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Why You’re Out Here Being Bad & Boujee By Ya Damnself

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post called The Myth of an Independent Woman.  I was in a place where I realized people thought I was doing it alone but they didn’t see me struggling. And thanks to the “safety net” of my family, I’ve rarely been alone. But I felt I had to be.

Last week I sat in a training here in Baltimore with 46  other bodies in a classroom space seated for 20. It was poorly ventilated, especially for the humidity on that particular day. My head dipped back, and I jerked it forward. SEVERAL TIMES. Sandwiched in and unable to take a walk to keep my blood pumping I drank my bottled water carefully hoping the river on my tongue would replenish my mind from inside out. I struggled.

Then a new face entered the room. Tailored corduroy denim, kind of a tierra clay hue. Classic denim button up & curly hair like Corey from Boy Meets World, but more of it, like a Robin Thicke cut, with a lumberjack beard. We’d seen him before. A stand out among the bodies of  seasoned educators who in that moment, mirrored the Baltimore Youth. We were cramped, hot disinterested in another presenter, until he opened his mouth.

The training was on “Trauma Informed Care” and how to keep in mind that some of what we’ll witness are rational responses to irrational life circumstances. He shared an anecdote of a youth arriving to work improperly dressed. Then saying i’d get robbed if I come outside dressed in a suit or nice clothes.” They supported that youth by allowing him to change into work clothes after arriving to work. But that young man developed a habit of  not dressing for success because his survival instinct taught him “dressing nice in this neighborhood will get you robbed.”

This made me want to check my own trauma led habits. I’m almost certain I’ve shared that I’m a hoarder and I believe I hold onto things because unlike people, they can’t abandon me.

I live alone, because I know my moods don’t always support me having or wanting to share  my space with others. But even that stems from me being the only child for 10 years and constantly having to give up my room for guests. I’m also fairly Independent I still struggle to ask for the help that I need and I’ve been told I push me away. I don’t allow them to do for me. But WHY?

The men in my life TAUGHT me to be independent. I can check my own oil, pump my own gas, I have a tool kit for small repairs & building projects. I can cook, I’m not much a fan of cleaning, but I really don’t have much NEED for a man.

My brother and my cousin, who oddly share the same birthday, were the first men I remember treating me like a “lady”. When they visited, I wasn’t allowed to do things I had to do in their absence, like take out the trash. But I was a teenager by the time they came along. I had already survived the abandonment of Buddha and Step Dad #1 by then. I watched my mother not ask for help and get things done. My uncle had taught me to lay tile and put up dry wall. I don’t think he meant to teach me NOT to need help. He probably just wanted me to stop asking him three million questions. Have you ever had a child in your presence hit you with “but why?” or “how’d you do that?” on repeat? We’ve all been at that crossroads where we can say “stop being annoying!” or just answer them. My uncle answered me with action.

Twelve year old me sitting on a stoop of three concrete steps watching Mr. Softee ride by as I waited for Buddha; wanting to slide my tongue diagonally against a soft mountain of sweet cocoa & vanilla flavored dairy chomping the chocolate rocks that adorned them; Learned not to wait for people to do anything with or for me. I buy my own ice cream now. I hop in my car and go where I want to go and most of the time I go alone.

My mother suggested that maybe I traveled too much without my ex. That my get up and go lifestyle may have intimidated him. I invited him to join me. Most times times he chose not to come along. Work or family obligations often trumped my invitations. I never saw those as reasons for me not to go. My grandmother always encourages me to go. She just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Which means she was about 5 years younger than me when she married. Unlike tv/movie grandma’s she’s never pressured me to settle down. Always to “GO”. Go to college. Go to China. Go to the Kingdom Hall. “Don’t worry about a husband. Just go live life. He’ll find you.”

