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Bad-Ass Scardy Cat

I keep telling yall. 2016 will be the year of the unexpected. I mentioned in a previous blog, in 2015, I was concentrating on balance. And it served me well. Focusing on balance brought me to a good place and I think prepared me for the coming year.

I’m getting that much closer to finishing my master’s degree (hopefully in December folks!), and I’m getting much better at just saying no to things I can’t get with and taking a time out when things get a little crazy. I’m learning to listen to my inner voice and my body (which is super important as I’m getting older. 34 next month yall… and when 29tolife started, we were talking about the possibilities of what the 30s will bring! Ha!)

At any rate, I’m the kind of person who, I believe exudes a certain self-confidence (that I fight for daily). People in my life and strangers even compliment me on how I carry myself, and how I can motivate other people or make others feel good too. But at the root of it all, like I said, I fight for it. I have to pump myself up, and I’m elated when people tell me that I am beautiful or I did something well. It really helps. I think on twitter, I mentioned being what I call a “bad-ass scardy cat.”

I may try new things or things that scare the hell out of me, or make a life change that scares me, but once I’ve made up my mind, no matter how scared I am I do it. There you go, a bad-ass scardy cat.

Well on Jan 2, 2016, I may have outdone myself.

I got a tattoo. At 33 years old, I was eating breakfast with my cousin and I said I’m doing it today. She asked if I was sure, and with a piece of bacon in my mouth, I said yes. It was clear as a bell.

I knew I wanted a tattoo right then, that day, just as I knew my name. I just knew I had to do it. So after thinking about local places my friends have gone to, looking at the websites and recalling strong reputations for cleanliness, experience, ability and friendliness to newbies, I set out for the tattoo shop.

The place was pretty busy with folks also determined to get tatted or pierced, most folks adding to their collections.

I have to say my tattoo artist Jen, was the PERFECT person to do my tattoo. She was warm, kind, and had a bunch of bad-ass tattoos of her own. She made me feel completely at ease, even though my heart was beating out of my chest as the needle touched my skin for the very first time.

I asked her to please just keep talking to me, as she worked. I couldn’t bear to just let the buzzing hum of the needle and background noise of other conversations suffice.

Keep in mind, this act of badassery was going against everything my religious family believed was proper, especially for a woman. To my family, it probably would have even made more sense for me to do such a thing during college. But to be an established “professional” woman rolling into her mid-thirties, why now?

Now was the perfect time, because I am grown. I have lived enough to get a really good idea of who I am and who I’m not. I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve changed careers slightly, I’m expanding my education, I’ve changed my hair, I’ve lost weight, I’ve visited other countries. Whatever I choose to put on my body at this point wouldn’t be a whim, but a conscious decision.

That choice, was a lovely quill pen. The feather represents truth. The truth sets us free and makes us light as a feather. Birds are free and fly, they have feathers. I love the connection of it all. Whether I work in journalism or not, I’ll always be a writer. That will never change.

My truth will be ever-evolving as I continue to learn things, experience things and grow.

I think when Jen asked me why I wanted a quill, I wasn’t as eloquent as I was just now, but I mentioned being a journalist, the feather representing truth and how I really wanted this particular tattoo for YEARS, but never had the guts to do it.

By not being in a relationship, it was even easier not to be influenced by or wonder whether or not my partner thought it was a good idea or not, sexy or not, etc.

I truly believe the Belize trip was a catalyst for this. Ziplining through the jungle, getting a mud bath and being butt naked and painted and adorned in flowers and having myself photographed, it was liberating. It was an acceptance of myself that I wasn’t familiar with, but it fit. I saw myself in those pictures being adventurous and happy and comfortable with my body and my hair and just living. I loved that. This is me. This is who I am. This is who I’ve been all along.

Was it painful? Well, it wasn’t a massage, but it wasn’t waterboarding either. The best way I can describe it was a deep scratching, that became more sensitive depending on where the needle went. But it wasn’t that bad. Jen was quick and focused, while making me feel comfortable.

I went into journalist mode asking her about what it was like to do her very first tattoo, what was her own personal first tattoo, and if she doodled as a child. She went to college for fine arts, and found that tattoo artistry would be a reasonable and profitable way to make good on that education and how she enjoyed meeting so many different kinds of people. She admitted to giving a side-eye or two for people’s choices, and told me about how celebrities often send people in in droves to have identical ink.

She also mentioned how an audience can make people more dramatic while getting ink, and that women tend to appear to be in more pain if a boyfriend or group of girlfriends are around.

I thanked Jen and walked out with my cousin kind of new.

I felt a bit more edgy, but then I unpacked that confidence later as I proudly rubbed the After Ink ointment on my brand new tat. I kept looking at it and admiring it. It just felt like I was myself. I was always myself, and this was an outward manifestation of just how bad-ass I could really be, according to my own standards and there’s nothing more bad-ass or revolutionary than that.

 

 

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Switching Gears, Careers in Your 30s

There are certain moments when you realize you’re getting older.

Finding a grey hair or two or three.

Realizing the value and importance of a great bra.

Understanding that one more drink means you will need the ENTIRE next day to recover.

Feeling exhausted and replaying back in your mind how much you ran around like a crazy person in college from classes, to parties to internships only needing about two hours of sleep and not understanding why you still can’t do that now working full time and going to grad school. I haven’t changed that much, have I???

Having a greater interest in beauty goops, some of which “improve elasticity” and eliminate bags or “fine lines.”

Being able to purge your closet and pass on “certain types” of clothes to someone younger.

Speaking of clothes, more Ann Taylor, no more Forever 21. But not Talbot’s or Creekwater something or other… Let’s get that straight.

