Monday, December 27, 2010

Habari gani? Kujichagulia!

Habari gani? Kujichagulia! Kujichagulia means self-determination and is the second day of Kwanzaa. On this day, we pledge to define ourselves, to name ourselves, to create for ourselves, and to speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, named by, created for and spoken for by others. On this day we design for ourselves a positive future and then vow to make that prophecy a self-fulfilling one.

Kujichagulia is my favorite day of Kwanzaa. Do you, Kujichagulia says. Be a rebel. Find something--anything--to throw your fist in the air and yell about. Today is the day to say FUCK the establishment, FUCK the status quo, FUCK people who are resistant to change, FUCK anyone who can't appreciate your beauty and your truth.

Africans. Niggers. Negroes. Coloreds. Blacks. African-Americans. Niggas. Persons of the African Diaspora. Multi-generational African-Americans. Self-definition is an interesting concept to me, particularly as it relates to identity markers. Black people in this country have been struggling for centuries to answer these questions: What is blackness? Who gets to define it? Through time it has been the whites, then the upper-middle-class blacks, then the one's really sure who it is now. There are lots of people who say blackness should be whatever every individual black person wants it to be; but then how do the non-black interpret blackness, and how do we honor yesterday (unity)? I ask the same thing about gender identity, sexual orientation identity, political party identity, class identity, age identity, religious identity...labels in general. I always say I don't like labels. I don't like generalizations. I don't like that if I said I was a feminist, you would have a prescribed notion of what feminists are, a mold you'd try to put me in. I worry about the same things when I say black. When I say female. When I say 20 year old. When I say Princetonian. I WILL NOT BE COOKIE-CUTTERED TO FIT YOUR NOTIONS OF REALITY.

Heh, Kujichagulia is kind of why I started this blog to begin with...

Habari gani? Umoja!

Umoja means Unity, and it is the principle for the first day of Kwanzaa. Our families and communities need unity in order for them to be productive and to survive. On this day, we pledge to strive for and to maintain unity in the family, in the community, in the nation that we have helped to build, and with our PEOPLE.
 Unity is a concept I've been on a bit of a roller-coaster struggle with this year. I went to the Black Solidarity Conference at Yale in February, and it was the first time I witnessed and took part in what seemed like a real movement of any sort--a large group of people coming together around some issue, trying to be solutionaries (to steal a word from the Umoja Student Development Corporation, where I worked this past summer). That experience was so enriching and inspiring that I really thought we could recreate the feelings it gave us on campus, but over time I learned that it seems that three people simply aren't enough to change a community climate. As time has gone on, I've begun to doubt whether "community" is really even a truly applicable word to describe the population of persons of African descent on Princeton's campus--or anywhere for that matter. Community implies some measure of overall togetherness of thought and action, to my best understanding of the word anyway, which I don't believe we have on any grand level; additionally, it must be asked whether the streamlining process inherent in "strengthening" any community engenders gross generalizations--would an attempt to make the "community" more cohesive be nothing more than self-generalization? How do you reconcile a supposedly encompassing community with the population it so clearly does not represent? What is a community without unity, and with so many factions and interests coexisting [somewhat] peacefully within the population, is true unity even a legitimate possibility? How can intersectionality and unity coexist productively? 

I have questions but no answers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Meaning of Christmas...


Just so you know, this is not another religion-bashing post. This is, after all, their holiday. But as someone who didn't realize that Christ had anything to do with Christmas til late childhood, I'm endeavoring to understand what exactly Christmas is supposed to mean to me. I love that the Wikipedia page for Christmas recognizes the secular aspects of the holiday early on; I feel...validated in my understanding of Christmas as an American cultural holiday, as opposed to as a Christian religious one.

I've talked about Christmas a lot already, because this Christmas is...different for my family this year. To make a long story short, times are tough for everyone involved--myself definitely included--and thus things are being kept...simple. And I've been kind of down in the dumps about it. But on the phone tonight, my friend M a) inadvertently reminded me how good a friend she is and how much I miss her, and b) told me that it takes a Christmas like this to appreciate all the other Christmases. And she's right. It's a Christmas like this, apart from the small children and the cookies for Santa and the tree and the anticipation that makes me sit back and think about what Christmas really means.

Christmas means taking at least a few days off from the rest of life. Christmas means being with my family, even if not everyone is thrilled about this. Christmas means doing everything within your means to get your loved ones in the Christmas spirit, meaning the spirit of love and peace and joy and giving. Christmas means love, the kind of love that, while it may lie peacefully dormant for most of the year, shows itself flamboyantly in bouts of colorful joy every once in a while, and gives of itself even knowing it can expect nothing in return. Christmas means creating your own traditions to supplement the ones your childhood gave birth to. Christmas is being in the arms of someone who loves you, and resting your head on your mom's shoulder, mixed in with a hint of how it feels to be picked up for the first time in years. Christmas is the familiarity of your Grandmother's kitchen combined with the thrill of a young Denzel and a pre-crack Whitney in The Preacher's Wife and the slightest of desires to jingle when you walk. Christmas is always wanting to believe Santa is real, no matter how old you get; it's hating snow but wishing for it anyway. Christmas is warm and somewhat fuzzy and somehow magical. Christmas is love.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Thanks for bringing me home.

