With a glass of champagne in one hand and my phone in the other, I casually snapped shots of party goers as they chatted, played cards, or lamented the political climate. At the dining area table, one group had brilliantly blended all three. As I darted between both rooms of the suite my sister and I were only able to afford because we booked months in advance and used disposable flatware left over from my mom’s haaj celebration, I couldn’t help but feel like a curly-coiffed, glittering ball of black magic. At times I caught my reflection in the arrangement of beveled, hexagonal mirrors that adorned the wall near the bar, and paused to admire the new lines and curves of my arms and legs. All of it earned from several rigorous weeks of pole dancing classes. So this is 35? I let the thought wash over me in a gentle way this time, and the apprehension I felt when I celebrated my actual birthday in Costa Rica a few months back was gone. And that was a relief, because in the months leading up to the excursion I’d hit a down spiral so disorienting that I could barely discern up from down while inside of it: had I gotten better, or worse? The question itself was a wormhole, efficient enough in its pull to leave me feeling emotionally churned and altered as it sucked me in. Traversable worm holes are hypothetical, after all, and transmutative ones? Sci-fi entirely. Yet there I was, with questions swirling at me from all sides: am I a good person? Mother? Friend? Writer? Am I in any way…better?
The truth is, I don’t really know. But, this is what’s new.
I’m resolute about saying “no” more than ever. Or at least, “Wow, that sounds great, but it’s just too much for me to take on right now.”
The latter is a big deal for me. Not completing the things I set out to do is a huge bummer for me, and the best way for me to avoid doing that is to stop taking on so much. I also had to let go of my guilt about saying “no” to colleagues, family, and friends. Worth it, though.
Reciprocity is a mainstay in my romantic life now. No fauxgasms. No one-sided energy. If I don’t want someone, I tell them before I sever things. If I feel that they don’t want me and are afraid to tell me, I withdraw and I do not fucking return. This goes for all interpersonal relationships.
I goal hard. (“Goal” is a verb in this context.)
Writing down my goals in a concise way has become a common practice. I write things down with timelines, notes, and specific details. As I write them down, I do so as if they’re already mine and then move forward with that belief. It works. It’s working even as I type this.
Hmm…what else? Oh yeah. Sleep still evades me then attacks me at inopportune times, though pole class is slowly laying that problem to rest. And masturbation. I do both so rigorously that’s it’s getting easier to shut my body down at a decent hour.
I write every day–even if it’s just a few paragraphs. Even after a day of editing someone else’s shit and at a point when the fun has been zapped out of it. I still do it. And that’s always been goal numero uno.
Back to that fih-ass NYE party, though. And then, let’s go back a bit further from there.
One, two…no; now there are three. After surveying the area near the bar and snack table, I spotted three of the four guys I’d invited to my New Year’s Eve party. By the time they’d all arrived, my eyeliner had taken on a smudgy, smolder-y look. Then, the ambitiously short sequin dress I was wearing decided to stop holding my breasts in place neatly. The affect of both? An allure akin to dark magic. Sihr. By the time midnight came I was an unruly haired wild woman, slightly disheveled and glowing as I engaged with my guests.
Note: This is my account and it’s conveyed to you through the scope of how I felt, which makes me an unreliable narrator. How I looked in the background of other attendees’ IG stories is probably closer to the truth. Luckily, those stories have timed out by now. So…ha.
Anyway. The tallest of the guys was also the youngest, and he’d brought friends with him who seemed impressed enough by size of the suite to be temporarily in awe of it when they first entered, but not enough to refrain from dumping their Backwood guts on the bathroom floor when they retreated from the older crowd to smoke weed and listen to D.C. trap music on their phones. By 2 a.m., the only proof that they were still there were the snatches of conversation that could be heard from their locked, smoky space.
“Mannn…Swipey shit always GO…lil nigga died too soon tho…fucked up…”
“I know man. The city got talent but dem young niggas be beefin too hard Moe…ova stupid shit…”
The young guy has dreadlocks that are way too long for my taste, and a brown, aquiline face that is androgynous at some angles and regal looking from others. I’d met him while leaving a lounge a few weeks prior in a nude mini dress, crotch-skimming boots and a shaggy, cotton candy pink fur. Something about being able to zip my newly toned thighs into those boots, coupled with the effect of a few cocktails, definitely had me feeling brazen. Anyway, he yelled for me to come talk to him. I yelled back that he should come to me. Then, I abruptly turned on my heels and began to walk away without waiting for him to respond–because I had no intention of actually talking to him. A few seconds later, I heard the shuffle of sneakers on pavement behind me.
