”

Yup. I deflected.

I told her that there were plenty of times I woke up in the morning and thought I was ugly. I had my own parents look at me sideways with disapproval the first time I came home. But I had to keep working with and on my hair.

It became a new thing I had to study. I’m still learning what products will or won’t do.

She’s just started and she’s going through what thousands and thousands of black women are going through and in the earlier stages, after you’ve big chopped and your hair is really short, YOU GO THROUGH IT. Especially if you hadn’t worn your hair short before. It’s a shock to the system.

As for the other work people. There are only four black women in our office.

The white people at my job are smart people, and while they’ve had a number of cultural snafus in the past, they knew damn well to steer clear of our hair. They leave it alone. Honestly, the same sweet, kind, liberal lady was the one to compliment me on my hair when I changed it. No one else said anything to me either. But she understood the context, and she understood what it meant for me to do what I did, she’s quite aware.

It still broke my heart. My newly natural co-worker apparently needed my support and in my silence, I dropped the ball. There was no point in giving her a compliment now. So I didn’t.

I’m really not sure what to do at this point. She also mentioned that her boss told her she needed to be “nicer” and say “please” and “thank you” more.

The truth of the matter is, the boss was kind of on point with that. She has always had a smug kind of attitude, that didn’t sit well with most people.

So, there are self-esteem issues galore. Which I get as a fellow black woman. But at the same time, as a human being, an individual, you dish out funky you get funky. You funky on the inside, it radiates on the outside. People can’t see your true beauty if you don’t give up something and make yourself vulnerable.

I don’t agree with being fake either or overdoing it on the nice.

And sometimes I wonder what kind of vibe I put off at work and I try to be conscious about that. I do speak to people, say good morning, give compliments when it’s warranted and offer to help people out when I can. But, I know that my conversations only go so far because aside from the race, I’m a different age than most of these people, I’m single and I’m childless. I just don’t have the same interests.

So I’m stuck yall. Should I have bent over backwards to show my approval of my co-worker’s natural journey because I also went natural? Or am I right in the belief that choosing to go natural is a very personal and intimate thing, but it tends to affect the way others look at you and the way you look at yourself. It’s scary. It is raw.

But I’ve found, the more comfortable I got with my hair and the more confident, people started seeing other features of mine more clearly. I felt really, really honest and I noticed, that I felt other people and their reactions to me were really, really honest, positive or negative and I accepted those things.

I don’t suggest drastic changes to your hair if you don’t have a solid foundation of self-esteem anyway. Because it takes a long time for your hair to grow back or change color.

So, maybe my co-workers reactions and feelings of isolation reflect something deeper and reflect a truth about how she deals with the world and it doesn’t feel good. I sympathize with her. But basically saying I had a responsiblity to compliment her because she did it for me, ergo, because we are both black women in a workplace of so many white folks, it kind of had me stunned. But she said it.

He final words before heading to a meeting, she said she just didn’t even know if all the twisting and untwisting was worth it, and that she struggles because she’s raising two little girls and she wants them to feel that their hair is beautiful.

But if she’s walking around miserable, and expecting other people to say she’s pretty, hair isn’t the only thing her girls have to worry about learning from her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Friend, Bad Friend?

Clearly mental health had consumed my mind so much this week that by the weekend, I was worn out.

A number of things kind of came crashing down on me and led me to not do much all weekend long. I didn’t have the energy to even study, which made me feel worse for not being productive.

In my previous blog, I discussed Miriam Carey, the woman who crashed into the gates of the White House last week and led authorities on a car chase to the Capitol. I mentioned how close to home her story felt.

But there were other things at play this weekend. I already felt some kind of way because I had to ask my father for money to hold me over until pay day, and I hadn’t done that in a very, very long time.

Then for some reason, I made matters worse by asking my dad how much of his parent loan for my schooling did he have left to pay.

The number sank my heart and to think of how much he had already paid over the last ten years knocked the wind out of me. But he was so sweet and so encouraging. And his love continues to humble me. I got of the phone feeling terrible.

I called my sister and I was emotional. I was sad that my dad seems to have always had to sacrifice so much and has such a difficult life. I took it a step further and my sister and I had a conversation about my mom and what my life was like dealing with her issues, while my sister, much older than me, was living her own life very far away.