This post is in honor of all the people you don't realize how much you've missed until you're with them again. We've somehow reached that age where the weeks between seeing old friends can turn into months and even years easily if we're not careful. I'm writing to tell you to be careful. Take a random opportunity to do a familiar activity with a familiar face. That feeling of sliding comfortably back into a past you thought was lost forever is what being home is all about in the first place isn't it? It's funny how people can hold onto little pieces of your heart for so long that you forget they even have them, til you're with them again and you feel home; home is where the heart is, and tonight reminded me that, while not broken, my heart is in a million places. Only a true friend can remind you of memories you forgot you had. Only a true friend turns a bad day into a warm, fuzzy one. Only true friends remind you that no matter how old you get, or how time changes you, there is always a way to belong.

Go find those people in your life over this break. Do something with them. Actively remember the person you once were, regardless of whether once was last month or ten years ago, and add this to your resolutions: do more to espouse the things you loved about her.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Dear Pad Commercial Designers,
Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but your vials of
blue liquid convince me of absolutely nothing.
Touchably dry, my bloodstained fingertips scoff.
Your free floating cartoon pad drifts like a magic carpet
across my screen, and as it loop-de-loops, it promises
to stretch to fit my body’s natural curves.
Problem with that statement number one:
You sound like a Pamper’s Cruisers commercial.
Two: someone once told me a “regular” sized pad is designed
around the body of a size 6 woman, and I don’t like
what you’re implying about my “irregularity”.
And seriously, anyone who was just dying for a thong pad
is in dire need of a reality check.

But don’t think you’re getting off the hook that easily,
Tampon Commercial Designers. No, I’ve got a complaint or two for you.
Who are these actresses you cast? What menstruating woman in her right mind
really wants to lounge flirtatiously on a pool chaise in a bikini
between overly muscular gentlemen, or chase her dog barefoot
through the wet sand, or go clubbing in the tightest of black dresses,
or nail that difficult new yoga pose while sporting white spandex?
Sorry to be the one to break it to ya, but no one trusts you that well.
And just because you make it tinier (read: easier to leak) and dress it up
in a polka-dotted case does not make me want to show it off to my class,
and I won’t be the first person in line to twirl in slow motion through the field
of flowers or splash gaily in the waterfall either. Now is not a good time to discuss purity.

Of course, not everyone paints periods as a pocket full of sunshine, but Midol and Pamprin
Commercial Designers, you’re next on my list. If I see one more woman get half out of bed
then fall back in, or poke her water weight in the mirror/struggle to button her work pants,
or moan in agony while grabbing her waist/back/head, I’m going to scream.
Yes, it hurts. We all know that. We’ve all known that from tender ages of innocence.
We also know that the cute tight pants are out of commission for a few days, and no matter
how tight the budget is, that morning coffee is a must this week. We know we’ll be crying at
the sappy movies and not having the energy to move, but the real world expects us
up at our normal times and moving at our normal rates and not taking twice as many bathroom
breaks because we either feel like we’re back in diapers or our tampon is so small we can’t feel it
and that’s worrying but either way popping two pills doesn’t stop the feeling that we’re dying
so either show the woman with the clenched jaw and the halfhearted smile who suffers invisibly 
or shut the fuck up.

That last bit is meant for all of you.


Your Consumers

Monday, December 20, 2010

I "paint" to make myself feel better...

They say the most suicides happen around the holidays...

...because people whose families are gone or split up or just not coming to town get really depressed, especially as said people get older. The opposite kind of phenomenon happens to me when I go home for the holidays...

The hardest thing for me to get used to about being home is consistently the shock of how much time I spend alone. I thought this would change this year, because I have a single, but I simply don't spend any significant waking time there, so it unfortunately has no desensitizing effect on me. Even at a school that falls into the "small private" category for my JP, on campus I'm almost always in the presence of other people. Even though I live in a single, a hundred or so people live in my building, and I can hear the girls across from me laughing sometimes. It's no big deal for the girl in the shower stall next to me to ask to borrow my body wash; bathrooms have been deprivatized. (Yes I just made that word up.) I eat all my meals with a subset of the same group of 70ish people, the Large Library has a crew, and there are certain friends I can't see without hugging.

But my house isn't structured for such interactions. With the split levels, it's really as if every person has his or her own floor. My sister and I flip-flop between the living room (2nd landing) and our bedroom (5th landing), rarely coexisting in the same space. My brother's room is on the third landing, next to the office with the computer he broke, so no one else is ever there, and my mom spends all her time in her room on the third landing. We each exist in our own separate worlds, and rarely do they meet.

My friends aren't within walking distance here. Even if they were, I don't feel the same ability to just show up uninvitedly; here in the real world, there are families and gatherings and other plans.

So here there are days when I realize I hadn't spoken until after 3 this afternoon, simply because there was no one to say hello to til then.

