It was instilled in me at a fairly early age by our dear friends in the American media that to be considered beautiful or precious in these great United States a girl had to be thin, petite and preferably Caucasian. (None of these obviously, described me :p). As a little girl, I watched an ungodly amount of television and poured through mountains of fashion magazines. Rarely did I ever find someone that looked like me (that was until the Cosby Show came a long, but that would be way later.)
My adult perspective mostly allows me to look past the often intentional transgressions of the American media, but every now and then when triggered by certain forms of fuckery, my childhood inferiority complex is shaken back to life. For instance, when the tea party was in full on post-election “take back our county” swing in 2009; I couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a billboard with some doe eyed cherry cheeked cherub staring at me. The message was typically something having to do with protecting her future from “big government”.
Every time I saw those damn things, I’d become enraged. It wasn’t the the child’s image that set me ablaze, but rather what the imagery implied. Not once did I see one of these brazen take back America manifestos with a Black child, or a Latino child, or an Asian child … hell I never saw one with a boy on it. Just a small, White, “innocent”, “fragile” female. As is usual when I am highly pissed off, my creative juices began to flow. I’d already been gathering ideas for a play about the black female psyche called Oppression Pop. 5. I knew right away that my anger about the limited view of what it means to be “precious” in the eyes of some Americans had a place within it.
The subject matter of the play is not easy, but definitely warrants an open honest dialogue. In Charlotte? Open of mind and empty of stomach? Join Kendrea Mekkah and I next Sunday for Dinner and A Reading, where we’ll be reading Oppression Pop. 5, enjoying a delicious meal of soul food, and discussing themes from the play!
“The only way for someone to love you, is for you to love yourself first.”
“To thine own self be true!”
“You’re special just the way you are! God don’t make no junk!”
Make me want to strangle the well meaning sages that deliver them unto me with a recently ripped off chain of kitten tails, and I would two except for two things:
1. I love kittens. Oh how I love kittens.
2. I know, as hokey as they may sound, all that bullshit is true.
Where does one start though? Regular mani-pedi’s? Dinner for one? Movie dates with yourself? Meh … while that stuff helps, my experience has led me to believe that it’s best to start here:
Sarah Baartman a.k.a. The Venus Hottentot. (It is strongly advised that you click her name to gain a broader … pardon the pun … perspective on the history of black female sexuality and the western world.) Sarah, which is ironically my grandmother’s name, could be my butt naked body double (or I should say, I hers).
Sarah (B), is definitely where I’m at.
The hardest part of accepting myself has been getting past my body image. I have lost tremendous amounts of weight. Gained part of it back. I have cut, pasted, prayed, and starved in an effort to deny my Sarah Baartman body. She will not be denied. I have to accept what most diet/exercise programs don’t tell you … your body type is your body type. I will never diet away my thunder thighs or the delectable craters found within my ass cheeks.
Now maybe your issues have nothing to do with good ole Sarah, maybe it’s your nose, or your relentless uni-brow. No matter, it’s not about what the thing you dislike about yourself is (at least not for me). It’s the fact that it exists. It’s the fact that my feelings about my weight , are a parasite that has drilled itself into my psyche and taken up residence. It is with me of every moment of everyday whispering gems like:
“He couldn’t possibly want someone that looks like you, don’t even embarrass yourself by saying hello or even looking at him.”
“You look terrible in anything you put on, so what’s the point.”
…and some that are just too unbearable to write here.
The only way that I’ve found to battle back the parasite that works (as alcohol, mani-pedi’s, and self-dates proved to be dismal failures) is facing that sonofabitch head on. There ain’t a quick fix on the market that trumps honest, loving self appraisal. It’s a journey that I’ve been on for most of my life, but the honesty part just crept in about two years ago. Needless to say, it’s been a rough, albeit rewarding, two years.
More recently, as recent as this past Wednesday, I had another … break through? break down? Hell, I broke … and had to come to accept that a man that I’d endeared myself to, for far longer than I should have, would likely never be able to give me what I needed or wanted from him. I had been holding out hope that somehow if I proved how awesome I was to him that he would have some type of miraculous epiphany, look past my misshapen body, and “pick me” giving me a chance at the relationship I’d so desperately wanted.*
*Yes, on an intellectual level I know this is bullshit, I cringe as I write it, but it’s what my inner dialogue had been.
If I’m honest, and again I try to be these days, I’ll have to say that it wasn’t necessarily him, but ALL of the “hims“. All of the men and the shitty situations that came with them, that I settled for because on a gut level I assumed that no one else would want me. It’s the parasite, the disease, my thinking (call it what you will), that had me believing that one sided situations with emotionally or otherwise unavailable men were all I could hope for. Now? I’m just too exhausted to give a fuck.
