As my 40th year grows nearer, my dad insists that I need to consider buying property. To him – and many other Americans – owning a home is one of the cornerstones of success. I remember when my parents bought their first home. It was a source of pride for the whole family – a huge achievement. Owning a home was a visual representation of having “made it.”
Several of my friends are homeowners. Some owned their homes by the time they were 30. They got married, bought homes, had kids: did things “the right way.”
I have no serious urge to buy a home. I keep thinking that one day it’ll hit me. This need to “settle” in one place. I can’t even fathom putting down roots. Right now it’s just me and the cats(tm). If I want to pick up and move to another city, I can do that with more ease than I could if I had a family or owned a home.
San Francisco is unlikely to be my last home. If I have children, I know I don’t want to raise them here, for many reasons, not the least of which includes wanting to be able to afford to feed these kids after paying the rent or mortgage. Which brings me to my next point: to afford to buy a home in San Francisco I’d probably need to auction off a few organs. I’m kind of fond of my kidneys, lungs and liver.
Last winter I finally sold my car and I feel lighter without it. It’s one less thing to think about. My car battery kept dying because I couldn’t be bothered to remember to let it run periodically. Owning a home is an even greater commitment than a car.
There was a time as a kid, when I would pore over house floor plans in the Sunday paper’s real estate section. I’d scan over all the homes for sale in the rich people neighborhoods of Houston and dream of what my future home would look like one day. I’d clip photos of house facades, floor plans and design ideas that fit my fantasy and taped them into a spiral notebook.
When we moved to Houston from Georgia, my sisters and I accompanied our parents on their hunt for our second house. Sometimes we window-shopped homes way outside our budget. The show homes were the best to visit because they’re fully furnished and staged to impress. Wandering through the massive living spaces with brand new neutral-colored carpeting, expansive backyards dotted with shade trees, winding staircases leading to “your” bedroom where you picture the posters you’d put on your wall, knowing damn well your dad isn’t going to let you hang anything on the walls of their new house.
I’ve marathoned my fair share of episodes of HGTV’s House Hunters. Even though I know theshow is rigged, it doesn’t dampen the joy of nearly overdosing on real estate candy. It’s all about the fantasy, the boost of delight from playing make-believe.
Still, owning a home isn’t a priority for me. It’s one of those things I think I’ll do “someday,” just not now.
How about You? Do you / have you own(ed) a home? Do you want to own a home one day?
To think, I almost didn’t write that post. However, as part of pushing through my writer’s block, I’ve realized I’ve got to stop self-censoring so much. It’s damaging to the story and to my contentedness.
I didn’t say yes immediately. I needed to confirm the legitimacy of the show and find out more about what I’d be getting into. In my research, I discovered that one of the show’s previous guests is a writer and activist I follow on Twitter, Feminista Jones, whom I respect. I figured if she did it, it was credible. I listened to a podcast of her stint on the show and got a good idea for what I might be in for with Jesse.
The producer explained that the host, Jesse, would ask me a bit about my background and then delve into questions about the thoughts expressed in my post.
I scheduled my radio début for 8:05am, April 2nd.
The morning of the show, I felt like my heart wouldn’t shut up. Boom, booom, boom at a thousand beats per minute. I forced oatmeal down my throat. It’s good for your brain, they say. I wanted all the brain boosting I could get. Family and friends sent texts of well wishes and affirmations which comforted me. Conducting the interview from the comfort of my couch helped too.
Jesse Lee Patterson is a pastor, baby boomer, and black Republican. He’s known for making controversial statements like:
“Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa”1
“When black liberals say they want to have a ‘conversation’ about race, what they really mean is they want to continue blaming whitey for past racism and perceived ‘white privilege”2
“Barack Obama hates white people — especially white men. Sorry folks, but the truth will set you free!”3
So, I had my work cut out for me.
I remember only snapshots of the experience. I enjoyed the debate. I get a kick out of genuine volleying back-and-forth that doesn’t devolve into name-calling or other foolishness. Jesse did his best to contort some of my statements and paint me into corners, but I think I successfully manage to keep the conversation focused. I agreed with none of his opinions.
Halfway through the show, one of my sisters texted:
“I hate this guy.”
That was around the time Jesse asked me, “What else can white people do for black people, so that black people will finally say: ‘ok you’re not racist, you love me, you’ve given us allllll that we’ve wanted, and we appreciate it, so now we’re going to take control of our own lives’? Is there anything else that white people can do to satisfy black people?”
The discussion lasted for almost the entire hour, broken up by a few commercials. I even got to speak to some callers. One caller tried to trap me by quizzing me on the date of some vague historical event.
My mom texted: “Excuse yourself. You don’t need to be ambushed.”
Of my name, another called commented, “Huh, that’s a good one.” I’m fairly certain that wasn’t meant as a compliment. I could hear him smirking.
As the show neared its end, Jesse thanked me and asked if I would come back. We’ll see. My mom and sister are both adamant that this be a one and done.
Jesse’s approach didn’t faze me. I’ve seen enough talking head interviews and debates to have picked up a few things. Your opponent will always try to distract you with non sequiters. They will attempt to take your words and twist them into a statement so ludicrous you wonder whether your brain sent the right words to your mouth. No distractions. You just gotta stay focused on your mission!
“He’s gonna make me lose my way to Heaven; I’m so angry I’m almost cursing!” My mother didn’t like Jesse Lee Peterson one bit.
You can listen to the show below. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
In the past 6 months I’ve received various inquiries into the state of my womb, specifically about the fact that it’s empty.
When visiting my mom* on the East Coast recently, I reconnected with an aunt whom I haven’t seen since my kid days. I warmed to her immediately; her personality fills a room.
[*I have two moms through a remarriage (dad’s) – one on the East Coast, one in Texas (with dad).]
After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, my aunt said,
“Keisha, you don’t want no husband or children?” It didn’t seem so much a question, but more of a statement of fact. The implication being that if I hadn’t done something by now, I’m not going to.
I laughed. “I wouldn’t say that. It’s not that easy.” I explained that I hadn’t met the right person and have no interest in being a single parent by choice.
I also met a new cousin, my aunt’s tween son, whom my aunt said she calls he`r “menopause baby” because her other four children were nearly grown when she had him.
“May I ask how old you were when he was born?”
She counted silently before saying “35 or 36?”
“35 or 36?! That’s not menopause!”
She shrugged, “Yeah, I guess not. How old are you again?” She leaned back on the maroon leather couch.
Her eyebrows raised slightly; I could see her contemplating how much longer I have in Fertile-ville.
I interrupted her thoughts with, “I’m thinking of getting my eggs frozen.”
She nodded, “I’ve heard about that.”
That seemed to placate her as she turned her attention back to the movie playing the background, White Chicks.
It’s true. Several women I know aged 35+, have chosen to freeze their eggs.
