The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 1-What Is “Struggle Love”?

“Every relationship has goes through ups and downs.” This is the lie we are told–especially as women!–that there are things we have to just go through in order to ‘have a relationship.’ This leads to the idea, and idolizing of this thing called ‘Struggle Love’. The best way to explain this is a relationship/potential relationship that is tumultuous, full of drama or potential abuse; the couple stays together because  they want to be together–and they believe that ‘every relationship goes through things.’ More often than not, these relationships have aspects of being domineering, full of gaslighting, and one of the participants of this relationship must continue to endure things that are painful for the sake of the relationship.

I have a friend of mine, whom makes sport of eviscerating those whom come for her with this type of insanity–and it is glorious! Case in point:  there was a man that was in her inbox who was trying to shoot his shot! Okay, nothing wrong with that (she calls these misadventures  Inbox Chronicles). But when he came to her on some ‘If you were my woman you would…” or “I wouldn’t put up with that if you were my…” My personal favorite, “You need to understand that you need to be patient with a man, y’all [I suppose this to mean women born after 1970] ain’t nothing like y’alls grandmas!” For the life of me, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean! None at all. 

I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t need my husband or father (and I have neither) to open a checking account, I can vote, have an abortion, and can go to a higher science class without my womanly assets being such a distraction. But to ask for this level of fairness in a relationship? The word egalitarian is a curse word. There is a this twisted appreciation for the women that endure. The ones that suffer in silence, give everything to everyone and has nothing left for herself! This expectation that –as a woman–you are supposed to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…and smile. Take the case of the relationship between Gucci Mane and his now wife, Keisha. He took this woman through the unimaginable! Just like Emily and Fabulous –he has literally hit this woman in her mouth! And she’s still with him! Why? The illusion of the happily ever after. This promise that says, “If I just put up with a little bit more, cry one more time, believe him one more time, then I’ll get my happily ever after.”

Struggle love always has outlandish requirements–these requirements are often met by the need of one person to be needed and wanted, doing all in their power to appease someone that is (clearly) abusive. Struggle love tells us that love is earned, not given. Struggle love tells us if we just hang on–all rewards will be ours. Even if  we die along the way. Struggle love is what most women have been taught! In this teaching it makes women the mules of the world–not deserving of someone unless they can ‘prove’ they love us; or we must suffer in order to be loved. Love–with God being love—gives it to all of us lavishly, so why do I have to prove I love someone else–by how much I will put up with, cry over, or forgive?

Don’t worry–I’ll wait.  

Cultural Conversations #4: School & Work

As problematic as T.I. is, he had the idea for a TV show on BET. The premise of the show is/was to find out which is better: classic education or street smarts. When I saw this, I wanted to start screaming. This is another form of classism and elitism. Why?

I’m glad you asked.

I have college educated parents. I have a mother that loved books, loves reading, learning and in a last life, she wanted to be a teacher. I had a father that made sure I could write my name and read by 5! I, myself, am dual-degreed and thinking about grad school. I am the mother of gifted children, whose gifts I speak to on a regular basis. Yet, some of the smartest people I have ever come across don’t even have high school educations. With this pandemic, I have remembered the things all the older people in my life have pour into me that has prepared me to survive! You have to understand that learning is eternal, intelligence is not quantified as one thing, and to have a degree does not make you better than someone else!

With that said, I come from a family that values education. Yet, even though I value education–I understand that ‘school ain’t for everyone.’ Yet, even with that, in that, those without that higher education shouldn’t make those with it a target! Don’t you know this a form of classism? You can’t keep telling yourself “Who do they think they are? Going to college don’t make them better than me!” Yes, you’re right! But you cannot knock those that want a college education, want those opportunities that it brings! Conversely, you cannot shame the people that want to go to trade schools, start their own businesses right out of high school with no desire for an MBA–with more sense than a board of folk with MBA’s!

It was my grandmother, with her 8th grade education, who showed me how to survive, garden and be observant of the world around me. It was my college educated father that told me the value of reading, being confident in my intelligence, and using my voice do what I know is supposed to be done! The thing is just like it was in the antebellum portion of history, so it is now!

Education is a tool of achievement and to others its been divisive!

