Week 4: “Is Love A Myth?”

Is love a myth? No.

In the space that I am in now, I know two things.

First, Sex is not medicine.

Second, I value intimacy over sex.

Love like I want, and like I have read about, it is something that is special. It is rare. So incredibly rare. I realize that I am precious and valuable, and have no need to reveal that specialness to anyone else. Not right now, anyway. Love is not a myth, it is a power source. You an build with it, take it with you, and it is deep enough to last longer than social media. That is what I want, and what I am looking for. I am looking for something that I am aware that few people will find, or know how to hang on to.

Love is often said, and not shown enough. At this point in my life, I understand that what loving someone means, versus being in love with someone means. If I tell you “I love you” that means that I support you, care for you, and want the best for you whether it benefits me or not. From those three components, I am promising that I will do all in my power to care for you, and being your soft place in the world. Love is a door, window and a mirror. Never a wall. Love, real love, will always make windows and walls–that is it’s nature!

Love is not a myth. It is always waiting. And right now, I’m waiting on it. For the first time, I’m waiting on it to find me–rather than running after it.

Good thing come to those who wait, right? I’m about to find out. What do I have to lose? I refuse to lose myself again.

‘Malcolm & Marie’-Part 2: Woman Thoughts

Reminder: These are my thoughts and my take on the movie.

There is a sweetness to this movie that makes me sick.

I have been in a relationship where I have tried to be a support to a man that seemed to think my presence was only an extension of himself or not needed for the gains he wished to make. I have been Marie. More than once.

When I saw her hit that cold butter with the Chef’s knife to make him macaroni and cheese–that he asked her for? I knew what it was. And I almost started crying. I have been a Marie.

Is this a ‘struggle love’ movie? No, I don’t think that it is. It is a movie that is long overdue to be told from the honest pen of Black writers. The movie displays exactly what it looks like to try to be with someone who may not know what that means; conversely what it means to try to stay with someone that doesn’t think you will ever leave.

The dialogue is honest, the emotions are raw, and several times I wanted to slap fire from Malcolm! There were several times I wanted to snatch Marie and tell her to shut up! There were times in the movie where I thought they both went too far–where I thought for the ‘good’ of the relationship Marie should hush! Yet, in examining that—isn’t that the same feeling that makes struggle love possible? This idea that one has to be lesser than the other for the sake of peace.

She doesn’t let Malcolm get away with talking to her in a way that makes her shrink.

Image result for malcolm and marie
After the bathtub scene, the two are outside, smoking. Marie plays the song GET RID OF HIM by Dionne Warwick on her iPhone. She so badly wants Malcolm to look beyond what he feels–and see her.

He doesn’t allow Marie to talk to him any kind of way either, but he believes he knows her well enough to talk to her like he does. It is this knowingness that Marie calls narcissism. I’m not sure if it is, but it definitely arrogance.

They go at each other, and circle the idea of reconciling but then they remember why each of them is mad, and that someone that they love hurt them that badly, and they come out swinging at each other again.

And what is the beginning of this argument about: Malcolm didn’t thank her. He sees that as an excited oversight, but Marie sees it as one on top of another set or slings and arrows! But in an attempt to remind Marie that she is loved, he brings up what he did. Even supporting her through addiction and suicide attempts. The bathtub scene was hardest to watch because you could tell Malcolm’s intent was to truly ‘snap her like a twig.’ He belittles her, humiliates her, and Marie forces herself not to cry. And later in the movie Malcolm tells her how in love with he is, and even tells her this as the movie opens. The one thing I will continuously give Malcolm credit for was being in-tune enough with her know she was not alright.

He tells her how talented she is, but also calls her on her inability to do something else–like go back to acting. In calling her on her own insecurities, he exposes her to what she hadn’t done–and he won’t let her weasel out of that. Which causes Marie to be upset moreso! She wants him to see her, and see all of her. I mean, they even fight about how she didn’t/wasn’t cast in his movie IMANI. Malcolm tells her that he wasn’t going to beg her to audition–even though he said with the right part she would be outstanding!

Marie also won’t give into having sex with him–she doesn’t want to give him the comfort of her body. She wants him to hear her, rather than feel her. Which I thought was pivotal–that goes into the power dynamic of a relationship! Sex is often transactional, and used to diffuse certain situations. It doesn’t really solve them. Is it manipulative? No. If I’m mad, then why should I give you the comfort of my body!