“Never a borrower nor a lender be.” This one-liner from my Granpa is like a boulder atop the mountain of debt I’m currently chipping away at. I remember the Daddy I was dating asking me why I hadn’t asked him for help. And I simply responded “I didn’t want any more debt.” Watching my mother do it alone I had no real example of partnership. I watched my sister’s father embody all those “Petty things to take after a break up” memes long before Instagram was a thing. And I decided I never wanted anyone to have the right to claim batteries from my remote. Tents for the cookout. Lawn furniture from MY backyard. So I struggle. I struggle to make it alone. I struggle to accept gifts without suspecting ulterior motives. I struggle because I adopted all of these rational responses to my irrational circumstances. And I learned all these independent attributes, but I never learned the art of partnership. Being an only child made me a loner. Having young parents may have made me mature sooner. But I learned to be an Independent woman by accident. Now I just need someone to teach me how to love.

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Fake Family

You remember growing up in the 90s (and probably before then) having “play cousins” and your mother’s best friend was automatically your aunt/uncle? Those non-biological folk were some times more kind than blood kin.

That’s not the kind of fake family I wanna focus on though. Last week I overheard an 8 year-old telling his mom about his niece. She stopped him mid-story and asked “What niece?” Then she ran through a list of names asking after each “Does ____ have a baby?” until ultimately she questioned “When you were born, did your father have any other kids that you know about?” To which he answered, in classic 8-year-old fashion, “I didn’t know ANYTHING when I was born.”

boy niece

Although his response made me chuckle, I was slightly bothered by mom’s questioning. As I stated in ‘Ties that Bind’ I didn’t know my sister existed until I was 10, because Buddha didn’t know either. (Her mother confirmed that a couple Christmases ago) This little boy’s mother tried to end their conversation with “I hate when people do that! All this fake family stuff!” It didn’t seem to matter to him. I could see in his face he already accepted this baby as his niece and it didn’t matter how fake his mother felt they were.

“Why does Daddy keep doing this? Always confusing people!”

Another reason it bothered me is because, I’m kind of part of that “fake family” category. This past Christmas, Step Dad #1 invited me for Christmas Brunch at his mother’s house. Almost all of his kids were there and one of his cousins happened ask “Who is the oldest?” To which my eldest stepsister replied “WE ARE” the rest of us chuckled, but this cousin was perplexed and wasn’t ready to let go. We all giggled as she continuously shouted “You ain’t $#!+” and “You’re a fuck up! You just fucked up” in astonishment as Step Dad #1 claimed the three of us, his 25-year-old non-triplets without explanation.

I guess it stopped being funny, because the second eldest and middle 25-year-old said “Why does Daddy keep doing this? Always confusing people!”

Those words stuck around and stung me. It was as if I was watching this Christmas scene with the ghost of Christmas Present, because for a moment I was no longer mentally there.

Black girl with braids

This wasn’t the first time one of my stepsisters made me feel like an outsider.

About 4 years ago, my eldest stepsister was babysitting the middle 25-year-old’s son. He has autism and was about 2 ⅟2  at the time. I was feeding him rice from some Chinese food I had. So naturally a two-year-old is giving his undivided attention to the food. Annoyed and not yet aware of his autism, she took his lack of eye contact personally & said “She’s not your real aunt anyway!”

I’m no fool. I understand how biology works. It didn’t make it hurt any less.

Last week I wanted to blame my mother. Not just Buddha, or his siblings, but all of the mothers involved for not keeping me united with my biological siblings.

On Christmas, I wanted to be angry with my stepsister for thinking Step Dad #1 was “confusing people” by claiming me as his kid. He was around for my first days of school & Kindergarten graduation and when I first learned to read. He didn’t even know she existed until we were fourteen, or at least that’s what he claimed.

But it’s not my place to be angry with any of them. I consider my stepsisters to be my real family. I’m proud of their accomplishments and disappointed in their down falls.

I guess maybe they aren’t as accepting as that 8-year-old boy I overheard last week.

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Success: Stuntin Like My Daddy

January is a month to set goals to reach dreams and achieve some level of success.

goals

I remember a couple of years ago I was in the car with my mother, Step Dad #1 and my stepsister. We rode by a Mercedes-Benz dealership and Step Dad #1 got hype like a kid in a candy store looking at this white coupe perched up on the platform, beaming form the son above the lot. At 42 years old he was enamored with this vehicle and proclaimed that one day he would have it and he was going to be riding through the hood “Stuntin’”.

