Tag Archives: Acceptance

Soul Interactions

She’s so beautiful.

Not physically. I mean, physically, she’s pretty, but it’s more like her insides are shining out of her, and I can see them.

“You can have so many soul mates,” my friend once said. “It’s really just that they all came out of the same soul cluster. So when you’re born, you came from a group of souls, and you can find them out in the world. And that’s why we’re soul mates.”

I wonder if this girl is one of my soul mates.

She finds me in what has now turned into a party. I’m talking to a guy, and she comes in just as he’s asking me “what I am”. It’s always so weird interacting with people in my home town, out of the social justice, aware bubble, but I find these interactions easier than I used to.

“But really,” he’s saying. “Are you light skinned?”
“Do you see me?” I ask him. “What kind of question is that?” I’m being sarcastic, making fun of him. He knows it, she knows it, he flips me off exasperatedly, and I answer.
“My mom is a white lady from Ohio,” I say, “And my dad is a black man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m Congolese-American.”

I can tell by their blank yet friendly expressions that they’ve never heard of Congo.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re beautiful,” she tells me. “Like, so, so beautiful,” and this is nice to hear, because I can look in the mirror and tell myself I have beauty until I’m convinced of it abstractly, but it means something coming from a girl who is a stranger, out of nowhere in a way I can instantly believe.

“Do you know what I am?” She asks me.
“Are you mixed?” I ask. She nods. “Hispanic and…white?” I guess. She laughs.
“I’m Cuban and Lebanese!” She proclaims.
“Oh wow, how did that come about?”
“…Sex.” We laugh.
“No, what I meant is, how did your parents meet?” I press. Her eyes widen and she smiles like she has a secret, then leans in and whispers in my ear, “In a mental hospital.” She sits back on her heels and looks at me.
“That’s amazing,” I say. “Like, actually, really hopeful. How are they doing now?”
“Well, my dad has been dead since I was really young, but my mom is pretty good,” she says.
Our souls reach out and hug, and she clasps my hands, and we continue talking until she has to go check to make sure her friends haven’t left her here. “They tend to forget me.” It’s my friend’s house. She’s friends with the guy, who invited her other friend, who invited her and a lot of Random people.

I’m sitting alone for a minute, and then a guy from high school comes over. I haven’t seen him since New Year’s Eve, but really a week before that, when a bunch of us were in his house, eating latkes.

“How have you been?” he asks me, “Since the last time we spoke?”I think back. “Comparatively better,” I say. “The last time I saw you, life was not very great, was it?”
“Last time I saw you, your life was terrible,” he answers.
“Yeah, it was!” I laugh. It’s hilarious, because it’s true, but also because I would never think to call my life terrible, due to my enormous privileges. I think back. “Well -“

“What happened to you?” Across the room, the guy from before has been listening to our conversation. “Did you have a pregnancy scare or something?” He’s joking.
“Actually, I did,” I tell him. Because of my rapist, I think in my head.
“Yeah, so did I!” He’s still joking, though. “Hard life!”
“…Should we maybe not have this conversation here?” My friend wants to know.
“No, I really don’t care. If anyone listens in, they’ll just be upset by what they hear,” I say, then give him bullets.
“So basically, I finally yelled at my parents about how they handled my rape. We’ve been repairing our relationship. I dated a guy for a bit, or I guess I had been when I saw you last, but he was waayyy more into me than I was into him, so eventually I broke up with him. Or tried to, but he held on for about a month. And then the day after he finally let go, this guy with whom I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with told me he loved me. And I loved him back, and we were happy for a minute, but it turned really sour and sad and has gone on until last week. Which is sort of extremely heart breaking, but I can’t do anything about it. And also, I went to South Africa and got raped again.” I burst into laughter. He is, what someone else comments from across the room, horrified.

“Are you joking?”
“No! Isn’t that ridiculous? What freaking luck!” I laugh and laugh and laugh while he rocks back and stares at me, not knowing what to say, and that makes me laugh more. And then we’re interrupted by an arguing couple. The guy tears out of the house, and I hug the girl as she sobs, and I am thankful that I have not at least been like this. In a house of strangers watching my relationship deteriorate.