Mere minutes later, my mom, whose quieter nature balances my aunt’s more boisterous one, let out:
“Do you know I am the only one of all my brothers and sisters [all 7 of them] who doesn’t have any grandchildren?”
“You should talk to your other daughter,” I teased her, referring to my younger sister.
A couple of months later, during a call with another older relative with whom I speak regularly, she commented as we were discussing her upcoming 7-th birthday, “I hope I’m around to see you have your first child.”
I know she didn’t mean for her words to sting, but they kind of did. Sometimes septuagenarians keep it a little too real. Still, I agree, if the kids are gonna happen, it’d be nice for them to meet her. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about that though.
A few weeks after, I was chatting to my Texas mom when she non sequitured:
“I miss holding a baby on my chest. I want to be a grandmother. Hold a baby for a week.”
“You have two grandchildren!” I reminded her, speaking of my niece and nephew, my oldest sister’s children.
“They are not babies anymore!” They sure aren’t. My little nephew ain’t so little anymore and he speaks with a man’s voice. He’ll be attending college soon. The last time I visited, my niece – his younger sister – asked me about my makeup and jewelry.
I suppose I should take it as a good sign that people are even asking me about my baby plans. At some point, if I still don’t have children, people will stop asking because they’ll assume I’ve moved into uterine retirement and it’s a moot point. Though, that day may not come for a while longer if the trend of women having children in their 40s and 50s continues.
I appreciate articles like this that cover an often overlooked perspective. It’s as though as women we’re supposed to feel strongly one way or the other about having kids. Like there’s no room for a less vehement conviction. I can see a future for myself with or without kids.
I think I’d like to be a mom. I know I would work hard at it. Occasionally, I’ll see a chubby-cheeked brown baby or toddler who looks like they could be mine and I think about what my children might look like. Then again, some days I really appreciate being able to sleep in and only having to deal with swatting away the cat. And quite frankly, I have personal misgivings about from time to time about bringing another human into this at times, terrible, scary world.
With each passing birthday, I wonder if that will be the year I’m suddenly going to be overcome with hormone-infused baby obsession. Where every man I approach is not just a man, but a potential co-conspirator in baby-production shenanigans. “Is it you? Are you my baby’s daddy? You smell like you’d be a good dad. Do you have parents within a two-hour radius who could help with childrearing? It takes a village, you know. How do you feel about spanking, co-sleeping and helicopter parents?” The day has yet to arrive.
That’s not to say that there aren’t women who have clearly defined views on personal motherhood. I have friends who say they knew they wanted to be a mom the instant they picked up their first babydoll. On the other hand, I know more than a few women whom are content to be awesome aunts. For them, kids are cool as long as they can be returned to sender. Then there are those who would rather kids stay the hell away from them, the creepy creatures.
Maybe one day I’ll be a mom, but it’s possible that kids of my own aren’t in my future. I know what my options are and I will do what I can to maximize them, but I’m not interested in spending too much energy stressing out about it.
A guy I once dated lectured me: “Keisha, as an intelligent, successful black woman, don’t you feel somewhat morally obligated to produce and raise the next generation’s successes? We need people like you to have children.”
As if I don’t have enough on my shoulders.
If you are a parent, did you always know you wanted to have children? If you don’t have children, do you have strong feelings one way or the other about having kids? Or are you ambivalent?
This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Girl Next Door is Black.
Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!
Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.
A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.
As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.
I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.
How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.
“C’mon ladies, you can do this! 15 more seconds! Think about all the delicious Thanksgiving food you’ll get to have next week. I just made a butternut squash casserole last night to test out and it was so tasty. There’re sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, turkey – which I don’t even really like…Why do I have Thanksgiving food on my mind?”
My bubbly Pilates instructor gabbed on about Thanksgiving as we held our planks for what felt like the longest 15 seconds in history. A classmate chimed in: “You have one week and a day!”
What did she say? I cocked my head to the side as we moved on to triceps exercises on the tower.
“It’s next week?!” I asked, more with surprise than an actual need for confirmation.
She nodded and gave me a curious look, probably thinking “How do you not know it’s next week?” I bet she started prepping for it weeks ago. My class is often half-full of these super-stay-at-home moms and sometimes it’s like we speak different languages and live in two different universes. When they get to talking about mom stuff, like leaky post-pregnancy bladders that prevent them from joining in certain jumping exercises, I certainly understand the concept, but I can’t really add much, unless it’s to say, “Oh yeah, I have a few girlfriends that have that problem. My bladder is in tact though; no babies. So..there’s that. Yay, Pilates!”
Well crap, I don’t have plans yet. Where did the time go?
It’s again that time of year where I have to figure out where I’m spending the holidays, so I don’t spend them alone and marathon family- and romance-oriented holiday movies on Hallmark Channel that leave me a blithering mess buried in used tissues. Or log into Facebook, scroll through friends’ festive family photos and magnificent foodscapes of mouth-drooling Instagram-worthy meals, growing bitter and more self-pitying with each “like” of a photo. To top it off, a cheerful type will post,
“Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!! 🙂 🙂 I’m so thankful for my blessings and to be here with my loving family on this special day. Enjoy your time with your loved ones everyone!!!!!!! 🙂 !”
Sometimes Facebook is evil.
Most days I’m generally content with singlehood. A notable exception is when the holiday trio of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve roll around. Instead of being filled with glee and anticipation, I feel anxiety: “What am I going to do with myself this year?” These three holidays are when I’m most vulnerable to loneliness and melancholy. It ain’t easy being alone on holidays that revolve around love and togetherness. When these holidays are good, they’re fantastic. If you’re single and your family (of origin) lives states away and other single friends fly off to reunite with their families, these holidays become a source of stress.
Thanksgiving is particularly more difficult to plan for because traditionally, I, like many others, don’t get much time off from work. Flying somewhere for a four-day weekend at Thanksgiving prices doesn’t seem smart. So, you’re alone. What to do?
The single folks aren’t the first thing that come to mind when most people are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure. They’re just focused on their families. I’ve done a few Friendsgivings with other single friends in the past. I could never find a consistent group though; people kept moving. I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings with other friends’ families. Though, I can’t help but feeling like “one of these people doesn’t belong.”
I’ve volunteered a couple of times. I don’t much like volunteering for holidays. It’s a lot like being a regular gym-goer on January 2nd. Suddenly the gym is packed with people who’ve vowed to get fit this year! By February 2nd, the gym is back to normal.
I’ve spent at least one Thanksgiving and one Christmas alone and I didn’t really care for it. Though, you can’t spend the holidays with just anybody.
