5.17.2008

on: acting right.

thembi's lady laws for black women (with my notes in italics):


1. Stay Off Of The Pole. And For That Matter, Out Of Videos. I haven’t decided whether or not I have a real problem with strippers or strip clubs in general - who am I to say that men shouldn’t be allowed to gather in a public place and expose their inability to be fully intimate with their spouses by fondling and ogling some stray woman? What I do know is that YOU shouldn’t be one of said strays. Letting your body be drool-worthy for a room full of men cheapens and degrades you, and in the long run is not at all worth the money (no matter how pressed you are for cash). You never know who will be in that club, and when the "I saw Keisha on the pole!" story is told, your future boss or uncle who was "just in there with his boys" won’t be the shamed one, you will! If you like showing off your sexy side, which all of us should, save it for the right man, who will love enjoying all of the freaknasty you have inside of you without having to pay for it on a dollar-by-dollar basis. Someone will always do it, just don't let that someone be you. The same goes for being in videos. That is NOT a profession and will not lead to any sort of meaningful career, modeling or otherwise. A ho is a ho, root word whore, meaning sex for sale, and your stuff is priceless. Got it? [my note: this ties directly into lady law #8. if you're gonna strip, you're gonna strip. but don't walk out of the shaky butt feeling like someone has managed to get more out of you than what they've paid for. unfortunately, we all know about becoming a sex worker (i include strippers in that) to pay for tuition and to feed babies. in my opinion, there are a few social issues that come into play when it comes to dancing vs. working 3 jobs or whatever. i kinda doubt that most of the women who might need this caveat even read thembi's blog. but she makes a damn valid point: your future boss might be there with his boys. then what do you do? sometimes, the immediate need outweighs any potential fallout. especially when it comes to maintaining the roof over your head and that of your family. ultimately, though, shame/ embarrassment seem to tie directly into whether or not you fully own your history and present. living with no regrets usually involves being unabashedly yourself, which leads us into lady law #2.]

2. Go Where No Blackgirl Has Gone Before. The obvious interpretation of the title of my blog is that I think that I’m some Jesus figure. Not so. Actually, the very weekend before I started blogging, loyal commenter Aaliyah was at an almost all-white party filled with beefy frat boys and was asked to do a kegstand. At her side were two other friends of mine, one of which said to her "What would Thembi do?" The obvious answer – go where no black girl has gone before and do the freaking keg stand! It really IS ok to be you, whether it’s as trivial as going snowboarding or as major as pursing a PhD in Greek Mythology. Do the most random or ridiculous things you feel like doing even if you’re not technically supposed to do them, and do them at all times. The same goes for rock concerts, tattoo conventions, playing the accordion, or whatever! Being a blackgirl comes with a unique set of baggage - on the one hand, we’re accustomed to being a minority in almost any situation a million times over. On the other hand, we feel like there are certain places and activities that aren't "ok" for us. Forget all of that, risk ostracization, and trailblaze for us all. We can’t keep saying "But blackgirls don’t _______" or else we’ll never do anything at all. Be YOU, regardless of whatever skin tone, sorority, thickness, neighborhood, or whatever you may be a part of. None of it is as fresh as plain old blackgirl you. [ummmm, BASICALLY. do what you want to do because it makes you feel tingly and warm all over. screw what everyone else thinks your blackness makes you. you're yourself. period. it feels good to own and love your whole self. there's nothing like it.]

3. DON’T Get Pregnant, DO Have A Baby. When people say "Life Is Short," they really mean that life is short – when you’re unencumbered. Life is really, really long when you’re tied down to some dude who seemed great when you were sixteen years old but hasn’t even made it through his baby boy years when it’s time to send junior off to middle school. In fact, it can even seem too long when you start to calculate the potential unpaid child support, the number of times you tried to "make it work for the baby", and the time you’ll spend child rearin’ instead of actually growing up, getting degrees, and making a name for yourself. Not to say you can't have a baby early and have it all turn out rosy in the end, but howsabout having children with someone who can actually agree to be with you in a family unit for the long haul whether or not you just happen to get pregnant? Sidenote: It should go without saying, but why even risk diseases by not protecting yourself? A baby is not the only gift that keeps on giving, you know. [again, the women who probably need to at least be exposed to this concept are not reading thembi's blog. unless thembi is posting her blog for the world on blackplanet or in the back covers of teri woods 'novels' so folks can at least impede their hurtling toward disaster. *shrug* you can't win 'em all.]