She’s back. She finds me again, and takes my hand in hers, and we talk. At one point, she tells me,
“You are just amazing. I feel so good talking to you. You know, you get people. You would be a really good psychologist, or like a therapist,”
and that’s cool. She invites me to play a drinking game, but I’m staying away from being drunk for a while, so I leave her, and the guy from high school comes back.

“You know, I worry about you sometimes,” he tells me, which is surprising, given that we rarely see each other. “Ever since that party four years ago, when you were so drunk.”

There was only one time I got drunk four years ago.

“Was it the summer?” He nods. “With Derrick?” Nods. “At Dominique’s house? You were there?” Nodding nodding nodding. “Oh, shit,” I say. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I ruined that party.”
“No you didn’t,” he says. “You mostly just talked to me. You told me you weren’t going to live to 19.”
“Oh yeah,” I say. I can’t believe myself how nonchalant I am about this. “I believed it, too. I’m sorry I said that. But clearly I did live. And now I’m still here, and I guess I will be.” I want to tell him that I’ve let Edward go. But then I think about how I spent my entire commute home from work seriously considering suicide, and decide not to say anything. I’m not drunk. And laughing about my troubles with someone who takes them seriously actually makes me feel better.
“I’m here,” I repeat.

And then, the couple is back, and things have escalated. Fists fly, neighbors come outside. I watch my friend, the homeowner, dodge a punch and then begin to choke a girl out. I go into the kitchen, and find my girl barely conscious. She’s in a chair, head tipped back, hair covering parts of her face. Her friend is trying to slap her awake, to no avail. She’s drooling. I take a napkin and dab at her mouth, and she tries to move her hand, slowly, to help. But she just sinks further from consciousness. Her soul is crying.

“How did this happen?” I ask her useless friend, the one who brought all the chaos.
“She had half a bar of Xanax. And then she’s been drinking. And she had a huge Red Bull.” A stimulant, depressant, and DEPRESSANT.
“Where are her friends?” Who allowed this to happen? Why was no one looking out?
“I’m her friend,” the girl says, defensively.
“Sure you are,” I say.

I wonder if this is what she meant earlier when she talked about her friends leaving her. Everyone is crowding into the kitchen now, piled around her. They argue about whether to move her, to call 911, to take her to the emergency room, or just to dump her somewhere to sleep it off. One guy keeps shouting that he knows about “Sports medicine. I majored in it!” The couple is still outside, arguing.

“Let’s just go back to our frat,” Sports Medicine says.
“You have a frat house?” I whip around. They nod. “Why would you bring all of this here? Into a stranger’s home? Why didn’t you just go to your frat?”
“It’s the summer,” they respond. I am disgusted.

I pull aside the guy from before. The one who invited the girl who invited everyone else. “I hope you understand this is your responsibility.”
“What!” He’s shocked. “You’re blaming me!”
“No,” I say. “You aren’t entirely to blame for what happened. But you invited strangers into someone else’s home. You are responsible for what the strangers do to the home. And look what they’ve done.” He takes that in.

“That girl,” we look at her. “She’s depressed, isn’t she?”
“Have you seen the cuts in her arm?” he asks in response.
“No, I never looked at her arms.”
“Well, they’re serious. I hadn’t seen before today. Yeah, she’s not okay.”

“She’s going to die,” I tell him “Unless she gets better friends. She needs someone to look out for her. To care about her. You need to do better.”

Eventually, she wakes up a little, and they take her to her boyfriend’s house.

There have been so many times that I’ve wanted access to prescription medication, to knock myself out so I wouldn’t have to deal with anything. Nightly panic attacks are real. Anxiety kills, too slowly. But I’ve always stayed away, and this is why. I’ve had my time to be a party foul. I’m at the wrong age to go off the rails now.

There are too many beautiful girls who bring light into people’s lives while privately (for the most part) being miserable. Too many girls who smile and laugh at things that really make them want to cry, who drop heavy truths while projecting weightlessness. It’s tiring. I don’t want this to be the reason we’re soul mates.

If I ever see that girl again, I expect it will be a long time from now. But our souls have touched, and mine will be sending hers as much support and love and strength as it can, from now until then.

Distractions

Lean more into being a person.

Wake up to Odesza. Play her while you get out of bed, go through your routine, make your bed, and get breakfast.

