Tag Archives single life

No, I’m Not a Mommy

Illustrated Baby Carriage from "No, I'm Not a Mommy" on The Girl Next Door is Black | Photo credit: Aspa2006, flickr.com
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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.

“3-.”

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.

Egg Freezing from "No I'm Not a Mommy" | The Girl Next Door is Black
Egg Freezing | Source

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.”

Ouch!

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.

Old Time Clock from "No, I'm Not a Mommy on the The Girl Next Door is Black. Photo cr: Ales Krivec
“Oh hey, I’m time. Here to be annoying and complicate things.”

I read an article not too long ago that mentioned how more and more women are admitting to ambivalence toward motherhood.

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.

Baby Fever from "No, I'm Not a Mommy" on The Girl Next Door is Black | Photo credit: drolesdemums.comThat’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?

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What It’s Like Being Single During the Holidays

Slice of Sweet Potato Pie | The Girl Next Door is Black
Photo cr: Katie, flickr.com Text & design: The Girl Next Door is Black

“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?

Christmas Dinner Table Set, Photo cr: Celeste Lindell, flickr.com | The Girl Next Door is Black
Photo cr: Celeste Lindell, flickr.com

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.

 

Can anyone else relate?

Friday Five: Weekly Twitter Roundup 10/17/14

I’m trying out a new feature, Friday Five. Let me know what you think!
Friday Five Weekly Twitter Roundup | The Girl Next Door is Black

Here are five things you may have missed on Twitter this week.

1. I love everything about this White Macaroni and Cheese dish from the New York Times. It has brie! and mascarpone! The recipe looks simple enough that I might attempt to make it myself.

  2. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley doesn’t think her state has a Confederate Flag problem. (I’ve made my personal views on the flag clear.) 

  3. If you’re tired of hearing “Why are you single?”, you’re not alone!

 

4. Fall drinks are all the rage. Everything’s turning up squash. Eater asks: has it gone too far?

  5. Check out the trending #MyLoveLifein3Words. If you’re single, maybe your Prince/ss Charming is on Twitter. When I last checked, it had over 125,000 tweets!

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Don’t Pity Me Because I’m Single

“Are your standards too high?”

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.

Love LifeI’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.

Dos Equiis GuyDecades 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.

photo cr: inthecspot.com/
photo cr: inthecspot.com/

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 going-on-a-datewho 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.”

martinisWho 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.

photo cr: mattsko
photo cr: mattsko

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 game as 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.

Self help booksWhen 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.

Don't Pity Me Because I'm Single Quote Single Pressure | The Girl Next Door is BlackI’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.

single-takenMy 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.

 

My “Mindy Project” Moment With a Guy On the Elevator

photo cr: Demom Media
photo cr: Demom Media

I marathoned season one of The Mindy Project during the summer television drought. I developed a girl crush on the lead character, Mindy Lahiri, almost immediately. She’s me. She’s my friends! Mindy’s an educated, single, professional woman in her early 30s, living in Boston. She’s a relatable blend of endearingly awkward, at times second-hand-cringe-inducingly awkward, feisty, ready to go head-to head with the funniest of dudes in a battle of quips, unabashed lover of pop culture, with a fabulous style exhibited by her flyass enviable wardrobe. And she’s brown! She’s a brown girl on TV, Indian-American to be more specific, and her brownness is not the focus of her character’s life. She gets to be “normal.”

Mindy, much like the Rachel McAdamses, Reese Witherspoons and Sandra Bullocks of the romantic comedy films she adores, is steady meeting cute dudes in random places, like the elevator. Elevators are like a goldmine for hot dates in her world. I remember in college reading stupid articles in Cosmo with titles like, “How to Get Him to Notice You,” which they seemed to repackage every issue using similarly uninspired titles and not dissimilar content. [How many different sex positions could Cosmo possibly find in the almost 50 years of its existence? They are either making shit up, inventing new and uncomfortable positions or slowly parsing out pages of the Kama Sutra until they run out.]