If you get an education, and go around certain (read: white) people, it is seems that the expectations that follow Negro expectionalism apply! They (read: certain white people) don’t understand ‘why everyone doesn’t go to college?’ I would be here all day and until Jesus’s return talking about this!

Everyone should be able to go to college, yes. College should be affordable enough for everyone to go! Yet, there are some people that just don’t want to go! And that is okay. Just like you should be shamed for going to college, you shouldn’t be shamed for not going! We need to normalize the not going to college, as well as going to college! We have to take the stigma off education. There are people that enjoy working with their hands, or doing hair, or fixing cars! It is okay to let people pursue the things they desire–which, too, make them money!

Intelligence is not just ascribed to what’s in a book! It cannot be limited to what can be found in a book. And not all intelligence is associated with common sense! With that, stop telling people (read: Black folk) that to be educated is to try and be white! That is toxic and further emphasizes this divide between the decision vs. the availability to college right out of high school!

There are so many variables between education and achievements. This dovetails nicely into those who decide later in life to go to college, or send their grandchildren. It happens! We must be able to become more understanding of one another, even baring in mind what F. Scott Fitzgerald said when in The Great Gatsby: not everybody had has the same opportunities as anyone else!

We cannot be caught up in such a minor thing when we have white supremacy to dismantle! And we need everyone working together to do so–whether that be driving the car, giving lectures, fixing the meals that we eat after, writing books, opening businesses, mentoring who need it, and giving hair cuts after! We need everyone on deck just like the Avengers in Endgame!

Degreed or no degree–we are all in this together! On my watch, we aint leavin no one behind.

Cultural Conversations #3- Artists & Athletes

There is a stigma in the culture around being an artist. Too often that is just relegated to an default position or career or hobby. Make no mistake–I believe that you need to expand your network to include unlikely people or places–life does not lend itself kind to the unprepared. But it seems there is no value placed on those that consider themselves, call themselves, artists.

They, we, us don’t get the respect we should if we were more prone to athletics.

Tell me I’m lying! I’ll wait.

It would seem the fam that whom battle rap or call themselves rappers have garnered themselves the title of artists for themselves! Yet, when you need a flyer done ‘on a hook up’; hair and nails done for an event; resume done or redone; you have a book you just gotta write but ‘don’t got it all right now’; a beat made for your songs on SoundCloud, YouTube of Spotify–or a video shot to put on YouTube—you know who to ask!

And what do the artists in your life do? They concede. They give. They serve. They create. This is what artists do–give. That is the dual nature of these gifts we have–but no one wants to always pay for them! Yet, anything having to do with being entertained in a gym, stadium, arena or some sort of practice session–y’all support that! The book signings, short film debuts, the series on the YouTube Channels, the nail shop openings, custom tees? Nall. It irks! It hurts! If people in your circle can by a PS5, then they can buy 5-6 copies of your book–and gift them!

The Arts need the same support a high school football team does!

Not everyone wants to play on a team: the gifts don’t fit there! Just like you support the daughter that is on the Dance team–support the one that is getting the writing awards. If you have a son that is good at drawing, support him like you do his cousins who play basketball, football or run track! Spread the support around! The last thing a Black child needs is to feel they are unseen and unsupported. Athletics are one thing, but not the only thing! The Arts need the same support! I feel most often athletics, that type of prowess is attached to whatever possible money is coming in the future. To that end, lemme help you: not everyone gets drafted. Not everybody Mama is going to be on the NFL Draft special. Not everybody’s son is going to the NBA, or daughter going to the Olympics!

It is okay to support the child that would rather draw the sky than run under it.

Cultural Conversations #1: Why Does The Baby’s Hair Gotta Be Straight?

I got my first perm at 8 or 9.

My hair was ‘so thick’ and ‘so nappy’ that my aunts wanted to try something different on my hair to ‘get it straight.’ All I remember is my scalp burning.


I remember how old it was to start, and how it heated up, and how I panicked. I had no idea why this was being done to me, or what I had done to deserve it. I remember it was a Just For Me relaxer, and it took what felt like hours to make my 4c curls become ruler straight. From there, from age 9, I hated my hair.