India would say Sometimes I'm alone, but never lonely. I wish I could agree with her. And E says this shouldn't bother me as much as it does. She says free time is a gift that I should be thankful for, but free ALONE time has always been a curse to me. I'm good at creating space and time for me within lots of hustle and bustle, but I'm at a total loss when "free time" stretches before me like a lake with the stillest of waters. It's not even that I would like to have everything planned out, because I'm not the biggest of planners, it's just...if I'm watching TV, I would rather have someone to laugh at the TV with, someone to steal the blanket from, someone to roll their eyes at me when I tear up. It's that, while I wouldn't mind getting one of those fancy new touchscreen handheld Scrabble console things, I would always rather have an actual partner to play an actual game with. It's so quiet here. I miss the strange commingling of first-person-shooter and Mario Galaxy sounds coming from the Game Room.

Fact that others may find sad but I just consider to be a fact of life: My friend circles have always felt more familial to me than my actual family feels most of the time. That only really bothers me at all around the holidays, when everyone disappears from AIM and Facebook and talks about all the fun they're having/going to have with their families. I smile and nod like I'm cosigning that, but really all I think about is how much I miss the people I share my life with. Those people and the people who share my DNA or even my permanent address have never been one and the same.

Thought that actually saddens/terrifies me: Is this what's waiting for me when undergrad life ends?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

[You're a] Good Man

I don't want this to be the India song I associate with your name, because it's far too beautifully tragic, and you're The Truth and a Complicated Melody already, but last night you said something that made me realize that you're a good man. Not only suave, witty, ambitious, handsome, brilliant--but genuinely good. One of the best I know. You commented on a father-son relationship in Love Actually and told me that you want your son to love you like that. You would have given me one of your dramatic looks if I'd told you this then, but I think that's beautiful. It's like, I already know you're going to be a great father someday. I can already tell that I'll be jealous of your relationships with your kids, not because I want kids of my own but because as much as I hate to admit this, I always wanted parents like that. The kind who love openly. I know your mother is proud of you, even if you aren't always proud of yourself. Hell, I'm proud of you, more and more so every single day. This is just another way I look up to you. I'd have kids if I could be like you. But though I can cherish all of my friends and love you all with open arms, I'm still learning how to love one other person with an entirely open heart.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I went to New York to see a show last fall

and had to purchase a MetroCard to get around, obviously. This was the card I got:

 I still have this card. It sits in my wallet with my Visa Check card and my photo IDs and my CVS card and my U-Store Membership card and my insurance card and when I find it in the midst of looking for one of those zillion cards, I pause for a split second and I have to smile. It says in tiny letters that it's part of an Arts for Transit project, and mentions the artist's name. I think this card is fantastic. I hope that the small moment of joy it continually brings me is what the artist--and New York City as a governmental figure?--wanted me to feel, and I want to do all in my power to ensure that I have this card until I am old and grey.

My friend K who I talk about, he told me today that optimism is his new plan for the next few months forever. It made me so happy, because I am always so worried about him putting too much pressure on himself and forgetting to have fun and remember that no matter what happens, the big picture is BIGGER than this and in it, he's a wonderful individual. But it also got me thinking...

People constantly tell me that I'm a bright, bubbly, cheerful person. This afternoon a friend told me she can never imagine anyone saying I'm a mean person. Part of me (the you're-your-own-worst-critic part) gives them a look like, Whatchu talkin bout, Willis?! but the bigger part of me recognizes the truth in what they're saying. I think about how I talk to K, or to F or to T, I think about the feelings I try to leave in my wake wherever I go in daily life, the impression I try to impart on my friends and acquaintances, the beauty and growth I try to see in the trials of life, and the care and warmth I try to give to everyone who matters to me in some small degree and realize that I am a bright, bubbly, and cheerful person the vast majority of the most people, but not always to myself.

It's time for that to go. It's not necessary that I don't want to worry about shit, but just that I want to be confident in my abilities and assured in the fact that I can handle my life, and stop stressing over shit that doesn't matter. There's just no damn sense in being your own worst enemy, under any circumstances. Optimism. Live life limitlessly. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tangent to the last post:

Second location/situation that makes me feel isolated from "the black community", especially the black Princetonian community, probably to an even larger degree than do black parties: The Black Church. Well, okay, the Princeton University Gospel Ensemble concerts, which is basically the same thing. I only know of one other active member of the black community here who is's hard out here for black non-Christians!

I basically feel socially obligated to go to PUGE concerts. There were approximately 3 people on stage tonight with whom I am neither friends nor acquaintances. I want to be able to treat a PUGE concert like I treat one of K's Glee Club concerts. In fact, no offense to K, but I want to be able to appreciate it even MORE, because gospel is much more closely related to the kind of music I enjoy listening too. I want to be able to go support and appreciate my friends' musical endeavors. But when the first words out of the emcee's mouth are Praise God, and when she says (like they always say) that we are not here to enjoy a concert, but to praise and worship our Lord, all I feel is isolated. I don't know about the rest of you, but I came here to enjoy a concert, and I don't want to be made to feel like an outsider and a bad person because of it.