Open your windows, open your shades. Look three backyards over, to where men are re-roofing a garage. Remember that they can probably see you, too.

Exercise.

Talk to friends. Talk to family. Talk to strangers.

Make yourself open to new things. Let someone take you to Aladdin on Broadway. Marvel at the genie. Laugh at Iago. Appreciate how many beautiful black women are on stage, even though their roles are secondary and they end up serving a white woman. Dance a little as you walk.

Work on being comfortable with strangers.

Go back and forth on the black hole bridge in the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. Lean over the edge and feel like you’re high.

Go to the Harlem Jazz museum.

Consider competing for Miss Harlem Shake, even though you’d be disqualified for living in Westchester. Maybe next year, when you’ve moved.

Seek out the scariest attractions at the amusement park. The rush will make you forget who you are for a minute.

Don’t react when you see that the white French girl in your house now has box braids. Talk her through how to take care of her hair.

Laugh about it with your friends. Be thankful that she’ll be back home when her hair starts to unravel.

Reflect on what you did while you didn’t think you were alive.

Think about cousins when you want to cry, and trust that you’re going in the right direction.

Listen to Spotless Mind on repeat. Connect to Jhené Aiko’s character.

Try not to analyze your situation. Try not to think about the future.

Be kind to the stranger on the train who wants to know what you’re reading. Show him the blurb. Let him buy you dinner. Listen to him talk about God. Ask him not to call you a female. Shake his hand.

Think about angels.

Think about friendships.

Try to figure out what you’re waiting for.

Sleep.

Letting Go

Somewhere, his soul is free. I feel it.

I’m walking with Ramses, and he asks me if I’m happy. I tell him no, but at least I’m not sad anymore.
“Were you sad?” He seems surprised.
“Yes,” I tell him. “I spent about five-six years being sad.”
“When did you stop?”
“Maybe a month ago.”

I tell him about Edward, but it’s different this time. This is the first person with whom I can share my story, and end it knowing that I’m in the right place. My spot. I recognize the tragedy of what I’m saying, while simultaneously recognizing the beauty of the way the setting sun pierces through the bushes of flowers that surround us. The shadows that play across our winding path, the leaves at our feet, and the trees overhead. I take everything in, and love it. This can be a paradise. For a moment. I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad he’s free.

We all possess our own magics.

I think I turned Edward into a crow all those years ago. I think my pain pressed his into the crow’s body. I didn’t want him to be at peace until I could be, myself. It was selfish. I knew it was selfish the whole time, but that didn’t help me let go.

And then, in dealing with XXXXX, I did. And then I found Ramses, whom I don’t love, but I think I could, at least as a friend. And he told me about spiritual planes, and physical bodies becoming ethereal, and seven layers of existence. I’m not sure how deeply into all that I can understand, but I do believe that Edward is now finally past the physical. His crow is gone, and I can smile about it. Thinking of him makes me happy, for the first time since he left.

I held onto Edward because I didn’t have faith that I would be able to survive otherwise. The torture of grieving him was all that I knew, and I figured miserable existence was better than the worse existence I imagined without him.

I am a coward.

Now, I wish that I had let go sooner.

I let go of Edward on my birthday, and for a minute, bad love made me regret it. I do not want to be miserable holding onto love, purely because it is the only love I have known, and I don’t know what I’ll be without it. We need to grow. We need to be free.

He will always be in my heart, just as Edward is, but maybe the best thing for now is for me to let go of him. I’ll see Edward again, and XXXXX and I can always find each other.

I didn’t cry yesterday. We have progress.

Pheonix

Have you ever witnessed a heart break?
I’ve seen the part right before.
There’s a part right before a heart breaks, right before it completely goes to pieces. The heart is so hurt it wants to shatter, but something won’t let that happen, just yet. The body fights to hold it together. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it understands that it needs the heart to keep going. Maybe it still has hope, somehow. The heart tries to break, but the body fights to hold it together, and as a result, the body shakes. It shakes, it vibrates, with a force.

