Dates and Dont’s.

I have a date tonight. A dinner date. I should be excited since it’s been awhile, but I’m not. It’s not the date, he’s a cool dude. He’s not a stranger but not someone I’m entirely familiar with, but from what I know I think it is kind of dope that he asked me out. I like how he asked me out. “I’d like to take you out to dinner, or a something. I just want to spend a few hours getting to know you. Can I?”

I took a deep breath before I replied. I typed, “Food is fine. When?” and then I deleted it. Then, I typed “Or something? Come on, Bruh.” and then I deleted that. I finally responded with, “I’m down. Did you have something particular in mind?” He did. What ensued was a back and forth of reschedules. On my end. Claiming to have forgotten last minute appointments and commitments, apologies and promises to “make up for it.” He accepted them all and was so patient with my shenanigans, that when I got the “New Year Resolution: Convince Janell that she won’t regret giving me just one date.” text, I obliged.

So here we are, date night and I’m all blah because I wish that I were getting dressed up to go out with someone else. My someone else. I don’t mean to be rude, and again, I’m sure he’s a great person and from what I already know about him, I know I’ll have a good time. But I’m in my feelings because I want more of that and I’m not getting it from who I want it with. I set a tone that I’m refusing to undo. But anyway.

I came home yesterday and decided to play in my closet to see what I had stashed in the back. I haven’t had much of a reason to jazz myself up, so as I sipped my wine and found a few little black dresses I had forgotten about, I decided I indulge myself with a little fashion show. As I was standing in the mirror, looking a hot mess, I was actually pleased with what I saw. I looked good. I held my camera up to take a picture and thought, “Now, who are you sending this to and why?” No one! It was for me! I snapped a pic in one of the dresses, posted it on my FB story and shared that I had only paid $1.99 for it. I sat my phone down and asked myself why I hadn’t sent it to Mr. 51, or anyone else. I shook the thought away and went on about my business.

Later that evening, with nothing but candlelight, my LED set to Red, and hands dripping massage oil, I watched Mr. 51 sleep. I took in his sighs, caressed his warm skin, sponged in how relaxed and safe he looked in my bed. I laid there in my thoughts, watching him. Losing my breath just a little when he wrapped his legs around me and pulled me close. I told myself I was safe with him, but mentally went back to the picture. I’ve always wanted to be the girlfriend who had the randoms covered – pictures, texts, surprise dinner invites, impromptu weekends, hot baths, hand massages – that’s me naturally. I’ve wanted to do all of that with a partner who reciprocated. I had that a months back. Someone who was as excited and happy to give the little and large things, and he made me want to give them back. And that was scary. I walked away from that because it was too heavy, it was just too much. No. What was too much was that my heart was somewhere else. All hooked and tied to this fine ass specimen sprawled across my bed, sleeping peacefully.

Hooks and all, I had to snap out of it and get back to what I know: He’s not supposed to get the exclusive rights to me and for the past six months he has. I gave it to him willingly, he didn’t have to ask. I cut everyone off and if I’m being honest, a part of me wanted to see if he’d see that as some sort of loyalty. Like, your move nigga.

I wanted him to put his shit aside too. I want him to roll his sleeves up and profess that he didn’t care about all the chatter I pitch about open relationships and freedom. I wanted him to say I want you just how you are, now what’s up. But, he didn’t. Nor did he ask me to be exclusive. From day one, he has accepted me without conditions and I never gave him any.

Here’s the other part: While I’ve exclusively dated him, can I say that he has done the same? Tsk-Tsk, I don’t tell no lies. I’m aware of a someone just like he is, but what about others? Who else is he chasing behind? I can confidently state that I drain him dry, but a few someone’s could be filling him right back up.

I use to tell myself that older men were the safest bet. They had all of their play out and didn’t have time to be chasing tail all over the place. Ha! Man, older dudes are like virgin puppies with new pussy, they are all over it. So I’d be playing all in Fool’s Gold to say that I’m the only one in his contact list. What it’s about for me at the end of the day is respecting a person enough to move respectfully. Respect my presence in your life by protecting me from your appetite. I do.

I felt a few hours of guilt about doing something that is natural to me. Whether it be with Mr. 51 or any other man, why should I deny MYSELF the recourse to be wooed? To have a chair pulled out, a car door opened, to be in the passenger seat looking all faded and velvety. That’s the benefit of being single, enjoying the perks of good company without the drama. Or dismissing it without wavering if it isn’t kosher. My rebooted curiosity in dating isn’t about sex either. At almost 46, I don’t think there’s much more for me to learn in that department. I’ve been to the mountaintop hunny, and foreplay, mid-play and after-play aside, it’s like a movie you’ve seen a million times. No matter how many surprise scenes you discover, it all ends the same.

With him, it’s extraordinary and I am satisfied. To an extent. So I sit with my legs extra crossed and don’t bother to wax as frequently because that part of me is his, for now. He has my heart too, but what I absolutely refuse to give him is my mind. Wheeeeew, I won’t ever lose myself in a man like that again. So I’m here for the reality bites, especially the one I got last night.

After massaging that man real good, I watched him for a good while. Took him all the way in. I admitted a few things to myself as I sat in that silence. I don’t care how long I choose to stand in the cusp of what’s next with this man, I won’t stand there and swat others away anymore. I won’t deny opportunities to kick it and do something different, see somewhere different or just the chance to sponge-in energy outside of four walls. I will not. I will be the same dope Janell who’s all in for the reciprocity. What you give me, you will receive.

Mmmph. He’s carnal with it. At one point, I had to check his hand for a knife and a fork! Or at least his pockets for one of those gas station rhino pills. Forgive my details, I just caught myself closing my eyes appreciating the replay. But ANYWAY!

It’s not about game. Come on now, are we really doing that in this phase of life? It’s about leaving the games to the children. Being adult with our intent, being clear with our desires. We’re grown, folks. That button-lipped tongue biting ain’t for us. We should also know that sometimes it’s more than words. Everything doesn’t require a discussion, just match the moves and if it would not fly for you, don’t send that shit on a flight to me. I want freedom, not foolishness. Acknowledging one’s freedom is really just about respect. I respect you enough to not bring intentional harm or disruption to what we have. I acknowledge what you require, and I won’t dilute what we have.

In the meantime, I received a text a short while ago – “Good evening Sexy. I was wondering if you would be open to coming over and letting me cook for you instead of going out on this messy night?” No sir. I politely declined. He could have good intentions and I may take him up on the offer in the future. But in this emotional state, I’m not setting myself up for any additional entanglements. Not right now. So I guess we’ll resume our back and forth until I give in or he tires.

In the meantime, let me go and tuck these fishnets away, and hang this black leather mini-joint and black leather duster back up and relish an evening of binge tv. I need to leave this dating shit to the youngsters. I’m getting soft and volatile in my old age.

Dry Coochie Energy.

Women are weird. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. We’re weird, extra, do the most and drag the drama. But there’s a super-weird collective among us and they introduce one thing and one thing only: Dry Coochie Energy. Oppositional, conniving, sneak dissing, ass-biting organisms of the female anatomy.

It’s the heaviness for me. They come in bearing all these bags of drama and odds within the bounds of friendship and you start to feel like you’ve acquired another child instead of a friend. We see the warning signs early on and still keep them around for a bit. It’s almost like trying to reignite the fire of a failed relationship because you keep hoping that the light that initiated to connection returns. Newsflash, they ain’t coming back. I use to let them linger a bit, hoping they’d be inspired by my dope ass self to chill. Ugh, that would’ve been too much like right. My long term friends pick up on DCE right off.

“Where she come from, Janell? Something ain’t right with her, I’m telling you now. Don’t bring her ‘round me.” I listen, too. After awhile.

One of the most unique components of my sisterhood is they naturally embrace everyone. They like everybody! So for them not to like you, ooh you have bad, bad juju. When we’re hosting get-togethers and discussing invites, you hear “Make sure you tell such-and-such to come, I like her vibe!” After while, they just kind of fall into the fold of extended friendships.

I adore new connections. I really relish meeting new people and becoming acquainted to their way of thinking. I’ve attempted to allow newer bonds to prosper but it’s just not in the cards for me. A recent event with a former coworker reminded of why.

Our friendship grew quickly as two of the only females in our area. A few years behind me, she reminded me of my sister-in-laws when they were younger. Raw, hard and unapologetic. And just like them, I promptly peeped that as surface energy. That’s how she wanted to be seen. Under all of that tough exterior, there was more and it was good.

Nonetheless, I soon learned two things. She was like a pig in mud when it came to other people’s drama, and she couldn’t hold water. At first, it was funny. It took me a while to see a gossipy female but that was all she did. When I saw that she was one who often pitched the latest scoop with “somebody said”, I’d teasingly call her on it. But then it stopped being funny.

The energy between us would seesaw on my busy days, and she’d interpret my focus on completing a task was some weird beef and stop speaking to me for a few days. What followed was a succession of random, passive aggressive social media posts about phony bitches, “cause I’ll beat a phony bitches ass, tired of phony bitches!” Umm… She’d eventually come back around and indirectly mention that I had been “acting funny.” Umm…

Not with all of these grays in my head. Invasive people, the ones who kind of become these microwave besties do entirely too much. Don’t come around me with that.

While talking to one of my girlfriends on the phone, I inquired “Do you think I bear people’s burdens?” Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Nah. Not anymore.” I began to ask her what she meant and she interrupted before I could get it out. “Now if this was five years ago, I would’ve said yes but bitch now, you don’t have nothing to do with shit! Done lost some weight and shit, I want to know what you’re doing! You are not the same but in a good way.”

I save the hard questions for her because her love for me is so deep and honest, that from laughter to pain, she sees me with limpidity.

I don’t like to be studied. Don’t ever let me know you’re doing it. It doesn’t feel genuine, it mirrors scrutiny, for me. I’m not big on specific, personal inquiries because I perceive it as something you’ve mulled over and I want to know why you’re mulling over me.

A few weeks back, a good friend suggested grief counseling to me. After a day or so, I digested her advice in small bites and mentioned it to my therapist who jokingly said, “Ask if she has someone particular in mind.” Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced the luxury of selective therapy, my girl just gets it all in one big blah.

All jokes aside, her suggestion triggered me. While I believe she was coming from a position of love and concern, it didn’t feel that way. It took me years to understand that it’s ok to let yourself feel pain, to grasp it; that’s how you get through it. By going through. I didn’t receive her advice in that way. It took me back to all the mess I had undone that made grief an abnormal circumstance that you had better rush through.

I remember riding in the back of my mom’s car, on the way to my grandmother’s funeral. I felt like I was about to pass out and combust at the same time from holding the tears in. My mom allowed you to have that initial cry when a person passed. After that, she was done with it and you had better be too. I tearfully recalled that moment during last week’s video visit. Dr. Amazing (that’s what I’m calling her from here on out) said, “So, your friend’s gentle suggestion felt like you were being seen through that rear view mirror again. That if you showed signs of not being ok, there would be hell to pay. It was like being caught when you’re not ok and responding with, “I’m fine!” You were never given the ok not to be.” Exactly.

My girls. My guys too. I love that they all know I’m a super-sensitive smart ass and they pay it no mind. They treat me and my soft-as-cotton feelings with care, but they don’t play with me. They keep me accountable. And I give it right the hell back. That’s the energy I’m used to. It has to be reciprocal. Rhythmic stability between us, moving in different directions but also in sync, if that makes sense. Our lives must have a healthy exchange of balance. If you can lay me out, you have to love me just as freely. You can’t put my friendship into a compartment that doesn’t come with those privileges. If we’re casual acquaintances, keep it 100 by keeping it that way. I can’t be the friend who gets the inquiries and suggestions, and still not really know you. You can be in my life, but in the same way that you have me in yours. You can’t be an authority with my business but hide hands with yours.

I swept that type of mess out of my door years ago. From my teens and clear into my early 30s, I was the passive friend. The pet. And maybe that also plays into why I’m so intolerant of weird female energy, aka DCE. Maybe, that’s why I respond with emotion whenever I feel crossed. I didn’t know anything about self-defense back then. The thought alone devastated me because I didn’t want conflict. The true conflict was the permission I granted. I allowed “well-meaning friends” to trample through my life and pull me any which way they desired. I had no voice. None. I had no fight. I didn’t trust myself to make decisions about much of anything, and often shifted problem solving to others so when they entered areas of my life that was none of their business, I kept my mouth shut.

That’s just not how I wish to be with anyone anymore. But I also won’t be probed in a way that suffocates my higher self. Maintaining peace in the belly of hell is not a task for the weak. But that’s exactly what I learned to do. The task of undoing a thing, especially an awkward connection, is like in and out surgery. I get people gone quick.

Once it becomes complicated, I’m no longer interested. If I find myself defending and explaining trivial bullshit; “Oh, you didn’t tell me you went out/had company/planned a trip/hit the lottery/had sex/met a new man/got a new car/went to lunch with a different person/went to dinner with your other girlfriends/dyed your hair/bought some new bras/saw a movie/decided to take a nap and not answer my phone/why I didn’t click over when you called…. I wish I were making those examples up. Ugh.

I don’t have a hierarchy of friendship. There are no super or best friends. I’m not in middle school picking classmates for my dodge ball team. Everyone and everything is in its place, and I’m just looking for a few good folks who don’t want to disrupt that. No Dry Coochies allowed!

But don’t we all go have our slight DCE moments? When we’re barely meeting our own standards, less the standards of friendship and normalcy. I can be pretty out there at times. But what keeps me coming back, out of the clouds, fingers out of my head, are the people who get me. Without dragging me down, pulling me apart or undoing me. Here’s to every person in our life who brings that wet, refreshing ph-balanced elasticity of “do you and I’ll be here when you’re done” in our lives.

I don’t need a rescue squad, my respect me squad is doing just fine.

51 Shades of Grey

“So in your opinion, is it just a sexual connection between us?”

This is a question I posed about fifty seconds after a cosmic orgasm. “No. But, it’s the best part.” Sucker punch number one. It is the best part, but I was hoping that maybe almost two years of this just might possibly account for an appreciation of my other notable parts. I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. I’m funny af. But who am I kidding? It is the best part. It’s the greatest damn part of any part that I’ve ever experienced and I’m not ashamed to say it.

I’d walk around with a tee shirt that played our trysts on a repeat rolling reel for all to see as I marched down the street, if there were such a thing.

He makes me want to pull every curtain in my place wide open, windows too so that I can shout, DO Y’ALL SEE HOW AMAZING THIS SHIT IS?? I am just that into him. So much so it scares me. I have this odd balance of fear and freedom with him. I first envisioned it as a seesaw but I’m realizing more and more that it is a rope. A back and forth, a definite tug o’war. I know which end of the rope I’m holding, but I don’t know if it’s him or me grasping the other side. Enter the gray area. The land of ask no questions, tell no lies.

If you don’t know how much I absolutely adore my Mr. 51, stop reading now and unsubscribe. When he first entered my life approximately five hundred days ago, I was gone in his wind. I couldn’t wait to come on here and be all girly and smitten. He was different. He made me curious. He keeps me curious.

We are in a good space. This is what I tell myself. Until recently, I had no reason to believe otherwise. I guarded the pedestal that I put him on because he was exotic fruit to me and I had to protect it. He earned that spot in my life. He came and settled in when I was at the height of self-liberation. I wasn’t tying anyone down and wasn’t allowing anyone to rope me. With the ease of warm honey on a spoon, he slid into my life with little fanfare and no drama. He tamed a part of my wildness. I’m a wanderer by nature and he slowed my tracks. I entertained, but nothing serious. I put boundaries in place with him in mind. Everyone else was familiar to me. Nothing about him is anything that I’ve experienced and no one was worth sacrificing that.

No arguments. No tension. No void. No questions. No weird energy. I’m out of my comfort zone with him. I’m talking ashy feet, mix matched pjs and open heart. A closed flower responding to light. My heart, that is.

He knocked me off course recently though, and now I’m all up in arms emotionally. That gray area that resembles a pink elephant between us.

The other night, and we have lots of other nights now, we were chilling on my sofa. It was a good Friday night vibe. Rain, Chinese food and us. I always ease so deep into him. Legs in his lap, tangled in the way we do, me playing in his wavy hair, I thought to myself, “He has no idea that I was about to shut this whole shit down not even two hours ago.” And I was.

I quickly realized that this thing here was more than different. It was deep. Sexually, he is the one. Chemistry unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. We are equally open. We break all of the rules, I’m telling you Christian Grey ain’t got nothing on this man. No-thing.

I’ve meet other guys and share right off that there is a somebody and that I will not compromise my relationship with him. If that ain’t gone behavior, I don’t know what is. The comparison to Mr. 50 Shades of Grey really isn’t that much of a far-fetched contrast either. My Mr. 51 surpasses him in the bedroom, but in real life he has some illusive behaviors too.

When our sneaky link first started, he was guarded. I now appreciate his caution because it forced me to take my time too. I haven’t allowed myself to bypass any part of our progression. From a causal encounter, to friends, to lovers, to standing on the line of the next possibility. We are right there. That’s what I’ve told myself for the past year. But where exactly? That’s what I avoid asking.

As walls tumbled down, as I pulled away from others and fell deeper into him, I said he’s falling too so this is safe. I felt so confident in our groove, adored our mutual respect for freedom and felt so energized with confidence, that I forgot that I’m still human under all of that, and his ass is too.

He shared a text convo between him and another female, addressing some pretty heavy shit. He didn’t see it that way, most men wouldn’t. But as a prying, read-between-every-line woman, I didn’t miss any part of it. He sent it to me to get my opinion but it put me in a zone. A very pissy zone, I might add. And if he caught that I had an attitude, he didn’t give one clue because he was still his same laid back, unbothered self for the remainder of the conversation. I wanted to say look, you and old girl have some pretty thick shit going on so let me just go ahead about my business, but the thought alone made me feel like a hypocrite.

This man has respected my open dating status and not once has he ever given me an ultimatum. We know what we know about each other. But honestly speaking, I don’t share any extra details with him either.

No drama or static has presented itself with us. He had never rocked my boat. I didn’t want to rock his. So I really told myself that my emotions could handle anything, because he respected me enough to protect my feelings, if there were to ever be an anything.

But here’s the other part: I can’t disconnect from him. I sat on that sofa, caressing his face, kissing his jawline, feeling his hands massage my thighs and travel my body, knowing every line, dimple and pulse, to everything, and knew I had been bullshitting myself earlier.