Cosmopolitan (magazine)
75 moves? Yeah right! | photo cr: Wikipedia

As Cosmo explained, eligible single men are everywhere! That cutie in the grocery store eyeing those cantaloupes? He’s hoping you’ll make the off-color joke about the large melons he’s checking out. The hottie at the gym who’s grunting like a warthog as he bench presses 500lbs? He’s just trying to get your attention. Do a little booty shake as you do your lunges and he’ll drop those weights and make a beeline for you. Or there’s the good ol’ elevator. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with that handsome stranger in the business suit! He could be your soulmate.

I don’t know where to find these magic elevators from the Cosmo world, because most of the tech dudes in my office building act as though they fear exchanging words with females. “Have boobs? Won’t speak.” Furthermore, nobody wears suits in this city and if they do, they stand out like a contraband plastic bag in the grocery store.

Yesterday evening, I had a Mindy moment!

As I walked out of my office suite into the elevator bank we share with the company across the hall, a guy asked me, in a way that made me think his own question surprised him, “How was your day?”

Was he talking to me? I looked around. Yep, juuuuust me.

I smiled with hint of confusion and answered, “It was pretty good. How about yours?”

He was wearing a faded-red shirt and jeans. The shirt wasn’t faded, red as in “bled out in the washer”, but a distressed shade of red. The distinction is important. A messenger bag hung from his shoulder. I decided he was cute, his voice appealing and best of all, age appropriate.

Elevator Ride (what I have done for a living s...

The elevator arrived (“Doors opening,” announced the disembodied voice who for some reason has a British accent) and we entered. I figured the conversation would naturally die as others were already in the car.

“I’m leaving at 5:30,” he continued, “so it has to be good.”

“Oh? Is that not normal?”

“Nope, I usually work until 8:30. There are only four of us, so it’s not like anyone is forcing us to work late. We just do.” He seemed bemused.

Hold up.

Am I actually having a conversation with this dude? Like for real?

We exited into the lobby. I thought, say something funny!

“Haha. I wonder why that is. Maybe the force of the…(blah blah blah not funny, you fool!).”

Were he not present, I would have slapped myself upside my own head.

I added, “Haha. I don’t even know where I was going with that theory.” Like a damn fool who doesn’t know how to have a proper conversation.

He chuckled. “No, I think I get it. Haha. You’re probably thinking, ‘this guy is weird!'”

Uh, no. Not at all.

Intersection
Intersection dilemma | Photo cr: lukeroberts

We were on the street outside now. A few feet away was the intersection. Now what? Are we walking the same way? If we are, do we keep walking and talking? What if he was just being polite and wants me to stop babbling at him? If we’re going separate ways, should I pretend I’m going his way anyway in case he is chatting me up? This is what I hate about being single at my age. You’re always second guessing your natural instincts because even though you know you do “put yourself out there” and “present yourself as open and receptive to attention” and all the other repetitive phrases with undercurrents of unintentional judgment from helpful loved ones who want to see you boo’d up and not end up a crazy cat lady, you can hear their words in the recesses of your mind. By this point, Mindy Lahiri probably would have rattled off three or four cute quips and scored a date. Yes, I am aware she is a sitcom character.

I could see our bodies subtly moving in opposite directions. We were headed different ways.

“Well, I’m this way,” I tried to say as brightly as possible with a subtext of “I am open to more conversation possibly over a drink, but not in a desperate ‘make me your baby mama’ way.”

“Ok,” he replied. I couldn’t decipher his expression. He smiled though and said, “See you tomorrow.”

Will we? See each other tomorrow? I don’t recall seeing him ever before. This man from the elevator who talks to humans who have ovaries. Will there be more to this story? Who knows? At least I got an elevator moment! Well…kinda. No date. No soulmate (I don’t even think I believe in that). An elevator conversation with someone cute? I’ll take it!

Yes, I Am a Single Female in Her 30s With Cats

Last year, while walking to lunch, a male co-worker and I got into one of our usual tiffs when I declared:

“I want a dooooooog!”