At Edward’s funeral, I watched Pat, his boyfriend, as his heart tried to break. I watched his body, on the pew directly in front of me, vibrating as it was hunched over. I saw the waves of sobs wrack his body, and I saw as the entire bench shook from the force.
He’s had other relationships since; it’s a good thing his body kept himself together.
That was the only time I’ve seen it happen. Then I felt it happen to me.

Four weeks ago, after four years, he wrapped me double in his arms and told me that he loved me. And I said it back, and felt happy. XXXXX and Khalilah, together at last.
Three days ago, I accepted that it didn’t matter. Love wasn’t enough to keep us together.

As I made his bed, preparing to leave him, my body shook harder than it ever has. I didn’t see the bedspread I was holding. I saw Pat, shaking the bench in front of me with his entire-body sobs. Love wasn’t enough to keep Edward here, either. Not for Pat; not for me.
I tried so hard this time, I thought, and realized that my heart was what was shaking me. It wanted to fall apart, but my body wouldn’t let that happen. Why wouldn’t it let that happen?

“Hey, what’s good, shawty? I wanna see you smile!”
We’re cutting into the narrative like this man cut into my thoughts. You never escape your identities. Even walking out of his space, crying and remembering and trying to make sense of my situation, I was still a woman on the street, begging for a man to slow down his car and yell at me out of his driver’s side window.

In “Eyes of Zapata”, Sandra Cisneros writes as one of Emiliano’s lovers. She beautifully describes ‘balancing his body on top of hers’, taking him in, protecting and loving him fiercely until the time he leaves her to go back into the war, and to another mistress. I think how relieved I am, that I never balanced his body. I wonder how I would be now, if that had happened.
In another story, she writes of a thirteen-year old impregnated by a man who never sees her again. It’s an abusive, sad story, that you wouldn’t realize if you didn’t shut off the beauty of her writing. When Sandra writes, it’s a love story to rival the classic romances.

I don’t want to romanticize my pain anymore. I don’t want to make it beautiful. I’ve done it for four years, and it’s taken me until this moment to realize that it doesn’t help anything. It’s a hindrance.

“The worst part of all of this is that now I suddenly relate to all these things,” I tell my friend. “All these posts about relationships, about love. I get them. I see myself in them. It’s like I’m a person.”
“You are a person,” my friend tells me.

I am a person. I, am a person. I can’t look at myself as a ghost anymore. I’d like to. I’d love to think of myself as a perpetual haunt, untouchable as long as I’m trapped on Earth. It would mean not having to face reality.

But in reality, he touched me, anyway.
And he is a person. And he is flawed. And I am not enough to make his flaws go away, because I, too, am only a person.
Maybe he didn’t understand that. Maybe, in the grief of four years ago, I convinced him that I was a ghost. So when he touched me, he didn’t believe in my tangibility. He didn’t believe that I had enough love to actually stay.

I’m not Edward. I can stick around.

And maybe that’s why I’m supposed to be here. Because I can stay. I may not enjoy it most of the time – I may hate it most days. But I have the strength to be suicidal and stay alive, and he didn’t.
I’m not shaking anymore, and I’m not hiding. I’m not a ghost. I’m the free crow, and I’m a person.

Impressionable Childhood

I love my nose. I’ve always been supremely proud of it, to the point where it’s almost a fault. As a child, I was somewhat obnoxious about it.
I have an African nose!” I used to walk around saying. “You see how it curves so beautifully out of the arch? You see the symmetry of the sides? Look at this bridge, free of crookedness or bumps! My nose is perfect, and beautiful!” Even thinking back on those days, I can’t help but laugh with glee at the tremendous amount of satisfaction my perfect nose gives me.

The funny thing is that all this nasal confidence came completely by accident, due to a childhood misunderstanding of ‘big words’.

