life

All posts tagged life

One Step At a Time

Published September 4, 2015 by Wookie Rider

Let it go. Conceal don’t feel

“Stranger danger!”
“Remember to always bring a water bottle!”
“Don’t wear skirts or…”

“Mom…I’m in love.”

I was five years old when I told my mom that I had fallen in love with the juvenile bad boy in my kindergarten class. He shared his 24 pack of Crayola crayons with me when I only had the pathetic pack of four Rose Art crayons: red, blue, green, and yellow. He was the fastest boy in our class. No one could touch him when we played Freeze Tag. I loved him.

All of my goofy smiling and overt need for his acknowledgment paid off when he sat next to me that day during story time. We even put our mats next to each other for naptime. We were the real deal. I saw our marriage in my head. Our first kiss would be underneath the jungle gym between the monkey bars and the slide. We’d have chicken fingers and Kool-Aid at our reception. I was ready.
When my mom picked me up, I bursted with excitement. I spilled my every desire and dream to her.
“Mom. He’s so pretty, and he likes me. His hands are so soft. I love him, Mom. We’re going to get married! Watch! And we’re gonna have Oompa Loopa children and a big, gigantic gingerbread mansion. And…”

My mom slows down the car and pulls into a decrepit parking lot. She stares at me, sighs, and asserts, “Stop with all this boy-craziness. Don’t let these boys control you. You’re better than that.”
I never talked to Judah after that day. I thought about him, though.

The scorn on my mother’s faced mixed with the palpable disappointment of “the-girl-I-was-becoming” continues to be a persistent image in my head. See, if my mom taught me anything, it was to be wary of men. Their attention. Their manipulation. Their “ways.” I was 5 years old. I was in that phase where I loved PBS, and I wanted to have a dog like Clifford, and I used to be chided for eating my food like the lions from Between the Lions. I wish my mom waited on giving me that advice. 15 year-old me would’ve really appreciated that.

When you’re young, everything exists in a binary. If it’s not good, it’s bad. If they’re not black, they’re white. End of. My mom’s message- although she didn’t intend for it to be so impactful- enforced a binary that I continue to struggle with. To be on guard or to let go.

Since elementary school, I’ve been a guarded person. I could trace it back to that moment where half of the population became yellow tape, or I could attribute it to the incessant messages of constant dangers from which I needed to protect myself. Ice cream men were potential rapists. My uncles were potential rapists. That man who sat outside on his porch reading the Bible was a potential rapist. My male peers were potential rapists. My male teachers were potential rapists. Sometime in middle school, it stopped being a male thing, and it started becoming a people thing. Everyone was a potential rapist. And I’m not merely speaking of sexual abuse. I’m talking, also, about mental, physical, and emotional abuse. Basically, any action where someone can manipulate me or misrepresent me. Or just make me feel bad. I avoided it. I stopped opening up to people. I stopped letting people in. I didn’t want my mom to know that I’ve been fooled because I didn’t want her to see my failure. Friends I made during that time in my life were ornaments to disguise the loneliness. Survival and self-preservation meant exclusion. No one could hurt me if I never allowed them to know me.

Then, I watched Frozen.
“A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the queen.”
“Don’t let them in. Don’t let them see.”
“Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know.”

My whole life was summed up in a melodic pre-chorus. I’ve never had to explicitly confront my reality so. I knew that my personal hang-ups prevented me from forming meaningful relationships, but I never viewed them as negative. Distancing myself from people was a defense mechanism. To avoid disappointment and heartbreak, I could not let myself invest in people. I locked my emotions in an impenetrable box. I was always waiting for someone- some man- to break down those walls. Little did I know was that it starts with me.