I told her I was jealous she didn’t have to endure or see or hear the things I did at the age I had to deal with. I told her some stories and she was shocked. She said she’s always felt guilty that she couldn’t be there and that she didn’t understand the progression and when and where and why things got so bad. It just seemed like she came home once and life had completely changed.

What I appreciated most from the conversation was my sister clearly understood I wasn’t blaming her or upset with her, but that it was important for me to tell her how I felt and I think it was a conversation that was filled with love and understanding.

A few other things continued to make me emotional.

I requested my transcripts for the grad school I’m applying to and asked for a personal copy.

I’m glad I did. Sometimes your version of history doesn’t line up with what’s in black and white.

I had serious struggles while I was in school. The semesters I did well, I did really well. The semesters I tanked, I REALLY tanked.

Fortunately, I eeked out just enough to make the overall gpa requirement for admission to the program I want to get into. It’s so funny, because nearly 10 years ago, I figured just get through this, graduate. I’m not going to grad school anyway. I’ll be a journalist.

Oh life.

Then the last thing to add fuel to the fire was being stood up. I was looking forward to my date with Renaissance on Saturday. And when he blew me off to haze pledgies 20 minutes away, being annoyed was an understatement.

We had good conversations. He seemed interested in learning about me and not just surface, silly things. He asked me great questions.

But what made things go off the rails, was when a good friend, who has a tendency to often say the wrong thing, said the wrong thing.

When I shared I was having a bad day and emotional week, judgements started flying. And her preoccupation with something else and telling me she didn’t have “time for this shit tonight and to pull it together” made me nuts.

She further told me I needed therapy and that I shouldn’t date until I “got myself together.”  That was insulting because I’ve been working on myself for nearly three years, not really dating anyone seriously at all. I’m a woman and I’m allowed to be disappointed if a guy I was interested in stood me up.

She further said that I should go to therapy before I spend thousands of dollars to go back to school because it’s clear I’m searching for something.

Because I didn’t feel like fighting or justifying my feelings or actions, I simply said, I’ve been wanting to go back to school. That is not an irrational decision. It’s because I’ve hit a wall at work and all of my dream jobs basically require that degree. I’ve thought about this.

She’s already thrown shade about me going back to school, saying it’s pointless if it lands me a job that won’t make me more money than I make now.

Gee. Thanks.

I do give props to the friends who have checked on me and just listened.

The friend who shades me dating and going back to school, decides after the event she was too preoccupied to deal with my shit for, she’d stop by the house and bring me food. Which was nice.

The tension in the air was thick. I did my best to be pleasant. She hugged me and jokingly shared bible passages of encouragement and on her way out said, “see, you need friends who can knock on your door!”

I waved goodbye, thanked her and went back to watching t.v.

Then an hour later, I got a bunch of text messages about how “we’ll get through this.” And how my parents would never forgive her if something happened to me.

I didn’t realize I had become suicidal.

I texted back. “I’m not suicidal.”

She returned with, “You better not be.” And then she went on about dragging me across a finish line.

At that point, I was unable yall.

I guess she felt guilty about her response to me the night before, but now she was laying it on too thick, and it was actually annoying me more. I felt that she did mean well. But it was frustrating.

She went from one extreme to another.

If anyone has advice on this, I’ll be glad to hear it.

I’ve complained about this person before and I’ve made excuses for them. All of my close friends know this and they are always prepared for our semi-annual falling outs. I decided that I’m not going to end the friendship, but always taking one for the team gets tiring.

Personal Bill of Rights: My Feelings Deserve Respect

So after thinking about a bunch of things this weekend including how I want and need to be loved, I also thought about my feelings and how people should and should not speak to me even if it is in the name of honesty.

So I thought to myself, I need to write down in my blog, a personal Bill of Rights to remind myself and reference it to others when folks start getting out of order when it comes to respecting me and my feelings.

It’s like raising a flag or hitting that buzzer from the board game Taboo when someone says a word on the card.

I have the right to digest what people say to me about me and interpret it how I interpret it because it’s about me. My initial reaction to what is said for better or worse is very real. Now if I’m upset by it, I have the right to be upset about it. If you know it’s going to upset me, be ready for me to be upset. If I say I don’t like what you said or I no longer want to talk about what you said, I have that right.