4. Know Your Own Hair. Black women have more hair options than almost anyone else, and we exercise them to the fullest. But even those of use who switch from weave to ponytail and from blonde to red would never dare to wear our natural hair in public. I can spend the whole day running errands and not see one blackgirl without a perm, and the same goes for watching television or opening a magazine. What is up with that? Granted, I went natural the easy way with the Philly soul thing being at my heart and a head of naps that never really took a perm quite right, but what pains me is when another blackgirl says to me "I love your hair! How long did it take to grow? I could never get my hair to be that texture. How did you do it?" The reality of it is, most of us don’t even know what is growing out of our own heads, and its very sad. Not one other group of people on this planet can say the same. It’s fine if you settle on a perm or some braids or even a Jheri curl after exploring your options, just get to the point where you can say that you know what your natural hair even looks and feels like before you aspire to be Beyonce by default. [it is IMPORTANT to know what your hair is really about. it is really important to style, care for, manage, and possibly even cut your own hair YOURSELF. dependency on a stylist is kinda, like, not cute. no matter what your choice of hair is. if you've got a natural and only ever wear microbraids or wigs or weaves because your hair is 'ugly underneath that' SOMETHING IS WRONG. love yourself enough to know how to do specifically what you want for yourself at all times. it's a liberating feeling.]

5. Get Out Of Town. I’ve met young women who have never left their cities, seen the ocean, or even set foot in another zip code. It’s not always cheap, and it’s not always fun, but the sooner you start traveling the better. In fact, this Lady Law applies to almost everyone of every race and gender. Make a list of dream locations and get started as soon as possible. The more time you spend in the same surroundings the less you understand about the world, and for that matter, what the world thinks of you – you’ll learn that you’re not trapped after all. Besides, you can’t conquer the world if you don’t know what’s out there, and it should be your goal to conquer it! Let the trailer trash of West Virginia confuse Mexicans with Spaniards and believe that Africa is a country and not a continent. Learn your world because it is yours to learn, even if you have to do so only an inch at a time. [i used to feel bad about not having hit every country i've wanted to by age 25. but then i met someone who's never spent a night in a hotel (even in his own city, which can still be fun and eye opening depending on where you stay), never even been to the airport (cuz his ppl never go anywhere or do shit), and was so amazed at my proclivity toward traveling to nyc on a whim that he nearly pissed his pants at the chance to go himself. i got over that feeling of inadequacy. i am gonna go where i wanna go at every given chance. this year: a conference in harlem, caribana in toronto, quality time w/ the fam at the jersey shore (you aren't a philadelphian without it), and a good girlfriend of mine is moving to atlantic city. it doesn't take a lot, except maybe a plan or at the very least the real genuine true desire. things happen for us all at the right time, when they need to happen. no need to rush to be amelia earhart, but you most certainly need to get out of your zip code. not not just to go to court.]

6. Don’t Get Called Out of Your Name. I’m not on this whole "we were queens" tip, but I know that none of us should be called or let ourselves be called any of the following: bitch, ho, trick, and on and on and on. Don’t sing along with songs about "makin' it rain" unless it's for the sake of irony. Don’t even participate in anything misogynistic unless you know it’s only a joke to you, and even then don’t ever pay for it. Recognize that just like when he talks about selling crack you're not selling crack, that when some rapper talks about his hoes he doesn’t mean you, download that song from Limewire, and keep it moving. And lastly, never, EVER call yourself anyone’s "baby’s momma." My first encounter with an ex’s grown BM involved her introducing herself to someone as such, and as much evidence as I may have already had that she was feeble-minded, giving herself that label sealed the deal. Don't be that broad. [context means everything, y'all. formal introductions should not ever in your life or your former partner's life include the words 'baby's mama' or any variant. that shit's not cute. my mom occasionally refers to my estranged father as her baby daddy because she thinks it's funny. she generally refers to him as her ex. big difference. also, the context within which we use the words bitch, ho, trick, etc. means a lot. a lot. if you're at a drag ball, bitch is thrown around liberally. it's culture. it's context. watch yourself.]

7. Act White. I won’t bother justifying this term because you all know just what I mean. Talk white by speaking the King’s English, using full sentences, and the most intricate vocabulary you can muster. Act white by doing well in school, participating in any activity that suits you, and playing musical instruments. Don’t worry, you will never, ever actually BE white. If it were possible, don’t you think that all of those people who were lynched and beaten back in the day would have white-acted their way out of it? [i am a second-generation 'oreo'. my mom said they used to call her white girl for being so precise with her english, and it's definitely managed to rub off on me and my two sisters. it's so serious that i have charged myself with the task of learning perfect, unaffected spanish so that i sound the best i possibly can to native speakers. i'm not playing. i know my vernacular, i have my moments where i'm like 'you ain't shit!' or whatever. but when it comes time for that good code-switching i learned in my school days (penn charter and project learn STAND UP!), i go toe to toe with the best. furthermore, i've always believed that excellent grades are the ultimate smack in the face to the very white ppl whom your brown/ black/ red/ yellow peers can't stand. fuck what the other black kids are telling you. strive to get that perfect score on the SAT's. i took AP art history senior year. it was liberating, despite being the only black student in the class. again: be unafraid of your whole self.]