I fell out when I saw the Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” featuring some of our most celebrated funny women like Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette. But there was something about the truth in that skit that made me look at my being 33 and how the world starts looking at you differently, even in your 30s. I look to gorgeous women who are 40 and above and I have lots of hope, but there are times where I do feel like in subtle ways you do start to become invisible.

I’m not sure what people want to do with women in their 30s. I guess most people think we’ve disappeared into the mom and wife world or we’re buried under loads of work at the jobs we are too obsessed with, clearly the cause of our single and childless status.

What also triggered these feelings in me was reading a recent article in Essence magazine. It was about shifting gears in your career and not being afraid to go in a direction you may have not expected.

I was happy to read the stories about these women, because I’m going through some changes as I transition from a journalist, editor, consultant to public health professional and I was looking for inspiration. It was so on time, as I keep finding that some of the jobs I’d really love, would pay me significantly less than my current job, that I fought so hard to negotiate a great salary for.

But instead of inspiration, I felt slighted and a little uncomfortable.

All of the women featured in the article were under 30.

One of the women, 29, was the oldest.

I immediately thought about myself, and my friends. And said, “Well damn. What about us?”

First, I’d like to say, those 20-somethings were pretty darn impressive, but it was interesting that the writer (who I presume to probably be in that age group) mentioned something like, “You shouldn’t expect to want to keep doing what you thought you wanted to do at 19 or 20.” Oh, I had a good hearty laugh.

I thought of my girlfriends who took some serious leaps in their 30s and how making those decisions to change careers have different meanings and implications at 30 and older.

I’m in full agreement with 20-somethings making changes and figuring out sooner than later what’s going to make them happy and make them money and make moves because they are more likely to have the freedom to do so because they are more likely not to have children, or own a home, or have a husband to consider when making job/financial changes. My dad gave me that advice several years ago. I don’t know what made him say it, but his voice was in my head when I finally took the leap to go to grad school. “You don’t have a husband, you don’t have kids. If you want to go back to school, do it. Do all you can.” And it was probably the best advice I had gotten in a while.

But I’d really like Essence to revisit the topic with older women, because the older you get, the more frightened you are to make career changes because you are thinking about fiscal responsibilities, and what that means for your family and the time you have to start from scratch putting in the time and hours required to establish yourself in a new field, taking a pay cut, working your way up all over again, despite being a seasoned professional in another field.

And while that’s scary, other women, especially older women should share how in such a risk, there’s a great reward. Sometimes age and wisdom helps women who change their careers navigate and define the early steps of their new career much differently than when they were a 20-something. We know who we are, we know what we don’t want and can better express that and set boundaries when we go into new situations. We have gained a command and confidence that took the last 10 years to really develop.

Sometimes these career changes for women in their 30’s and older are about quality of life, and not so much about money or moving up the ladder. Sometimes these career changes are more about working on passions and purpose.

I know these kinds of women are out there, because I’m one of them. I would have loved to see at least one 30-something or 40-something woman share their thoughts on career changes, especially if they were really established for a long time with one particular career path. So I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog post.

I don’t have to look any further than Facebook to see lovely women I’ve entered the journalism world with, to see them move on to other professions, or become self-employed and thrive. They are not only doing things they enjoy and feel passionate about, they are finding balance in their personal lives, giving back to the community and look as good, if not better than the 20-somethings. They are finally traveling to places they dreamed about when working all of those crazy hours because they’ve negotiated four-week vacations instead of just accepting two weeks automatically as they did in their 20s.

There’s some wisdom in talking to the 30+ set on switching gears, because that’s the time where you realize time and your sanity are far too precious to be stuck anyplace you don’t want to be, and you have enough experience to know about the ebb and flow of difficult and awesome times and life is a journey of highs and lows.

But what never gets old, even if we do, is the joy in the surprise of us doing something we didn’t think we could do and trying something new.

Be Yourself, Demand Love Unconditionally

Folks have said all the time to “be yourself.”

For a large part of your life, you swear they are lying.

You do what you deem is necessary to fit in at work, or to make friends, or to be in a relationship.

But those words are the truest words you’ll hear.

You just have to be brave enough to actually do it.

Why is it that something that should be as natural as being yourself so damn hard to do?

Well, it’s because we are acutely aware of our faults more than everyone else is, hence we have the power to alter it, mask it and pretend. But that only works but for so long. Folks who truly know you, know when you are genuine and when you are not and thank God.

The lies we tell ourselves are the worst and most potent and hardest to break and reverse.

The reason I’m on this kick today is because this morning I woke up with about 30 epiphanies. I had to text them to myself so I wouldn’t forget.

I went to a beautiful wedding this week of a fantastic college friend who I hadn’t seen in years.

She was absolutely stunning, but what made her glow all the more enchanting was she was truly happy. She loved that man and he clearly loved her. It was in the little things, the way she picked an eyelash off his face, and the way she still made silly faces with exaggerated eyes and smirks even in her formal photos. Every inch of that venue had her mark– from the songs she selected to the party favors. Individual, unique, simple, understated but not buttoned up.

The moment of the wedding that stopped my heart and hit me like a freight train was during her written vows.

She thanked her husband profusely for loving her for who she is. And I believed her. Those weren’t empty words. Even as she said it, she began to cry, and my eyes began to well. Because I know the impact of those words. And yet, I can’t think of a relationship where I completely felt like was loved exactly for who I was. I didn’t feel like I was enough in every last one and it was frustrating because I truly did my best in all. But it wasn’t on me, that was the thing I couldn’t control, even though I tried to. Either someone is going to love you for you completely, or they just won’t.

They will love you when your house is dirty or when it’s clean. They will love you if you gained some weight or if you stayed the same weight. They will love you and your child if that’s what you came to the table with. They will love you when you are sick and take care of you, as they will love you when you are healthy. They will think you are amazing if you are at the top of your career, and encourage you if you got laid off and can’t find work for a year.

