For A Fast Girl: The Black Girl Body


For as long as I can remember, my body has been policed.

From how I wore my hair, to how short a skirt I could wear. My aunt even told me this golden quote:

“Jenn, all you had all your life was legs and ass!”

True story.  But I digress.

But, I remember the first time I was called ‘fast’ or that I was ‘trying to be fast’. I had no idea what that meant as an 8-year-old girl. I knew that when I started to get taller, my mother and father got worried about how they could keep me looking like a little girl. I remember the vinegar my grandmother had her in mouth when she even said that word ‘fast.’  I remember my Aunt Linda said I was ‘switching’ and did I think I was fast?

I had no concept of that.

Later on I found out that I have a slight curvature to my back, and that causes me to ‘switch.’ It wasn’t anything I could control. I remember feeling bad about my body and wishing to change it. I didn’t want to have long legs. I didn’t want the butt I had. I just wanted to change!

I remember I was in third grade when the first boy touched my butt. I was told this was normal and ‘some boys just do that.’ I remember in third grade when a boy told me to open my legs and let him touch me. I remember I pushed him away, hit him and cried. I remember telling my teacher what happened and us both being sent to the principal’s office.

BOTH. OF. US.

I didn’t tell my mother, or aunts, or grandmother what happened. There was no note sent home, and he stayed in my third grade class. For me? The worst thing was to be considered ‘fast.’ Especially when I had no concept of what it really was to be it; or what it meant to be called it.

Girls, now women, of a certain age know what it’s like to have that look on older women’s faces when they call you this name. This look of disgust, horror and anger. I remember I couldn’t have red nail polish. I couldn’t wear my hair certain ways. And I always had to have a slip when I wore skirts so ‘no boy would look up my dress.’ In the reflection of my womanhood, I know that a ‘fast girl’, to be labeled a ‘fast girl’ is to be called  a slut or a whore. It’s a sweeter way to tell a girl, especially a little Black girl, that her body is a temptation to men, even as young as seven or eight.

Being called fast is supposed to be some type of deterrent. A way to warn you to control yourself before the outside world pounces on  you. It puts the onus of all sexual interaction or interest on a girl.

A little girl.

And the word is so ingrained among the African-American community that is hard to stop using it–even in casual conversation! But let us examine this further. We tell little Black girls how precious they are, how pretty, and then tell them they have to be cognizant of how they sit. The nail polish they wear. How they wear their hair. We police everything about them.

Why?

The world outside our doors never sees them as girls. We know there is research that exists that think Black girls as young as five are sexualized. Being fast is another way of asserting that same control the world has a little Black girl, until she falls in line. Until she sees her body as weapon and temptation. Until she cannot celebrate her full lips, curves or plump rear end.

Now this is not a deterrent to decorum. I believe little girls should be able to be little girls, for as long as possible. But there are other ways to affirm this other than policing what they can’t control.

Little Black girls deserve to be protected and loved too. The world already seeks to devour them. Let’s not serve the world’s lion the meat of their flesh before they are able to identify them. And run from them.

Snippet: The Mourning Cry (Part 1)

 

 Natchez, Mississippi-Fall 1878

 

I  remember the day I heard my Mama say she was leaving, that she would be back for me and my siblings. I never saw her along the Mississippi Delta again. I remember when she ran, how the men came out our cabin to find my Daddy. How they drug him from the arms of his Mama and down the stairs that his own Daddy made. They hung him over a lie the wife of my Mama’s master told.

