On the Bechdel Test and One Last Hurrah

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So here we come my friends. We have arrived at the end of this road. I thought my last post would be on Cuba, but that experience came and went back in May. tldr; I enjoyed my time there and would go back to visit if I could.

As I have said more often as the frequency of my posts slowed down, I have been busy. Too busy, it seems to write at all here. I have chronicled in a way some important life events on this blog, made and lost some friends on it too. I was a 22 year old wide eyed, I dunno what when I started. And I think my travel posts , well I know they helped some people along the way. People have contacted me, before heading off to x, y or z location, because they came across this space while googling “black in”… and that is great.

But tbh this blog, although I refashioned it as more of a way to document my experiences while black, it has also been a space to talk about or allude to my personal highs and lows. Let’s face it, blogging is dead. And this space as one I feel 100% comfortable in letting things out, just doesn’t fit the bill anymore. So I decided to end the blog in a similar way to how I started it.  This post, like a lot of my musing on my life will not pass the bechdel test. And that is OK by me. My readership of bots and the occasional straggler and the even rarer person who uses this space to keep tabs on me, will not mind.

Today I am 32 going on 33. As I enter my Jesus year, I again take stock of what I have done, what my life has become in a way. I had a really strange weekend… well week. And I figured why not type it out here.

Gazelle is no stranger to black girl pain. And I have posted about it, ad nauseum. I see it in the micro-aggressions of my coworkers, and in how people who I think are friends and sometimes even family over look or brush off my concerns or belittle my experiences.  In 2016, I knew that a lot of changes were afoot. I knew that I was coming back to the US, I knew that that I wanted to make a concerted effort to find someone for whom I would be enough.

For a lot of reasons, some I highlighted in this post I didn’t have time to explore, date, fall in love in my teens and sure as hell did not have time in my 20s.  I feel like I have been playing catchup in a lot of senses. But 2016 was supposed to be the year that changed that. Hurt and disillusioned by someone who I thought I could trust to not treat me like a trash heap, I tried my best to brush being kicked aside and focus on being the best me. And it was a bumpy ride indeed. I swiped right a lot and left a whole lot more. I checked messages on dating profiles. I gave people a chance that I knew I would not have to consider if I was well, lighter or whiter.  And I realized that at the end of the day, Gazelle has standards.  I am not booty call kind of girl. I also have no time for wishy washy behavior.  I deserve to be treated like a human. By December of 2016 I was all swiped out and ready to just be alone all by myself . At least for the first quarter of the year 2017.

Living in the States, and in a very white as state at that, has made me realize how invisible black women are. I am one of very few where I work, I can’t get black cosmetics or hair products where I live. But I trudge on. Many Americans say they are post-racial, but that has not been my experience.

But don’t envision the violins just yet. This post isn’t about be crying a river, well not at least for the reasons you might think.

I have been grappling with a lot. My sense of self. My sense of self worth. I think it’s hard to live in world where you know there is nothing wrong with you, but the entire society is garbage, or at least it’s set up to make you feel like garbage. One of my oft-repeated sayings to myself is something I saw on a poster: “Eres preciosa, es la sociedad que es una mierda” – You are precious, it’s society that is a piece of shit. But you know, if a tree is standing up straigh in a forest, but all the other trees are bent and tell that straight tree that it’s the one that’s crooked. Who is right?

But I have digressed, I think. By the end of 2016 I was ready to shake of some bad habits and useless friendships. I was also resigned to not swiping on anyone else and letting the chips fall where they may with the three remaining men I was talking to. In the end, one came out a champion— but depends on how you look at things, because only Gazelle’s affection was the prize (I guess I should have sweetened the pot). And things were good, I guess. But then there never really is a good and a bad in life. Things just kind of are what they are.