I guess I’m afraid of that kind of love.

Because it’s actually real.

Because I can’t make excuses for it or why it didn’t work. To lose that kind of love would seem devastating, worse than the devastation I felt when the person didn’t love me that much, but I loved them that much.

I’ve said before that love is negotiable. And we have to keep coming to the table and reminding our loved ones what the terms are if they are slipping, and they should require that of us too.

I recently accepted a job. Go me!

I did something different this time.

I asked for what I wanted, what I felt I deserved in compensation and I was willing to keep it moving if they didn’t offer me the job or the salary I asked for. I had already made up my mind what I was willing to accept, and my friends asked well what if it’s this number but not that number? And I said, no. Something in my spirit said, no. This time you won’t take less than what you deserve, you’ve been doing it you’re whole professional life. You can get what you deserve even if it’s not this particular opportunity, this time around.

So it made me think, if I can have the courage to say no to a job if they aren’t coming correct with money, why am I so flexible when it comes to my most valuable possession? Me. My heart.

I had to laugh at myself.

I started thinking about all of the relationships where I broke my neck to be the perfect girlfriend, the cool girlfriend, the compassionate and understanding girlfriend who accepted men as they were, as broken and complicated… but I had to be the one that was whole, for the both of us.

I was broken and complicated too, in many ways. I needed just as much nurturing and care and occasional eggshell two stepping for my feelings too. I didn’t stand in my truth, I pretended that I was so strong that I could live without that, but still provide it.

I kept choosing men I felt I could make better and in some cases I helped in their progression. But I didn’t get the benefit. They’d go on to marry other women and blatantly give them the things they said they couldn’t give me. But I didn’t demand more of them, I didn’t threaten to leave if they didn’t. I don’t believe in holding anyone hostage in love, but I’m learning not expressing clearly what you need and what you want in a relationship is the worst thing you can do. Because if that person really wants to love you, you aren’t giving them the tools to do so properly. And if they don’t want to love you, and you don’t tell them, you can’t be mad that they disagree with the way you desire to be loved.

I was too afraid to say what I wanted. I thought that love was sacrifice and if they saw how much I gave, then clearly they’d return my love in a tangible, fulfilling way.

They didn’t.

And those words the bride said tearfully have rattled around my head since I’ve returned home.

By George, that was it, stupid. Be who you are completely and let him love you completely. Let him decide and if he doesn’t choose you, it’s not your fault, it’s not something you necessarily did wrong. Be strong enough and be fearless enough to be you. Say what you don’t like. Say what you want and what makes you happy. Say when you are upset and hurt.

I’ve often turned my nose up at the women who lash out and raise all kinds of hell when they are mad at their men, but the men do react. And of course they do, those women made it very clear that they were upset, and if the man really loved them, they were going to be about the business of correction.

I confused my silence for class, while being complicit in the demise of my own relationships and my own self esteem. I won’t let air out of tires, or burn clothes, but I have a mouth. My fear of rocking the boat should not be placed above my own happiness. There’s a balance. You don’t have to be a jerk, but you don’t have to be a pushover either. And I always had difficulty balancing that. I hated arguments because I had a fear that there would forever be a strike against me that I couldn’t come back from. But that’s not love.

I wrote in Facebook yesterday, that my father loves me unconditionally and has been ridiculously patient with me over the years. I was a curious, head-strong child who preferred learning the hard way. And he let me. But I always knew he was proud of me and that he thinks the world of me. In that post, I said my dad taught me that I deserve a man willing to fight for me, one who won’t take a day off or who will think the task of loving me is so daunting and intimidating and overwhelming, that he’d prefer to not even take a stab at it.

And these are the men I picked. They always went out with a whimper. And that always upset me. Why didn’t they fight for me? Why didn’t they try harder? But maybe I was the one who set the tone, don’t argue, don’t fight, be classy, move on.

But I got that wrong. Life is indeed a fight in itself, messy and tangled. There are tears and ugly cries, there are yells and screams that are not the end of the world, and that don’t mean you aren’t classy. Life leaves you with far more bruises and scars that fade with time, but don’t necessarily disappear, but it doesn’t subtract from the overall beauty of life. Those scars don’t negate our inner beauty, our true selves.

I was classy and crying alone in the dark. I was classy and falling apart on the inside or filling with rage on the inside.

There is catharsis is speaking your mind and your truth be it loudly or quietly. There is a time and place for everything.

I don’t place the blame entirely on me, because that’s what I would tend to do. But I did pick men who I allowed to have red flags and flaws up the wazoo and think it was healthy to love them despite of, but not give myself the same privilege.

And now, I know to do things differently.

He will love all of me, because I’m a rare and wonderful being to love. Even on my worst days.

REBLOG:Here, A Hypocrite Lives: I Probably Get It Wrong On Leslie Jones But I Tried

When I saw Leslie Jones on Saturday Night Live doing that Weekend Update skit, it brought out so many feelings in me. I discussed her kind of comedy with a friend. It’s similar to that of Sheryl Underwood– the self-deprecating humor of being a big, dark woman, embracing “masculine” features that stupid people put on them over their development as black women. It kills me when she’s on the Steve Harvey show describing herself as men. She does this often. There’s hurt there. That’s obvious. And comedians tell you that they draw on pain and they draw on their truth. But when it comes to these female comedians, whose truth are they really drawing on, when hurtful people lied to them about their beauty and significance and their value? That kind of humor puts my limited privilege as a lighter-skinned black woman on front street, but it doesn’t make it less hurtful, that my black sisters take this on and this is their reality and that this is a coping mechanism.
But is it a double standard? Kevin Hart can make jokes about being short… But I still can’t find the humor in a black woman reducing her own body and her color and her self-worth in such a way.
I think it’s far easier to make fun of yourself for being clumsy, or a bad dancer, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Maybe she was attempting to be revolutionary and calling out the elephant in the room maybe she was giving a big f U to all of the folks who never accepted her and saw her beauty or placed a qualifier on it… “for a big girl.” “For a black girl.”
I don’t know. But I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Here we are in the age of Oprah, and Michelle Obama and Misty Copeland and Kerry Washington and Lupita and then we have Love and Hip Hop and Leslie Jones. It hurts. It hurts terribly. Tressiemc put together all of the thoughts and the frustrations I felt so eloquently, dripping with the pain and the unease of being a witness to such a thing. I really had to share it.

tressiemc

I want badly to get this right. That, of course, means that there is no way humanly possible for me to get this right.