I turned around and saw that he was substantially younger, so I asked his age. After he said it (25) I wanted to turn on my heels again. But instead I let him speak because, as I said before, my boots made me brazen that night. Rabelaisian, even.
As an aside, that dress and those boots are now the most beloved in my closet today (aside from my abayas, of course) because the way he looked at me in them that night is the same way he later looked at me in the sequin dress I wore to my NYE party: inquisitively.
His stare was an up-and-down, bottom-lip-bitten eyeball screw that always seemed to ask me,”What kind of woman are you?”
And I gravitated toward that look as we exchanged numbers on U Street, and then many nights after that. I did this even though I knew that the match was unsustainable; reckless even. But I also knew that it felt good. Especially since I didn’t initiate it in any way, and never chased him.
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t give me a bubbly feeling inside, even today.
It also felt nice each time I put on something stringy and laced up my 7 inch heels to dance for him as he sat on the tufted bench ottoman with a drink in one hand and watched me. I moved differently for him under the the red lights than I did in class. My bare skin against the pole brewed something feral in me. I licked my teeth as I slithered into cat-cow poses on my hardwood floors, and stuck out my tongue to lap up the bass before it bounced off the walls. I swallowed those vibrations into my hips and rolled onto one shoulder, gyrating and waving my legs in a billowing motion like a white flag signaling surrender. With a red bulb screwed in and his eyes glued to my movements, my 45 mm spinning pole became my home. I climbed and straddled it as he watched me with calm certainty and a growing bulge. Sippin’ slow, blowin’ smoke, and full of pent up stamina.
Like I said, it felt good.
And that? That sentiment right there? It’s how I know I’m alright. Crazy way to assess it, I know. But understand this. Me acknowledging that I deserve to feel good every once in awhile is an important affirmation for me. The first two years after my marriage, I dated very cautiously. I guarded myself so much that I likely sabotaged many relationships that could’ve been something more. Now, I feel open and free because I no longer hold out any hope for that dead situation. In fact, I’m finally in a place where I’m not even capable of looking at my marriage through the foggy lens of nostalgia. Looking back, I find it wild that I ventured to believe that I was in that place years ago because that just wasn’t possible then. I was actually still grieving the loss and missing him. I still cared about his opinion of me, and felt so much anxiety about me going too far with someone new and ruining the little bit of cordiality we had left between us.
But fuuuuuuck all of that now, though. Closure is zen. Closure is life. Even life itself seeks it.
Anyway, I mentioned goals earlier and though it’s not the noblest thing to admit, after so much heartache, abandonment and disappointment, sometimes one of my goals is to have some fun…even if it’s temporary.
Alexa, Play ‘Girls Need Love’ by Summer Walker.
Also, the deal I’ve made with myself is that I’m allowed to have fun if I’m still doing the work, and trust me, I am.
Therapy still feels like the mental equivalent of riding down a sliding board made of razor blades into a pool of alcohol. But I do it anyway, because I am the common denominator in all of my toxic relationships and that’s worth examining. This work I’m doing now is for the love I know will find me and share the rest of my life. I plan to be kind to them, but I need to first learn to be kinder to myself.
But, know that I don’t maintain these things alone. Besides therapy, there’s medication. And a journal. And friends. I use resources to write, so it makes sense to me to use the other resources at my disposal to be stable, healthy, and thrive. I’m not ashamed of that anymore. In truth, being ashamed of it was fucking exhausting.
Back to the worm holes, and how they’re not exactly hard science…yet. The theory that informs their existence holds water when you consider the possibility of quantum entanglement. And I like that theory because I think of my past in that way. Meaning, I can’t travel backward through it (except in a dream state) but if each day creates a new whorl in my wormhole–and it does–it means that it hasn’t yet collapsed its buttresses and folded into itself.
That means (to me) that each new day, my mere existence is the power that holds it open, swirling and agape.
So at this point I look back through it and examine what I’ve done so far, and all the trials that brought me pain, joy, and wisdom. I do this so that I can set intentions and change what I must.
And that’s what I’ve been doing. Despite the loops and sharp turns in my journey–and the loss of those who couldn’t hold onto me tight enough as I made those loops and turns–that is still what the fuck I’ve been doing.
But as I mentioned before…this year, a question stood up on its hind legs and stared back at me:
Am I better?
More established in my career and finances? Yes. More self-aware and accountable than before? Also a yeah. In better physical shape? Certainly.
Same answer as the last.