You Broke Up with Us Because She’s White.

Christopher Rivas would never date me.

Before I read “I Broke Up With Her Because She’s White“, I did a quick Google image search to brace myself for what I was about to read. Being a visibly Black Latina who does not read as “exotic”, I know what to look for. One glance at his latte complexion, topped with a mop of loose curls and “but you’re not BLACK, Black” features and I knew I could recite the post before I read it. After all, there’s a special sort of angst reserved for those who fall just a hair short of passing, a fist-length from accessing that privilege.

Rivas, in a series of half-finished thoughts and incomplete tangents, stumbles through the all-too familiar Caribbean Latinx struggle of finding a place in a country that only has one bucket in the “Hispanic” category and refuses to understand Latinx isn’t a race. Which would be fine, if he wasn’t trying to work all that out while figuring where his apparent love for white women fit in.

And this is where you lose me Chico.

Somewhere between the single Black Woman he brought home in high school and the white girlfriend he pines over a year later (perhaps because he hasn’t found a woman he regards as highly in the sea of colored faces he has dated since?), Rivas reflects on the “better the race” conditioning he has received from his family. From the father who primped to attract a whiter woman to the aunt furious at the thought of him slumming it with The Blacks, Christopher recites a history chock-full of anti-Blackness, colorism and eugenics-lite…only to conclude his “woke” friends are the problem.

In his quest to find identity he did what Caribbean Latinxs often do, and turned to the map drawn for us by the history of Blackness in America. James Baldwin. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Activism and the “Black Body”. And like many, he found himself lost between two cultures as he never learned how to apply his latinidad to his Blackness.

This isn’t uncommon. Figuring out where you fit in American activism when you are of Latinx decent is a speed bump we have all overcome. It is even referenced heavily in the much-mourned Netflix series, “One Day at A Time” (RIP). As a woman finding my place has a bit more urgency as the government simultaneously creates legislation to restrict my movements as a woman both Black and Latinx, aware of my privilege as able-bodied, cisgender and heterosexual.  But as a man, who is Not Quite Black™ and not the right kind of Latinx, his urgency lands at…whom he can date without losing his “woke” badge.

He is a man who still needs outside validation to confirm his values because he isn’t sure he believes them yet. What is even a “hashtag woke thing”? What is he trying to prove, and to whom? Why do the stares of “Black and Brown people” affect him exactly as much as the blatant racism and microaggressions he suffered at the hands of the families of the white women he dated? Is it perhaps because he knows he will never have the privilege among white people that he has as a self-identified Brown man amongst Blacks like me?

The answers he seeks may well be buried in a tangent he never fully explored in his post.

“’You trying to be white now?’

“What does that mean — trying to be white? We’ve all heard it (maybe not all of us). I’ve said it. If we think about it, it’s really just a comment on power: ‘Chico, you trying to have power now?’

“Yes, yes I am.’”

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Monday Musings

  • After that article about the “mommy blogger” whose kid doesn’t want to be on the internet anymore, and the implosion of famous branded couples one has to ask- is “branding” based on external circumstances* or the assumed continued presence of another autonomous human viable? When do we cross the line from “sharing relatable human experiences” to “this circumstance is my identity, pay me”?
  • I’m sorta tired of us applying the idea of “karma” solely to women we don’t like, who have done things we don’t like, when their man leaves. People fuck up, people break up, and “karma” hits those who mind their own the least.
  • Speaking of breakups and minding your own. All the secret messages you’re posting are not getting read. All the re-posts of memes titled with a “THIS” aren’t being noticed. S/He is gone, they will either figure out what they lost or not. Your task, baby, is the business of moving on. Start yesterday and put the google search down.
  • Solange makes art for herself and invites you to join in, or not. Watching people who need their consumption to identify them try to squeeze a meaning out of her latest project is amusing, but mostly annoying. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. We don’t need a 20-tweet rant on privilege and conventional thinness.
  • This might be the first time in two decades that Diddy is SANGLE single. Like without a “home base” single. Let that man grieve, he’s gonna be at it for a good minute.

