Black Mothering Over 40

My little one will be turning two soon. It just seems like yesterday,  I was holding him in my arms for the first time.

I’m an old mama. I had my son when I was 41.  I never wanted children. I didn’t think motherhood was for me. I liked being on my own. Life happens, though.

It’s been an interesting experience. I tend to liken my parenting skills to an episode on The Simpsons.

Homer realizes he has been a horrible parent. He decides to make it up to Bart and Lisa. Of course, he bumbles his way through, making things worse. Finally, Bart fed up with the shenanigans, tells his dad “Your half ass under-parenting was better than your half ass over-parenting.” Homer replies sadly, “But I’m using my whole ass.” 

Once you decide to become a parent, you will be making a huge sacrifice. This sacrifice is even more jarring when you are older. You have spent the majority of your life doing whatever the hell you wanted to do. Those days are over. I’ve learned to accept these things since becoming a mother.

  1. You will always be tired. A good friend (also an older mom), warned me that I will never sleep again. When you are having your child, you roll your eyes at folks who tell you this. After all, YOU will be different. You will have that kid on a schedule. Ha, ha! The joke’s on me. I haven’t slept well since, uh the kid was born.
  2.  You will constantly be in battle with patience. While pregnant, I reassured myself that it would all work out. I’m older. I would be more patient. I would never be like those moms in the store with bulging eyes and throbbing neck veins, frustrated with their children. That lasted 2.5 seconds. Kids are not an extension of you. They are their own people with their own thoughts emotions, etc. They can and will work your nerves.
  3. You will question why you did it. In our society, mothers are expected to romanticize parenthood. Nope. The truth is, I question all the time if I did the right thing.  When you have a child, it’s not just about cute clothes, Disneyland trips, etc., it’s about raising a well-rounded human being. What’s messed up, despite giving your all, the kid could still grow up to dislike you. I know so many folks who don’t talk to their parents. You never know how it’s going to turn out.

Continue reading “Black Mothering Over 40”

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Summer Reading: Update Update

Yeah, yeah I know it’s November. I flopped at doing all my summer reading.  I’ve been busy, yo (in my Jesse Pinkman voice). I decided to revisit the books on my summer list, as the holiday season is upon us.  I think books make great gifts, don’t you? So, here are the three books I was able to chug though this summer/fall. I would suggest keeping these books in mind for the readers in your life:

  Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

  In Perry’s book, she examines the stereotypes used to degrade/shame black women. She writes about the “crooked room” a space where the complexities of black womanhood is distorted by racist, sexist, etc., images.  Black women aren’t allowed their full humanity, thus constantly find themselves navigating  oppressive situations.   “When they confront race and gender stereotypes, black women are standing in a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up. Bombarded with warped images of their humanity, some black women tilt and bend themselves to fit the distortion…to understand why black women’s public actions and political strategies sometimes seem titled in ways that accommodate the degrading stereotypes about them, it is important to appreciate the structural constraints that influence their behavior (Perry, 2011, pg. 29).” 

Perry writes about everything from black women survivors of Hurricane Katrina (a voice that tends to be underrepresented when looking at our country’s blatant negligence of black life, before/after the storm), The Duke Lacrosse Case (personally, I still think they did something to those young women), and ends with a look at Michelle Obama.  While I will always have respect for the symbolism of Mrs. Obama, I’m not as a huge of a fan I used to be.  However, Perry does a great job of detailing the obstacles Mrs. Obama faces as the The First (Black) Lady.  “Issues of hypersexuality  lurk in the media obsession with Michelle’s body; the specter of the angry black woman shadows discussions about her marriage; and national yearnings to depict black women as Mammy are embedded in public discourses about her role as mother (Perry, 2011, pg. 277).” 

All Decent Animals: A Novel
By Oonya Kempado

It took me a minute to get through this book. The book is a lyrical read from beginning to end. The author sticks to the dialect/cultural sayings of the people she is writing about. It can be a difficult read, but that’s okay. Folks need to be pushed out of the comfort  zone, sometimes 🙂 It’s a fictional story centered on Ata and her friends.  Ata is a young woman living on the island of Trinidad. She works in carnival design, but longs to do something else with her life. She meets European Pierre, at a party, and they soon begin dating. The story chronicles the ups and down of their relationship in the midst of celebration of Carnival and their friend Fraser, who is dying of AIDS. “Fraser’s new lightness of weight gives him spring and hope. Maybe he could live with this, the dialysis part. The expensive cocktail of drugs for HIV is another thing, but with more research, things could get better (Kempadoo, 2013, pg. 138).” There are a couple of surprises in the book, no spoilers 🙂 Be prepared for the rich and complex tale Ms. Kempadoo has woven.