Last week Thursday I accidentally posted a picture of us on facebook. (damn that app!… ha ha). I was showing someone the photo and must have set it as the photo instead. I had two coffee dates, one with a white acquaintance who in the 11 months we have known each other, met and moved in with her boyfriend, the other an Arab acquaintance who muses about finding a mate. Neither convo passed the bechdel test. By the time I came back from lunch I had all these likes and loves and even some comments. Yikes! Not what I wanted at all.

What’s even funnier is that on Sunday, I woke up. I went out with my boyfriend and we did everything we planned to do that day. Then we came back to his apartment and ended up having a conversation that lead us to the realization that we are breaking up.

My silver lining is that I dated a human being. I have no regrets of dating him. Unlike anyone I have ever had a romantic encounter with previously, he treated me with respect he did not lie to me (or to himself and therefore by extension to me).  He did not lie by omission, he did not treat me so callously that I questioned my own sanity and sought counselling (yup LJ Cul de Sac, talking about you). I can honestly say that he is a genuinely good person and in my interactions with him, a stand up individual. I wish him all the best.

It is a relief to break up with someone and not want to punch them in the face or cringe about your connection.  It also is kind of sad, because when I think about other people, including one who knew me for over a decade and he is the only person I can say this about.

So yeah, I am crying a little bit. Not in front of anyone, just by myself in my home. It didn’t work out. The thing is though, I am not sure where the tears are coming from. Is it that I will miss him? Is it that I know I don’t have heart or the energy to make trying to date as a black woman in a brown and white world my second job? I am not sure. They are tears for myself in either case.

I mean, I don’t owe him my tears, right? That is one thing I can have for myself. Sometimes, the responsibilities that I have borne and continue to bear make me feel like I have to give to different people so many pieces of myself that there is nothing left for me. And here I am again, although under the best of circumstances, considering everything, and a piece of me has essentially been refused. That is what it feels like. A few years ago, I wrote a journal entry about something that happened one Christmas, sheesh it was probably like 7—hmm probably even earlier — years ago now,

 

It’s funny how some events we remember as clearly as they were yesterday or right here in this moment, while there remains people, things, places that float away, out of our consciousness.  Then there are those events where we only remember the feeling, the burn, the sting, the sweetness, the bitterness.

Dates, times all meld together, but the essence of it all remains.

Like that Christmas 20—- something or other.

As usual, I had no money, no gifts, but I hoped to make someone else’s life a bit brighter, and to this day I still shed tears for my unrequited gift. 

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Aunty A. gave me twenty dollars.  Twenty Dollars, enough to go out with friends, enough to but necessities for school, you know. Shampoo, laundry detergent and the like… If it was indeed that long ago.  Perhaps I wasn’t in college then, perhaps I was still battling my high school wars. 

I just remember twenty dollars, and visiting Aunty A. and going on to visit uncle M. who lived nearby.  His wife had died a while back, but the families remained close-ish.  I felt so helpless, here it was Christmas, and I was at a family who had been pivotal in achieving the goals I wanted to achieve. 

I wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to do it. 

But I did it.  I knew it was the right thing.  I knew it wasn’t the most advantageous to me, but I thought, ” what else do I have to give these boys?”  

so I gave it.  the Twenty Dollar bill. My twenty Dollar bill.  and I felt good about it.   Like I was on my way to being the aunty—- the surrogate big sis I wanted to be.  Like despite my searing poverty, I brightened the life of several kids. 

Yes, it was not much.  It was twenty bucks divided between three not so little kids— 10 for the eldest and 5 for the other two. But it was all I had.  And I gave it freely, of my own volition. 

And then he said it.  The words, I have have forgotten their exact constitution, but the feeling, the same and helplessness that has enveloped every aspect of my life before and after that day, is still fresh. 

“Twenty dollars for the three of us?”  he asked.  When I replied with the affirmative, he scoffed and said something that let me know the gift was not on his level.   It was rejected for its infinitesimal impact, it’s puny size and its gigantic  lameness. 

It hurt.  It cut deep.    

To think something,  that I had prized so much, a gesture that I had embraced with a ravaging earnestness, and gratefulness— was rejected out of hand. 

