Laughter in Hell

When I was writing Mating in Captivity and was interested in making a distinction between eroticism and sexuality, I made a connection that I had never made before. That helped me understand why I was so interested in writing about the erotic – not in the narrow sense that modern society has defined it, but rather that quality of aliveness, vitality, and vibrancy that animates us.

-Esther Perel

I was listening to a podcast interview with Esther Perel recently where she talks as she often does about the study of aliveness and the erotic as related to the family and community of Holocaust survivors from which she hails. She often says that in the camps after the Holocaust there remained two different types of survivors: those that did not die and those who came back to life. One might wonder as I did when I first started studying Perel’s work, what the erotic has to do with Holocaust survivors.

As mentioned in the quote above, the term Erotic Intelligence coined by Perel, refers to a much broader definition of what it means to be alive than what most of us or used to. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Perel was very aware that her parents made the decision, to be not just survivors, but to make of their survival all that they could and to “come back to life” rather than to be alive and exist in a state of death. The energy that lay both in that choice and the work, the daily practice of joy and gratitude required, all contain the spark of the erotic and those things which universally signal aliveness for us all.

She talked in the interview about the role laughter played for survivors of the Holocaust, laughter in the darkest, the most terror filled times, “Laughter in hell.” This notion grabbed me and I took note of the times when laughter in my life during rough times (many of which I still wading through) have brought me and people around me to laugh totally at random. Marginalized oppressed people all over the world relate to this kind of laughter, the kind that pushes up defiantly through the ugliness and pain of human injustice and disparity and explodes into spaces blanketed with fear, sadness, hopelessness and depression like light breaking. Perel talks about laughter as autonomy in dark times when one feels that the sense of control over everything else has been lost.

The affirmation of this through Perel’s study touched me deeply. It confirmed something I had always suspected about why laughter is so important to me. There is a sense of unabashed freedom and bonding, a collective agreement, a belonging when we laugh together and even alone. There are times, in my therapist’s office when we will both share bursts of unexpected of laughter, sometimes moments after I have been crying. And that laughter…man, it makes me feel like no matter what, I still have the energy of life in me, that I have not shut down completely, that light can still enter and will again and again if I hold space for it. And I hold space for laughter in my life actively. I hold space for laughter and to make people laugh and to laugh at myself most of all.

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Shit Serena Doesn’t Say

I was scrolling through IG a few days ago when I saw this quote by Serena for the press conference after she lost to Halep in the Wimbledon Finals posted by USTA.

Serena Quote

I had watched that entire match and the press conference afterward with my mom and I saw right away how they left out the only words in that quote that I had hung on to. The complete quote is as follows.

Serena Actual quote

I knew even then that when Serena said made this statement that it was still vague enough for the media to manipulate and project it’s agenda onto. But wow, they just went ahead and took the whole damn thing out. When Serena said “People that look like you and me…” I feel like she was doing that old double consciousness balancing act that still haunts many of us as Black people to this day. Serena’s indications about people who look like her and the reporter (I’m assuming she wasn’t white?) were specific and yet leaving enough wiggle room for the customization of truth that is written by Whiteness. In fact, every conference I’ve watched Serena give during this Wimbledon tournament has made me wonder what anger, frustration and irritation lay unsaid inside of her as she appears to maintain a lo-key, laid back, non-reactive and non-threatening facade, the anti-thesis of her behavior during the now infamous Osaka match.