In elementary school, we had this program called WINGS, which I guess was sort of our public school system’s version of the ‘gifted children’ class. We all went to regular classes, but at certain times of the day, or on certain days of the week (depending on which grade you were in) all the WINGS kids would go to a classroom downstairs to learn about other things. We did advanced math; studied Greek mythology and ancient societies; looked at abstract art; played chess; all that great and random stuff. The class was taught by Ms. Leonard, an African-American woman who still visited her family on The Continent and would sometimes take breaks to talk about it. Looking back, Ms. Leonard was probably the first person outside of my family to ever give me somewhat of a grounded and positive representation of Africa. I did not fully appreciate her at the time. She was a little too testy for someone who worked with children, and we were never completely comfortable in her classroom.
One day in WINGS, we were talking about mummies. It was the Ancient Egypt section of class, and I was excelling. I was super into learning about ancient societies, Egypt in particular, and I was very much being a know-it-all explaining the mummification process, pyramids, and the systems in place to trap and confuse pyramid robbers.
“That’s right,” Ms. Leonard was saying. “People throughout time have broken into and stolen from a number of pyramids. In fact, it was in the news a little bit ago that some men found mummies in one tomb, and hacked off their noses.” This seemed like a very strange, randomly rude thing to do. We wanted to know why the noses had been hacked off. “Well, African people in particular are known to have very prominent noses,” she told us, “And the men were attacking that.”

Understand that I had no idea what the word prominent meant at the time. Ms. Leonard was actually telling us about a hate crime. Whoever broke into the tombs saw the noses sticking out on the mummies, and hacked them off to make them smaller and respectable, effectively ‘fixing’ the large ‘African nose’ problem. It’s beyond disrespectful, and pretty disgusting.
I thought that prominent meant something like stately, and important. So to my understanding, Ms. Leonard was telling us about a different sort of crime, still disrespectful, but of jealousy. In my mind, when the vandals saw the magnificent noses on the mummies, they recognized that their own noses were unimportant and worthless in comparison, and out of jealousy for the gift God had given the mummies, they hacked off the noses to feel better about their own. It made sense to 9 year old me.

In the car going home that night, I retold the story to my mom.
“And then they just hacked the noses off, Mom!” I said, “Because the mummies had African noses, and they didn’t like that! Imagine if that had been me. I mean, look at my nose. It must be pro-mi-nent. I have an African nose too, right?”
I could tell that my question had made my mom confused and slightly uncomfortable, and I wasn’t sure why. She made some noise in between agreeing and disagreeing, and I realized that she must have been embarrassed about her own nose, which was very nice on its own, but rather small in comparison to mine. Looking in the rear view mirror, I began to compare my nose to my mother’s. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how amazing my own nose was. If someone were to come up and want to hack it off out of jealousy, I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe my mother wasn’t just embarrassed, but worried that this might actually happen. Bad things happened to beautiful people all the time, people with noses much less perfect than mine. And it was, I decided, a perfect nose.

“Oh, that’s okay,” I told her, as she still hadn’t completely responded. “You don’t need to worry; you can just be happy for me!” I went inside the house, and have loved my nose ever since.
I loved my nose because somehow the idea got into my head that it was something to be proud of. It was only in that one not-even-discussion, too. I had never thought about noses before. No one ever said anything else about noses for years after, until we read Tintin comics in a French class, and people began to talk about how racist Herbés drawings of black people were. By the time I realized that this was something that might cause people shame and hurt, it was too late for my self conscious to switch gears. I simply decided that all the racists out there were particularly stupid in this area, and I even felt a little sorry for what they must obviously have lacked.

Sometimes I wonder, if my vocabulary had been better back then, would I love my nose today? If someone had said something negative about big lips to me, would that have stuck, also? I was lucky to grow up in a world with Angelina Jolie and J. Lo, paving the way for me to accept my larger body parts and understand them as things to be desired. It’s just scary to think about the little ways in which our perceptions about right and wrong; good and bad; attractive and unattractive have been shaped. There are so many insidious influences waiting to warp us as we grow up. This is how we have so many social institutions that we can barely understand.
Thank goodness my nose escaped, perfect and safe.

