That Conversation, Week 1: The Ownership Of Me

 

The first time I was grabbed in public, I was about 8, 9 years old. This little boy grabbed my butt on a playground, and I didn’t know what to do. The touch felt wrong, and it was so quick I didn’t even know who it was.

Imagine that.

As a little Black girl, your body is in a state of policing–of constant policing. As a woman, your body is on this strange rack–always to be consumed, scrutinized and discarded. What I have admonished my daughters, and the women that follow me on any platform, is that you have ownership of yourself.

You have the right to your body, in all its function. In all its power. In all its space. You have the right to rest, rule and abide in whatever space you traverse. You own every step, all pacing, and every sentient step.

I have the right to go out into public and not be accosted, not be bothered–or even killed because I want to be left alone. Women are not public wares to be bartered, traded or sold. I have the right to go into public spaces and come out of them–unhurt.

People do not have to touch me to talk to me. No, I don’t have to smile to make you at ease. No, I am not taking out my headphones to talk to you. I have the right to be in a space, occupy it, and that be okay! My body, this vessel that I traverse the cosmos in–or public transit, the supermarket, the gas station–is mine. It is mine and I need to be able to move through the world without being bothered. Or attacked for not wanting to be in yours.

The public is not hunting ground for women. It is not the a meat market of fresh chattel femme flesh for the serving, drooling, starving male populace. The value of my life is not equated to my sex or its services to man–or any man for that matter. I am whole all by myself.

That is enough.

 

DECADE OF RUNITBACK

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The dirty secret about all that I do, what I do, is there are people that think that what I do has been easy, sort of nebulous, and that ‘anyone’ should be able to do. Yet, the great thing about all that I am doing is that no one that I know is doing it on such a scale. My brother’s nickname for me is Shonda Rimes.

Great compliment. Fantastic comparison.

And with quiet reflection, I examined the last decade of my life, with a professional lens. With full candor. With disclosure. With the desire and happiness for the future. It is with the complete childlike happiness that I anticipate what is to come–and what is already in the works.

At the beginning of the last decade, I was a 28-year-old single mom, whose ex-husband was aloof at best and narcissistic at worst. At the end of the decade, I am a locally known indie author; blogger; started a podcast; creating a working professional network which consists of  college professors and 1 mentor,  Dr. Kimberly Welch.

Come walk down memory lane with me:

 

2010-first marriage left me destitute with 2 children under 3.

2011-Went back to school; divorce final

2012-not writing, trying to be a nurse

2013-lost my grandmother, a 3-year relationship; left school because I couldn’t pay for it

2014-Murder of Michael Brown, Jr; activism galvanized. Writing begins as a career. 3 books published.

2015-more writing; forgoing nursing as career; met Marissa Southards (now the founder of The Awakenings Project-STL) via Twitter.

2016-The Ideal Firestarter created more writing; sat for The Awakenings Project; met Winnie Elizabeth as a blogging mentor

2017- first novel done; writing is now a career; started editing professionally  through JBHarris Writing Services ;writing mentorship starts; first company started.

2018-RUBY published; professional network grows; writing workshops begin; book count stands at 10; started I Breathe Fire, met Amanda Wells, founder of FLOW STL.

2019-The Writers’ Block podcast begins; The Ideal Firestarter staff is at 4; 2 companies started; graduated college. Three professional mentors, with plans for grad school. Writing Mentorship starts 1.15.2020.

I am not playing with this next decade.

Let’s Be Real About It, Girls Love Joe! They Loved Theodore Bundy, Too.

I have few guilty pleasures, fam. But one of them is infamous Netflix show, YOU. I must confess, I saw Season 1, before I read the first book. And I read the second book (Hidden Bodies) before Season 2 began not even a week ago!

But as dynamic as Penn Badgley is, his portrayal of Joseph “Joe” Goldberg is amazing and creepy AF! In the first season (I hadn’t read the book, mind you), I thought Joe was cute and smart and the fact he worked in a bookstore? Bonus.

How Kepnes wrote the book, and the writers crafted the story, you overlook the fact that Joe (in the words of the now deceased Guinevere Beck), “creeps into girls’ lives and violating the shit out of them!”

Let me just focus on the show, because the books is so much better, but bear with me.

In the age of instant access, Snapchat and Google Maps, it’s so easy to dismiss that dude Googled the girl–and then showed up at her house.

It’s easy to dismiss that dude followed her schedule through her public posts, and like just happened to show up where she would be at.

Fam. In a parallel universe (i.e. this reality), if a strange man shows up outside your house? You wouldn’t be utterly thrilled to say the least.

But, we love Joe!

He’s well read, handsome, simple, relatively good-natured and tries his best for the woman he’s with! He wants her happy, safe and cared for!

Now, these same things were said about Theodore Robert Bundy (read the Phantom Prince and watch The Bundy Tapes on Netflix).

