Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Insight: into the motherless and Muslim first/second wives

There were a number of sista writers who shared their experiences being mothers, daughters and motherless tonight at the Brecht Forum. The trials and tribulations they've overcome by means of their womanhood, persevering, surviving, thriving, being angry, being torn, and healing from and through it all. The panel consisted of Asha Bandele, Staceyann Chin, Stacey Patton, and Dian Brooks, three of whom were abandoned by mothers, two of whom are currently mothers, one of whom is preparing to become such a precious incarnation of herself, and one who's just completed a phd weeks ago in a subject related to childrearing and the affects of post-slavery influences on the Black Family, or something of that nature (I'm SURE I'm writing incorrectly but was impressed with just the same). These sistas shared some heavy tales and testimonies to their journeys, dealing with abuse and abandonment, healing, forgiveness (or the lack thereof) and pressing forward, and so much more. At the close of the symposium I was wrought with the hankering to call my mother and thank her for her overbearing and reliable presence and LOVE MANIFESTED in my life for all of my days since before I was born! It is truly a blessing that I've experienced no abuse in my lifetime, and should I EVER become a mother, I'd pray the same experience of my child... Surely, it's no easy task, but the stories shared this evening were, in deed, inspired and necessary.

But what was most striking to me was the conversation I had with a sista named after a beautiful Persian queen that I'll leave out for the sake of this random posting. She was an ageless Muslima, covered from her eyebrows to her shoe strings, layered in burka and coat, and eager to share a walk to the train with a fellow sistren. My head was also covered, though while my hair hung long below the wrap, I highly doubt she got the impression that I'm also Muslima. She flagged me down as I was leaving the Brecht Forum and insisted on walking with me to the train, which I gladly obliged, as after dark twos traveling by foot are often better than one. On the walk we introduced ourselves and gave our impressions on the speakers who shared. I expressed the same sentiment, that after hearing these stories, I need to call my mom immediately and thank her for her undeniable love, affection, support (financial and otherwise) and mere presence in my life. She shared a little of her experiences as a girl and how they related to the evening's topic, and I smiled as I listened.

Then, still blocks from the train, she turned to me and smiled, "I'm going to share something with you, I don't know why, but with tonight's empowering message I just feel like I should share." And in the course of telling me about her four children ranging from 4 - 16 years of age (I can't escape my special #, 416!), she was nearly in tears when she began to explain that her Muslim husband of so many years (at least 16)--whom she has loved and adored dearly while doing all that she possibly could to be the kind of upstanding wife that a man could appreciate and love--expressed to her that per his religious right, he would like to take a second wife. A SECOND WIFE (and keep HER)! At this day and age: 2011 in Brooklyn, NY! I kept a straight face and listened to her anxieties unfold as we walked, but I could not even imagine what it would be like to hear your husband tell you he desires and intends to take a second wife. She was resolute to explain that though she values being a submissive wife, she is strong and liberated in mindset; she was in the military, afterall. She's obtaining her degree from CUNY. She is doing all that she can to be a positive example of womanhood, being a wife and mother for her three daughters and even her young son who will one day be a Muslim husband. She explained that she even understood that there are many women who are okay with the notion that their husbands may very well exercise their option to take a second wife, so long as it is financially stable for his family. But she was clearly broken from this.

On our walk, she explained how her mother has maintained that she should not stay with this man, but she loves him with all of her heart, and I can understand such a resolve, despite the circumstance. One of the panelists tonight (jokingly?) stated that she is happily engaged to be married for the second time, one year away from age 50, and that she loves this man so much that should he EVER decide that there is another woman that he's interested in leaving her for, she's COMING WITH HIM! "It'll be you, her and ME!" she said... So, this precious queen explained to me that she knows there are women who will not mind their man taking another woman, but she was very resolute that she was in fact NOT that women. But here she was being tested by her husband, and had been on the verge of having to accept his desire as a part of her journey. "It really broke me," she said, and I could see the pain in her face as I listened.

What could I offer in such a circumstance? I've never been married, never been Muslim, never been a mother, and can barely find myself in a legitimate committed adult relationship! Surely, she was just turning to me for a listening ear. I made SURE not to express any semblance of judgement on my part, for I have no business remarking on the decisions between a man and a wife... or do I???