Talking to White Girl

“I don’t want a video of me giving a lap dance to be on some white girl’s phone,” I said. Honestly, we weren’t even friends. We would go back to our different schools on the same campus, and she would have that. Would other white students, strangers, see it? That’s just what I needed: to be sexualized by more white people. People had finally stopped expecting me to twerk on command. Enough time had passed since The White Boy Who Tried To Colonize My Vagina had demanded I send him sexual pictures of myself (and looking back, Why did he feel so justified in doing that? Had he seen a different video? Had he just assumed?). I didn’t need anything new popping up now.
“Some white girl?” the white girl repeated, clearly offended I’d mentioned her race. It’s funny. Black people know that they’re black. Hispanic people know that they’re Hispanic. Casually tell a white person that they’re white, and nine times out of ten they’re dumbfounded that you can tell races apart. “I’m a person, you know,” she said defensively, white tears already forming in her eyes. I sighed.
“Oh, I know that,” I told her. Believe me, I thought, Doesn’t no one doubt that white people are people. In fact, when speaking politically correctly, white people are the only people. You have African Americans (qualified Americans), Latinas, Asian Americans (qualified Americans)…no one else has ‘people’ next to it other than White People.
I don’t dance for white people. It’s a principle. I’m not here to entertain. If I dance for my friends, that’s one thing, but if we aren’t friends, you have no right to possess what I’ve done. Enjoy yourself in the moment, then let it go. It’s Not For You.
“Listen,” I said, trying a different approach. “There is a history of women of color being sexualized. I don’t want to add into that.”
“There’s also a history of simply women  being sexualized,” she said, and this was so exasperatingly White Feminist, I didn’t know whether to groan or laugh. I decided to do neither.
“That’s true,” I told her, “But it’s a little worse when it comes to women of color. That’s their role.” I hurried on, before we could get into a ‘black women are beautiful v. ALL women are beautiful’ situation. I also needed to ignore the fact that despite attempting solidarity with the ‘all women being sexualized’ bit, her filming me without permission and feeling entitled to keep it wasn’t exactly feminist. To point that out would derail the conversation. “Why do you think people were so upset with Miley Cyrus?” I asked, inwardly groaning that I had to bring this girl up again. “It’s not because they thought she was a slut, despite what some people were saying. (Some white feminists, I thought, but didn’t say to her. No one wanted the white tears to fall.) It’s because of the wall of women of color she had behind her, the oversexualized women of color who were only used to validate her sexuality as a white woman. This is a problem.”
“Yeah well, I deleted the video, so I don’t get what the problem is,” the white girl said. It was funny. Her head bobbed from side to side, she barely looked at me, her teeth were slightly bared, and her voice was mean. I was talking slowly, quietly, looking straight at her, my hands at my sides. Watch me do everything you’re doing right now, I thought. You’re already telling me that I’m being aggressive as I am. Is that a default? Are all black men thugs, and all black women aggressive?
“You and I just don’t get along, and I don’t see why we need to interact.”
“I agree,” I said, “But for different reasons. I still need you to try to understand why you weren’t in the right.”
“Oh, so you just understand everything, Khalilah? You just have all the answers to the situation, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t know everything.” But I understand more about the situation than you do, white girl.
“Well, if you’d just asked politely, I would have deleted it the first time. You need to be nice when you want people to do things for you.”

So here we were. This white girl was teaching me how to properly behave myself in White World, where you have to politely beg people to consider respecting your rights. Where telling someone that they have to delete something that doesn’t belong to them is the height of rudeness. Where speaking seriously is aggressive, but yelling, “Jesus Christ…you need to chill out!” is not. Where you aren’t allowed to do anything to better yourself, improve your situation, or have any sense of pride, because it either leaves white people out or makes them uncomfortable. Shutting a program down because it’s ‘reverse racist’, and refusing to listen to someone because they’re ‘aggressive’ are the new forms of oppression.
And honestly, who are we even kidding? How can we be surprised when people who have been silenced and oppressed for centuries are even slightly hostile? Do you know one of the reasons the Rwandan genocide happened? The Hutus were tired of being forced into subservience. All of the coups, all of the uprisings, they’re violent. You don’t go up to your oppressors and say, “Excuse me, but would you please give up the majority of your privileges and respect my opinions and see me as a valid person so that we may actually be equals?” It won’t work.
They say, “The Revolution will not be televised.” Some say, “The Revolution will not be on World Star.” I think it should be added on that “The Revolution will not be polite,” because it seems that people do not understand this yet. Particularly those with power.