*I am aware my blog was born of a breakup.

Yes, You Can

I often find when reading advice columns, what the writer most often seeks is permission.

Is it ok. Is it ok to feel bothered by this behavior after months of gaslighting to the contrary. Is it ok to leave. Is it ok to stay. I like this, does it mean I am broken. Am I weird for being this way, am I the only one.

This is a non-educated guess but judging from the epiphanies I see on social media this is common in therapy as well. Folks contorting themselves into different people, forcing themselves into triggering situations because not being bothered by them is surely something “normal” people do.

Is it ok to not be normal. Is it ok to just…not do this thing normal people do.

It is not lost on me that it is a strange post to be tied to a picture of a crispy-fried sunny-side up egg, but it happened to be my first one in years.

Why?

I detest anything but a completely set white, but I love a runny yolk. And I just discovered it is an Instagram foodie hack to simply…cook the whites first, then gently re-add the yolk.

Is this the most non-normal method of frying an egg I have ever heard of? Absolutely. Did I do just that and gobble it up anyway? Of course. Because I can.

Mosaic: Laid Off in the Land of Career Lovers*

To be “chosen” is a gift.

We are taught from childhood. Women wait, princes come. Women position and design themselves to be the best choice, princes choose. For the “gift” of being chosen the new princess is whisked away to a better life with the prince, to learn the ways of his people. Choosing you, and choosing to forsake all others, was his compromise. Folding yourself into his world is yours.

What is the cost of building a life?

Too often the work of building a life involved a man with a plan and me, left to draw plans. And those plans always involved a detour. Even the most equitable of partnerships required an adjustment that set my plans back. Now, the choices were mine. My mistake was not discussing the cost.

So what is the cost of building a life?

If I were to have children, it would have been with this man. Already a father, I was secure in his ability to parent and had already squeezed myself into his home, the majority of my possessions that weren’t sold off in storage. My job at the time had plenty of work lying around to gain experience to bring to a new company in a more senior position, but no upward trajectory. However, the benefits for partners and parents were unmatched. I chose to stay. He changed his mind. I moved out. Shortly after, I was laid off. With experience but no job title to match, I took a significant pay cut to re-enter the work force at entry-level. Cost: Five years.

*****

I stood in front of the ocean with the weight of my choices; it was always easier to listen to the Universe by the water. Taking on something as uncompromising as school made cultivating new relationships challenging and my interest in them did not match the effort that would be required. I stood in front of the ocean and handed the Universe my remaining “prime” years of romantic availability in exchange for this “selfish” block of time.

The Universe handed me a relationship in return.

Regardless of my much- negotiated need to be self-focused until I reached my goal I made some small concessions; I adjusted my class schedule to allow for more travel, and held off on redecorating my apartment as we discussed the particulars of an eventual move. Our pairing we learned was to be a seasonal one and while we remain quite fond of each other, our season eventually ended. Shortly after, I found out the last of the required courses I put off would not be offered for another year, pushing back my expected date of graduation. Cost: One to two years.

*****

So what is the cost of building a life? Where do those that chose to wait their turn go when their turn never comes up? How many times can one fold into another person? How many times can one start over?

These are the questions I asked when I decided to make a few non-negotiable life choices for the foreseeable future that will render me exponentially less malleable to “fit” into another life. While I still desire companionship and experiences, what that looks like when my autonomy is non-negotiable is drastically different from the partnership model I craved at 25.  I am not a “savage”; I simply have lost the desire to share in the structural work of living. I am a princess out of time.

I have been told a great many things about myself since expressing this choice; either I will be alone and bitter for life or the “perfect” man will come to change my mind now that I am no longer looking, as that is usually how it works in the movies. I have been told my choices were not necessary (please point out where I blamed anyone else for them, or their result) and I simply need to choose smarter when building a life in the future. A worldly, attractive and nurturing woman cannot *want* this life, not when she would make such a wonderful (helpmeet) wife. Your table cannot permanently be for one.

