It’s been a long time! Too much has been going on for me to tell you about, and yes, I’m still on official blog hiatus. But it’s my blog, so that means, I can come back any time I want! And this month is my birthday month! And yes, I’m a Leo.
Okay, stop with the attitude. I hear some of y’all saying, did you really think we didn’t know you were a Leo, with all that mouth? Quelle surprise, sweetie. Quelle. Surprise.
I was really sensitive about the fact that I’m going to be officially old–fifty!–but then, a few weeks ago, I got this burst of wisdom, and I think this turning fifty thing might be fantastic.
Also, I gotta represent for all those sisters out there who get shifted to the “Auntie” lane, like Aunties can’t be sexy. Full disclosure: yes, I’m an Auntie. And yes, I am sexy.
I am the sexiest sister shopping for organic produce at my natural foods store. You think that’s not saying anything, but there are a lot of soccer moms out here, so the competition is fierce. Like, brutal.
Sidebar: It’s not like I can hide my age anymore, since somebody–probably an enemy–posted my birth year with Google. Can you believe that [insert expletive excretive noun]?!
So there I am, looking seriously cute in the picture beside the year, “1967.” At first I was real mad. But then, I thought, maybe this is okay. After all, my neck is holding up pretty well. And I’m back in my skinny jeans, too. I never had much of a booty, but what’s there has not fallen. Let’s give God a standing ovation for little, bitty favors.
Anyway, as I move into this milestone birthday of 50, I have learned many things. Let’s call them Past-Grown Black Woman Epiphanies. I had one just recently, and of course, I thought about two important women in my life, my mother, Dr. Trellie James Jeffers, and my second mother, Professor Lucille Clifton.
I got a lot of wisdom from these women, things that I didn’t pay much attention to in my youth, but now that I’ve got a few gray hairs, the wisdom kicked in.
Sidebar: I decided to henna, so if you ever see me, don’t be pulling out no magnifying glass, checking for gray hairs. They’re permanently cover, but they are there. But I’m still cute. Trust. Like, seriously cute, knocking up against fine territory.
So, my two Mothers are completely different. My birth mother is very tough, like me on steroids. She’s the Queen of Aphorisms. Here are two examples:
“You better get some steel in your spine if you want to walk tall.”
“He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool.”
“That makes perfect sense. Nonsense.”
You might recognize that last one. She gave permission to use it, so I do, all the time, okay?
Professor Clifton, also affectionately know to me as “Miss Lucille,” didn’t have aphorisms, but she had many, many poems. Here’s a page with some of her poems. Put some extra bobby pins in your wig first, though, because it will be blowing back when your read those poems. Believe that.
So, as my pre-menopausal fuzziness has subsided because of all the kefir I drink, some of the wisdom from Dr. Jeffers and Professor Clifton has come back.
Sidebar: A discussion of kefir magic is another, future post, but I promise, I will not disappoint. Some of my ladylike coyness has disappeared over the years, so get ready for a bit more directness.
Here’s a preview: “The Tale of the Disappearing Hot Flashes”.
You know you want to read that one! In the meantime, here is a summary of my first almost-fifty epiphany:
Past Grown Black Woman Epiphany #1
I have noticed that a healthy sense of self-regard, self-esteem, and self-love in a woman is seen as arrogance, at best, and insanity at worst, especially in women who are either nearing menopause or who are post-menopausal. And with a woman of color, you can multiply that assessment (by others) by one hundred.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had somebody say to me, “You really think well of yourself, don’t you?”
Um, yes. Yes, actually I do think well of myself. Is that supposed a crime?
Here’s another: “You must think you’re a white woman.”
Yes, more than a couple of people have said that to me, and, ok, wow. I didn’t even have a response to that one, except, “Negro, please.”
I’m not going to say that I haven’t had to work on myself throughout the years. A lot. Because I have. I’m not going to say I’m not deeply flawed. Because I am. Seriously cute with great shoes, yes. Flawless like Beyoncé when she woke up like this? No.
But my flaws, and my needing to continually work on myself, does not mean that I don’t love, respect, and embrace myself. And what that means is that I will require people to treat me to the level that I have decided is acceptable. And I will treat people the same.
Most essentially, whenever I encounter black women these days, I make sure that I treat them with the utmost respect. I tried to do this even before everybody decided they were “woke.”
Y’all, I been woke. I’m a political insomniac. I’m so woke, I sleep with my eyelids propped open with toothpicks.
You know why?
‘Cause I’m black in America, y’all. Plus, I’m southern. Then, I listen to old folks. And finally, I have a library card, so I read.
For all you Johnnies-Come-Woke-lies out there, please stop lecturing me on what I need to do to get woke, ’cause you are embarrassing yourself yelling at every damn body, including the teenaged baristas at your favorite coffee house because you are so insecure about the fact that you just got woke that you want chocolate milk in your triple latte.
It’s okay, baby. Ain’t nobody keeping score on you. Wokeness is a journey. And remind me to tell you about how my Black Nationalist Father didn’t allow us to eat vanilla ice cream back in the 1970s. Also–no lie!–he had his own FBI file that is online now. Oh, I’m so proud!
Did I not tell y’all that I. Been. Woke?
So I give respect to younger black women, even when they are younger than I am, but have achieved more. It doesn’t matter that they are cuter with no wrinkles, no cellulite and perky breasts.
It doesn’t even matter whether I don’t personally like them, because as a black feminist, that’s not something I’m supposed to care about. I’m supposed to care about the fact that I don’t have the market cornered on high self-esteem and high self-regard. So, if I require respect, I know that other sisters require it, too.
Notice, I did not say, “demand respect” That is an aggressive term, and I am not aggressive these days, no matter how woke I am. I don’t shout. I don’t cuss folks out. I don’t do none of that.
Yes, sometimes shouting and cussing is important, and I’m for the young folks doing that. I’m past middle-age, so instead of shouting and cussing, I’m supposed to be the one looking for money in my bank account to pay for bail. That’s what you do when you get older. You have the young folks’ back, because you don’t want to get too woke that you accidentally fall and break something, even if you drink kefir every day. Which I do, and y’all, it is a miracle elixir, okay?
Notice, I said, “require respect.” And what that means is, I have decided that I am just not desperate enough for friends, publication, or money, to let folks treat me in ways that I would not treat myself.
But I do still get sensitive about young folks calling me by my first name. Again, that is another blog post.
Here’s the teaser for that: “Youngun, Put A Handle On My Name! Or, Who Raised You?! Wolves?”
Phillis Remastered (aka “Honorée,” but only if you Past-Grown)
PS Stay tuned here for the news! I’m writing and writing and writing!