That child, teenager really, never knew the extent of my sacrifice, perhaps if he had, he would not have been so forthright in expressing his disdain.  

But as it stands, he will never know how efficaciously he helped further destroy my sense of self-worth. 

That day, I learned that people don’t give a damn about  how much you give up for them.  

 

My newly minted ex was a lot kinder than the kid in my entry. But the sting is all the same. Maybe it’s cynical me talking here, but I think the lesson I learned then has yet to be proven wrong. Or maybe cynical me is me.

So there you have it. 10 years and no elucidating perspectives in sight. Life just kind of is what it is. Maybe I will look back on this and see it as turning point or breakthrough. Maybe it will be the beginning of some sort of horrible spiral. If the past 10 years have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t really know and can’t really anticipate anything in life or love.

Some of the greatest leaps of faith left  medown with sprained foot or bum knee. At other times, I walked right through windows of opportunity so big I thought they were doors.

All I can do is take care of me. It’s time, it looks like, to cross off some stuff from my meaning to-do list. Capstone post for blog: Check.

Goodbye virtual world, it’s been real. But nobody really blogs anymore anyway… Goodbye bots??? ha ha.

 

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Countdown to the End: How I’m Doing

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I wish I could say I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on life and such, but I have not. Work eats up my life, and my weekends are waiting. I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since My Europe trip… but I do have a nice-ish update…

I am going to have my last entries be about being a black woman in … wait for it… Oh my gosh, this is so exciting…. CUBA baby!

This negra is going to have tons of Tumbao!  and I will be going with some friend from my program in Qatar. The past ten years have been a bumpy ride…. but I feel like Cuba will bring this full circle. I started this blog as a bored Arabic student in Yemen, just a year into graduate school (and 20 pounds lighter :-/ )

But hey, I am nearing my Jesus year (33) and have seen, felt, heard and written a whole lot. Stay tuned for my prep for the Cuba adventure!

 

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This is about to be Me!!!!!!!!

(Still) In Europe– ON Finding Elucidation in a Jet-lagged dream

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Well my week in Dublin came and went… Ireland was great, from what I could see, unfortunately everything closes early besides pubs, so my work schedule didn’t really allow for much of anything else.

My impressions of Ireland though is that it’s pretty meh weather, very friendly people (or at least less of a culture of otherizing than what I experienced previously… it was great to walk around in space where I was only 1 of a very few number of black people and it was not a big deal… the other black people didn’t make eye contact, didn’t try to connect since we were the only ones of our race in a hostile space… ha ha… but everyone else went around their business: I never felt otherized).

Food was ok, but from what I understand, traditional Irish food is a lot of stews and a lot potatoes.  I didn’t really eat much of that… it was more hotel/restaurant food. I think I should have stayed through today (Saturday) so that I could really get a feel for the town.

I did go to the city center my last evening there and thought it was really cute (too bad again, everything closes so early…. 7pm ! on a Friday night!)

But something else happened during my trip, that I wanted to codify, a little bit. Laying in my lovely hotel apartment (it had heated floors!… ha ha, and a pretty comfortable mattress,  but overall I think it was a little hyped up… not complaining though it was lovely). I have been thinking about a  few things… related to my “new  year” philosophy.  I have had a disquieted spirit for a few weeks. Well, not disquieted really but there was some stuff I was trying to make sense of, because I felt overwhelmed and preoccupied by a a lot of different thoughts. The anxiety has been building, tbh, I was looking forward to going to Dublin and the subsequent vacation. It wasn’t just one issue, really, it’s a bunch of separate ones, some interrelated, some not. But it all felt so daunting.  Anyway…

Jet-lag is weird… I lay there that first night in Dublin, desperately trying to sleep and focus on sleep. But my mind kept staying super active, and going everywhere but to counting sheep. And boom somewhere around three AM I realized two important things: The first, about an issue that has lasted the past couple years. I have been trying to resolve it within my heart and mind, and succeeded only to a certain extent. But there was sort of a final piece that I realized, acknowledged and came to terms with and I immediately felt a source of peace…. The only hitch is that I also shared what I had realized that morning… In a manner that I thought was tactful with the other person involved… And their reception of it is still TBD.:

