Eye Openers and Skirt Lifters

TW: Sexual Assault

If anyone had ever asked me if I’d ever been sexually assaulted, I would have said no. I know my mom has. My nieces have. I know they’ve been victimized by men, as women are every day, and I always breathed a small sigh of relief that I hadn’t experienced what they have. You see, I was reading sexual assault as rape and molestation. I was reading sexual assault as forced intercourse, and violence, roughness and crying for help. And all of those qualify. But I wasn’t reading the full story.

I didn’t see it as an unwanted attack on my person. As an ass slap when I’m walking by, or a grope when I’m dancing with you, or a kiss before I push you away. I didn’t see it as being touched when I didn’t want to be touched. I didn’t see it as those things. There were levels. And I always thought that as long as I cussed you out after, and put you in your place, and told you I don’t roll like that, that I had protected myself sufficiently. I always thought that if you stopped when I said “no,” that I had prevented an actual sexual assault. But something happened that showed me that I was wrong.

I went to a party. I met a man. I danced with him. I was drunk. He was drunk. We ended up against a wall. Next thing I knew I was being kissed. And it was fine. But then I was being groped. And my skirt was being lifted. And that wasn’t fine. I pushed him away. I told him to stop, and he did. And then I took my drunk ass out of there before more happened. And I didn’t think about it. I mean, I pushed it completely away. I shrugged it off, and I went about my life. I didn’t see it as anything other than a guy getting too excited and acting out. I excused it. Because it was me. I honestly don’t know if I would have excused it so quickly had it been someone else. But it was me, and I thought I knew myself. And I let it go. In short, I made it okay.

But it wasn’t okay. It occurs to me lately (after some retrospection you don’t need to know about), that sexual assault covers a lot more than what I thought it did. That it was more than the blatant, sexual coercion. That it had happened to me. Of course, it’s not something I’m reconciling very well, hence me writing this. It’s making me anxious, edgy, fearful. I want to shrink and withdraw; I spent a whole day sick to my stomach. It skewed my perspective, and left me reeling. You don’t think of it as being taken advantage of. You just don’t. You write it off and think you’ve escaped unscathed because they listened to your “no.” But you’re not unscathed. And the fact that they listened to “no” doesn’t mean a fucking thing because they still felt entitled to touch you in the first place. And that’s wrong. It’s dead ass wrong. It crazy wrong. It’s made me sad, and angry with myself.

It just made me sad that I’ve babied men for so long. Like, I don’t even hold them to the same standard that I do my fucking self. EYE don’t touch anyone, in any way, without their consent. I have that as a rule. For MYSELF. And for this man I just wrote it off for him as “at least he stopped when I said no.” Like that bar was so low, I’m embarrassed. And then I thought of all the other things I do to prevent being touched. How I shrink in a crowd when a man is about to brush up against me. How I excuse myself far too often so they don’t share my space, so they don’t violate my space. How I meet the most ignorant, disgusting ones in the street but I still smile and speak when they speak to me because I’m afraid of what they’ll do if I’m not polite. If I reject them. How I hate being approached when I’m alone. How I stand with my back to the wall in certain places. How I shrink myself, protect myself; how I COWER on a day-to-day basis because you never know what men will do. How I’ve taken it for granted that they will take advantage of me at the first opportunity, and I’ve modified MY behavior because asking them to modify theirs will bring their anger. How I’ve been doing it for years, and how I did it that night. It’s… heavy to say the least. And I’m not okay with it.

I think about my nieces (I have nine of them now), my beautiful girls and I think of them shrinking. Not being who they really are. Cowering. And I’m angry. With myself. With men. With the world. I always have rose-colored glasses; I have a vacation home in Optimism. But it’s been dwindling, and it’s all I can do to hold on. Keep your hands to yourself. Teach your sons to keep their hands to themselves. Stop thinking you’re entitled to something because you like it. Or because it’s there. In the meantime, I’m learning to shoot. And I’m buying a stun gun. I hope none of you niggas have to learn the hard way. But I will teach you if necessary.

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Fat Black Girls on TV, and Art Imitating My Life: An Introspective

I am a fat black girl. A wide, full-bellied, thick-thighed, heavy-set, brown skinned, woman. I said that as an announcement of self. I don’t feel bad about it. Even though every form of commercial advertisement, and (not so) well-meaning family members have certainly tried to make me feel like I should. I’ve been bullied into weight loss challenges, coaxed into high impact aerobics, guilted into dieting. I’ve even been persuaded to food journal, shamed by own words. All in the name of “health.” And though it’s been tough, I’ve managed to remain me. My one of a kind self. Then I started seeing fat girls on TV.

Now let me start by saying representation matters. It matters a lot. And I would never pretend that seeing someone who resembles your basic category of self in the art you enjoy doesn’t have impact. It most certainly does. And almost every marginalized group out there is clamoring for representation. In print. On screen. They’re tired of the whitewashing. They want to see themselves. Fat black girls are no different, and as one, I can’t help but be excited when I see it happening. And then I see the characters. How they’re written, how they’re performed, how they’re drawn or dressed. I see them, and I don’t see myself. But is that because I’m covering my eyes? Is the fat black woman TV trope the me that I don’t want to see?

My first lasting memory of a fat black woman on TV was Nell Carter. I loved Gimme A Break, and loved her. She was a singing, dancing, laughing, darker-skinned woman. Nell Carter was everything to a little girl like me. I watched the later seasons of the show faithfully; I don’t remember when it first began. Anyway, Nell Carter was special. I saw myself in her, even though I was a kid. As I got older, it wasn’t hard to realize they’d casted her in sort of a minstrel/ mammy type role, an aspiring singer, playing nanny to this white man and his kids, as a last wish to their dying matriarch. And it wasn’t hard to see that Nell was the loudest person on the show, in both looks and personality. It took me a long time to figure out that was on purpose, that that was how the fat black woman was seen: Funny, sassy, noisy–with a good dose of humor and honesty and common sense to snatch you from the pits of wrong and set your life straight. With love, of course.

Moving on into the now, I can see that not much has changed, at least not as much as some would have us believe. The fat black friend is still the mother of the group, still the loudest, still the comedian to the skinny girl’s straight man. She still offers the most honest advice, says what no one wants to say, and says it with as much noise and drama as she can. The only difference is with the onset of cable and less restrictions, we’ve added a sexual element to the trope. The fat black friend is the most overtly sexual in nature of the group, but almost never paired–so she almost always has an air of desperation about her. When she does “meet” someone, it’s almost always someone completely unsuitable for an adult relationship, or so fine that EVERYONE (even her) questions how she managed to get him to pay attention to her. And if she has a continuous plot line at all, there’s a good chance it may involve her losing weight at some point. Shirley Hemphill (Shirley from What’s Happening–RIP), Yvette Wilson (Andell from Moesha–RIP), and Natalie Desselle-Reid (Janie from Eve), have all had pieces, if not the whole of this trope. Queen Latifah (Khadijah from Living Single) was written a little better–probably because she was closely written to match Queen’s actual personality–but she still had the least active love life of the four women on that show. Amber Riley (Mercedes from Glee) was also written slightly better, but fell into the trope by having her plot lines in the first season centered around her need to lose weight, and having a crush on a guy who turned out to be gay. The worst of these is probably Jennifer, played by Cocoa Brown from the Tyler Perry show For Better Or Worse, even though writing a trope is no less than what I expect of Tyler Perry (but moving on because my discomfort with TP’s writing is another story for another day). But even a show as cool as Insecure has Kelly, the “fat friend,” who is the loud, funny, blunt one who you’ve yet to see with a man and who is–wait for it–noticeably smaller than she was last season. How much do you want to bet they bring up that weight loss at some point?

But even with all of my–frustration? Disappointment, maybe? I am a firm believer that art imitates life. So is this me? Am I this fat girl? I didn’t think so at first, mainly because of one stark difference: the fat friend usually feels like a write-in to a skinny girl show, and so there’s normally only one per group. This gave me a hearty laugh. I don’t know ONE fat girl that has all skinny friends. I have a whole Justice League of fat girls in my life, all beautiful and talented, all with different powers. But maybe that’s just me. Nevertheless, that’s the reason I initially dismissed it as an unrealistic exaggeration. But then there’s the rest. I’m very sexual, and I talk about sex a lot. I mean, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know. But I’m perpetually single. I’m sure I’m the loudest of my friends and a lot of times the most animated. My babies often quote my “hilarious one-liners.” I’m asked for advice a lot, and can be counted on to give it to you straight–kind, but straight. I’m definitely the mother hen of all my homies. So is this me? And if I look at this art, and see this woman–this fat, black, woman–and am disappointed in how she’s portrayed, what does that mean? What am I saying? Am I saying my personality is something that seems exhausting and fake? Am I too loud? Too sexual? Too “sassy?” Am I all of these things and ashamed of it, and thus projecting that onto fat black girls I see on TV?

I suppose my real problem is that all of these traits seem like they are used to make the character look less worthy of being taken seriously. She may be offering the truth and the best advice, but her loud, sassy, no-nonsense tone assures that you’ll laugh it off and keep drinking your wine. Her blatant sexual openness might make her worthy of dick (sometimes), but you may not ever see her fall in love. And if she does get (and keep) a man, there’s a good chance he’s a man-child who feeds off her “motherly” nature in some way. She’s happy and confident and laughing and joking about her size–but not really complete unless she’s trying to get “fit” or lose weight. Everything her friends love about her seems to be hindering her, as a character, as a person–unless she’s trying to change it. And even though she’s obviously hard to miss, it’s almost as though she HAS to be louder to be seen. To be heard. Or maybe that’s just a projection too.

 

The Dating Superiority Complex (previously Titled, Your Dating Advice Sucks and So Do You)

Hey Guys!

Let me just tell y’all how I have been on a whirlwind of thoughts and dreams and life and creativity. Family is family, I’m still experiencing a downshift in funds and lifestyle and I am often worried about money and bills and staying afloat. None of that’s changed. I’m still creatively strong, writing whatever suits me, gearing up for this website launch, applying to a super dope retreat, and entering contests. None of that’s changed either. The only other aspect to my life right now is dating. And that… that’s why we’re here today.

Dating is nice. It’s cool for what it is, but I’m about to switch things up. And the changes I want to make in my dating life led me to some thoughts about how people treat dating, how they view it, and how we project onto those who may view it differently. I know, the title is a heavy one, and some of you feel insulted already, when I haven’t even said anything. But give me a chance on this one. Trust me. Oh you’re still hesitant? Take my hand…

So. I’ve written before about my romantic life, my dating life. How my lack of confidence put a shadow over it, how my romantic nature has been unfulfilled most of my life by a lack of true, real love. How I’ve never been loved in return. How like and lust have been my calling cards, the only thing I’ve given that was reciprocated. I did. I wrote all of that. You can go back and read it if you want… later. Let’s not rehash it. My point is, as much as a dumpster fire as my love life has largely been, dating advice hasn’t made it any better. And the people who’ve given it to me, although well-meaning, haven’t had the impact that either they or I have hoped they’d have. And it has a lot to do with how they see me, and how their experience with dating has shaped them.

What do I mean by that? It’s the Dating Superiority Complex. I know what you’re thinking. “Shameka, that’s not a thing. What is this shit you’ve made up?” I know that’s what you’re thinking. But it IS a thing, I promise. Let me explain further. When you’ve had success in some/ all aspects of dating, there is a tendency to look down (for lack of a better phrase) on those who haven’t, to subscribe it to them, to assume that THEIR the problem all the time, every time. There’s an air of condescension and pity that comes with your advice, even when you don’t hear it. There’s a sense that there’s some action not being taken; it’s an assumption of laziness and lack of drive; it’s an act of blame.

I am surrounded by people who don’t have any of the underlying physical and emotional issues that I have/had, so their advice seems to always be tinged with a hint of blame, like ultimately this all comes down to something I’ve failed to do or say. It’s always folks who have never had a problem getting the person they want that act like this is so easy. Folks that can get a date just pumping gas or waiting in line at the ATM. People who hardly ever get rejected on physical appearance. The people who never have to take dating seriously because when they’re ready to be with someone, there’s always someone there. Or, the people who didn’t have to date extensively because they met the right one early. It’s always you guys. Let me give you a couple of examples:

“Shameka, you’re too hard on them– you’ve got to give them a chance” – Okay, let me tell you what’s wrong with that. Everyone has preferences. EVERYONE. So why when it comes to ME is it okay to ask me to ignore those preferences? I’m too hard on people? Spend five minutes with me and you’ll know that’s not true. But if there is a glaring something that they have that I don’t want, how does moving on become not giving them “a chance?” And why am I required to, anyway? Asking for what I want is being “too hard” on people? What kind of advice is this? It has the implication that my standard is something arbitrary that should be lowered every time someone claims they like me. And that’s really, really awful. The idea that I should be open to whoever deigns to approach me, whether I’m attracted or not reeks of disrespect and I thought you had a better opinion of me than that. But that’s what your suggesting, so obviously not. Your dating advice sucks.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there more”/ “Wait. The right man will come along.” – Now I’ve put these two together because 1) people tend to use them in tandem although they are in DIRECT CONTRADICTION to one another, and 2) they’re both equally stupid and wrong. Let me tell you something. “Put yourself out there” is neither specific nor well-meaning. Should I stand on the corner with a sandwich board, asking for a relationship? Should I venture to places where I have to pretend to be comfortable, on the off chance I might see someone who wants to talk to me? What does this mean? Put myself out where??? No one’s been able to tell me. Then there’s the “wait for the right guy” brigade. Does waiting mean I don’t do anything? Does it mean I pray? Do I stand somewhere? I’m not trying to be a smart ass. I’m asking. What do you mean when you say that? Or do you not even know? It sounds like they’re handing out men somewhere and you’re trying to direct me to the line. Yeah, your dating advice sucks.

“Shameka, you’d find someone if you’d only________/ if you were more ______” – Oh, these are my favorites. So, the key to finding a life partner is changing. If only I did something I’m not comfortable with, or adopted a personality trait that’s not me–then all my problems would be solved!!! Oh joy! You found the solution! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? Like, what? Do you know me at all? Who are you, even? Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. I know it’s all just a way to get me to try something new, maybe have a new experience. But it’s all framed to make me feel like there’s something lacking, in me. There’s that air of blame again. Your dating advice sucks.

“Shameka, you have all the power. You just need to believe it/ use it/ control it/ etc.” – Okay, this last one is an affirmation so I feel a little shitty saying it’s bad. But… it is. Look, I believe in manifesting the things you want with your thoughts. I do. I promise. I just don’t think a man and his baby batter is one of those things. And I especially love (read: can’t stand) you folks that talk about belief as though my singleness is all a product of my lack of faith in whatever God you believe in. Or the ones that think I’m harboring some secret magic I haven’t tapped into, and that’s why my love life is a dumpster fire. I’m grateful for the compliments/ affirmations, but this all gets to be too much. And once again, it’s not specific. Is the magic in my pussy? My armpit? Is it in my mind? Where? Hiding behind the insecurity??? YOUR. DATING. ADVICE. SUCKS.

Anyway, I’ve long since stopped treating singleness like a disease I’m trying to cure. I do want companionship, but the kind that’s going to be comfortable and safe–for ME. I’m not looking to have what anyone else has. That’s not what this is about. This is about venturing into opening up your heart and hearing a chorus of “You’re doing it wrong!” from people who are supposed to love you. I know you guys think you’re helping. You’re not. I wish you were. This would be easier. Because the truth of all this is that there is no magic formula. There isn’t for me, and there wasn’t for any of you. But some of you are just so reluctant to admit that you just got lucky, that you just won a lottery, that you just showed up in the right place at the right time with the right assets–that you pretend there is a magic formula. But we both know better. Just like we both know your dating advice sucks.

But I still love you. And I hope you still love me.

My Year In Creativity

Hi Guys!

Okay, so on a personal level, 2016 has been fraught with troubles and trials, downs and even lowers, headaches and pains in the ass. It’s been challenging for me, disappointing, full of shit. But let’s not get into that. Because I said all that to say, that the one place that hasn’t been a flaming ball of shit is… writing. My creativity has been through the roof. I have written and published and introduced myself all over the place. I have grown my fan base in a way that I never thought. It’s been humbling and wonderful and surprising. And in the interest of self-promotion and a pat on the back, I am using this post to highlight everything I’ve written and introduced to the public this year. Some of this you guys might have seen, or read, but if you haven’t feel free to click on a link. Try me out. Read my stuff. Share with your friends. All that jazz. You ready? Here we go:

I wrote/ published a fair amount that dealt with parent/ child relationships. It’s a hot topic for me, probably because I think so much about my parental relationships.

Daughter to the Rescue– Mallory battles her father and herself as she combs the streets trying to catch a glimpse of her drug addicted mother. Read here: https://medium.com/@shamekae34/daughter-to-the-rescue-377ea4ae3ce5#.3s36z8nqb

My Father’s Arms: Jaylen goes to California in search of comfort from a father whose emotions have always been unavailable. Read here: https://medium.com/@shamekae34/my-fathers-arms-5f10f32321d3#.pasmav616

The Art of Forgetfulness: Esme is the daughter of a famous author who doesn’t remember any of the neglect her only child has faced at her hands. Can she care for her mother in spite of her resentment? Read here: https://medium.com/@shamekae34/the-art-of-forgetfulness-3597db2a5357#.lha9rp2ck

Torn: Savannah is risking her marriage to save an addict bent on destruction. She must choose between saving Justin, or losing her marriage forever. Read here: http://www.blackcitytv.com/black-city-stories/torn

I also wrote something autobiographical, about my “blended” family, my multiple parents, and how my life resembled a certain celebrity baby. Read Thinking of Baby Future, And Myself, here:  https://abernathymagazine.com/thinking-of-baby-future-and-myself/

As usual, I am always writing about falling in love, losing love, and sometimes even reuniting. My relationship trials have been nothing compared to the characters I’ve created, lol.

Magic Words: Danny and Cree are forbidden lovers, on opposite sides of the law and life, obsessed and in love, with no chance of being together. Read and see if their love conquers all, here: http://opusmagonline.com/features/?author=57e94fa759cc68c81d9d8964

Heartbreak Alley: Cass Masterson tells the story of her love for a musician, and the roller coaster that was their relationship. This is honestly some of my best work and I would be honored if you would read it, here: heartbreakalley

Love In June: Leah is in love with Nate, but jealous of his first love: music. She doesn’t want to acknowledge it, but could lose Nate forever if she doesn’t. Read what she does, here: https://medium.com/@shamekae34/love-in-june-374bf4dab1d8#.iaj1oxu9n

The Price of Freedom: Anya runs into her former lover on the street and rehashes their relationship. Both of them needed the other to feel free, but realized they could still be trapped. Read here: http://www.blackcitytv.com/black-city-stories/daughter-to-the-rescue

Love By The Numbers: Ree has been counting the weeks until her love returns home, inspired by her memories, and his letters. Now that he’s home, they both need more than words on paper. Read their story here: http://opusmagonline.com/features/?author=57e94fa759cc68c81d9d8964

Finally, I had the honor of getting my first PAID writing gig! I was contracted to write a Halloween-themed short story for a company with their own daily Youtube show. Hear a version of my story, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x8YLWMdKiA

As you all can see, I’ve been pretty busy. Writing has been my saving grace and I am so thankful to everyone who’s ever read me. Shoutout to OPUS mag and Abernathy, for publishing my words. Look out for my website early next year. It will be full of exclusive content and links to all my published work. Plus, I’ll be finishing a novella and starting a collaboration, and lots more. So though other versions of me might have taken a bit of a beating, Shameka the Writer is still here. And more creative than ever.

Love you!

A Matter of Survival

Hi Guys.

I know it’s been forever, but every time I sit down to write something, it never comes out like I want it to and I end up either rambling on incessantly or stopping midway. I’ve been having the time of my life showing off creatively, but personal angles have been increasingly hard for me to write. It’s almost as though I don’t want to talk about myself. But that can’t be. Can it? Am I afraid to pick my brain apart? Am I avoiding opening up to you guys? To myself? Maybe so. Maybe I have been hesitant about writing things that pertain to me. To my life. To… this mess that I’m calling a life.

Let me give you guys the short version: I moved back here, a little more than a year ago. I opened my door to family, to caring for them, to helping them while helping myself not feel so alone. They took advantage. It turned into, “Let’s ask Shameka any and everything,” and “Let’s let her do any and everything,” “Let’s take any and everything from her.” I know what you’re going to say. And you’re right. I should have self-protected. I should have said no. I should have known. But it’s my family. And I was just happy to be here with them, in the conversation, getting what little bit of affection was parceled out to me. Like. I. Always. Fucking Do.

Then, I met a man. A wonderful man. A kind, confident, listening man. A man I thought wanted my heart all to himself. Turns out, he didn’t listen when it counted. He was dismissive when I was scared. He made light of my concerns. I thought he felt what I felt, and wanted what I wanted. He didn’t. So I had to back away, amidst tears and tweets and angst. My heart strings were pulled so hard; I thought it might be the real thing. And then… it wasn’t. I bent when I shouldn’t have, gave too many chances. Like. I. Always. Fucking. Do.

Then, I didn’t have a job. I spent months worrying about money. Months trying to streamline my budget. Then, I saw a job. I thought it was perfect. I applied. I interviewed. I got the job. And it sucks. It sucks from start to finish, with lousy pay. And with the way I was being leaned on, lousy pay wasn’t enough to make me grin and bear it with a sucky job. So here we are. But I’m making the best of it. Like. I. Always. Fucking. Do.

So that’s where we are guys. My personal, professional, love life in shambles. Me, being tolerant, like I always am. Me showing the utmost patience for those in my life, me doing my best to crawl up out of these emotional holes that I stupidly let people put me in. But I’m here to tell you guys that it stops. That I’m done. It’s a matter of survival.

I’m too old and talented to continue working jobs that give me no satisfaction whatsoever. I’m too smart to let dudes continue to play me, continue to be part of what I want and strut around like that’s enough. I’m too worthy of full affection to keep letting my family parcel it out whenever they want something from me. I’m too much of everything. I’m too accomplished, too open, too smart, too brave to be living like this. Like a coward. I deserve better than to be surrounded by people who only know me when I can do something for them. I’ve done too much for other people to be the brunt of your angst and the reason why you can’t grow up. I have had everyone’s back, consistently and without hesitation, only to be sitting alone when it all shakes out. Only to be alone when it really counts. I deserve better. And I will get it. It’s a matter of survival.

I’m killing myself trying to be what people need in the moment that they need it and I end up alone. Trying to figure it out. Praying for a miracle. And I’m standing in this place, on the cusp of everything I FINALLY  could be, scared as hell, with NO ONE beside me, because everyone I counted on backed away. And that’s fine. Because now I know where they stand. And what I have to do. Now I know how this is going to go. But I know I can make it. Because I have before. Which is more than I can say for the people I’ve held up. I don’t know how they’ll push through. But they’ll do it without me. They have to. They need to. And I need to close the door. It’s a matter of survival.

Pray for me, guys. I love you.

A Keeper of Men

So I just have a question…

Ladies, how do you keep a man? Do I wear my hair a certain way? Are there “Keep A Man” clothes? Do they need special food? Specific snacks? Should my home resemble a sports bar with a bed? Do I fill my brain with motivational messages that I blurt out when he slaps me on the ass like a vending machine, giving him exactly what he needs, exactly when he needs it? How do you do it? Can you ladies in relationships help me out? Because I’ve wandered into yet another place where I thought I had some footing and it turns out I might be totally clueless. Walk with me…

I’m on Facebook, minding my business (which is part of the problem because I should have just kept doing that), and one of my longtime friends posted a meme asking women to name a way to keep a man that doesn’t involve sex, food, or money. Now, it was at this point that I really fucked up because I decided to stop scrolling and read the responses. What in the hell was I thinking? That just gets you more involved; I should have known better. I read what the ladies were writing down, and a lot of it was, quite honestly, what I expected: support him, foster his dreams, pray for him, build him up, don’t knock his ideas, and my personal favorites (sarcasm)–shut up sometimes and don’t nag him so much. I laughed a little, nodded my head thoughtfully, took a deep breath, and wrote my sure-fire foolproof method for keeping a man: nothing. That’s what I believe, so that’s what I wrote. I wrote that nothing “keeps” a man other than him wanting to stay. Period.

Now the response from my longtime friend (a guy, if you haven’t figured it out), was not agreement. He told me he disagreed and that I had answered the wrong question. Now that stumped me. Because I thought I read the question correctly. The meme didn’t say “Name ways to make your man happier,” “Name ways to cater to your man,” or even, “Name ways to keep your relationships strong.” It said to name a way you keep a man, which I interpreted as “keep him from leaving me,” and from what I’ve learned, there’s no way to do that, other than him wanting to stay. So I don’t know how it wasn’t the question being asked. Now, this is when I got smart and figured out that I didn’t want this Facebook discussion in any way, shape, form, or fashion. So I didn’t respond after he said that. I moved along. But it stayed with me, and I couldn’t move on in my mind. I even asked my Twitter timeline, that’s how confused I was. How did I not get the question right? Because I didn’t mimic the answers of those other women? Because I actually believe healthy relationships are a result of free will on the part of both people and not magic beans wrapped in condescending rhetoric like, “shut up sometimes and don’t nag him?”

Look. I don’t have a thing to say about those other women’s answers. I don’t care. Besides that, most of them probably have a man and I certainly don’t. So maybe I’m totally wrong. But it bothered me a lot that those answers were given, that those were the answers expected, and anything not in that vein was rejected as not answering the right question. I mean, support, prayer, encouragement are all par for the course in relationships, right? Why would you be in one otherwise? Those are all things that keep relationships strong, things that both partners need, things that are somewhat necessary. They’re not tips to glue a man to your side. Shutting up sometimes and listening is just good communication skills–necessary for life–not some ancient Chinese secret to keep a man. You think men are the only people who like silence? You think men are the only people who want to be left alone sometimes? But it drove me to something deeper. The idea that “keeping” him was my responsibility as his woman.

See, once you start throwing around things like, “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” you’ve just given the woman an extra job. Suddenly, it’s my duty to make him stay. Now the onus is on me to “keep” him rather than on him–a fully functioning, grown ass man–to make himself happy in whatever way that means. You’ve unbalanced the scales. You’ve moved the goalposts. Both of us working to keep our relationship strong is somehow not enough now. And you’ve given him less work. Because now, if he does in fact leave me, he can blame me. He can point to something I didn’t do, rather than just saying the relationship wasn’t right. And now he can go blameless into his next one without ever learning how to self-reflect, or self-correct. Maybe the issue is laziness. Because “maintaining your relationship,” or “keeping it strong,” implies that both people are working at it. And “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” clearly implies that only one person is. It’s entitlement. It’s unfair. And really harmful to women, I think. The idea that I have to do anything other than reciprocate what’s given to me, in order to “keep” someone who has the free will to leave anytime they want, is utterly ridiculous. And since I haven’t had the greatest luck in relationships, I can also attest that I’ve begged enough people to stay to know that it doesn’t work. A man who wants to stay will build with you, and stay–and a man who wants to leave, will leave. Nothing can keep him but his desire to stay. Let me say that again. NOTHING CAN KEEP HIM BUT HIS DESIRE TO STAY.

A friend of mine (a man) told me that part of man’s journey to do/ be better for women in this life is disabusing themselves of the notion that a woman’s love for you is assumed, but your love for her has to be earned. And I find myself wanting to ask men–is it more important that I love you, or is it more important that I earn your love for me? I wonder how many of them would have a thoughtful answer. Because in my mind, the first one is heart and the second one is ego.

Now let me not suggest that you don’t do all that stuff for your man that those other women wrote in the comments (if you want to). Of course you should support, uplift, encourage, and pray for him. Of course you should shut up sometimes and listen. But do it out of love and reciprocity, in the interest of strengthening your bond and falling deeper in love, not because you think it’s some magic glue that’s gonna hold him to your side. Because it’s all about choice. And so-called “perfect” girls get cheated on and dumped everyday, B.

 

Forgiveness, starring Lemonade and Ricki and the Flash

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Shameka, what the hell kind of title is that? What are you writing about now?” But I did it to pull you in. It worked, right? So walk with me. I promise I have a point, and those two ladies are at the center of it. Good news is, I’m back to using TV as inspiration for my life. Lol.

I watched Lemonade like the rest of the world and am just in awe of Queen Bey. Now, people who know me know that while I don’t dislike her, I am certainly not her biggest fan. So for her newest project to touch me so much really means something. It’s significant. For me. I wasn’t looking to be so captivated by it, wasn’t looking for it to resonate with me. But it did. And one element of it especially. Now, in this mini movie, Bey seems to be chronicling a journey of a woman going through a romantic crisis. She goes from wondering about her husband’s distance, to finding out about his infidelity, the pain and anger of her confrontation, forgiveness and reform, and finally, a higher level of self, and of happiness. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning to it all as well, but on the surface, this is what appears to be being depicted. Now whether she’s speaking literally of her and Jay has been the topic all over social media, but that’s not what I’m concerned about today. When she gets to the point of forgiveness, the section features both her and Jay and she sings a song called “Sand Castles.” That part speaks to me… and I wonder about forgiveness. But that was just the beginning. The universe continued it’s prod in this direction again today.