Why? Because even though I can be stubborn, I do need time to process what’s been said to me and I can either see where you are coming from or decide what you said was complete bullshit.

And once again, I’m allowed to do that. I’m allowed to feel what I feel. And I offer that to any of my friends and family. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO FEEL HOW YOU FEEL. DON’T LET OTHER PEOPLE CHEAT YOU OUT OF THAT. YOU ARE FEELING WHAT YOU FEEL FOR A REASON AND IT MAY NOT EVEN BE ABOUT THEM, BUT YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU DO AND IT’S OK.

One of the things I detest is when people blame me for my feelings or say I’m too sensitive.

As a person who often chooses to suck it up, when I do express my feelings of discomfort, I am being brave, I am standing up for myself, I am standing in my truth. Respect that. Honor that.

Most of my good friends, during the rare times they offend me and the even rarer times when I speak up on it, they back up, they even apologize and they drop it. They don’t blame me, they don’t accuse me of being too sensitive or being all up in my feelings. They stop. Why? Because I established the boundary, I was clear and they respected it. I don’t have to yell. I don’t have to be nasty. But I am firm, there is a change in my voice that suggests this is serious. Stop.

I have one person in my life who defends their harsh words and turns it around on me claiming, that they can’t offer me any kind of criticism, because I always take it the wrong way when it comes from them.

I explained that they often come off judgemental and downright mean and while deep down I know they don’t mean anything nasty, they can be nasty and it’s off putting.

That person simply said, they have an opinion.

I believe that having an opinion does not give one carte blanche to be reckless. Period.

The thing that bothers me the most about this person is this discussion didn’t even stem from my recent relationship issues, which could be open to a lot of criticism and emotional finger wagging.

This was about my physical appearance.

It took me aback. But it wasn’t the first time this particular person said something about my hair, clothes or weight.

So this whole mini argument started from her hinting at her dislike for a certain article of clothing I wore a few years ago and I already shut her down and told her I saw where she was going and not to be nasty. And then it all began.

I decided when it came to this person, instead of sucking it up, I was going to have to retrain her on how I wanted to be treated. So I started speaking up more when she hurt my feelings. But she was always resistant to my speaking up and would minimize my feelings or dismiss them as me being sensitive.

I don’t know if some people have a problem with me asserting myself. I know who I am. I know what I look like and after gaining a few pounds and wearing my hair natural, I feel like I’m living my life with another level of honesty and challenging myself to be and live honestly. When someone compliments me now, I really relish it because I believe them because they are seeing me and it may not be popular or beautiful to you, but it’s me.

When certain friends don’t compliment me it makes me wonder. Does how I look make them feel uncomfortable? And why?

I’ve been on this kick. I’ve been praying about God helping me see first people’s light or lack thereof.

Everyone is a human being with faults and they are special and wonderful. But there are certain people who have a light in them, even when life is difficult or not going the way they’d hoped. I want to recognize those people and encourage them more regularly. I want to share kind words with them and I hope they do the same for me.

I particularly want to see this in my circle, which really isn’t hard and I want to see it in the man who is going to become my husband. I’ve decided I can’t compromise on that. And I think describing it as a light is more accurate than what I’ve been calling it before, “that thing” “that it factor” the “za za zoo.”

It’s simple. From my man, family and friends I want to feel loved, protected, nurtured and safe. I want to feel like the people in my life will allow me rest when I am weary and they got it. They got it until I get more strength and return to the game, so I can in turn help them when they are tired.

I need the people in my life to give me kind words and compliment me. It isn’t vain. I want people in my life to compliment me physically. Who doesn’t? I have no problem telling the people in my life they look beautiful or handsome. Because people need that. I don’t care what anyone says.

My feelings have value. So do yours.

Confessions of A Mushball

Chaiwat/freedigitalphotos.net

My older gentleman friend has a term called a “mushball.” He informed me a long time ago that while he can be very nice, and kind, he by no means is a “mushball.”
Meaning he won’t be manipulated or taken advantage of, and is not afraid to speak up.