My husband made the interesting point that the media’s uproarious and favorable acceptance of Coco Gauff has taken a lot of pressure off of Serena this year. If not for Coco she might have had to withstand harsher focus from the media. It’s ironic really how Serena and Venus have clearly opened the doors for young Black female tennis players like Sloane and Gauff, who seem to be getting the kind of measured and unbiased treatment from the press and media which the Williams sisters were never afforded because of blatant racism. Its wonderful, strange and a bit concerning to me (double consciousness again) to watch Coco respond to the press by just being the young girl she is. When I think of that terrible “interview” Venus had to endure with that White a-hole who probably called himself a journalist when she was just 14 years old, I cringe. I know this is an experience like many others the Williams sisters endured which informed the women they are now, experiences they have had to surpass and transcend so that others who look like them might not have to. And although the Williams are revered as top tennis champions and hold a place in history as Black women who have persevered oppression and racism in the sport, the thing is, it’s not over. It’s not over and they know it in ways Sloane and Gauff may never know. That’s how it works after all.

Obama Translator

I studied Serena’s face when they dared to ask her how she felt her stamina compared with Roger Federer’s considering their advanced ages and I longed for the equivalent of the Key and Peele Obama translator sketch  ; a Black woman with nothing to lose could stand beside her and translate what Serena said unapologetically in explicit language that Black folk would understand and make racist White people uncomfortable with their implicit role in her frustration.

Muthafucka, Federer ain’t had to push out an entire fucking human being out his body and then almost die afterward! Who the fuck do you think she is? She slayed the Australian Open while she was pregnant bitches! Why not ask Federer if he thinks he could have pulled that shit off?

That’s what my imaginary Williams translator would have said if she was there with Serena that day. She would have also said the words Black women, not “people who look like you and I.” But fuck if I don’t understand why she didn’t say Black women. She would have to deal with all kinds of stories calling her angry and asking why everything has to be about race…

It’s fucking exhausting y’all.

Ya’ll Whiteness is fucking exhausting.

 

 

 

Baldie Revolution or Guess What? I Shaved My Head.

So after months of thinking about it and agonizing over it, I finally shaved my head  bald a few weeks ago. Though I do feel super liberated and in love with my bald head, I’ve had my share of insecurities, particularly since I’ve been challenged with some hair damage over the years but I’m kinda into moving past that right now and healing rather than harping. It has helped a lot to have the full support of my husband whose clippers I used to shave my head initially. He finished it off in the back and then smartly suggested that I go to the barbershop to have it lined up and neatened and stuff.

Shout out to Denny Moe’s in Harlem for never making me feel weird, awkward or shamed for coming in to cut my hair short and always making me feel welcome because I have heard some bad stories about the terrible treatment of women of color going to barber shops to have a big chop done. As if we don’t have enough problems!

Here are some things I have experienced since I shaved my head.

Continue reading Baldie Revolution or Guess What? I Shaved My Head.

Now Accepting Cash/Experience Gifts

I found very important the idea of the body passing through space, and the body’s movement not being predicated totally on image or sight or optical awareness, but on physical awareness in relation to space, place, time, movement.

-Richard Serra

This Memorial Day weekend, I celebrated my birthday by taking a day trip to Dia Beacon Art Center in Hudson Valley with a dear friend and co-worker, another fellow Gemini whose birthday is this month as well. What I looked forward to seeing most was an installation by Richard Serra called “Band” which I saw in the Social Media feed of a friend of mine a few years ago.

Dia Beacon is not like a traditional museum per say. It’s really built for large scale installation pieces, several of them inviting viewer interaction and participation. All of this is exciting to me. It checks all my sensory, discovery and sense of play boxes. My appreciation of abstract and modern art has expanded over time. I don’t try to understand anything intellectually at first. I just tap into whatever feeling a work gives me and go from there. I felt Richard Serra’s sculpture immediately. I felt it all those years ago seeing it in a friends IG feed. I never forgot it. It’s funny sometimes, the things we silently file away in our minds. Things we never mention or talk about that pop up years later as opportunities to engage, unfold and make connections.

You can find a description of the “Band” anywhere online. What’s harder to put into words for me is the feeling of entering, approaching and taking in these mammoth cylindrical iron structures. For me, it was dark in nature (but not in the stereotypical negative way usually connoted by darkness), immensely soothing, calming, harmonious and just filled with an intense kind of presence I can’t put my finger on. I loved it.