My interest in getting a dog had grown greater and greater over the years and deepened after I bonded with a stray in Costa Rica the year before.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
We met on a dark and misty evening in Costa Rica. The year was 2011. It was love at first sight. He was a stray, I was a tourist. I named him Otis. I wanted to take him home. Make him a US citizen. But, alas it couldn’t be.

He scoffed and threw me a pointed look, “You already have two cats. No guy is going to want to date a woman with two cats and a dog!”

I and my female co-worker (and close friend) gasped in disagreement. This was a common occurrence. Our male co-worker would nonchalantly drop a statement we’d find incendiary and a heated debate would ensue, often in the lunchroom, hilariously, with others joining in and sides forming along gender lines.

[Ex: One guy complains that women only want men with money. Another chimes in that he’s had to buy former girlfriends designer bags only to have them break up with him and then be out the cost of five-star dinners and Balenciaga bags. I say something like, “I don’t specifically look for a guy with money.”

Male: “Yeah, right. You guys want expensive dinners and gifts.”

“I like to travel. I want a guy who has money to travel so we can travel together. I am not interested in being anybody’s sugar mama. If I want a Balenciaga bag, I’ll buy it my damn self.”

The women would respond with a chorus of “Yeah! I bought my own Chanel bag!” or “I took myself to dinner at Bazaar!” or “I have my own money!”

The men would protest in disbelief. Ah, I miss those lunches.)

I sighed heavily with exasperation, “What? First of all, I’m not going to plan my life around what some nonexistent guy may or may not like. Second, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog. I just said I want one. I am not ready to own a dog right now. And what if I did get one? I wouldn’t want to date some guy who would dismiss me because of my pets!”

He looked dubious. “Ha! I don’t know what guy would be like ‘She has two cats and a dog, cool!’ Most guys will just think you’re weird. It’s bad enough you have two cats.”

I rolled my eyes. “I said ‘I am NOT GETTING A DOG!'”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOLcats anyone?

It’s “bad enough I have two cats?” Nobody asked you, bruh.

He’s not the only one who feels that way though. The “crazy cat lady” cliche has survived for decades, to torment innocent single women who’ve committed no greater crime than taking in a feline or two. I almost have to choke out, “Yeah, I have two cats,” when someone asks if I have pets these days. I have noticed some visibly wince or wrinkle their nose with distaste at my response. “Oh! That’s…nice,” they’ll say falsely as if I missed their judgy-faced expression. I secretly want to add, “But, I’m only temporarily single! I have had boyfriends before! I am not a ‘cat lady!’ Don’t judge me.”

What is with the species-est attitude against cats? They are perfectly fine animals. The Egyptians knew what was up. They revered cats.

Enter many Chinese novelty shops or restaurants and you’ll likely see at least one small statue of the good luck kitty with the raised and sometimes, waving hand.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
This waving kitty (maneki-neko) is thought to bring good luck or show welcome. | source

Cats are funny. Cats are the subjects of many memes and YouTube videos. There are cat celebrities.

Cats are cool. There’s nothing inherently crazy about owning a cat and having XX chromosomes.

You know who does seem crazy sometimes though? Dog owners!

Let me tell you about (some) dog owners and their quirks. Here is just a sampling of the oddities dog owners get up to:

1. Dress their dog up in silly costumes

Why don’t you dress yourself up as an alligator or 3-headed alien? I have never put clothing on my animals. I don’t think my cats would be amused to be dressed up like a pumKitty on Halloween or SantyCat on Christmas. How undignified! And if it’s true that owners become like their pets and vice versa: my cat can give major side-eye. You don’t want to be side-eyed by a cat. That look says, “I’m coming for your face with my claws, bitch!”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
How would you like to be trotted out in public wearing a cow-printed onesie? | source
2. Push their dog around in a stroller

The hell? The dog is made to walk, sans shoes, padding already built in. You push your dog around?! You just got served! By your dog!

Related to that:

3. Carry their dog around a purse

I can’t. I really can’t.