I knew my mother was thinking it. I felt her thinking it. And I for damn sure was thinking it, because as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I am my mother’s child. Thankfully, it wasn’t either of us that said “Daddy? Stuntin’? REALLY? You 42 out here talking bout some STUNTIN’?” accompanied with the heartiest, dream crushing laugh.

Laughing Naomi

Step Dad #1 has 5 children and 3 grandchildren and at the time he was still paying child support for at least 2 of his children.

That moment never left me. Initially, like my stepsister I was judging him, but slowly that judgment transformed into empathy. He was 42 years old and had been somebody’s daddy for more than half his life. He missed his moment to stunt on ‘em, and he wasn’t ready to let it go.

He has an E Class Benz now. It may not have been a wise investment, but for him, it symbolizes success.

I used to want a Cadillac. I still do, I hope that I earn it before I’m 42, so I won’t be Stuntin’ like my Daddy.

Stuntin like my Daddy

But then again, I don’t see cars as a sign of success anymore. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Once for a Lifetime

            Earlier this month I went to a J. Cole concert with my brother and while the crowd around me was amazed by my brother’s ability to match Jermaine’s pace word for word, I was fixated on Jermaine.

During his performance of HELLO something stuck out to me. As he’s describing his thoughts of “The one that got away” he realizes she has kids & says “…cause if we ever got together. I’d have to be them N!99@$ step-pops forever.” I froze. In all of the times I had heard this song, this time was different. Something about hearing it live, just, just touched my soul.

Rafiki-Surprised

I thought of how even though things hadn’t worked out between Step Dad #1 didn’t work out, I still consider him my stepfather. He went on to prove to be just that. I took a trip to Ohio to attend my stepsister’s college graduation and due to unforeseen circumstances, my lodging plans fell through. And my Hilton Honors membership wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with my budget.

The night before my trip I took to Instagram with a photo captioned “When you should be sleep because you’re driving to Ohio in the morning but you still don’t know where you’re going to sleep once you get there #ImGoneSleepinMyCar #WhereImGonShowerDoe #FigureitOutOnceIGetThere”

‌InstaMe

When I got there, I visited my family on Buddha’s side first, and while there Step Dad #1 called and said “Did you make it yet? Here’s the address to the hotel, you can stay here with me and my mom.” I didn’t even have to ask, he offered. All off an Instagram post. His relationship with my mother ended before I hit double digit birthdays and here I am nearly a quarter century old and he’s still looking out for me.

j-cole-thinking

On that same trip I was once again reminded of Jermaine’s words “I’d have to be them kid’s step pops forever” when I heard a tiny voice refer to my cousin as “Dad”.

Ohio’s pretty far, but I talk to my aunt often enough to know her son doesn’t have any 6 year old kids just running around. He even made it his business to remind me he’s “damn near 30 & on his first kid” unlike some of my other cousins.

But here he was with these two little boys walking around calling him “Dad.” And low & behold he’s not even really interested in being with their mother for the long haul. Which causes me to question *How long should a man be in your life before it is ok for your kids to call him Dad?*

Are You My Daddy

Does a man who never had a solid father figure even comprehend the seriousness of a child bestowing upon him that title?

I’m just blessed to have two stepdad’s that look out for me despite the foolishness I’ve learned through their shortcomings.

Shout Out to my sister’s father aka Step Dad #2 for keeping me on his health insurance.

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Protection

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Sigmund Freud

textgram_1434221295_resized

I think that need is just as strong in adulthood. My sister has suffered abuse at the hand of her daughter’s father both before and since giving birth. It was only a couple months ago that I lie beside her as she cried during her recount of the day’s events and confessed to me that she “just wanted to hear Daddy’s voice” but was fearful of what might happen to him if he got involved.

Domestic Violence victim

Well, he got involved. And her B!+©#A$$ baby daddy bust him in the head with a Snapple bottle.

What happens to a Daddy’s magic when he feels he can’t protect his little girls anymore?