I'm sure it's hard for people who were raised in the church, or at least with religion as an active part of their household, to understand that the act of entering a church is hard for me. It is difficult for me to sit in a pew within inches of a Bible. It is difficult for me to sit awkwardly as the congregation stands and bows their heads in prayer. It is difficult for me not to jitter my leg and fidget with my hair and my bracelets as the women sitting behind me shout Hallelujah! and Praise Jesus! and pat me on the shoulder saying "Blessings unto you." It is DIFFICULT, and every muscle in my body is tense for the majority of my time there. It takes nearly every measure of my patience and self-control to fight the urge to take flight. 
But I do this. I do this regularly, for every concert PUGE has. Because these are my friends. And I owe them my support...especially when my support doesn't cost any money. But, correct me if I'm wrong, I always thought churches were supposed to be welcoming places. So when a performer, who happens to be a good friend of mine, asks the audience if we love gospel, and when not everyone raises their hands, he says, "Some of y'all lookin real hesitant; I don't know why you're here," I. don't. feel. welcomed. I ducked out before the invitation this year, but Preacher, despite your best intentions, inviting me to join your church and feel the love and warmth and the spirit of Jesus is unwelcoming by its very nature--you are assuming that your way of life is better than mine and that I should want to take up your way. Your Bible recognizes that people should come as they are; I would like you to give me the honor of leaving that way as well, if I should so choose.

I have problems with the black church. I have problems with "the church". I have problems with Christianity, and with Islam, and with Judaism, and with religion as a concept. I have problems appreciating songs that make relationships with God sound like celebrity obsessions or abusive domestic situations. But I try very hard to make these problems take second place to my love and support for my friends, and I hate that my aversion to the isolation and judgment inherent in the invitation makes me miss the reception that would let the friends I came to support know that I was even here. It makes me wonder why I even put myself through this.   

I have a love-hate relationship with hip-hop.

At least, that's how I usually describe it, but in all honestly, the loving and hating are compounded by a general sense of ambivalence. Unless presented with what I believe to be an extreme on either side, I generally don't care about hip-hop. There is now, has always been, and will always be more music in the rock, R&B, and Soul genres in my media library than Hip-Hop and Rap combined, and while this surprises some people, it doesn't usually cause issues in my life. 

But there's one situation in which it does: when I go to some sort of predominantly black party on campus, which isn't nearly as often as it was, say, freshman year. And I usually attribute that fact to the fact that I was a non-drinker when I was a freshman, and now I party on The Street, but in all honesty, that's not the whole story.

As much as it pains me to admit this, to a certain degree, I feel uncomfortable at black parties. I don't know most of the music, and as a first-time listener don't really appreciate much of it either. I feel uncomfortable when a group of people I know hear the first few notes of a song, yell something to the effect of, "Yo, this is my jawn!", and proceed to line up and all do the dance that goes to this song. I don't know how to dougie. My Asian best friend can jerk better than I can. While I can drop it low and back it up, I much prefer for the focus of any attention paid to my body to be on my 38Ds and not my pear-ish middle section, because noticing that I got a donk must be accompanied by noticing that I'm also just generally heavy in the stomach/butt/thighs area. I realize I am supposed to appreciate this as "thickness" in some measure, but...I don't like to draw attention to areas of my body that I don't necessarily like. I don't like that I am expected to devote time and energy to knowing and performing these dances on demand, but I also don't like feeling like I have to slink off to the sidelines when everyone else does these dances because I can't join in.

Long story short, I often feel like I am not black enough to be at a black party, and this pisses me the fuck off. I'm always the first one to voice the opinion/raise the concern that blackness is not homogeneous, that it comes in all shapes and sizes and colors and mixtures and genders and classes and religions and sexualities and hair textures and just about any other distinction that can be made amongst humans. I'm always the one to rally against generalizations about black people--even those that aren't inherently stereotypical--and to question the use of the term "the black community" in nearly every circumstance. I'm the one who became disenchanted with our "black community" at Princeton after seeing what a truly encompassing black community is like at Yale last year. I'm the one who became a much happier and more satisfied individual after branching out. But I am actively a black person, no longer a person who happens to be black. I am a black woman--not a black person who happens to be female or a woman who happens to be black, but a black woman. I identify as black, I am politically black, most of the time I am academically and scholastically black, and my most prevalent when I grow up fantasy at this point in life is to be a Black Panther. Who are you, friends and DJ at this party, to make me feel like I'm not black enough to be here? Who the hell are you to make me feel like a cultural outsider in a so-called community I have given immeasurable amounts of time and energy to strengthening? Who gave you the right to make me wonder if K felt as out of place as I did, and tell him I'm ready to leave whenever he is, and what part of his immediate exit was caused by everything I'm talking about now?  