 

4. Bring their dog everywhere

Are you so co-dependent on Virginia Woof that you can’t leave her at home when you go to a restaurant, the beauty salon, the bank or the therapist’s office because you need her there for moral support? (I don’t know actually know if that happens, but I’m 75% sure some Tupperware-faced lonely housewife in Beverly Hills has done this at least once.)

5. Take their dog to dog socializing events

Not for the people to socialize. Haha, that would be absurd! No, this is for the dog to engage it’s social skills. There are dog parks, dog play-dates, dog hotels, doggy daycare, and dog agility camps. The dog probably has a better social life than the owner.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
Did someone say carrots?
6. Claim their dog is vegetarian

I’m sorry did you mean to buy a rabbit? Dogs are DOGS. They eat meat. In the wild, many of them are skilled hunters. They hunt other mammals. Our sharp teeth that we use to bite through tough things? Those are called “canines” for a reason. Put a hunk of beef on the floor next to a bowl of carrots and grains. Which do you think Sir Barks A Lot is going to make a run for? It sure as hell won’t be those damn bunny stalks.

7. Moon over their dog, some even claiming their dog is their best friend

Do you know how crazily people would look at me if I said my cat was my best friend? People would be whispering, “No wonder that chick is single!” However, it is seen as quite acceptable for a person to say their dog is their BFF, ace boon, road dog, ride or die bitch.

Some dog owners will blather on for days about how talented their dog is. “Waggy Simpson can sit!” Big deal, my cat can leap buildings without breaking a pant. Now, that is some impressive shit!

I almost never talk about my cats unless prompted and even then it’s usually in a sardonic way: “Does anyone want my bitchy scaredy-cat? That dumb cat had the nerve to hiss at me for trying to feed her. I’ll put her ungrateful catass out like Dino!”

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8. Walk their dog according to the dog’s schedule

I know my neighbors’ dog walking schedule. Twice a day, morning and evening, their demanding barky mini-dogs who snort like pigs, get walked.

Some people have to plan their day around their dog’s schedule. Or they leave places early to go walk their dog. Sorry you missed it when President Obama walked into the bar at my birthday party and karaoked to 2 Chainz’ Birthday Song” (“It’s your Birthday/It’s Your Birthday!/Bad bitch contest you in first place!”). I hope Arf Garfurkel enjoyed his midnight walk.

Hey guess what trick my cats can do? They walk themselves! They have litter boxes; they know how to use ’em. I will come and go as I please.

9. Pay astronomical amounts to groom and primp their dog

Some people even take their dogs to acupuncture!

Actually, I have to admit: I saw a poodle dyed orange and black last year when the Giants were in the World Series. It was cute. But still, really? Does Pug ‘n’ Whistle really need her nails polished? That is like some Kim Kardashian “everything in my house must be white” level of foolishness. (Please don’t ask me how I know that bit of information.)

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOOK AT THIS POODLE! | source

Now, read the above list and tell me who is “crazy”?

I have never made food for my cats. How about some of you dog owners? Mmhmm. Buying special raw meat for L’il L’il Bow Wow. I see you.

Where’s the “crazy dog lady” stereotype?

I actually love dogs. My boss brought her dog to work one day last week and all my professional composure went out the window.

“OMGDOGGIELOVEDOGGIELOVEDOGGIEAWWWWWWW! WANNAPLAYWITHDOGGIIEEEEE!”

Which brings me to the fallacy of the “dog or cat person” bifurcation. It’s silly. I can only like cats or dogs? Well guess what? I like both! They are entirely different species, a different genus. It’s like asking if I prefer chimps or humans. Of course, the answer is chimps. At least they know how to respect their elders.

Then again I’m also neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m an ambivert. I’m also ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I am not bisexual. I feel like dating women would be much easier than dating men. I think I’d be into feminine girls, so if I found someone my size, I could wear her clothes. Double the wardrobe! Anyhow, maybe I am unusual in not having a strong preference for cats or dogs over the other.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
They’re both great pets! | source

You may wonder why I have two cats. It’s not because I want to begin a life of cat hoarding. When I used to aspire to be on TV, it wasn’t to be looking all wild-faced, with cats prancing all over my malodorous-looking home, showcased on A&E. It creeps me out seeing hordes of cats together. I shuddered just writing that. That’s disgusting.