I want to get this right for the usual reasons. I want Twitchy and professional feminists and black nationalists and the identity policy and FOX news ambassadors to stay out of my comment section. I also want to get this right because I spent a fair amount of time this week explaining to mostly non-black academic labor organizers why they are nowhere near adept or oppressed enough to use slavery metaphors. Then, too, this is the week that Miley Cyrus called me old for publicly ruminating on the tensions of her adoption of a specific kind of black female affect in a capitalist beauty structure where chicks like me stay losing, even when we’re paid to dance like we’re winning.

And, Miley’s is some of the…

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Yes, Brown, Thick People Like Themselves

I recently read an article by Refinery 29, where the author oohed and ahhed about one of my favorite comedians, Mindy Kaling and how she rocked a stunning green crop top ensemble. Is this really news? Yes, it is. Because Mindy Kaling is brown girl who is thick. She is not a size zero or two. She went on about how inspiring Mindy was for “effortlessly translating the trend.”

If you want to talk about effortlessly translating trends, I’d like you to meet the Rosetta Stone of plus-size fashion. I had to let out a laugh, because I instantly thought of the super fabulous blogger gabifresh who boldly rocked a crop top in some of her amazing photos and how she “been done that” numerous times.

Mindy Kaling wows em. Everett Collection Rex USA/Via Refinery29.com

Mindy Kaling wows em. Everett Collection Rex USA/Via Refinery29.com

Folks treat thick women like folks with disabilities sometimes and give the same condescending bs for doing everyday things like living. God forbid “others” love themselves. It’s one thing to be among similar people and praise one another for their differences, but to be out in the open and say you love yourself or you love your body and you don’t look like Beyonce or J. Low or J. Law, folks who fit into society’s blueprint of beauty and the arbiters of fashion are going to give you that slow clap that eventually speeds up because of your “courage.”

Get all the *ucks outta here with that.

I will give Gina Marinelli of Refinery 29 some credit. She tried her darndest to make her article not sound like a prom queen write in project because everyone assumes for someone like who looks different or is considered an outcast, this will be the best moment in their lives. So she used very careful language while giving Mindy praise.

Let’s put this out there right away: We’d never assume that the star of The Mindy Project can’t, in any way, wear whatever she pleases. And, she’s not the kind of lady who succumbs to those kind of notions either. No, Kaling is not a size 2 or 0 or whatever the “typical” size that may be associated with many young, female members of Hollywood.”

She did her research and already knew from an article from Parade, Mindy is not here for rosy platitudes.

From the Parade Magazine article: “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”

So here we go. Mindy is brown and thick, and has already been retweeted and quoted and misquoted about fifty-eleben million times about being tired of condescending questions about her confidence despite being brown and thick. Folks have made memes with this quote and the beat goes on.

I liked this gem too from the Parade article: “There are little Indian girls out there who look up to me, and I never want to belittle the honor of being an inspiration to them. But while I’m talking about why I’m so different, white male show runners get to talk about their art.”

So I dig Mindy for a million reasons. This chick really started from the bottom, and while yall were sleeping, she was writing and directing episodes of “The Office” while yall thought she was simply the dilly Kelly Kapour. Mindy is acutely aware of her place and space in the world, she is unapologetic and she knows what her presence on television and in the writers room means for those who follow behind her. But like most successful women of color, we simply want to get to work and be recognized for being really great at what we do. We don’t want people telling us, “No, I don’t see color.” Because then you don’t see part of who we are, but we also don’t want people treating us or telling us we are beautiful or intelligent DESPITE our color or our weight, or because we come from a certain side of town.

But what bothered me most about the article wasn’t the article itself, but the comments. Folks were bashing Mindy like you wouldn’t believe. Some folks who from their avis looked overweight themselves. Harsh, harsh comments.

The same goes for Gabourey Sidibe.

Gabourey Sidibe via Wikipedia

Gabourey Sidibe via Wikipedia

Seems like folks get extra offended that this young woman has self-esteem. GASP. For shame. She is having the time of her life and a successful career well after the movie “Precious.” There were people who said that was the only role she could play because of her size, and her deep, dark color. It’s amazing really.

People can embrace Beyoncé for loving who she is as a mother and businesswoman and wife and she can dance around butt naked if she wants to. And even Beyoncé sang that “Pretty Hurts.” And that at the end of the day, you have to ask “are you happy with yourself?” Clearly, Gabby and Mindy are and they are making money even while they are sleeping at night while the rest of us walk around self-conscious and trying to make folks that don’t matter feel more comfortable around us. Pulese.

So because Gabourey Sidibe doesn’t lock herself in the house wearing a moo-moo, eating cartons of Haagen Daz everyday, wishing to be something other than herself, folks are actually offended and mad that she openly loves herself, isn’t looking for Weight Watchers endorsements or signing up to be on the next cycle of the Biggest Loser.