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In Tyler I Trust

Published August 9, 2015 by Wookie Rider

In my heart of hearts, rooted in sentimentality and gilded with idealistic conceptions of romance, I know my admiration for romantic comedies and teen flicks contradicts with the values I’ve created through my experiences as a black woman raised in a ridiculously masculine household. Emotional blackmail and man-pain, manifested through angsty anger, exploit the narrative of the stereotypical woman as his emotional punching bag. Bender targets Claire and projects the anger that he carries for his father onto her. But as this is teen drama, Claire realizes Bender is merely misunderstood and accepts his emotional baggage, just as all women must do. We exist to be the anthropomorphic manifestation of the shoulder to cry on. Romantic Comedies and teen dramas show me that it is the default expectation that I must not only exist for a man both physically and sexually, but I, too, must perform my duties as a dumping grounds for all of his insecurities and typical shortcomings.

But it’s okay. Because it’s all for love.

And I know that these are just movies and I know that all of my favorites perpetuate the ideals of a system I wish to dismantle; I can’t help it. Two heterosexual cis white people of the opposite prescribed sex overcoming adversity and finding true love- what a hypnotic premise.

I guess that was a little introduction to who I am. Read between the lines, and you should be able to understand my politics. But those previous paragraphs have nothing to do with what I want to write about. Or maybe it does, and I used this paragraph to sell my self-short and undermine the premise of this post. You decide.

I watched Fight Club for the first time, yesterday. I watched it solely because it’s one of those “classics.” One of those movies that forever alter you as a human being like Casablanca or Happy Gilmore. The kind of movie that makes you sees movies as an art form instead of as a thing to be consumed mindlessly and numbly. Fight Club is the “I Will Always Love You” of the cinema even if you’ve never heard about it, you’ve known about it since you were 5. Contrary to personal whims and long-running preferences, I wholeheartedly and unabashedly surrendered myself to that film.

I guess this is going to become a type of movie criticism, but I hate calling it that because that genre of writing seems to distance the word from the writer.

I don’t want that. Although I loved this movie and plan to watch it later today from the comfort of a pseudo-mine bed in a subleased apartment with minimalist décor and dude sheets, I want to give this piece its due diligence. But, as this is my first true piece of writing, I will let this be whatever it becomes.

I fuck with Tyler Durden. I fuck with the plot twist at the end of the movie. (Fuck Fincher and his compulsion to screw you over at the end of his movies re: Se7en and Black Swan.) I fuck with all of the themes I gathered. I fuck with the cinematography. I fuck with the acting, and I mad fuck with the writing. I loved this film.

I love Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is Holden Caulfield devoid of teenage angst and elementary disillusionments of the world. He embodies the revolution enough to feel substantial, yet it remains shallow at its core. Capitalism’s emphasis on consumer consumption warps our sense of value. It establishes our value as direct and discerning. Value is perceived. We are superficial enough to pare down the complex, exploitative system of capitalism into a simple manifestation of our personal value through what brands we wear and what this style of furniture says about us. We become an aesthetic.

Whereas we believe that our personality shines through by the way we choose to present ourselves, our presentation begins to inform how we shape our personality. Our style, which we depend on to express ourselves to the world, becomes a crutch. We rely on it to not only showcase who we are, but actually, be our surrogate. We rely on our hipster aesthetic or Louboutin heels to determine our status.

The narrator in Fight Club consumes brands that achieve his aesthetic. By manifesting his internal dissatisfaction with the current state of his life through the development of his personal presentation, he never has to truly engage with his unhappiness. Instead, he assumes that improving the outside will make the inside more tolerable. When the big reveal near the end of the movie tells us that Tyler is the alter-ego of the narrator, I understood how distancing, creating a style for yourself can be temporary fix for the permanent sense of futility and hopelessness that lies within us since there is no clear path for us to take.

I want to unpack that realization further, but not in this piece. This hasn’t been the most concise and structured piece I’ve written; however, it wasn’t meant to be that way in the first place. I named this post “In Tyler I Trust,” because Tyler symbolizes who the narrator wants to be. He’s the uninhibited narrator who acts on his values unequivocally. He is a leader with the confidence to know that he could lead others against his war on acquiescence, and many will follow. I trust Tyler because I trust that I have that untapped spirit within me. I can lead an army. I am worthy of leading an army.