I cannot. He has every part of me, except for commitment. And I won’t give that to him or anyone else until they prove that I’m worth the fight.

I’m always surprised at how people really believe that I’m this anti-relationship rebellious whore. Not at all. I’m waiting for someone to say be who you are and I love you more. I have enough of my own shadows. I’m not volunteering to stand in anyone else’s. If you see me, you see the light and love I have. And that’s what it is.

I find myself thinking about what’s next with him far too often than I’m comfortable with admitting. We see each other more frequently now and I never tire of him. It’s impossible. That’s how good the space is when he’s in it.

I’d go a million laps around the sun with him to feel it everyday. But, now I’m wondering just how many laps he’d really be willing to run with me.

2021 is bringing things to surface early. This is a year of mission. Freedom from all things that weigh us down seems to be the early theme. Is he weighing me down or lifting me? Am I blaming him because I’ve allowed my fear of hurt stop me from being all in? Am I being smart or hard?

I can’t answer any of that right now. But, I will.

Mary Just Be Knowin’.

“Girl, Mary just be know’n.”

Blanketed in cigarette smoke, heartbreak and empty wine cooler bottles, that was Keonya’s way of declaring that once again, Mary J. Blige had hit our drama on the nose. Providing the soundtrack for an era heavy-laden with messiness, we stayed in the mix of something. Boy drama, friend drama, neighborhood drama, our drama. Whenever the consequences of our actions showed up, Mary J. was our bandaid. We’d cry, laugh, sing every song out loud and on repeat, lick our wounds and do it all over again. I can’t recall one dull moment with Keonya. We were never bored. We didn’t keep still long enough to be. The next day’s convo after one of our night capers always began with, “Biiiiiiiiiiiitch!” followed by that infectious laugh of hers as we recapped the antics of the previous evening.

Our Friday or Saturday nights – whichever night I couldn’t conjure a babysitter for my daughter- with Mary were standard. In my living room, with my little Fingerhut purchased high-fi, 12-disc cd changer and a double-cassette player. My mom had gifted it to me when I first moved in. We were in our very early twenties. From our problems to OPP, MJB kept us sane. Or at the very least, helped us validate our crazy.

We shed many layers over spilled-milk-men in my living room, with so many of those songs providing the backdrop to our nonsense and immaturity, and inexperience. Never did I imagine I’d be listening to those same songs, the ones that gave our voiceless selves voices and helped make sense out of senselessness, shedding tears over the loss of my good, good girlfriend. My good to me, good to anyone who knew and loved her girlfriend. My splash of color in this dull, dank ass world. My Yonya.

She’s gone. I say it so harshly because it feels like my heart has been ripped to shreds by some invisible claw. What a life to take. I have to say it harsh, because my mind is insisting that this isn’t real but it is. Too real.

The last time I saw her was three months ago when I was darting across a parking lot to run into a store. “Jann! You need a jacket on!” I turned without missing a beat and ran in the direction of her voice, yelling YOOOONYA! We talked for a good while in that parking lot. I told her she looked amazing. She told me she was sick, but feeling better. I said, “Oh, we’re not doing this though, right? We ain’t claiming a thing.” She said, “God has been so good to me. The only thing I’m claiming is life.”

I met Keonya when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Her grandmother lived on the row behind my mom and I so we played together often. We moved from the neighborhood when I was 8 but years later, I returned with a one year old in tow. Keonya was my first visitor. I can still see her clear as day, trotting down the sidewalk, “You live down here now?? Awww shiiiit.” Aww shit indeed.

We weren’t always friends. There was even one point during our late teens when we’d see each other and exchange heated words FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Influence is a trip. It had more to do with the company we kept. You know how it was back in the day, whoever your friends at the time had beef with, you did too. The beef was always about boys.

In our later years though, it was less about boys, or men at that point, and more about poor decisions and knowing better. I can recall one of our hurtful moments, when I was was still clinging to tattered remnants of what could possibly be called a marriage. I was upset because she had a very blunt opinion about me tolerating his bullshit again. I called her and let the cuss out rip from my tongue with fire. I remember her response clear as day. “What you need to worry about is not what I said but what type of man you got around your daughter.” That was Keonya.

Let me tell you who else she was.

I loved a man for ten years. He was the one who got away and I would drunkenly profess this every chance I got. One day, she decided she was over it. She got her Infiniti washed and waxed (she’s the reason I love Infiniti’s to this day), sat me down at her dining room table with scissors, her portable hair dryer and a jar of perm, and several outfits from her closet. She made my face up and we went cruising through the city naively preparing to go and knock on the door of a man I hadn’t seen in ten years.

We parked in front of his house, no information at all about it being his current residence and she said, “Go knock on the door.” I said, “And what if he’s married now?” She paused and gave me side eye, and asked me why I waited until after she did my hair to say that. I said well, why didn’t it cross your know-it-all-ass mind that this man might be married now? She said Bitch, he’s your man, not mine! I said he ain’t my man, his wife is gonna whip my ass if I knock on that door!

We laughed so hard. I’m surprised no one came outside to see what all the commotion was. I didn’t knock on his door that night but a few years later, not only did I find him but we found out that his cousin had lived in Keonya’s building on the bottom floor for several years, but that we had also missed running into each other quite a few times.

Things weren’t always like that between us. Sometimes it was heavy and dark. Even as I type this though, I’m remembering all of the ways that we still managed to let some light shine in, no matter the circumstance.

She was the friend who knew the depths of a secret I carried and how bad I wanted to be free from it. My twin’s dad didn’t know that they existed. We had a thing and when I told him that I was pregnant, I also told him that I was going to have an abortion. He disappeared. When I found out that I was having twins, I changed my mind about terminating the pregnancy. I told myself that he didn’t need to know and when our daughter passed, I buried the thought of telling him about his children with her. It was Keonya who said hell no, he needs to know. It was her who walked outside after a local party, to the end of a parking lot with him and told him about his children under the moonlight. It was her who put her hand on his shoulder and explained one of the most complicated decisions I’ve ever made. It was her who sat in my living room with me when I cried and said “Let me tell Deucy (her little brother) to go and grab my hair bag.”, on the day that he came to meet his son.

That was Keonya. That is who she will always be. The one who stepped to the front of the line while heads turned and wondered who in tf she thought she was. The one who could enter any scene, alone, and steal the show. No matter how many summers we missed and no matter how many phones went unanswered or calls were left unreturned, there was not one dance floor where I was getting my life, completely in my zone without feeling that familiar tap on my shoulder, hearing her holler, HEEEY JAAAAANN!! as we squealed and hugged and quickly proceeded to break it all the way the down as if we were the only two on the floor! She’d sashay her way through the crowd and that was it. That was our thing. I can’t believe I won’t ever see my girl on a dance floor again.

The confidence and style she insisted on pouring into me, that was her love language. From black lipstick, to blonde hair, to the brightest yellows, deepest blues; it got to the point of her picking out the outfits for me and meeting me at the register. I insisted on a budget and she insisted on covering the difference because, “These jeans have to go with this top and your ass won’t put it together right with another pair.”

Double-dates and double trouble. For all the secrets her ass couldn’t keep to ones that never went pass the stains on the walls. Keonya was my tandem jumper. My little big sister who lead me to the edge of so many planes but never let my hand go. She insisted I jump out of every one of them but never alone. We jumped together; me kicking and screaming and her holding on tight with laughter at my crazy ass. Us both landing safely and her saying, didn’t I tell you we would?

She helped me find the confidence to wear half shirts and heels, taught me how to kill a sheer top with some distressed jeans. How to tighten up the roughest look or make a formal look pop with some Ruby Red lipstick. And hair? Oh honey, it grows back. Cut it, dye it, shave it, grow it or sew it in, because that’s your business. She taught me how to never let the man approach first if I’m interested, you better make your presence known before someone else does. My girl gave me Game.

In living, loud color, we lived. And oh did we laugh! She would set me up on dates and we would fuss like crazy about it, but I’d always give in because I knew it would involve a head to toe makeover and I would sell her my soul for a free hairdo and outfit that I’d forget to return.

One of the funniest memories was her introducing me to this one, cornball dude. He was really sweet, not too bad on the eyes but he was so extra and geeky! You know the type, they attempt to crack jokes about everything. Ugh, the memory just gave me a headache.

Anyway, a really nice guy that she actually met first and was like, I think you’d like my girlfriend better – true story! So she introduced us. He really wasn’t my type either but Keonya felt that it was time for me to have a boyfriend and he was employed, single and suitable. Who in the world did she think she was?? And I just went right along with her plan!

I gave in and he grew on me a little. But, our first intimate encounter was horrific. I called her on my way home and she insisted it was nerves and to give him another chance. I did. I was leaving her house with a fresh hairdo and she had given me the keys to the Infiniti and told me to have fun and be nice. I told her that if this second encounter were anything like the first, I’d call her before he could climb off of me.

She screamed into the phone so loud that she woke her daughter up when I actually did it.

“Now, what does that tell you?” I asked dryly into the receiver as he shuffled into the bathroom. We laughed about that for years.

Mommy-hood softened and slowed us down, rooted us and made us pay attention to the world around us. God went from a thing way up there to a power deep within us, so our capers evolved into conversations about life, love and forward motion. I thanked her for everything during a few hours of conversation a few years back. She cried and said, “Jaaannnneell, I love you.” Yes, she did.

I’m so glad that I got to share that with her randomly and while she was healthy. I wasn’t inspired by the thought of loss to thank her for helping me learn to live. I was led by love. A love that she gave me abundantly. My little big sister loved me. She is love. Radiant and alive, what a legacy of absolute beauty.

The friend who pushed me out of every box I owned. From style to men, Sis gave me the playbook. Confident and unapologetic, I’ll say it again: her presence brought air to every space she entered.

My heart is broken, but I’ve been listening to Mary for three days straight and I’ve danced and laughed more than I’ve cried. So many experiences with you, Keonya. I love you, I love you, I love you …. more than all of the outfits I never returned. For every sing along, barreling up and down highways, Thank you, my friend, my sister, for loving me.


All those pretty memories
I know you can hear me now
For the record: I love you, I love you – MJB

My Dearest Beloved,

The clock is ticking. This is one final attempt to motivate you before the clock strikes midnight on 1/12021. What is it going to take? Does a world actually have to end for yours to finally began? I find nothing about self-sacrifice admirable. Shredding yourselves down, with no other purpose besides stunting your own growth and desires in the name of family. And calling it Happy.

Who taught you to call that devotion?

I’m consumed with making cliche references to the exiting year, but when speaking on your muted existence, I cannot help it. Look around you. Look around you! It’s as if we’re all waiting for the sky to fall and yet, you continue to look the ground!

Pick your fucking head up and STOP. Please.

Minimizing yourself. Taking small minimizing bites of life, giving all that you have left to those who need you. As if you don’t need you first. Denying that doesn’t make you selfless. It makes you weak. By supernatural, divine design and the natural order of the Universe, you are not weak. Where is your strength, sista? It’s as if you have to be needed. I see your households evolving; children are preparing to take flight from your nest while you hide in corners and watch.

Where will you be when they stop needing you?

It is the great tragedy of two of the most beautiful unions; motherhood and partnership. You’ve forgotten about you. It is not in the playbook, it is a choice. It is not in the playbook, it is a choice. It is not in the playbook.

We are a society of empowerment; our own little kingdom of kick-ass. if we think it ~ we can do it. What are you doing?

Don’t tell me about what everyone needs from you. Tell me the truth. Tell me how when night falls, so do you. Exhausted. Tell how you wonder if there will be any part of you left for you. After all that we now know, you are outright refusing to be good to you.

There’s nothing holding you back, but you. From whatever it is that you want to do. There’s nothing holding you back but you. And you are holding onto the reigns pretty tight. It is fear.

You will no longer blame your children and families. It is you. You are afraid. How do you so easily attach to fear when you won’t even allow your children say the word? I don’t think it’s the kids relying on you, it’s you relying on them. What happens when everyone settles into their own worlds?

You’ll turn bitter. Cold. Is this the spirit that you want to take into other seasons?

As an elder, our colors should be even more vibrant. You are supposed to be the one whose age they can’t guess.

Nothing is worth more than you.

What will you do without you? You don’t ever want to answer that. Look at all that you haven’t done so far. You are refusing to grow, refusing to fall deeply in love, with you. I’ll ask this question again, the theme that ends here and begins again, charged and filled with love –

If not now, when?

I love you.

“Calm down.” And other bullshit used to silence your black voice in the workplace.

I watched my white counterparts for years in staff meetings. No matter the topic, it was guaranteed entertainment. Never backing away from an opportunity to share disdain with newly imposed rules or what have you, my coworkers could disrupt an entire meeting, storm off and take a smoke break, refuse to return to the meeting, only to be invited to continue blowing steam off behind closed doors until compromise was reached.

Let one of us do it.

Another thing I’ve watched for years. Us, whispering and growling amongst ourselves, disgusted with the latest off-color, subtle remarks while quieting quickly at the sound of footsteps. I’ve seen grown, gray-haired men and women back away from checking a disrespectful white millennial, but speak to their younger black colleagues like they caught their hands in their wallets.

I see brown and black faces turn on that 1000-watt, million-dollar smile for someone who treats them like the bottom of a fucking boot. The damaging remnants of a slave mentality. Tolerating blatant disrespect. Who taught us to do that? Why don’t we feel as empowered as our white colleagues to speak the fuck up?

It’s as if we still feel the crack of the whip on our backs. Maybe we aren’t crazy and are feeling a perpetual whip of a different sort. The inability to fumble or error. The fear of failing and being seen as incompetent, or a poor fit. We come in with the odds already stacked against us. Each mistake and folly yet another tally mark that somebody somewhere is tracking. That’s what it feels like to be black in the workplace. Working extra hard and every step of it being picked apart and judged. You are not equal.

Being black, female and in charge is one part double edged sword, and another part shotgun loaded with double standards, and a work family that eventually turns into foes with a line drawn in the sand. You can’t win for losing.

Work ethic has always been high on my list of values. I love team-building and creating leaders, but in my experience it’s the people who look like me that are the most difficult to manage. They’re ok with you enforcing rules until it comes to them. People who were my lunch buddies start to distance themselves, whispering that I’m doing too much because I say chill on the two-hour lunches or how their frequent call outs are creating concerns. I eventually become the office loner and I’m so used to it now that I now welcome it when it comes. It’s relieving because then I don’t have to juggle the obligations of coworker and friend. Dare you apply a standard to a muthaphucka you work with. You might as well get Sellout tattooed on your forehead.

Among faces that look like mine, dare I have an opinion. The level of micromanaging that comes with a black face. I’ve witnessed white male coworkers spend hours around the water cooler, in break rooms and each other’s offices enthralled in conversation. Literally hours of standing around with pocketed hands, shooting the shit. If two of my black male coworkers are witnessed standing idle for longer than five minutes, all hell breaks loose. I’ll receive emails, texts and a verbal convo “suggesting” that I have a talk and remind these grown ass men that there ain’t no kee-keeing and gathering allowed in the workplace.

Some days, I want to run around in full Kizzy mode, screaming slack-jawed naive yessuhs to the boss with each new command to keep the colored folks inline, just to see their satisfaction show itself for a split second. Instead of hiding it in plain sight for once.

I had this one manager who would always come to me to step in whenever it involved a person of color on her team. Not any of my direct reports — hers. Her reason, and my supervisor’s reason for supporting it, was that I had such good rapport with them and I was much more relatable than she was. Bitch, are you being serious? I was the most anti-social person in the office; a cubicle recluse, but I was expected to go behind and soften the blow.

We can’t laugh too loud or too long. If we’re gathered, we’re plotting. We can’t linger in supply rooms or storage closets without someone passing through to “help us find what we’re looking for” and we absolutely cannot be vocal about any perceived injustices.

We speak up and it’s as if we’re planning a riot. “Calm down.” To me, it’s their way of saying shut the fuck up. It’s distracting. You instantly end up checking yourself like, is my voice raised? Did I enunciate a little too much or maybe I got caught up in a neck roll. We didn’t do anything but speak up. What needs to start following the suggestion to calm down is, “And if I don’t?”

Bob and Karen can slam hands on tables, send doors slamming off their hinges, pack their things for the day and leave when pissed off, but let me raise the pitch of my voice one octave too high when talking about the unfair treatment of my black male staff, and I just need to calm down. Issue unresolved and nigga still silent.

So now I’m the unofficial poster child for the angry black woman in the workplace. And that’s just how it has to be. I’m not tolerating any suggestions to calm down or to be the bigger person when I make a white coworker uncomfortable. No one’s pulling them aside, asking that they bestow that same courtesy to me.

I will not allow the older white males in my office to refer to their black counterparts as boys. Each and every time they say it, I’m going to say loud, strong, clear and uncomfortably, BOY??!! WHERE DO YOU SEE A BOY?? You won’t feel ok declaring that about another man of color around me. I won’t break conversation with black coworkers when a white coworker walks up and silently stands there waiting for us to be quiet, instead of just saying excuse me. I finish what I have to say then walk away, especially when I know you’re waiting to speak to me. Since we’re playing games.

It’s exhausting and I have no interest whatsoever in having a seat at that post slavery, passive aggressive, calm the blacks down table.

Table legs and chairs removed, it’s our podium now.

Punching Bag Pussy.

I remember the fear more than the pain of the punch landing on the right-side of my face. I thought to myself, “things will never be the same again.”   Things weren’t the same. They were drastically different.  Foggy and off-balance.  I had buried my newborn daughter three weeks prior and one of my girlfriends begged to get me out of the house for a few. I did not want to go but I didn’t want to be in the house either so I reached a mental compromise and said that yes.  A new club had just opened in Annapolis, Club Hollywood, so if nothing else I figured I’d enjoy watching the locals buzz around feeling themselves in something shiny and new.

We weren’t in the club a good twenty minutes before I noticed all of the sad looks I was receiving.  It was too much.  If I recall correctly, I think I even said to my friend as we were on our way there that I did not want a whole bunch of sadness and sympathy hurled towards me.  I needed normal tonight.  I was anything but normal.

Everywhere I looked, someone was looking at me with sad eyes and gentle smiles of sympathy.  I didn’t need that.  I needed people to be drunk and loud, and festive and jovial.  I did not need sad in the club.  A few people offered to buy drinks and I didn’t even have the taste for water at the moment.  I wanted to go home.