Folks take offense that Mindy is speaking the truth and rocking awesome clothes and having regular women take the time to make friends with tailors and seamstresses again.

In a society full of vain people, it’s awfully short-sighted to be discriminatory in terms of who can be allowed to openly love themselves, or their bodies or their scars or the color of their skin if they DON’T fit into the mainstream image of beauty.

Folks talk about self-confidence and self-love but as a society we sure don’t make it easy on folks who don’t appear to be the obvious poster children for it. Instead, we pile on the “others” hoping to stamp it out of them to make them shrink back into the margins.

But guess what? That’s not even about to happen. Because for folks who have to make the extra effort to smile, and to be proud of who they are inside and out, it’s not even about beauty anymore, it’s about personal integrity and it’s about survival. And that’s the safest place to be. Shallow folks will never have enough strength to reach that deep to destroy it.

Silencing the Noise

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have already heard that I quit Plenty Of Fish.

Like, I quit for real, for real. I didn’t just hide my profile and take a little break from it, I took myself out of the game completely.

There were a few times before where I thought about deleting the profile, but I’d get pulled in by another message from a new guy showing interest. Even if I wasn’t interested in them, it still made me feel wanted. So for that reason alone, even though I was getting pinged all day and all night because I had the app on my phone, it was a form of validation that I had been wanting that I, was indeed desirable.

The trouble with Plenty Of Fish is I’m not the only one.

If I don’t respond, the person on the other end really isn’t going to be heartbroken, he’s just going to click on another profile and try again. A catchy profile and some cute pics didn’t make me special. Inboxes full of faux admiration didn’t either.

I actually hated when dudes off the bat would call me sweetie, or love or gorgeous. It felt so… ugh. It felt so phony.

This weekend, I had a bunch of crazy revelations.

Somehow my good ex hit me up again on Friday night when I was doing absolutely nothing. So I started talking about dating and how difficult it’s become. I complained that it’s at a point where everyone is dating like robots, following a script.

Simply he just said, “You ain’t gotta. Do you.”

I don’t know why what he said seemed to just shoot through me like lightning, but it was so simple. It made so much sense. I don’t have to keep going on date after date. Introducing and reintroducing myself to men I’m really not that interested in, but trying to be “open-minded” too.

That message kept ringing true at not one, but two church services this weekend. The focus was on women in both. Both talked about loving yourself and giving things up so you can receive God’s blessings which may or may not include a man.

I had a thought today about Idols. I posted on twitter that “One way or the other, God will remove your idols. You determine how drastic He has to be in order to get your attention.”

Plenty Of Fish was becoming an idol. It was consuming a lot of my brain space. It was causing me to either be excited about people I knew nothing about or completely aggravated with people I knew nothing about. I was expecting people to be accountable and ready-made after one date. I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear anything from certain guys with whom I had great conversations. I’d replay what I’d done or if I wasn’t attractive enough.

But it all boils down to this, we are all out here doing the same thing. We are evaluating people on highly superficial levels and not taking the time to build. The possibility of the next, better person that you may be missing out on always seemed on the horizon and one click away. But that’s not real life.

I’m about to devote two years of my life to a master’s degree. I devoted four to college and 10+ to being a writer and reporter and editor. Cultivating anything takes time and effort. I have friends of 20 years. I know everything about them and they know me. It’s scary, but look at all the time it took to get to that level of mastery in my friendships, and I’m still working on them and giving to them and nurturing them.

One year of online dating and the revolving door of men wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. It was a great social experiment in what’s out there, but I realize right now, it’s not where I need to place my focus or my energy.

So I deleted my page.

My mind instantly got quiet again. I wasn’t turning over in the middle of my sleep when my phone started to buzz, or checking messages at a stop light. I wasn’t spending time “man shopping” when I was bored, looking at profiles hoping that there was some coded language my Mr. Right used so he could find me.

I didn’t have to be disappointed anymore.

I could focus.

Even today, I’m realizing the dating site was taking a lot of my good energy and brain space.

My good ex did remind me of how confident I used to be. He told me things like putting on weight or how I wear hair was not going to matter. And I was confident. I just have to get back to that again. I knew the first place to start was silencing the POF noise.

I’m not knocking the site at all. I think it does open the door to help you meet people you may have never otherwise met. But as I review the last year of online dating, people are either not quite serious at all, or they are so serious, they come of desperate and scary. Online dating pushes you to the extremes of non-committal or super clingy. You can’t even truly be you. You are always on, you are always auditioning for someone’s affections.

And nope. I don’t want to do that. Not anymore.

So I said a prayer. I said I wanted to give this up and not look back and whoever is for me, he’s already out there. It’s time to stop worrying about it and it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let go of my insecurities and shut up the NOISE, most of which I’ve created in my own head that has been limiting me.

Noise was making me settle and noise convinced me I was widening my net and not being picky or stuck up. But noise was causing me to entertain folks I really didn’t see any kind of future with at all. I tricked myself into thinking it was a numbers game and that it was science. The right guy would have to come around if I kept putting myself out there.

Well, putting myself out there made me lose valuable energy. Putting myself out there led me to making rash decisions.

I need my head space. I need it for things like work, and school and my family and friends. So right now, I honestly don’t feel like I took a loss, deleting my profile. I reclaimed space in my mind and soul.

I decided that if there were men in my phone who managed to have my number and we still keep in touch, I will be nice. I won’t press them to ask me out, I’ll let them ask me. If I feel like sending a text or saying hello, I’ll send one.

Sometimes you have to lose to win, as Fantasia said in one of her songs. I’ve never found myself leaning so much on God and my faith, or praying as often or looking at the little things to help me see other things more clearly. God is in the details.

When I was at EssenceFest and heard Iyanla Van Zant speak, she kept saying, “Do the work.” “You’ve got to do the work, beloveds.”