Well, I on the other hand, have been struggling with my mushballness over the years.

One area where it seems I can’t shake it is with the long time friend who have had numerous fallings out with. It’s well-documented on this blog how I’ve struggled with this relationship and after I sent her an email about life being too short and that while I recognize our relationship may not be as close as we once were, I still love her and want only the best for her.

She agreed.

Her birthday is this month, and somehow in all my mushyness, as a gift, she and I will be going rock climbing.

I kind of see a symbolism in choosing this adventure as my birthday gift to her.

Rock climbing takes patience, determination, concentration, and trust in the person below holding that rope. You see a goal at the top, it’s not going to be easy. You may slip, or fall, or have to start all over again, but you know it’s worth it when you get to the top and look down at where you started. There, you see what you’re really made of.

Some friendships are the same way.

I know. I go from one extreme to another. I was going off on how selfish she could be in other posts, but I did mention that for some reason of all the people in the world, I wouldn’t necessarily recant my negative statements about her, but I would eventually swing back to the other side of the pendulum.

I think we’ve missed each other because now she wants me to travel with her next year on the great journeys she plans to take. I’d actually like that. As much as we may get on each other’s nerves, we actually can travel together.

So I confess, I’m a mushball. For certain people in my life, my heart allows second, fourth and eighth chances.

I hope that this time around, we understand each other better, and she understands how to better navigate my sensibilities, whether she gets it or not.

Here we go again.

You’ve Been Initiated: The Sisterhood of Grown Women

Nuggets of wisdom can come from interesting places and random people that you wouldn’t normally expect sometimes.

If you’re smart, you’ll recognize the gems and you’ll perk your ears up and take notice.

A simple conversation with an older co-worker about her daughter in her 20s being held hostage as a maid of honor for a bride she isn’t that cool with anymore but bound by a promise made as teenagers, led to an insightful discussion about girlfriend breakups.

It’s no secret I’ve been going through changes with some of my former close girlfriends, so what my co-worker had to say was quite refreshing.

I joked her daughter was being initiated into womanhood, by having to come face-to-face with the reality that her relationship with this old friend will probably end or be totally different after the wedding. This is her last act of kindness and devotion as a BFF.

My co-worker laughed. She recalled the love and bitter ending of a dear friendship, and boy did it sound a lot like what I’d been going through. Very recently she saw this friend and decided to drop her a Christmas card. She didn’t want to be as close to the person anymore, but she wanted to at least leave a place for cordial exchange.

The friend saw her Christmas card and raised her a long letter, outlining all of her feelings she ever had toward my co-worker at the urging of her shrink.

My co-worker threw up her hands and gave up.

She refused to get back on that merry-go-round. She suggested that I don’t either, and that for every friend I’ve lost this year, just find some new ones.

I think I already have a great circle, although I am open to new folks to hang out with. I have noticed that I’m open to hanging out with friends that I don’t usually see much because they live in…Virginia (I hate driving to Virginia) because I have more time on my hands, and I really do want the good company.

I’ve also come to enjoy the company of older women who I consider friends and mentors and mother figures.

Not sure if I appreciate them more because of my own difficult relationship with my mom, or just because I love women, I love our collective strength and power mixed with our ability to nurture (when we aren’t acting stupid, emotional or selfish). They have a totally different take on the things you are going through in comparison to the girlfriends who are your age and just as clueless and frazzled as you are. I like having girlfriends in the trenches with me, but I can also appreciate the bird’s-eye view of my mentors in womanhood, because they are living proof I’ll come out on the other side a lot wiser.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed lunches or dinners, or even sitting at their dining room tables discussing balancing life, work, family and men.

These older women tend to be excellent listeners. So much so, I’m scared I’ve talked too much and I’m rambling and seeming immature and silly in their eyes.

But when they speak, there is insight. There is sympathy, because they too have experienced what you are going through. They warn, and because they aren’t family, they tend not to be as judgemental. They even share and laugh about their own mistakes. They know you’ll make your own. They are honest and will reveal things about themselves in such an easy self-assured way.

Maybe that’s the reason I’m loving reading “The Legs Are Last to Go” by Diahann Carroll. It’s like sitting across a dining room table with one of the most fabulous women of all time. She’s got stories, she’s got issues and she’s so transparent about it.