The breaking point for me was when one of the sweetest guys ever, (good ole Jamie Cook) came over and said, “Janell I am so sorry for your loss. I swear I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t even muster a thank you.  My girlfriend saw the tiredness in my eyes.  She asked, “We need to leave, don’t we?” I shook my head yes.

She dropped me off and my son’s dad was on the front step with his cousin and his cousin’s best friend.  It was a cool summer night.  One of those nights when you could sit outside and watch the sun come up, in the just right breeze.  He asked why I was back so soon.  I said I was tired.  He asked if I enjoyed myself.  I said I had.  His cousin and his friend were smoking a blunt and did the polite “you want to hit this?” gesture.  I paused for a second because I realized that two or three hits of that blunt was probably exactly what I needed to calm my anxiety-ridden soul.  My son’s dad noticed the non-verbal communication occurring and said, “Nelly not smoking no weed, man.” Before either of us could respond, Mekhi cried out from his bassinet and he got up to go in the house to tend to him.

I sat in his seat and talked to his cousin and his friend for a bit and when I looked, he had again gestured for me to hit the blunt. I did.  Just as I was inhaling it good, I felt a burning smack that was so hard it knocked me out of the chair.  He literally smacked the blunt out of my mouth. I was in shock and I was embarrassed. No man had ever put his hands on me.  He hadn’t said a word and the look in his eyes told me that I had better not say one either.  When I stood up and tried to grab the storm door to run into the house, he punched me in the face and I stumbled from the front step into a grassy area and ran towards me and punched me so hard that I fell to the ground.  His cousin and his cousin’s friend sat there with blank expressions. They didn’t move.  They didn’t say a word.  I ran across the street to on of my girlfriend’s aunt’s house, where she was staying for the night and knocked on the door.  I said, “________ hit me.”  She said, “Aww.. Janell…” and let me in.

I was so afraid.  It was as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to my fuzzy world to prove to me that it was all smoke and mirrors.  First, I’m burying my baby and now I’m being beaten in the middle of the street. My life had whirled into a Category 5 hurricane.  I felt dysfunctional and out of sync. Abstract and numb.

That was the beginning.  Over the course of several years – didn’t matter if we were off or on, our relationship consisted of him brutalizing me both mentally and physically.  It didn’t matter if my son’s were present.  He punched me once outside of his mom’s house and instead of hitting the ground, I fell backwards on top of something soft  – my son Tariq.  That was probably one of my lowest moments.  The lowest moment was having him beat me without warning when I was picking our son’s up after a weekend with him.  I remember my son’s standing there, half-awake but watching their dad pummel my body like a ragdoll.  I opened the door and dragged me out into the hallway and I screamed from help as I snatched my sons in both arms from the doorway and ran from his building and to a nearby girlfriend’s house with a bloody, swollen face to call the police. That was indeed the beginning of my experiences with violent, abusive men.

My ex-husband and I got into a heated argument once, and I was sitting at the edge of the bed and he was towering over me, screaming insults in my face and in one quick swipe, he had grab the ceramic lamp, I lifted my arm to block my face and felt the lamp crash into my elbow.  He walked out of the room and I felt overwhelming warmth running down my arm and looked to blood pouring from a three-inch gash that ended up requiring over a dozen stitches.

I’m not sharing this to demonize my son’s dad or my ex-husband. It actually has nothing to do with them.  This is all about me and my non-stop journey to figure who and why I am.  What was missing in me then? How do those experiences affect me today? Why? I’m still figuring it out. They weren’t good men to me.  They’ve grown and so have I so again, I don’t share this to pull back any of their scabs, just mine. And maybe yours too. This is to talk about the fear that still exists. I’d like to think of myself as this empowered woman, who survived some unspeakable things at the hands of people who used the word love so fluidly.  I appear to now be the, “I wish you would” type.  When in truth, I am not. For those reasons, I do not like to argue with men.  In my experience, men run out of words quickly when they’re angry and when they can’t find the words, they hit.  Or throw drinks in your face. Or wake you up out of your sleep with their hands around your neck choking you. Or slam your head into walls. Or car windows.

People knew what I was going through. I was ridiculed and alienated by friends for “being dumb”, invitations to dinners and events dwindled and phone calls were far and few.  Everyone was tired of me allowing men to do so much damage in my life.  But no one said, “I’ll help you.” I needed help.

I don’t quite know what I needed that help to look like at the time but what I did not need was the hurt disguised as help.  How do you tell a friend that she needs to leave a situation or be strong or realize her worth/girl, you’re too good for that, but watch and see that the knowledge your spewing ain’t anything that she’s in the state of mind to receive.

Women, or anyone for that matter, in abusive relationships don’t hear that talk. Save the confidence boosting speeches and understand that if you love someone who is subjecting themselves to the arms of abuse, your actions have to scream.  I don’t want to have to tell the stories but the mental state of women who are emotionally, physically and mentally abused is something that society is gentle with.  No matter the trauma we survive, no one wants to acknowledge the damage.  Not to deter from the topic but I see it everyday in the expectations that is placed on the men and women that I work with.  After surviving decades in prison, people expect them to come home and jump right back into motion.  It’s not about being in a cell for twenty years. It’s about the things they saw from that cell, the things they heard, the mental discipline they had to mock to keep from losing their minds. I’ve had grown men cry in my chair after getting traffic violations and thinking that their parole is going to be revoked, sending them back to prison. I can sit there all day long and tell them how irrational they’re being and how it’s all going to be ok but my feet don’t fit in their shoes.   It’s the same thing that women experience after coming out of an abusive relationship.  The abuser may be long gone but you can’t unsee or unfeel the fear.  It is always lingering around the corner for me.  Is this new person capable of getting angry enough to hurt me? Will I be caught up in yet another mental prison?

I’m #teamsingle because of those experiences.  I cannot feel that kind of hurt again. I’ve seen other survivors turn into cold, callous people.   I don’t want to be like that.  I want to believe that the person I’m dating communicates in a way that does not involve a fist.  If I’m distant and detached at times, you don’t have to say a word.  Just give me a kiss on my forehead and toss a throw blanket over me.  Hold me. Show me that you see me struggling, but that you’ll stay right there to ride it out with me.  Don’t be afraid of my dark days. I just need someone to say, “aye girl, we walking into light over here. Always. In all ways.”

I’ll walk, right beside them.  In fact, I just might run ahead. As long as I can look back and see them right there, keeping up the pace.

 

Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?

And never brought to mind.

Vamoose, Peace out, Goodbye, Adios. Never to return. Auld Lang Syne, the Swedish NYE pop-off song (that everyone only knows the first two lines to) gives us a good question to ponder as we enter the new year.

What are you taking with you? And, since we’re starting out deep, is this something that should be left in the old? Hmm..

I despise new year resolutions. Only because I never stick to them. The purpose is really just goal planning, manifesting and accountability anyway, right? Thinking a thing, planning to execute a thing and making sure to stick to a thing for the entire next year. Sounds easy for you driven folks, I’m sure.

But I did come up with something that I need to resolve. Vulnerability. I’m resolving to be more vulnerable and I am scared AF about it. It means I have to loosen my grip on my mental security blanket.

I keep holding onto the bad ass-ness of doing what (and who) I please, whenever I want. No kids to be responsible for anymore, nothing tying me down to anything or anyone, just me in motion. But what I don’t mention are the moments when I’m truly still. The truth I hear in those moments. That it’s time to share myself, deeply. I snap out of whatever trance I’m in and ignore it but it doesn’t go anywhere, something that I’m realizing more and more. With all the love I have in me, I’ve told myself that I’m content with only giving it to me. Bullshit.

The last time I opened myself to trust a person’s intent, by giving into chance, I received an illiterate inbox message from his wife.

I empathized with the wife because I’m sure it’s not the first time that she found herself doing that, but I can-the-fuck-not. I just can’t see myself grappling with that kind of betrayal at 45 with 5 grandkids. My man can’t be running around bringing that type of recklessness into what we have.

So I get caught up in that fear. Of trusting someone to love me the right way and they end up getting it all wrong and then I’m picking up pieces. Again. But guess what else I’m reminded of – THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. That’s on them.

It’s time to be open to more, without interference. I don’t want to date two, three and four people, juggling conversations and shit. I’m tired. With the exception of one person, I hardly ever answer calls and texts anymore. I want my one. That one. The one.

No one should be ever get used to being alone. Ooops, honesty Janell.. let’s try this again. I don’t want to get use to being alone. I don’t want moments anymore. Ahh, I said it. Maybe I’m going through a midlife crisis or, maybe not. But I was in my kitchen a few days ago, tearing the stove up. Music jammin, the vibe was so hot that I was smiling to myself up. After I plated my food and poured myself some wine, I settled at the dining room table, scooped a forkful of food and looked at the empty chair on the other side and loss my appetite. What in the fuck was this about? I felt a little tinch of sadness and was like oh hold up bitch, what are you doing? Where’d that come from? Then I dismissed it.

What I can’t dismiss though, is this wave of emotional nostalgia I’m experiencing lately. I’m digging out my old love poems, lingering over certain lines and remembering what inspired me to write them. I get teary-eyed watching online surprise proposals, I’m preferring cuddles over physical sex. What is happening? I think, yiiiiikes, I think I’m ready to settle in. I don’t say settle down. We are in and up, baby.

People think I have this long list of must-haves and must-be’s for men and I don’t. I only require that you be human. I only require You.

Completely. I want to know who you are and what you had to shed to get there. What are you afraid of, because I may be afraid of those things too. How do you need me to support you? In what ways do you need me to show up for you? Being able to share yourself in that way is freedom. All I desire, is someone who is just as free as me. Someone who is in a space of consciousness and peace, where opinions hold no rank or value.

Come as you are.

The gentleman I dated a few months ago was so hell bent on my knowing that he was my safe place. Talk to me about anything, ask me for anything, he’d say. But he didn’t reciprocate. There were moments when I could look at his face and see that something was wrong. It could’ve been something personal or maybe I’d done something that pissed him off. He wouldn’t tell me. After I’d raise hell, practically screaming in his face to talk to me, I’d be met with the same soft cotton response of, “I don’t talk about my feelings.” And I sir, cannot be with you.

I have to see the you that you love, and if you are still learning who that is, that’s just fine. I have to trust that you’ll see me too, and alllllllllll the amazing and not so amazing things that I’ve comes to love. We put so much energy into hiding behind these faces and minds that are not ours. I don’t have an alter to share. You get me, absolutely.

So that’s my truth right there. I need vulnerability. I need to feel vulnerable but you have to be too. If you can’t place your pearls in my hand, you aren’t getting mine.

I am a lover, naturally. I don’t break hearts. I don’t play games. I favor hours of in-bed conversations, talking about any and everything, over a night out. Or an evening in the kitchen with music, creating and conversing. I love a silent night on the sofa, legs locked, letting the lyrics of whatever song is playing provide a much needed mental escape for us, together. Or, you in your space and me in mine but because we’re spiritually, mentally and emotionally whole, we don’t sweat when aren’t physically present. Togetherness, gotdamn it.

There it is. Togetherness. The state of being close to another. You could be miles away from me, but I have to always feel like we are one. There are no secrets, just safe places.

Maybe then, I’d be more inclined to pause the peace of single-ladyhood and admit that I’d love coming home to someone consistently. I put all these rules and guidelines in place to protect myself from the bullshit, not love.

Safe. Lord, what a feeling. Can I just tell you how many times I’ve closed my eyes and said a silent thank you for the safety of strong arms and an embrace? After a long day, that extended arm that reaches out for you and pulls you close, aah! I could cry every time! It’s bigger than a forehead kiss for me, because it says I have you, you are safe with me.

Reciprocation. Vulnerability. Togetherness. Safety.

I’ve learned so much about love over the past few years. It is patient. But it isn’t kind. In my opinion, it should boast. It should be loud and outrageous and vivid and wild and breathtaking and high and wide and big and strong. It should represent everything that we are and all that we are willing to give for it, all that we are in it.

Those things doesn’t require Tinder, POF, Facebook dating, any of that shit. It requires two people who put it all on the table. Two, who have decided that the cat and mouse chase and muted feelings are for suckers. Two people who build their own world within this one and who will protect each other at all costs. You are mine and I am yours.

I don’t need a ring. A wedding, or posts on social media with constant tags. I need my one. My all that and a bag of chips because together we are going to be two righteous motherfuckers.

I’m afraid of hurt because I can’t control it. I can poker face my response to anything but hurt. I spent too many low, painful days trying to get my life on track after giving my full love and trust to someone who had no intent on giving it back.

Somebody que that Elsa song about letting go.

So at the stroke of 12 midnight, January 1, 2021 is when I ready myself for labor. The labor of a love I’m still running from. The running shoes will be left on 2020’s porch. I’m going in, all into love and I know that this is going to be some of the hardest, most painful shit that I’ve committed to in a long time. The other part of that, is saying goodbye to my protective barriers. People and things, distractions and occupiers, that I’ve put in place to avoid asking the question that I’ve never really wanted to answer because I knew the truth would mean action: “So just how long will it be before you decide to be in a relationship again? You know, you know Janell that you cannot do this single shit forever.”

I’m ready to do the work and move the obstacles to get there.

Sigh…

Wilted Pussy.

I’ve always wanted to be the woman who could just pull out a credit card or head to an ATM machine without calculating current balances in my head.

In an unbothered manner, I’d be able to take care of emergencies or the urgent needs of my children and grands. I’d fuss, but not because I was digging myself into a hole. Just a little prodding about being better prepared to combat life’s emergencies. You’d think that a series of hopeless dead-ends and stressors would quash that fantasy. It didn’t. No matter how bland and mundane life seemed, I never lost that ache for real life stability.

Financial independence doesn’t represent wealth or status for me. Just security and stability. I’ve never desired the flash of materials. All I’ve ever wanted to be is comfortable. Revel in the joy of not having to rob Peter to pay Paul. All bills paid on their exact due dates or before. Or how about this one, months in advance! That would knock my socks off.

I always thought that once the nest emptied, I’d be able to squirrel away money and live a carefree life of comfort. I stress the word comfort because that is the heart of what I desire.

I said to my coworker yesterday, “If I had a partner at home, today would be the day that I would march through my door and say look I can’t stomach that place anymore. I need to leave and I need you to support my decision. Are you with me?” She nodded knowingly. Just a few months before, she had said the same thing to her spouse. And he supported her decision. It gave her the gusto she needed to walk away from corporate misery into her heart work, non-profit work. She was also able to invest more energy into building her design business.

Nest empty and I’m still robbing Peter and hiding from Paul. I’m uncomfortable. The good thing about being uncomfortable is that it is my reminder of discontent. I’m not in La-La Land, pretending that mediocre is cool for me. I wasn’t built for it. I have an innate need for peace. As each day passes with more news of loss and devastation, it feels like I’m struggling to take in sips of air to focus on my big picture.

I want to get back to the zeal and spark I had just a few short months ago, project planning and living. Seeing a nest egg form just a bit. I mean, the bitch was scrambled but hey, an egg is an egg, right? I felt energized and inspired. Motivated and moving. An unexpected emergency turned that scrambled egg into an empty shell. One month off track can derail you for an entire year. So my projects get shelved, my social life goes on pause and I go into renegade survivor mode. Work and worry, work and worry, work and worry until I see my way clear.

This time is different though. I’ve been trying to G.I. Jane myself, activate my warrior, get ready for battle but it ain’t happening. It’s not that I’ve given up, it’s that warrior mode is exactly what I’m tired of. I’m tired of putting amazing projects on the shelf in the name of struggle. Starving artist isn’t really a look I’m seeking at fucking 45 years old but aren’t we all standing in the midst of a new world virus-filled order asking ourselves that one universal question that determines the getters from the gotten – If not now, when? When do we make time to build the dream? If not now, WHEN?

I can’t quit a job and invest full time into my projects, as much as I want to. I’d be homeless in three weeks. I cannot take a paycheck and purchase supplies and equipment and invest in adequate technology that I know will result in a major come-up. That would mean no transportation, no food and none of that nice, soft toilet paper I like. Like most of us, I can’t afford to invest in myself monetarily. But even if I did, what’s the point of having the money to do it if my mind ain’t ready? I still think and act broke.

When my nest emptied, my bad habits should’ve gone out of the door with them. Disclaimer before continuing: I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m floundering in a crisis. I am fine. What I’m flipping around in is accountability and command decisions.

People see the mission of my full time work, with formerly incarcerated individuals and instantly align it with fulfillment and reward. Service is my heart. Working with members of our community who are disadvantaged and in need has always been important to me. Not because it is my passion but because I believe that it just the right thing to do. It’s life work for me, something that I’ll never retire from because it’s not work, it’s just right. And we need all the people we can get to consign to that idea, so that so many more missions in this world are fulfilled and aligning people with any opportunity they need to be well.

When people say that my line of work is what I’m supposed to be doing I want to sometimes scream that they couldn’t be further from my truth. That is not who I am, that is what I do. It is what we’re all supposed to do. Our work should always be about springing forward and I’ll always be in line for the movement. But this is my truth: If I were struggling to make ends meet and working in my sacred calling, I’d live out of my van tomorrow and be as happy as a pig in mud.

“You’re an artist, Mr. 51 said matter-of-factly. Look around, it’s obvious. It’s all over your walls, it’s all over you. Anybody can see that’s who you are.” It was as if he’d gotten on bended knee. Everyone else sees the person standing center stage, performing. In his way, he was acknowledging one of the things that I always felt separated me from most women of my age and race.

I don’t hear, see, feel or experience things like most. I’m not alone in that. There are millions of creative spirits out here, bottled up, pretending to be ok with the mundane ways of this superficial ass society. We are not the pretties or the big booties. We don’t know a damn thing about selling hair or eye lashes. We cook our asses off, but we ain’t doing it as a hustle, and we’ll leave the clothing game to people who actually give a fuck about it. We are platform creators. Ink spots on canvas, to quote my friend’s movie. A beautiful blend of peace and controversy, we think it, we say it and if the movement is right and the money matches, we gonna do it too.

Hidden from the world are my sketch pads and notebooks. Clips from old articles and interviews with Cathy Hughes, Keke Wyatt, Christina Milian and so many others. Books, plays, songs, observations and musings. Fiction and non-fiction, girlfriend guides, The Golden Book for Little Black Boys and Girls, Wee Baby the Great, SE7EN Magazine, Wee-Baby Family Magazine.

Tucked away, or incomplete because the rent was due, kids needed things and mommy was bad at managing money. Didn’t I say something last week about telling old stories? Remember, “So what happens next?”

