Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who Am I if I'm Not _____ (an Open Letter to Tina)

An open letter from one single woman to another.

Dear Tina,

No, I've never been married but I understand that you've been with someone longer than you've lived in singularity and have built a united force that is a marriage or partnership. I also empathize that the spirit of compromise can become a routine submission of who we are as individuals. Relationships of all kinds in time develop their own personality, a single routine, and singular ideology on the coordinates of life. Meanwhile, day after day year after year we willingly lose a little bit of that individual fire that was our life prior to the relationship living only in this new identity as upheld by two people. Indeed, I pen the words willingly lose.

Your identity is all you have in this world and although you conceded to lose it for the sake of love, it was never fully given away. Understanding that so much of who we are is defined by our family, friends, careers, and even who we choose to marry or be in an intimate relationship with, know that your identity is only shaped by those things.  Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, your identity is defined by YOU.

The absence of something is nothing. Therefore when a breakup happens it is the absence of that person but YOU still remain, leaving a clear and evident something. Your identity is not found in who you are not; your true identity is found in who you are.

Tina, you're not nothing. In fact, I believe that you are far more than what your husband saw. You deserve to know the hidden woman that you've always been and fall madly in love with her. She may be shy and may be wounded by the recent events, but she deserves to live and breathe a life so full of happiness and freedom that she'll never get lost in the compromise of a relationship again.

In the words of my grandmother, "Stop wanting something that doesn't want you." That is the key to happiness and the freedom of your heart. If they want to leave they aren't, and dare I say, weren't worthy of you in the first place. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life (proverbs 13:21). Let go of the threads of lost hope, desire only what desires you, and you will then become desirable and free.

As you sit on Steve Harvey's plush talk-show couch; bravely baring your broken heart and crushed soul to millions, I want you to wake up tomorrow and know that just because your lover chose not to love you anymore, that:

You are an infinitely powerful human being. 
You have dreams/ideas that only you can put into action.
Your destiny is bigger than just being someone's partner.
You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are a mother.
You are a sister.
You are a daughter.
You are a woman.
You are loved. 

"You think you lost your identity, but in actuality you gained an opportunity to find the man who's worthy and to find yourself," said Harvey. Welcome to the best years of your life, Tina. Where you find your inner most self, allow her to blossom, and not give a single f*** about anything that doesn't want you. Seek goodness and love as you alone can define it, and then you will find exactly who you are.

I Love You Tina,

Friday, September 27, 2013

How I Found my Soul in Soul Food

Some say dreams are made here in this city boasting so many clichés that its tagline reads a paragraph long. But I beg the contrary; that if your dreams are planted deep enough and press hard enough they may eventually break through the concrete jungle of Manhattan (barring that they don’t sprout under a thirty story apartment building).  It was a languid September, and although I was not ready to give up entirely, I certainly was without much will to continue. I found myself in a pit of unhappiness where hope may as well come sold in a repurposed tuna can for the recession price 99 cents.

That week I was to spend every day back where it all began more than two years ago. In an old Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone lived an even older great great aunt. Apart from our 75 year age difference and her love for the color pink, there is virtually nothing different about us. Moreover we shared the greatest common denominator of all: a love of food.

I’d become a brilliant chef and my dinner parties have never ended with complaints or leftovers. But should you ask me to bake I would certainly fail everytime. My cookies taste like crackers, my cakes are always over baking powdered, and I have the most irrational fear of yeast. Never in my life have I made a successful  baked dessert that wasn’t pre-packaged.

“But what are you going to eat?” my aunt said to me for the fourth time that hour. “You can’t just not eat!”

Hardship has a way of taking away things we love the most. Perhaps I could tell her that I was unhappy and that my appetite was among the wreckage of everything else I had recently lost. But her eyes seemed to melt with concern beneath her disappointing gray wig. If not for myself, I thought, I must somehow find a to way eat with her.

Two years ago she wanted nothing more than to feed me. Yet I became a vegetarian when I was fifteen out of health consciousness and political teenage angst. For a southern lady like Aunt Noots, I might as well have told her I was a cantaloupe.

My soul: peaches, honey, and rose petals.
I’ll admit what I’ve done is not fair to any radical animal activist, but I suppose if I would eat a fish for anyone it’d be for this 98 year old woman. Love is, after all, the noblest cause. Aunt Noots loved fried fish and she loved most that if she cooked fish, then I would eat it.

She slammed her butcher knife between the head and shoulder of the croaker she had just scaled. We cooked with such soul that the fire alarm went off. I boiled the grits, buttered peas, and attempted to create something special on the side.

It turned out perfectly.
I rolled up my sleeves, turned on Mahalia Jackson, and with every ounce of hope I had left baked my heart into the only dessert that has ever come out of the oven edible: a perfect peach cobbler. While it wasn't always pretty, for the first time in a very long time something finally worked out.