Contrary to popular belief, some cats are social and my Maine Coon is one of them. For the first four years I had him, I lived with roommates who had their own cats. He loved playing with them and asserting himself as the alpha kitty. I enjoyed this, as well. I don’t want any weak pets.

When I started living alone, I felt guilty leaving him home by himself all day, so I got the second one. She is absolutely useless to me, but she does keep him company and lets him be in charge. So, she stays. For now. Which I’ve been saying for 7 years now. Damn bitchy cat.

People who don’t understand cats often make assumptions based on stereotypes or brief negative exposure to one mean cat:

“That cat I ran into in the street while it was eating tried to attack me! Cats are evil.”

“Once when I was little, I pulled our family cat’s tail and she bit me. Cats are mean!”

“Cats don’t show love. When I try to squeeze my friend’s cat with a love hug, the cat yelps and runs away!”

“Cats are too independent. [I am needy.]”

Well, when I was a kid I saw Cujo – the movie about the rabid dog that tries to kill its’ owners – it terrified me. Not too long after, I encountered a snarling, drooling German Shepherd that chased me down the streets of Brooklyn for blocks as I pumped my little legs as fast as I could on my bike. I was scared to death of dogs for ages! I thought dogs were vicious animals ready to attack unsuspecting little girls. Thankfully I eventually got over that and learned many dogs are really sweet. Also, rabies shots are legit!

There are weird cat owners, just as there are weird dogs owners. Nobody has the “crazy” pet-owner market owned except maybe those animal hoarders. Who lets a house full of animals shit all over their place? The hoarders aside, let cat owners be. Not every single woman who owns a cat has got the crazy eyes. Dog owners can be just as nuts as cat owners.

Men in San Francisco and My Awkward Black Girl Moment

photo cr: Chicago Art Department, flickr.com
photo cr: Chicago Art Department, flickr.com

If you haven’t watched the hilarious web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube, you need to get on it! Issa Rae plays “J”, a well-meaning, feisty-but-lovable, often awkward, twenty-something dating, working, and trying to navigate her world in Los Angeles. She hilariously narrates the awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes cringe-worthy moments many of us encounter in our daily lives. Watching that series helped me let the gunk out after long, shitty days at my recent lifeforce-sucking job.

My awkward moments often involve men. I turn into a babbling fool around men I find attractive. I wonder: can a hot guy can peer into my soul and see just how hot I find him and how much energy it’s taking me to keep it together around him? Stop looking at me with those hot eyes; I may melt under the pressure!

Idris Elba at a 2007 American Music Awards aft...
Well hello there, Idris Elba! (Photo cr: Wikipedia)

There are some beautiful men in San Francisco. I don’t mean surreally good-looking like Rob Lowe or an “ordinarily I wouldn’t be into him, but he’s so damn charming” Channing Tatum kind of beauty, or in an “only in my wildest dreams”, Idris Elba kind of way. Rather, these men are beautiful in an “unassuming, I’m a 21st century man so I may use some male moisturizer, and try to present myself decently and think about what I wear (just a little), but I’m more focused on my career and the world around me than my pecs”, kind of way.