Fellow creatives, what happens next? I’m sure Tyler Perry asked himself the same thing when he walked out of a half-empty theater after acting, writing and directing a play and entering his car that he slept in. Did he ever look away from his canvas, put it away until the money was right? Can’t tell looking at him. He was committed to his art. Didn’t matter if it was a no, an empty theater or criticism. He listened to himself! I don’t know what that push is, but the only space between it is now or never. Maybe I won’t know it to that degree but I’m hungry to know what happens if I just keep going, in my own direction to my own beat.

Whatever that it is – from writing, blogging, podcasting; novelists, playwrights, songwriters, painters, actors, designers, the cubicles and desks ain’t for us. That’s not our canvas.

I’ve watched mine sit incomplete for so long. So many years of feeling like a wilted flower on the inside because all of my energy went into fanning out the flames associated with single motherhood. I’ve served my time in the space but took my methods of surviving in it with me.

There’s no longer a need to make sacrifices for school shoes and haircuts, groceries and school supplies. I can pull myself up by last year’s bootstraps(and stay off of Torrid and Forever 21 looking at this years boots.) and I can commit to a budget that is all inclusive- some for the bills and some for the projects. It is time. The new world order won’t be televised, but if I have anything to do with it, it will be blogged, published, podcasted and on a stage coming to you. That’s who I am. A creator of dope experiences for my sisters. I’m tied to the movement of seeing our faces all up in the place, following our own rules in the arts, especially literary and media circles and more.

I’m an artist. I create. A creative, complex force of sho-nuff. Chance and trust are my two best friends. Take a chance and trust yourself.

As one of my favorite quotes suggests, “Maybe it won’t work out, but maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever.”

2015.

Just realized I wasn’t blessed with surgical hands I’ve spent the past three weeks trying to extract, transfuse and resuscitate pieces and moments, promises and beginnings.

But I still end up with the same result.
A tattered, thin thread beyond its breaking point.

Scrubbed my hands clean,
I covered them in titanium gloves and painstakingly attempted the process over and over again,
only to end up with bloody hands and an exhausted soul.

My determination to recreate a heart that was picked and cut clean, that only held moments of
love- making and sweet words, intense passion and caresses was done in vain –
because all of those things stitched together only created a shell.

A fragile shell that covered emptiness and questions, pain and regret
A shell that cracked slowly over lonely nights and verbal frustration,.
Cracks that inched over and crumbled over gut-wrenching tears and sobs that
were periods at the end of run-on sentences of bullshit.

I looked down at the specimen that was once my heart; ripped, shredded worn
and caught a glimpse of me staring back.

Tears fell from my eyes and I expected it to wither into dust but it didn’t.
Scalpel down
Gloves off
I lifted it into my hands and stroked it.

I kissed it and I said a million apologies in a language I never knew I spoke,

The language of Self Love.

But first, Forgiveness.

“Ma. She passed away.” I heard what my daughter said. We were on FaceTime. I was stuck in the moment. I couldn’t move. I heard the words. I saw the expression. Felt all of it. But it’s as if my eyes were asking, begging her to please just tell me I had heard that wrong. That longing, the need for what was said to be a mistake, an error that elicits “oh my goodness, that was close! I thought I heard you say that such-n-such died!”, followed with a deep sigh of relief and returning to the norms of life.

I have never experienced that relief. But immediately after I hear that a loved one has passed, that’s where I go. Waiting to hear the mistake. But that part never comes. Just once, I’d like for it to come.

I stopped breathing for a minute or so. I recall taking a hard, deep gasp in. I realized that I was just sitting there, phone still in hand. I looked back at the camera and she nodded her head. That nod. When they don’t have the words to confirm it again. I’ll always remember the nod. Every time.

I made a quick mental note ~Add the following to the list of things that mama didn’t prepare you for: When parents start passing…. When your adult daughter is the one bearing the news.

Pulls at me a bit because it’s the sign of a particular change. The ultimate transition. The Crescendo. When the parents of your friends pass away. The dread of it happening to you. Final phases of life evolving right before your eyes. It’s a heavy hitter. The people who literally watched us grow from girls to women, boys to men. Our friends folks were our secondary parents. You knew the rules of their house just like you knew your own.

Special occasions and celebrations, there was no question that you were invited. It was expected. Aunts and Uncles became yours, greeting you with big hugs and cuffed palms, whispers of, “here’s a little something for you for graduation too”. Milestones were shared. Losses supported. They too, remember when we got our licenses, getting our first jobs because we likely worked in the same place as our friends. They recall when we had bad breakups and they saw us sprawled across their sofas with tears and hurt feelings. I can remember getting advice at 16 and thinking how I wished I could be that candid with my own mom. They didn’t involve themselves in nonsense either. Me and my girlfriends could be carrying on with each other terribly, not speak for a few days or so, and not once did I ever re-emerge from the drama and catch any shade at all from their parents. They paid our hormones no mind.

When I became a grandma for the first time, she showed up at my door with a stack of packages from my friend. When the kids were young and I struggled to keep up, she’d often show up with bags and bowls of food for us. My mom had waited to tell me the day before my daughter’s first birthday party that I could not have it at her house. Guess where I had it? In her basement. No judgement and never any words about whatever was going on with her daughter and I. She was always so good to me and my babies.

Their homes provided comfort for us. Our friends homes and families become our safe places. Your favorite foods get added to family menus. Their cousins are yours. So many firsts intertwined.

Even though the hurt dug a little deeper than usual over the loss of this dynamic lady, I got myself together and thought about this other thing that was gnawing away at me. I hadn’t talked to my friend in years. Over something so trivial. Just stopped talking to her, just like that. That’s my mode of operation and not a very healthy one. I won’t excuse it, and an explanation would require a warm blanket and a therapists’ couch, but I’ll give it a stab. It is a space that I actively work in. I have to, because when you’re raised in a house where every conversation led to knock down drag out fights, you find different ways of expressing your feelings. You don’t.

But I still was avoiding what was gnawing at me.

Whenever I task myself with doing shadow work, I’m a pissy bitch for the first few weeks. I go into battle, still battling myself. How psychotic is that? The first phase that I enter is denial. I’m the way that I am because of what everyone else has done to me. Woe is me, pity party turn-up. It’s tiring to spend so much time denying that any of what I’m experiencing is of any fault of my own.

Victim-Ville. Ego Land, the personality my cousin and I refer to as “Victoreen.” Ms. Victoreen shows her ass, hunny. But I also have a inner grown woman who’s with the shits. She doesn’t play with me. Sis is so bout it-bout it that she is nameless. She’s the one who says without hesitation, girl this shit ain’t about you! None of it is about you! She’s wise and serious. She snatches me together, keeps me grounded.

While I wish I had discovered this wisdom years ago, it wasn’t the time. I wouldn’t have understood it if it slapped me in the face. I had to go through some things, experience some shit to cultivate it. I had to lose some people, experience error and folly. I made a lot of irrational decisions because I didn’t feel comfortable using my voice. My inability to communicate forced a lot of people who mattered out of my life. I say mattered because there are just some connections that I no longer desire to have. Some people should just be experiences, another lesson from wisdom. But for the people who are deeply woven into your life’s tapestry, a thread that flows right next to your bloodline, you just don’t go out like that.

Chomp-chomp-gnaw-gnaw. I caught myself about to create the bullshit in head. “Why hadn’t anyone told me?” Here we go! There it was, this is what was scratching at my core. Knowing how close we were, why wouldn’t someone reach out to tell me? Although we no longer kept in touch, we still shared a few mutual friends. Did they think that I didn’t deserve to know? Aren’t these bitches too old to be thinking like that?? That was my friend, my close friend and while I hadn’t been in her life for the past ten years, no one thought of me??

Janell, girl. In the deep, painful throngs of one of the worse losses a human can experience, the loss of someone’s mom, why in the fuck would anyone be thinking of you?

I sat in the shame of that for a good while. The stink of entitlement made my head hurt. But this part was different. I was actually acknowledging my bullshit before it went any further than my head. It is not about you. It is not about you. It is never about you. Ever. Even in the worse situations, with fucked up people, it still ain’t about you! It’s about them. How they chose to move, what principles they operate from, how they sleep at night. It’s not about you.

The thing that we have to keep in check, the demon that I am constantly wrestling with is perception. The roots of my perception were not watered with clarity. They weren’t free and they were not tended to. Tangled and deep, no matter how I learned to manage my branches and leaves, my blossoms were pretty on the outside but full of skewed perception.

Everyone is out to get you or get over on you. Hurt is to be expected from everyone. Envy what you don’t have. Don’t believe a thing that you hear. Don’t trust actions. You are only as good as what you can do for someone. These are the ideals that shaped and molded me. That’s what watered my seeds, grew my roots. As much as I liked to tell myself that I had overcome all of that, did away with that distorted mindset, I couldn’t. I was well on my way to creating that familiar mental drama. How could I untangle this messiness for once? We’re all familiar with the saying, when you know better you do better. I knew better. I was determined to do better.

I thought about several relationships and how I had abruptly severed ties without warning. I mastered the art of disappearing. I despise confrontation, viewed most conversations as a potential argument. That’s all I saw, all that I was use to. As a child, I had never witnessed rational conversations or peaceful resolve. Everything was knock down drag out. You didn’t talk. You screamed. You broke things and then you sulked and shut down. Everything that was wrong was ridiculing. You made a mistake and the whole family knew. Any discoveries, from periods to punishments, everyone knew.

I remember when I first started creative writing. I got into it real heavy during my junior high years, it provided the perfect source of escape from the immaturity and ignorance of 7th grade idiots. I could be anyone, do anything on those pages. I wrote plays, short stories and even raps. I kept the notebooks under my bed, right next to a box with all of the raps and my diary. I came home from school one day to find my mother and my aunt in the living room reading through page after page. My mom attempted to hide the box and notebooks but finally resolved to making me feel as if she had found my dirty secrets. I was clearly upset and she taunted me. “Ain’t no secrets in this house, I look at whatever I want.” I hated how it made me feel. So violated and dare I say a word about it. She later came to me and complimented me on the raps and said she had even shown them to a local producer. I wasn’t happy. I was mortified. I felt so small and insignificant. She had invaded my peace and I honestly believe that she was trying to fix it at that point but it just added to damage that was already done. One of many lessons where I learned to stay mute.

My friend’s response to something had hurt my feelings. I never told her how, or why. Never considered how she felt. I just vanished and pretended that it was all her fault, when she probably still doesn’t know to this day why I stopped speaking to her. For so many years, I didn’t acknowledge the wrong in that. Continued to blame it on the environment that I was raised in. What a pitiful explanation to offer, especially with gray hairs in your head. I’m not telling that story anymore. The only explanation I share, if needed is that I am still learning some very beautiful, sometimes uncomfortable things about forgiveness.

And here we are today. Older, much wiser. So much stronger. Educated in ways we never knew were even possible by Life 101. Shit happens. I find that I look forward to saying, “But what happened after all of that?” when I come across someone like myself, who sometimes gets a little stuck in the stories, sharing and telling the woes but shying away from sharing the wins. I want to know what happened next with everyone who survived hurt. Those whose not so ordinary experiences turned them into extraordinary individuals. I want to be there for what’s next for everyone in my life. Even the tragedies, because the what happens next is always triumph. I was talking to a friend the other day, he was sharing some pretty painful stuff. There was a quiet pause and I interrupted it and asked, “So, what happens next?” He said, I remember to keep breathing. Ahh!

What happened next for me is that I quieted the familiar but silly ass voice in my head. Reminded myself that no one owed me anything. If I wanted the privilege of receiving information on former friends, than maybe I would’ve worked a little harder at maintaining a presence in their lives. How about that? Or. Because there’s always an or in my world. Or, I could accept that while our season has passed, there is no lingering animosity. What I knew for certain is that life had been everything that I would hoped it be for her. I also know for certain that she wished the same for me. There is no such thing as loss where there is love.

I reached out to my friend to offer condolences. Our exchange was so comforting. The peace. We are in different places, doing different things but in the shadow of grief, there was light between us. Big, bold light. A light that showed me no matter where we are in the world, there is someone who will always make me put my hand over my heart when I think of them. Our friendship represents an era of trial and growth in my life. I will always, always be grateful.

I dedicate this post to the life, love and memory of her mom. The epitome of grace, beauty, and no nonsense. Chef, dancer, baker, deep sleeper -because we stayed stealing that car! She was beautiful. And you know what she made look even better? Later love. She married the love of her life in her 40s if I remember correctly. Whenever I’m tanking on the dating front, I think of her and I’m reminded that whenever it does find me again, it’ll be right on time.

Be well.

Shrink-Wrapped Pussy.

It is very possible to feel both full and empty at the same damn time. Or am I the only one experiencing 2020 like that?

I’ve dubbed it the year of irony.

It has been the best year of my life. It has also been one of the saddest. Skyscraper highs and earth-shattering lows. It has been active but still. Kind, but harsh. Full of love and full of loneliness.

Oh, but love.

Love has been exceptionally good to me this year. I smile on the inside whenever I take a moment to absorb that. I try to take those moments as often as possible. I’ve given me the best that I got. Love that is finally patient and kind. I’ve often shared that, and people instantly start speaking in high-pitched, giddy voices about me opening myself to dating. I don’t bother to explain that I’m talking pure, real, raw love. From God, through me. That’s what I’m talking about.

In my 20s-30s, love was sex, attention, money and sweating me. Blow my phone up, ask me to stay another day after spending a week with you, say “us” or “ours”, move in without asking; show me that you want to stick around. That’s how I measured love. At 45, it’s peace. It’s the absence of chaos. It’s me listening to me, to God. It’s that smile when we enter each others space. It’s silence and being content in it. It’s home feeling like home. It’s people feeling like home. It’s cutting ties, permanently. Logically. No drama and fighting. It’s order. It’s safe space. That is love for me.

Tonight, I texted my mom. “Hey Ma, just sending some extra love to you tonight. Just seems like we need to do that more. I love you. And that’s all lol.” I was a blubbering mess as soon as I hit send. I had just hung up the phone with her. I talk to my mom everyday. I’ve seen her twice since March but only from the outside of my car. I haven’t been able to lay my big head in her lap. She has only been able to see the grands on video. My mom adores her great-grandchildren.

Right after talking to her tonight, I felt a deep, deep ache in the pit of my stomach. I miss her. I talk to my mom every single day, live 25 minutes from her and I missed her so much tonight that I cried until my eyes were swollen. Super-sensitive and heightened, energy is everything to me right now and I needed hers so bad.

We are all at capacity. If you’re anything like me, you’re being extremely mindful of how you’re using any extra space. Which is one of the reasons it took a minute for me to get back into this groove.

20 unedited drafts just sitting there. I really did have the best intent a few months back. I was going to take advantage of the time I had at home and bless you all with a few humdingers and tales. Nope. Something else was going on with me.

Each time I logged on, I’d see the notifications glaring back at me and log right back out. Writer’s block? No. I had plenty to say. I was experiencing shit. A lot. Changes at home, changes at work, changes in people and all of this while dealing with a tear in my cervical cuff, post-surgery. How was it possible to have so much shit swirling while I was sitting still? I found myself waving white flags from my hands and feet, begging for a reprieve from it all.

I was listening to A Love Supreme, Part 1, Acknowledgement when it hit me. I was tired. I’m talking about soul-tired. Weary. How could I be so drained while floating and oozing in love?

I tried to dismiss it and push through, but the longer I sat and listened to him wail on that sax, whew chile something was happening! The more I listened, listened to him scream his peace and love for the Creator through that brass, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to tell the truth. To me.

Someone loved me. Correction, loves me. Shows me in ways, ahh.. ways I had never experienced from another human. Without conditions. It was a love that I knew I was capable of giving, but daydreamed of receiving. I loved him. But in the way that I love my lifelong friends. I was not in love. And I didn’t want to be. Let me explain.

I was neck-deep in bullshit. Bullshit people, bullshit experiences – just fruitless, polite and phony interactions and I didn’t see people the same. They were phony and all up in my face perpetuating it. In the midst of a pandemic. How in the fuck did they get there? At the suggestion of my amazing hair stylist, I had snatched the labels off. Kids, mom, friends, work family; no one was off the hook. I saw them. I saw me. I saw him.

Things were feeling too predictable and routine with him. Some people are seeking that norm. Not me, not anymore. While I was taking inventory and looking all up and through my life, I was mostly looking at me. I loved what I saw. How my mind was opening and expanding. I was paying attention to me, being good to me and as much as I adored him, he was in my way.

I explained in the beginning that I wouldn’t commit to anything with us. It had to just flow and he was ok with that but after awhile, I could feel him trying to ease into spaces that were finally all mine and I became defensive. It was almost PTSD in a way because in the past, my M.O. was following the language of others in my relationships, and not just the romantic ones. The desperation to be liked and loved. Going with the flow no matter where it led me.

I have my own flow now. I command it. I’ve become so selfish in that space and the routine of my experience with him was interfering. I was not ready to share the parts of me that I had just come to love. I knew that the more I adjusted and accepted him, it would only be a matter of time before I lost me again.

I had to tell this man who told me he’d love me through anything, who literally dropped whatever he was doing to come to my side, who said, “Give me those bills”, who brings me orange juice and ice every morning because it’s the only thing I can handle after taking my medication, who doesn’t celebrate birthdays because of his religion but went above and beyond to make sure that my celebration was amazing. This man who works 14 hour days while starting his own business and sat in my living room at 11pm his uniform, blowing up over 30 balloons for my grand babies. This man who responded, “I would never ask you to choose, baby.” when I told him that I would not sever ties with Mr. 51 or restrict myself from dating, I had to tell him that this had to end.

I was so thankful for him and this experience. His friendship is everything to me. But I could not return to who I was before. We were both saying things but our actions said more. It felt like I was in a relationship. I loved how he made me feel but I was not in love. Whenever one of my girlfriends cooed about us, I defensively said “I’m a happily single woman.” I could ooh and ahh about him but when others did it, it felt as if they were seeing me for the first time, full of love, because of him and I didn’t like it.

Why’d it take a man to shine the light on my love? I was feeling full, amazing and living just fine but no one saw that at first. When they did, it felt like they gave him the credit for loving me. Like a spoiled kid throwing a tantrum, I needed to prove a point. To irrelevant people. Oh Chile, I was losing it. So I took a few days off from social media, people, phones to just be quiet, to listen and wait.

People will tell you that they want to see you expand. They can’t wait for you to see what they see in you.