We still lived on this land, only 2 families out of not being free. That mean man that owned my Mama, and her Mama was dead and his wife hated God for not letting her die with him. She had let these men kill my Daddy over a lie. This evil white woman, whom I just knew as Miss Victoria, said my Daddy had been ‘indescent’ with her and her daughter. “This all smell like Hell-baked lie!” My grandmother said. “Malathe, they killed yo Pap on a lie!” I remember she looked at my Daddy, her son, swing from that big ol’ elm tree in front of her house ‘neath the blanket of stars. “Over a lie!” she said, knocking over her candle into the dying grass.
She hated Victoria until she died, four winters later. “I don’t care if I don’t see God, ” she said, the fever making her mind slip, “I just won’t to see that harpy wherever the Lord lay me!” I was sixteen. That mob of white men killed my Daddy over a lie. And that lie killed my grandmother. After the war, my brothers went North to find our Mother. The last anyone hear she might have been a washerwoman in St. Louis or Chicago. I decided to stay home in Natchez. I wasn’t about to be run off.

I was gon fix Miss Victoria and her daughter, Isabelle. Just like she took from me. I was going to take from them.

[image from fhwa.dot.gov]

At The Bottom Of A Barrel

He was in the driveway.

This was supposed to be done now. Bags were in his car. Money untraced and in that same glove box. I watched him on the couch, asleep and oblivious. Hmph. Just like he was for our entire dating relationship and subsequent, sorry marriage. I stood in the foyer, opening the curtains twice to let him know I was still in the house and to kill the lights.

That’s what we called this, killing the lights.

I stood in the archway of the great room, looked at my husband of almost a decade sleeping on the couch. Oblivious. I stood there, in all black to cover face and shape. I counted his breaths, and adjusted the 9mm in my left hand. It felt unnatural, and heavy. Ceasar had said one of the ways to get away with this was to become ambidextrous. I remember his hand and how it felt over my left hand. How he guided it, silencing my tears with his lips to my cheek. “Brianna, you can do it. You know he’s never going to let you go–and may not care if you leave.” I adjusted my hand around the weapon, feeling more deadly than I thought I should. Shooting him would be easier than aiming at the cans and bottles in Ceasar’s brother’s backyard.

I thought about how mean he was. How he didn’t want children. I thought about how he thought money fixed everything. I thought about he couldn’t even fuck me right in the last eight months. I walked to the end of the couch, looked at his dirty black sneakers on my gray couch I picked out with my best friend.

Oblivious.

Rude.

Aloof.

 

I thought about when I met Cesar at the company party. How sweet he was when he found me by the elevator when I started at his law firm. I thought about his eyes, his mouth and how he always held me after making love to me. I loved him. For two years, we waited. We thought. We planned. Cesar had him followed, mapped his days. We had sex in the martial bed. I moved out of our bedroom, and he seemed to not to notice. What helped was be finding panties in his car. Pink. Lacey. And three sizes to small. I left them there.

Oblivious, cheating aloof husband.

I made it to his torso, the icy feeling over my chest and flowed to my armed left hand. I thought about how perfect he tried to make me. I thought about how he made fun of my family whenever we would leave a visit with them. I thought about how I felt when I found the underwear. I thought about the sexy text message from the naked woman named Candy the PI Ceasar hired. He cloaked his phone to make sure when I left, his life would be over.

I stood over him, thinking of out last fight. I thought about how mean he was. How he stormed out, probably to go to Candy. I remembered I called Ceasar in tears. I told him how I was ready. “I can’t be here anymore!”

“You ready?” he asked, no levity in his voice.

“Definitely.” I answered.

I flexed my hand around the gun. Untraced. My gloves would be thrown away when we were far enough away. I cut hair a month ago, and it fit under the skull cap I wore. I left hand itched. I just had to be brave one more time. Just be in his face one more time.I raised my hand, just like Cesar taught me. “When you raise your arm, level your hand. Close your eyes. It helps sometimes. Squeeze and walk away.”

The cat and mouse game was about to be over. It was all about to end. I steadied my breathing, and watched his walnut brown face slack with sleep. I remembered the silencer in my pocket, felt my eyes water as I looked down to assemble it.

Just be brave one more time, Brianna. Just one more time.

He stirred and I didn’t move. I put the gun in my left hand again. All I could see was the newness. All I could see what was world without him in it. I closed my eyes, felt the barrel against his forehead and pulled the trigger.

I opened my eyes and walked towards the front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[image from Window World]