I took this sista, who I very well may never see again, in an embrace on 8th Avenue, and congratulated her on keeping her family together. I confirmed the value in her being a strong young decision maker (i later realized that being 32 I very well could have a 16 year old daughter as well, so she may not have been very much older than me, and certainly didn't look it) and encouraged her to make the decisions that were best for her and her children. I couldn't say too much about the main issue other than I was glad that her husband decided against taking the second wife. Though in reality, from what she shared, it sounds like he actually would have had he been financially able to make it work. Imagine. Of all the things she said, the fact that she is categorically against being a part of a polygamous marriage stood out the most to me. What would she explain to her daughters, and son, she pondered.

We didn't exchange information once we arrived at the train station. We embraced again and went our separate ways after a warm goodbye. But I wonder if I was supposed to get her contact information. Somehow remain in touch. For her to bare her soul to an anonymous sistafriend on a walk from an empowering sistahood symposium to the train says a lot. But we said goodbye.

One thing is for certain. I will never forget her. I will remember to keep her name in my prayers and I will think of her often. Because, her spirit is torn. She said, "I'm glad that my husband decided against taking the second wife, but I know that our relationship will never be the same." And that sounds like the comment of someone who knows she will remain there, committed to that relationship. And because she said that, I smiled as I reminded her that as every relationship has its horror and war stories, years from now, perhaps, she will look back and "remember" when things were really tough, yet bet be encouraged by how she was able to come through completely whole on the other side. Because as one of the panelists reminded us, "It's always darkest before the sunrise" and the seasons of life are ever-changing. In this case, I'd certainly like to think so.

for Lady V.

Monday, April 25, 2011

To be or not to be.......childless...

I went to an Easter dinner last night and noticed something very interesting about the ten or so individuals present at the dinner, in addition to myself: Everyone in attendance was childless.

I didn't realize this until late in the evening, well beyond midnight even, as the revelation wasn't something that had been specifically highlighted during the many group discussions over the evening. But I DID notice it, and ended up having a brief conversation with the host about this revelation as she cleared her kitchen and I sipped on some wine.

I find this interesting largely because of the range of demographics at the dinner spanning from mid thirties to mid-70's; white americans (various ages), black americans (various ages), and an italian man; a b&w interracial couple that's been together about 35 years (since they were 17 and 18 years old college freshmen); two educators, a couple of entertainers, two journalists, a producer, a carpenter, a bartender, an attorney, and a librarian/bathroom attendant. Of the other married couples, one in their 50's have been married since 2000 (11 years), and the other in their 70's celebrated their 29th anniversary on April 17th. Both of those wives, in separate conversations I had with them, said that they'd "married late" (in their mid-40s). The wife in her 70's said that she and her beau had not been "blessed with children" which leads me to believe that they at least considered and tried to become parents. The one in her 50's said that she married at 45, but had she married ten years earlier perhaps she would have had children with her husband. The interracial couple in their 50's that's been together since they were teenagers are entertainer and manager, and the wife/manager commented that they've focused on their career over the years and spend a lot of time abroad making things happen (they are world traveled), so having children never really played into the equation.

As for the single individuals in attendance, one is a couple of years older than me and also a professor. She's white american and has spent a number of years living in Italy working on her ph.d before moving to NYC. There was an italian producer there in his 50's as well who I overheard saying that he has never married, and though having "come close a couple of times," he never will. I was interested to have a conversation with him regarding this decision, but decided it was another topic for another day. Then there were the other two african american women, one who is 53 and one who seems like she's in her late 40s. Both single and perhaps either have been at one point or have never married, I can't tell (one may be lez, though she's quite asexual in my opinion).... one is a journalist the other an attorney, both seem to have had longstanding successful careers..... and then there was me: wildchild#1-- 32 years of age, no husband, no bf, no prospects of children, but lot's of adventure. I didn't speak to any of them regarding never having become parents...

