Our next lunar eclipse isn’t until 2021, but ever since the one we had in January, I’ve been thinking about the astrological and allegorical meaning of lunar eclipses for me. Of course, I think of the event in a romantic way (because I’m shamelessly dramatic), and imagine the sun and moon as lovers in sync until the meddling earth saunters between them, causing them to throw tantrums that echo into our world. Even though that’s not the widely held astrological interpretation of it, lunar eclipses aren’t necessarily viewed as joyous occasions either. But they are a good time to focus on freeing ourselves from old things, and cleansing. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to initiate cleanses in your life. People on the other side of it may read your step forward as a blow their ego, leaving you to feel like the villain. But trust your own process, because after the backlash comes joy, which means that sometimes, it’s totally worth it to play the villain for awhile.
We’re drawn to villains. They usually have better costumes, better lairs, and presumably better sex lives than they’re righteous nemeses. But I think what we secretly like about them is something that’s not as easily defined, but nonetheless admirable. It’s their brazen, unapologetic existence that carries the most allure. Aside from their inclination toward world domination or wanton violence, it’s hard not to embrace a little villainy for ourselves on a far smaller scale. For me that’s not hard to do, considering that many concessions I take for myself are considered selfish, scandalous, and yes, sometimes villainous.
But really, they shouldn’t be.
And let me buttress those statements by reminding anyone who needs to re-hear this that women–especially black women–have always received backlash for choosing themselves. Even if we give quietly and thanklessly give of ourselves for years, the moment that we decide to do something nice for ourselves we can expect chagrin from someone around us, in some form. This is not something that’s even up for debate, despite the efforts we’ve put forth to unshackle ourselves from those constructs.
As a WOC, being able to revel in a few movies, songs, and shows about black women living their best lives is akin to putting a band aid on a problem that is essentially, a bullet wound. I love the representations, but I categorize them as fairy tales when I consider that, if we really scrape the top coat off of this ongoing patriarchy, what we find is the same thing we found fifty years ago, such as…
Nine in ten cleaning commercials still feature women cleaning shit by their fucking selves.
One state recently tried to legally lynch a black women for the death of her own child after she got shot in the stomach.
Rape often gets a slap on the wrist, even if there are witnesses.
Many black women are still undervalued in their places of work, and sometimes even at home.
Often, black women in all-male, cis, hetero spaces are relegated to the role of den mothers because the expectation that we should labor (quietly) at the feet of men is still the beating heart of hetero-normative behavior that stems largely from colonialist thought processes. The labor used to be largely physical, but the emotional labor black women put forth to navigate work and home life is just as arduous. So it’s no wonder that the lines between freedom fighters and crazy women have always been blurred for me. My favorite women were unapologetic and disruptive in activism and love.
Because some women in history were labeled as villains simply for understanding that some abuses are too much for a soul to bear; some things should be cursed, broken, and burned.
Since black and brown women around the world have to steel themselves against toxic environments every single day–more than others–it should be no surprise that our retaliation is to suture our emotional wounds by seeking joy in the little things.
Ruthlessly going after more money in our careers.
Gutting annoying people from our lives.
But even if we carve out our share of joy with those acts (though, this list is totally mine and each woman is different), the Ballad of the Strong Black Woman is often trumpeted through the universe as the soundtrack to our existence until the day we’re granted relief in the form of death of an ain’t-shit spouse, deterioration of our looks until we’ve devolved into some wise, asexual mammy person, or just plain ole death in general. ABWs. Martyrs. Stepping stones for opportunistic lovers.
I choose neither.
In the spaces that I occupy, black women are asked to bathe in subtlety and appropriateness. But in the (entirely fabricated) words of Rosa Parks on that viral meme, I choose to say “Nah.”
Fuck that granny-ass, struggle-ass, existence. I want to see the women around me get their flowers while they’re living, and I want the same for myself. I want them to smoke spliffs on a catamaran in Greece. Take on energetic lovers. Plant their feet on new soil, put their toes in new sands. Build wealth.
Further, I’ve taught myself to monitor the admonition of those who tell me that my way is selfish. At this point in my life, I resent the judgement even more because I work damn hard to elevate myself in every way. So every side eye and “must be nice” comment gets logged in my internal hard drive these days and motherfuckers get flagged for it when I’m in villain mode.
(I’m in villain mode right now. Also, I may stay here. I like it here.)
Opting out of engaging in (or even agreeing with) pickmeisms also gets me flagged as a villain, but I welcome that chastisement with open arms. I will admit that it was hard for me to dismantle a trajectory that has, since I was a little girl, dictated to me that all my aspirations should be about securing a partner. All the rules I was taught about chastity and virtue were–and still are–often con, and people can kiss my whole ass about that until that same standard applies to men–or just kiss my ass in general. I broke every last one of those goddamn rules and suffered no lack of serious suitors at all.
For instance, the fallacy that women who wear playful hairstyles and twerk upside down against a wall are somehow dumb or morally inferior persists, while women who own a collection of pencil skirts and tout stringent conservative values can be full-on hoes. I wish we’d let that go. I’ve seen pure evil dressed quite modestly more times than I can count.
Besides, if all our heroes are wearing form fitting latex, why police the villains for it? Because it’s black? That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s…latexist. (Ha.)
Let the church say “amen” and the masjid say “ameen.”
There’s a lot more, but I’ll shift gears here and speak on something super specific to my experience, and the flack I catch for it is not from men, it’s from women.
I love etymology, comic books, and speculative fiction, and I’m sexy as fuck, flaws and all.
I’ve been called a nerd and a stripper (for my few pole athlete demos on my feed) in one day and I take both as compliments because to be a combo of both is sexy as fuck to me.
Perhaps I don’t outwardly reflect what a mother/Muslim/black female writer should look like. But what does that look like, exactly? A black version of Ms. Frizzle?
At this point I’ve allowed the villain in me to crawl up from the ooze of my psyche and settle into my bones. And I welcome the supposed selfish, savage bitchery that accompanies it.
Because I choose me.
As in, my money, my child, my well being and happiness. I choose ice blonde lace fronts, 90s-Nia-Long-inspired pixie cuts, and face tattoos. I choose neon biker shorts and pole dancing. I choose the lover who stares at me like I’m made of black magic, and feeds me cherries and whipped cream. I choose vacations, messy blogging, pole dancing, and whatever the fuck else I want because I goddamn earned it. Also, none of the things I’ve chosen to do have ever derailed me from my career goals, taking care of my awesome kid, and making sure all my bills are paid on time. Letting those things fall apart? Now that would be selfish, and it’s not something I choose to do.
What I choose is head in the morning, porn-star eyelashes, and the “block this user” function on all platforms. I also choose supporting my friends’ businesses, putting cash in my son’s college fund, and maintaining my credit score. I choose me and all the attention to self-care that the option entails. I choose joy.
And I highly recommend it.
So take up space, sis. Return microaggressions with the same energy. Treat yourself to something or someone you find decadent. Build your peace like a house, brick for brick, then shelter yourself inside of it. Scream and shout or be pensive by your window. It’s your place, your peace that you earned. Cleanse something that’s been too much of a burden for too long, fear no backlash, and know that you’re already built to win.