I’ve had more than a few women here, upon finding out that I’m new to the city and single, ask me: “Have you been dating online?” Not “Have you been dating?”, but rather “Have you been dating online?” As though online is the default way of meeting a potential mate. Erm, ok. People don’t meet each other through friends, classes, the grocery store (stupid articles that purport to give tips on dating always list the grocery store as a great place to meet men. The only men hitting on me the grocery store always seems to be missing teeth and a sense of smell) or just happenstance? You know, the “normal” way? This is how things go in this tech-centric city, I guess? I thought it odd, but after a few months of not meeting anyone, male or female, and feeling like men wouldn’t even make eye contact with me on the street, like I am a succubus or something ready to steal their soul, I decided to give online dating a shot again. I’d tried it a few times over the years in Los Angeles on several different sites and ended up wanting to stab myself repeatedly, effed-up-Criminal Minds-style. It was painful. I ended up meeting the guys I dated through offline methods. Imagine that.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that online dating here is soooo much simpler…at least for a woman. Holy eligible men, Catwoman! It seemed like every dude’s profile was some variation of: “When I’m not working at my [bragworthy job] I am snowboarding in Tahoe [with requisite photo of them in snowboarding gear, on top of a mountain, looking rugged], traveling to locales unexplored [along with various photos of them in front of recognizable world landmark], eating at Michelin-starred restaurants [yuppies love good food!], running marathons barefoot in the wild, rescuing orphaned puppies from mangy, rabid bobcats and mentoring impoverished children from under-served communities in Tantakistan (yes, I made that country up, don’t go looking for it). I also have my Masters in Only Super Smart People Study This subject.” Are you kidding me? Men like this exist in real life?

Online dating seems immensely popular in SF | photo cr: Homies In Heaven, flickr.com
Online dating seems immensely popular in SF | photo cr: Homies In Heaven, flickr.com

Of course, I also had men my dad’s age reach out to me, despite my clear age limits (I gave a good 12-year range, with my own age slightly higher than my minimum). I don’t mean to seem ageist, but I am just not interested in dating someone who could be my dad’s buddy. And I don’t think my dad would care for me to bring home a new pal for him either. It just weirds me out. Interestingly, more than a few twenty-something guys contacted me too. These young dudes are digging the thirty somethings (for what, I am not sure I want to know).

Even the men who aren’t hot-at-first-sight become really interesting and appealing once you hear about their experiences, their travels, their knowledge of the world around them, their stints in grad school, their love of dogs (my hope is find a man with a dog so that I can play with the dog and he can continue his responsibly of taking care of it, mwahhaha) and their passion for their careers. Looks are only a small part of what makes a man attractive to me.

This morning, while walking from my bus to the office, I ran into a guy from ____. We both had headphones on and for a moment I had the awkward “Are we going to walk together and chat or just say hi and go back to our music as we awkwardly walk in the same direction?” I was awkward, but he coolly took off his headphones and put them away. I followed suit. This guy is goooood-looking. He’s not usually my type, if I have one, but he’s so unpretentious and easy to talk to that I can’t help but be drawn in.

I am not usually one to go on and on about blue eyes. I’m more of a chocolate-brown eyes kinda girl. However, some people have these piercing blue eyes that come alive when they wear the right colors. I met Justin Timberlake once – in a highly embarrassing encounter where I made a straight fool out of myself and wasted my opportunity to talk to him by saying something absolutely ridiculous – and I will never forget how bright and clear his blue eyes were.

This guy had those kind of blue eyes and was wearing a deep blue jacket that made them stand out. He’s relatively tall and looks like a lacrosse player. I don’t actually even understand what lacrosse is, he’s just what I imagine a lacrosse player looks like: masculine and like he smells good even when sweaty. I felt so awkward during the five-minute walk to the office. Five whole minutes! Was my face oily? Am I talking too much to avoid awkward silences? Am I making myself sound like an airhead trying to keep things light and fun? I went to college, why have I suddenly lost the ability to form a complete sentence aloud? Omigod, I haven’t even seen if he has a ring on or not! When did I regress to 15-years old?

Perhaps there are plenty of fish in this sea! | photo cr:  Hans Martin, flickr.com
Perhaps there are plenty of fish in this sea! | photo cr: Hans Martin, flickr.com

I made it to my office (he held the door open for me. Eeee!), we parted ways, and I let out a huge sigh of relief. Ohhhhhh, so much awkwardness! Had I been holding my breath for the past five minutes? Does every guy here go snowboard in Tahoe? He does. He also has his MBA and I’m betting volunteers with ethnic lepers on the weekends. If he has a dog, I don’t know what I will do with myself. Where do these men come from?

For the first time in a long while, I’m enjoying being single and dating. With so many fascinating men to meet, who can blame me?