There was a white grad student there, and I remember wondering if he felt as out of place as I did. He looked as though he were having fun, and a little voice in the back of my head said, "Well, so do you. You're trying really hard to look like you're having fun." and that's when I knew it was time to go. Why does the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Multicultural Understanding throwing a formals afterparty constitute black people having a party, and why does not fitting into--or really even wanting to fit into--the cultural preferences of the overwhelming majority of a collection of black Princetonians make me feel like I'm not black? Who gives the crowd the right to define ME?

...oh wait, that's the whole basis behind life as social creatures, isn't it? 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm black. "Ally" isn't even a strong enough term for my support of gay rights. THIS ISN'T THAT RADICAL. Get over it.

“It is something resting with the parties themselves, for them to decide. If they choose to face this possible prejudice and think that their own pursuit of happiness is better subserved by entering into this marriage with all its risks than by spending the rest of their lives without each other’s company and comfort, the state should not and cannot stop them.” –Justice Carter, Perez v. Lippold (California Supreme Court case from 1948)

The powerful language found in this week’s readings for my Race and the American Legal Process class, regarding the nullification of antimiscegenation laws struck me not only for the sheer forcefulness of the Courts’ opinion, but also for the clear and profound connections these decisions seemingly should have to the current gay rights movement. I have always had an understanding that the gay rights movement has ties to the civil rights movement, and as such been thoroughly disgusted with the heteronormativity and blatant homophobia that categorize such a substantial percentage the African-American community at large, but these court cases have elevated that understanding to a new level; I honestly cannot understand how, with such potent precedent to stand on the shoulders of, LGBT rights activists have not yet secured marriage as a “fundamental…basic civil right” for same-sex couples. My first question is what exactly places the freedom to marry within the scope of basic civil rights; when was it first guaranteed that citizens of the United States have a right to marry? And after gaining a better understanding of that history, I would like to know how the heteronormativity and homophobia that led to the Defense of Marriage Act differ from the white supremacy and precept of inferiority that led to the antimiscegenation and criminalization-of-sexual-relations laws Justices Traynor, Carter, and Warren speak so forcefully against?

Call me naïve, but I am imagining a world in which the quotes from the Perez v. Lippold and Loving v. Virginia read like this:

“Since the right to marry is the right to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice, a statute that prohibits an individual from marrying a member [of his or her same sex] restricts the scope of his choice and thereby restricts his right to marry.”

“The right to marry is the right of individuals, not of [groups of people with the same sexual orientation].”

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry, a person of [the same sex] resides within the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Are these conceived statements really so farfetched? What would it take to bring them to fruition?

Oh no, I'm going to talk about sexuality. Go cower in fear somewhere.

Two fellow 'Dranglers today told me surprisedly/disappointedly that they had images of me as a sweet, innocent little girl...

I am sweet, and I take that as a compliment. But, in the words of Brittney Spears, I'm not that innocent. I'm certainly neither little or a girl, I am a full-figured sometimes-referred-to-as-Amazonian woman, thank you very much. And I don't really like that I'm interpreted as such by the world at large. Oh no. There was a slight scandal last night (I may or may not have soberly publicly licked whipped cream from in between my breasts), and an even slighter scandal during dinner today, but be prepared for me to turn your understandings of me upside down, people who would be surprised to know that one of my big reasons for wanting a single was so that my vibrator and I could have sexytime more regularly...

Side note: why are people so touchy about sexuality? Like, why is talking openly about porn habits, or admitting that I can lick my own nipples, so scandalous? We all do it. Goddamn Puritanical American society. *throws hands into air disgustedly*

Monday, December 6, 2010

Now Why'd You Have to Go and Do That?

I'm sure you have absolutely no understanding of how much your words can affect me. That's to be expected, I suppose. I am, after all, the ex-English-Major-linguistics-loving-poet. But still, I have to ask, do you know what you did today?

You were on the phone with a friend from your other, non-Princeton life, apologizing for having fallen asleep while talking with him last night. I was listening to your every word, like always, and laughing with you, like always. Your friend heard me laughing in the background (I'm loud and easily identifiable, lol) and asked who I was, and why was I in your room? You snapped back that it was none of his business who was in your room, and then laughed and explained we weren't in your room. He evidently didn't let up, though, because then you said "Well, maybe she's the reason I fell asleep on you last night..."

Why'd you have to go and insinuate that? If you only knew how hard I've been working to separate thoughts of you from thoughts like that. Because I love the person you are, and I love being around you, and I love the way you laugh, and I love the person I am when I'm with you, and I think you're incredibly handsome, and truth be told I would love to snuggle with you, but I am NOT sexually attracted to you. At least, 99% of the time I'm not. But when you go and plant images like this into my overactive can't fault me for imagining what it would be like to wake up with my body wrapped around yours.

But I have something to tell you. Something you should know. I think I kind of like someone else. There is an avenue opening up on the road map of my life that I would like to explore. I don't love him in the ways I love you, but I like him, and I love the way he makes me feel sexy and feminine and like a woman. And unless I bitch out like a little pussy, the next time he kisses me on the cheek, I'm going to return his kiss, but on the lips. Knowing how it feels to grind on his hips is only a few steps away form knowing how it feels to ride those hips, and I don't want confusion about how I feel about you to keep me from feeling what I'm feeling for him.