“If I could only give you my eyes so that you can see what I see in you.” How many times have you heard that? They want you to look everywhere but at them. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, looking at errbody.

I inflate people. I’ll expand them in ways that are super-hero like; invincible and strong. I hang on to their every word, every act and can’t wait to shout “Look at this great person I’ve discovered!” from the mountain tops. When the human in them appears, bearing disappointment and fault, I bury them. It’s as if they never existed and then I move on in search of the next superhero. Everyone received a pedestal from me. I was snatching those bitches right back. Get down from there. I should’ve never placed you there to begin with.

I got up there for the first time in my entire fucking life. I wasn’t sharing credit with anyone. As much as I loved how he loved me, I refused to make an exception.

I told him I loved him. Thanked him for being who I had been waiting for in my previous chapter. I told him I wished that we’d found each other sooner, before I closed that book. This new book and at least the first few chapters of it, I explained that they needed to be for me. We fucking cried together. I know I hurt him but the more I cried the more I released. I had never ended things with someone in a civil way. There was no drama. No argument. No going to get protective orders. I released myself when I needed to and that was it. He grabbed my face and my hand and told me that there would never be a day when I couldn’t depend on him.

Love came into my life in the way that I thought I would always desire it. In all of this, I discovered a friend.

I say my truth out loud. I am not interested in commitment, right now and I won’t make myself no matter how good it feels. My only desire is mutual respect. I know what it feels like to put all of your Love eggs in one basket, and have those bitches handed back cracked with yolk everywhere. No regard for you delicateness. I don’t do that to people.

I tossed my veil of humility in trash when I realized that people expected me to always be that way. Even during times of celebrating me, I had been programmed to keep my eyes low. Diffuse compliments. Don’t be too proud, what will others think? FUCK OTHERS!

I’m free. From all of it and I am full of love to give, how I see fit. I’m going to live free wherever I go, here and eternally.

I’ve affirmed that even when I’ve reached great-grandmother status, my grandchildren will gather in corners and smirk and say, “Y’all know they say Mum-Mum still has a lover, right?” while watching from across the room at holiday dinners. I’ll sip my brandy and smile coyly back. Look at those chilm are sitting over there talking my business.

I’ll think and smile to myself, “I’m so glad I gave them something to talk about.” Then I’m gonna really give them a show when I reach out and kiss Mr. Step-Pop-Pop’s hand. An old ass hot ass I tend to be.

I hope that this post finds my folks well. I mean that sincerely. I think we all do these days. Even with all of the evilness spreading across this world, closer to home than anyone could ever imagine, there’s a huge majority out here just trying to be better and wanting that for others too. We want other to be well, stay well. Masks hide everything but the eyes and it seems that even on our best days, we now have a permanent twinge of sadness in them. Hopeful but sad. We could call this year fucked up. But what gives us the right, as survivors, to do that? It’s almost like spitting in the face of the Creator.

All I know is I want to come out of this better. That’s all I want for us all. See you soon.

No Limit Soldier

As soon as I saw him taking his clothes off, I knew that once again things had gone too far.  Come on, Janell.. really? I’m at home on my second week of post-op from my hysterectomy and there stood my work husband taking his clothing off in the middle of my bedroom floor.  My space felt vacuum sealed and tight.  Uncomfortable and clammy.  I could not breathe. This shit was weird.  Weird.  I wasn’t fucking this man. Hadn’t, wouldn’t and could not.  No way in hell.  For several very good reasons. The main one being how uninteresting he was to me and I wasn’t even attracted to him sexually, but I was also only a few days post op.  I would not be wasting any mercy humps and certainly wasn’t going to waste any with him.

I liked him.  But after having a few unsuccessful dealings with coworker boyfriends in the past, I vowed that I would never cross the play where you get paid road again.  I wasn’t this ethical professional either.  Experience taught me that while my crazy was the kind that could in fact handle workplace romance, theirs couldn’t. We could be booed up, damn near living together and I’d still greet you with a plain, standard good morning as if you didn’t have an assigned side in my bed.

My crazy could also bust every window out of your car the night before and walk past you in the workplace the next day, offering that same stale greeting. Their crazy would have them ranting and screaming our business to every listening coworker’s ear.  Mine would look at him shocked and appalled by his immature display, as if I hadn’t struck a match to his worldly possessions just that morning. They ain’t my kind.

We had worked together and slowly cultivated what I told myself  ( I be tripping) was a friendship out of a flirtationship and this nigga caught feelings.  It happens.  He was dull.  A very routine, eat the same meal everyday, dull dude.  Work, home and talk radio.  His idea of free time was spending his Saturdays at his dad’s repair shop “kicking around and making noise”, as he described it.  I knew his type.  It’s not even a type that was  limited to men.  These folks get into these stagnant, bland life routines and pretend to be content. As soon as a spark of color and sprinkle of zeal comes sashaying through their black and white worlds, they’re wide open and out the gate.   And there I am, one big ball of color and zeal, greeting them with arms wide open. It’s dangerous because they really believe that they can navigate two lives…two lies.  Stay black and white on this side – the family side, the committed side, the other life side.  Play in color on the other side – the sex side, the lust side, the free to be anyone you want to be side. That’s the side that gets me into trouble.

I love to make people feel good about themselves.  I love making them smile and feel silly.  I’m a “don’t think about tomorrow, stay in the moment” type of person.  I make people cast their cares to the side, even if just for a little while.  I love watching them light up from compliments and friendly teasing.  Playing like twenty-somethings with but a few cares in the world, when we’re leading stressful and burdensome fourty and fifty-something realities.  Which is one of the reasons why I’m so good at reeling people in.  I make them forget.  But anyway.

He was stopping by to visit and I had curved so many of his previous attempts to check on me, I felt bad.  What felt worse though was seeing how that line that I told myself I’d never crossed was clearly crossed the fuck out.

I was getting ready for a nap and thought that by mentioning it for the third time, he’d catch the hint and make his visit a quick one.  Nope. I invited him into my bedroom, no worries I told myself because I invite everyone into my bedroom.  It’s where I chill, where I entertain, it’s my living room; I live there so it’s natural for me to invite people into it.  This is where I also play the game of telling myself that everyone is normal.  Everyone ain’t normal.  That was the first thing I thought when I walked to the other side of the bed to climb on top of my comforter, only to look up and find him damn near nude on the other side of my bed. Everyone ain’t normal.

“What are you doing??” An appropriate question. And also the only words I seemed to be able to form in my state of shock. “My outside clothes are dirty.” He explained in his thick accent. “I want to sit on your bed with you. You said you were resting and I wanted to rest with you. ”  There was that voice again: “Janell, what the fuck are you doing??” Before I could offer a rebuttal and high-tail it back into the living room, he was pulling my blanket back and planting his gray undies on my sheets.  Bitch. No.  “Hold up, wait, wait, wait. Get up.  This is weird. *insert nerves laughter* Too weird. Come on, now.”  BECAUSE FIRST OF ALL THAT’S MR. 51 SIDE OF THE BED AND HE’S THE OOOOOONLY PERSON WHO CAN COME IN HERE PULLING COVERS BACK GOTDAMMIT!

So I didn’t say that last part out loud, but I’m certain my face said it all because the look of embarrassment on his face made me wonder if it truly were an innocent move (see how naive I pretend to be?? Bitch he wasn’t worried about no outside damn clothes!! He was being fresh!! He wanted a midday feel up session! Janell, STOP!).   “At least put your shirt and bottoms back on.  I have to change my linen today anyway.  And don’t pull my covers back.”  His visit was every bit of 20 minutes max.   He kissed my neck. Kissed my hands.  He attempted to caress and hold and touch and I felt repulsed and smacked and removed his hands from their own exploratory journey.  I had flirted with this man relentlessly for several months and had invited him into my bedroom and really expected for him to behave like one of the homies? Girl bye.

I couldn’t wait for him to leave so that I could breathe.  Just a few nights before, I had laid next to Mr. 51, eyes closed, loose, threadbare pajamas on, massaging his scalp while we chilled with our heads smashed together.  Doing our thing – music, silence, caress and repeat.  Time stops with him. My spirit travels with him.  It never feels like we’re in any one space because our collective energy is so open and free.  It doesn’t feel convoluted and messy.  I don’t feel weary or fatigued by his presence.  When he leaves, I feel lifted.  Isn’t that how in the fuck it’s supposed to be, people?  And there I sat on my bed, watching this pudgy little man, who had only been in my home one previous time, snatch my air from me.

There you go again Janell.  That sentence played on repeat in my head. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a perfectly innocent, playful something and turn it into a tangled mess of confusion, while pretending that it’s all normal.  Little fires everywhere (author’s note: I totally stole that from the book turned miniseries on Showtime.  If you haven’t watched, get into it.  The show is a barnburner).  Acting as if I’m not the motherfucker striking these matches. No Limit Nelly.  When did it stop?  I knew exactly what I was doing but what type of ego was I carrying around that made me play these games with myself?  This isn’t the first time that my flirting has gotten me into trouble, and yet I still did it.   I loved to flirt because I tell myself that I control it.  I can turn it high, turn it low and excuse myself at anytime with no hard feelings.  It’s just flirting right?  Sometimes.

Most of the time it’s me playing with the heat in a kitchen that I cannot stand.  The ” This is Who I am in My Head But I Ain’t About This Life For Real” Bistro.  I’m not some damn sex kitten.  I’m wifey for real. A good, trashy, loyal one too.  I just hung my apron up to play for awhile because I haven’t come across any “hubbies” out in these streets. Yes, I so enjoy being #teamsingle but there are quite a few of us who genuinely just want to settle down and be monogamous  hiding in the crowd.  Afraid.  We’ve talked about this in previous posts.

Fear makes you do stupid things. Like making connections and trapezing back and forth until someone loses interests and lets go.  Like pretending that a handful of random suitors is the move; that it makes you happy not be too wrapped up into any one man. Like you’re happy to not have someone all wrapped up into you. On your Nola Darling shit.  Hey, I know the game.  She is me. Seek, find, play, keep it moving.  Until your work husband is standing in your bedroom.

A very good work husband he was too.  I’m speaking past tense because I need to get his ass gone asap.  But he served in his work husband role so well – feed you good, carried your things to your car, brought little treats and things in; a good damn work husband.  Oh, how things change.  This man has offered to pay my bills, wipe/wash my ass, feed me, fix my car, wash my clothes. He prayed over me before my surgery.  Called to pray and read scripture the night before my surgery – and I had been given the OK to engage in cannabis joy until 12 midnight — I was so hiiiiiigh that I giggled through the sincerity of his reading.  I was giggling at game too.

This man is very married. Oh, I don’t just play in frying pans. I have a tendency to jump my ass right into the fire.  I own it.  It went from playful smiles and eye winks and me offering a sweet “Good morning, Sunshine” to him every morning and complimenting his craft at work to him doing little sweet favors, enjoying his morning tea in my office and telling me about his childhood in the islands.  He’d talk and I’d listen.  I’d ask questions and he’d talk some more.  Innocent behind closed doors and pouring it on hot and sticky in front of our work family.  Making him blush. It delighted me.  He went from the hardworking shadow who grumbled a few words here and there to the big man on campus and I was tickled.  Look at him lighting up and glowing and shit.  Go Janell.  Just playing around, right?  I saw the look in his eyes change and heard myself say to myself out loud, BITCH STOP.  I even said it out loud to a few friends.  This has gotta stop…giggle-giggle, hee-hee.

Two of my very good friends slammed with the real though:  “This is what you always do.  You play too much. You see it turning into something else and it’s almost like it gets you off to have that type of attention.  Everybody can’t handle that. It’s not always playing to them.  You need to chill with that flirting shit because to you, it’s over when you become bored with it.  But for them it doesn’t mean it’s game over. You’re going to get yourself into some shit that you can’t easily get out of.” Yikes.

Getting myself into some shit that I can’t easily get out of, scene two.  Action.

His presence in my room made it feel so small.  My big, comfy space felt like a vacuum  and I knew I had gone too far.  I thought about how airy and light is my norm.  That’s how I feel. Not this shit.  I thought about how my space feels wide and free whenever my sweet Mr. 51 is in it.  That’s how it’s supposed to be with everyone really.   I didn’t feel any of that with the dude from work.  He ruined the work husband game. Ugh, honesty right?  I ruined it.  We run around the world with smudge sticks, clearing negative vibes but we neglect to mention that most times it’s our own.  Throwing rocks and hiding hands at our own lives, man.

I’m becoming less entertained by my own bullshit. Growth? Wisdom? Boredom? Maybe it’s all three. But I gotta be real about some things. Honesty is my favorite thing until I’m telling the truth to myself.  Because it hurts.  I’m too old to be crossing the same lines that I crossed twenty years ago. Repeating patterns.  That’s the consequence right there.  They repeat. And repeat. And repeat.  Why am I still refusing to listen to the voice that loudly screams  “Janell, don’t do it.”  There’s no thrill to it anymore.  When I was young and free and all up and out in the world, I didn’t care about the type of men that I chose. I didn’t know that I was supposed to.  As I’ve grown and see that the only world that needs to feel good is the one that I create for me, I’m not feeling the mess.  I hadn’t lived enough to give a fuck back then.  It’s different now.  If I’m going to be single and content, I can’t move like a person who doesn’t know peace. If you don’t know it, you can’t cultivate it.  I know better.

And…

Honestly speaking, I still haven’t quieted the voice that wants to be seen and adored. Who doesn’t want to be adored, sometimes even when you know it’s a lie?  She’s irking me now though, so I guess that’s progress.  This whole work husband saga though, I’m building up the courage to tell myself that I don’t need that kind of attention, so that I can cut him off.  See? I’m still telling the truth.  Hang with me while I write this Dear John to his ass, you know I’m an oversharer (again, that attention thing), so you guys will know line by line. Lawd.

In other news though, my post op life at home has been pretty damn interesting.  Me and this out of bounds craziness.  Which is why I have 19 posts coming your way.  Old lovers reappearing, new coochie vibes, the blessing of stillness, all ready to go.  I have some shit to share my loves.

See you soon <3.

The Hysterectomy Party.

“So who’s going to your hysterectomy party with you?”, my favorite asshole bestie texted.

“Brenda and Jalyn, you asshole lol.” I replied.

What followed was a series of texts that included a picture of a super-sized bottle of lubricant.  “Will that dry your yoni out?”  And we also discussed funeral colors for some twisted reason.

I truly have the best friends walking the face of this vast ole earth. Those bitches are perfectly ruthless.  These are the same friends who make you a birthday boxes filled with affirmations like, “I’m choosing to be fucking ok today.”; the same ones who show up on your doorstep unannounced with piles of shrimp and bags of steamed crabs, because “you ain’t acting right.” The same friends who thought it would be a great idea to take shots of tequila, straight out of the half-gallon bottle, every time we saw a charter bus, while driving to New York (did I share that story already?? Oh well!). The same friends who in the most beautiful act of love that I’ve ever watched; helping my daughter during her struggle to breastfeed my grandson bring a tear to your eye.  I saw the most gentle side of my girlfriend that day.

My Golden Girls. And we are indeed entering the golden era. When one gray strand turns into a few dozen.  When kids leave home and parents leave earth.  When girls night out looks more like, “Whatchu cooked? Imma come through and grab a plate but I need to be home in time for Dateline.” When we go from sending pics of what we’re wearing to the club and dick pics that we found in an x-rated Facebook group to pictures of breasts with biopsy marks.  I need them, like I’ve never needed anyone before in my life.

I need all of that right now because truth be told, I’m feeling a little down about this upcoming hysterectomy  party.  Granted, my tubes have been tied for over twenty years; and I haven’t had a period in over fifteen years so when I found out about the quadruplets growing in my uterus – four fibroids – a hysterectomy was a no-brainer. At first.

And then I started thinking, very superficially.  I said to my doctor, ‘Look Dr. Nardone.  I’m going to ask this at the risk of sounding very superficial but I need to know.  Will my hoo-ha still get wet?’  She said, “You are such a crazy lady. Yes ma’am, you will.  Your ovaries are perfectly intact and I see no need to have them removed.”  She then explained that she no longer did surgeries and would refer me to a phenomenal surgeon. It was my consultation with him that sent me spiraling into a pity party.  I appreciated the care and time that he took to explain everything in detail; he’s actually the first doctor that I’ve ever visited who used the anatomy chart to point out each and every step.  “I’m removing this and that, and right here I have to be very delicate but once we’re done, I’ll have removed your uterus, your cervix and your fallopian tubes but here’s your vagina right here and none of that is anywhere near your vagina so sexually, you won’t notice any changes.  It may actually be more enjoyable.”

He was wrong about one thing though. That part about not noticing any changes.  As I walked to my car, I tried to think of a word to accurately describe whatever this was in the process of brewing in my spirit in such a funky way.  Empty.  Ahh.  I felt like I was going to be empty.

Let me let you guys in on a secret.  There are two things that I pride myself on: mothering and sex.  I’m a good gotdamn mother.  This I know for sure.  And I’m a good gotdamn lover. This I know for sure as well.  I’m not perfect in either space, but I’m confident.  I know how to raise kids, even if it appears to be unconventional.  I know how to make love to a man, and in most cases it’s pretty unconventional too.  I’m not a cookie cutter mom or sensual lingerie wearing, acrobatics performing lover, I’m just a women who takes the time to learn and love and it works for me.

My youngest child will be twenty-one in two months.  I ain’t having anymore babies.  But there was always this little, crazy part of me that imagined myself meeting the love of my life at 45…50.. and having him say, “I know this sounds crazy. I know it does.  Let’s make a baby.”, only for me to say YOU MUST BE CRAZY! I HAVE GRANDKIDS! But what if we’re active and young in spirit and life is good and we decide, hell yes let’s have a baby.  I don’t have that option anymore. And what lies beneath the grand craziness of that thought is this:  I carried all five of my children in that uterus.  They traveled down those tubes into it, and through my cervix.  So I feel like little pieces of their spirits are still stirring inside of me.  Well, as of March 6th I can no longer cottle myself with that thought. It’s the end of an era, officially and I don’t expect for anyone to understand.

Then, there’s this part.

