February 20th 2016,
We watch and listen to “Formation” at least once a day, everyday. We all have our separate reasons for doing so in my house. My daughter, Bougie Boo says, “It’s like a lullaby!” She’s a casual fan of Beyonce. Her tastes are more alt rock, electronica and k-pop.
I worry for her. I’m a big momma of a new teen and who won’t eat lunch in the cafeteria. “It’s too loud, and too crowded. The food is awful. I go to the library.” These are normal teen issues. She’s trying to figure out who she is. I worry that she’s isolating because she’s different. She’s a STEM girl, who codes in her free time, she reads dystopian YA, she listens to K-pop, she golfs, and is a new runner. She needs to eat during the day and is having a hard time doing so.
She’s a brown girl who is interested in a world where she will often be “the only one” in the room. As a woman who is often “the only one” I know that means, “the lonely one.” I treasure her uniqueness, but I don’t want her to constantly have to justify her humanity in a country that increasingly refuses to see uniqueness while being black (and female) as a quality to be encouraged, fostered or celebrated.
She came home from school one day and asked, “So, what country are we moving to if Trump gets elected?” We laughed, but we both know it’s not a joke. I’ve been careful about keeping my fears about what Trump’s America might be like for us, to myself. Her political beliefs should be her own. To hear her articulate what has been preoccupying my thoughts was disturbing. I’m angry that I have spent time thinking that what might be best for the both of us, going forward, is leaving the country. It’s a tough space to occupy. She’s supposed to start high school next year, and we plan on staying, but the political reality might dictate that we leave, no matter who wins.
It’s becoming intolerable to live as a what I call a “slash citizen.” We come from a family that has always been heavily invested in civic service. My grandmother is the only pure capitalist among us. Everyone else has worked in the public sector. We are a family of nurses, and cops, and social workers, non-profit professionals, Air Force and Army officers, and enlisted Marines, and it seems we’ll never be American enough. My daughter is thirteen and knows that the rhetoric “Make America Great Again!” means an America that is hostile to those who are like her. She feels it already, and I hate that it’s 2016 and the burdens of gender, race, and class are trying to dull her shine.
This year has been a year where I’ve had to do some hard core parenting. I’ve navigated between heavy-handed harpy when it comes to her scholarship, and letting her develop her own compass and agency when it comes to everything else.
I didn’t suggest that she start running. She volunteered handing out water and snacks at one of my races earlier in the year. Her decision to start running came entirely from within. “I saw these tiny kids out there Mom, running with the adults, and I thought ‘What am I doing with my life?’” She was so dramatic, with a hand up to her forehead, mimicking crisis. “You want to run?” I asked. She looked at me serious for a moment “Yeah, I think I do.” I started taking her out every other day less than two months ago, so she could compete in her first 5k.
Introducing Lady Bougie Boo
Dimensions: 5’4 1/2”
Origins: black/white -some other ethnic stuff that may or may not be in her DNA by way of the suburbs in Connecticut and Northeast Florida
Rank: red belt two stripes Tang Soo Do Korean martial artist
Weakness: fine food and nice hotel rooms
Geek girl credentials: Star Wars, Potterhead, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, Supernatural
Slay weapons of choice: Sarcasm, Python, Html, Java “script-ish”
Tag lines: “The aesthetic is real!” and “Don’t judge me, I’m fabulous!”
I’m excited for her, and the woman she’s becoming. I’m scared for her, and the woman she is becoming. Earlier in the school year she lopped off her pony tail. She came down the stairs with twelve inches of her hair clutched in her hand. It was an act of defiance, not against me, but against the hoards of long haired girls and boys she encounters daily, her small group of friends are the the nerds, like her. “Mom, I don’t know I just felt like I had to do it!” I almost cried. “Are you upset?” she asked. “No, I don’t care about your hair, it’s just that you look so much like your baby self.” I trimmed the rough edges of her new short curly ‘fro, as she flipped through her baby picture book. I told her stories about her baby self, the almost disney princess type of sweet she used to be, and I mourned and celebrated at the same time. My worry for her a year ago was that she might be too soft, and that she might rely on her beauty to make her way in the world. She has grown emotionally and intellectually, and has developed a personality that at times infuriates, surprises, and challenges me with her quick wit. My worry for her now is that the world might turn her hard and cynical. Having a changeling can bring on bouts of conflicting emotions.
Lady Bougie Boo was dressed, calm and ready for her first 5k. She’s a marvel to me. She didn’t have race day nerves. I had plenty of nerves for the both of us. It was a beach run, its going to be hot. She knows nothing of pacing, or the bodies rejection of doing an exercise in the sun, or feeling the sand suck you down, when you want to move forward. I worried that I’d set her up for failure, by entering her in a tough race. Lady Littlefoot and I’d been shuffling back and forth, collecting ourselves, complaining about the warm weather, using the bathroom “one last time” multiple times. We played our favorite songs and right before we leave the house at 10:15, for the unusually late race start of noon, Bougie Boo asked me to pull up “Formation.” We danced before we left.
After the race, she is wearing her medal for winning her age group. “You know, it’s win by default, right?” She was the only female runner in her age group. I’m proud of her anyway. She committed to training, and she finished. Normally, I’m not down with the participation trophy. But I felt like it was a worthy win. In checking with the race stats, there were only five women under 18 who participated, compared to fifteen boys. I asked her, “How’d it feel?” She replied, “Kinda good actually, I feel empowered. Strong you know…” she leans into me and whispers mischievously, “Like a bad ass beeyatch! Plus the beach and the water. You know how I am, the aesthetic is real!” And as for the win by default, “Why aren’t there more 10-14 year old girls here?”