Me in a Serra

There were other pieces I liked there as well but Serra’s was my absolute favorite. It surpassed my expectations and I was so glad we went out there to see it and just hang out and talk, laugh break bread and enjoy the silence and nature. Even the train ride there with my GemBae was a fun adventure. It was so refreshing to get out of the often draining confines of our work environment and enjoy each other’s company in a  space that inspired a different kind of contemplation, introspection and exchange.

For the last 5 or so years I’ve been drawing a blank when it comes to thinking about what I want for my birthday. Objects and material gifts, though I would never refuse them, are not really my thing  anymore. This weekend made me realize that what I really want are experiences. Experiences that challenge, inspire and sharpen with people I love and enjoy being around. I want more of that.

And cash. LOL! Cash gifts are always good.

Screen Cracked/Waist beads Broken

 

I was in line for the restroom at the NYU Skirball Center. A White lady behind me was like,

“I love your blouse.” in a very high energy chirpy way.

“Thank you.” I said matching her high energy chirp

“It’s very happy.” She said.

She’s right. It’s my very happy blue blouse with crazy bright pink birds on it that I wear whenever Spring begins. I love it. Everyone loves seeing it. It’s a fucking cheery ass blouse.

That was the end of that conversation. I’m pretty sure both of us were miserable liars. We had just gotten out of a lecture with Esther Perel about the “Spiritual Crisis of Loneliness  in the age of social media and #metoo.

I was super excited all weekend to attend and it was a good talk, very much like what you’ve seen in Esther Perel’s talls if you’ve ever seen her TedTalk or any lectures or workshops she’s done. She engages the audience by saying things like “Stand up if you have ever been having a horrible time with someone and just let it keep going and not said anything?” that peel back the onion of your well guarded pretenses when you stand up with like 90% of the audience.

You laugh and feel not alone but more alone at the same time.

I for one learned that I am one of those people who is in a poly-amorous relationship with husband and my cellphone. I am. That’s me. I know I’m not alone, and it doesn’t make me feel any better…

Not yet anyway.

Continue reading Screen Cracked/Waist beads Broken

Coloured Beautiful

It’s rare that I write about make-up on my blog though I’ve been obsessed with it for years and wear it just about everyday. And though my obsession with make-up has begun to shift more over to skincare, I’ve recently gained a new love of creating vivid eye shadow looks using the Coloured Raine Vivid Pigments Palette, which I’ve had for months now.

Coloured Raine is a Black owned make-up company I discovered on Youtube of course. The Vivid Pigments Palette is legendary among many MU lovers and I was lucky enough to grab a palette while it was on sale. It sells out very quickly and I believe it is sold out presently because of it’s immense popularity on the Coloured Raine site.

At first, these very vivid intensely pigmented colors can seem very intimidating. They were for me. I looked at them for days after the palette arrived just in awe but having no idea how to use them, particularly after having gotten comfortable with creating fairly safe matte nude looks with touches of peach or coral shimmer. But after taking in a few tutorials, getting some better brushes and pushing past my fear of fucking up, I’m starting to understand a bit more about how these colors work together. Some knowledge of color theory doesn’t hurt.

Continue reading Coloured Beautiful

Sex With Me So Amazing

Like so many things I cherish, Esther Perel was shared with me by our dearest Khalilah Brann. Esther Perel is a therapist and psychologist whose primary focus is relationships and erotic intelligence, which I think is so dope. Erotic intelligence. Just think about that term for a minute. What comes to mind. What do you think it means?

I watch a lot of Youtube y’all. A LOT! And I can click on just about anything where Esther Perel speaks and be completely engaged, enlightened, enthralled and just wowed by her wisdom and intelligence and understanding of human sexuality and relationships. I always think I have some idea what she will say on a particular topic but she always ends up saying some truth I never knew I always knew! LOL! And in a way I never could have imagined. In other words, she surprises and empowers me at the same time. Since that doesn’t happen very often, I know when it’s real.