I was born in Generation where every Black girl I knew either had a curl, or ruler straight hair. There was no debate, there was no discussion, the hair on your head is never seen as yours. It is seen as something to tame, to subdue–even to hate! I hated my hair. I hated that I had to have straight hair. And now settled in my adulthood, I sometimes have no idea what to do with my hair now that it is just growing as it naturally was supposed to.

The thing that I reflect on is why did my hair have to be straight? Why was my appearance so much of an issue that I couldn’t even see my own beauty? I literally did not feel pretty unless my hair was straight. We don’t even talk about the complexes Black girl can sometimes have with their hair! How they see their hair—a part of them–be seen as something to be removed or altered for the approval of other people.

I am aware of the Brown Paper Bag rule. I know that hair and Black culture is always a divisive topic. I mean, there is legislation 90 years after this suggested tool of how to be a ‘Pretty Black Girl’, that now ‘approves’ of natural hairstyles for Black women. Think about that. Do you know what that does to a Black girl? Having to fight the world just to be you–including how you wear your hair?

I don’t understand, even now, why it was that important to do ‘make’ my hair be straight. I don’t get it. And, to be honest, it is a trauma! It was something that happened to me, and other girls my age, and it does effect you. I mean hair is a big issue in the life of a Black girl–it is our source of expression, and pride.

As a mother of daughters now, whom have never had the inkling to every chemically straighten theirs. I try my best always to tell them to love themselves, to treasure each part of them; their hair doesn’t make them.

Their hair doesn’t make them.

Too bad their mother, and lots of other Black women their mother’s age, are still working that out.

Thinking I’m Grown: Wipe Me Down (Self-Acceptance)

“…show me someone not full of herself, and I will show you a hungry person.” -Nikki Giovanni

It took such a long time to look in the mirror and liking what I see. Liking the woman I have become. There was a time when I was in my early teenage years, I hated mirrors. I hated how I looked, and didn’t think that I would ever be pretty.

I mean, that was a desire: I wanted to be pretty. Whatever pretty was, whatever power it granted, I wanted it. Much like any other girl that is aware of what pretty is and what they believe pretty is not. For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t pretty.

And told myself so.

With the men I dated, I asked them if they thought I was pretty. I crafted my feeling of beautiful and pretty to what they thought it should be. I didn’t have one specifically. There were certain things that made me feel pretty, and without them? I believed I wasn’t. Through the lenses of age and time, I realize how dangerous that thinking was. It is never a good thing to put your entire worth as a person into the arms of another person! It is never advantageous to change to suit other people.

After breaking up with an abusive and toxic boyfriend at 22, I began to tell myself I was pretty. That I was worthy of love. That I was worthy of all good things which would happen to me. I finally understood by relinquishing my power to another person to determine my worth was dumb. It was the most unintelligent thing I could ever do. From that day to this, I vowed to my own self that I would love me, before I could love anyone else, for anything else. I promised myself I would become a priority–and not diminish my light to make another person shine! I promised to truly love me. And in a world that sees me in all my authentic raw brown sugar as a problematic? This is a concerted daily effort. But I do it. Love is a decision, and it isn’t always the easiest one.

Black girls don’t always get to pick the easiest things to do, but we do what we can until other things happen. It is the irritation which makes the pearl, and the pressure which makes coal diamonds. I choose to be a diamond. The world has enough rocks.

Thinking I’m Grown: Shoes (How I Move In The World)

Give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world.” -Bette Midler

I believe this quote with my core self. I believe the right pair of shoes, given the right pair of shoes, a woman can go anywhere and do anything. Especially, if she has more than shoes to open the door.

I’m a tall girl. I have this gift of words and speech. I also know as a Black girl moving through the world with a ‘White girl name’ brings a certain level of privilege and scorn with it. I am grateful for the ability to code-switch. I am grateful for the small privilege being the smart Black girl ‘with the White girl name’ has granted. With that all that said, I know that the right shoes given to a Black girl does three things: lead, follow, kick in a door.

Let me explain how.

Lead. I believe that leaders wear sneakers and stilettos. I believe every arena in this life requires a shoe. You need to be able to transition in order to reach whom your must, where you must and when you must. Not every situation requires Nikes, but it’s good to have a pair. Some people need to identify themselves in the face of the people leading the world. Some people need to see that you need shoes that are durable and comfortable to do not so comfortable work. Like teaching. Or organizing. Or supporting. Or running with the people who cannot run or walk for themselves. Real leadership must be accessible.

