“Sometimes I go off,
(I go off)
I go hard,
(I go hard)
Get what’s mine,
(Take what’s mine)
I’m a star,
(I’m a star)…”
It was a good month to be Black.
The final day of February, 2016—a leap year—has passed, along with the end of an indisputably epic Black History Month. So too, has my month-long break from blogging.
(Hey, if I can’t take a break during Black History Month, when can I?)
Which is not to say that I was inactive this February—far from it, in fact. Aside from maintaining my day-to-day (because this blog doesn’t pay—yet), this BHM, in particular, was a prime time to reflect upon what it means to be Black, female, solo and searching—for any number of things—and how to continue to effectively explore all of that here.
After all, a short 29 days brought us a succession of revolutionary moments: We saw Black Panthers—commemorated on both on PBS and at the Super Bowl. Unapologetic Blackness repeatedly took center stage—at the Grammys, the Oscars (whether you loved or hated it), in Flint, Michigan, and even in Melissa Harris-Perry’s abrupt but understandable departure from MSNBC.
And while I can’t claim that it’s ever easy, it still felt like an especially good month to be Black. Because for at least those 29 days, black lives most definitely seemed to matter. (As we well know, this is not always the case; even in February.)
And for the most part, it was also a joyful, fist-pumping, provocative, drop-it-like-it’s-hot month to be a black woman. “Black Girl Magic” seemed to punctuate the month on a weekly basis—from the catwalks of New York Fashion Week (thanks, Zac Posen!) to a pulsating jerk chicken joint in Toronto (you better work, RiRi), all the way to the covers of Teen Vogue (Amandla! Zoe! Back to back!).
But of course, the pinnacle of #BlackGirlMagic came courtesy of Beyoncé, via the jaw-dropping release of “Formation.”
Before I continue: Don’t worry; I am not a Beyoncé stan, and this is not an extra-tardy-for-the-party, shot-by-shot, super-cerebral-socio-political discussion of the latest offering from the world’s biggest entertainer. We’ve all had our fill of those, since every journalist, social media darling and casual armchair critic who weighed in on “Formation” seemed intent on dissecting it into a million pieces, while simultaneously debating whether or not it even merited so much attention/praise/criticism/examination. Enough.
So, no: this is not a think piece, per se. (At least, not that sort.) But, it did get me thinking…
For all of her black girl magical glory, I’m glad I’m not Beyoncé. (Fun fact: do you know that Microsoft Word—and your iPhone—will correct your misspelling if you forget to accent that last “é”? That is #BlackGirlMagic gone global.)
The above revelation may come as a surprise to those who’ve known me in my other life (as a singer/songwriter of belty pop/soul/R&B melodies with a fondness for show-stopping outfits and the occasional well executed weave). Indeed, once upon a time, my managers mused about crafting me into “The Thinking Man’s Beyoncé.”
(No really, that was actually a thing. I didn’t start it. Promise. Stand down, Beyhive.)
But even then, I knew the world didn’t need another Bey. And as for “thinking men” (and women), I think we now know that she has that well covered, too. Certainly, a hundred or more think pieces have confirmed that.
“You know you that b*tch when you cause all this conversation…”
Word up, Bey. You slay.
But slayage aside, I’m really glad I’m not Beyoncé. I couldn’t handle it. Not even for a day.
Case in point: I woke at 12:04 yesterday morning. Correction: I woke at 12:04 yesterday afternoon, mentally applauded myself for waking up before 2pm (because Seasonal Affective Disorder is REAL, People), and lay there awhile, pondering my next move.
This was at least marginally acceptable, because aside from suspecting that I might be part-vampire, I’d been up writing until half-past 5 a.m. (as I likely will again tonight). Other than a few unanswered emails, no one was expecting much of me on this particular Monday.
The day was mine. What to do with it? Despite any aspirations of decades prior, I had no superstar husband, 4-year-old diva-in-training, publicist, management team or army of adoring fans affectionately known as the “Beyhive” (or, in my case: the “Mai-niacs”?) awaiting my arrival.
I was free.
And maybe it was due to the “bonus day” of BHM we were blessed with this year—or because, as a freelancer, I’m able to structure most days as I please. But as I lay there contemplating luxuriating between the sheets just a few minutes—or hours—longer, I started to meditate on freedom. Namely, what a strange and delicate freedom there is in being Black, female, solo and searching in a world that’ll often tell you that’s the least desirable thing to be…and that it’s a problem to be solved, STAT.
(BTW, I’m fairly sure Bey is not generally allowed—or allowing herself—the luxury of sleeping in without extensive pre-planning. I’m also sure that’s why her life is far more luxurious than mine; but…so be it.)
So, what does any of this (or Beyoncé) have to do with my love life—which has gone woefully unreported on, as of late?