They are truly a mess. But they love each other. Yet, its not struggle love. Marie doesn’t shrink, she refuses to be steamrolled or bullied. Marie tells Malcolm that he steamrolls over everyone because he cannot conceive that someone else is more interesting than him. She tells him as the movie ends:

“Your lack of curiosity is an extension of your narcissism. You never stop to ask, ‘How can I be a better partner?’ ” Marie then says, “I am the last one standing, who is not scared to tell you to ‘up your fucking game’.

As complex and layered as this story is, I am still stewing on it. Even as the movie ends, there is no clear cut happy ending. We don’t know if Malcolm really sees her. We don’t know if Marie has enough in her to forgive him to do better. We are given the scene of them outside, from the vantage point of the bedroom window, and see them together. We are given the illusion of hope. Nothing else.

And that is what all relationships have behind doors, isn’t it? Hope. We hope that we can pull it together. We hope our partners can do better. We hope they see us, and we don’t want Marie’s words to haunt us:

“I feel like once you know someone is there for you, and once you know they love you, you never really think of them again. It’s not until you’re about to lose someone that you finally pay attention.”

After Marie tells him why thanking her was imperative, Malcolm seems to understand! It’s not an oversight–it was him ignoring her for his own gain and ends. Even if he did it on accident. Marie desires to be seen and heard, and demands the man who loves her to do both! Malcolm is a good guy, but he has to understand that relationships are effort. Marie has to understand that you cannot put your life inside of a man–you need to be brave enough to exist without him, or his approval.

Malcolm & Marie will make you think. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you laugh and remind you that love is a choice. Staying together is a choice. And leaving is also a choice. They stayed together to try again. Isn’t that what love does–give hope? And the hope to be seen? I believe so, even in a place with all windows.

About ‘Malcolm & Marie’-Part 1: Writer Thoughts

Reminder: this is a two-part review.

I watched Malcolm & Marie the first night it was available on NETFLIX. I was excited about it because I am a fan of movies. I am also a fan of Black character lead love stories. As a writer, as a woman, as a Black woman writer, I need to see this! As a writer, here are 6 things I take away from this movie.

1.) Cinematography. The movie is done in black and white, which forces you to pay attention to the characters and what they really have to say.

2.) Character positions/Body language. I like how the characters say things, without ever saying them. This is good writing here! I was sucked in the moment that Marie walked in with her back Marine Corps straight, and when she cut the cold butter in one stroke.

3.) Music is a character. I am known for writing to music, and even inserting a song every now and then to introduce a new layer into the story or to express what the character is feeling. The same thing happens here in this movie. Very smart thing to do.

4.) Setting. I like that the house Malcolm and Marie are renting is literally a glass house. There are so many windows! The fact that they are alone in this house, which is full of windows, the house itself is the embodiment of two adages:

“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

“You never know what goes on behind closed doors.”

5.) Dialogue. Oh, the dialogue! The writers of this movie pulled no punches. There are certain fights that Malcolm an Marie have I cringed at. I had to walk away because I had similar fights with people who said they loved me too. The fact that the dialogue is a that realistic? It’s triggering.

Dialogue is a weapon. Dialogue is a key. Dialogue is a means of control.

6.) Character development. As the movie continues, I find myself irritated Marie. I find myself irritated at Malcolm. Then, I was irritated at both of them! I was irritated because I could see each other’s point. The more they spoke to each other, even when the arguments ebbed and flowed, we see more and more of where the root of this argument was. The dialogue helps us to see exact where the pain for both of them is. It is awesome to see this and it forces you to engage in the story–even when it’s messy.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

[image from indiewire.com]

Deep, Still Waters

There’s magic in the water

I’ll make you hunger and thirst for righteousness you have never sampled

for a goddess is who is brown as earth

and loud as thunder once you master crescendos who hides orchestras inside of her belly as you begin to be key in her lock

I will show you the world

with your eyes closed

and just how marvelous your world

can be once you find the right tempo

I can give you

what you’ve only dreamed of…

what you thought you could never have…

I can give you all you see…

I am night

I am power,

I am rhythm and blues,

I am hives of honey,

With all lips made from sugar.