I’m just getting comfortable in my sexuality. You all have been reading my blog for awhile so you’ve read my stories of disconnect and reconnecting.  I missed years of sexual pleasure because I never knew that it was something that I was supposed to enjoy.  It was all about my partner – which is why I’m probably so good at it.  But, when I started digging deep and pulling out years of junk and blockades and getting to know that sweet, little treasure chest between my legs… things became M A G N I F I C E N T.  I love sex.  I mean, like really love sex. Because, I really, really love me.  It’s enjoyment, it’s satisfaction, it’s an experience, it’s transcendental, it’s beautiful, it’s fun, it’s amazing, and I’m afraid that instead of receiving a sigh of satisfaction; c’mon y’all know that groan and lip bite that I’m talking about.  I worry that instead of receiving that beautiful reaction of pleasure, I’m going to be asked if I have any KY jelly.

And if I’m really being honest, I might as well admit that I’m fearing inadequency and rejection.  Two things that I’ve been running from for a very long time.  Will I still feel desirable? Will I still satisfy? I’m use to figuring answers out and moving accordingly but this is truly one of those wait-and-see type things.  My doctors have assured me that I’ll be as good as new but they don’t understand that the person their communicating with still has a pocket full of fear because for as cool, confident and in control of her emotions as she claims to be, she’s still hears whispers from that little voice telling her that she’ll never be good enough.

I can’t keep owning that shit.  You guys have read about my mental attic and how that’s where I store the shit I ain’t quite ready to face.  Well, guess who’s going to spend some time in that attic pre-surgery?  I don’t want to take these thoughts and fears into the operating room with me.  It’s been hard but when you’re surrounded by people who don’t let you take yourself too seriously and slap your hands whenever they get to toying with those mental compartments, you better be thankful.

I told one of my girls that it’s going to be a good while before I have post-surgery intercourse; that six weeks would probably turn into six months because I’m dreading my “first time remixed” and she laughed.  She said, “If that’s all that it took to calm your hot ass down, we could’ve arranged this years ago. But good.  Cross those legs for awhile, maybe you’ll uncross that heart.” Ooh, she got me.  Made me think too.

Maybe a sexual hiatus is exactly what I need? That and a lifetime supply of Xanax to get me through this path of extra-ness and drama that I’m clearly embarking on. But I shared a few posts ago that I am still very afraid of commitment. I was just kind of hoping that I was long-term commitment to someone before going through these life hiccups.  I love my family and my girls but I’m really ready for a supportive man to rock with me through these hard parts.  I need some big wide shoulders in my life to help balance some of what I’m carrying.  And I feel like if I don’t reel him in sexually, there’s no other spark that’ll make him see me.  There.  I shared my darkest secret.  I am still hiding behind sex and waiting for it to be the bait to reel love in.  At almost 45 years old.

I have to release that mess before it makes me crazier than I already am.  I can’t roll into that operating room retaining all of this mess in my spirit.  I can’t cling to this darkness.  So maybe that’s what this is all about.  The universe moves in some mysterious fucking ways.  All this blogging and carrying on about pussy and healing, maybe this hysterectomy is symbolic of the clean up I’m past due to do.  Could these fibroids be a manifestation of some metaphysical backup within me?  Probably so.

I don’t know but I’m asking myself a lot of questions and paying attention to the answers. And when I don’t have the mental capacity to do either of those things, I’m thankful for the arms of support that my girlfriends keep wrapped around me.  They make me feel eternal and infinite. And while they won’t ever let me get too full of myself, they make sure that I’m never empty.

I shouldn’t be focusing on emptiness and loss.  Especially with all of my gains.  I’m just learning to understand that healing is never quite complete. It really is a forever process. One that doesn’t get any easier by hiding from your own truths.  Into the attic I go.

In our most recent group text, I sent a pic of myself in a superman leotard that I had sent to Mr. 51.  I asked them what they thought and one of them respond, “Bitch you looking slim, whatch sick? Nah, you look hot AF and you know I’m not lying because if you didn’t I would’ve just complimented the color.”

Ruthless bitches hosting my hysterectomy party, and being my love fillers, keeping that space nice and warm.  For somebody.  Someday.  I’m not empty.

Hey, Love.

Happy 2020, Folks.

The end of 2019 was quite a ride for me, none that I’ve ever experienced before. I went from feeling like I was soaring in full flight mode to looking for a safe place to land. Alone.

It’s not that I’ve lost interest in the game, y’all know I love it like Mitch. I missing depth.  I’m missing that spark; that thing that just ignites you and makes you feel all warm and gooey on the inside.  I felt cold and detached but had to remind myself that I had set it up this way by design. Each time I found myself journaling and trying to get to the cause of it, I ripped the page out. That road looked too dark to go down. I was dancing in the light, ignoring the shadows until the light dimmed and the music started to sound the same. What was missing?

Truth was missing. Ugh.

I wanted to tackle so many connections, lift stones and pull up roots from lovers and experiences past, but hadn’t thought about how the ramifications of doing that would boomerang back to me. I’ve been numb y’all. Again, something that I didn’t want to acknowledge willingly. But one thing about “doing the work”, you cannot do it half-assed and I had been.

2019 opened me to so many new experiences in the love and lust department. For the first time ever, I felt in full control of my life and love content. When it didn’t work for me or match my love vision, I politely excused myself. I didn’t waste time by telling people how I needed to be treated.

I reconnected the severed ties of emotion, spirit and sex and created some amazing ties in the process. But take the encounters out of the equation. Take the experiences and the orgasms and beautiful, black lovers out of it, subtract them all and what did I have? Just me. And some truth that I had to take a deep breath to digest.

What was I doing, besides doing it? What was I doing when I wasn’t doing it? I wasn’t doing me. Had I really buffed and smoothed my jagged edges?  Sex and men had always complicated my life and I had finally mastered the balance of both without losing me in the mix. Or at least not all of me.

This is not about to be a vow of celibacy, believe that. Especially with the likes of Mr. 51 making me feel like warm cocoa is running through my veins. That man lights a fire in me that I refuse to put out anytime soon. The connections with him and others reignited passion in my life, I’m not severing those hot and juicy ties. They keep me vibrant. But this isn’t about him or anyone else for that matter.  What it is about is me calling myself out on my own shit.

In my quest for sexual freedom and being this free-spirited love vessel, I subconsciously put energy out into the universe that said playing for keeps wasn’t allowed here.  I was dating men on my terms but on my lonely nights, I rattled my brain about why my lovers allowed me stay inside the lines I’d drawn.  Why wasn’t trying to twist my arm into a relationship? No one was trying to reel me in and I secretly felt down about it.  I want to be tamed, dragged in from the wild and tended to.  I wanted someone to tell me to stop, for them. No one did. With the exception of that short-lived experience with the lying ass married man, everyone just went along with what I said.  I didn’t want a relationship, just a few good connections and that was it, right? So why was this thought secretly gnawing at me?

Because I do want love again. But I’m afraid. That fear empowered me in the wrong way.  I invested more energy into third party satisfaction while forgetting about the most important piece – my heart. No matter how clear your third eye is or how in control you think you are of life and love, the heart is in control even when you aren’t.

I put my heart behind a locked door and pretended that I wasn’t waiting for someone to ask for the key. Until no one asked for the key. I want someone to ask for it. There, I said it.

Sex makes me feel powerful. Sex with good men makes me feel amazing. Great conversations and dates make me feel adored and warm. Take all of it away and what do I feel? Alone. And I told the universe that’s what I wanted and I received it. Knowing I want more eventually.

Just like a marriage, the work doesn’t begin with the I do’s. It begins when you realize that this is someone you never see yourself without.  Here I am waiting for someone to see me in a way that I haven’t seen myself.  I’m a forever person but got stuck in the mode of “just for right now.”

And so it begins. The challenge of adding heart back into the mix.  It makes me feel vulnerable. Afraid. Unguarded.

But when I hit 50 in five short years, I don’t want to be tucked away in my loving bed waiting for a lover to call. I want to be on my side of the bed, nudging my babe to cut his light out on his side. I want to feel strong arms pulling me close in the middle of the night. I want come home and cry about a bad day and be told, “Babe, fuck them people.” I want someone who doesn’t mind getting up early on a Sunday morning to hike or surprises with impromptu weekend road trips. I want someone to lay beside on rainy Saturday mornings and have soft conversations about staying in or heading out to breakfast. I want to look across the room at gatherings with family and friends and meet eyes with my love.

That’s what I’m putting out into the universe. And hopefully, it will answer with my forever one.  In the meantime, I’m working on being the love that I want to receive. Being the reflection of what I want to receive. Knowing that when it shows up, it is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

 

#midweekmissle: That’s How We Should Keep It.

I think I was ten years old when the song Secret Lovers by Atlantic Starr came out. I had no idea what the hype was but every adult I knew sang that joint with intent. Eyes closed, sneaky grins. They knew some good shit.

While the intrigue of stolen encounters and steamy lovemaking sessions are dope, it’s a little more complex that.

For me, the days of being a side chick are long gone. Oh honey, I don’t know too many who weren’t one at one time or another. Knowing and unknowingly. But we grow. Our needs change. What’s ideal for some may not be the move for others and to avoid explaining any grown ass decisions you make, you keep your business to yourself. I tell people to always give me a choice. Don’t put anything on me – other women- without me deciding if it works for me. Routine does not work for me. Seeing someone on a regular basis does not work for me, right now.

You all can hold on to your husbands, no worries I’m not interested. Gone are the days of wrecking homes. Grown, wise women don’t make messes. We avoid them. And may even help to clean up a few. You can’t be out here hurting people. That ain’t the move.

I have a secret friend. Emphasis on the word friend. No one knows about him. No one. It would complicate too many things, blur too many lines. I made a very grown decision to cross a lot of lines in my dealings with him. I keep it a secret because I’m not explaining my decisions at 44 years old to anyone. And truth be told, he’d require alot of explaining.

Over the years, we’ve had good, good sexual encounters but that’s not our thing. Our dynamic evolved. We could be in each other’s company for three months straight and maybe only have sex two or three times. If we do it at all. Our connection is different.

He’s like that hidden support beam under the bridge doing all the work to hold it up while others travel back and forth across it. I’m his support beam too. We get each other.

For five years, he pursued me hard. I couldn’t do it because there were too many common threads. There is a whole tribe of hot in the hiney women who see him as king-ding-aling, the cream of the single-man crop and I refused to be one of the rustlers. I watched and laughed. This dude had them all wrapped around his finger. But since we’re being honest, after having sex with him it was not hard to understand why. That stroke game was legitimate enough to make you tolerate some shit.

I was not interested. I never really paid any attention to him. Each time he hit me up, my response was “chile bye.” He actually just reminded me of this yesterday. Then he hit me up on a boring Friday night. One of those dry ass nights when you don’t want to go anywhere but you don’t want to stay in either. I told him to come on over. We had a ball. It was on that night that I started to see him differently but the jury was still out.

That became our thing. We spent a lot of time building a genuine friendship and it evolved into a genuine fucking friendship. And then it became a little too heavy for me. I was seeing him too often, it started feeling too routine. When the wrong things become routine, they can get quite messy. I did not want to attach to him emotionally. He was a messy dude. But oddly, that part didn’t bother me. He left those bags at the door, never once did he bring any of that my way. But I could not just be the someone he was currently fucking. So I fell back.

And then one night he called while I was dealing with an emergency with my youngest son. He said, “How about I come up and help?” I sincerely didn’t want to be bothered but I obliged because I was by myself and stressed. My son was stuck out of state, with no phone. He had one phone call so I had to give him a load of instructions in this one call to get him home safely. I was a wreck. I had a bottle of Sweet Walter Red that I’d been drinking straight out of the bottle. This man sat up with me all night. Both of us making calls, he paid for ubers and bus tickets and offered more money to pay someone to drive my son to Maryland and even mapped out the route to drive if all else failed.

Once we knew that my son was on the bus safely, my adrenaline dropped and I realized I was tipsy. Man, I was drunk. He told me to get some rest and he’d wake me up when it was time for me to get down to the bus station. I woke up to him sitting in a chair watching me sleep. I opened my eyes to him in that same moment. He was my friend.

That chair became his. Whenever life hits me hard, he finds his place right there. Not in my bed or between my legs and helps me figure things out. He leaves that gigolo persona at the door too. I get him. Vulnerable. Open. Real.

He shares him demons. His fears. His shortcomings. His errors. He soothes mine. He celebrates me. He will travel miles to rescue me. He takes care of his broke little bestfriend. We have a code and in seven years, it remains unbroken. We could be sitting right beside each other at social gatherings and our conversations are as cool and casual as everyone elses. No one knows and no one ever will.

We were at breakfast yesterday and I told him that I’d be writing about him. I explained that this season of my blog would be dedicated to my lovers.

He laughed and said, “I’ve always wondered that. Just never asked.” I asked what he was talking about. He said, “We talk about everything and you’ve never told me who your other lovers are. As far as names.”

I picked up a piece of burnt turkey bacon, took a bite and chewed it. He put his fork down, folded his hands and stared intently, waiting for me to answer. I smiled and replied, “Good girls never tell.”

He smiled, winked and picked his fork back up.

Dear Black Man

King,

I love you. I love you. I love you. You’re a special kind. Warm, but complicated.

I’ve been waiting my entire life for you to trust me enough to let me in. I know that you love me, but I see your fear. For you to think that I’d ever hold that precious heart of yours in my hands and bring it harm disturbs me. Ain’t enough shit sitting out here on the wack ass tongue of society to ever make me do no shit like that. Not to you.

I adore you. I adore watching you get lost in your thoughts when you think no one’s watching. I adore your smile. I adore your cool. Blackman, ain’t nobody cooler than you. You’re smooth, goootdaaaaamn who’s smoother than you? Chocolate is dark brown for a reason, not coincidence. Ain’t nobody sweeter than you. I adore your strength. You lift us so high. You keep is lifted. You are regal. Mysterious. Intoxicating. Euphoric. Deep. Penetrating. Bittersweet. Sad.

I wish that I could wipe away everything that makes your brow wrinkle in that way that it does. If not your peace, who am I to be?

What I can’t understand though is why reciprocation is so rare with you? One woman breaks your heart and the rest of us get all your broken pieces to tend to. You can be cold sometimes and it hurts us.

Can I be the apple of your eye for longer than six months before I start to feel like the thorn in your side? I’m no fool. I know that one of your most insatiable desires is me, the black woman. We have soul ties that beat in rhythm in heaven before this earth, it’s what gives us that flavor, it’s a whole vibe. You will look past me sometimes and notice the next intoxicating queen. As you should. But don’t damage me. I can acknowledge kings without bowing before their courts. As you should, too.

I feel the weight that this world puts on you. In no way do I want to see you emasculated and broken because of the tattooed target on your back. But when it gets too heavy for you, it falls on me. Things that I’m not equipped to carry; our sons, protecting communities and homes. I only want to stand beside you in that, not in front. I don’t want to be the loud, I wish-you-would, angry and ready for war black woman. For once, I’d like to watch from the protected sideline.

Raising black children in this cold, cruel, twisted world is a challenge all in itself. Women raising black men though, how many of you read that line, took a deep breath afterwards?

I raised a daddy’s girl who didn’t get the chance to know hers until she was seven years old. My sons have all faced individual challenges. I don’t have many regrets, just wished that I understood a few things a little sooner. If I didn’t teach or give them anything else, I needed them to know love. How to give it and how to receive it. To me, it was the most important lesson for me. I wasn’t green about the ways of the world; I knew the harshness of it and its dismissiveness toward you, our men. There was nothing that I could do to prevent my now adult sons from feeling it. The greater lesson was making sure they didn’t sponge that shit in and making sure that stay whole enough to not put that shit on the women in their lives.

We need you. To heal whatever that hurt is behind your eyes. We’re carrying these babies on our backs and your rebuttal when we question your absence is, “You get that check this month?” Man, fuck that check. We need you.

I need you to penetrate my life with the same earth-shattering tenacity that you use to penetrate my pussy. The same concern and sincerity that you display when you ask, “..did you cum?” Keep that same energy when asking, “How can I make it better?” The synergy of our spirits is bigger than the bedroom.

None of us is perfect. I can’t undo the hurt of the world or the women before me. Especially if it came from your mom. I can’t fix that hurt. But let’s heal it. I can show you how good love feels if you’re willing to take the gloves off. Don’t punish me for loving you so deeply. There are some fucked up people in this world and unfortunately, we unknowingly let them into our lives where they reek havoc and leave us a damaged mess. But we can’t stay that way. Rise up and be who you were called to be. Healthy. Whole. Wise. Open to love.

I love you all ways, always.

Your Queen,

*insert name here*

#midweekmissle Peaceful Pussy.

Let me let you in on a little secret:  I’m a jazz head until the death of me. Over Hip-Hop, over R&B, give me jazz.   Miles, Coltrane (him and his son Ravi),  Hampton, Monk, Marsalis, my babygirl Esperanza Spaulding, Chuck Mangione, The Legendary Natalie Cole, mmmmmm, they all have such sad, beautiful, poetic, intoxicating, freeing, peaceful, depressing, reflective songs. I don’t need words.  I can listen to an arrangement with my eyes closed and feel each cord and every emotion attached to it.

Ask me to choose my favorite between them, I cannot.  My unconventional favorite which stays in rotation is the title track from Mo’ Better Blues.  It’s peaceful, lifted but low.  Almost like something that you’d play during a funeral recessional.  Don’t think of it morbidly though.   There’s a resolution in it.  Like a goodbye, I guess.  As if someone or something is being bid farewell.  Not in a way to evokes sadness from pain, but sadness in remembering what got you to peace.

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There’s a quote that Bleek (Denzel Washington) says right before his quartet performs it.  “No matter what you do in music, eventually you have to get back to the Blues.” I feel the same about writing.  For me, this is what keeps me humble.  Whether it’s on my laptop, or in the notes section of my phone, on post-it notes or pieces of an envelope, or my notebook, I cannot tell a lie to myself and no one else.  I share so much of me in my writing because it’s truth.  I may add and subtract a few sweet and sour things when I’m talking but when I write, I can’t make this shit up.   It’s like clipping my wings when I attempt to.  I love flying.  And I do that each time I write.  Even if my flight dips me down into a valley or two, I’m here for it.  I need my wings.  My truth.

I took a hiatus of sorts to recharge and reflect.  After the little incident with the fat ass gigolo (I’m not there yet, fuck him.), I felt like everything in my life was a moving violation.  I was side-eyeing everything and everybody like, “And what are you doing here? All up in my life, what’s your intent??”  I wanted to clean house and be done with everyone.  People had entered my emotional house and were meddling all through my drawers and closets and I didn’t like it.   My drama lasted a good 48 hours.  I got out of the house but when I returned,  I got serious.   The past few months have been beautiful but challenging.  Welcomed challenges but I felt depleted and decided I needed a break.   One of the things that I’m extremely skilled at doing is taking breaks.  I wanted one but from what, for real?  People.  Emotional and confused people.  Ugh, the way my eyes just rolled.