Not every situation requires as YSL slingback heel–but it might be dope to have a pair so people hear you coming. There are certain rooms which require you to be similar in order to be noticed—a uniform if you will. There are certain situations in order to be taken seriously, you must be adapt to the requirement of the situation. My sneakers don’t always translate a need or exactly what I bring to the table. Sometimes, to be taken seriously, I change the shoe. Why the shoe? The shoe reshapes the whole outfit! It conveys effort, projects confidence and makes you stand up straight. Leadership requires the ability to read a room in order to get things done as they should be.

Follow. Influential people often leave trails. They leave evidence of success, or failure. If they are exceptional they leave a blueprint as well. They leave you a trail which you are able to follow–but you will need both stamina and bravery to complete such a journey. It’s not about filling shoes, no. One must be able to find and fill their own pair to follow behind. The path towards taking over the world in any arena is not about becoming a carbon copy or imitation. It is about believing in yourself while knowing you are not the bastion of all knowledge! It is about believing in someone else, almost as much as you believe in yourself. You need heroes–not idols. A hero gives space and plans–and idol will never know you are there. Choose wisely.

Kick In A Door. The right shoes have allowed me to kick in doors which I may not truly be able to stay in. I have been organizer and worker, and mogul and director. I have been the one advocating for someone else, making space for another while the same not being done for me. I understand in those acts, at this point, I must be able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in order to do what must be done. I have to lead by example while tempering ambition with patience. I am learning to be gracious in all things, and loud when needed. Some people hate to see you, but cannot ignore the sound of you coming. As I kick in doors, I bring people with me! I learn and build as a climb. I network. I serve. I direct. And most importantly, I remember.

I remember I have not made it to this point alone, and will never be alone. I have learned that “No” is never a final answer, it requires a different approach. It sometimes helps to remember if there is a door which won’t open for you, build you own. You cannot–I cannot–be afraid to either fail, or try. I have enough moxie to know I ain’t about to stop…so I will not fail. Psalms 46:5 says so.

Thinking I’m Grown: Pants (Fashion & Style)

My mother loves shoes.

I, being my mother’s daughter, loves shoes. And bags. I really love bags. I remember my first purse! It was this small canvas bag (a cross-body bag, as the kids would say now) with a rainbow strap. I was 5-years-old. I remember being fascinated by how my mother and aunts transformed from just ‘being in the house’ to how they went outside into the world.

I loved playing in my mother’s heels. I loved playing in her makeup to my own detriment sometimes. I also remember being so mad at my Aunt Linda I put water in her eye shadow and ruined it. Her son, my cousin saw me and I never did that again. Trust, she made sure I wouldn’t.

The thing that made me love fashion though–magazines, Different World, Family Matters and the Grande Dame of 1990’s television, Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies). Now, remember–I’m an 80’s baby! I remember when what is known now as ‘hip-hop fashion’ became more mainstream. I remember wanting to go to FIT because Lisa Turtle was going! I remember looking at the girls who looked like me in Essence, Word Up!, Hip- Hop Beat magazine and wanted to dress like the girls I saw.

I wanted the Tommy Hilfiger Coat, and Nautica jacket and the door knocker earrings. Yet, I had the parents that didn’t let me really have all that. But the good thing is I still had Kim from Different World, and Laura Winslow from Family Matters. And My So-Called Life (young Jared Leto was–ooh, Lord!) made me wish I was a high school sophomore as an 8th grader so I could dye my hair red.

It was 8th grade where I started to put this thing called a style together. Aside from writing, fashion gave me a place to be creative. It gave me a place to make my way in the world–always a wonderful thing. I mean, I wore short and tights together because I saw Laura Winslow and Clarissa Darling from Clarissa Explains It All do it! And when Clueless came out? YAS! I started wearing heels and jeans since I had seen Clueless and My So-Called Life. I mean, it was the mid-1990’s! As Black girl going to public school, you really couldn’t veer too far left or right–but I did. And I have had heels ever since. My go to look before kids involved these things: heels, jeans, a tee and earrings.

