"Because if your girl walks up right now, I don’t play that shit where you’re telling her, I don’t know who she is. That’s not gon’ happen." [an interview]Read Now
MW: How long were you married?
Legally, nine years. We were together for five and then separated for about a year and a half. And then I left again after three months. It’s hard to even talk about it because so horrible. I don’t remember anything good outside of my children. It was never good.
MW: Not even before your children?
So this is the back story, right? This is where the real stuff comes up. We were together in high school. I went away to school and he stayed home. So of course there was this young love idea of, we’re going to be together, and time and distance doesn’t matter. But during my first year – or maybe it was closer to my second year – I started feeling like I couldn’t do it. Because he’s home calling me and when I’m not in my dorm room it’s like, where are you? And I feel like, even if I ain’t on nothing with other dudes, I’m a free bird. Anything that feels like too much, I’m suffocating. Especially when I know I’m not on nothing and you keep insisting on asking me, where you at? I don’t need that in my life, sorry. Anyway, long story short, I get to the point where I’m like, no, I can’t do this. So we broke up.
Now there’s this guy right – I don’t know if I ever told you about this dude – but it was a guy who I was friends with. It was very organic. At first I felt nothing. I mean, like nothing. It was just strictly friendship. We would just hang out, kick it, I’d call him, he’d call back – it was nothing. He was a friend. But then I was talking to him on the phone this one time and it was like something switched. (snaps fingers) It was like somebody turned on a light and I was like, ooh, I like this guy. And it was so weird because it had been like two years. And he wasn’t even the most attractive dude. But then something clicked. So long story short, we became intimate. It just happened like once or twice but after that it was just like, totally weird. Because we went there and now we can’t go back. And I feel like I wasn’t totally over that, and part of my trying to get over it …. I mean my ex-husband consistently reached out to me during that time and tried to holla back for us to get back. And after things got weird with that guy, I was more receptive to getting back with my ex.
MW: You went back with what was familiar…
Yeah, I went back to what was comfortable and familiar. And I was in high school when I first started dating my ex- husband and it felt good in high school – but when we actually got married, not so much. You know how they say, how you start is how you’ll end? And when I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I didn’t start my marriage from a good, fresh space. I started it from a rebound type situation. Even though this dude and I were never officially together – he was never my boyfriend, we were never in a relationship –I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. So it was just really weird. And so you’re right, I just went back to what was familiar and safe. Because that other situation wasn’t safe and I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know how to deal with it. That being said, on my end, me being accountable for a failed marriage, I have to honor that. I didn’t go into it in a… not to say I didn’t have a good heart… but I wasn’t honest with myself or my husband about it.
MW: Were you in love with your husband?
At the time I felt like I was. I mean, I felt like aww. Yeah, we loved each other. But I do feel like being in love and loving someone is two different things. But at the time I felt like I was in love with him and loved him and all of that. And I may have been. But I still had this other thing brewing and sitting there that should have been dealt with. Or at least acknowledged.
MW: Did you ever deal with it?
After my husband and I separated, I did. This particular guy… I would see him around the way. Because I mean, even with my husband, even though I was miserable… if this is what it is then this is what it is. I’m not doing hookups on the side. I’m completely miserable but I’m going to honor what I said I’m going to honor. But after my husband and I separated, I actually did talk to the guy and we kind of hung out a little bit. And for me, it was kind of like, ooh, maybe something can come of this. For him, I feel like… I don’t know… even when I think about it I feel like it’s so fuzzy to me and it just doesn’t make sense and I just have to like, let it be what it is. In my mind I tell myself that he may have felt the same way too but there was this guardedness. Because you know, I’m married, I got two kids and I could go back to that. And I remember having conversations and even telling him. I’m about to go back. And he was like, really? I don’t know what it was like for him in college – but even back then, he kind of pulled back a little bit. Not that I wanted to be his woman but I just feel like he totally kind of stepped back…
MW: That’s how dudes are – when you’re totally available, they’re gone, but when you’re totally unavailable, they’re there…
Exactly! But when he had the opportunity while I was separated, I feel like he should have jumped on it but he didn’t. And it ended real bad for us. We had hung out – me, him and his roommate had gone to a bar – oh, this is so bad, girl. Horrible. And that’s why I don’t never want to judge nobody because we all have our times and our moments. So we went out and I got drunk, not knowing how to deal with my feelings and my emotions …
MW: (Laughs) Getting that liquid courage…
Right. So his roommate drove us in his car and I’m like throwing up out the window…
MW: Oh yeah, I’ve been there…
So I’m hanging out the car, scummy. I’m in the toilet throwing up. And then I said to him, I love you! Do you love me back?! I mean because we hooked up in like 99, so it had been 7 or eight years since then. I just needed to know. But the scene was just bad. If you didn’t know us and you just rolled up… I mean I’m drunk on the floor…
MW: Talking bout, I love you….