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FWIW… LJC if you happen to be reading this, I meant what I shared, but hope it wasn’t taken as an insult of any kind. I thought sharing was what you wanted, but maybe not… Ironic though, when I finally feel like the issue is completely resolved that manages to have (potentially) cringeworthy repurcussions. I can see how it can feel dragged out and maybe even like some sort of attack. Am hedging my bets that this is not the case here, that this is not how you read things. But I know that everyone has to do what they have to do. Sigh.  With that said, I value you and your friendship greatly.

And it would be really sad if as everything was making sense to me, the craziness of it made you say, fuck this…

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Can’t put it back, honestly I wouldn’t want to… There is a freedom in pointing out certain things… At least, I hope all parties can see this.

 

The other issue, is a newer one, in a newer dynamic that I am still trying to figure out… but as I tossed and turned, I figured out what I need to do for now… Some rules that I needed to clarify for my own self.  Gazelle figured out what she’s doing!!! —- in a situation where I didn’t realize there was figuring to do.

So it’s  a little crazy that it took traveling almost 5,000 miles to help me realize some key things that have been weighing on my subconcious. Still a lot of other things to sort out, but checking off two things from the list still feels good.

 

And now I am taking it easy this weekend. Breathing in and out… hoping for the best.

It’s Official: Europe Bound

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Yup I will be doing a short sprint in Europe in a couple of months! (not mainland Europe but whatever). Looking forward to seeing some family in the UK and being in another country that I have never visited before.

 

I didn’t expect to be kicking up my travel shoes again, but here we are. Thank God I have a new, very warm winter coat.

On Starting 2017: Honesty is the Best Policy

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There are things that I promise to do differently next year. Promises are often broken so we will see how many of them I can keep. In anticipation of my endevour to be more frank and cut the bullshit with others, I am starting with myself.

I am a reasonably happy individual, all things considered. But what things exactly am I considering? It’s a hard story to tell in one blog entry (and I am trying to keep it down to one).

I was a relatively happy child, but poor as fuck. Not rural poor. Not as poor and as desperate a situation as other kids (because of course, the sick beauty of this world is that no matter how hard you have it, there is always someone else who has it worse).

But yeah, childhood was intertwined with intuiting my family’s socio-economic status and trying to the best I could with it. To be honest, I have never gone to bed hungry in my life. To be honest, I have always had a roof over my head.

But to be honest, I’ve been homeless, for extended stints throughought my childhood and adulthood. The first time was when I was 8. Spending the weekend at my cousin’s house and wanted to call my mom. My uncle’s wife (more of wicked stepmother type than the cool aunt type) at the time, told me there was not point to call home becuase there was not home call and that my family (mother and siblings) were out on the street. Naturally, I didn’t believe her. I was already accustomed to her always finding the most mean and cruel things to say to me (I loved my cousin dearly, I guess, otherwise why the hell did I love going over there so much). Anyway, I tried to call the house, but the line was disconnected. And the evil aunty found comic relief in my confused face.

A couple of days later, my mom came to pick me up. I remember we needed some for me so we were going to the bastion of footwear for the poor: Payless Shoesource. It was there just a few feet away from the entrance that she told me we no longer had a place to live. I got my shoes, a pair of suede-like booties… and the memories of that time crstualized in my memory.

TBH the apartment was a hell hole anyway, teeming with mice and rats. I slept on the floor, another sibling on the couch (where the rats had bored holes and made a nice home for themselves no doubt.

But As I mentioned earlier, I have always had a roof over my head. We stayed with family for a couple weeks (interesting lessons learned from that experience for sure) and then with family friends. Within a month we were in a better apartment, in a better area. So I guess it worked out for the better in this case. We had fallen behind on the crappy place, and although we had a verbal agreement from the landlord that rent could be paid late, he double dealed and put in papers for an eviction anyway.