This image: Black Twitter strikes again!

But…we love Joe. I have repeatedly said I would have dated him because he’s intelligent. I have also said that if I would have been like Beck, and found his love stash/stalker pile in a wall or the ceiling, I would have just left it there! That shit has NOTHING to do with me. And the bad part? I’m not the only woman who has said this! But why do we love him? Why is Caroline Kepnes’s version of Bundy so attractive?

Simple.

We, as women, want to be chosen!

We want to be loved, cared for and lion protected. We want the security of knowing the person we would do anything for, would do anything for us.

Joe killed the dude that didn’t respect or honor Beck.

Joe killed the girl that tried to take her from him–whom he warned Beck about.

Joe also affirmed Beck, told her how brilliant she was; how she needed to do what made her happy. He respected her space (sorta) and her intelligence.

He loved her.

But he also killed her because she rejected his love for her.

But, we focus on the fact he saved her from the train. Put her IKEA bed together, and played Scrabble in her apartment.

Joesph Goldberg is effing dangerous!

But so is the world women inhabit.

The saged and wizened Penn Badgley has continuously said Joe is not a good dude–and shouldn’t be idolized! But, we do, don’t we?

He opens doors, studies you, knows your favorite flower and where you take your coffee breaks. He’s the one. Moreover, you have to check you own moral compass because at some point–I started cheering for Joe! I saw Beck this monstrous thing that had to be destroyed.

Dude.

I told a writer friend of mine that even though Joe is crazy, he needs to stay on squad! I believe there’s a vernacular around these types of activities that says, “I paint houses.” Joe paints houses–but, the thing is, just as he said in Season 1: “We sometimes do bad things for the people we love.”

Shakespeare says, “Love is but a madness.” My father said, “If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazed what he’ll do for you.” When love, broken boys, sex and obsession congeal–you get Henry Hill with a Shax complex. That’s our Joe!

Fairy tales and classic mythology regale us with tales of knights saving damsels in distress, scaling towers, killing wolves and witches to save fair damsels. What we forget is sometimes the dragon isn’t the one you think it is.

With that in mind, there’s a third book to this series being written. I’m anxiously awaiting that release! And I’m still rooting for Joe to get his happily ever after. Why? It’s nice to be chosen. And it’s safer to have a dragon on a leash than out in the world.

Dear Karol: This Ain’t It Sis.

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Dear Karol:

Dearest one, I am glad you are safe and well. I am glad this was all a scam, a caper of sorts. I am glad–for what its worth–you were safe. Also, I am glad that you came back. With that said, allow me to say what I’m sure no one else has been able to–calmly.

Stop running after men. Stop. Stop it now. If you don’t stop now, you will do this your entire life. You will look for affirmation, comfort, adulation and praise from outside sources. Your life will remain a coup of the saddest sort.

Stop. Stop it, Karol.

I know him being inside you, flipping your body, pulling your hair and taking your body to an ecstasy your 16-year-old can barely hold  is intoxicating.  I know it is! Any woman that was ever a girl knows.  The sweet nothings, the thoughts of forever as you hang on to him as he does as best as he wills his body to give.

But this? What you just did? My dearest one, this is not how you craft forever. You are young, and these mistakes are expected of the young. In that respect, I can forgive. As a mother, I am defiantly angry at you. I am disgusted at this perverse plan you either orchestrated or co-signed. Yet, I can understand it. There were other ways, dear one. There were other ways–yet, here you are.

Mothers do not have the programming to be your friend before the age of 25. As daughters, we need all their wisdom, clarity and influence to live and survive! Female children need mothers equal parts satin and iron. We need their softness and comfort. We also need their strength and steadfastness! Your mother is not your friend–stop looking for her to be.

What you have done? This is a stunt. This is a tantrum. With girls that look like you vanishing every other day–whether by stunt, bad decision, fake friends, immigration–what made you think this would be ‘cool’ to do? What you have done is kicked a hole in the relationship between you and your mother. The relationship you wanted ain’t possible right now. The time she will need to get over what you did–will not be quick. Not at all. This is not the kind of lore your family will laugh about until your mother is dead.

The consequences of your actions will go beyond being talked about on-line, blogs or other forums. You need to understand their are consequences to these types of capers:  you cannot go through life raging through it!

This was wrong, Karol. I cannot even express how wrong this was. Bad thing is you won’t see just how wrong this was until you have a daughter. The lore is when a woman has a daughter, however she was to her mother, she will get a daughter just like she was–3 fold. At this point, Karol, I’d pray for a son.

 

That Conversation (Overview)

For the grander overview, click here. 

Earlier this month, I spoke about the “That Conversation” on a Facebook Live. This miniseries as set up because, as a mother of daughters, I have a fear of my daughters going out into the world that desires to consistently devour them. The stories I have heard through the current social climate, as a mother –not just as a woman, scare me. Like most writers, I don’t sit well with fear and uncertainty. The antidote for this being to write. Write through this. Writing through this.