There is no need

To give the unworthy

Or lazy such access to

Attention for my blessings…

Thick and rich as sunsets and moonlight.

No need to give samples

When ownership is what

Is called for…

because such power cannot be left unchecked

I am desire

I am more, and

I am comfort

I am storm.

I am all the ocean it washes away the cares of the day and yet I have chosen you…

-JBHarris, 1.3.3021

Say The Quiet Out Loud

I want nights

That are quiet,

And still

Loud as thunder,

I want storms in

Oceans of sheets

And limbs pulling

Me further from

What I know into

All I want.

I want the quiet parts

Said out loud

And kisses made only

For me,

And all my inner light

Being bother magic

And woman lit

By you.

I want the now

and the present presence

Of what it means to be

Lost and still be found.

From sky above

And Earth beneath

I want to dream

Of setting future

Suns…

Again.

-JBHarris, 12.27.2020

WHEN SHE WILL NOT CARE

Lioness in wait.

She will desire peace at the

Cost of war—

Being both prisoner and soldier

Believing if she fought harder,

Bled more,

And denied her own

Thirst for more

Hunger for justice

and sight for more

Then she will be enough.

When her body no longer

Blushes with your coming,

Has peace with your going,

And all love becomes an act.

The weapons of her warfare

Time, body, and energy

Have been taken as spoils!

And she will do all allowed

To pull herself back together

Your touch no longer soothes.

The heat that was there has

Cooled…

With the turning of

Her head…the love is dead.

she will put self above love—

and nothing else will matter

JBHarris, 11.20.20

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #3: If You Would Pull It Back, You Would Have A Relationship.

At this point in my life, the women that I confide in are in two categories: Mother figures and Sisterfriends. One of my sisterfriends is the remarkable, beautiful and completely savage (she describes herself as a ‘manicured pit viper’) Kelly Heflin. I have been a part of her world–happily–due in part to my own wit, love of fashion, and the same substance I believe all women have that have gone through the loss of fathers.

And in that power, with that wit, I call her my sister. Shouts to Kellz!

With that, she never ceases to amaze me with the level of nonsense she reveals from her inbox into the waiting Facebook world. From this, I have seen my sister be called everything that could enter into the heart of a petty, jealous, acrid man. I have seen the messages that she was bold enough to share (because, Kellz–and I love she!). The thing that is so confounding about this, is their reaction to her reaction to not wanting to be treated as anything less than what she was taught she was! Her answer to that, which is my echo, “If you wouldn’t let your daughter settle for it, why would you want me to?”

I agree, Sis. I agree!

I should not–will not–lessen myself to the point of being gaslighted for the sake of ‘having someone.’ Why should I? Who is raising these men-impostors?! Who started this lie that in order to have the woman you want you have to break her like a wild mare? Why is a woman to be broken, to be made whole to and for a man? Let me give you some Bible, because the I know the Hoteps are trying to formulate a way to ‘check’ me.

Note: I write and sign checks; I am never to be checked.

Or, as my ex-husband said: “You can’t handle when a man like me puts me in your place.” My retort, like a reflex, was “Where is my place? What is my place?”

Women are the last divine thing to look God in the face. Think about this! So, if I–like you–am a divine, sentient creature, why should I not be treated as such? If we go through Genesis, and really read it, Adam was in charge of naming all things in the Garden of Eden. And it was he that named the being that came out of him–and praised God for it. And named it. Anything you honor, you care for and name! So, if my job is to be a complement, a help, and source of support, why should have I to dim or become less in order to be suitable? Please, make this make sense.

There is a generation of women before us whom we, the women whom are those late 70s-80s babies entering into middle age, are looking at and wondering–Why was this treatment of okay? Why is my ability to endure, to soldier on, to cry in showers and in pie or cobbler filling the proof by which I am to be chosen? Now, I was taught charm and class by my mother. I know how to handle myself, and be a lady–that is second nature. My father is one who taught me game–who said to me that ‘No one can feel your brain.” Let me translate: it’s not good enough to just be smart; keep yourself up. I, at 39, and examining these conversations my sisterfriend had in a new light. They are hurtful. They are demeaning. They are gaslighting at its finest! The most outrageous one that I have ever seen was the one she shared from a man who told her–unprovoked! No one sent for this dude!–who decided to tell her that she needed to be more humble. That she just needed ‘a good man’ to ‘humble her’.