When I was in the kitchen talking to the host she mentioned that of all of the people she's known over the years, she's noticed, especially now in her middle aged years, that it's her friends that never had children that seem to have the best marital relationships, in her humble opinion. She implied that though there are various reasons why people decide not to have children, it's the ones who are okay with this decision to remain childless that seem to have the less stress throughout their lives. What she was saying reminded me of an article in the New York Magazine last summer about the topic "I Love My Kids, But I Hate My Life" comparing and contrasting the quality of life of parents versus the childless, both married and single. Again, she did comment though, that had she met her lovely husband (which whom she "adores the little boy in him!" while she herself is a whimsy girl at heart who loves to twirl and dance about her spacious apartment--like me!!!) years before, she would have been inclined to procreate with him. It seems, even, that on the night that I met her a year and a half ago, she mentioned how she'd spent a good portion of her 30's being in love with the wrong man in a relationship that went nowhere other than to waste a portion of her childbearing years (...ok, she didn't say that verbatim but it was something like that), so I'm sure that played into her trajectory... and, naturally, I wonder if such a circumstance would play into my own chances of (not) becoming a mother....

I suppose this is most interesting as I am finding myself in the company of a lot of my peers who are becoming parents (two and three times over) as of late. One friend's wife told me flat out that she *felt sorry for me* for still having feelings for and entertaining a relationship that I've never quite ended because after five years it hasn't led to marriage; she feels I'll look up one day (probably unable to have children) and regret that I wasted so much time in such a fanciful, quixotic relationship (i'm too cool and beautiful for that, she says). Though I know she means well/doesn't mean any harm, I think her comments have been the most extreme regarding my singledom, and the ones I've found most annoying considering my relationship status is the last thing to feel sorry about. (Note to reading audience: PLEASE don't ever feel sorry for me regarding the status of the aforementioned!!!!) Meanwhile, I JUST turned 32.........and I swear, at this day and age, I still have another ten years to decide ANYTHING regarding having a child, should the volume on my biological clock ever begin to start ticking audibly....

So, at the end of the day, regardless of other people's timeframes, one thing last night showed me is that even if I never wind up having a child, life will be good, full of love and laughter. Besides there seems to be a never ending wealth of cousins, nieces, nephews, neighbors and godchildren whose lives I can be a part of should I ever feel the need to play with a warm cooing bundle for a few hours. And at this point, I couldn't be more okay with that if you paid me!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


in one moment i'm certain, in the next i'm fretting. i feel like there is a major decision to be made and time is the main factor. and whereas i can't say that it's theee main factor with a capital M, it is one of the stressors driving me to blinding indecision. and i am completely incapable of making this decision in the moment.

to leave nyc or not to leave; that is the question.

the pros and cons swim around my head every day and i just don't know what side of the equation to definitively land on.

there are justifiable reasons to stay, and there are potentially greater reasons to leave.

i haven't done the pro con list for fear that neither list will end.

plan for my life, i don't do those. i do visions, goals, i daydream. i happen into fortunate circumstances and run them until they don't run anymore. shortlived, they are, but fruitful.

nyc is my heart. my home. i am comfortable here. i trust it. three years short of a decade, and i feel as though i can spend my days here, so long as i have a passport and airfare. i am happy with my job with CUNY and am two years short of being eligible for free tuition (i think... i need to check on that.) technically if i remain working there and start work on a phd, it can be financially worthwhile, two birds with one stone. CUNY schools are well known and respected, and i definitely can find what i want to do within the system. i could study abroad and still have nyc be home base. i like that idea. actually, i love it. i like the idea of having my spot in bk, going to work during the 12 to 15 weeks, taking classes, and taking breaks to travel and study or teach abroad and coming back to my nyc home. writing at length, self publishing my works and my families' work as well. to stay here welcomes the potential of family business taking route and expanding.

staying in the states will also enable me to be able to visit my parents and family whenever i need or want to, and that is definitely a point of value. if i remain and continue to share rent, then there are more opportunities for me to do other things with my money, like travel or eat out or shop or whatever. and no, it's not LIVING abroad, it still provides the opportunity to go somewhere for a little while and come back. there's always the OPPORTUNITY in NYC, that is the truth. people are constantly reinventing themselves here. there's still so much i haven't done in the seven years i've been here. so, that's how i feel about nyc. there is an onion layer to be peeled with each year that i'm here, and the bulb is still far beneath the layers for me.