She is right. God didn’t let me marry the wrong person for a reason.

I’m single right now for a reason, not just to work on myself or take on bigger goals I would have never considered if I was someone’s wife right now. I’m made for a purpose and I’m working all of that out. The pain I’ve felt makes me more compassionate to others and it makes me qualified to love folks in a more real, mature, honest and even non-judgemental way. In the way a grown woman has to decide to love HER man. The one.

I used to pride myself on loving people through stuff even if it took all of my energy.

I was doing it wrong.

I had to learn that I had to put on my life-preserver first before I started helping others and that it is perfectly ok to do so. You aren’t supposed to deplete your entire energy loving somebody. Giving and receiving love in itself should energize you. The person you’re loving should love you enough not to allow you to do that. And they won’t allow you to do it. People who love themselves for real can recognize love in a number of forms. And they can recognize when and if they aren’t pulling their load and they want to pull their load. People who love themselves want to pull their load because that means they are living up to their own expectations of themselves and how they want to treat important people in their lives.

Maturity. Self love. Wisdom. Discernment. I want all of these. I continue to pray that the man I’m supposed to be with, God give me the vision to see him clearly and not get bogged down in the noise. I want to hear God in my choices. This is no exception.

 

 

 

 

No Ma’am, Birthdays After 30 Are So Worth Celebrating

A co-worker of mine recently had a birthday. I consider her a peer in a lot of ways. She is also a young thirty-something like me. She started at the company about a year or two before I did. And we both worked very hard, were early adopters to switching hats from straight up writing and editing to the tech side of publishing and I think she’s a super cool person. I admire her grind. Sometimes we just give each other a knowing sigh on days folks are acting a plum fool.

She also celebrated a birthday this month, and I wished her a happy birthday and asked her if she did anything fun.

And with a straight sad face, she said, “After 30, there’s not much to celebrate.”

The “urban” side of me was wanting to say, “Girl, bye.”

Or:

“Lies you tell.”

tamar braxton the braxtons gif from theofficialstacey.tumblr.com

However, I simply smiled and said, “Girl, what are you talking about? The 30s are great!” We were walking and parting ways to our desks by then.

But the look of defeat on her face, and such words of defeat made me sad for her.

Here she is, this pretty girl, who is married to a well-off man, seems to be a doting step mom, very physically fit and has accomplished really difficult grueling physical activities like marathons and such, who seems to be so unhappy.

Just because you are pretty and fit and well off, doesn’t mean you have bad days. I totally get that. But right in that moment, I said a little prayer for her.

I thought about a conversation with one of my dearest best friends and we discussed getting older and said we looked forward to being senior citizens traveling together and sexually harassing young waiters when we’d go out to eat. We were looking forward to when it’s socially acceptable to talk that ish and folks let it slide.

But for now, warts and all, we agreed our lives so far have been filled with blessings and opportunity. We were relieved we’ve learned from our mistakes. And while we both traded stories about being single and how we can’t seem to find men who suit us, there was still a quiet confidence we shared about being grown women that we can be proud of and that our families can be proud of too.

We may have had a regret or two, but overall we were blessed to catch the lessons that accompanied our not so wise decisions. And that’s cool. That’s the silver lining of bad decisions, the lesson, the scar that reminds us, “girl, don’t do that again.” The reminder of our pain and consequences gives us a knowing twinge in our tummy when we are about to enter dangerous territory. As someone past 30, I appreciate developing that sixth sense through the dumb mistakes of my 20s.

You all know, that for some reason this year I really wanted to celebrate my birthday and I’m not one of those people who want to do something every year. But I felt good about who I am and where I am, and I wanted some friends around to have a good time. And we did just that. I wore something that made me feel good and we had a blast.

Every birthday is worth celebrating, whether it’s a quiet observance at the house, spa day or moments of reflection or flinging yourself out of an airplane, or buying a bottle at the club.

Everyday is worth celebrating. Even if you are past 30. Girl, get your life! I’ve never felt so self-aware, EVER. I’m so excited that I’m really getting to know me, and that I’m less and less afraid to say no to others and say yes more and more to myself.

Calling My Inner Aggressor (WARNING: This post is for mature folk, I’m talking about sex)

Just the other day, I looked at some of the blogs of my followers and I was a little nervous when I discovered one of my followers is 16. It kind of reminded me all kinds of people are out following blogs. So this post is for grown folks. If you still read along, young followers, please. Sex is a big deal. And it involves way more than your parts. It’s a tangled web of crazy when you aren’t mature enough to handle it. And I know people in their 30s who still aren’t mature enough to handle it and have gotten into a lot of drama from it. You’ve seen Maury. You not bout that life. Don’t desire to be bout that life. You should be safe and selective and just honestly focus on school and finding out what you are good at. And please don’t say you’re good at sex. Cus you’re not. No really, you’re not.

And on with today’s post.

I’ve often heard from men that they really like it when women initiate sex.

And it makes sense.

Men want to feel good about themselves and feel as if they are desired, just like women do. ANNND with all of these stories coming out about rape and the recent and increasingly popular analysis of rape culture, I think men feel like if a woman starts the party, there is no question at all that she is 100 percent consenting to what’s about to go down.

That has to be a relief. The clarity must be freeing and I believe allows both parties to have a much better experience.

Which goes back to the chicken and egg situation of women wanting to own their sexuality and be initiator without the stigma of being a freak or slut or ho. (Within the confines of a committed relationship, this shouldn’t even be an issue.)

Most men I know, who I’ve had this conversation with, including my own boyfriends, they’ve said that they don’t want to be the one always getting things started. And even if women had the fear that they’d get turned down, most guys I know say they aren’t going to turn it down unless something is really, really wrong, so women should go for it more often.