Right. But I feel like there was no judgment from him in that moment. But then he pretty much said no, he didn’t feel the same way. It was a dagger to the heart. I felt like God, the universe, the ancestors, whoever – was watching over me because I was pissed and I shouldn’t have even driven down the block but I drove all the way home. I told him to just leave me alone because I can’t get over you if I’m talking to you and sometimes hanging out with you. I can’t do that. Because when we would hang out, he would be like, okay, see you later, and I would be like, no, lets go lay up or something. So I can’t just hang out with you and be cool because I want more. So I was like, don’t talk to me anymore. I decided I would try again to be a wife.
MW: But it’s hard to be a wife when you have these unresolved feelings hanging around….
And I do feel like there was something there with him. It wasn’t all that I thought that it was. It wasn’t all I wanted it to be. Clearly there was an imbalance. I just had to acknowledge, he does not feel how you feel. You’re telling yourself that it’s more, but it’s not. And the man I’m with now taught me that. He helped me see that when a dude really wants to be with you, all that other stuff ain’t gon’ matter. They gon’ go hard in the paint. Even if he was scared that me and my husband would get back together, if he really wanted to be with me he would take this time and shoot his shot and go hard and say, I don’t want you to back – if the feelings were really there. Like my man now came hard when I gave him the opportunity to really show me. When a dude is feeling you, he gon’ get at you. He ain’t gon’ leave you wondering, maybe, maybe not.
So anyway, that was the situation before the marriage and after the marriage. In fact I feel like my feelings for him still kind of exist. Like, just the love itself. However, I had to move on in some way. I couldn’t wait until I didn’t feel nothing for him to move on because I’m like, it may never go away. So what, I’m just not gon’ be with nobody?
MW: Well do you still talk to him, though?
I don’t. When I told him to leave me alone, he did. And then maybe a year later I told him that I just wanted to clear the air because I feel like the last time we talked was weird, and we both live in Chicago and I didn’t want to run into him and it be awkward and weird. So I’ve seen him around the way but there’s been no conversation. Because… why? You know? What’s the point? But one of the things I do want to do, though… because you learn and grow and get better and go through things…. so I just wanted to be clear when I started my current relationship, that even if I did have residual feelings, like how do you deal with that? Because I felt like part of my accountability with my failed marriage was not being honest about having some old stuff lingering around. And so before I got into my current relationship I had told myself, whether somebody comes around or not, I’m just not going to deal with that situation. So it wasn’t like I’m running around with these feelings and I’m running to my man for comfort. It wasn’t like that. I had totally shut those feelings down and opened myself up for something new. I had to put it in a box, if that makes sense. Because the actual feelings may never go away. So I can’t wait until I don’t have these actual feelings to go on with my life.
And I met my current love shortly after I made that decision. But actually, he had been around. But I don’t do messy, right? And him and his girl had kind of broken up – they were like back and forth. He had called me and at the time he was staying with his brother and I’m like, that don’t mean nothing to me. You could be mad at her and go right back.