Fashion was a my safe place! And makeup and outlet! It was Junior and Senior year of high school where I started to become more confident in what I wanted. This is when deliA’s was still a cool place for girls of my era to shop at (Thank’s Sassy/JANE Magazine!). I wasn’t so concerned about something having a label. I was more concerned about it looking cool. Flat out!

It was after high school, when I really got into make-up. This is where getting ready to go somewhere became an event. Getting ready was an event–just like it was when my mother got ready. I started to get my nails done in a salon when I was 19, and it was on from there! I felt elegant, moreso. To this day, there is something about a full set of nails and a bomb outfit with my hoop earrings which make me feel like I am so unstoppable!

I think once a Black girl begins to develop her own style, it’s like opening a treasure chest. There are features of your own physical form you saw in younger pictures of your mother, grandmother or aunts. It’s like going into a time machine! I remember when wide-leg jeans were in fashion: my mom told me that they reminded her of bell bottoms. My Aunt Linda told me they were bell bottoms ‘they used to wear.’ From the jeans, came the hats, and from the hats, the bags. From there, my mom reminded me of my ‘cute Easter dresses’. I remember how pretty I felt being that dolled up for the holiday. Yes, the shoes had always been a staple.

I found out my mom loves scarves and big earrings. I found out that my Aunt Valarie thinks that every woman needs a signature lipstick. I found out that my mother is a fan of Estee Lauder: White Linen in the Spring and Summer; Beautiful in the Fall and Winter. “Every woman needs a signature scent, Jennifer.” And after a few trial and error, I have 3 actually.

Gucci Guilty.
Yellow Diamonds by VERSACE.

Fashion for me was expression of the highest sort. Finding more and more of myself every time I found myself liking a shoe, or a bag, or wanted to change my hair. I found out my grandmother didn’t get her first pair of hosiery till she was in her twenties–yet, my mother made sure when I wore dresses or skirts I had slips and ‘stockings (the old school word for ‘pantyhose’ or ‘hosiery’).

The beautiful thing is now, I get to give that same energy and gift of discovery to my daughters. My youngest already loves shoes. Especially, my heels.

[Image by Typorama]

Thinking I’m Grown: Chest (My Body & How I Accept It)

Terry Lee Laney, Junior, the cousin of this girl with the longest name I knew as a 10-year-old, Sandranita Carson, was the first boy to tell me I was flat-chested. There are dynamics that come in with fifth grade I believe that set the stage for how you will handle transitions anywhere else in this life: differences will always get you seen. It was in Ms. Grant’s fifth grade classroom in Lowell Elementary School that I knew one thing–boys like breasts. Some boy would always be looking at my chest. Why? I was yet to find out. But his cousin, the girl with the longest name that I will ever know at age 10? She was about a C-D cup then! When I was a 10-year-old girl, it wasn’t odd; I knew what breasts were. And I also knew those were things I didn’t have.

I didn’t develop any sort of ‘thickness’ as the kids call it now until I was in my late teens-early twenties. And when I had my first child? That’s when everything began to fill in and round out! I mean I could were the dresses I wanted and there be something there to put in it. I mean, I had no idea how to embrace my body before–so to add childbirth to it?! I was not this vixen I wanted to be.

My favorite aunt, Linda, told me “All you had all your life was legs and ass.” Well, these are facts. Big facts, really. But I had always wanted the hour-glass Mae West figure. I wanted that visible sex appeal–I wanted to be what I told one suitor ‘the waking wet dream.’ But to get there? To get to the point I could own I was sexy–not just beautiful, but sexy–that took for real time. This took embracing ever part of my form and realizing if I never got another thing added to me, I was sexy. I was able to call myself beautiful. I was desirable–and nothing was wrong with me! I was worthy of a healthy relationship. I was worthy of being intimate with a man and get pleasure for those experiences.

I had to determine how I accepted my own body could not be dependent on how the world saw my body. I had to start to love me. I had to love me beyond being funny, or smart or being compassionate. All these things are good, yes. I am glad all these qualities are present inside me to be given to the world. But that self-love–that embracing my own thighs, legs, lips and eyes with everything in the middle? That hit different, fam. Besides, from my personal list? I’ve never had any complaints…

Thinking I’m Grown: Shoulders (How I Stand)

I remember the first time where I realized I was tall. Like, when I knew I was tall. Oddly, I was never thee tallest girl in my class! The most uncomfortable thing about being tall was that people were always looking at me. Being soft spoken on top that? I was a magnet for bullying when I got to middle school and high school.