Sometimes you get the pity invites. Where, for instance, a random coworker asks what your plans are for Thanksgiving and you panic because you don’t have plans yet, but you don’t want to say that and seem like a friendless loser. You also don’t want to lie, so you casually answer, “I don’t know yet…” Trailing off to allude to the million wonderful invitations you are sifting through. They reply, with an undercurrent of hesitance, “Well…you’re welcome to spend the holiday with my family. My grandma’s kind of racist, haha, but she’s harmless. I’m sure she’ll like you. I’ll have to check with my husband/sister/cousin/brother/mother/uncle’s wife’s dog first. I’m sure it’ll be fine though! The more the merrier, right?”
You know they’re just being polite and given you don’t even hang out outside of work, spending an intimate holiday together might be a little awkward.
Or you accept a friend’s invitation to dinner with her family who isn’t American, so Thanksgiving means something entirely different to them. Ordinarily you love to eat myriad cuisine, but on Thanksgiving you just want Thanksgiving food, there are 364 other days in the year to eat other stuff. You can’t complain though. Your friend invited you and that was very sweet of her, so shut up and eat the rice.
Also, why does everyone in California eat pumpkin pie? Has no one never heard of the far superior sweet potato pie?
Yes, I like marshmallows on my sweet potatoes; no I don’t think it’s too sweet. My family originated in the South – well, after Africa – I want my Thanksgiving food to taste like someone put their foot in it.
Why are their raisins in this dish?
Jokes aside, it’s a beautiful thing when other people invite you to be part of their family for the day and include you in their holiday memories. There are no rules for what makes up a family and I’m grateful to those who’ve included me.
I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do this year. It’s a week away!
Thank goodness I’ve got a trip planned for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Though I only lived in New York the first decade of my life, going back to visit always feels like returning home in a way that I can’t explain. It’s as though everything is the way it’s supposed to be. My parents are from New York as are my uncles, aunts, grandparents and fifty-eleven cousins. The New York runs deep in my clan and I try to visit as often as I can.
One of my favorite things to do in New York is eat. The food in New York is like none other. While I appreciate a fancy multi-course meal like the next fine dining fan or food snob-in-training, those meals often come at a snooty price and I’m on a tighter budget these days. Luckily, there is plenty to eat in New York at non-frightening, down-to-earth prices and I took advantage during my latest trip to New York.
I never leave New York without having a slice of pizza. Our first night in the city, my sister C__ and I headed to the West Village to chow down at John’s Pizzeria.
Booth at John’s Pizzeria where diners etch in initials and notes
A medium pizza at John’s, no topping needed
So happy. (And tired, this was taken after a 5.5 hour plane ride for which I had to wake up at 5:00am. Travel to the East Coast from the West Coast is exhausting.
When I ordered one scoop of dolce de leche and one of peanut butter caramel at Cones and pronounced caramel as “care-a-mel” and no one looked at me sideways, nor were their objections of “it’s “car-muhl!” It was like New York opened its arms to me and said, “You’re home.”
I love diners, especially if the food is good. We stumbled on a quaint one in Tribeca called The Kitchenetteand their menu full of comfort foods. The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was good and I dig the decor and ambiance.
My sister at The Kitchenette
Desserts at The Kitchenette include pies, cupcakes and creme brulee.
This is me before the waiter told me my breakfast didn’t come with grits, like he originally told me.
Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The gravy was tasty.
The KMC – Kitchenette macaroni and cheese. My sister’s review, “They broke the cardinal rule of macaroni and cheese: Always include cheddar!”
The Kitchenette – Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. The muffin fell apart pretty easily, I was expecting to be able to eat it as a sandwich, but it required a knife and fork. Not bad, but not great.
My parents are big fans of Junior’s Cheesecake and passed the love down to me. While the Times Square location isn’t a replacement for the original Brooklyn spot, it’s a good substitute. It’s situated smack in the center of the Broadway district and they’re open late, so it’s a great place to catch a post-show meal.
Local beer – Brookyn Brewery lager
I love that in New York I can get a hotdog with sauerkraut; add spicy mustard and it’s my favorite way to eat one.
Strawberry cheesecake at Juniors
I first visited Luke’s Lobster a few years ago after finding out about it from the show Food Feuds. It won the challenge against another Manhattan restaurant famous for it’s lobster rolls, Ed’s Lobster Bar. While I’m no lobster roll expert, Luke’s Lobster roll is the best I’ve had, so the small restaurant required a return visit!
Side note: I randomly met the owner of Luke’s a few summers ago in The Hamptons.
I love a tasty, juicy burger and Shake Shack’s burger is one of my faves. The crinkle-fries are a bonus. I never have enough room for the shakes or the frozen custard they are also known for. I’ve had a taste of both though and they are equally delectable.
As a giant Golden Girls fan, when I saw the “Bea Arthur” on the menu at the Big Gay Ice Cream shop, all the other options fell away. It was about me and Dorothy Zbornak. Me and Maude.
Menu at Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
The Bea Arthur: Vanilla ice cream, dolce de leche and Nilla wafers
In a little less than five days, my sister and I walked nearly 15 miles all over New York City. This is a good thing considering how much we ate. Still, I didn’t get to hit every spot I wanted to. We did have to leave room for non-pigging out activities! I guess I’ll have to go back to New York soon!
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My career counselor told me she thinks I have post traumatic stress from my last two jobs.
I laughed when she said it. The past two years have been intense for sure, but post traumatic stress? Isn’t that usually reserved for soldiers, victims of violence – you know, real trauma?
I knew my sense of confidence and self-efficacy took a serious hit with thejob I left in 2013. I admittedly felt a bit raw going into the next place. Like jumping into another relationship when you’re on the rebound. However, unlike a relationship, working to bring in an income is essential to my survival, since the only person taking care of me, is me.
My career counselor also astutely assessed: “You probably felt increasingly anxious when asked for things.” How did she know?!
Due to the nature of my last role, I received many requests (or “demands” depending on who did the asking) to the point where when my phone would ring or chime, even outside of work, I’d sigh wearily and wonder, “Who wants something from me now?” I am fairly certain I experienced my first anxiety attack at that place, so…maybe she was onto something with the post traumatic stress. She does have a psychotherapy background, after all.
She presented this unofficial diagnosis after I shared with her that while job searching – feeling as though my life were in limbo until I secured a new job – when I reviewed job descriptions and envisioned what the day-to-day work might look like, I felt such an intense aversion. Worse than my revulsion at the idea of spending an afternoon with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Elizabeth Hasselbeck. As though one of those positions might beguilingly lead me into the arms of an invisible boogeyman, its massive hands slowly tightening around my dainty lady throat until I can’t breathe. Squeezing the life out of me.
Eep. So, maybe I am a bit burned out.
One morning, a few weeks after I lost my job, my youngest sister, C___, called me and when I answered, her words rushed out before I finished saying “Hello,”
“Keisha, omigosh! Ok, I know this is going to sound ‘all about me’, but can I just tell you? The best thing about you not having a job is I can reach you whenever I want to now!”