MW: Right, because you figure, I’ve done that. So I know what that looks like…
Yeah! (laughs) I didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Because I remember, he met me at this book store and we had ate and talked. He was still kind of messing with his ex. We were in the front of the bookstore and he wanted to go sit in the back. And I was like, so you trying to hide somewhere? You scared your girl gon’come in? I said, if you’re really done with that, why would you care? So it just felt like I shouldn’t be there. Because if you feel like you don’t want her to see us, that means you’re still in it. And I’m going to honor that. Even if you don’t honor that, I’m gon’ honor that. I’m going to honor the woman in your relationship even if you feel like you want to do something extra. He tried to holla but I couldn’t. I’m second to none. Because if your girl walks up right now, I don’t play that shit where you’re telling her, I don’t know who she is. That’s not gon’ happen. But eventually, once I was out of my marriage and I shut down the college boo thing, he called me. He told me he had his own place and I was like, ok. To me, that’s someone who’s really moved on. You’ve invested in your own spot, you’re not at your brother’s house. So then I could kind of take him seriously. So we started talking. We weren’t together together, but I was open to building with him because it seemed like he was done with the other situation.
MW: So when you ended your marriage, but before you were officially with your current love, were you scared to be a single mom?
I wasn’t. You know how some women say, I’m scared that because I got these kids, won’t nobody want me? I’ve never felt that way. That means nothing to me at all. Well do you mean in the sense of getting another mate? Or just being on your own?
MW: All of that. Getting another mate, being on your own, raising the kids by yourself – all of that. Because see for me, I imagine I would be scared of losing my husband’s help. But you said that your guy went out all the time and didn’t help you anyway, so I guess you felt like a single mother within your marriage?
Bam, exactly. Now with my guy now, that would be a different story. Because he does so much. He is totally present. So if he didn’t exist, that would be very overwhelming to me. But if it came down to it… I’m not good with discomfort. I don’t do well with that. Things have to…. I’m just very in tune with myself. So if something is not right, or makes me feel overly uncomfortable, I would have to release it and just deal with whatever. So if me and my man was to have problems and it was just so much with us, I would just have to suck it up. Because I feel like whatever issue that might be causing me pain would outweigh all the physical work I would have to do if he left. I have to be clear here (points to her heart) to even function physically. Like whenever we’re having an off day or something is not right, I’m like dude let’s get together and figure this out because I’m too uneasy. It’s affecting me. I can’t even think. So we would have to work it out or I would have to release the relationship. And if we couldn’t work it out, I would just have to do what I have to do.
But with my ex- husband… you’re right. I mean, he wasn’t doing shit, I was doing everything myself anyway so it was like, whatever. But there was a time when I remember my oldest daughter crying for him – because we had left and I had gotten my own place and all of that. She was crying, I want my Daddy! And I was crying, I want him too! So I’m not going to act like it wasn’t hard. I mean, it wasn’t easy. And it was scary. It wasn’t scary in the sense of finding another guy, it was just hard in terms of, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. You know how you get attached to what your life is supposed to look like? And then it was like, I didn’t see this when I had my vision. And I felt cheated because – although I’m still smart – I was really smart in school. I was doing research. I was on a good path. I used to think that if I didn’t leave, I would probably be a professor…
MW: You mean you left school?
Yeah, Ieft school to get married when I was 21. My senior year, I transferred to a school back home. But before that, I was doing good. I was real scholarly. So over the years I’ve just been really dealing with that. Because I left school for him and it ended up being some bullshit. Ultimately, life is life is life, I mean, coulda woulda shoulda. But at the time, I felt like I gave up so much and then it failed.
MW: What was it like dating after your divorce?
Well here’s the thing. By the time I was officially divorced I had already been with my current love for a year. So a better example of when I first started dating would be when my husband and I first separated because that’s when I was back in the world dating, talking to guys. Because for the past five years it had just been my husband – good, bad or ugly. I didn’t reach out to anyone. It was weird, being back in the world. I’m not a big… dater. I don’t know how it is now because me and my man have been together for some years, but it seems like there are so many games. Like people can’t just be real. And when you are real, folks say you’re moving too fast. I just want you to tell me what it is. I’m just a very upfront, honest person. What you see is what you get. I lay it all out. And that may be a turn off for some people. They might feel like it’s too much. I don’t know how to play. I don’t know how to do that.
MW: And once you get married and you have kids, it’s like, I’m not on that anymore. No games.