People are heavy.  They drag these bags and piles of nonsense around and because we are family or friends, we’re obligated to take a piece of the load.  I think the fuck not.  I will say this until the day that I take my last breath – always do what loves needs you to do.  But, dot-dot-dot (I’m dramatic, y’all knew) where does the love start?

With you.

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The love that I lay on the people in my life, whew chile I am indeed of lover! A Love Supreme! Like Coltrane.  I’m going to love you through joy and spread it on extra through pain.  My takeaway and my giving is always done in love.  I had to make myself understand though, that love does not mean sacrificing your peace.  For anyone. That’s something that I still struggle with but I’m getting better.  I thought that no matter what I had going on, I needed to move it aside because someone else needed a piece of me.   I was having a conversation with my cousin about her going to pay her respects to a family who had recently experienced a loss.  She was tired but felt like she had to go.  My lips started moving and I heard myself ask, “Why do we do that? Isn’t it enough to attend the service and mourn with the family? Why can’t you wait until the day of the funeral to do that?”  We both were quiet for about ten long seconds, as we both reflected on what I said.   She said, “Well, you know.  It’s the right thing to do.”  Or something along those lines, but I thought about that for a minute and asked myself out loud, “Who made those dry ass rules?”.   That we HAVE to do anything that we just don’t feel like doing?

For the past few weeks, my life has felt very crowded by energy.  And not necessarily good.  While I was dramatically side-eyeing people in my life, I was serious about what they were bringing with them.  The energy.  It was wearing me out.  I was wearing too many hats and being privy to too many things and happenings.  I just needed to step away for a bit.  I was feeling so stressed.  So heavy.   All of that.  It was taking me back to a place that gets harder to return from each time that I visit.  The damn blues.  But something was even different about that.  The absence of sadness.  So what was gnawing away at me for real-for real.

Over the summer,  I made a conscious decision to show up more, to listen more, to engage more, to be active and it was all kicking my black ass.  That’s just not who I am.  That is my truth.  Just like you have givers and takers, you have people who like to be center stage and others who prefer to be behind the curtain, or way up in the balcony.  I’ll reserve some box seats, but I actually prefer to hear about it all over dinner or wine.  I need my alone time.  My time to just listen to myself breath uninterrupted.  I hadn’t experienced that in a good while.  I didn’t want to retreat entirely but I decided that I needed to tend to me for a little while.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I don’t even want to go on any serious dates.  All I want to know is who your family is to make sure that we aren’t related.  We’re not cousins? Ok, cool.

My little people break makes me even more excited about this blog.  I don’t have to talk, just write 🙂 .  Quiet time is major to me right now. It’s being so good to me.   I come home and I don’t talk on the phone or in person.  Just sit and listen to music or write.  It’s not sadness.  It’s peace.  I’m purging and it’s not painful.  I’ve placed purpose in the center of it.  I’m entering 2020 as light as a feather.  Never before in my life have I faced the year ahead with peace.  Not ever, ever.

You may find yourself asking what’s the big deal about that ordinary ass life of hers?  I don’t mind, I ask myself quite often because I never want to forget.  The big deal is me and all that I’ve released to earn big chunks of peace and stillness where it never before existed.  I may get blue from time to time but that shit ain’t navy or blue black anymore.  Baby, it’s Indigo Blue like the best jazz album evvvvver!  Beautiful. Complicated. Deep. Rich. Painful.  Peace.  Come through Miles.

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#midweekmissle: Mean Girls Named Mom.

I call my mom everyday after work. On my way home, she’s my virtual passenger seat partner. Most days, we talk about a whole bunch of nothing; kids, grand-kids, work, family happenings, etc. Most days, she has me laughing hysterically. Most days, my mom is my rock and my bridge over troubled water.

And then there are the other days. Those days when it feels as if she wants to push me off of a bridge and pelt me with a rock. As grateful as I am to pick up a phone or hop in a car, our relationship is very fluid at times and it bothers me. I’ve never felt void of love, but there are times when I still feel like a fish flapping on the shoreline, waiting to be tossed back in. I’d like for my mom to be the person who tosses me back in. I don’t understand the shift in our relationship when it happens, it’s deeper than just a bad day. Sometimes, I’ll share something special from work or a new love interest or some endearing antic from a friend, or upcoming vacation plans, anything at all and her response is either a very low, dry, “That’s wonderful.” or her signature, “Mmm. Anyway…”

Somedays, I wait to see if she’ll call me. By the third day, I’m usually the one who’s picking up the phone. She doesn’t sound happy to hear from me, but I push through the conversation and end up obsessing about what I could’ve possibly done to piss her off. Or, I hang up super-pissy because of her curtness.

Either way, I’m agitated and bruised. And then I shake it off and remember that she’s my mom and of course she loves me and I keep it moving. While I’m moving, my feelings aren’t. I often stay stuck between vying for her approval or giving her attitude. It’s rarely neutral between us and I just don’t know why. I can remember during one argument I yelled and said, “You make me feel like the bottom of your shoe!” We didn’t speak for almost a month. We never revisited it again. One of my friends shared recently that she rarely visited her mom because it always left her feeling wounded and critiqued, never comfortable.

What is this about? This strain and disconnect between black women and their daughters that we don’t talk about.

If you cannot relate, you are indeed one of the lucky ones. But from my aunts to cousins to friends to me, 1 out of 3 was raised by a mom who made them feel as if they didn’t like them.

A few months ago, I read an article that someone had shared on Facebook. It talked about how moms are often very rigid, firm and just plain mean to their girls, and the exact opposite to their boys. They’re nurturing, attentive and supportive. While I’m an only child, it made me think of the dynamic I shared with my own daughter, the see-saw relationship with my mom and just my general experience with the relationships that my friends and family have with theirs.

I recall a time with my daughter. She was a new mom and trying to return to work. She had an interview scheduled and while my intent was to coach her through the questions, I could see her visibly shaking. I said, “What’s wrong with you? You can’t answer those questions like that!” I went in. I’ll never forget her tearful response.

“Ma, I’m not you.”

Damn. She wasn’t and I’d never want her to be. But I feel like we get so caught up in the not wanting them to be like us, that we push them away like we, their moms, have been stricken with the plaque. We’re punishing our daughters for our mistakes. Choices that we regret and ones that we’re reminded of when we look at our girls.

I realized that every “mean mom” I knew was a good, good woman. Strong-willed. Raw. Real. Survived some heavy shit in life. Worked hard and asked for nothing. Made her own way. And is mean as fuck to her daughter. And has a black face like mine.

I’ve witnessed moms, black moms ridicule their daughters in front of a live audience. Brutal cuss outs that left my mouth wide open. Physical fights too. I’ve watched these same moms make plates for their sons, constantly refer to his big, grown ass as her baby while allowing him to bring multiple women through her door to lay up in a bedroom that she pays the rent for. Her son is her king. She’ll stand in front of him with her chest poked, hands on her hip and superwoman cape blowing in the wind, wishing a motherfucker would cross her son! While telling her daughter to figure it out, woman up and move out.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is when daughters become moms, the relationship changes. It starts with assisting and advising, and turns into controlling and taking over. If it’s a strong-willed daughter who stands her ground and says, “hold up now, you can’t takeover mom, it turns into an all-out battle.”

Why aren’t our daughters supported by their moms in a way that respects and acknowledges independence, but keeps her spirit intact?

What we don’t want to admit is that most of it is rooted in envy. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Who would ever admit it? Oh, how I wish they would though. I would do anything to hear a woman say to her daughter, “I see you, I do. But I wish that I had taken the same chances as you. I wish that I knew that I could balance home, work and relationship without losing part of me.” Women who never got a chance to reach their full potential because of family obligations, lack of education, no support, poverty, etc.. and punishing their daughters for it, unintentionally.

I’ve watched the products of mean moms become mean women. The women who couldn’t be vocal with their moms, who couldn’t say, “hey, don’t treat me like that please.” are the ones who are treating everyone else “like that.” They don’t do well in friendships. They tend to be very judgmental and hardened. They call it strength. I see weakness. Fueled by a mean mom. I didn’t want to be that person.

Yes, we need to keep them accountable. Yes, we need to stay on their asses when they’re off their square. But what we absolutely cannot do is strip confidence from these women we birthed. They need us and if that’s something that you struggle with, do something about it.

A daughter’s relationship with her mom shouldn’t feel like walking across a field of landmines. See her in the same way that you wished you mom had seen you. An imperfect, beautiful being who may make some mistakes and who may trip and fall, but who knows that her mom is rooting for her and waiting right there to pick her up, with no shame. We are so quick to blame dads for being absent and inattentive, but I’ve heard more hurt from women who grew up in homes with their moms.

It’s time to flip the script. Women’s empowerment doesn’t start at For Sisters Only with our good-good girlfriends. How can you check on your strong friends but ignore your struggling daughters? We’ve heard “I’m not one of your little friends” for as long as we could understand the words.

But instead of being one of the little friends, how about trying to be the ultimate one?

#midweekmissle: Haunted Pussy.

The streets of Annapolis are haunted.

Filled to the brim with urban legends, myths and a good amount of truth too. Ghosts, apparitions, ghouls, goblins and body-snatchers, all roaming and lurking  the the end of dead-end dark streets with no signs.

Around every corner, are the ghosts of penises and pussies of the past.

Attend a local event and you’re bound to see your entire former starting five. Your first. Your last. The one who got away. The one you gave away.  And my personal favorite, the one who refuses to go away.  Growing up in small town USA comes with its pluses and minuses. The plus – everybody knows everybody. The minus – you guessed it, everybody knows everybody.

You could stretch 25 miles north or south and still come across a person who knows someone that you know. Annapolis, Maryland challenges the theory of six-degrees of separation. It’s more like two. It goes a little something like, “that’s my cousin” or “We went to school together.” And this classic, “We use to talk/he tried to talk to me.” Mmmhm, that part.

Gather a group of women for happy hours and paint-and-sips, and after a few rounds of shots and a decrease in common sense, we start spilling the beans and swapping notes. Slick notes. Comparing ghosts.  Meeting someone with no ties in a small city is indeed a rare find. We have one high school for crying out loud. With all factors considered, I’ve seen all out royal rumbles occur because someone started dating the ex of an acquaintance.

The nineties were the era of OPP.  Naughty by Nature created an anthem and we were all singing and screwing along. Creeping and skating, wearing side chick labels proudly.   Main chicks waiting with gelled ponytails,  tightly tied tennis shoes and crews knocking on doors ready for battle. But why? Back then, we were immaturely attached to people who were immature, so it was more of a perpetual game of chase than an actual relationship.  But we grew up.   We said peace out to the game and drama (most of us).  Started having babies and moving in, creating families, taking last names.  When it didn’t work out, it was devastating.  There was nothing immature about heartbreak and disappointment.  But we moved on and our exes did to, and most of the time it was with someone we were familiar with.  In most cases, it didn’t go well.

I can remember being sucker-punched in the face by my bonus daughter’s mom.  I knew of her but we ran in different circles. She was a few years older and I had never so much as exchanged a hello with her.   The two of them had parted ways but he was still playing all up in her face unbeknownst to me.

She had confronted me at the mall and asked if we were dealing with each other.  I had just started dating him and nothing was official so I told her that we were just friends.  She said she didn’t care because they were no longer together.  Her not caring resulted in my senior prom being the scene for a knock-down drag out between him, her and her big brother (RIP Vernon! xoxo)  and a punch in the face at a basketball game.  I didn’t see her coming towards me.  Not at the game and not in life period.  I couldn’t understand why she was so angry with me when weren’t acquaintances.  It wasn’t me though, I later realized. I represented betrayal.   I wasn’t privy to their private moments and the game that he was running on us both.  Over twenty years later and she’s not only a friend, she is family.  Our families are families.  Growth changes things.

But sometimes there just ain’t enough growing and maturing to prepare you for those grown decisions our exes make to date whomever they want.  And it’s someone we know.  What’s that sting about?

I had to dig a little deep with this one and answer the question of why by first asking myself.

When I found out that my son’s dad was engaged to a former friend, I felt so betrayed. The betrayal train kept right on rolling, another high school friend married my daughter’s dad.  I remember thinking Gotdamn! Are these bitches in cahoots??! I wore my anger and entitlement like a tattered badge from war.  I hadn’t been in contact with either of them for years but I was wounded and I shared with every listening ear my devastation.

“How could they do that to me!” Oh, this was personal. We were friends, although former. I felt like there was this invisible line that you just didn’t cross and they had.

I could always tell when someone was dating one of my exes. The “heeeey girrrrrl!” becomes a tight, quick smile.  Most times, they purposely avoid eye contact so that they don’t have to speak.  I can dig it though.  You never quite know how it’s going to be received; dating the ex of someone you’re fairly cool with is sticky.  Past penis and past friends, that’s a recipe for a good category five hurricane.  Beefs that had been settled in high school hallways get new life when the person starts sleeping with your ex.  Again, I asked myself why?

I found myself eating crow when I did it.  I felt like such a hypocrite.  Here I was, toting and sorting this betrayal bag but I tossed it quickly when it came to me.  Oh see, I wasn’t like them.  I didn’t go into it without considering how my former acquaintance would feel when she found out.  The heart wants what the heart wants.  They hadn’t been together for years.  And shit, their kids were grown.  And I hadn’t approached him.  He hadn’t really approached me.  We were out.  We spoke.  We conversed.  He laughed.  I laughed.  He bought a round of drinks.  I bought the next.  We talked. And talked. And talked. We didn’t mention her.  We talked.  We exchanged a “hmmm, interesting look.” We agreed that exchanging numbers was harmless.  Dinner, man no big deal.  The after dinner walk by the water.  The unexpected kiss.  The sex.  Good sex too.  Bitch, it was great.  Amazing!  We connected, deeply.  But I wasn’t like them, right?  I had put them in the category of cold-hearted whores and closed them behind a door.  Here I was, knocking at the door, telling them to scoot over and make room.

That’s when the guilt crept in for me.  His response was simple.  “So, you’re willing to sacrifice possibly being happy for the rest of your life with someone who loves you because of some shit that didn’t work out with me and my ex?”

Yes.

I wasn’t that type of person.  Yes, I was.  And yes they were.  What we weren’t were women who sat and wrote down the exes of former friends, put their names in a hat, cackling with evil laughter when we picked one.  We were women who felt guilty about falling for someone who had fallen for someone else once upon a time.  The only difference was that I allowed guilt to shadow love and they hadn’t.  Respect.

Please don’t read this and think that I’m a proponent of ex swapping.  You have women and men roaming these shadowy streets on a mission of whoredom, honey.   If it winks, blinks or stinks, they want it.  I am however, a proponent of love.

When there is truth in love, there’s truth in everything.

I was dating this one guy a few years ago. His ex wife was a good acquaintance, had been to my home once or twice and I was good friends with her brother.  While I only saw her as often as I saw Christmas, when I started dating her ex and it became increasingly serious, I reached out and told her.  Her response was priceless. “This why I will always fuck with you, Janell. Thank you for telling me and I hope you have better luck with his ass than I did.”

I didn’t. No more luck than my former friends had with my exes. They were both separated and divorced in a little over a year.

I thought I’d be on my nanny-nanny-boo-boo shit. I wasn’t though because when I stepped completely out of that bitter space and remembered who these women were, I felt bad for them.  I felt bad about the picture I had painted of them.  I can only imagine how many times they had been judged for the choice they had made to be with those bastards in the first place. Only for it not to work?  The audacity.

I knew they felt that way because that’s exactly how I felt.  Willing to move mountains to accommodate a forbidden love, only to find out that it was bullshit all dressed in love.

We can’t help who we fall for. In love or casually. It happens to the best of us.  I despise walking into party to slick stares from former lovers.  Eck.  But what I hate even more, is walking into a room of former associates, people who you once shared laughs with and looking past them.

When you step into big girl situations, you put your big girls drawls on and handle that. Now unless you two were besties, dressing alike and god-parenting children, there’s no beef.  That sting you feel is your business.  Now where the problem comes is when women (and men too) start throwing rocks and hiding hands.  Any person who would talk down about someone they use to be friends with, I have not a shred of respect for them.  Don’t try to get yourself in by making me into a bad person.  My daughter’s dad debts that shit at the door.  He tells his next’s that when it comes to his children’s moms, he doesn’t care how upset he gets with us, that’s between us and they aren’t to involve themselves in anyway.  Respect.

Isn’t that what it’s about at the end of the day, though? Respect.  You don’t have to like it but it goes a long way.  That’s your ex for a reason.  Let him be her next, however that looks.  It no longer concerns you.  And I don’t care to hear about you having kids with him and needing to be mindful of who he has around them.  That’s their dad.  If you don’t think he’s capable of protecting his child as much as you, you shouldn’t have had children by him. Those are his babies too.  As far as her, if she wasn’t a bad person when you were cool with her, I can guarantee that she isn’t now.

If it’s still a problem for you, maybe you should do something about those feelings you still have for him.  You do know that it’s okay, right?  You all had an experience.  Feelings don’t just go bye-bye.  For me though,  I feel indifference.  Not hate. Not love.  Nothing at all.   I could walk through a door and see my ex-husband passionately kissing someone and I’d say “Oops! Wrong door!” and not feel a damn thing.

Let them be. You got your lesson, let them get theirs. Who are we to judge when our graveyards are filled with bones that no one knows about?  Take it on the chin and wish them well.   And lastly, to the “I use to mess with him” types, stop.  Because I’m judging you.  And I’m an asshole.  You’ve “messed” with most of Anne Arundel County, dearheart and no one knows but you and them, and I’m quick to point it out like, “Well, why ain’t nobody know but y’all?!”

Not our business, I guess.  No more than the next’s of our exes are ours.

Happy Humping!

#midweekmissle: Tired Pussy.

I sat in my living floor a few nights ago, exhausted but waiting for my daughter and grands to stop by. It had been a long day at work and I just wanted to smoke it away until my eyes closed.

But any opportunity to see those million-dollar grands is a welcomed one so I waited. And waited. And waited. Did I mention that I was exhausted?

Around 8:45pm, enters daughter and crew and I knew instantly that she and I had experienced similar days. I asked what was wrong she said she didn’t want to talk about it. I said “Ok.”, and sat there quietly watching the kids excitedly kick off shoes and head for the toy closet.