I chuckled. She was right. In the short time since I’d become a woman of leisure, she and I had spoken more often, almost daily. We even Facetimed! What is this magical world where one has time to face…time?
I traveled to Austin a couple of weeks ago for a needed vacation. Yes, you can need a vacation from the exhaustion of cycling through what I term “The Five Stages of Layoff Grief” and worriedly wondering what you’re going to do with you life. I also wanted to reconnect with another part of myself.
Having moved around a bit, people sometimes ask me, “Which place feels more like home to you?” Every place feels a bit like home to me. Each place I’ve lived and where I’ve experienced life in new and unfamiliar ways, has helped to shape who I am. The me that I am in San Francisco, the life that I live here, only represents one part of me, it’s one view of my world. Austin represents another. I have family there in the way of close friends and now my sister C___.
Importantly, in Austin, I’m more easily able to relinquish the fear of being vulnerable, fear of having my insecurities and weaknesses exposed. The walls that we gradually stack up as adults are more permeable in this place where I lived as a college student. There’s no putting up fronts with my Austin family. To boot, the town is friendlier; I could shed my tough city armor. I needed time away to breathe; to let the waist out.
I stayed with my sister, whom having newly graduated from college, just began a new job and rented her first non-college apartment. My last evening in town we assembled her new dresser while Mork & Mindy (RIP Robin Williams) and then The Cosby Show played in the background.
I loved being able to spend time with my little sister, doing nothing more than setting up her apartment. With our 13-year age difference and living so far away from each other, I miss/ed out on the chance to do some of these simple activities with her.
I also met up with several of my friends from college, including former roommates, my best friend and a friend, F___, with whom I keep in touch on Facebook, but hadn’t seen since we graduated over a decade ago.
Over breakfast with F___ – the food in Austin is excellent – we caught up on the goings-on in our lives since college. She’d worked for nearly a decade as a CPA until one day realizing she didn’t like it very much and didn’t want to do it anymore. As she described her emotional evolution, I identified with almost everything she described feeling.
I told her I felt like I’d become a robot. It happened gradually enough that I didn’t notice the spark fading from my smile, the twinkle from eyes. She nodded as I shared that working in the environments I did forced me to repress so much of my natural self.
Whether it be stifling my creativity and humor in writing a report – gotta be professional, no quips allowed! Or something as basic as adapting to the fact that a lot of people don’t say good morning to each other at work (or other social niceties) and you need to calm your friendly Texas ass down.
Simply not being able to say of the lazy, pompous blowhard with a penchant for taking credit for other people’s work and throwing others under the bus (and there are always these people), “This guy is a poison to the team. At least five people have left because of him, yet you guys are steady promoting this fool. If the company goes down, you have yourselves to blame for being blinded by bullshit;” or when you want to shout in a ridiculously contentious meeting, “We’re not curing cancer people, calm the fuck down! No one is going to die!”
F___ is currently exploring an interest in the film industry on the business side of things, and encouraged me to take some time to consider what’s I want to do next. As she smartly said, “Working for years and taking a couple of weeks off every once in a while isn’t long enough to get re-acquainted with who you are.”
She’s right. I’ve been out of work for almost two and a half months now and it’s not until just recently that I’ve felt even close to being me again. It’s as though I’ve been unwittingly enrolled in a crash course called: “Revisiting Keisha: 101.” I returned from Austin reinvigorated.
Perhaps my career counselor exaggerated a bit when she said I have post traumatic stress, perhaps not. I certainly don’t think my situation compares to more typical PTSD cases. I do know that I haven’t felt this free and light in a long while. I smile more, I laugh more, I write more, I read more and I have more time for the people I care for. Sunday night thoughts are no longer sullied with the pallor of the impending Monday morning. I’m enjoying seeing the world from a different perspective – it’s different with the daytime free! Even my career counselor, whom, up until a couple of weeks ago, hadn’t seen me in almost a year – since I took the most recent job – commented when she greeted me, “You look great! I can see it in your eyes.”
I don’t want to return to the way things were before.
Recently during lunch with a co-worker, Mighty* – we’ve bonded in our search for sanity in the crazytown that is our work environment – she exclaimed, “Keisha, I have to tell you! Something you told me really helped me!”
A few weeks earlier, on our way back from lunch, dodging poo on the sidewalk (dog? human? who knows), sidestepping a disheveled-looking man angrily muttering to himself and quickly breezing past a urine-scented staircase, – in other words, a not atypical walk in certain parts of San Francisco – Mighty told me how she’d fallen victim to a scam on a popular website – a website which began as a consumer-to-consumer auction site, we’ll call it, “eCray”.
She sold an expensive electronic item to someone who conned her out of four figures. Distraught and poorer, she complained to eCray’s customer service who told her due to some loophole, “Sorry for ya, but you screwed yourself. Sucks for you though, we get that. Maybe call a lawyer? Ok, bye! Please shop again!”
Clearly exasperated and frustrated, she concluded, “I guess I’m just out all of that money! It was stupid! I can’t believe they won’t do anything!”
I recounted to her the tale of my great battle against the big online bookstore that put many baby bookstores out of business. But, I didn’t buy a book from them, I bought something else, because they sell other stuff too, everything actually, it’s pretty amazing. Let’s call that company, “Jungle.”
Due to a botched transaction with a reseller (they have stuff for resale too!), I was owed a refund which I never received. At the time, Jungle’s customer service that was so bad and it angered me so much I wondered if I needed therapy, after all, it wasn’t all that much money. But, THEY messed up and THEY needed to give me back my money. It’s the principle of the thing. So, when Jungle’s customer service hit me with:
“We are sorry for your inconvenience, but our policy states that we must be money-hoarding automatons with fake names – because you know and I know my name isn’t really ‘Brad’ or ‘George’ or ‘Angelina’, but something less easy for the average American to pronounce – and we can’t give you a refund. But, sorry, that sucks ma’am. Ok, bye! Please shop again!”
Screw that. I drafted a letter and an email – old school and new school – to “whom it may concern”, about the small amount I was owed, why it was owed to me and the amount of ridiculous shenanigans and fuckery that ensued when I tried to reclaim my money thanks to their blood-pressure raising, script-reading, customer service. In summary, I added how I’m not going to be shopping there anymore because they’ve left a bad taste in my mouth and I will never be the same. Ever.
Letter stamped, dropped in the mail and email sent to the VP of Customer Service, the VP of Marketing and the VP of VPness. That should about reach at least one person high enough who will care that a customer is so upset she’ll take her fight up the ladder and tell the whole damn neighborhood about it.
A few weeks later, I received a lovely email from a VP expressing intense regret at the unfortunate experiences I’d endured at Jungle’s hands along with a refund for the full amount owed and a gift card to buy anything I like (you can buy Q-tips! Q-tips delivered to your doorstep in two days!).