How I Learned to Love My “Thick Thighs”

I’ve been thinking about my weight since I was 13.

One day I ate everything I wanted with abandon and the next, the size of my thighs were cause for angst.

Jane Fonda Workout Record Video Body Image Acceptance
She wore the tights / leg warmer combo like no other
Photo cr: Jacob Whittaker, flickr.com

Thirteen is about when I started working out. My mom had a catalog of Jane Fonda videos from the 80s and I was Jane Fonda’s devoted follower. Those videos work!Jane still looks hot today. It’s unreal. I also became a fan of Joyce Vedral and her fat-burning workout. I thank her to this day for my interest in being fit and toned.

Once, upon being presented with “soaked in the deep fryer” chicken for dinner, I whined to my parents with dramatic horror:

Fried chicken?! Oh.my.God. Do you know how much fat and salt is in that, mother?!

(I learned from watching white teens on TV that if you are angry with your parents you refer to them – with the disgust only a teen can muster – as “mother” and “father”. See: Brenda Walsh). My mom would reply with something like: “You don’t like it, you can get a job! Sit your butt down at this table. I don’t have time for this. And do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

“Mo-ther! I am not eating this!”

In college I gained the “Freshman 15.”

I’m short, so even an extra five lbs becomes noticeable. That first year, I steadily free-fed on dorm food – bovine-style. My frequent meal-buddy and I would even stow away bread rolls and whatever else we could easily hide for later consumption. It felt deliciously decadent to have dessert with every meal. Then, the summer after my freshman year, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and my rounder image horrified me. My face was fat(ish), like a burnt chipmunk. I was wearing a crop top with a fat roll muffining its way out. Who was this schlub?! Well it had to stop.

I went on a superdiet.

Cows grazing, Rosengarten, The Dolomites, Italy by ** Maurice ** Freshman 15 College Weight Gain
This was me, my Freshman year of college.

I greatly reduced my caloric intake and worked out like I was training for The Olympics. My weight quickly came down, and down, and down, until I looked like a chocolate Tootsie Roll pop. I’d gone too far. I lost my butt. As the ever-wise Lil Wayne says about women with no ass: “You ain’t got shit.” Or as his labelmate, Tyga raps: If you ain’t got no ass, bitch, wear a poncho.” When the ass goes, you’ve overdone it and misogynistic men won’t give you  a second glance. What will you do with your life then?

The problem is that even though I was too thin, I received a lot of compliments about my size: from men (“hey baby!”) and women (“please share your secret!”) alike. I learned: skinny = validation.

When I graduated college I was ill-prepared for the shock of the real world. I went from constant partying studying and working, to what seemed like days and days of endless, routine boredom. I came to understand that this is called “working for a living.” The novelty of ordering office supplies for my desk quickly wore off and the reality of working in corporate America set in: this shit is boring.

So, I ate and my weight crept up.

One evening I went out with my roommates for a much needed bout of drinking and dancing. While walking into one of San Jose’s “clubs” (the city was boring as all hell) I bumped into a cute, slender Asian girl about my height. Having already thrown back a few, I gushed to her: “You’re so cute. You must be a size three. I used to be a size three.” She looked me over – I was probably no bigger than a size six – and with her voice dripping in bubbly judgement replied:

What happened to you?!

Her reaction stunned and hurt me. It also saddened me that a size six is considered worthy of disgust. I should have been fine with my size. I was healthy and within the right range for my height. But, by this point, my body image was so distorted, I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I also wasn’t getting the skinny validation I’d gotten in the past.

Then followed an intense battle between my body, my mind and my other mind.

My body insisted on stowing away fat for the winter that never comes in my part of California. My mind wanted to eat everything in sight to soothe my boredom and loneliness. My other mind wanted to be thin.