When I think about it, I never was the same after that. The new apartment was bigger, but we had no furniture for the first year. And eventually, with other members of extended family moved in with us there, the cycle began again…. By the time I was going to high school, another eviction loomed over us. This time, we got ahead of the curve though: We moved out before they could throw us out. And again we stayed with family friends until we got another better space.

Like I said, I’ve been homeless many times. This better space was fantastic at first, but when the working poor fall ill or lose their jobs, then their already tenuous situation gets worse. And this is how I started college. I worked my ass off (academically and literally in the dining hall shifts and other gigs) because my family could not support me financially at all.

The irony of the American dream is that here I was at one of the best colleges in the country despite my circumstances (and thanks to some good years of ebb right before)  and studied abroad (thanks to student loans and generous grants). It was not a fun time, (it was a very broke time!… but I made due).  But I came home to no home at all: In danger of being evicted yet again, after unemployment ran out, we had to move, this time leaving tons of shit behind/ or giving it awawy. This time, there were no real family or friends to lean on. What could you say? Yet again? Evicted yet again?

That stretch of time was some of the darkest days of my life to date: All of the complications, a sibling was also sick and I was sick too, in a way. I wish that I had done some therapy in retrospect, but therapy how? and Where?

This was the longest stretch of homelessness- from the summer before I went abroad. during the break between semesters we were living in one bedroom in the home of a then friend of my mom. Like I said, I can never say that I never had a roof over my head.  I worked that winter break and considered leaving school (but my mother said no). The house was in the suburbs but I walked two miles in shitty shoes in unpaved ice and snow to make 8 dollars an hour as restaurant hostess: Every penny counted. We were paying rent for the room, but things were strained and by the time I cam back from Morocco we were staying in an extended stay-like hotel.

I worked my ass off that summer, to help pay for the room for the night. My days were spent thinking about how to get the 77 dollars needed for the room that night. Our meals were either rice eggs and vegetables, or noodles eggs and vegetables (all we could afford and cook in the room). Depressed isn’t even the word to describe that time. We didn’t even have time to be depressed literal homelessness loomed all around. By the time I returned to college that fall, we had moved to stay with a family friend/distant relative. But that soon soured, and my siblings were in another hotel situation. The job situation picked up though, so by October at last… we had a place to call our own, a bigger one.

I always remember how people remarked so positively at all the weight I had last: Between shitty study abroad and shitty living at-no-home, I went down a dress size. They had no idea what I had gone through to become the then much skinnier me. Yet through it all, I studied for the GRE, got a fellowship to graduate school. Talk about high functioning depression!

Sadly, sickness would rear its head again and again so eviction happened some years later. By then I said fuck it and shouldered the responsibility of making sure as best I could that it didn’t happen again. There have been some near misses, especially when I went to grad school the second time (In search of the almighty steady paying job, I assure you, but before I would be able to get it). Needless to say, I was well into my late twenties before I could begin to maybe hope that poverty and homelessness were a thing of the past.

It’s been interesting to occupy my own unique form of intersectionality.

Being poor ate my youth. Sometimes I think it sapped our energies so much, that we couldn’t really have been fully functioning human beings. I see the effects on myself, on my siblings. I understand what the working poor go through, my life is the embodiment of that struggle. But I also have had opportunities that others perhaps have not. Despite the shit hole that so many months and even years have been, I was never prevented from pursuing opportunities… We simply made due. For that, I am always grateful to my mother; she saw that dropping out of program X,Y or Z or not pursuing A, B, or C would hurt me more in the long-run

Upon further reflection though, this thread of homelessness is the reason behind much of my decisions. Like I said, it ate my youth. Sometimes I look back on things and people and think why didn’t I do X, Y, or Z, but then I remind myself that I was poorer than a church mouse at the time and didn’t want to have to explain myself. Why am I explaining myself now? I don’t know, I just want to get it out and leave it in the dustbins of history.