Let me say this: If you feel you have to humble a woman, in order for her to be suitable, you will never have her. As I say often, “If you have to hold her with a chaser, you don’t know how to run!” What does this mean? It means you are not ready for what it is you want–and you need it to be more palatable to be able to handle it. You just not ready, son. He told her that she was too ambitious and it is intimidating to men. I, like my sister Kelly, thought none of these words strewn together into what he believed with all his strength would make sense–do not, in fact, make sense.

This good man by which homeboy spoke of could handle and support an ambitious woman! A good man would see that the woman he wants, has a life outside of him, and is not defined by him only–and he wouldn’t want her to be! A good man would know his girl to the point she would never have to humble herself: he would make her feel safe enough to submit to his leadership (that is the key to submission: Can you make her feel safe? And care for her? Can she rest with you? But that is another conversation–isn’t it?). A good man would know how to lead, guide and protect his woman without believing he has to break her, hurt her, in order to have her.

Y’all need to check your boys…they are surely not men.

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #2: It Doesn’t Take All That!

The world loves to tell Black women and girls what they can and cannot do! It loves to define Black women and girls for what they believe they should be. I am not a should-be Black girl. I am not a should-be Black woman! I own all that I have gone through, all I have done, and I want all that I dream of being!

I own me on a level I couldn’t dream of before! I suppose inching towards 40 which has settled me in a way that I didn’t think I would reach yet. Yet, in the intersection of aging, motherhood and adulthood, I find myself confronting the need to hold my own space. There is a need to protect that space, and every footstep that goes into owning that. The lie that I break daily is that I “do too much” or “it doesn’t take all that.” But, it does! It does take all that–it takes every bit of THAT which makes me Black and woman and walking through the world!

There is a different level of moxie, chutzpah and bravado to be a Black girl in a world that either wants to be you, erase you or kill you! It take every bit of your THAT to walk through the world and not be overtaken by it! What is THAT you ask? THAT can be a myriad of things, but here are the three things that I have deduced THAT is: Voice. Style. Presence.

Voice. There is a power, a magic, that Black women have. There is a natural authority and sway we have. When we open our mouths at certain points, God will come out! And in that space, from that place of authority, people who don’t want to see or hear Black women–silence us. We get removed from rooms. We get ‘rescheduled.’ We get delegated. We get told that we ‘too loud.’ We are ‘too aggressive’. And then those accusations are met with rebuttal? Oh, then we are called ‘bitches’. As if that will make the roar soften because you call me a name! No. I’m too told to be stopped by that.

Style. The poet Nikki Giovanni talks about how divine this thing called style that Black folk have. The poet herself even said, “If the Black woman wasn’t born, she would have to be invented.” There is a power in this! There is something to Black women, whom bear Black girls who, too, will become Black women have that is indicative of self-expression. In a world which is bent toward erasure of anything it considers and aberration, Black women still are noticed–we can’t help but to be noticed! From hair, our nails, make up and shoes–to how will pull ourselves together for dinners, weddings or a night out–Black women have shaped, reinvented, and owned style from the first time we discovered color. This was before chattel slavery, dear ones.

Presence. I have been a tall girl my entire life. In quoting my aunt about the state of my body, she says it this way: “All you had all your life was legs and ass!” That’s a direct quote. Now, I stand 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and about 200 lbs. With the right outfit and shoes I am over 6 feet tall–you notice when I walk in a room. My mother tells me that a lady always has presence about her. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s until I realized what that meant. Presence is owning your life, experiences and all that your body is–stretch marks, muffin top, eyeglasses–whatever. The world doesn’t know what to do with a woman they are supposed to be ignore (let’s not forget we aren’t to be lusted after!), and it wants to erase! What do you do with a woman that you can’t help but see?

So yes, dear ones, it takes all of THAT. This life takes you owning your space. Amplifying your voice. It takes knowing who you are, and having your life not be defined by what other people can look or conceptualize you as! You make the boxes and draw outside of them!

Never let the world which can only take you in sips demand you give them a chaser! No! You have every right to be in this world–so be in it. Be. In. It.