“Now what?” said Noots.
“We EAT!” I said.
“Hand me a fork!”

“Thank God for good food,” she said paddling another forkful of cobbler.

cleaned my plate and mended my wounded heart somewhere deep in the soul of an old kitchen in Brooklyn. This is why they call it soul food.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cardstock Love Notes & The Good Candy

Remember when clever pun-ridden valentine's were handed out to the class and you hoped that your secret crush would give you something forth telling about your impending slow dance in the gymnasium? Just incase you're having trouble finding those old feelings; these songs should take you right back down memory lane, back to that happy place called The 1990s and 2000s. (Note: to all you kids who handed out those nasty Necco Hearts... I never liked you either.)

1. If You Wanna Be My Lover
My Baby by Lil Romeo (2001)
Not going to lie, back then I might have been one of those girls chasing this wodie to tell him there was 'No Limit' to my love. But dude, your 19min of playing time at USC was seriously unimpressive.

2. For The Southern Love
I'll Be by Edwin McCain (1998)
This song is presently on my iPod and will not be leaving anytime soon.

3. For The Breaker-Uppers
No More by 3LW (2000)
3 Little Women, as the acronym so stands, was the anthem for your pre-teen womanhood. Playa Please! We'll see if I ever take you back.

4. For The One You Missed the Most
Back Here by BB Mack (1999)
Not that we were actually old enough to go anywhere without supervision, this song was for that lonely time in between your night of homework and the next day when that special someone walked into class.

5. Prove Your Juvenille Love with a Temporary Tattoo 
I'll be Your Everything by Youngstown (1990)
This song is just one hit wonderful. Plain and simple.

6. For Today's Crush (and maybe Tomorrows)
Puppy Love by Lil BowWow(2000)
Solange is way too old for Bow Weezy. The idea of using actual puppies in the video was pretty genius though.

7. For The New Kid in Class
It Happens Everytime by Dreamstreet (2001)
OH NO! Not the unsolvable math problem turned love song. I'm really hoping puberty was good to these poor boys.

8. For Unrequited Love
Drive Myself Crazy by N*SYNC (1996)
Sure you remember the song, but did you ever see the video? Bleach blonde JT cries a river in a silk straight jacket.

9. For The Hott Math Nerd
Back at One by Brian McKnight (1991)
Like you actually needed 10 reasons to love this song.

10. For Television or Worse
Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7 (2000)
Right... because Australians and snow make so much sense. Like, duh, totally!

11. For The Last Song at the Dance
Crazy by K-Ci and Jojo (2001)
This was the song you waited all night at the dance for just so you can grab that special someone and slow dance (at arms length in most cases).

12. For You to Sing Along
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (1992)
Because you simply couldn't press (and hold) rewind enough on your karaoke casset. We will always love you Whitney.

13. For Your First Sorta Real Thing
Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey (1996)
This song will always be your favorite. Oh Mariah, when will you return to music?

14. For that Imaginary Wedding 
For You I Will by Monica (1997)
This one goes out to the kid in the back with the braces and the dimples.

15. For that Landline on a Chord
U Got it Bad by Usher (2001)
My 8701 CD had a scratch in it on this song. Thank God music went digital.

16. For Justin Timberlake, Topanga, Josh Heartnet, Kelly Kapowski, LL Cool J, Mario Lopez, JTT, Tyrese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sarah Michelle Gellar... & other Celebrity Heartthrobs
As Long As You Love Me by The Backstreet Boys (1997)
After they showed you the Shape of their Heart, the BBoys hit you with this little number. Don't cry, you'll have time for plenty of company when your career ends in a few years.

17. For That Neighborhood Crush
Dilemma by Nelly & Kelly Rowland (2002)
The reason you stayed outside all those long hot summer afternoons. This song also taught you that Dilemma had a silent 'N' (which you still chose  to pronounce anyway and probably still can't spell correctly).

18. For Those Early Babymakers
When the Lights Go Out by Five (1998)
One of two things happen when the lights go out: Either the 49ers make a huge comeback or Bow-chicka-wow-wow with your light up sneakers and windbreakers.

19. For The Hopless Romantic
My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion(2003)
You cried when Jack dies at the end of Titanic, but you always have hope that he will come back to Rose.

20. For Your Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine's Day by Andre 3000 (2003)
Because ever since this album, you've most likely listen to this song everyday the 14th.

Honorable Mentions: God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on Youby N*Sync, Bump n Grind by R. Kelly, I Wanna Know by Joe, Only Wanna Be with You by Hootie and the Blowfish, Say You'll be There by The Spice Girls; End of the Road by Boyz II Men; Where You Are by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey; Angel of Mine by Monica; Emotions by Destiny's Child; Whatta Man by Salt N Peppa; Lonely by AkonKiss from a Rose by Seal. One in a Million by Aaliyah; Crazy by Britney Spears