When I finished the story about my battle against the giant Jungle, Mighty let out a big breath: “Wow, I didn’t think of that. You’re right; I should do that, because I am so angry! That is so wrong, they should be protecting their customers!”
At lunch, she recalled the telling of that anecdote and being marveled by my perseverance. I offered as explanation:
“I guess I just never take ‘no’ for an answer. I never really thought about it, but I think I just figure there’s always a way around most things. There’s almost always someone higher up who can get you what you need or another solution around a roadblock.
I just keep trying until I decide either it’s no longer worth it or I’ve exhausted my solutions. I ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and decide if it’s worth it.”
I added, “I think it’s a family thing.”
Ready for another story within a story?
I shared with her how Last Christmas, back in Texas to visit the family, I went to the movies with my mom and younger sister to see the film Mandela. Unfortunately, an older version of Martha and the Vandellas were there too, gossiping like church ladies. Now this is Man.de.la, a movie about a man of great historical importance, who, along with his fellow South African supporters, suffered through much violence and debasement as demonstrated in evocative scenes. Imagine having your stream of emotions interrupted by obnoxious braying:
“Honeyyyyyyyy, I couldn’t!”
“Hahahaha, I know!“
My mom and sister periodically turned around presumably to mean-mug them. A few other patrons in the mostly empty theatre attempted to shush them, but they’d start right back up again, clucking away like plump hens freed from their pen.
Ordinarily, this is exactly the kind of shit that sticks in my craw. I have paid damn near the price of a concert ticket to sit in this dark theatre with strangers and my family, eating overpriced artery-clogging popcorn because the stuff is addictive, and these women here, these women here, are bleating their way through Mandela. Mandela!
However, I was more fascinated with my mom and sister and their fascination with Rude, Ruder & Rudest.
My sister huffed. Then she stood up. She is 22 and has more confidence and self-assuredness at her age than I had my entire high school experience. She whispered, “I’m going to find the manager.”
A long 10 minutes later, my sister returned, shortly followed by a young usher, who looked like he’s capable of nothing more than wrestling a stuffed tiger, peered toward the back of the theatre where the three assmigas have caught on and were silently behaving themselves.
He stood in place for a beat, probably sizing up the women, shrugged – I’m sure he realized they could take him and the stuffed tiger he wrestled – and he exited the theatre without a word to them.
We were not impressed.
For a blissful half an hour, the women remained largely silent, shuffling and shifting weight periodically, almost as though the pain of holding back their witty commentary might eat them up from inside, until finally bits of conversation, varying in volume from a whisper to audible travel-level and worked its way toward us:
“and then…yeah, uh huh…right, so then…and he…”
Gah!. We did our best to ignore their voices as they chittered intermittently during the movie.
After the film, my mom approached the useless usher and requested to speak to the manager.
“Yes, ma’am!” He immediately turned and headed for a private door.
I think he would have flown to the manager to get there faster if he could. My mom’s tone indicated, “I mean business. You better get moving! Nobody’s playing here!”
When the manager arrived, my mom and sister calmly explained to the him the pain we suffered through having our Mandela experience ruined: Do you know how much movie tickets are these days? And my sister/daughter is in town all the way from California! and this is what she has to go through? I just find this unacceptable. We did not enjoy ourselves.
I stood silently in awe trying to avoid breaking out in a full smile of pride.
In less than five minutes, we emerged from the theatre having received an apology and 8 passes to see any movie we like.
“I wrote to the Vice President of Customer Service at eCray like you suggested,” Mighty said, “and I got it resolved! It was so fast! They refunded all my money! I have to remember this! Thank you for your help!”
Sometimes it pays not to take no for an answer.
* Name changed for the sake of making my life easier
I just got off the phone with my dad. A 45-minute conversation.
Our conversation went something like this:
“I just tried calling you. Your voicemail box is full.”
“Oh, ok. Yeah, I never check it.”
“Someone might want to call you and leave you a message. Gotta check that.”
The only people who call me and leave messages are Walgreen’s pharmacy with an automated message letting me know that my prescription is ready. That’s it. So, not even a person.
“Ok, I will.”
Every conversation with my dad these days involves at least three themes: reminiscing about old times (and asking me if I remember them), commentary on current events & society (“Facebook is not an adequate means of communication. Your generation likes that. I don’t do that Facebook thing. Texting is not talking.”), and objections to the insane weather in Midwest, where he works.
He continued. Thoughts rolling out like waves. The only words I got in edgewise were:
“Uh, huh”, “Yeah,” “You’re right, dad,” “OK, dad,” “Oh, yeah, that is weird,” “I know I should go back to school and get my Master’s.”
With a college professor’s cadence, he touched on everything from the legacy he wants to leave in life, to explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to me (a concept with which, when he asked, I said I was familiar, but he explained it to me anyway), to how Seahawks’ Quarterback Russell Wilson got married “a tad too early” at 23. However, 49ers’ QB, Colin Kaepernick, can strut down the street with Beats headphones on and be a stud to women ’cause he’s single and therefore potentially attainable.
What is this conversation we are having?
I felt my inner teen threatening an appearance, eyes ready to roll all the way up in my head, familiar thoughts resurfacing in my head like, “God, dad! I’m not a kid, I knooooow!”
I hate that I regress like this. I’ll be 50 years old, eyes all the way up in my head, like I’m 13, thinking: “Daaad, I’ve been alive for 1/2 a century now. I know!”
Then he was told me about the shows that film in Chicago like Chicago Fire. Honestly, I was half listening; we were 25 minutes in. I have had a very
busy and stressful few weeks at work and had Ratatouille cued up because my brain couldn’t handle the mentally taxing reality of non-animated fare. I tried watching the latest episode of The Vampire Diariesthe night before and I couldn’t even follow the story; that’s how mentally exhausted I am. You know it’s a real “I need to metaphorically lobotomize myself” kind of weekend when even a teen drama about hot vampires is too much.
And then I heard him say, “My buddy and I saw, who’s that guy, from that movie…Magic…Magic ‘Something’…Mike…Magic Mike?”
“Magic Mike? CHANNING TATUM?!”
I wanted to squeal and church dance. My dad saw Channing Tatumin the flesh! I had so many questions. What did he look like? What was he wearing? I hope a tight blue t-shirt that made his eyes shine like the sun and did serious justice to his pecs. What did he smell like? Was he tall? Were there little singing blue birds trailing behind him? He’s so not my type. And yet…
How has my dad seen Channing Tatum and I haven’t?! That is why I moved to L.A.! To see hot male actors in the flesh! (Oh, you thought I had legit reasons?)
I didn’t squeal though. I kept it chill.