To be “chosen” is a gift.

It is a gift I choose to give myself in this third season of life. For many this is not a revolutionary way to live (hello, only children!) but I just got here. You can ride along, or not. But for now command of the steering wheel is not up for negotiation, and I can’t tell you if it will ever be again. I no longer lead with my nurturing foot. I no longer brag all that know me are made better for it. I do not race to prove utility in the hopes you will see me as a worthy choice. I’m just…here, starting over, with a table set for one.

But if you’re cute, I do have an extra plate.

*This post was brought to you by The Skinny Black Girl, who stays reminding me my best thoughts have no business being wasted on twitter.

Winter

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go.”

I think about that phrase often, when I’m in my quiet spot in the park. The release of dead thing weighing down, making room for colors in the Spring. For new life, beautiful blooms marking New Beginnings. I think of possibilities anew.

But mostly I think, “they never speak of Winter”.

The long quiet moments left with nothing but the space the Dead Things left behind when you set them free. The agonizing stillness, time refusing to move as you cocoon in the darkness wondering if you will ever see the sun,. If you will ever bloom again.

It is Winter time for me. The Belly of the Beast; the moment before the first blade of grass pokes through the snow, when most folks say “fuck this shit”. The time when you have nothing left to report and your days are an endless slog of dues and your friends stop asking because your answer is always the same. The part of the movie they shorten to a  montage because months of daily training and vomiting bile do not a blockbuster Hero’s Tale make.

They never speak of Winter.

When you have been laid bare; left to weather the harshest of the elements and cannot bear yet another day of waking up to darkness. They do not tell you the final leg of your journey is to be navigated in Darkness; the shortened days make the light at the end of the tunnel shine for too short a time to be a guide.

There is a patch of grass by my tree now, much greener than the rest of the dry earth around it. It must be new here. I look above, I did not notice the branches now bear the fainest beginnings of bulbs. The sun, while low in the sky, peeks just long enough for me to not go home in darkness today.

But still.

They never speak of Winter.

Shoe-Dropper

“Ok how about this-tell me what would be the best possible outcome for this situation? Like, what would be a ‘happy ending’ here for you?”

I had no answer, and I realized I was back in the same place getting the same lesson once again.

My name is Maris, and I am a card-carrying member of the League of Shoe Droppers; head-dwellers stubbornly transfixed on every possibility except the one in front of them.

I used to wonder why I was somewhat envious of Holly GoLightly-types, hopeless romantics, extreme yogis and other such flighty life-surfers. Their ability to live in the present, or otherwise continuously imagine the best outcome regardless of how logical or likely that outcome seemed-sometimes to their detriment-was a thing of wonder. Even more incredulous was their ability to do it all over again if things did not go as planned.

Meanwhile it seems I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for the other shoe to drop- despite leaps of progress, improved situations and hard-earned achievements. It creeps past my morning gratitude exercises and evening meditations. It tugs at every blessing. It will not let me be whenever I find a person I enjoy being around. If pragmatism was a sport, I’d be Olympic-level.

At the core of this of course is perfectionism and fear-it is easier to give up and prepare for the worst outcome than to do your best and deal with the uncertainty of a circumstance you cannot control.

So since this ugly habit of mine has found its way into my daily thoughts once again and I don’t really give advice here, I’m just gonna share old posts of things I have done to overcome it. Because recognizing this is an ongoing challenge and not something that is one-and-done cured might help someone other than me:

That time I dedicated my Lent to giving up control

That time I did a 30-day challenge to own my desires

That time I made myself identify my motivation

That time I celebrated myself as a perfect work and dropped the “in progress” part

That time I embraced the uncertainty of change

That time I learned to speak up

This was a completely selfish endeavor to remind myself that I not only can live in the present, but that I have enjoyed getting out of my own head before. So, feel free to add an experience that, whatever the ending, went much better for you because you allowed yourself to fully experience it!

