In graduate school I was in a theatre production on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. I played a slave woman whose child was snatched from her. One of two lines that I spoke in the play was, “My baby! My baby! Don’t take my baby!” I hated that role but I thought, “This is my big break.” I recall sitting with the director, who seemed quite fond of me. His appearance was a cross between actor John Hammond and director Steven Spielberg. I remember once this director said to me, “You will always play the sidekick. Your roles will be someone’s best friend.” Nothing more, maybe something less – like the slave woman who screams, “My Babyyy. My Babyyy. DON’T TAKE MY BABY!”
Guess what? I don’t want to be just someone’s best friend, sidekick or playing a slave woman screaming after her child. I have best friends and I happen to be pretty damn good at being one. Question: have you ever noticed how we differentiate best friend with good friend with just-a-friend with acquaintance with colleague with ‘crush’ (crush: often someone you barely know, which begs the question: what are you crushing over?).
Once I was close to being married. Very close. We ended it a month or 2 before the wedding date. I was going to walk down an aisle. I purposely wanted the wedding in Italy for a few reasons:
This is what I know about myself and more traditional wedding-like characteristics. I don’t like white. White dresses. White laced dresses. White laced satin dresses. White long laced satin dresses that require heals. I do not want a whole bunch of witnesses watching me walk down any aisle. I do not like the wedding song. I do not like the two aisles indicating bride’s family and groom’s family. I do not like wedding cakes or layered wedding cakes with lots of icing. I do like these things for my friends and family, but for me - Nope. I do not like public displays in such a ceremonial manner. And I most certainly do not like being photographed as the center of attention for such a ceremony. But I love the idea of being the photographer for someone else’s wedding.
What do I like: Being arm-in-arm with my dad walking me to the justice of the peace, mom on the other side as well (both as witnesses) while I exchange poetry to the air (and the person I am marrying). And I would agree to this because I think my parents would enjoy the brevity of such an event. But truth, I really don’t think my parents care. I have the type of parents who [at this point in life] just want me to be happy - married or not.
My parents have been married for 48 years. We (humans) celebrate decades of marriage. We glory in the amount of years people have been together, but do we know what happens behind closed doors? Do we know the changes that occur over short and long periods of time with the two who have committed themselves to each other? Are we encapsulated by this hallmark moment that swirls center stage? Do we return to this sacred vow-exchanging moment when the shit hits the fan; when the shit reeeally hits the fan; when the shit is just shitty and you can’t use air freshener, patchouli incense or wide-open windows to bring the two back to those vows?
I met someone from China who expressed a desire to be married as a way out of her day-to-day routine. I met someone from China who said wearing makeup here is a sign of respect. I met someone from China whose parents stressed, “Be a biologist, not an artist. How will you make a living?” I met someone born in China who told me the purpose of getting married is to procreate. I have met so many different opinions about marriage and love and makeup and making up…I am reminded as to how we make life up one day at a time.
My cousin in NY would make fun of me for speaking to people on the street. A stranger might look at me, I would look at him/her, eyes meet and I would say, “Hi.” The unwritten rule is that you don’t speak to NYers, unlike other people in other U.S. locations. It's a given to say "Hi" to strangers down South - that's not strange at all. But I refuse to obey this [NY] antic. I’ve always said “Hi” to people in the public, especially if they are glancing my way. In China, the stares are evident. And if they are boring a hole into my skin (i.e. which is everyday here), I break the trance by saying, “Ni Hao.” Some Chinese people nod, some speak and some look a little shocked. But alas I have walked by 3 or 4 very brown people. In every instance, we make eye contact and before I can open my mouth, they have beat me to the punch, “HI!” There is glory in familiarity. We know. We just know. We know and nod to the knowing that this place has very few of us who wear brown naturally. That is not makeup. But it is funny how the impression of lightening this natural brown suit is a desire to attain some sort of make+up+world. Lightening the skin may offer something more desirable for some (in China and other places), possibly an apple pie hopefulness with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The color white is not my choice because it is everywhere around me [without actually being everywhere around me], and it symbolizes something false. It is a binary concept. A construct. If you aren’t white, you are black. If it is not day, it is night. If it’s not dark, it is light.
I, however, look for color. I look for bright and bold and stripe and checkered and polka dot. I demand a splash of paisley and throw some albinism in the mix (which I would argue is not a lack of anything). It is a special coloring that we must credit with power. If you question my words, read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor. I am light and dark and everything in between. We cannot be separated. I repeat, we live on a continuum.
I look for insatiable patterns and textures thrown together that occur in the moment when two (or more) are gathered. And when the shit is rough, we call on prayer or chant or elemental callings (fire, air, water, earth). Maybe I am calling on love or lovemaking. This lovemaking looks nothing like the scenes we see in the movies. I’ve watched some pretty convincing lovemaking scenes but I have yet to see lovemaking at its greatest height that does more than satisfy the moment. What I imagine can’t be put into a movie scene or television show. A matter of fact, it is pretty hard to write about. But I sense it. I feel it. I can reach out and almost touch it. I can whisper it into the air, and Lovemaking hears me calling. And that is the contract I believe I am calling forth. A contract that doesn’t count the amount of years we’ve been together, especially since people keep preaching there is no life guarantee tomorrow. It shows up in the moment and it knows my name. It does not misspell or misunderstand or misinterpret. It does not mistaken. It may rearrange the letters in a word; it may even remove a few letters. It always journeys with me through the good and bad and again, everything in between.
I end this blog with this: I can be many things - a mother, best friend, sidekick [and other assigned roles] - but namely, I align myself among the stars as a star, and as such, I must not settle for make believe, makeup-ing, mistakenings. I must lovemake, make love, love-in-the-making to humbly & honorably be called