So stop it, okay? 



Friday, December 3, 2010

I got a facial today

My first facial ever. I don't pamper myself like this often, but it was FREE! And y'all know free is just my price, lol! So I got a free facial today, thank you Princeton University, and they were using these award-winning all-natural created-by-a-botanist-at-Harvard (read: probably expensive as fuck) cremes and washes and masks and moisturizers and my face has never felt so appreciated! The best way I can think of to describe it is that my skin felt the way your teeth feel when you leave the dentist's office after getting them cleaned. People I ran into for the rest of the night actually said I was glowing, and my skin still feels so soft and smooth to the touch! It was such a fantastic free experience (note: much like my overall Princeton career.) 

Point: Pamper yourself sometime. You're worth it. Give yourself the care and attention you deserve.

This message has been sponsored by xkcd (jk)

...I actually just kind of stole it. Words from the wise:

You shouldn't ever feel like shit for feeling like shit.


Alcohol is poison. I drink to save you from it. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yo, this actually happened to me last week!

 I was playing Scrabble with my mom and her new guy. Dude had been runnin his mouth for weeks talkin bout how his name is Paul but you can just call him Scrabble King *gags* and how we need to brush up on our game before we play him. So I mean, anyone who knows me knows ...I had to set the record straight. So he drew the closest letter to A (a friggin H) and got to go first and he made COAT on a double word score for a whopping 12 points. My mom made something for 13 points, and on my turn I make JOG with the J on a triple letter square for 27 points. Dude gives me this hella salty look like just because he thinks he's the shit means I can't show him up. I say, just as cool as you please, "I think I've made it clear that I don't like trash talkers." So the game goes on and in the end I blow him away, but he gets my mom by 10 points or something. Mommy makes him bow to me and call me Scrabble Queen *additional gagging* and he mumbles for the rest of the night about how he guesses it's okay for the Princeton mind to beat him, but at least Mommy didn't. And the next day, she was going off about how she's so mad we didn't both destroy him.

Now maybe I'm just unfamiliar with the flirting/dating ways of legitimate adults, but this does not seem like FRIENDLY competition to me. And dude needs a reality check if he thinks he can regularly take us.

Sigh, I was really hoping he'd be a legitimate opponent. But seriously, it's a game.

Dear ******, or Men Everywhere,

I love the way you hold me when you hug me, and appreciate that you hug me all the time. I appreciate the compliments you give me: I'll be calling myself a boss bitch for days, lol. But at this point, I have to let you know that I no longer appreciate this drunken cheek-kissing thing we have been doing recently. It was cute for a while, but now when it happens or even seems like it's going to happen, I want to scream (read: whisper sexily into your ear) If you're going to kiss me, do it right.



Monday, November 29, 2010

BIG Questions

I'm wrestling with two pretty big and somewhat linked issues right now, as I move towards a better and deeper self-understanding. I suppose it's somewhat impossible to study college's effect on student ide entity without pondering my own identity and the way Princeton is molding it. Anddddd I guess one of the purposes of even starting this blog was to get back in touch (or perhaps even in touch for the first time) with who I really am. 

Well I can't know who I am until I can definitively answer these questions:

1) Is my blackness or my womanness more important to me? Which comes first, and is that firstness justified?

2) Fact: I might actually be more non-black than I am of African descent. What does that mean for my identity as a black person? And for my ideas about black people in general?

Relatedly, I identify as a Black American. I don't like the term African-American as relating to ME, because I feel it should be reserved for first/second/third generation immigrants, like most other -American groups use the hyphenation, and that does not apply to me or my people. Not to denounce my African roots in any way, but I'm not even sure the majority of my blood comes from the motherland (I'm also German, French Canadian, Native American, Portuguese, and probably a few other random things). .I feel like the term African-American doesn't give respect to the fact that my ancestors are not all just from Africa. They come from... all over the world. My skin is not that of an African's. Neither is my hair. I know from conversations with my African friends, neither are the vast majority of my ideas and perceptions of the world. Those things and more all come from the eclectic blend of cultures and heritages within me, and within most of us who have descended from slavery--we all know that wasn't an institution built upon preserving the separation of the races--and I believe "black American" is the most fitting term (of those we have to choose from) to represent that blend. I also like "multi-generational African-Americans", a term Imani Perry tossed out in precept last week...

New word/action I've made up. It describes how I feel at the end of the night when we stand in front of Frist in the cold finishing our thoughts before we go our separate ways, and you make an impossibly delightful promise, "I'll see you tomorrow."

Saturday, November 27, 2010


^one of the words I made last night playing Scrabble on the defensive.