but there is the point of a love life or lack there of. whereas i would not plan to go abroad to find love -- at all -- i know for a fact that the past seven years has not panned out in the relationship area. i have met -- who i consider to be-- the love of my life and am convinced that should we ever end up in holy matrimony i would be happy to entertain life where ever he and i should choose to exist, because quite simply, he's my favorite person in this life. happy days or funky days, silly mood or crappy mood, he does it for me. but the reality is that he does not say that i'm the love of his life, and therefore has no current plan find us in holy matrimony. even with this divergent levels of desire, we remain confidantes and companions (he is harry to my sally in the most authentic of ways). i don't know that i'm waiting for anything from him or expecting anything, i only know what i see and experience "now" with him. i see him in front of me each week making me smile and enjoying my company, listening to me rant and complain. he sees my ugly and voices reason (and i do the same of/for him). i fear that i will never tire of his presence, and that i'll look up one day an old lady with an old friend and no husband to call my own. on the contrary, i also fear that should we actually go our separate ways --for good and forever-- the heartbreak would be debilitating. in an unwavering way that has been true since day one and rings true today in year five, he makes me happy in a way no other person has before (i can't say "and never will" because i don't know what "will be", but i can say that my flame is consistent in a way that keeps me from being interested in any one guy for much longer than a couple of months. yet annually, he's the one for me.) ALL that to say, if i stay in nyc, i have this matter of love without claim or destination to contend with. but in each moment we spend together, i am content and want for nothing. so moment to moment, i live.

so, to leave all of that.... the job that's just a job, nothing passionate, but surely enjoyable. the love of my life who is committed to being my friend. the comfort of family and potential to grow in new ways collectively. my adopted city and home and all the adventure there. to leave it all for the potential of an adventure on the world stage i'd always thought i'd already have by now: to live abroad, THAT may really be worth it. to live abroad means a change in trajectory. it means capitalizing on the unknown. Potential is the word of the day. If you can get a visa.. if you can get a job... if you can get affordable housing... if you can gain a support system, then living abroad can end up being an experience that people dream about. That I've dreamt about. That I daydream about. Those are the only points I have on my live abroad side. I've always wanted to do it. IF i can figure out where to go (I keep thinking London, but the reality is, it's sooo expensive and as a student you can only work 11 hrs a week, which is not a lot of money) i can decide on if i will apply to study there. then there's the issue of funding. I don't want another cent of student loans. ...And then whose to say that I want to stay there for the length of time it takes to get a phd. I don't think I want to live in Europe a long time, just long enough to see some places and do some things. People keep saying that if I go, I'll probably end up marrying a EuroAfrican fellow there and staying. It's not what I'm looking for, but I would not be surprised. I neither welcome nor shun the idea. I figure if I can get another advanced degree and gain some adventure in the process then, yay! anything else in the way of life is a bonus.

But again, if we're weighing the options, the option to stay outweighs the option to go. I literally can't make a decision. So I'm going to [continue to] pray about it. God knows what I should do more than anyone. He gave me the desire to see the world. He gave me the intellect to study and research which will aid in an advanced degree. He is fully aware of my love for all things NYC as well as the love for the one man that may last until my final breath. He knows that i love seeing my family often. He knows that i have a number of goals outside of academia that i'm still managing to achieve. And he knows that I don't like regular jobs that involve customer service and that other kind of stuff that you have to do when you don't have many options for income. If i go abroad i can look at having to do any number of those jobs i've either avoided or quit years ago. and that's not appealing.... unless it's in a place where i'm gaining a language skill.

So Lord, what do I do.

Should I stay or should I go?
What about my goals?
What about my heart?

What about my home? Where am I going to live???

Even if I don't figure out where I should go, how to reach my goals, and whether or not i remain single and unattached with a sometime platonic friendboy for the next 8 years, I still have to move out of my apartment in 6 months.

so. because of all of this. i'm fretting just a bit.
So I will be still and know that he is God, and expect the moment when he says MOVE! cause HE answers prayers.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

"without a shadow of a doubt (the shadows of the past and the doubts of the future)"

................how is it that five years later, THIS is still a very accurate account of where I am in my life? (sigh.)

(regardless, i just don't know what to think anymore.)