In Defense Of ‘WAP’

Note: This is review is for grown women only. I knew what WAP was when I saw this image. Why? Cause I’m grown. Check the notes at the end. You’re welcome. -JBHarris

I am not a virgin.

I know how babies are made, and where they come from.

I like sex.

Now, with that out the way, I thank you that your misogyny hasn’t overruled your common sense! I also thank you for continuing to engage in this discourse. At this again (I am a year from 40), I know what I like and who I like it from. Also, the concept of dancing to sexy music is not a new thing. I mean, I listened to Lil Kim and Trina when my mom wasn’t home during my last two years of high school. So, when I heard WAP at work two nights ago? I vibed to it, and was mad I couldn’t be anyone’s Meg Thee Stallion! But let me not ahead of myself…

My mother and father taught me to not and never be ashamed to be Black. My mother never told me to be ashamed of my body, even though my mother is of the generation that still call Black girls fast–and I, too, was warned about the ‘danger’ of being *’fast’ or being ‘a fast-tailed girl’**. It was work to begin to love my body, and all it could do. It was a whole other struggle to remind myself that sex, and liking sex doesn’t make me anything but a sexual being.

In growing up as Black and girl, whom will become Black and woman, there can be this almost oppressive chastity imposed on you! To own your body as a Black woman is a revolutionary act! It a declaration of your personhood and ownership–complete ownership!–of your body. There are still people (read: men and ‘conservative’ women) that think to own you body, and to take pleasure with it, automatically makes you a whore! Slut-shaming is trash LD/DAP energy. I said it.

The video is a declaration of the ownership of the female form! I still have no idea why Kylie Jenner was in it! WHY?! Other than for the reputation her sister has and it being a declaration that she is DTF. But, I digress.

I have no idea why sexually confident women scare people! In the two days this song and video has been up, the complete backlash is almost comical! Too $hort can talk about pimpin an Cocktales, video vixens have been the ornaments to all hip-hop videos, NWA has a song called ‘My Penis’, but let a woman declare just how bomb her body is! Let her declare how well she can use these hips Lucille Clifton talked about! Let a woman declare that as Meg said in Captain Hook ‘I like to drin and I like to have sex’, now she is undesirable?

Yet, there is a large swath of these so-called outraged men that still watch porn, by the ‘services’ of women and have ‘known’ more than a few hoes in their ‘player days’. But, you want the woman you want to be pristine, low body count and just do ‘hoe shit’ for you? Do you hear yourselves?

In literature, there is this idea called primo genture. This ideology comes up alot in Shakespearean plays. The idea is to police and control female sexuality, you can then assure legitmate heirs to a line. Notice the legitmacy of an heir falls to a woman–even though she can neither determine when she gets pregnant, or the sex of the baby. We need only look to recent history to men–married men!–whom had whole families outside of their ‘legitmate’ families! What does that mean for them?

Oh, I forgot. Men are supposed to ‘sow their wild oats’, right? Get all that hell-raising and bed hopping done with before getting married. I cackle laughing at this every time someone mentions how chaste a woman is supposed to be. Yet, this wisdom is never expected from men.

The fact that WAP exists, and I’m SURE is on many a playlist the kids can’t listen to, and been ‘tried out’ by now, I need ya’ll to grow up. If you don’t want to listen to it, don’t. If you think Cardi and Meg are too much–don’t listen! But don’t come for those of us whom have done the work of loving ourselves, including those of us who know we have WAPs, and like using them from time to time. Use that energy to take down the president who likes to ‘grab women by the pussy.’

Women are allowed to own their bodies, their sexuality and express that however they see fit. Societal approval is not needed for a woman to be seen. A woman need only a mirror for that–and the right to not be judged because she looked, with the audacity to like what she saw. And twerk in celebration.

Note to help you not be a prude:

Shameless Plug #1: Read Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women A Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall.

Shameless Plug #2: Read by miniseries from last year FOR A FAST GIRL. Click here to start that.

Shameless Plug #3: Listen to my podcast, The Writers’ Block (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play). For the month of May, I did a miniseries called For The Love of Hip-Hop and I talk about sex, women and hip-hop on the third and fourth show.

Shameless Plug #4: Listen to the Sexpectations podcast hosted by Nicole Powell.