If I ever fall in love, I want it to be with a man who reminds me that I am a queen by treating me with the knowledge that I am his equal.
I always chuckle slightly to myself when I put a mug or a glass down after taking a sip of my drink, and see the perfect imprint of my lower lip marking the rim of the glass in some shade of red or brown lipstick. I like the way seeing that makes me feel. I can't really explain it, but it makes me somehow. "Strange/ like I [am] a woman or sumthin". Kind of sexy, too, even though those fancy (read: expensive) lipsticks that don't rub off are supposed to be sexier now. I can understand that, but I like the idea of leaving a little piece of me behind on my mug, or on that spot where a guy's neck becomes his collarbone [my favorite spot to kiss]. A lip-print I might be identified by. A reminder that I am a woman who takes the time to look "put together", and I was here.

Lauryn Hill I GET OUT MTV Unplugged

I like this as an anthem right now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks, Giving

I always chuckle to myself when folks call this Turkey Day
I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve always been a ham kind of girl.
I always wonder when folks call this Thanksgiving Day
who exactly I’m supposed to be thankful towards

For Jesus is someone else’s Lord and Savior, and I don’t
praise Allah either. My thanks are jokes to Life’s daily
demigods and I’d like something a bit more substantive
than thanking my lucky stars. The Universe just sounds like a
cop-out for people who don’t like the sound of God.
So who am I thanking?

My mother, for bringing me into this world and damn near
breaking her back every day to give me every inch of life she can spare?
The ex-stepfather I abhor, because if he hadn’t walked into my mom’s life
mine would have been displaced, my friends and family misplaced, a family
of two and two alone gone back to Georgia, my mom’s first home?

Georgia, where my family has lived since before we had a choice.
Should I thank my too-many-greats-to-count grandmother for surviving the passage
in the dank disease-infested bottom of that ship?  Or my grandfather
of the same generation for liking what he saw up on the auction block
enough to sneak away from his wife in the middle of the night  and
sell his daughter away when she was born with blonde hair and blue eyes?

Blonde hair and blue eyes, like some of my closest friends,
so should I thank the late Dr. King for taking the glory from everyone who’d
dreamt before him?  Chris Hall, my high school’s English Department Supervisor
for making me realize the dreams I’d dreamt weren’t lofty enough, that I was calling
a sledding hill a mountain when I had the tools to tackle Everest? Chris Burch,
my first sweetheart, for teaching me that sometimes it’s better when dreams don’t come true?

The admissions committee member that tossed me into the right pile, for reminding me that
sometimes, they do? Nene, for seeing what I was repressing and getting me involved?
India.Arie for reminding me to Slow Down and appreciate the Little Things, like
whoever instituted a monthly Soul Food Night at the Princeton Quadrangle Club?

Under chaos theory, tabula rasa, and the idea of alternate realities, should I thank everyone
 with whom I have ever crossed paths, for without them I might not be me? All six billion, eight-
hundred-eighty-four-million, thirty-seven thousand, eight-hundred-forty-six people on the planet,
because the world might somehow be different without one of them? Should I just thank myself,
or include things I simultaneously love and hate, like society and affirmative action, like my father? 

The power went out as we were warming the candied yams. I used my laptop as a flashlight during the
candles-and-matches-hunt, and as we joined hands to bless our candlelit Thanksgiving dinner, I realized
exactly how many people and things and bittersweet circumstances I have to be thankful for. They each
have their own masters, Gods, and engineers, and so today I will simply thank the ties that bind us all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I realize I've been making a long-running list

of things that are simply no longer acceptable in my life, things that I will not under any circumstances tolerate.

This list includes:

  • not getting at least 6 and a half hours of sleep a night
  • not having at least a solid hour for both lunch and dinner, meal time = break time
  • taking on new officer positions/leadership roles just because other people want/expect me to, not because I actually have a desire to
  • similarly, wasting time doing things I don't want or need to be doing, that I could be spending doing things I enjoy
  • limiting my overt portrayals of/references to my sexuality for fear of being judged
  • Maya-the-blogger and Maya-the-poet making war, not love
  • being on that dumb dating site.
  • Quad becoming my entire social life/losing touch with my friends from before Quad
  • NEW ADDITION: being so caught up in the black community that I have lost touch with the other things I care about, especially like LGBTQQA activism. It's not acceptable that SO MANY of my very close friends are LGBTQ, but I let being in the ridiculously-religious-and-thus-vaguely-homophobic black community at Princeton trump my lifelong ties to this other community. 
Reteaching Gender and Sexuality from Sid Jordan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There's no compromise? my friend asks...

Not when it comes to money, there isn't. You either spend it on something or you don't. It goes on place or it doesn't. 

I was talking to my mom on the phone today. Nothing special, I do this often. But as ebay reminds me that there's little more than a month til Christmas, I asked her today what she would like for Christmas. She told me not to get her anything. RED ALERT: This is NOT how my family works. We don't say don't get me anything to be polite before we say what we really want. Holidays are HUGE in my family. Something is extremely amiss. So I said, what do you mean don't get you anything? It's Christmas, I have to get you something for Christmas. And she very kindly asked that I please don't, because she's not sure she'll be able to get anyone else anything for Christmas. She said to focus on my brother and sister instead, so they can have something for Christmas.