In the latest Esther Perel video I happened to click on randomly, she talks about how a woman has to be turned on by her own self before she can feel like she wants to have sex.

NOW!

It took 1.1 seconds for me to know this to be true but I’ve always thought that this quality in me was narcissistic and wrong because of the messaging I get from society about the evils of that kind of “self pleasuring.” But Esther doesn’t mince words. She’s not here to judge. She’s just saying it plain and she even uses the word narcissistic. But she’s not saying it’s bad. She’s just saying this is what it is that women need. We need to feel like we are sexy in order to have sex. “If she doesn’t want to make love to herself, she won’t let anybody else do it either.”

Nerisa

Cut to another woman Khalilah turned me onto, a Sistah named Nerissa Nefeteri, the self acclaimed “FemHealth Activist” whose Nene Feme Yoni wash stays in my bath time and shower rotation, the Sistah who brought us Yoni Poppin. I follow her on IG, another social media tool I am immersed in as much if not more than Youtube. Nerrissa will post a sexy random photo of herself and or her and her man (father of her beautiful children) in whatever position, wearing or not wearing whatever, whenever she sees fit. I can tell she gets off on herself but it’s not remotely similar to anything I would compare with pornography because she does it for herself, and not a male gaze. She could give a shit about what men are watching, though she know fully aware that they are. But these images are for herself and she shares them with us in an effort to promote a self awareness in Black women that really challenges notions of how we feel about our own  bodies, both physically, spiritually, emotionally and practically.

I’m not gonna lie. I sometimes will catch myself feeling like damn! I wish I could use visual mediums to be that bold and liberated about my own sexuality but I do worry about what people will think and about having to ward off harassment and other unwanted attention. Because I think this kind of expression is truly beautiful and sexy as fuck in a deeply transformative way. Any super sexy photos I have taken stay strictly between me and my husband. But there are times when I wish the world was not so inclined to the violence and perversity and destruction of the unleashed female imagination.

Thanks to women like Esther Perel and Nerrissa Nefeteri, and Cardi B (did you catch her Grammy performance?) I don’t feel quite as ashamed of needing to feel sexy or seeking pleasure in my own sexiness as I once did. It’s okay for us to be in love with and creative with our own sexual power. As to sharing that with other people, social media has seriously changed the game on that front by providing permanent as well as temporary options to express our exhibitionist qualities whenever the mood hits. In this Snaphat seflie thirst trappy culture, the average person can’t help but take at least one or two sexy photos of themselves that go out into the internet galaxy. The option to keep it to yourself is also always a sexy option. The idea is not to feel pressured to express your sexuality in any way that does not make you feel…sexy and safe, to understand truly what sexiness means for you.

My hope is for a future that continues to evolve into a place where women can continue to be sexually fearless. Because our sexual liberation, self care and being comfortable in our bodies usually leads to pleasure, joy, creation and community for all.

What Have I been Up to?

WELL!!!

I have been in Jury Duty for the last two months or more and that ended literally a few days ago. I finished a large book “Killing Commendatore” by Haruki Murakami in the first month, continued to record and edit content for my Youtube channel while also watching my faves to keep me from going crazy, started and finished “My Sister The Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Brathwaite which I really liked.

There has a been a period where I was really watching a lot of Youtube wig review porn and so the last two video on my channels are about wigs from Outre and Bobbi Boss. Like this thing happens to me last at night where I just am knee deep in wig porn and….ya know! Shot happens. LOL!! Next thing you know I’m cycling out wigs to make room for new ones and my husband is giving me the stink eye.

But it makes me happy! LOL! I’m a Gemini so any opportunity to change up my look at the drop of a dime is like slipping from one fun costume into another. This is one of many ways I keep my sense of play stimulated and engaged.

