If I was a white woman, I think I would be considered quite normal. Maybe even boring? But because I’m a black woman, I’m abnormal. Or should I say, special. We’ll go with that. It sounds nicer.
Maybe you know what I mean. If you’re a black woman who’s reasonably educated, works either in a traditional environment or as an entrepreneur, pay bills on time, has good credit, owns a home, drives a car, you know, leads a blessed but fairly ordinary middle-class life, sometimes when you go out and about, people treat you a little like a unicorn.
They’re amazed if you can speak in complete sentences free of excessive – perhaps to them – incomprehensible slang references. They’re super engaged if you can chat about the news or have some deep understanding of whatever is going on in front of you both.
But all too soon, the women begin to feel threatened. You’ve tendered one too many confident opinions, you see. Or, you may have issued one too many precise instructions about how you want something done, and then all of a sudden they want to get in their feelings. ‘Cuz, now it’s become apparent that you may not know your place. You didn’t get the memo that you’re supposed to accept what they give happily and without question.
Well, I concur. Indeed I did not get that memo new acquaintance, serviceman or waitperson. For my place is wherever I say it is. You see, I run this show, happily, with full concept and care for my authority as a woman in the world paying her own way. I like running things, and I’m super capable despite what the media would have you think is the norm for someone who looks like me. In fact, I consider running my own life a well earned and much appreciated privilege – even if I run it right off the rails.
The men, their reactions are more predictable. Once the surprise and charm in your odd version of Black femaleness wears off, they remember that you are in fact a black female. The stereotypes start dancing in front of their mind’s eye like a winking Megan Thee Stallion, and you stop being a unicorn and revert back to being a more accessible perhaps slightly less inflated version of a sex toy.
So, they sidle up too close, and the schmarm kicks in as they quickly try and slide you into an amended but still viable box for: a video vixen, Instagram model, a cleaned up crackhead or some other stereotypical slot for a female who is easily led, easily had, and easily discarded. All this despite the fact that you’re wearing completely respectable athleisure wear from Ross. But hey, the leggings are tight, and there is that hint of cleavage above your sports bra. That could mean – something.
Such is the life of a black female unicorn. Your value is dodgy and situational, depending in large part on who’s fantasizing or imagining what. It’s definitely not stable because it’s not universally granted a la paler versions of femininity.
But I do not care.
My womanhood is not up for debate. It is not contingent upon anyone’s ideas or perceptions about it, just as my body is not your personal playground to play with as you please. So, I’ll thank you to take your hand off your shoulder. And please do not attempt to hug me or put your arm around my waist, as we have not been properly introduced let alone formed any kind of relationship. If you think I’m playing or perhaps exaggerating, do not be surprised if you find my metaphorical unicorn horn stuck in one of your most treasured soft spots. Capiche?
TV shows like Blackish and that whole spin off machine have helped to normalize or mainstream feminine Blackness to some degree. Grown-ish, Mixed-ish, and other shows like Insecure, etc. are the modern dose of The Cosby Show, A Different World, Girlfriends and all of those wonderful groundbreaking shows from yesteryear that gave Black people a mainstream voice that was more academic and less determinedly urban in tone. Shout out to Tracee Ellis Ross for leading the way for quirky Black women everywhere for decades now. It’s no surprise that she starred in two of the shows I just mentioned.
But like those sitcoms, where everyone places a role, when you’re a woman of color, sometimes society wants you to play one too, and it’s not acceptable for primetime if you know what I mean. It’s more like, please play this predetermined caricature or slice of who you really are. That’s what we’re comfortable with, you see. Asian women are supposed to be demure and retiring. Latina women are supposed to be spicy and loud, forever scuffling over some fairly worthless, machismo laden man. Black women are supposed to be aggressive, uncouth and ignorant, popping necks and gum and offering sex on one hand and a big old attitude on the other.
People. That’s just not real life. Sure, there’s some of that. Stereotypes have to come from somewhere. Good fiction is always based on reality. But can we just for the sake of argument acknowledge that people are actually different? What you see on TV and on your phone is not representative of the totality of what it means to be a woman of color. It’s like that old Peggy Lee tune from the 60s; Nathan Lane sang it in an episode of “Sex and the City,” “Is that all there is?”
No, friends, neighbors and other. There is much much more.
I am determined to show you a different side to Black women, and it won’t be a hardship for me. Fair warning, there won’t be any well-lit butt shots or happy admissions of waist training. There will be no skimpy outfits, or over sexualized anything. Granted, my curves are unadulterated and have been in full affect since before butts were in fashion. Thanks to my love of bread and Haagen Das my bum will continue to be large and in charge, but it is not up for discussion or public delectation. So, if you’re looking for that, please exit stage left.
I may roll my eyes or pop my neck if you get on my nerves, but this is not a sign that I am ill educated or come from a poor background. It’s a sign that I’m not a robot, and that I respond to external stimuli in ways that are comfortable for me, however you may take them. And there will be no hip hop life unless I’m listening to music. Now will there be baby daddy BS, ‘cuz I don’t have children.
I like reading, K-dramas, flared black leggings, gold hoop earrings, romance novels and skincare. And I am a woman. A real Black woman, and that’s no small thing. Now, please recognize game. Else you may get find yourself trampled beneath my unicorn hooves, metaphorically speaking, of course.