 

Mosaic: The Birthday Post

“Imagine that one day you accidentally knock a treasured vase off its perch. It smashes into tiny pieces. What do you do? Do you try to put the vase back together as it was? Do you collect the pieces and drop them in the rubbish, as the vase is a total loss? Or do you pick up the beautiful colored pieces and use them to make something new – such as a colorful mosaic?”

~Stephen Joeseph

For the last few years, I’ve celebrated the day of my birthday sans company.

Of all the plans and assumed trajectories for my life that I’ve given up on or allowed to die, this leftover idea has been the most peculiar. Puzzling because at no point has this scenario ever been close to a reality, so I do not know why it still occasionally tugs at my heart.

A significant other, so enraptured by my existence that the day of my birth, to them, should be an event.

Full-disclosure: I have not had a get together orchestrated by another living human since I was five years old. I have never been surprised. I tend to gravitate towards the type of men that consider no holiday worth getting worked up over, including their own birthdays. More years than I’d care to mention birthdays were celebrated with a mutual cancelling out of the responsibilities associated with being a significant other whose mate had a born day. To make things sound even more ridiculous, I’m not a giant fan of parties.

And yet still.

It is not to say I have not had some rollicking birthday celebrations; a favorite being a four-day romp that included a spa day, a beach day, a dinner and two brunch parties. Events all orchestrated by me; which often left me breathless and happy, but tired in a way you should not be on a set of days dedicated to you.

So at some point I decided doing whatever I wanted instead trumped being an event planner and host, and simply turned off my phone and walked outside on my birthday. Usually whatever I wanted involved food, so this approach evolved to an annual food adventure where I’d throw a dart at a tasting menu, hand them my card, tell them it was my birthday and worry about the bill later. If you consider my IG account you’d understand how quickly this became my most treasured way to celebrate anything.

And yet. Still.

While making my way in life to the eventual point where this blog was born I’ve formed an e-circle of writing friends of whom I affectionately refer to as “Ladies, Interrupted”; having each experienced an event that abruptly, devastatingly, killed off the trajectory of life we imagined and left us to make sense of the life we were now given. I’ve had many a conversation on the subject of rebirth with Rae of Untitled, 1975 (an aptly named blog born of the ashes of another), where we share a joint interest in the concept of kintsugi, which she beautifully details in “The Art of Mending Broken Things”.  While inspiring I’ve found the concept never truly spoke to me. There are aspects of my life, once broken, that are impossible to be remade whole in the image of what was, gold fillings or not.

Which is how I came across the mosaic. Specifically, this piece from Mari Andrew (yes, we do indeed have the same name).

While there is beauty in the cracks some dreams are just shattered beyond repair. And there is something wonderfully healing in simply allowing it to remain forever broken and creating a completely new life out of it, something even lovelier than you had imagined the first time. This is the space I occupy. A mosaic allows you to simultaneously mourn that forever broken and celebrate the new life that came together from the bits.

Which brings us back to my birthday celebration. An elaborate event orchestrated by a loved one, platonic or otherwise, is something that is just not a realistic possibility in this lifetime (yes, I still have years to live. No, I have no interest in doing that to myself). I can’t even tell you why I wanted it in the first place, so I definitely cannot explain why this really insignificant thing in the grand scale of all that has got-damned happened and not happened in my life still occasionally stings. But allowing myself to acknowledge it, mourn, and also really fucking enjoy (and quite likely prefer) the traditions I have created instead just..it just brings me peace.

Now I have ranted about the need to make your own traditions that are not “consolation prize” versions of the traditions you wanted to make before, but never really delved into the “why”. Because I love to make series (I should really call them novellas because of the way I abandon them after three seasons), the discussions surrounding will be labelled “mosaic”. Let’s make some beauty of the bits, shall we?

What about you? What beautiful new life emerged from something you let completely fall apart or die?