In my Intro to Black Women's Studies seminar tonight, we briefly discussed the not-really-contested fact that the black middle class in America may very well have disappeared by 2020. Yes, by ten years from now. A lot of my classmates were shocked. Hell, some were downright appalled! But me, I can totally believe it, because my mother basically told me today that unless a miracle happens and she hits the lottery or something, my family cannot afford to celebrate Christmas this year. 

I don't know how or with whom to articulate this. I don't know how to say that the family of a girl who goes to Princeton won't even have a tree to put non-existent presents under this year. I feel like I certainly can't talk to anyone here about this. I miss C so much. I could tell her this. She would understand, and she wouldn't judge me, and she would hold me while I cry and be real with me about how she went through this when she was younger and it has to get better. If I'm being totally honest with you about these things, sometimes I feel like things like this, and the fact that I've been on food stamps, and got free lunch for the vast majority of my childhood and adolescence, and know how it feels to have the water or the cell phone cut off due to nonpayment of the bill...these are things that remind me that part of me just really doesn't belong here.

I can't stop asking myself How much of this is my fault? What did I do to contribute to this? I feel like the world's most selfish, most ungrateful bitch. I'm in a fucking eating club. Unlike most people, my parents don't contribute to my eating club membership at all; I pay for the entire thing out of the money I get from the university. But if I wasn't in a club, if I got a meal plan in the dining hall, the extra nearly $3,000 would have gone from the university into my bank account. That's money I could have used to help my mom. I used my Mellon Mays stipend to buy posters and accessories for my room, and new sweaters and boots, and countless other things I didn't really need. That's money I could have used to bring Christmas to my household, single-handedly. Would I have? is a whole different can of worms, but I COULD have. 

Should I have?  Am I justified in being disgusted with myself and my actions right now? I could have been Santa. It's not my job, but I could have been Santa. 

BUT I ASKED HER. When I got my Mellon Mays check, I called my mom and asked if there was anything I could do to help out financially. She asked me to cover the $200ish cell phone bill for the family for the month, so our cell phones didn't get cut off and we all lose all forms of communication with the rest of the world. I said of course, and handled the transaction right then, while we were still on the phone. She never asked for anything again. 

I'm sure it must be embarrassing for her, having to come to her daughter for help financially. But if I have more disposable income than her, I should help, right? Does that mean that if I have the potential to have even MORE disposable income, I should take the actions that bring that about, no matter what? 

But I can't ignore that being in Quad has positively affected my overall Princeton experience SO MUCH. Real family notwithstanding, my Quad family is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of my life. They make me feel understood, and cared about, and loved on a day-to-day basis while I am here. They help keep me sane. I effectively gave up whole parts of my life for them. And part of me is SCREAMING that I am twenty goddamn years old, and bringing Christmas to my family is not my responsibility. I know that a big part of making it in the black community is giving back to the community, but I'm still an undergrad--I haven't made it yet! It's know how when you're on an airplane, and the flight attendants give the spheel about safety, and you're supposed to make sure your oxygen mask is secure before you try to help other people with theirs? Does that still apply if you're sitting in between your mother, brother, and sister?

How can I reconcile what's best for me with what's best for them? How can I take care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally and not feel as though I am neglecting them? Should I take on the responsibility of helping to keep them accustomed to the hanging-on-by-a-paycheck-but-always-somehow-able-to-make-it-work life we've been living for 20 years? And if so, how can I do that without running myself into the ground and giving up the things that keep me going? WHO COMES FIRST AND HOW DO I JUSTIFY IT BEING ME?   

...Am I a terrible human being for even asking that? 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Once I start, I can't stop

A Confession to a Dear Friend

Although it’s been said many times, many ways
I love you is the only thing I can think of to say
It’s an overused, undermeant phrase, and it doesn’t have the weight
I would like in the modern world, but like how I feel
it is simple and easy and fast. It is sure and it is true.

Now wait, before you get scared and run off, before you leave me
here in this chair that I abandon the spot I’ve lain claim to for
when you’re at the desk beside it, so that you may whisper to me intermittently,
and so that I may dangle my legs off the side and contemplate poking your leg
with my big toe. Before you join others in thinking I’m getting too heavy,

let me clarify that this is not to say I’m in love with you. This is not to say
I fantasize about your lips on mine, or the way your nipples taste, or the feel
of you filling the empty spaces in me. This is to say, simply, that I love you,
I love the person you are, the dedication you show to the things you do,
your mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, the tiny tight curls you won’t grow out.

This is to say that I just want to be close to you. That I will always abandon
that which is mine for the simple joy of sitting quietly near you, as we lose ourselves
together in vastly different academic worlds. That, though no one ever says this
to an ordinary person, I admire you, and have so much respect for the man you strive to be.
That if ever I were to have a son, I would want him to grow up to be just like you,

and that that may explain part of why I am always so overly concerned. That the way
you call me to ask a question that could have been texted makes me smile. That your
habit of touching my leg or placing your hand on my back while we’re talking makes me feel
like I’m at home. That pressure I put on you to lighten up is really just me trying to make you realize
 how absolutely wonderful I think you are. Simply that, for the rest of our lives, I am your friend.