Yeah. At the time I was kind of open to dating but now if my guy and I was to break up, for me to start dating again, it would have to be super organic. You would have to fit into this schedule over here. I feel like I wouldn’t have time for it. You would have to be super real, honest, upfront – other than that, leave me alone. I can’t. I got too much to do, point blank.
MW: Because you have four kids, right?
(laughs) Yes. For the record, I have four kids. The youngest is one. That’s 17 more years of raising.
MW: Oh my gosh. So you’re not married, but you and your guy live together?
I’m not remarried but we’ve been living together for about four years. It’s so funny because… men are so funny. They think everything is a conspiracy. We had been dating about two years when we moved in together. Actually he moved in with me because I already had children and I didn’t want to uproot them so he moved in with me. I swear like, a month later I was pregnant. And he wasn’t mad or anything, but he was like, how did that happen? So, everything is a conspiracy now. But truthfully… I was actually trying though.
MW: You were trying but you didn’t tell him?
Yes. And no, I didn’t tell him. I was just ready. But I mean we were doing it raw. You a man, you know how this happens. But girl I was putting my legs up and everything. So yeah, we’ve been living together now for about four years. And for me, I’ve been getting clear and thinking about why I didn’t want to get re-married. Because even before I got divorced, what I told myself was, I didn’t know if I would legally get married again but I wouldn’t withhold love. I wouldn’t be like, I don’t want to be with anyone. Like I felt like I would always be with someone. I wasn’t done with love. I was done with marriage. Because you can be married and it can be shit. Or you can not be married and it can be great. To me, it ain’t really about the marriage. In my opinion, the marriage is not going to make or break anything. If anything, marriage can make things harder because you have that attachment to the outcome. It becomes about, we gotta show the world we can overcome. Well, I’ve been miserable as fuck. So paper or not, I just want to make sure I have a good relationship. And if I can’t have that, maybe it’s shortsighted but, deuces. Sorry. I’m not gon’ be miserable for the rest of my goddamned life. (laughs) And I’m not really attached to any religion and I feel like religion plays a huge part in that too. I remember when I was thinking about leaving my husband and I talked to my aunts and different people and they were like, just hold on…
MW: What God has put together, let no man tear asunder! (laughs)
Yes! And that’s so heavy. The weight of the world, the weight of Jesus on my shoulders! And then it’s like, Jesus sees me crying at night. Jesus sees me miserable as fuck. That was really heavy on me. So I don’t really knock religion but it’s just not my thing anymore. Did I answer your question?
MW: Well you pretty much answered my next question … I was just going to ask why you don’t want to get married.
Well actually – since my man’s never been married, I feel like he shouldn’t not get married. If that’s something he wants, I want to be open to it too. That’s why I’ve been investigating and figuring out why I don’t want to get married. And so if he wants to get married, because I love him, it’s like, alright.
MW: But you told him that you don’t believe in forever, right?
Yeah, I’ve told him that. In fact, I’ve kind of stopped saying it because I’ve told him enough. I don’t want him to think, how many times is she going to say this? So he knows. But now I think we’re going to make it official. We’ve been talking about it. Probably sometime this year. So I’ve kind of changed my mind. I’ve changed my mind about a lot. I said I wasn’t gon’ have no more kids and he got two up out me. Love will do that. Love will change the whole game.
MW: What is it like watching him be a father to your oldest two kids?
That’s been a process. And this is another thing that kind of pisses me off about my ex. He had consistently told the children that I’m the reason we’re not together. That I’m the reason we’re not a family. And see, children already take stuff on. My daughter is closer to her dad than my son.
MW: Well, also, she was a little bit older when you got divorced.