She’d had enough, I could tell. She was about to leave, and she wouldn’t know anything.
“They tell us to respect SHOFCO youth and the people of Kenya, because we’re coming from different situations, and we don’t understand how we can be offending them,” I said. “And we do that. But we don’t practice it with each other. You and I, we come from different situations, and you won’t understand that. We go to different schools.”
“You’ve said that already,” White Girl said. Offended again, because I guess she thought I was unnecessarily emphasizing our racial differences. I put on my Educate White People Cap, and slipped into my softest, most possibly docile voice.
“When I got accepted to Wesleyan, behind my letter was a page that said, ‘We have great programs for students of color – LIKE YOU.’ That was my first label. Then, they sent us to our separate WesFest – “
“Wait, they were separated?” She was interested now. “Like, at different times?”
“No,” I said. “Well, yes. SOC WesFest was two days before, last year. Otherwise, it’s just separate events.”
“That’s fucked up,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed. “So then, you come to campus only knowing a small amount of people, And now, I don’t know if you know this (you probably don’t) but the administration pushed SOC into five majors only: English, Psych, Soc, Economics, and AfAm. But as you may know, we only have one and a half professors left in African American Studies. It’s a failing department. That’s why we had all the protests and the march, because what they’re doing to us isn’t fair. And,” I gave a sad laugh, “It was pretty much only students of color who showed up, except for maybe three white people. No one is there for us, and in our majors we’re stuck learning about institutionalized racism, and recognizing micro-aggressions, and smaller-scale racism, but no one else knows and we’re left to deal with it. And then everyone else wants to know why ‘they only sit with each other’ and why there’s ‘self-seggregation’ as if we weren’t behaving the way the administration set us up to! Wesleyan doesn’t care about its students of color.
That’s where I’m coming from, and now here, it’s worse, because there’s no one on this trip to understand me, except maybe Roshanna. And every indication is that we aren’t supposed to be here. People only say ‘howareyou’ to us half the time on the streets.”
“But isn’t that what they call white people?”
“Yes, but we didn’t know that.”
“Ture,” she concurred.
“And besides, that doesn’t always lessen the feeling that we aren’t welcome. People who smile at you, won’t make eye contact. They put their hands out for you and withdraw them when they see us. We aren’t counted…even by SHOFCO! They only praise ‘the great work the mzungus are doing,’ and it’s as if we don’t even exist. We aren’t important.” I was almost talking angrily at this point, so I had to pause and calm down.

“So when I dance on my friend, my friend, and someone else records it, and refuses to listen to me when I tell her she needs to delete it; refuses to see me as a valid enough person to respect – “
“Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand,” the girl said.
“I know that you didn’t,” I told her. “I’m not trying to be condescending.”
“I didn’t know it was like that,” she said. “I wish you’d have said that before.”
“White people don’t like being told about the racial undertones of situations,” I explained. “It makes them uncomfortable.”
“Well, not me!” She said. “I want to know when I’m being racist. I don’t want to be racist at all!”
“Alright,” I told her.

I chose not to point out to her how messed up the situation was. That in order for her to listen to me, I’d had to be as nonthreatening as possible. That despite the fact that she’d wronged me, I’d had to stop and apologize multiple times throughout the story to appease her, and allow her to keep listening. That I’d had to stand below her and make sure she was comfortable before she could take me seriously, despite the fact that this was a part of my life I was talking about, and so had always been serious to me. And most annoying of all was the fact that I’d had to play educator in the first place, and that the amount of contrition she felt was directly related to how personally I wanted to let her know about my life. The situation was racially fucked. I decided to let it go, for the moment.
“I think we’ll be able to get along better, now,” said Martha.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “So do I.”

PCOS Doesn’t Give a Shit about Body Love

I’m hungry. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, because for the past four weeks my only assured meals have been breakfast and dinner, and I’ve had mild hunger pangs in between. It’s just for a different reason. That hunger was bearable, because I always knew that in a few hours I would have something marvelous to eat, and if things got really bad I could buy a snack. Chapatis and lollipops for KSH10, y’all!

This time, I know that in a few hours I won’t be able to partake in as much of the marvelousness. At my next meal, instead of getting to go crazy and enjoying myself, I’ll get to cut back and watch others enjoy themselves. I can’t really snack in the meantime, either. Oh, I can have all the fruit I want, but fruit is expensive. “Have all the fruit you want” really means “eat a couple pieces of fruit today so that there’s still fruit tomorrow, and then just drink water and pretend to be full until dinner.”

I’m on a diet. It’s not by choice.