The prospect of being sans a partner for the rest of my life is no longer terrifying. The prospect of wasting my life lying in wait of what might be, is. So if being single is what it is for me right now (or longer) I need to continue to do the work of being okay with the person I wake up to everyday. I have to take care of me which for me includes:
-Taking care of my emotional and spiritual self by continuing do the work of recovery.
-Taking care of the one and only body I will ever be given by eating right and exercising, not toward any magical goal weight, but because it feels good.
-Getting enough rest.
-Setting healthy boundaries in my relationships, which include running in the opposite direction when I see the red flags.
-Taking care of my responsibilities (having bad credit is no longer “cute”).
-And most important, CONTINUING TO WRITE!
Despite all my emotional ups and downs I do feel a shift happening. With continued hard work and perseverance, I might just fall in love with myself, Hottentot table top ass and all, at some point before I’m dead ;).
I used to have horrible cars, because I never had money, so I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself—people like to see that. – Chris Rock
I read the above article around the time I suspected my Singaporean goose was cooked. What got me at the core was the bit about the car. Was I doing enough on my own behalf? I can honestly say, I wasn’t. That’s even hard to write, but it’s true. I could have worked more hours, I could have dedicated more time to fleshing out more feasible better planned fundraisers.
Would these things have made the financial difference that landed me in school this year vs. next year? Probably not, and since I’m drinking from the fountain of self honesty, on my gut level I knew this. My credit rating, an F. My current student loans, while not in default, are a reflection of my youthful (and not so youthful) wastefulness. Add what I owe in taxes, and my day to day bills, and making it over without a wealthy sugar daddy or a co-signer (which would have been an incredibly irrational direction) was going to be highly unlikely. Even with all this reality lying in wait I prayed that somehow my effort (albeit half-hearted) would part the heavens and allow for some Dickenesque Christmas Carol resolution that would allow for my passage into all that I’d wished and hoped for. But, a wise man did once suggest that I wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills first.
I could see this experience as one of the most humiliating in my life (and it probably is), go hide, and give up on the idea of grad school in general, let alone on the other side of the world, but that would make me a quitter. Quitters suck (unless it’s self defeating behavior then by all means quit dammit!). No, I shan’t quit, and while I appreciate all the support I’ve been given, the reality is that I have to push my own car. I have to take this year to get my shit together financially, physically, and emotionally … basically shit I need to do anyway. I have to go back to working night shift (bleh), pick up extra hours (bleh!), and many other things savory and unsavory … all legal I assure you. In short, I gotta know on my inside space that I gave this shit everything I got before I’m willing to give up.
So here we go world. With the help of a HP with a fairly wicked sense of humor, I’ve got 365 days to make this thing happen. Help is still appreciated, but it’s time for me to get out and P.U.S.H.
Having bad credit (and I mean really bad credit none of this 500s shit) can send really nice people to pretty smarmy places. Case in point; my recent search for an automobile. With two repos, a barrage of charge offs, judgements, and a tax lien sitting on my credit like raw canker sores I wasn’t gonna be headed to Carmax anytime soon.
Nope, I had to get my hands dirty. Reeeaaaallll dirty. With $1500 in hand and a dream that I could buy a car that would withstand at least two years on the open road I set out on my search. First stop: Craig’s List, the emerald city of the internet! I figured if one could purchase animals, furniture, and illicit sex acts from this virtual Oz, surely I make my dream come true (for $1500 or less).
Initially, trying to at least be smart about it, I waited around for the trusty (and I use that world very loosely) men in my family to show up and rescue me from the “woman-buying-a-used-car-curse” . This did not happen. So with Google by my side I searched for used car check list that would serve as a guide. After looking over it I found it was pretty thorough which allowed me to let go of some of the anxiety I was feeling around the whole ordeal (I only wished I’d given myself more time to look at it). I spent about a few days looking finding many hits that wound up being misses, but I finally settled on three vehicles.
Vehicle 1: 1989 Nissan Maxima
Alright, so this car had been in existence since I was thirteen, but Nissan’s have a fairly decent name for themselves right? Plus, considering some of the vehicles I see on the open road still kicking up dust…literally, I thought it was worth a shot AND I mean geez, he only wanted $900 dollars for it (and had even dropped it to $800 by the time I got there!). That would leave me with more than enough money to buy an iPad after it was all said and done. (GOD I need help.)