As a woman, I think taking on the role of the aggressor/initiator can be a whole lot of fun. You are running the show, you are dictating the fantasy as you see fit. You’ve made the decision to wear or not wear whatever you want, and take the man off guard.

I’ve thought of the times I exposed my gangsta, literally and I laugh about it.

I have been the girl who showed up to the house in a trench, heels and nothing else. Did I mention it was winter?

I once requested my ex-fiance go to the bank and ask for $100 in singles, because I was going to dance for him on his birthday. And he did. And I put on quite the show.

Sometimes it takes courage and feeling completely comfortable with someone to be the “aggressor” and I think that’s the main reason why women don’t do it.

Sometimes we don’t feel good about our bodies because of the women we see on t.v. We may know the favorite female celebrity of the guy we are dating and we know we look nothing like it.

But, some how, some way, we owe it to ourselves to as J. Cole says in the song “Crooked Smile” to not “see what you lackin, but see what you packin.”

You have to believe it, sell it and the man will follow suit. A good friend of mine and I always joke about her ample bosoms and my large behind and we agree it’s important to be proud of our assets and play them up to the fullest. You do have to love what you are looking at in the mirror. Some days I put on a pair of little shorts around my house and I know I’m awesome. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because the days I don’t feel awesome, I really don’t feel awesome.

Being an initiator is more mental than just seducing the man. It’s a mental and emotional exercise that I have to build up to. For me, it isn’t spontaneous. Aren’t you shocked by this? Outwardly, I seem super sexy and confident, right? 🙂

I actually put a lot of thought into it. I listen to sexy music all day long. I primp and pamper.

I start early and send dirty texts all day long.

I make sure I’m well-groomed, smelling good and with the softest skin imaginable.

I wear my hair in a way that makes me feel sexy.

And I won’t lie, I may pour myself a nice stiff drink. (ONE LADIES. YOU CAN’T BE SEXY AND SLOPPY, THEY DON’T GO TOGETHER).

Sometimes you have to put on your prettiest undergarments or even buy yourself a garment that feels good on your skin.

Go to a pole dancing/exotic dance class. They are fun and they allow you to see yourself in a new light and help you get more comfortable with your inner aggressor. And you get to see and meet women of all different shapes and sizes also feeling good about themselves and just trying. I honestly think all women should try it once. Because they are women only classes, it’s not about sex. It really is about self-esteem.

Think about the things that you like, then ask your partner for it. There are times you hope they do certain things and when they don’t you get upset. You are in the room too. Tell them what you want.

You have to feel your absolute best. And I think that’s something men need to understand too.

A friend of mine was saying he doesn’t want to feel like he’s always begging for sex, even though nine times out of ten he’s always down for it.

But even though men tend to be down for it a lot, I think emotionally women do have to be THERE too in order to enjoy it and not be in it just to satisfy the guy. A lot of women are phoning it in and not mentally or emotionally into it and it’s crazy, because we have the power. We dictate whether or not it goes down. Our bodies are precious.

And it’s crazy that as a young woman, I really kind of didn’t think about myself or how I felt or how I wanted to feel. I would often just think this guy really wants me and let me be good at sex and not even for me, but for him.

How backwards is that?

So where is the happy medium?

I think it’s easier when women are more selective about who they sleep with. I think it’s easier when a woman really cares about the man and knows the man really cares about her. It’s a heck of a lot easier when the woman is attracted to the guy. And it’s super easier when the woman knows the guy can satisfy her. If you’ve had bad experiences, and you are trying to hang in there with the person because he’s a nice guy, or he’s good-looking, it’s hard to get excited about him getting off every time and you getting nothing in return. And some men will pick up on that, and because you always agree, they will always take advantage, whether you enjoyed it or not. And you don’t want that kind of guy in your life. EVER. And you don’t deserve that kind of guy in your life. EVER.

If you had someone put it down with precision, you think about it at work, in the shower, when you wake up, when you go to sleep and that already builds the anticipation for the next time. You aren’t going to want to keep your hands off. Being the initiator will come naturally just off of that. So good luck, gals. Go get em.
In honor of TLC’s really awesome movie that premiered this week. And as queens of liberated, independent women who get what they want and “Ain’t too proud to beg”…

Permission to Demand

I’ve been tweeting some random thoughts coming to my head, which make fertile ground for today’s post.

I need yall to bear with me because I may jump around a lot today.

The first thought of my day is that I forgot that I was awesome. I’m not saying this in a narcissistic way. I’m saying it because when you forget that you are awesome. When you start not thinking so highly of yourself, you let a lot of foolishness creep into your life.

You start allowing and saying yes to things that your usually awesome self wouldn’t even consider, let alone have time for or allow it to cause distress.

You all have read the blog, (and if you are new, I’m glad you are here. But you have a lot of catching up to do if you want some context.) You have a front row seat to my relationship failures and my desire to live happily and with purpose and to just be alright with me.

I had to reread an email exchange between me and a good friend of mine. Because I needed clarity on a situation where I felt a man I just started to have interest in wasn’t really returning the interest whole heartedly. I felt like an afterthought.

I questioned letting him know that I wanted my time valued before agreeing to another date, for fear of him thinking I was angry and demanding.

I questioned whether or not it was my right to demand respect for my time by A) not planning dates and standing me up. B) not calling me late at night on a weeknight because I didn’t want to be the naggy, bitchy, angry black woman who no one seems to like. I didn’t want to be the girl making too many demands of someone too soon.

But when is too soon to tell a guy you don’t want to be called late at night because you have a job and want to go to sleep? When is it too soon to tell a guy that while you want to get to know him, you don’t tolerate being stood up or cancelled on at the last-minute or put in second place to a social group, sport, job, hobby, etc if you want to seriously consider a relationship?