8. Get What You Deserve Without Worrying About What He Deserves. This is a weird one. All too often women say "I’m not giving it up to him, he doesn’t deserve it!" But what do YOU want? While it’s not smart to just go giving it up to any old body, getting caught up in the idea that your sexual desires should be based on what men deserve is the exact opposite of feminism. If we only had sex when men deserved it we would be a bunch of bitter, mean, deprived wenches. Learning and maintaining the balance between withstanding pressure from dudes and getting yours is part of becoming a real woman. [get yours, boo. GET IT. you want to fuck the guy or gal who delivers the milk to your supermarket? does she or he meet or exceed your standards for an acceptable fuck buddy? nobody said you had to marry the motherfucker. go on and make it happen. if you make everyone jump through a bunch of hoops when you aren't trying to go far with their ass to begin with, you may find yourself bothered with the lack of good sex in your life. the key: having and maintaining real standards. truuuuust me. i had a dope boy as a fuck buddy. i never let him talk much, cuz he wasn't the smartest. but he met the standards: ready, willing, able, clean penis, proximity to my home, a deep love for cunnilingus. my standards have since changed, as have i. but y'all get the point. there's a difference between sleeping with someone who's a total waste of your time/ energy and getting yours from someone who simply isn't the boo of your dreams while still being a great sex partner. really.]

9. Don’t Eat That Mess. Our country is facing an obesity epidemic, yadda yadda blah blah. But it’s all so very real, ladies, and I’m as guilty as the next chick. The thing is, you can get fat and out of shape eating regular food and that’s damning enough. It’s the Chinese Store chicken wings and fries (saltpepperketchup or no), grape soda, chips, quarter water, or other mess. If you can believe for one second that AIDS or crack was planted in the black community to kill us, what do you think Crown Fried Chicken is here for? And your body may be able to metabolize it before you hit 25, but after that it's just a quick ride to Lane Bryant once you get addicted, so don't do it. [she is NOT LYING. 'regular' to most ppl is hyperprocessed foolishness that comes wrapped in plastics and wax paper and shit, then goes in the microwave. and that's just what you eat at home. not a good look. i live in a walking city, yet we used to be the fattest city in the nation. the problem: most of us are walking to get junk food. i have a warm(er) weather routine: walk at least 1 mile each weekday, whether it's on lunch hour or on the way to work or on the way home. it's at least a weight maintenance measure. the next issue is making sure i don't get high and wander about in search of wings and cookies at midnight when my ass needs to (a) be asleep or (b) eat a damn apple and go to sleep. the munchies are real shit. i think this city is also full of potheads who will eat anything that isn't nailed down. it's unfortunate, but true. if you have a crazy work schedule like mine, it's super easy to do takeout instead of cooking. it's pricey, though. and depending on where you live, you may only be able to get junk. the key is balance.]

10. Be A Lady. I have never been the most ladylike of blackgirls and most women like me can trace that to our upbringings, but it’s really very simple. It’s very natural for us to speak loudly, but it’s more powerful when used in small doses, just like hot sauce. Making that lip smack before you start speaking is not cute either, especially if it’s followed by a "weeeeeeeeaaaaal," twist of your neck, and then whatever it is that you have to say. By doing that, not only have you butchered the word "well," but whatever you have to say is eclipsed by that attempt to get attention and gear up like you need prep time just to speak your mind. Swearing every other word may be cute to around-the-way boys but if you ever want to get off of the block (see Lady Law #5), it won’t do you any good. Although every once in a while another female may make your blood boil, fighting is not cute – just think, aren't you way too pretty to get into a fight and get some gash across your face? I don’t think I need to caution young blackgirls on good grooming because we’re good at that, but do you really need to let all of that unravel just because some girl is talking about you? What does that even really mean? Like Katt Williams says, if you’ve got fourteen haters, you need to find a way to get sixteen! [i've never fought someone who didn't hit me first. i'll never be the one who advises a friend to go slap the shit out of someone -- that just is not my style. i believe in maintaining my relative freedom by not getting locked up. i also think it's lame to fight someone when you have a job, or rent to pay, or kids to feed. then again, anyone who needs to consider this probably isn't reading my blog. next up: lenée's life skills classes. after doula training/ certification and a bit more day jobbing.]

4 comments:

Thembi said...

Damn you really added wonderfully to what I thought was complete! Thanks for the props!

And yes, Penn Charter STAND UP!

sweetness said...

this is dope...with particular props to #8. LOL.

there's a difference between a man "deserving" to be privy to my mind/spirit and me (and him) deserving to just get off. HA.

AlteredThought said...

Word to #8. I tell my sisters all the time: GET YOURS!

PretaMulatta said...

nodding 2 all of it. particularly the damn ghetto chicken wings (i live in brooklyn and the SINGLE thing that makes me madder than stepping over people who dont pick up after their dogs is people who dont know how 2 dispose of their damn chicken bones!) and the 'be a lady'. i simply DETEST being able 2 hear your conversations from the other side of the block.

i mean, really.

(i cant say shit about hair. if i had a dollar 4 all the times someone, white or black or other asked me how long it took 2 grow my hair, why it's curly/smooth/so straight/blahblahblah - it's just hair! sometimes u get out of the shower & keep going, sometimes u blow it dry & it's straight, sometimes it behaves & sometimes it DOESNT. get over it!)