Ghana Must Go
By Taiye Selasi

I cried several times while reading this book. It’s hard not to think  Selasi’s story  comes from some personal experiences. If not, she has an amazing gift for writing. “Ghana Must Go” is about a family dealing with the unexpected death of their father.  Kweku Sai is a renewed surgeon who abandoned his family years ago. Sai leaves his family, after being wrongfully dismissed from his job,and feeling like a failure. Some of his insecurities, stems from his poverty-stricken childhood in Ghana. The family tries to forget about him, but he is always in the back of their minds.  So, his death comes as a shock and leaves questions unanswered.  The family consists of Fola (mother), Olu (eldest son), Kehinde and Taiwo (the twins), and Sadie (the youngest child). The family returns to Africa, for their father’s funeral. It’s there they must deal with the heartache, lies and disappointment they have all suffered. “As it finally hits him, “He died,” Kehinde answers and starts, at the laugh. He can’t quite imagine what his sister finds funny, but she appears to be laughing, outright, her back turned. “Taiwo,” he whispers, thinking maybe she’s crying, but she turns to him dry-eyed. “He’s gone.” She shakes her head. She doesn’t stop laughing (Selasi, 2913, pg. 210).”

Natural Hair

Six years ago, I went natural. Natural for black women is going back to our unprocessed hair.  I got the idea when I saw a picture of a cute natural haired black model in Essence magazine (when I still was a fan). At the time, I was wearing braids. I took a pair of scissors and literally started cutting all the braids out of my hair, not caring if I was cutting off my real hair (usually I was paranoid about that). I was determined to get that cute short-cropped ‘do. Soon most of the braids were on my bedroom floor.  I un-plaited the rest of my hair and before I knew it, was staring at a new me. I cried. It was shocking. I eventually got over the loss of my straight hair. I have been natural ever since.  It was a relief not wasting my Saturday mornings at a salon, just to put relaxer in my hair to make it straight. It seemed like a waste of time, money and energy to make my hair be something that it was not meant to be.

Naturally Free Tonya
Me  with TWA

Eh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a “Natural Nazi” (I hate this term and the fact there’s actually a definition in the “urban dictionary,” blah). As a matter of fact, last year I started wearing wigs on occasion (still curly, though). It’s just a way to have a different look/experiment with color. So, I don’t have anything against black women who relax/wear weaves or wigs.  My only issue, is that I think not enough black women even think about wearing their natural hair out. IMO, I think black women should do it once (or twice or three times 🙂 at some point in their life. It’s disturbing to know SOME black women go to their graves, not learning to appreciate their own hair.  I think it’s a combination of still buying into white standards of beauty and fear of not knowing how to care for their natural hair (despite all the resources available now). Also,  there are still very ignorant/hateful folks towards natural haired black women.  This causes some black women to shy away from showing their own hair.

Let’s take for example, Sheryl Underwood. The comedienne recently made disparaging remarks about natural black hair:

Sheryl Underwood, stand-up comedy star, actress, and co-host of CBS’ totally-not-a-ripoff-of-The View gabfest The Talk, has spent the better part of the Labor Day weekend fending off blistering criticism on Twitter over remarks she made on the show about natural black hair. Discussing supermodel Heidi Klum‘s revelation that she saves all of her sons’ shorn hair, Underwood asked “Why would you save afro hair?” and in questioning the utility of the saved hair, observed that “You can’t weave afro hair,” and that “You never see us at the hair place going ‘Look, here, what I need here is, I need those curly, nappy beads…That just seems nasty.”–from http://www.mediaite.com/online/watch-the-sheryl-underwood-clip-that-has-twitter-seething/

There seems to be a lot of anti-black attitudes from black comedians, these days. Sad this time it was from a black woman. Strangely, a black woman who claims to be a proud member of a black sorority. Underwood has always given off self-loathing vibes to me. I’m sure working in white Hollywood with its anti-black propaganda, doesn’t help. She probably thought she was being funny, but she failed miserably. I hope she gets some self-respect. I hope her comments don’t discourage black women from accepting their hair in its natural state.

Harriet Tubman Sex Tape “Comedy”

I’ve been side-eyeing hustle Russell Simmons since he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show Back in 2009, Oprah facilitated a “Hip Hop Town Hall,” on her show.  Young black women from Spelman college, shared their concerns about the misogyny/sexism/degradation of black women’s bodies in some rap music and videos. Throughout the show, Simmons often rolled his eyes at the young women and outright talked down to them. I found it interesting, as he probably would get major attitude if someone treated his nieces the same way. But hey, those young black women weren’t related to him, so why should he give a damn?

Over the years, Simmons has shown himself to be sexist and anti-black woman. I don’t care about interracial relationships, I really don’t. However, I have issues with SOME black men who continue to harp on the failings of black women, when they have supposedly moved on to “greener pastures.” If you finally found a “real woman,” why are you still complaining about black women? Simmons has engaged in this behavior in subtle ways. His most blatant disrespect of black women/community, was his silence when a past white girlfriend engaged in paternalistic/patronizing/Miss Anne behavior in a  wack letter to black folks (really black women). *Middle Finger*

I could write several posts about Simmons’s Rush Card and the predatory fees on poor communities of color. So, I’m not surprised he co-signed this insulating imagery of Harriet Tubman. But that’s what happens when you think your money/power makes you a “special” black person. You start to lack respect for the people who paved the way for you…

 

Summer Book #1: Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

Okay, I promised summer reading suggestions. The first book on the list is “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America,” by Melissa V. Harris-Perry.   I got the book today from the library  (so it should be at your local branch, if it isn’t, demand for it to be 🙂  I will start reading it tomorrow. I’m a fast reader, so I should be able to give a review soon. I’m encouraging folks to read along with me. Hopefully, we can have a conversation about the book.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a good read 🙂