True, but I think it’s also that whole “daddy’s girl” thing. And so he told them it was my fault and they believed that. And they would bring it back to me. In their minds, I’m already the reason why their father and I are not together. So when they see my guy, they’re like, who is this new dude? They never said it to me out of their mouths and they didn’t really act that way but I could see the reservations in them in terms of like, really opening up. So they’ve always been open and accepted him as my partner. But I feel like recently, just within the last year, they’ve opened up to him being a dad to them. I’m not one who’s going to say, he your new daddy. If that happens, they have to feel that way. I’m not going to push that on them. I’m not going to force him being a dad on them even though he’s been my partner. On his end, he had to deal with a lot because my ex hasn’t been doing what he needs to do – financially and otherwise. So I always have to like, step back and get out of my feelings and look at this with clear eyes as it relates to his end, and also to the children. I always feel like the middle person. I’m the link between my man and my kids. I’m the one that they all love. And now that we have these new babies I think that’s made it more organic, too. Because now there’s more children and he’s just Daddy across the board. Before the babies came, my man wasn’t viewed as Daddy Daddy. He didn’t have children. He wasn’t anybody’s daddy. So I didn’t force it. It just happened organically.
However, I feel like my man would just get frustrated sometimes – and I would tell him, you can’t take the kids into this – they have nothing to do with the money their Dad is sending or not sending. They don’t have nothing to do with the adult stuff. So there will be times where my daughter talks about her father. And my man is thinking, this mother****—He was pissed. Because it’s not just that my ex wasn’t giving me money – he did other things to disturb me. But I would encourage my man to keep it separate. My kids don’t understand that and it’s not for me to explain to them. They don’t need to understand that. I don’t need to explain what their dad is doing or not doing. I’m not going to lie and make him out be something he’s not. But they don’t need to be privy to all of what we know about him. It’s going to unfold. If it’s bullshit, they’ll see its bullshit.
It’s finally better now but in the past it had been about finding that balance. I was in the middle between them and my man, and also I was trying not to let my anger towards their Dad spill over into how I treat them. Because you can’t be mean. You have to detach all of that from the kids because they have nothing to do with that. And I wanted them to look at my man as more than Mommy’s partner, but as a guy who is here supporting you, taking care of you. Like, I’m running to the store, they’re like, oh I want to go. But if he’s running to the store, they don’t want to go, you know what I mean? And it hurts his feelings. He wonders sometimes, why don’t they like me? And I told him, don’t take it personal. It’s not you. I think if it was any guy here, they might say, that’s not my Dad. But just recently for Valentine’s Day, he got them some chocolate and they were like, thanks Mom and Pops! Little things like that are so exciting to him because he feels like, I’m their Dad. I’ve been here. But my thing with him is that you can’t make them feel that. I mean I know he’s been here supporting them – not just financially but just being herE for them. But ultimately, that feeling has to come from them. So in the past it’s been kind of tough because of how he feels about it, and for me, I’m just always checking to make sure the children are feeling ok. So now it’s good.
MW: How long were you vetting him and dating him before you brought him around the kids and let him meet them?
Maybe about a year. And then we moved in together two years later. When me and my ex-husband separated, there had been maybe three or four dudes but none of them had ever met the children. But once it started getting serious and we realized we really wanted to be in a relationship, that’s when he met them. He would come over and we would go out to eat and stuff, and then maybe a year later after they had been exposed to him, that’s when he moved in.
MW: Who is that man in my mama’s bed!
I know right! (laughs) Who’s that guy?
MW: So… you and I used to talk about soulmates all the time. Do you still believe in soulmates?
I do. I believe in them in a different sense. Maybe it’s just life or being exposed to things or experiencing things – but I feel like I’m over the whole, “you’re my soulmate, you’re the one” ideal. Number one, I feel like you have more than one soulmate. Like, my sister and I call each other soulmates. I feel like the soulmate may not be attached to that romantic, you’re the one, we’re- going- to- be- together- forever love. I think it’s more so, you’re the one to give me the biggest lesson and get me to grow, spiritually and otherwise. Does that make sense? So I still believe in it but I see it in a different sense.
MW: Was your husband your soul mate?
MW: Is the guy you’re with now your soulmate?
I think he is one. But when I think about it in that context it would be the college dude who I didn’t end up with.
MW: That is so weird!