I think as women we have to not lay out long, crazy lists, but when moments call for a brief, real teaching moment, you got to take the opportunity to assert yourself and lay out the rules.

Men, women, horses, cats and dogs will take advantage if you don’t lay out what’s acceptable and what’s not and actively show the person or animal you are for real. You are allowed to voice what works for you and what does not.

I ultimately made the decision to say how I felt and what I didn’t want if he wanted to really get to know me. And he basically said he understood and was looking forward to our date tonight with no interruptions or cancellations. (We’ll see)

Usually grown, confident folks get it when you break something down and do it in a way that’s not mean or nasty, but just honest.

I tend to have a fear of people’s reaction to me when I say what I don’t want or what I don’t like. I don’t want people not to like me, or to feel uncomfortable or to be upset. But if the thing that person does or says to me is something that I don’t like or makes me feel comfortable or upset, what makes them better than me not to at least let them know I don’t like it?

When did I start deciding that my opinion, my feelings should be considered last out of the both of us.

And so in some cases, people and life started treating me that way. And I kept taking it.

I’m starting to see the light a bit and the timing is fortuitous.

I’ve had to have folks I hold in high esteem write letters of recommendation for my grad school application.

Having folks talk about you through their eyes is an interesting thing because you can’t see what they see or things that were small and didn’t seem to matter in your opinion, did count for something to them. A talent or skill that you may feel has been lacking, they noticed your growth and your passion to at least try.

I took things a step further when I had a recent catch up conversation with an old ex of mine. Geez we haven’t been together in several years and we ended amicably and can call each other friend.

I told him about my difficulty dating, I told him about recently getting stood up, to which he emphatically replied, “Fuck that dude.”

Ahh. Then I told him about an article I read about letting your ex actually write your online dating profile. So we played a game. I asked him to describe me. What I like, what I don’t like, who I am, in his own words. (This is enough for another post)

And he did that. He gave me a glowing review, but he also reminded me of somethings I had forgotten. That I was awesome. That I was highly interesting and intelligent and that I had certain high expectations of everyone around me.

My heart sank when he wrote the words, “she takes care of herself.”

I knew that had changed. Yes, I recently went on a great vacation, but it took me about five years to take off six consecutive days and not visit family. Yes, I get a massage once a month. But what am I really doing to take care of me for real? Beating myself up for the past? Not feeling good about myself professionally, feeling lost, feeling like I’m not making an impact. Making excuses to not workout, gaining weight. Beating myself up for making excuses and gaining weight. Beating myself up for not being better with money. Beating myself up for letting other people beat me up. Beating myself up for things I couldn’t control anyway.

If an ex I dated about 8 years ago, who I hardly speak to can gush about how good a person I am, how beautiful, kind and sexy and smart, why wasn’t I doing that for myself?

Fantastic people can vouch for me. They can verify that I’m worthy, yet I’ve been giving myself the bad wrap for a really long time.

A dear friend of mine posted what is now my favorite profile of himself on Facebook this week. He said he liked the pic because it made him feel good, he was smiling right into the camera and he’s totally not the type to promote selfies. He basically said we have to love ourselves, feel good about ourselves and pump ourselves up.

So today, I’m saying I’m worthy.

I’m worthy and capable of having a great relationship where what I want and how I feel will be respected. I’m worthy to have the career I want and I have every right to embrace who I am as I am right now and whatever isn’t quite perfect, well I can change. I am allowed to ask for what I want. I’m allowed to demand respect. I’m allowed to feel what I feel. And I’m allowed to shut out negative voices and forces so I can get myself together.

You are too.

 

Am I 20 Pounds Away From Mr. Right?

I had a startling thought as a handsome guy on Plenty of Fish straight up told me I wasn’t his type.

The first thought was damn homie.

The second thought was in some kind of way or another, I’ve rejected others just as harshly, despite trying my best to let them down as humanely as possible. I’ve hurt others who didn’t fit into my box and I justified it.

A friend told me online dating is an exercise in the superficial.

He’s right.

But it really made me think about my package and presentation. I think I’m a good-looking person, but in recent years I’ve struggled with my weight. As I get older, and as we use online dating more and more and people focus on photos as a hook, even though I get compliments from men I don’t find attractive, I’m getting fewer compliments from the ones I do.

In my college years and early years in the workforce when I was constantly on the run, I could hardly go anywhere without getting some attention. Now, it’s almost like I’m invisible.

I told a friend that I’d be really pissed if I drop a few pounds all of a sudden the wall will lift, the levees will break and here come the men. That would upset me deeply, because inside, I’d still have the same sense of humor, the same passion, the same smarts, accomplishments, same eyes.

Let’s get it right. I don’t want to lose weight for what I think may be a better pick of men who would be attracted to me. I do want to lose weight to look better, feel better and boost my confidence and wear what the hell I want without having to think twice about my stomach or thighs.

I’ve noticed I don’t take a lot of photos of myself these days, because I feel like most of them are unflattering. It’s interesting to see how things connect.

I’m hoping that going back to grad school will also help me lose weight from stress and just being busy and having to really compartmentalize my schedule and force me to prioritize. Isn’t that terrible?

But just like going back to school and not wanting to take the GRE but having to do it anyway, that example reminds me of getting back on a better fitness and eating regimen. I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it and I have to be consistent to get the things I want.

I think about how I used to be and how I fought for things.

There was a certain point in time I’d either get comfortable or tired and I stopped fighting. Then came the weight, then came the lower self-esteem. Then came the not taking care of myself and finding it easier to do nothing than to fight off that urge to do nothing and do something.

My life is on me. Period. What’s on the outside does count. What I’m doing to feel good and feel productive matters.

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