So, the topics will post every week, starting January 4, 2020. Here are the list of topics:

 

January 4, 2020 The Ownership of Me (Body Autonomy in Public Spaces)

January 11, 2020The Wisdom of Better Men (Men Holding Other Men Accountable)

January 18, 2020Talking To Strangers (Street Harassment & Personal Space In Public)

January 25, 2020Looking Back & Forward (The ‘Feminine Urban Legends’)

February 1, 2020What I Want Your Son To Know (Defusing Toxic Masculinity & Toxic Patriarchy)

 

There are certain conversations as women, as girls, are relevant and needed. Those conversations are beyond shoes, clothes and hair.

READY OR NOT! I FINISHED YEAR ONE!

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This week, I got the reminder from WordPress that I started this corner of the internet universe one year ago last week!

That indeed is something to celebrate!

With that, I am strutting into Year 2 a little more confident, a little more confident and a little more brash–not that I need help with that.

Thank you all for your love, support, and ever present readership.

Tell a friend so you can breathe fire, too.

Love Always,

JBHarris

The Pick Me’s, Wife Schools, Standards & Criteria

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I am not a ‘Pick-Me.’ None of the women I know are ‘pick-me’s. I do not have the strength, time, ability or patience to be a ‘Pick-Me’. When I was actively dating, I wasn’t a Pick-Me! My mother, and father, always wanted me to have some sort of class, decorum and criteria about the men I decided to date. My father, the Urban Prophet Richard Bush, told me two pieces of advice which have guided my dating life:

“Every man you meet, you don’t need to have a baby by.”

“If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazing what he’ll do for you!”

These two pieces of advice have saved me time, effort and money in certain cases! So, imagine my horror–yes, horror!–at these gorgeous, sentient women doing all they can to conform to what a man wants! I mean I thought the idea of a Wife School was a whole, insane joke–until I saw these presenting ceremonies! Until I saw a Black woman kneeling at the feet of her husband while he ate–and she looked at the floor!

Lookahere, Sis. Do you. I ain’t able. Not at all. But what I need you to understand is, not every woman is built for this. I will never tell my daughters, my nieces, grandchildren, spiritual daughters, they need to be the one to conform, to change to suit the needs of a man. My faith tells me that a man who wants a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.

A man who wants a wife, should know what that means! Women are not property–no matter how much sex you pay for, trade for or take. There is no way in all of creation I will tell my daughters to be less than whom they are–or will become–so someone can pick them.

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I get it, Sis. I do! We all want someone to go out with, to make us feel gorgeous, to break out backs on a regular basis. I get it. I do. But at what cost, ma’am?! There are men out here who get off on treating women like this and throwing (errant) Bible at this. Submission, and all that. There are men who are happy to make sport of your devotion–I don’t know how being a side chick/mistress/side-chicking became a whole freelancing career, but that’s toxic patriarchy and internalized misogyny for you.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married, get married, or being with someone. Nothing at all! My issue with Pick-Me culture is it’s the bastard cousin of rape culture. How you ask? Rape culture doesn’t value women. Pick-Me culture tells women that they are only valuable if they have a man/spouse/partner.

Rape culture doesn’t think women need to be valued; their value is only attributed to what they can give–or what can be taken from them. Women are to be owned, possessed, prized only by what can given from them. Pick-Me culture tells women they have no value other/outside of what is ascribed to them.

I cannot. I will not. You cannot make me.

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The woman I am becoming is confident, happy and has a criteria for the men she lets in her world. I am not an easy lay, I don’t need to pay for peen, and I am the first one to say that ‘this wife thing’ is hard. But, I’ll be black damned if I kneel next to my husband why he eats! I will be the biggest fool to dim my light because he can’t stand the heat of it! I would be bigger ass than a herd of mules to allow a man’s opinion to supplant what I think of myself! What part of the game is this? How did I miss this? What was I doing that I missed this whole ho-side chick-wife school movement?

Oh, I know! I was raising children, building a career, being a sister, building a brand, and finishing a degree and dismantling white supremacy with the alphabet and my own superhero Blackness. I ain’t gotta be picked; my life doesn’t depend on being chose. For the women that depend on that? I guess I think I’m doing this woman/wife/Mama thing wrong.

I am in favor of you giving your all to a man you love–whom is willing to give you all of that back! That type of devotion has to be reciprocated. I still believe in love, great sex (built on intimacy!), and the idea that monogamy is still excellent. I believe being a wife is a call, is amazing and is insanely difficult. Building a life with someone is hard. It is constant, and on the best days–amazing. But it does not make me less of a woman to have criteria for suitors, standards for who I share my body with! It does not make me ‘difficult’ for wanting a career, something for ME, outside of my relationship.

I wasn’t raised to be a Pick-Me, bruh.  I chose me first.