“Oh, him. Yeah, that’s cool.” I mean, ain’t no thing. OMFG! Channing Tatum! My friend, E, just saw him on her flight last month. Why is everyone seeing Channing Tatum but me?
“So, what are your thoughts, Keisha?”
Damn! In my Channing reverie I’d checked out and hadn’t realized he’d continued talking. In my fog, I recall hearing the words “cold,” “sub-zero,” and “damn heavy jackets.” I guessed the topic had shifted to the Midwest’s cold weather.
“Oh yeah, that’s really cold! We’ve actually been having an unusually warm winter here. It’s been like 65 and sunny. It’s actually…” I was going to say that we actually finally got some much-needed rain, but he interjected with:
“65. Ho ho! That’s like telling a starving man you had a buffet with steak! 65!! What’s the high?”
“Um, that is the high. It doesn’t get that hot here.” I laughed, but it’s actually not that funny. I’d like to wear shorts once in a while too, you know, and not have to worry about rushing home to change into pants before nightfall arrives and the temperature drops 20 degrees. Like I’m Cinderella or something, dashing home before she turns back into a fake ugly girl.
“65! I tell you….”
I could tell he was happy to be on the phone with me. He didn’t outright say that, of course. He’s not the type to skywrite his feelings or Oprah-ize, though he’s certainly become more sentimental with age. Jokes aside, I appreciate these conversations with him. They are endearing. Frustrating at times (and whose conversations with their parents sometimes aren’t?), but endearing. As I get older, I become more aware of my parent’s mortality and I value the time I have with them to get to know them as adults.
“…find someone you have things in common with. If you marry a slob and you’re neat, it’s not gonna work. Don’t believe in that ‘opposites attract’ business. You understand what I mean, Keisha?”
“Uh, huh. Yes, Dad. Often it’s those little quirks you think are ‘cute’ at first, that become the most annoying or tiresome.” See? I know things!
“Right. Speaking of dating: how’s that going?”
Did I say our conversations revolved around three themes? Well, make that four.
My concerned dad, seated in front of me in the booth, waited to hear whether I was self-sabotaging my romantic possibilities and thus crushing his dreams of seeing more grandchildren. Grandchildren from his firstborn. No pressure.
I’d returned to Houston to visit my family for the Christmas holiday. My dad had kidnapped me from my parents’ house, where funnily enough I’d been regaling my mom with dating horror stories. He’d returned from running whatever errands dads run and whisked me away. He didn’t tell me where we were going. I didn’t know until we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. I guess we’re eating then.
I knew I wouldn’t escape this trip without one conversation with my dad about my love life. I know he just wants me to find love. Of course, what’s amusing is my dad spent a large majority of my existence trying to keep the male species a universe away from me. He’d warn me: “I know what boys are like, Keisha, I used to be one.”
Once in high school, a boy called our house asking for my older sister. Unfortunately for him, my father answered. I couldn’t hear the boy, but I did hear my dad’s booming voice sternly admonish,
Young man, when you call to speak to one of my daughters you first
say, ‘Hello, Mr. ___, how are you?’ Then you ask to speak to my daughter. Do you understand me?
No doubt by this point, the kid was shitting his pants and “yes, sir”ing up a storm. My dad has a way with words and a voice that rightly suggests you best not mess with him. He hung up the phone on the boy. My sister was teenage-d pissed, which is pissed with a large injection of crazy-hormones. To the four girls under his protection eavesdropping upstairs my dad yelled, “Don’t be having none of these knucklehead boys with no manners calling here with some foolishness!” My whole family is full of “articulate black people”, but get us worked up and the blaccent suddenly makes an appearance.
Decades later, here we sat, dad and daughter, released from her cage years ago. My dad was essentially asking me what was wrong with my pimp game.
I hate this assumption that single women past a certain age are single because they have unrealistic expectations. That may be true for some, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. Trust me, I’ve done the self-reflection.
I sighed, as respectfully as possible, before answering, “No. I mean, unless you think wanting someone who is gainfully employed, ambitious, open-minded, clean, socially conscious, knowledgeable about current events, has social skills and likes to travel, is having high standards. Even then, someone can have all these great qualities, but for some reason, there’ll be no connection.”
“For instance, dad, I have a guy friend who told me he wants a basketball team full of kids. First of all, nobody in this area,” I said, while pointing at my “womb” region, “wants anything to do with five babies. Second, I wasn’t then and am not now young enough to be popping out all those kids. There’s not enough time! So, needless to say, he’s out. He’s a good guy, but I don’t want five kids.”
He nodded, pensive, and asked curiously, “What do you mean by ‘social skills’?”
I thought back to a Match.com date I’d gone on last spring.
His appearance was fine enough, but you know how “they” say that a woman knows within some number of minutes of meeting a man whether she’ll sleep with him? Upon seeing him, sex-repellent particles filled my body with a rush. No way it was ever going down with him. But, I thought, who knows? Maybe his personality will change things.
We met at a cafeI suggested because although he asked me out, he had no plans to offer. I’d been in San Francisco all of four months at that time, so I had a limited knowledge of date spots. My criteria were simple: Yelp-approved food, on a bus line and alcohol available. Ain’t nobody here for a first date without the option of loose juice.
He arrived before I did and I’m perpetually five minutes early to places. Points for timeliness!
The conversation was a bit stilted. He was a little awkward, more than “first date jitters” awkward. If he looked like he wanted to fall asleep while telling me about his job, you can imagine how I felt hearing about it.
“You’re really pretty. You must get lots of dates on Match. How many dates have you been on?” he asked.
A proper compliment (yay!) and an odd followup. “Thanks! This is my first date actually.”
Are we supposed to talk about this? Like comparing war stories of the online dating game? Show our battle scars in the form of baggage and skepticism?
“I’ve been on a few,” he shared. “The girls are pretty cool. Lot of people who seem to want to go do all these crazy, adventurous things though. I’m more of a homebody.”
The sex-repellent particles buzzed in my body like crackhead tics, reminding me of their presence.
Nope, no sir. Been there, done that. Not looking for a homebody! I am sure he will find a compatible quiet girl who wants to be home with him indenting the sofa, but I’m not that girl.
I sifted through my arsenal of conversation topics, attempting to the keep the conversation lively, pulling a little too hard on my beer. If I drink it, this will be fun.
Out of nowhere he asked, “So are you really 3_? A woman I went out with from Match told me she was 36, but she was really 38. If I had known she was 38, I wouldn’t have gone out with her. I mean, I have to think about having kids. She said she gets more hits when she says she’s 36. I didn’t ask her out again.”