I’ve also been fascinated by Netflix programming like “Grace & Frankie” (which may be one of the only shows Francis and I watch together) “Civilizations,” “The Two Killings of Sam Cooke” and recently “High Flying Bird” directed and filmed by one of my faves, Steven Soderbergh wait for it….

Entirely on iPhone!

BISSSSH!

I read this dope piece on The Ringer today about the rise of filmmakers working outside of the Hollywood system using iPhones to make movies and I am so fascinated by this. Just last week I was at the Apple store charging my iPhone 6’s shitty battery and I started talking to a rep about the potential for an upgrade. According to the piece by ringer, the technology of iPhones is staring to slowly close the gap between its capabilities and that of a professional movie camera. This may be the only reason I stick with iPhone because most times I just want to toss it. Apple’s innovation has declined so much since Jobs passed. But watching “High Flying Bird” I just marvel at Soderbergh’s imagination and creativity with this little camera and it’s really inspiring. I’m not sure I would have known it was shot on an iPhone if I hadn’t discovered the movie by way of an article in a newspaper while I was on Jury Duty.

HIGH_FLYING_BIRD_BTS_02

I’ve been toying a lot with the idea of shifting the focus of my Youtube channel to express a little bit more of my interests but I’m not quite sure how yet.

Presently I’m off from work thanks to some dead White President so I’ve taken the opportunity to edit some video, take care of some personal stuff and generally power down, do a little research and stay warm with my bae because it’s cold af outside. There are a couple of trips I plan on taking in the next few months that I’m really excited about and despite the fact that Jury Duty did start to feel like a hostage situation after the first month, I am grateful to have been away from my job for awhile. It was an interesting change and allowed my mind the freedom to focus more broadly on some things I’ve been pondering. When I sort that out, I will report back.

In the meantime, there are a couple of make up launches coming up. I need to go scheme on buying a lip color by Fenty that I already have. LOL!!

Civilizations: What are we leaving behind?

Over this long weekend I started binge watching a Netflix series called “Civilizations” which “explores the art of cultures around the world throughout time.” I took a few art history courses for my BA major years ago and watching this series has deepened my understanding of the huge impact of art on society and culture and also about how powerful the instinct is for humans to leave an intentional mark of their existence behind on this planet for future generations to witness, ponder and connect.

kings fountain

One of many amazing things I find fascinating in looking at the art discussed and examined over time in this series is the way that it often depicts trading societies before the construct of race. In paintings like “The Kings Fountain” painted during the European Renaissance, people of color were represented in multiple levels of society, from enslaved servitude to knighthood. Of course it was never a perfect world, whatever that is. Wars, imperialism, and nations conquering nations have gone on for centuries. But people were identified for quite some time by their place of origin long before the construct of race was designed for a more insidious form of control, monopoly, violence and oppression.

It’s hard to imagine a time before the construct of race which is why art and historical record and paintings like this are so important. Technology and the need for the commercial machine to churn faster than ever had made time appear to move so quickly that things like CDs and the ipod shuffle will soon be regarded as relics! We need historical record in order to stop time, to examine and learn from it.

It makes sense to me that there was a time before racial construct because I understand that skin color is not an indicator of anything but climate and region. Culture, spirituality, ritual, custom and tradition tell us more about the identities of people over time. But ultimately, even those do no tell us everything about who we really are.

benin-bronze3

From that prehistoric handprint found in the Chauvet cave in France to the bronzes of Benin, to the great Pyramids of Egypt and the colossal Mosques of Asia and the Middle East, the progress in depth and breadth of our capacity to express ourselves in greatness, might, devotion, fear, dominance and peace are at the core of our need to prove we exist, to immortalize ourselves.

Thankfully, in recent times, we have seen the emergence of artists like Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker just to name a few, who indict, examine and reveal the executors of evil, ugliness and perversion in the form of mass genocide, and violence in contexts that reposition and re-see the oppressed in more complex and connective, celebratory and normative ways. Art is also no longer relegated to that which is collected and selected by trained Museum curators. Art is the voice of the people, is grafitti, subway dancers (Don’t get kicked in the face!) underground performers, sidewalk drawings, Snapchat, IG stories, memes and more! Oh you may not see it that way now but future generations will.

And if humanity survives another thousand years or so I wonder how will they judge us based on what we we are writing on the walls of time now? What kind of future are we setting future generations up for?

 

The Becoming Michelle Interview: What I loved…

I was on a brief but much needed getaway this past weekend with my husband. We were in upstate New York and dining at a favorite spot, but I made sure we got back in time for Michelle Obama being interviewed by Robin Roberts as part of her “Becoming Michelle” book launch tour. I was so excited for it, so excited to see and hear from her. And the interview really delivered on many points.

I was most open for the parts where she talked about feeling like a failure because she and Barack were challenged when first trying to conceive naturally. She didn’t expect it to be so hard and had I believe at least one or two miscarriages.

I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about them…

I was really moved by her candor on this subject. She eventually had Sasha and Malia through IVF. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this story from women I know. But I just never imagined I’d hear it from the Flotus!

I think it’s one of the worst things we do to each other as women; not sharing how our bodies work, how they don’t work…

She then went on to talk about how damaging it is when women don’t share things with one another because of shame and a sense of failure and hopelessness. It made me think about how Khalilah was always so adamant about Black women sharing with one another and how she would always get on me for not sharing enough purposefully. This was one of the reasons we would share our blog entries out to Soul Sistah Series. Spaces created for and by Black women for the purpose of sharing and learning from one another are invaluable and a dire necessity if we wish to break the curse of habits and rituals handed down through generations which do not serve to connect us to our power.

I also loved when Michelle talked about her relationship with her husband Barack, how they met, where the attraction began. I’ve been married to my husband for 4 years and have been dedicating myself to re-examining my marriage lately and  really thinking about what it means to me to be married and what makes relationships work in general. I’ve learned a lot so far from studying the work by Esther Perel, a relationship psychologist, who introduced me to the term “erotic intelligence.”

Much of what is rarely a part of a mainstream discussion is how sexuality and arousal are maintained in a long term marriage, particularly in couples who are also parents. I have always always always loved the ways in which the Obamas allowed us to witness us the powerful spark of their initial attraction to one another when in public. I can only imagine that a love that real cannot be hidden. And why would you? Their love and sexiness have inspired so many of us. In the interview, when addressing Michelle’s initial attraction to her man, she  was like, you see that cocky confident way he walks? “He has always walked like that…”

GURL!!!!

 

I would never have though it could be done in the White House of all places! LOL!!

What I know now is that this attraction and eroticism is not maintained without self love, dedication, and work.

It’s hard to deny that Obama was one of those presidential candidates with charm, charisma and attractiveness in his corner and a lot of that came from being partnered with someone who wasn’t afraid to really be Black. And Blackness is sexy af.  Who doesn’t remember pictures of the Obamas like these where just watching them, we could all only imagine they had to be getting it in on the regular? I have never in my entire lifetime been compelled to even imagine the erotic life of a first family until the Obamas.

Obamas Collage

Obama was clean and classy in presentation as was Michelle but she was the one with the most don’t give a fuck in her practices, doing and saying what she did without apology because she knew who she was and where she was coming from. She showed her arms (oooohhhh!!!!) called out threats and injustice where she saw them and kept it moving dedicating herself to programs she believed in that were in service to communities in need.

Though she admits in the interview to being scared and nervous and unsure, she knew as a Black woman that she couldn’t let that show while she was in office. Some people saw her as a threat. I saw her as strong and beautiful, fun, humorous and dignified. It’s not to say that I agreed with everything either her or her husband did or said but as a Black woman married to a Black man, whenever I saw them I just felt like I was seeing Black excellence with regard to the work it takes to keep both a marriage and a family not only in tact but thriving, let alone through a two term presidency!