I started bingeing and purging. I’d go crazy eating cookies, chips and soda in one sitting, feel ill and disgusted with myself, and then run to the bathroom to throw it up. I only did this for a short time. It’s not effective and it’s too much damn work. Do you know how much work it takes to stick your fingers down your throat and force yourself to vomit? Who has the time? People are starving all over the world and I’m eyeing food with a mix of lust and hatred. It’s also bad for your teeth and I like my teeth. Not to mention, if anyone catches you in public, you have to explain why your feet are facing the wrong way in the bathroom stall. Either you are barfing or you have a secret penis. My dance with bulimia ended within a couple of weeks, never to be revisited again.

Popcorn and Sour Patch Kids, photo by naydeeyah on flickr.com Favorite food combos sweet and salty together
I love you all!

A few years later, I was in Los Angeles. I’d started dating an actor (warning: don’t do it). He said to me one day while we were phone-flirting:

You got some thick thighs, I like that.

Well, I sure as hell didn’t like that! Thick?! Why the hell had I been going to the gym?! He meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a reason to go annihilate myself at Bally’s.  I replied with a hesitant “Uh, thanks.” That relationship crashed and burned miserably (I said not to date an actor).

Another couple of years later, I’d worked my weight down to my “normal” (for me) size. I went to visit my feisty grandma. She took one look at me and said matter-of-factly “Keisha, you’re too thin. Men like women with a little extra padding.” I’ve heard more than enough times from others that men like more “cushion for the pushin’”. Grandma knows. My grandma is no “oh my, golly gee, let me bake you some cookies” granny. She tells it like it is, she keeps it real and you can bake your own damn cookies. I laughed and told her how awesome she is.

Then I got into a serious long-term relationship.

For at least a year, I maintained my weight. Boyfriend liked my body and the “thick” thighs were just the right size. Then came year two. Happily in love, I spent less time at the gym and more time, well…none of your business. By year three, I’d grown faaat. I mean, actually fat. I was clinically overweight. I had never weighed so much in my life. I  comforted myself with the thought: boyfriend will still love me anyway, right? But, I didn’t love me.

I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. Not only did I feel bad about how I looked, I felt bad physically. My body wasn’t used to carrying so much extra weight. I didn’t know how to dress for my new size. What looked good on me? So, I tried to lose weight. Then boyfriend and I broke up. That was the kick in the pants I needed to get my fat ass back in the gym. It’s the depression weight loss plan.

I couldn’t shake the weight, no matter what I did. I figured it was because I was nearing that age where people say your metabolism slows. Since, I was also having problems sleeping and breathing properly, I visited a specialist to check things out. He said to me,

“You’re too heavy! That’s why you can’t sleep.”

That was his expensive doctorly wisdom: you are a fat bitch. Well, fuck you very much doctor dickhead. The issue did turn out to be medical and once pinpointed, the weight started to come off. I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable weight (for me) since then.

I straddle two worlds: one black and one mainstream.

In the “black world” depending on who you ask, I am either “just right” or “too thin”. One of my younger sisters is very slender. She once had a black boyfriend tell her she was too skinny and that she needed to start eating some cornbread. I marveled at this. A free pass to pig out on cornbread? I’m sold! Does he have an older brother?

In the “white” or “mainstream” world, the view of what constitutes thin has shrunken over time. In Los Angeles, some women probably think I’m “big.” To those types, if you’re larger than a size two, you’re a tub o’ Crisco.

I would love to say that I no longer care. That I don’t think about my weight and that I don’t have days when I just want to say “Fuck it all, I’m going to eat some motherbleepin’ ice cream and then a big ol’ tub of movie popcorn and be fat and happy!” But, that’s not the case. However, after several low-carb diets, starvation diets, weird heart patient lemonades, and flirting with bulimia, I’ve learned to allow myself to enjoy food. I can eat well and be healthy. I’ve also learned to appreciate my womanly figure, including the “thick thighs”, and pay less attention to my clothing size.

What happened to the days when women with a little bit of belly fat were thought of as gorgeous? Can we go back to that? To the figurative days when having extra pounds meant you were fortunate enough to have plenty of food to eat? We aren’t meant to starve ourselves into stick figures. Life is meant to be lived and food is part of living (and too damn good to be chucking in the toilet). So, live, eat, and love your body!