Category Archives: marriage

Where the Black People Are

Is that a Black person following me on Flickr? No? Oh. Okay. Hey is that a Black woman in a feature on a Mind Body Green article? Oh. no. Hey, is that a Black person following me on IG? Oh cool! I look them up, check out their profile, look at their images, etc.

When I got married in June of this year, a trusted adviser (A woman of color if you haven’t gotten the gist) recommended the magazine New York Weddings to me. When I finally found a copy at Barnes & Noble  I noticed that, like New York Weddings, every single wedding magazine had a white woman on the cover. Flipping through one or two of these magazines didn’t reveal much diversity in ads or feature articles. Wedding dresses are white enough! I needed to see some color and variety in shapes in these dresses. I never bought one single wedding magazine during the months of planning leading up to my wedding.  I just couldn’t. This was too important. And with things that are this important in my life, marriage, art, health and more, I get excited when I see Black and Brown faces representing. And as a Black woman I am always aware of the fact that I have to go looking.

We have to go looking.

With dolls, we have to looking, with hair products we have to go looking, with children’s books we have to go looking, with photography we have to go looking. Quick! Name a famous living Black Photographer! No, not Gordon Parks! I said living. I said famous. Not too easy is it? Is it because they don’t exist?

Carrie Mae Weems exists. I don’t mean to be condescending. I know you all knew that.

Right?

Getting back to my point. When I was getting married I found a site and Web Magazine called Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, the only one I’ve found so far which featured Brides of color in all phases of nuptial and post nuptial planning from engagement photos to wedding ceremonies to mommy to be images. And that was one of my most primary references for ideas about my own wedding. I was so happy too see Brides of color in my IG feed every week and not just the standard stick thin models but actual real women of color with real bodies getting married all over the country and sometimes the world! There is where I stayed.

About  a year ago, Life as I Know It told me about a nail shop in my neighborhood in Harlem called Bed of Nails. B.O.N. is owned and run by a young Black woman who hires Black nail technicians. I had my own reservations about going there for the first time, the kind anyone would have about a brand new place of business. Would they know what they were doing? What would the ambiance be like? Would they be nice? I made my appointment, showed up one afternoon and the minute I walked in I was greeted by a sister who took my coat and offered me a choice of tea or a mimosa.

HUH? YES PLEASE!

Exposed Brick on one side and a wall of designer nail polish from Christian Louboutin to Deborah Lippmann on the other. Six velvety Black high back chairs set up in the back for pedicures have a very inviting and royal  to them. A large purple sofa in the waiting area with natural light streaming in from the window behind you. It’s a very warm atmosphere, not just because of the layout and design of the place but the treatment, professionalism and yet laid back casualness of it all. No one is rushing you in and out. They want to be there and they want you to be there as well. Plus they play the best mix of hip-hop/R&B up at the front desk while you’re getting your nails or feet done. It’s so relaxing. And there I stay. I never go anywhere else to get my nails done. This is the experience I want. If there was a Black owned, Black run Bed of Nails chain in Midtown Manhattan I would go there.

The reason I bring this whole subject up is that there are certain white people who like to pull the Racist card whenever Black people manage to organize or build anything of their own or patronize Black owned businesses exclusively that cater to the people in their community. Listen. If I didn’t have to go looking so hard for representation of Blacks in the areas of life that are most important for me in the first place, this wouldn’t even be an issue. It’s not my fault that dominant culture has tipped the scales in it’s favor for so long that any logical attempt towards filling the needs which are not met by this culture will be interpreted as “Reverse Racism,” a term whose definition I will not even dignify with a discussion because it is a fiction.

The idea that you get to fuck with descendants of African people for this long, tell them to get over it so that you can absorb them in a culture that is defined and built on a foundation of theft, genocide, appropriation, assimilation, and gentrification of native and indigenous spaces is what’s really sick and racist.

If I decide I want to go away to an island where only Black and Brown people exist (and sometimes I really do), I damn well have every right to. After all, White people do this all the time.

It’s called a vacation.

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You may not always get what you want

So I have been at my desk literally for like 45 minutes talking to our IT tech about kids. He’s a 42yr old father of four and apparently he’s losing his mind. He asks me if I want to start a family and I said yes. He told me not to wait too long and a 45 minute conversation ensues. Another of our co-workers, a much younger female has a little girl who seems to be the light of her life joins us and give a little of her own perspective. I am pushing back as much as I can on the notion that having kids as an older person is the worst idea ever because…well I’m older. And he’s a dude so what does he know?

He knows plenty.

I won’t go into details but during our conversation he said something that really rang true to me in my zero years of being a parent but having read an excellent parenting book a few months ago entitled “The Conscious Parent.” He said in response to the negative way in which his wife was responding to her son who has a severe mental disorder that she had to “mourn the death of the child she wanted to have” and confront the one in front of her.

WHOA.

WHOA.

Yeah, Dr. Tsabary totally explained that in a different way in “The Conscious Parent” but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone I know say anything like that with regards to child rearing. This is why it’s so important to talk to people in person, you know…as opposed to disjointed virtual or one way dialogues in social networks.

Every parent has an idea of the kind of child they want and what I am learning among so many other things as someone considering late motherhood, is that there can be a deep emotional heartbreak involved when you have a child who is totally different than what you desired or expected. Behavioral patterns are one thing. Handling mental disorders or birth defects are something I cannot even imagine. But I know that people deal with their children the way that they they deal with people and life challenges in general and that people often look at other people’s children totally differently than they see their own. You never know what you’re going to get.

I have to be honest, that freaks me out a bit. But not enough to say I will never have a child. I understand that there is always risk involved where creation or birth is concerned and that we all meet challenges in different ways and for different reasons. I can also tell you that I came away from the conversation with a deeper respect for the institution of marriage because children need to know why they are how they are and to be able to connect their identities through their family line and this can be done most successfully through documented forms of ritual unions. We inherit behavior and for better or worse I believe we are able to make better decisions for ourselves once we learn how the connections to our patterns of our behavior have played out in the past, through those who were here before us, our ancestors, and those who still remain. If we are caught up in a bad cycle, we can understand why and begin taking steps towards both acceptance and awareness, thereby breaking that cycle.

I remember sitting in the pastor’s office with my husband several weeks before we got married and going over our family trees together. Wow. If there is ever anything to inform you what your children might possibly be inheriting emotionally and behaviorally, family tree talk is the one. It’s a moment when you realize that you are marrying into one another’s families. It’s a confidential meeting wherein you look at all the twists and turns, losses, gains, disconnections, triumphs and points of pride and celebration or achievement. It’s intense. It’s real. Not everyone knows who their real daddy is. Not everyone is doing okay or accepted into the fold. Not everyone did what was needed or expected of them. That’s life. Some people break from their blood family altogether and find that connection spiritually with others. But you only get one set of parents in your life. And they don’t just bring you here. They have plans. Those plans can make you, break you or shape you depending on how you choose to look at it. As human beings we often operate from a place of unresolved fears. I have plenty of my own. But I don’t want them to come to define who I am as a person or the choices I make, especially the choice of whether or not to have a child.