Well, I was lying there (alone), my thoughts wandering to expectations—and entitlement. Specifically, whether I can realistically meet my own expectations—and likely, yours—and continue to traipse about, meeting men and collecting stories and anecdotes that will entertain, provide insight, and justify the ongoing existence of this blog…
And, of course, somehow casually stumble upon the love of my life in the process. Sure. Sounds simple enough.
That led me to also consider the quality of my recent interactions with prospective beaux, since—though unreported—there have been new prospects. There may even be some promise. But the truth is, lately, I’ve been feeling a bit…encroached upon. My patience has been tested, my boundaries increasingly breached (and not in that good way), and my annoyance is beginning to show.
It’s not cute. Annoyance causes wrinkles.
So, I lay there pondering: Has my recent disenchantment with dating been due to my inability—or unwillingness—to meet seemingly outsized expectations? Or is navigating the murky waters of someone else’s entitlement—to my time, space, attention and attraction—a natural and non-negotiable rule of engagement?
Or, am I just ‘trippin’’—as black girls are wont to do? (Don’t you dare answer that.)
Let’s see: The past six weeks have featured…
• An ex who, despite our humiliating and hostile breakup years prior—and only very recent and tenuous attempts at friendship—felt comfortable enough to confront me about my seeming lack of constancy and concern for him. (Frankly, he should feel lucky we’re even still on speaking terms.)
• A once-potential suitor who seems to be attempting to wear down my lack of interest with his persistent presence. (Because…when I decided not to advance the relationship, my subconscious desire was to keep him in my periphery? Sorry, Babe. That’s not how that works.)
• An otherwise affable gent I had a first date with in December, who popped up unexpectedly and expressed genuine and outright irritation that I was neither able nor willing to drop all plans in order to immediately have a second date…over two months after the fact. (I suppose I should be flattered by his enthusiasm, but…is my schedule expected to run at his convenience?)
• An admittedly dashing leading man who slid into my DMs with compliments and a ticket to his latest production, but failed on the follow-up—yet, reappears at will with continued declarations of interest…and still no follow-up. (Because I’m clearly supposed to be waiting with bated breath by the backstage door.)
• An undeniably attractive prospect from afar who unexpectedly gifted me with my first unsolicited—if somewhat surrealist—d*ck pic. (Question: Is it still considered a d*ck pic if it’s a picture of a picture of a d*ck? Must explore in a future post…)
• And last but not least, an immensely intriguing new interest I’d likely welcome across my boundaries with open arms (yes, in that good way)…if we ever established enough consistency to confirm his availability. Is it live, or is it Memorex? (Because romance requires a steady rhythm…)
The methods—and the madness—may vary, but somehow all feel like variations on the same theme: Entitlement. In each of these engagements, there seems to be some inherent expectation that I remain open, accommodating and available; amenable and willing to acquiesce upon request—even at a moment’s notice.
And yes, men are often especially—even unwittingly—skilled at entitlement (they’re socialized for it). But entitlement isn’t exclusively male (or White, for that matter).
Because, let’s face it: how entitled did we all feel to deconstruct “Formation”? (Oxymoronic, no?) How compelled were we to project ourselves onto it and manipulate it to suit our own preferences and purposes—even our predispositions for or against Beyoncé?
And why? Because she belongs to “us”? Because we don’t equally belong to her? Because she’s obligated to represent not only herself, but all of us, as well? Because even when she creates something almost exclusively for “us,” she owes us an explanation for her every artistic expression? Because it’s not enough for her to show up and entertain—her fame entitles us to an all-access pass into her very psyche?
Hell, I can barely handle a handful of casual suitors. What must it feel like to be the object of constant, en masse entitlement?
And here’s a thought: What if “Formation” really wasn’t that complicated to begin with? What if the biggest thing Bey dropped was simply a glorious reminder—not just of NOLA or that #BlackLivesMatter—but that #BlackGirlMagic is not monolithic, but in its very essence, multifaceted?
See, I am Black, female, solo and searching—for a lot of things: love, justice, and purpose among them. Matter of fact, I am a lot of things: intellectual and inquisitive, fair and funny, nurturing and nuanced, smart and sexual, political and sometimes prissy, righteous and even ratchet—on the rare occasions the mood strikes.
I am both a bona fide belle and a bona fide boss.
None of these things are mutually exclusive. But what I learned on my Black History Month vacation is that the burden of #BlackGirlMagic is that whatever I am—aloof or accessible—I’m often damned if I do, damned if I don’t; even if I belong to no one but myself.
It’s March now, and my laptop tells me it’s half-past 5 a.m. again. The day is mine. I am free. What to do with it?
(And if you’re still thirsty for a great think piece: