You Say Goodbye- And I… Don’t

Channel surfing is so dangerous. One minute you’re flying high, pressing buttons, ruling the TV, dodging commercials like that ball in your elementary school gym class- and the next minute, you’re getting sucked into the last twenty minutes of Love and Hip Hop and all is lost. Now there’s no need for me to repeat my paragraph on my hatred of reality TV- you guys should remember my loathing of it. But tonight, I saw two segments that did the absolute impossible- they connected with my life. I mean, my real life. I watched the conversation between Tahiry and her father and I also watched Mendecees try to explain the possibility of jail to his seven year old son. Those two parts pulled me in, reminded me of myself. Since the memories start with childhood, of course, I’m going to address the two scenes in reverse. But first, a little background…

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about whether you should share your whole past in a relationship (Let the Past Be Present). And in that post, I explained that the emotional trauma in your past should be shared. And then I admitted that my biological father wasn’t in my life the way I needed him to be. In actuality, he’s been an addict most of my life. Now, I had another father- a wonderful, honorable man- and a mother too, so I don’t want anyone to think that my life was this struggle- and I don’t want to take away from the fact that this struggle has been 1000 times harder for my dad- but it is what it is.

When I watched Mendecees try to explain to his son that he may not see him for a while, that moment got to me. I remember being 11 years old, and sitting with my dad, listening to him tell me that he was going away to get better and that I wouldn’t see him for a while. I didn’t understand addiction- so of course, I didn’t understand him leaving to deal with it. He said he was coming back, but deep down I was always afraid that he wouldn’t. I cried, because that’s what you do when someone you love says goodbye- but I had no idea what it really meant.  He did come back, and things were good for a while, but a year later, we had the same conversation- this time, over the telephone. I guess he thought it would be less painful if we weren’t face to face; it wasn’t. And I had no idea that years later I would be hanging on to bad relationships, to outgrown friendships, to things I shouldn’t- because he made me afraid to say goodbye. And even though he did come back, he’s still not fully in my life. Sometimes I feel like we said our final goodbye that night on the phone, when I was twelve years old, because nothing was ever the same between us after that. My dad is a decent guy- and he loves me. But I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to appreciate how long it took me to reconcile that feeling of abandonment. I don’t know that he’ll ever see that my need to hold on to things was a direct manifestation of my inability to hold on to him.

The other scene that connected with me was the one of Tahiry’s conversation with her father. She talked to him about how his failings as a father and husband shaped her as a woman. And I thought about that too. In dealing with my biological dad, I felt like the parent most of the time. I looked for my dad, made sure he was eating, sleeping, and generally getting along. It made me think about the partners I chose- and why I chose them. It made me think about the men I’ve loved, about what I was looking for when I fell for them. I know this is classic Psych 101 shit- but it’s pretty real. I wanted to save my dad. I wanted to make him better, fix him up. And I wanted to keep him- so much that I chased him. And that’s how I was as a woman in love. I loved people who I thought needed me- needed me to fix them, look after them, save them. I chased them when they left- and forgave them when they returned. I thought that love meant never walking away. I didn’t believe in saying goodbye- not even if it was going to save me.

Five years ago, I wrote my biological dad a letter, telling him some of these feelings. I never mailed the letter; I just needed to get my broken heart on paper. I needed to see and hear and read- out loud- how I was killing my own spirit by following this man’s example. I don’t want you guys to think that I don’t love my biological dad. I do. Very much. But I can’t forget who was there for me, and for a long time, it wasn’t him. I can’t forget that he made me afraid to cut my losses, afraid to save myself… afraid to say goodbye.

It hit me a few years ago, after I broke up with my ex, that I had a great example that I was ignoring all this time. My father. Not my biological, but still my real father. He was the man I should have been emulating. The person I should have let guide my decisions. I took for granted what a great job he did, and what a great man he is. So now, I’m trying to be the woman he raised- finally. Love myself- as he loves me. And define myself- the way he always wanted me too.

Like I said, channel surfing is dangerous. I don’t have the energy for another blog… no more TV. I’m going to bed.

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Treat Her Like A… Woman?

Hello again. The last few months have been an age of discovery for me. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years, my friends have saved my spirit- as well as my life, my job is better and dating doesn’t suck. I’ve been learning so much about myself- and falling in love with TV again. But we’ll get back to TV later. Today, I want to focus on Twitter.

I’ve been on Twitter almost a year and a half now (@ShamekaErby if you feel like following me) and I think I connect with it on a different level than Facebook. Twitter is the home of random thoughts- people say whatever comes to their minds. And anyone who’s my friend on Facebook knows that I live for my random thoughts. It’s interesting to see random spurts of comedy from people that you thought were completely serious, or thoughts of romance from those you thought were the biggest cynics; random bursts of insight from people you thought were too dense to have any. Now don’t get me wrong- Twitter is as fraught with frauds as any social networking tool- but just like the rest, it’s all about who you associate with. That being said, there are many tweets that make me think…

A couple of weeks ago, I saw some tweets from a guy- just sounding off about what kinds of women he liked. And didn’t like. He made mention of liking his women to be softer, more ladylike. One tweet in particular caught my eye because he expressed his displeasure with the kind of girls who “wait for mixtapes to come out.” Now, the reason this tweet caught my eye is because I am that girl. I am the quintessential hip-hop lover. I have a book full of mixtapes in my car, the DatPiff app on my phone, and I check the site every week for music I might like. So when I read that I immediately started thinking about how strange it was that my love for hip-hop made me less “ladylike.” At least in this guy’s eyes- well his, and all his friends that retweeted him. It brought back so many memories of when I muddled through this womanhood/ ladylike shit before.

If you were ever my friend years ago in the MySpace era, I used to blog there too. And one day I went on a bit of rant about how I wasn’t ladylike and had NO desire to be. To me, womanhood was the adult thing that every girl wanted to achieve- being ladylike was doing it without causing a fuss. So womanhood is what you do, ladylike is how you look when you’re doing it. That tweet brought all of that back and I realized that still have some lingering issues with it.

I remember telling my grandmother once that I didn’t want to be a lady. Needless to say, my favorite girl wasn’t very happy with me. But I felt like I was fighting for my life then- my right to be myself. See, for me, it used to be the age old argument of the girly-girl vs. the tomboy- but then things got a little bit deeper… because in terms of that basic definition, I’m at about half and half. I get my hair done (most of the time) but my nails and eyebrows? Whatever for that. I love handbags, but I hate shoes. I’ll wear a dress, but pantyhose make me want to throw things. I’ll wear SOME makeup if I’m going out- but doing my face everyday? No way. I don’t play sports, but I love watching them. And I know plenty of girls like that- but I don’t think that makes me more or less ladylike.

But there are other things. Like the fact that I LOVE hip hop music. I mean, more than any other kind. I live to wear sneakers and sweats; they’re two of my favorite things. When I buy things that require assembly, I don’t wait until I can get a man to do it for me (and if I did, with my dating life I’d be waiting awhile). I say curse words frequently, purposefully, and with intent and if you try and tell me I shouldn’t, I’ll probably curse at you. I drink and I like it and I can hold my liquor. It doesn’t embarrass me to talk about sex or about how much I love it. But do those things make me less ladylike? And does me being ladylike really matter that much in the grand scheme of things?

The answer to both of those questions is I don’t know. I mean, as long as I’m a strong, responsible woman- what does it matter if I’m a lady? I guess what I’m really asking is if the qualities I described above are considered unladylike and if they make me less attractive. Now, I wrote a blog previously about being self-contained- self-sufficient- and not a damsel in distress. And I worried then if me being that made me less attractive. So I’m worrying now. It’s a little disconcerting to think that you’ll be more alone if you don’t fit into certain slots- if you don’t like certain things. I know that all men don’t think the same way, but there’s a lot of them who think that being ladylike means certain things- and that those things are important.

Now, because there are some qualities and preferences I don’t have- or don’t want, it sometimes gives others the impression that I’m lazy or noncommittal, at least in the way of attracting the opposite sex. Not wanting to change and do the same things other women do, more “ladylike” things, I guess, makes them feel like I’m not trying. So in effect, I’m losing at this game we’re all playing. The worst part is that most people (even my friends) have made me feel like “losing” is my fault. That can wreak havoc on a girl’s confidence- especially a girl battling body type issues to begin with. Over the years, my swag has taken quite a beating. But I’m better for it. And that’s another blog for another day.

I guess men deal with the same kind of dilemma. Trying to live up to what women think a man should be, so they’ll be more attractive to them. I guess they do- but you can’t fight your personality. I’ll always be soft (it’s an advantage us plus size girls have) but I’ll never be delicate. I’m made of some pretty sturdy stuff and I like it. I love it. I love my sweats, and drinking dark liquor and calling people assholes. That’s just who I am. I love trolling the net for new hip-hop and blasting it in my car. I just want to be around people who get that, who get me. I’m sure that’s what we all want. I don’t try to make people over- I mean, I like what I like too, so I get it. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be a lady. But I’m a woman- and that’s good enough for me.

Besides, ladylike or not, I’m pretty fucking awesome…