Today, I happened to watch a cute little dramedy starring Meryl Streep called, Ricki and the Flash. It’s a movie about a wife and mother who leaves her family to pursue her rock star dreams and gets called back into the fold years later when she’s distant and washed up, to help with a daughter (whom she barely knows) who has been abandoned by her husband. It’s a lesson in swallowing your pride, but also in redemption… and forgiveness. See the recurring theme? Told you guys I had a point! Anyway, all of that got me to wondering about forgiveness. Should we always forgive? Does everyone deserve it? Are there levels? Does forgiveness mean forgetting? How does anyone do it fully? Forgive, I mean.

So let me jump right in. When someone does you wrong, lets you down, breaks their promise and your trust, is forgiveness always the way? Is it the truth and the light? People always say you should forgive, for yourself. They say it’s so YOU can move on, with a clear head and heart and it doesn’t have anything to do with the other person. But it does. Forgiveness absolves them, it wipes their slate clean. You might not have done it FOR them, but they benefit. You might think it’s petty for me to concern myself with that, and you’re probably not wrong. But it’s how I feel. So here we are. I’m all about justice and balancing the scales. And when someone who’s harmed me gets to skip away unscathed with no comeuppance, my petty comes out. I mean, it’s quite possible that the other person doesn’t even care and will skip away unscathed anyway–but if that’s going to happen, then you certainly don’t need to have my forgiveness to go with it. I’m much more likely to forgive if I can at least count on you to be contrite about your shit.

Then I wonder what my level is. Because I’ve done plenty of things wrong. And one would think I’d want to forgive as I’ve obviously been forgiven. We all think the things we’ve done are forgivable. And it’s easy to pass judgement and say that other people’s transgressions aren’t. Trust me, I know. And I get it. And as much as I struggle with forgiveness, I still realize that I need it too. I still want it. But I also know when I’ve done wrong and I acknowledge it. I work hard to make amends. I want people to be able to trust me. I think sometimes I worry a little too much about that. Sometimes I’m pretty consumed with making sure I’m walking that straight and narrow, and showing the appropriate contrition for the things I do. So I usually feel like someone who has in fact “earned” forgiveness. But that’s just me. It’s the rest of the world I’m worried about. And it doesn’t really work that way anyway, right? Or does it? Do you have to “earn” forgiveness? Or does everyone just “deserve” it?

On a more spiritual note, some say it pulls you closer to God to forgive as he forgives, as he’s forgiven you. To err is human, to forgive, divine, and all that jazz. And I think there could be some truth to that. I think it does put you on a bit of higher plane to forgive someone completely and without any lingering negative feeling. I just don’t think I’m ready to be on the plane. And is that really the goal? I mean, should I forgive everyone, all the time? I don’t think I should, nor do I even think it’s possible. And frankly, so what if I didn’t? I guess I really can’t get to the higher plane then. But quite honestly, sometimes forgiveness is tiring and being the “bigger person” is vastly overrated. Sometimes is it not better to simply cut the offensive persons out of your life and move on? What do they need with your forgiveness? Like I said a couple of paragraphs ago, they probably don’t even care. But you’re doing it for you, right? Not them. So there should be satisfaction in that. Hmmm… maybe.

Then  there’s the whole forgive/ forget argument. Some people say you should forgive, but never forget. Others say that you haven’t fully forgiven if you don’t forget. I don’t see how you could ever forget some things, even if you do forgive. But I guess that in order not to let the mistake color how you treat the person, you’d have to forget on some level, wouldn’t you? I think that’s my issue. I mean, I let my anger go. And I cry enough to wash away the hurt, and I forgive. I do. But I’m always cautious with you from that point. I don’t ever feel like I can let you all the way in, again. Does that mean I didn’t really forgive you?

I guess there really are levels. It depends on whether you’re ready, whether your life is being held up by your anger, and in some cases, whether you feel like you should, or want to. Forgiveness in the eye of the beholder, huh? Like beauty. And art. And… other things you look at.