What in the? I sympathize with the woman; I’m younger than she is, but not by much. I could be her in a few years: single and increasingly worried about aging out of the window of much male interest; feeling the weight of my declining fertility. But, I don’t lie about my age, or at all, really. I have spent the majority of my life having to convince people that I’m not as young as I appear. When I was 13, my parents tried a few times to buy me the 12- and under ticket at the movies to get the discount (“Keisha, just pretend you’re 12 if they ask.”). I would expressly and proudly tell the cashier I was 13, thankyouverymuch. My parents couldn’t be mad; I’d told the truth. My truth cost them two extra dollars.
The idea that I would age myself down made me chuckle. He sounded a touch paranoid. “Yes, I am really 3_.”
“Can I see your driver’s license? Haha. I’m just kidding.” He totally wasn’t kidding. I pulled out my driver’s license to humor him (I covered my address; I am nobody’s fool).
“See? 3_.” He nodded, satisfied.
“So, do you want to go on a second date? he blurted. The only thing is, I don’t drink during the week. But, I drink on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Who said anything about drinking? I know I showed more affection for my beer than for him, but I still had a third of a pint remaining! And what’s with the rules? Drink or don’t drink, that’s your prerogative. But, to have a rule about when you’ll drink it? How very opposite of fun. Rules for what days of the week you will and will not drink seems rigid to me. I don’t do well with rigidity. It makes me feel…confined. What about Thirsty Thursday? No drinking on weeknights? Get outta here with that crazy talk!
We didn’t go out again. He was nice. Nice isn’t a positive descriptor though. It’s just there. Sitting. Being nice. Doing not much else. Nice doesn’t light anyone’s fire. Nice doesn’t wiggle eyebrows. There was nothing wrong with him, he just wasn’t right, for me. He was nice though.
I concluded the retelling of this date to my dad with, “I am a social person. I like to meet people, I like to learn about people, I like to entertain. I cannot be with someone who will be on me like a boil if we’re at a social event. Following me around because he can’t make conversation on his own. Fearing what words might come out of his mouth. That will get old fast. He told me he’s a bit shy and a homebody. I wasn’t interested. He was nice enough though.” I don’t mean nice in that “women always reject nice guys for bad boys” way. No mature woman with sense is still chasing “bad boys.” I mean nice as in, neutral.
My dad made a noise I can only describe as a cross between a huff and grunt – a gruff – indicating he was absorbing my words and ready to move on. We were done…for now.
There is no great answer to the question of why I am single in my 30s. I didn’t choose a career over love or any of that nonsense posited in silly articles berating women for their single status. I didn’t push away great catches. I wasn’t tossing Idris Elbas or even Stephen Colberts (smart and makes me laugh? *swoon*) aside on the regular.
I dated around in my 20s, with some difficulty at times (thanks Los Angeles), and eventually dated someone for a significant part of my 20s, but things didn’t work out, for which I am actually quite grateful, though at the time it devastated me. We broke up a couple of months after I turned 30 and I recall thinking with a heavy heart, “I am now a 30-year old single woman. I am that stereotype. I will never find anyone now. Couldn’t we have broken up when I was 28? Nobody wants anyone after 30.”
I’d fed on a societal diet of sexist, limiting, defeatist, panic-inducing, judgmental, regressive, unrealistic views of female self-actualization and dating. I’d internalized a lot of it. I know better now. Those woeful thoughts have long been expelled, like the absolute crap they are, and I have a more measured and optimistic view of my dating life.
I am single because I am waiting for the right person. Unfortunately, I only have so much control over when and how I may meet the right person for me. It may be cliché, but I do want to be with someone I feel like I can’t be without and not just someone I can tolerate.
I would rather wait for the right person than be with someone I know I’m settling for because it eases societal pressure and judgement. I fear ending up in a bad marriage or relationship more than I fear ending up an “old maid” with cats.
Speaking of “Old Maid”, I played that gameas a kid. It occurs me to now just what a horrible game it is. What a message to send to young girls; nobody wants to end up with the loser Old Maid card.
Kids, look at this poor old wrinkled lady. She’s ALL ALONE. She can’t possibly be happy ALL ALONE! BEWARE, this could be you one day if you’re not careful, girls! ALL ALONE!
I date. Of course I date; I’m a young female with a pulse who isn’t a dog. It isn’t all that hard to find someone who will take you out, well, kinda – the quality may be questionable. With some people, I get the impression they think I’m sitting at home many nights, deciding whether to knit or cross-stitch, sullenly dreaming of a Prince Charming scooping me up, self-pitying my life of solitude. If I even so much as acknowledge I think an adult human with a penis is cute, it’s “Oh! Is he single? Did you talk to him? Are you going to ask him out?” It’s all said with a great sense of urgency, as though men are high-speed trains running on a tight schedule and I need to hop on the next one coming before it’s too late and the train makes it to the final destination, marriage, without me. It’s not that serious. Like, damn, I didn’t say I want to babymake with him. I am out living the best life I can and having a damn good time doing it! I already have many colorful stories to share along with the accompanying memorable experiences, and I have, I hope, decades remaining to create even more, with or without a romantic partner.
When in I was in my 20s, out at bars, clubs and restaurants, as I often was, I’d observe a subset of women in their 30s & 40s and their intense pursuit in search of “the one” before the clock ran out. The pressure came from everywhere. They were constantly talking about men, dating men, looking for men, talking about ways to attract men, places to go to meet men. Their eyes would automatically scan any room they entered for eligible bachelors as they halfheartedly listened to a friend prattle on about what she learned in the latest self-help dating book You’re Single Because You’re a Smelly, Toad-Like Nice Girl (but too slutty). There’s Still Hope For You! You’re Not a Total Loser!
It saddened me for them, but I also saw these experiences as cautionary. Some women truly did seem desperate, which is attractive to few; others were just earnestly hoping to find “the one.” I never wanted that to be in the desperate class. I have better things to do in this short life than obsess over men.
I don’t really share my dating life with many outside of a small circle. People are at times nosy, gossipy and easily jump to conclusions when it comes to the dating life of a singleton and I’m not here to be anyone’s live episode of Scandal. Save it for Olivia Pope. There’s still a double standard in societal perceptions of the dating lives of men and women.
There’s also a tendency of some to second-guess your behavior, to try to help you avoid coming off as a bad catch, or to give you unsolicited dating advice, because obviously what you’ve been doing isn’t working. I appreciate the advice random co-worker who probably last dated in the ’70s. Unless you can tell me how you’d handle a guy requesting you text him photos of your its ‘n’ bits after one date, I don’t need to hear it from you.
My dating life is none of anyone’s business and it’s not fodder for others to live vicariously through. I’ve had coupled up people say to me, “I have to live through your dating experiences!” No you don’t. If you want to be entertained by dating experiences, date, shake up your own relationship or watch Maury. Single people aren’t here for the entertainment of the paired up.
I’m doing what I’m “supposed” to do. I date against my “type”, I try different avenues to meet people, I get out of the house, I smile, I keep clean, hone my feminine wiles, etc. There is nothing more “wrong” with me than the next person with flaws. Married people can be crazy as hell too. It’s just there is only one other person being subjected to their crazy.
I know who I am. I like who I am. I enjoy my own company and the life I’ve built for myself. I can make myself laugh hard. I’m not on some “I don’t need a man” trip. But, I am not going to invite someone into my life if they aren’t going to enhance it or
complement it, that goes for friends or more than friends. I am fortunate to have much love in my life between my friends and family. I don’t lack love.
I ended 2013 happier than I’ve been in a long time. And I ain’t even got no mans! So, I’m cool. Don’t pity single me.
My dad sweetly said to me during one of our now regular discussions of my dating life, “Don’t get frustrated Keisha; you’ll be fine. You’re a [our last name]. You’re gonna be just fine.” Awwww, daaaad.
My parents had a couple of friends over one afternoon while I was in Houston. My parents don’t entertain as much as they used to, so when my dad told my sister N__ they were “having friends over”, my sister joked, “You have friends? Having people over? Who are we? The Winslows?”
I left my parents and their friends to their conversations and hung out with my youngest sister, C___. It felt like we were kids again. In a different room from our parents, the grown-ups, as they did grown-up stuff. My dad called me into the kitchen where they were grazing on tasty appetizers.
“Say Keisha,” my dad began, “we were just talking about having more grandkids…”
I wrinkled my face and silently walked right back out of the room.
About 4 years ago, I was in Houston visiting the family. My younger sister N, suggested we breakfast at a cozy, vibrantly-decorated restaurant, known for their chicken and waffles, The Breakfast Klub, It’s owned by a Kappa (as in Kappa Alpha Psi: a black frat; famous for cane stepping; if you don’t know, now you know), so everything normally spelled with a “c” is spelled with a “k”, such as the “katfish and grits” dish. Kute.
As we were enjoying our Texas-sized meal, my sister, facing the window to the outside world, said casually, “Oh look there’s Solange.”
“How do you know it’s Solange?”
She answered me as though I’d asked her why her skin was brown and the bottom of her feet weren’t (seriously, someone has asked me that): “It just looks like her. It’s obvious.”
A minute later, my sister’s eyes widened as large as one of those creepy big-eyed cat memes and with her voice lowered, said to me, “Ohhhh.My.GOD, Beyoncé is here!! That’s fucking Beyoncé right there! Ohmigod!”
Sure enough Ms. Bey was there in the much-sought-after flesh! The first thing I noticed was that Solange is much taller than Beyoncé and the resemblance between them is much more noticeable in person.
My sister and I returned to eating our meals (which were very good, by the way), with huge-ass grins of shock and amazement. We were laughed and giggled at each other in between sneaking glances at Beyonce. Like a couple of damn fools. When I glanced over toward the entrance again moments later, I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Barely able to contain myself, I whispered to my sister, “Girl, motherfreaking Jay-Z is standing right there! That is Jay-Z. Hova. Mr. Jigga. What?!”
“Girl, I know!” she whispered back. We quietly squealed, 12-years old again. There was Mr. “Best rapper alive” looking like he’d just dusted some dirt off his shoulders, wearing black aviator sunglasses and a plaid shirt, tall and intimidating, standing next to Beyoncé who looked less like a glamorous music princess and more like a normal girl. She didn’t seem to have much makeup on and her skin was really light. She was dressed casually and appeared low-key, unlike her sister whom my sister commented, “walked in like she owned the place.” Little Blue Ivy Carter’s future momma looked like a girl next door. Only she looked like the kind of girl who is so hot you drive by her house just to see what she’s doing, ‘cause she’s so pretty she must be doing cool, hot people stuff, and you too must do this cool stuff. Not that I would ever do that.
I reached toward my purse to grab my cell phone to text my boyfriend at the time. He is a huge Jay-Z fan. Jay-Z could do no wrong in his eyes. If Jay-Z rapped, “Rub-a-dub-dub, a thug in a tub,” guess who’d be taking bubble baths? Just as I made contact with my phone, a stocky man approached me, put his hand on my shoulder (I don’t know you like that!), startled me and said with a terse voice, “If you’re thinking about taking out your camera to take a picture, please don’t. “They” asked me to make sure no one takes pictures.” Say what now? The phone wasn’t even in my hands. I told him, “I was just reaching for my phone to send a text message.” He gave me a knowing look, a look that said, “Girl, stop” and responded, “Ok, I’m just sayin…,” and walked away. I think the life of my first-born was just threatened telepathically. It’s likely he was the owner of the restaurant based on the way he kept buzzing around, inspecting the restaurant, protecting the prized customers. No sense in crossing him.
Jay, Bey, Solange, Solange’s son (a cute little thing with curly hair) and a man we didn’t recognize, were seated two tables behind my sister. Jay-Z sat next to Beyoncé, facing me. This kind of freaked me out. He had on those sunglasses looking all stealth and I couldn’t tell if he could see me sneaking glances at them. I don’t mess with a man who raps: “I’ve got ‘99 Problems‘ but a bitch ain’t one.” Beyoncé was adorable as she fed and entertained her nephew, seated next to her in a high chair.
To my left on a slightly raised platform, sat two body guards in suits, the overlords, scanning the restaurant for potential danger to their clients. Don’t look at me. I don’t know nothing ‘bout no trouble. Whereas everyone else – the peons – had to order their food at the cash register, Jay, Bey and the bodyguards received direct service. The bodyguards ordered fried chicken; I have no idea what Beyoncé & Co. ordered. I think their food was served invisibly. During all the commotion, the restaurant patrons were remarkably well-behaved. You could see the glances, whispers and smiles. A lot of folks were on their cell phones, including me and my sister. A table of little girls to my right didn’t release the grip on their phones the whole time I was in the restaurant. Their day was made. This moment will probably top growing boobs for them. Even the waitstaff animatedly spoke in hushed voices and laughed among themselves when they were out of earshot and the view of Beyonce & Co.
N & I called our youngest sister, C, to tell her about the sighting. Celebrity lover that she is, she peppered us with questions:
“What is Beyonce wearing? What does she look like? Can you hear what they’re saying? What are they doing now? What do they smell like? Go take a picture of them and if the bodyguards give you any problems, burn off!”
I was not trying to get arrested in Houston for celebrity stalking. “C, we gotta go. The bodyguards are staring us down.” “Noooo! I want to hear Beyonce BREATHE!!” Girl, no. She would have to try to breathe in the essence of Bey and Jay over the phone.
My sister and I finished our meals and sadly could come up with no reason to linger. So we paid and left the restaurant before the celebrity party did. As we made our way outside, we spotted two more giant bodyguards in suits, hovering around a black Ford Excursion waiting for their clients. These people don’t mess around.
And that’s what it’s like to breakfast with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.