Thinking Dad and newborn

This isn’t the first time he’s put hands on her, and every time Step Dad #1 has tried to handle things like men and have a conversation. Respect my sister’s wishes and just remove her from the situation. But this time, this time was different. He chose to really understand the risk involved with still being “Daddy” for an adult. If he lost his life trying to save one daughter, he’d be leaving behind 3 more and a son with no Daddy to call on. BUT, if he stopped trying to protect his child in need, he would be burdened with guilt if her child’s father took the life of his eldest seed.

Man with hand covering eyes

Is a Daddy’s Duty ever done? When is too old for a child to need their Daddy’s PROTECTION?

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Lies Little Girls Believe

One of my childhood friends and I had a big falling out a few years ago after over 10 years of friendship. I saw a photo of his daughter for the first time today. She’s gorgeous, looks just like him. I told another friend of mine “I hope having a daughter helps him treat women better” No sooner than I sent that text, I realized just how far fetched that thought was. Changed Dad

  • Having a daughter didn’t stop Buddha from throwing a knife at his fiancé with me in the next room, when I was 10 years old.
  • Having daughters didn’t stop Step Dad #1 from having unprotected sex with another woman while in what was thought to be a committed relationship with my mother.
  • Having a daughter didn’t prevent my Sister’s Father’s insecurities from showing up. Causing him to behave aggressively & what some may call violently toward those he felt threatened his “happy family”.
  • Having a daughter didn’t stop my cousin from stepping outside his 11 year relationship for the umpteenth time producing his second child outside of said relationship.
  • Having a daughter didn’t stop my god-daughter’s father from physically abusing her mother and causing property damage in an attempt to make her lose her first apartment and her job simultaneously.

We have these myths circulating in our communities that a father’s bad karma comes back on his daughter, & that having a little girl changes the way men see and interact with women. Little girls grow up to believe that they possess some type of magic that makes their daddies into better men. Except when those daddies don’t become better men, those little girls feel like their magic is broken. We believe that our existence was supposed to show them that all women aren’t so bad, and in fact maybe they have been seeing women all wrong all along. We believe that our Daddies are supposed to look at us and say “I can’t believe I’ve been doing to other people’s daughter’s what I would never want done to this little magical being here” OR. “Man, I messed up; I have to protect her so no one ever does to her what I’ve done to other women.”

Father-Daughter-laughter

WHO STARTED THESE RUMORS? Because, they’re putting too much responsibility on infants, to change men who should have learned to respect women long before being blessed with the chance to create one. Dad Daughter feet

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Belonging

You remember that scene from Mean Girls when Gretchen tells Regina “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US”? That’s one of my biggest fears. I have a tendency to make friends but not necessarily build friendships. I am personable and get along well with most people I meet, despite the setting. I floated between all those stereotypical high school cliques people place each other in without ever really belonging to any one in particular.

Can't sit with us BG
When your “friends” decide you don’t belong no more

This past Wednesday, Step Dad #1 called to invite me to his birthday party this summer. He said, “Yeah, I know it’s early but I’m inviting all my daughters….Ha!” There was something about that little laugh that followed his statement that made me feel…I don’t know, different. Out of his five daughters, I’m the only one that isn’t biologically his. As a child when he and my mother were together there wasn’t anything he did or said that made me feel like I wasn’t his biological child. Even for some time after their relationship ended he was very loving and inclusive of me. Once his other kids moved to Ohio, I had him to myself for a time.
Recently however, I find it hard to know where I stand. Step Dad #1 has four biological daughters, two of which I grew up with along with his son. Around Father’s Day in 2012 they all took family pictures together. I was in town. I had a white t-shirt. Since I’d always been your daughter anyway, why couldn’t I have been in the family photo? This must be how Sandra felt that one time in Season 1 of The Cosby Show when Clair asked, “Cliff why did we have four children?” Then Cliff responded, “Because we did not want five,” as if forgetting they had a whole other child away at Princeton.

No Sandra
Where’s Sandra?

Point being, no matter how many times my older sister texts, “Hey sis I’m at Daddy’s;” no matter how many invites to Christmas dinner I receive as an attempt to reintegrate me after years of being away; no matter how hospitable my “aunts” are; once he had his new baby, ending the seven+ year relationship he had with my mother, I got left aside. Then all of the people I felt familiar with and all of the places I felt safe in, I no longer belonged.