When like a brewing summer storm, I was pissed. Instantly. The nerve of her to bring that shit in here.

As if que’d by the universe, one of my granddaughter’s sprinted toward me and leaped into my arms with laughter, providing the perfect reset for me.

I took a deep breath. I looked into the kitchen and saw that her mood was still flat and calmly said,

“Look. If I walked into your house and asked you what was wrong and you said you didn’t want to talk about it, cool. That’s your space. But you don’t get to walk into my space with that energy and tell me some mess about you don’t want to talk about. You don’t get to do that to me in here.

She eventually told me what was wrong. While talking to her, my cellphone rings and I see the familiar AARUNDELCOMD appear on the screen and say outloud, interrupting my daughter, “I just can’t do this right now.” referring to her brother’s incoming jail call. But I meant it for all of them. Even the child of mine who was hundreds of miles away, minding his business in NYC.

I just can’t do this right now.

Kids are fucking exhausting. And don’t you think for a moment that they’ll reach adulthood and get easier to deal with. Ain’t happening, folks.

Seriously though, there’s this balancing act that you do with motherhood and womanhood. They are too very separate entities but that doesn’t stop them from weaving in and out of each other.

There’s no off switch. You don’t get to decide that Monday through Wednesday is for the kids and tending to their needs, and the rest of the week is for tending to yours. Somewhere between your hormonal changes and your kids and theirs, you are expected to find balance, put your cape on, bake fresh cookies from scratch, kiss boo-boo’s, dish out advice, pay attention to your partner, schedule blowjobs, show up for invites and girls nights out, parent teacher conferences and put it all on pause for 8-plus hours while showing up for a job you can’t stand.

Our pussies are tired.

We focus on the pretty side of motherhood alot. The pregnancy, the act of labor and the first look at unconditional love. Awww, our beautiful babies. But something else slides out of that vajayjay with those babies. Your individuality. You’re a mom now. Your world will forever flow around your nucleus of children, yay. You lose pieces of yourself. Boo.

As you get older though and the children become independent minions, preparing to take flight from the nest, you get a hankering to do the same. It is one of the most depressing experiences ever. Because for most of us working class poor folks with pre-paid debit cards and student loans, there’s nowhere to go.

My children became adults and I looked back over my life and sadly realized there was never a part of my path that they hadn’t walk with me. Those hard parts that should be for your eyes only? My kids saw it all.

I became a mom at 19 years old. By the age of 23, I had given birth to five children and buried one. Overnight, I had to woman-up and didn’t even know a fucking thing about becoming a women besides sexing. I was out here in full relationships, having babies left and right and didn’t even know how to feel about any of it. I spent my 20s on auto-pilot. I had a whole gang of ancestors and guardian angels pressing buttons in my back because I had no idea what I was doing.

My kids survived the fog of my twenties and when I hit my thirties, I looked around and thought, “Who are these little people”? Terry McMillan perfectly described that experience in her book, A Day Late and A Dollar Short. She writes, “Instead of seeing you all as four, beautiful individual lights, I had clumped you together as one big bulb.”

Yep. Me too. So I spent my thirties running out of a bad marriage and into getting to know my kids. I just want to add that my children are the most dynamic people that I’ve ever met in my entire life. 25 years later and I still can’t believe that I gave birth to these awesome individuals.

My thirties were theirs. They entered their twenties, I turned 40 and decided that my forties were for me.

Life said, “Bitch, please”.

I became a grandmother. My youngest son became a career criminal. My oldest son became a gypsy. My middle son became my mouthy ass roommate. I was working a job that had me coming home in tears everyday.

My nest started to empty and so did I. Everybody was fighting to get out of the door and so was I. I didn’t want any of it anymore. I was tired and lonely and just completely exhausted from juggling my mom, being a mom, being a grandmom, being a manager, being a friend, a niece…. I was done.

My response to it all was to alienate myself. I didn’t go anywhere but work. If I wasn’t working, I had my grandkids. I made excuses, declined invites and ate myself into oblivion. And I certainly wasn’t getting any dick.

All of that murky energy and I wasn’t releasing any of it, in any way.

I wish that I had some poignant revelation of personal rebirth and my shiny, new perfect life to share at this point but I don’t. I work continously on me but some things are stored in my mental attic. I know that there’s stuff up there that I still need to take a look at, but I’m still fighting to keep my mental living room and bedrooms in order. I’ll get to the attic one day. Just not today. In the meantime though…

If it feels good, I’m with it. I had never paid attention to feeling much of anything in my life. So now that’s all that matters. I check the vibe and proceed. I’m relentless when it comes to my peace and feeling fucking good now. I felt bad for too many years of my life. I protect me at all costs. Whether that looks like walking away from a job, distancing myself from toxic family, or saying no to toxic dick. I don’t play with it. Even if it comes to checking my daughter by saying, “You can’t bring that in here.” I want to feel good. If that looks like unplanned weekend getaway or acting on attraction and having a mind-blowing, leg shaking experience, I welcome it.

I’ve given so much of myself away. Out of obligation, and just plain ole not knowing any better. We don’t get a pause button and we do not get an off switch. We are out here spreading ourselves like butter because we forget to save the best parts for us. We didn’t make it through all of what we’ve made it through to reach this part and be exhausted. Take a spin class or somebody’s man, hahahaaa!

You just make sure you don’t forget about yourself while you’re remembering everyone else.

Save your best part for you.

If At First You Walk The Line, You Will Eventually Cross It.

Sydney and Dre. Can we first just talk about how dope Brown Sugar was? It is still in my top five of must-watch-at-least-a-million-times movies. “You, are the perfect verse over a tight beat.” That line is still melting hearts almost twenty years later.

One of the things that I brush off of my shoulders quite confidently is the dyn-o-mite connection I have with my male friends. Married, straight, single and gay, I have an entire arsenal of testosterone, support and love that rivals some of my best female friendships.  Men are just different.  Now, as different as they are it takes a lot to earn their trust, and if there is a special someone in their life, you have to earn hers too. It’s law.

And here’s a double whammy: if that wife, significant other or latest love interest ain’t feeling this “chick that you call your sister” aka me, then I fall back. I’m a woman before I’m a friend and understand how to the naked eye, that shit just does not look kosher and not interested in twisting anyone’s arms to make them understand it.

But I’m a different breed.  These friendships didn’t stem from previous romantic encounters.  We vibe.  That’s it and that’s all.  I could say that it’s my inner tomboy coming out to play but enjoying a night out with my best guys is no different than hitting the streets with my best girls. Wayment,  it’s even better. Sorry girls!

With the guys, there’s no emphasis on anything other than getting out of the house.  It’s not about what to wear, who’s going to be there, is it open bar, are they serving food, who cooked, etc., etc. e-fucking-tc.   Men are late for everything, first of all. And so am I.  When they pull up, the music is thumping from the speakers, the cup is in the holder with a nice shot of something nice and neat,  the puff-puff is waiting to be passed-passed and we out.  If we’re going somewhere that requires some pizzazz and dressing up, oooh they pump you up so good!

 “YOOOO! YOU GOT YOUR GOOD SHIT ON! CAME OUT THIS BITCH LOOKING LIKE A STALLION!” and we die laughing.  If they come through because they need to talk some things out, I shut up and listen and think about how blessed I am to be their safe place.  I give them truth though.   I’m doing it for us for real ladies.  They hear it different from me. One other thing about these dynamic platonic friendships and the amazing parts of them that they share with me, nothing compares to hearing them talk about love. Oh, they love them some you. They may not be getting it right everyday, but they love the hell out of you all.

I get the inside scoop on everything.  I ask ‘why in the hell do you feel so comfortable telling me that?! I’m a girl dammit!” and they’ll respond snidely with, “Man, you ain’t no girl. You’re Janell.”

But things can happen and I’m not talking about intimacy.  A male friend of twenty years  broke my heart.  He and his girl were arguing and I somehow ended up sandwiched between them. Before I could remove myself, he exploded.  He placed me in a head lock and ended up slamming my body into an arcade game. It was blind rage. He was upset with her and grabbed the first thing he could get his hands on.  Unfortunately, it was me.

I ran out of the restaurant, away from twenty years of friendship. I’ve had more than my share of dating and relationship violence, and he had always been my safe place. I was devastated and made the very tough choice to never speak to him again.

Oh, but when the good times roll!

There was this one time when a group of us went to check out a mutual friend’s new lounge.  It was still early when we left so we ended up uptown on Strip Club Row and had an epic night! I was the only female and felt like boss walking through the city streets with my guys. That’s how it is, always epic and easy and I’m never going to do anything to compromise that bond.

The most important thing though, is respecting unavailable men.  Most of my guy friends became my friend while they were single. The dynamic had to change when their status change and that’s where people get it twisted.  We can’t be out here battling with girlfriends, wives and love interest with this best friend shit. Nah, love.  Late night breakfast runs, calling them to vent about some dumb-ass dude at 1am, oh hell no.  You are placed in a new position once they become acquired folk and you either stay there respectfully,  or you get the fuck gone.  But again, I’m a different breed.

I remember having a conversation with one of their wives, and I thanked her for allowing our friendship to exist, for trusting me to be all up and in his space.  She cooly said, “We love you. And honestly, I don’t have a problem with your friendship with my husband because I trust my husband.” School ’em Tiff!   Those lines don’t blur because in those circumstances, they aren’t necessary. They are my friends. They are gross, disgusting boys with amazing, beautiful women in their lives who I respect with everything in me. End of story.

What happens when the only boundary is friendship and he’s available? Well, most of my single male friends are whores (sorry, ladies.).   Those charming chumps are something else.

There was this one time though…. *que Jill Scott’s “Why Does My Body Ignore What My Mind Says”*

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I had known him since junior high school.  We came from two different sides of the track – he was worked up and I was not. And that settled it.  As teens, we’d be out with our respective circles, hanging at parties and as soon as he walked in leading his motley crew of knuckleheads, me and my girls would roll. Those guys stayed starting fights!  Years later, I ran into him at a local bar and was like, “well damn, life has settled his poor little worked up soul.” He was mature and interesting, but I was just happy to see that life had been good to him.  He hadn’t gotten caught in the streets and he was alive and well. Good.

We reacquainted through mutual friends and our friendship grew. He became my dude, my one.  We had never even hung outside of our friends, but there was a closeness, something safe and familiar that I navigated towards. No feelings, no naughty thoughts, he became a true blue friend.  I could sleep next to him in a bed fully clothed, I could spend hours on the phone laughing and cutting up.  My plus one for everything, and my beat-me-to-the-dance-floor partner. This, was my dude, right?

Then he blindsided me with a very direct testament. About feelings. I hadn’t acknowledged that any even existed.  One day, during one of our hour long phone calls he says, “Some people like to spend a lifetime pretending that they don’t feel a certain way about one another.  They hide behind jokes and other people instead.” I agreed.

Until he said, “Like us.”

I attempted to stutter through a response with nervous laughter but what had really knocked a pause in me was the movie reel of encounters.  I thought about two in particular. We were out dancing.  It was a slow dance.  I made the mistake of letting the inhibition of the alcohol play with my head.  While we danced I closed my eyes and let my head rest on his shoulder a bit.  I even held him a little closer than I should’ve and almost pulled back until I felt him pull me closer too.  I opened my eyes until I noticed that his eyes were closed too. Damn it, girl.

And then, there was this one time that he was helping me carry something from my car and asked me to kiss him. I pecked him on the cheek, and laughed (laughing is what I do when I’m nervous, just in case you haven’t picked up on that.). He said, “No. Kiss me on my lips.” I did. He said, “Put your tongue in my mouth.” I hollered, hell no! But I wanted to so bad.

I sat on the phone thinking and thought about everything and I realized that he was right. It was weird.

Everything became so amplified and awkward. My feelings included. I let my feelings and lots of liquor lead me into his bedroom one night. Well, too bad that liquid courage doesn’t linger.  I woke up the next morning hungover and guilty. I just wanted to grab my things and run. But I didn’t. He was awake and we laid there like, Umm so..we actually did it?

And then something else happened.

We laid there talking for what felt like hours and hours. We shared shit, deep shit. We cried, we held each other, we listened, we laughed,  we were so vulnerable and open, and then we were silent. He said, “Do you want to do it again?” I said quietly, “Yes.” He asked if I was sure and I said yes.  It was the most gentle, intense lovemaking that I have ever experienced in my life.  He made love to my entire body. The way he kissed me, the way he touched me. I had never.  We were so into each other that it felt as if we were one.  It was endearing.   It was intimate.  It was out of this world. And it was a mistake.

We hooked up a few other times. Each time better than the first, as if that were even possible.  But shit outside of the bedroom changed. The coolness of our friendship became stiff.  The flirting disappeared. And we weren’t talking. No more phone calls. Or just not our hours of laughter and convo phone calls. Everything was quick and detached. I’d became the  “Wya, you coming through?” after midnight friend. Behind closed doors, we were among the stars and comets. Walking out of the bedroom door, I felt valley low.

I didn’t want to become that woman.  I had become that woman.  Nah, I couldn’t go out like that.  I tucked my feelings in my jacket pocket with my bra and walked out of his bedroom one final time, knowing that I’d never walk back in. The walk of shame wasn’t about creeping to my car at sunrise. Shit, I had that down to a science.  What I didn’t have down-packed was the fact that I had called this a friendship the entire time when i knew many years ago, when he walked into that bar with all of that handsomeness going on, that I was digging him.  I sat on my hands and he pulled them from under me, and that’s where we left it. Two people, afraid of taking a leap into something.  It could all be so simple.

I walked away. He continued to walk into other encounters. And I refused to look back.

While I chose to love him from way over here, where there are boundaries and mixed messages, I still hold him close. I love him, and he loves me too.  We are not in love.  We don’t keep in touch and in some ways I think it’s best.  Our last deep conversation still resonates with me.  We talked about how we saw each other.  He told me that I possess this power that you can’t describe. He called it magnetic.  “You think it’s your pussy, but it’s not. It’s bigger than that.” Wow.

I told him, that he felt like home to me.

I miss the comfortable, familiar flow of whatever we want to call our experience. We didn’t end up with scribbled notes of “will you go with me?” and a heated confession of love, like Syd and Dre.  Man, we cried together. That is love.  And it goes deeper than any stroke he could ever trace my hips with.

He will forever be my perfect verse, over every beat of my heart.

 

 

 

 

“Just Let Me Put The Head In.”

Picture it. Sicily, 1932.

Ha.

Halloween 1992. My older cousin handed us the keys to her apartment with very specific instructions: Don’t fuck my house up. And out the door she went. We had the house for the night. We always had her house for the night. Some people wanted to be like Mike, I wanted to be like KB. While she struggled with demons that we were not quite grown enough to understand, she was so unapologetic in her sexual freedom. To an awkward, insecure teenage girl, she was #goals.

All of my firsts happened at her house. All of them.  She was my intro course to being single, sexual and the art of lovers. We could ask her anything and we did. Her unconventional manner left little for the imagination. For as much freedom as she encouraged, there was this mechanism of tough love . You weren’t going to have any endearing talks about saving it for marriage.

She was not going to wipe your tears or help you gather yourself after your first heartbreak. She would pass that joint and make a short statement about all the other boys out here (“Girl! Fuck him! All this damn dick out here!”) and be puzzled about you actually stopping to give tear-filled fuck. Kim was numb. She did things to stay that way too. It wasn’t until years later that I learned why.

Back to Halloween ’92 though. It was our senior year of high school. While graduation was still a few months away, Senioritis had set it. We were already wiggling our toes in the sea of freedom. It was homecoming weekend and my friends and I had decided that we didn’t want to go to the school dance. We had booked a suite at the Courtyard hotel, for an after-party on Saturday.

This Friday night though, this was for us to piddle around in pretend grown-ness. Sitting around the table, passing those thin ass joints around, I remember my 17-year old self feeling so good in that moment.

While the events of the night picked up speed in a Boone’s Farm and Marijuana haze, no part of me was thinking about giving up any virginal ass that night. I never thought about that part. Sure, we were inviting some older guys over but they were just supposed to be the liquor connect. I wasn’t interested in much more.

I wanted to be noticed, not fucked. 

I was a self-described tomboy. I was careful to never take myself too seriously around boys. I was the loud, funny one who would hook them up with my friends. It was safer that way.

Once puberty set in, the boys my age made me feel like a novelty, someone to shower with tons of attention and not in a good way. I was teased for my large lips, my dark skin, my huge boobs. So I ran from it. I can remember purposely holding my lips in while in class, so that no one said anything. I couldn’t do much about my skin, but my clothes were always baggy. I sealed the deal by becoming the super-friend; every cool dude’s home-girl. The older guys were a different breed though.

After the drinks and herb slowed, we started pairing off on couches, floors and in bedrooms. I found myself on my little cousin’s single bed with my 22 year-old suitor (I made that shit sound clean, didn’t I?). I knew that I was not leaving this room the same way I came in. He and I had been talking for awhile and he made it crystal clear that the end result would be his acquisition of the drawls. 

My friends always had these bomb ass stories about these sensational hookups and sessions with these dudes who could not get enough of them.  What I got was about an hour of kissing, pants rubbing and weird finger-poking convincing. What I wasn’t expecting was a good three-minutes of thrusting, and I definitely wasn’t expecting the confusion. I didn’t want that shit for real.

My virginity was never a problem for me but those other problems that I had – low self-esteem for sure – were the problem.  I thought almost immediately after, “I have to do this with every boyfriend now?” 

No, I didn’t. But nobody told me that part either. 

So I make it a point, whether I’m channeling my inner cousin Kim or the tomboy who’s still very much a part of me, to practice Pussy Mindfulness. She ain’t just gonna be out here purring for anyone. Let’s not be mistaken, there is not an itch that goes unscratched but the scratcher, ahhhh.. that’s the difference.

We have to teach our girls what no one taught us. That physical attraction, desire, and even exploration are very normal, good things to explore when you’re ready. We keep virginity in this sacred little white box and that just ain’t the case anymore. Porn was something that we had to watch on that scrambled channel. It is now at the fingertips of any ten year old who types her curiosity in a search bar.

The goal is not to raise harlots and whores, hot girls and big ole freaks. The goal is to empower our young ladies to feel comfortable asking questions, and armoring in a way that doesn’t provoke fear, but power instead. My lesson in sexuality was, “You’re bleeding now. If a boy touches you down there, you’ll get pregnant.” 

Didn’t stop me though, did it? Let’s take the chains off of that dialogue.