I was never a flake. I was never afraid to make bold changes. I had real deal shitty circumstances to contend with and for longer than anyone knew. I think this is why time is so important to me. So much of my life has been wasted fighting this scourge, I didn’t have time for much else. I don’t like the idea of wasting any more time than I already have. Gazelle feels every trash relationship, every shitty business meeting more acutely because I feel like I’m playing catch up with life, like I’m just learning how to breath.

But I know I’m not alone. This piece on NPR and this one from the Atlantic say what I already know. It does feel good to get it out though. The one thing I will say for this life experience is that it’s taught me how to weed people out, and the importance of trying to be sensitive to other people’s sensitivities. You never know what someone is going through, has gone through. And you also never know where someone will end up. It should come as no surprise that I’ve had an inordinate number of people shit on me and my family (even members of my extended family) and yet many of those people who wrote me off as trash back then, have a very different opinion of me now. But I just roll my eyes. (and keep my friend circle amazingly small… ha ha… had to have some levity in this post, no?)

Finally though, needless to say it’s made me very sensitive to issues around homelessness. In my own way, I have tried to fight it on the individual level. Why I didn’t end up pursuing it as some sort of career goal is anyone’s guess.

I think what I call immigrant sense of shame kept me from saying any of this, like ever. But now I have declared it on a public blog(that a very finite group of people read, so there is that). I want to leave this heavy load in 2016. Putting it on here, and out there, is one way I am trying to do just that.

I guess I could write more, but this post is long enough.

This was a lot more cathartic than writing about the online and offline randos that I have unfortunately crossed paths with this year… ha ha

 

 

 

 

2016 in Review: Highs (so few), Lows (so many), Dating Woes- Part Deux

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So let’s start with January. Ah January came on the heels of a very shitty last quarter of 2015 on so many different levels. If you care to remember it was when I was int he middle of a lot of bad choices, lots of regret and lack of clarity on where exactly I would be moving onto in 2016 (jobs, locations etc).

But like the lighter, brighter friends (with the good hair… ha ha) I joined the online dating thing for real: partially because I was lonely and curious to as the possibilities the then New Year would hold, partially because I thought it would be good to do some unofficial gauging of what my options were, figuring that wherever I moved to next would be where I would beed to find my Mr. Wright…

I matched with an interesting Moroccan man.. an IM and he was funny and thought I was cool too. But there was hitch (and there always is one, isn’t it?) … Upon meeting in person I found that he was a lot lighter and a little chubbier than his photos. But still, I forged ahead. (I should have taken that as a harbinger of things to come). I soon realized that IM as mainly looking for a quiet penis receptacle. He straight up told me that he didn’t like talking and was looking for someone who would support him, he didn’t want a girlfriend who made him think: He did all his thinking at his engineering job…. Wow. This, plus his mistaken notion that since I am black and speak Arabic I must be desperate to be Arab and ashamed of being black meant that this was doomed from the start. I slightly regret how I ended things here, but at the same time, he pushed me till I felt like I had to choice but to be super duper frank, perhaps more frank than I wanted to be and not terse enough. Funny thing is the story doesn’t end there…. Ha ha… Before the end of January this budding relationship had died the death of a falling star.  It had hit earth and We both had moved on, or so I thought…. Queue Valentine’s day when I get a message from IM out of the blue. My response: “Who is this?”

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Give me some credit, I didn’t quite respond like that! ha ha

Apparently, that was not the response he was looking for. IM responded with a terse “No one” and (I believe) blocked my number… I was really confused by the immaturity of his response, but also reprimanded by friends for being unfriendly… ha ha…

Mentioning it in passing to my sister and she said that my problem is that I like to be in control… I as annoyed that someone who had written me off and I had written off would come back out of the blue  rattle me.

 

Who knows? For me this is the beginning of the encounters that I leave in the trashbins of history.