I have grown to hate visits to my endocrinologist. Not that I’m not supremely grateful to even have an endocrinologist in the first place. I’m thankful that my parents have jobs that give them health insurance, thankful that I’m young enough to still be covered by their health insurance, and thankful that their health insurance still covers birth control (sort of). But going to see the woman, who holds the only hopes of my having somewhat normal hormones and possibly having kids one day, is not a fun experience. Mainly because at some point, I know I’ll be weighed, and her reaction to my weight will not be good.

I’m stepping on the scale, and it comes to 167.5. I’m pretty content with this because at this point last year, I would’ve guessed my weight to be 168. Technically, I’ve lost half a pound (it must’ve been the dancing) since I last checked myself, but she hasn’t seen me in a while. The last time she saw me was right after first semester freshman year, when the freshman 15 was real and I found myself at 160. To her, this is serious. My BMI is a whopping 25.1% or some shit like that. In the four years since I’ve started seeing her, I’ve gained about 40 pounds. I’m not overly concerned (“And why would you be?” my friend tells me, “Like 20-30 pounds of that went to your boobs and your butt!”), and ask her if the BMI scale takes body type and muscle into account. I can’t help but feel that I’m being compared to some flat-chested, flat-assed twig of a girl, basically who I was before I stopped constantly playing soccer and started taking birth control, someone I don’t particularly want to be again.
“No,” she tells me. “It doesn’t take stuff like that into account…but in your situation, that doesn’t matter. Someone with PCOS needs to be vigilant when it comes to managing their weight. You don’t want to get diabetes, or have a heart attack.”

Now I’m paying more attention, for two reasons. First of all, I wasn’t aware until just now that PCOS was a definite for me. I’ve seen pictures of girls with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and I’m definitely not as big as most of them. Also, once birth control regulated my periods, I figured I was home free. Everything’s flushing itself out on schedule; I’m healthy and fertile; it’s all good, was kind of my thinking. But apparently it isn’t good at all, and as I look over the packet of symptoms and things to look out for, I realize that child-bearing is not my main problem. (That’s enough of a worry, let me tell you. Despite the fact that women are capable of many feats, bla bla bla, the ability to bring forth life is still one of our main selling points. I’ve also just spent four weeks with people who referred to women as vessels. Imagine if they’d known how close my vessel is to being broken? Where would my value go?)
There are also some real health concerns. It’s like the heart problems and miscarriages and various syndromes of all my relatives collected and dumped themselves into this one this one thing that sucks. And the thing that puts me at increased risk to fall into everything is weight gain.
“Carbs are the devil,” my endocrinologist is saying, among other things. She offers me what seem to be diet pills and I turn them down. For now.

We have company over. There are crescent rolls on the table, right in front of me. I love crescent rolls! There’s butter right next to them. I love butter! And I love my curves! And I don’t want to lose them, and I want to eat the Twizzlers in my room, as well as the giant chocolate bar I brought back with me (chocolate is better overseas), and the Pop Rocks that my mom surprised me with right before my appointment. And I don’t particularly want to start running again, or do much more than the same basic abs and pushups routine I’ve been doing. I have no motivation to change at all. Except maybe that I don’t want to die.

It’s just weird looking at people of all sizes. How did everyone’s bodies get to be the way they are? Is anyone else concerned about their size, their weight, not for aesthetic reasons, but for health? It’s not fair, I think. I take better care of myself than some people. No one’s pressuring them, except for maybe themselves. I wonder if every fat person’s doctor tells them they need to lose weight. I wonder how they respond. How they feel.
I remember when I was underweight. I remember the stress I went through, trying to gain 10 pounds. Now I need to lose 10 pounds, to start. I wonder how many bodies I’ll have had by the time I die. Maybe I’ll keep this one and die sooner. Maybe I’ll be a twig again, and live longer. Maybe I’ll get rock-hard abs, and then turn into a bodybuilder(unlikely). It shouldn’t matter. I should have the same mind regardless of the shell I’m living in, but now more than ever it’s feeling like our shells are important.

It doesn’t matter, though. PCOS doesn’t give a fuck about my inner musings.

Goodbye, crescent rolls. Hello, salad.
Mmmm salad.