I hope one day to be that kind of mentor to another young woman someday.

I Sense a Pattern: The Friends I’ve Had to Let Go

Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Throughout a number of phases in a woman’s life, girlfriends come and go. We have beefs big and small. Sometimes we make up, sometimes we breakup, and then there are the occasions when you know a friendship has ended for good.

Whether it happens in grade school, or high school, or even when you are “grown,” it still hurts when you come to the realization that you have come to the end of the road with someone you shared a lot with. I think it hurts more when you are grown, because you assume that you both should know better and know how to not hurt people.

Girlfriend breakups are particularly tough, because even if we are madly in love with a boyfriend, we expect that most romantic relationships have an expiration date, but not the bond we share with our girls.

“Friends are the family you choose” and I think we all may tend to hold our close friends to a higher standard than our own families when it comes to giving and expecting their support. We may even extend more patience to them when we feel they are being selfish, because friendship is an at will relationship– either side can choose to terminate at any time. There is something that attracted you to that person as a friend, and that same thing causes you to want to keep their respect and love.

There are some friends you can have a fight with every six months and be the best of buddies after a few days or weeks of a cool down. After one genuine and sometimes teary heart-to-heart, and both parties are back on track.

Some friends you hardly, if ever “fight” with because somehow you’ve become so in tune with each other’s moods and eccentricities, you know when to leave the other person alone, and you both appreciate it greatly.

Then there are other friends, where it seems like whatever has gone down between you can’t be repaired, and to continue the friendship would seem phony. Your encounters are no longer relaxed, but feel awkward and contrived.

Girlfriends breakup for a number of reasons, but the main reason I’ve seen over and over again in my life and in the life of other women I know (and the ones on t.v. and movies) is someone feels shorted and thinks the other person is being selfish.

There’s been a pattern for me when it comes to my terminated friendships.

These types of women were highly intelligent and super driven. They grabbed attention everywhere they went, and produced a certain image of having it all together.

They also thrived on appointing themselves as mother figures to people who they deemed needed their guidance and help. They always had advice and seemed to get validation from fixing other people’s messes. The bigger the mess, the greater the self-esteem.

They always had to be in control of everything. People had to be reminded of how important and smart they were. It wasn’t unusual to hear them mention their accomplishments in various conversations.

I served as their side kick in public and their confidant in private. My low-key, non-confrontational personality served them well, and did wonders for their egos.

I surmise that these types of people gravitate to me, because I exude a certain kind of confidence and come to the table with accolades of my own, but I don’t try to compete with them. I’ve got the credibility to be good enough to be associated with them, but I don’t care to outshine them.

These women will appear to have a lot of friends, but these friends usually “can’t be trusted,” or “they are jealous” and must be kept at a distance.

These types like to confide in me, and then I turn into a receptacle for all of their problems and baggage.

Yet when I have a problem, they minimize it, expect me to get over it immediately and resume focus on everything going on in their world.

These types of people never ask me what’s wrong or if I’m alright. These people find a way to make an issue I have be about them. These people compare their problems to my problem and say because I’m not going through what they are going through, I shouldn’t be as upset or stressed.

These same women have been bossy and sometimes talked to me like a child or made demands that I move when they say move. They keep mental running tabs on what they’ve done for people in case those folks have to be put in check later.

These people want me to be the first in line to drop everything when drama or disaster strikes.

The day that I don’t, to them, I’m the most horrible person ever, and all of the other times I’ve gone out of my way to support them have been permanently erased from their memory.

I’ve always wondered, if these kinds of friends ever saw me. Or saw who I really was. Did they notice that I can be sensitive too? Moody? And that because I don’t want to deal with your problems right now and all of the time, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.

I was one of the few people not asking these overachievers for anything. I knew they were good people at the core, and they had traits that I admired.

I guess me not asking them for anything meant to them that I could and would accept everything.

Sadly, the people like this whom I’ve let go in the past don’t change much when I cross paths with them again later on.

They bombard you with tales of what great things they’re doing and how busy they are, and still never ask you how you’re doing. And when the awkward exchange is through, I laugh. I am comforted to know that it was perfectly alright to let that person go.

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