I was more awkward than the Awkward Black Girl the brilliant Issa Rae says she was! I mean I stuck out everywhere! Being a tall girl, with unmanagable hair and glasses didn’t make me forgettable from 6th through 8th grade. I had bigger things to worry about (back then) than fashion and hair! The fact is, I was over or about 5 feet tall in 5th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I was 5’10”.

The other thing that made me so much more self-conscious was the fact I had excema. This means I have sensitive skin, and it is prone to rashes. What I learned later in my teenage years was the condition is aggravated by heat and stress. I had rashes on my body in some form or another on my body from the time I was 5 or 6.

I never felt totally comfortable in my skin. I never felt good enough to truly only my body as it was–flaws and all. And when I began to? I was told the good and better thing to do would be to cover up. I was told that showing off my body (at the time mid-drift shirts had come back into fashion), was not the thing to do. Ergo, ‘only fast girls where things like that.’ Even when I began to go out clubbing and dating, I didn’t wear a lot of revealing clothes! Not that I was a prude with no fashion sense, I wasn’t comfortable–in my own skin, or showing it another.

In being a mother now, I have had to subdue that fear. I had to be able to be confident in myself in order to give the same confidence to my children–namely daughters. I had to realize the mean comments told to me by meaner children, and uglier boys was had to be uprooted. I had to remember that children are children, and children are mean in certain contexts or situations. I remember there was a boy named, Jarron, during my Junior year of high school that called me ugly in the hallway. I remembered this other boy named Tony that called the ‘fashion police’ on me because of an outfit I wore and followed me up the breezeway, pretending to be a siren behind me.

Looking back at this through the vantage point of over 20 years, I can see how dumb these little dusty boys were! I can see how people whom have nothing else to do or which will await them in life, will try to hurt everyone else around them. As they do so, they will think nothing of it. Yet, these are the same people whom will try and friend you on Facebook, or see you at the high school reunion and think nothing of speaking to you. Why? They will claim “That was so long ago! I don’t even think about it!”

Must be nice, I suppose. What you did to someone being ‘funny’ causes someone to kill themselves or withdraw, and then you think nothing about it? It is those experiences also which allowed to keep my friendship circle small, and enjoy my own company.

What being tall, being a target and being awkward taught me radical empathy. It taught me to be patient, and value real friendship. It taught me to stop slouching, especially when it came to my Senior year. It allowed me to think beyond the ‘4 best years of my life.’ This situation, in this body, allowed me to stand up for myself as well–and making my space hard to get into.

[image Typorama]

May 2020 Is For Lil Boosie!

There is no secret to anyone that knows me that I love hip-hop. I do! And my favorite song to be amped to (aside from Swagga Like Us off T.I.’s Paper Trail), Wipe Me Down, by Lil Boosie! I promise that it is! I don’t know what about it makes me so happy, and wishing for my 20’s again, but it does!

With that reflection is mind, I had an idea for my miniseries for the month of May:

The title ‘Thinking I’m Grown’ is what I was told when I was growing up, especially after I started to express myself through what I wore or how I wanted to wear my hair. I cannot tell you how many times I heard “Oh, you think you grown?” I had no idea what that mean–and truly, looking age 40 in the face, I still don’t necessarily know! But, I’m about to take a stab at it.

This series starts Saturday, May 3rd. Like the miniseries in the past, there will be one post every Saturday until the cessation of the series on Saturday, May 31. Here are the topics:

May 3: Think I’m Grown: Shoulders (How I Stand)

May 10: Think I’m Grown: Chest (My Body And How I Accept It)

May 17: Think I’m Grown: Pants (Fashion and Style)

May 24: Think I’m Grown: Shoes (How I Move In The World)

May 31: Think I’m Grown: Wipe Me Down (Self-Acceptance)

See what I did there? You’re a smart cookie, I know you did. Make sure you follow this space. There is more, so much more to come.