Despite my initial optimism, in the back of my mind I knew with the driving I do on average this was a shaky option. It didn’t help that I’d spent so much time waiting to be rescued by men folk (hell that’s a whole other blog all together). This left me with only 20 minutes to view the car. I had to skip much of my check list, which left me with a pretty unsettled feeling, and I only got to drive the car around the neighborhood because of the time constraints. It didn’t run poorly by any means and it even looked pretty decent cosmetically even with the age of the vehicle. I decided to tell the seller I’d think about it until after I’d seen the other cars that I’d planned to look at that day. Which brings me to the next vehicle…
Vehicle 2: 1998 Volkswage Passat…or maybe it’s a Jetta?
I arrived at Rock Hill auto auction with my game face on. I had a fresh list, and I had PLENTY of time to peruse and examine the vehicle that I’d come to look at. The listing (and actually this one was on autotrader.com) was for a 1998 Volkwagen Passat. The ad sounded really promising and I couldn’t wait to see the car. I caravanned to Rock Hill and ghost road past a car lot that looked like a used vehicle waste land. Determined not to judge a book by it’s outsides I pulled in and asked for the vehicle that had been listed. I got a hem. I got a ha. I got that the vehicle probably didn’t exist. I’m no quitter though, so I laid on the line what I had to pay and let the dealer (we’ll call him “Harold”) know that I was there to play hard ball. (Oh the depths!)
So Harold who is now my bestie because he want’s to “put me in a car” but his boss has “tied his hands” *sigh*, but…but wait! There’s hope! a 1995 VW Jetta sitting all on it’s lonesome on the lot. It’s only $500 more than what I wanted to pay anyway, and if I was just willing to give him the $1500 I did have, I could make up the rest later! (Yes, I saw through this bullshit. Geez people.) I did want to see the vehicle though. I figured I could get ‘im where I wanted ‘im once my handy dandy check list had diminished the value of the car.
You all should have saw me. I was an auto analysis master of the universe! I had magnets and coins. I tested the body and tires. I threw Harold for quite the loop. Even he had to say “Damn girl, you know what you doin’!” It felt good, because I actually did. After careful inspection I found the Jetta was not worth $1500. It probably wasn’t worth 900 (do you attempt to sell a car for $2000 when the accelerator needle doesn’t work and sleep at night?!) I walked away from Rock Hill Auto Auction completely confident in the fact that I’d made a sound decision. It felt quite amazing. So it was on to my last stop Chik-Fila! This is where I would take a look at…
Vehicle 3: 1994 Mazda 626
All the adventure of the day had left me 100% drained. All I wanted was a kids strip meal, and a nap. I had agreed to see one more vehicle, a 1994 Mazda 626. Ironically, or whatever you’d call it, I graduated in 1994 and one of the first cars I ever owned was a Mazda 626 (I did get shot at in that car though =/…again that’s a total other blog). I’d called the young man who owned the car. He’d agreed to meet me and I’d pulled out blank check list number three when my phone ring. It was the calvary. My uncle Grover, he said he was on his way to Rock Hill to look at the car. In he rode on his white horse (disguised as a white Chevy pick up truck.) The young man showed and they talk that special car talk that men talk when they get together that begins to sound like the adults in Peanuts after about 5 minutes in my ears.
What I hate is, I folded. A man showed up, and I forgot about everything. My list. My stubborn determination. I just let him do it. It took him five minutes to decide that the car was worth what the young man was asking $1500 (no iPad for me…wamp wamp waaaaamp). I negotiated the particulars of finishing the purchase and picking up the car with none of the confidence I’d walked away with after my earlier experiences.
Epilougue: The upside is I finally have a vehicle after going $600 in debt in rental car fees (wait, that was my iPad…*bumbed*). The downside is I’m not at all confident in my decision which was ironically made based off the help I initially wanted. The bottom line is that it’s done, and I’m glad for it. It was a learning experience. It was a practice in learning to trust myself and a lesson in trusting other people. Ultimately when buying a used car you can NEVER really know how long said vehicle will last, and it’s not lasting is not always some diabolical plan of the seller to rip you off. Some times cars, (and people) pass on and we can never know when, where, why or how it’s going to happen. We just have to put our best foot forward to avoid unnecessary issues.
If I had to give myself a grade it’d probably be a C+/B-. It’s the first major purchasing decision I’ve made in a long while, and probably one that I’ve been the most responsible in making since I’ve been an adult…seriously. The greatest gift is that I can see that this is a new beginning for my financial future. My credit score may be in the shitter, but I’m as determined as I was on the lot of Rock Hill Auto Auction that it won’t stay there. Most of all I believe that this number does not diminish who I am as a person.
Well, I have to go and drop off the rental, and thank GOD it’s homework time with Zion!…not really.
p.s. I got in the car, drove it for a while and the check engine light came on. It’s running fine, I’m taking deep cleansing breaths, and calling my mechanic in the morning.