I know. I think about these things and investigate. I’m very intellectual and I try to figure stuff out. I felt like he was my soul mate. I feel like he is my soul mate. But that takes away nothing from my current relationship. Where I am is where I need to be. If college dude came around, it would be nothing. I wouldn’t say, oh ok, let me be with you now. Absolutely not. But in terms of what came up and the hold the relationship had on me, I grew the most from that situation, from the feelings and stuff tied to that. When you relate it to the way I view soulmates now – the ones who get you to grow spiritually and show you your stuff – he would be the one. I feel like on a natural level I went through the most with my ex-husband. On a spiritual level, I went through the most with the college dude. And I feel like all of that has made me a great person to be with my man right now. So it’s not in vain. I’ve learned so much from dealing with these other men that I can now present myself in a way that’s non-dramatic. But…I think the other guy – I think spiritually – on a soul level, he touched me the most.
MW: Do you ever miss him?
I do miss him. I liked how he thought. See for me, this is what has always been attractive in dudes – I call it the balance. I like people who read and think and all of that, and he was that. But I also like that balance of street cred with a little bit of swag…
MW: Oh yeah. (laughs) He has to be a little hood…
Yeah. And he had all of that. He had a love for people. He was almost like the male version of me. And we had great conversations. And I write, and he was the type of person who would read it. He would be totally open to talking about it. Just building in that way. So for me, it was a matter of me liking on him and being attracted to him, but it was also a meeting of the minds. So I do miss him. And I know if I saw him today, it wouldn’t feel like 7 or 8 years have passed. It just wouldn’t. It would be so natural for us to just… shoot the breeze and … catch up.
MW: So earlier, we were talking about telling your spouse if you have feelings for someone else – or knowing when and if you even need to. What if majestically, this guy started working at your job? So it’s not like you’re calling him and reaching out to him, but you were just around him all the time due to no fault of your own.
I would have to tell my man. Because that’s just being honest. And I’m so honest with him because… I mean, number one, I just want to be honest. But number two, I wouldn’t want anything to come up and I haven’t told him, and then he says I’m holding stuff from him. Like recently, this guy – and he was just strictly a friend – he texted me and said, I have tickets to a concert, does anyone want to join me? I think it might have been a group text. And I told my man because I wouldn’t want it to come up later and he say, oh, you keeping stuff from me. So I would tell him. But that would be hard. Because then it would be like, I’ve had feelings for you for twenty years and now you’re here. I wouldn’t feel tempted but I just… I wouldn’t want my man to be in that situation with somebody that he had been liking on or had feelings for and then he got to see her every day. Every day? For eight hours? Naw, that ain’t cool. But I would tell him. Because it’s the right thing to do.
MW: Yeah…. So switching gears – with children in the house and both of you working, does all the sex you’re not having ever become an issue?
That’s a priority. It has to happen. We have to make it happen. It’s important. And when I feel like he ain’t reaching for me – and it doesn’t even have to necessarily be sexually – I’ll say, what’s going on? You ain’t tapped me on my butt today. (laughs) If you ain’t reaching for me, I want to know what’s wrong because sex is so normal for us. So I’ll bring it up to him and he’ll bring it up to me. Because that has to be the norm. It can’t be that we’re so busy that we don’t have time for each other. I mean, my children are never going to go without. They’re always going to eat. I’m going to do for them even if I have to make myself to do for them. And so I have to view my relationship the same way. It can’t be a side note. But it’s so easy to do that to your spouse, like, oh, they’re grown, they’ll adjust. No. You can’t do that. Just like the kids have to eat, you have to make sex a priority.
MW: What’s too long without it? A day? Two days?
(Laughs) Naw, it’s not like that. I would say, if it ain’t happened in like three, four days, something’s not right. Somebody’s got to stay up or wake somebody up. It’s got to happen. No ifs, ands or buts.
MW: Well you kind of answered this already but – do you ever get the urge to stray? Like, I know society tells us that stereotypically, men have these urges – not that they necessarily follow them. But people never acknowledge that women – once you’ve had children and you’re following your dreams – those things can make you feel very alive. And when you feel alive, and you’re in tune with your higher power – you had a baby but you dropped the weight – men still trying to holla—you feeling yourself – you begin to really feel like a sexual being…
Yeah, but all of that energy goes to my man. He’s funny – he gets so hype about cheating because of his experience. He’s been cheated on. So he’ll say, it’s easier for women because when we walk down the street, dude’s look. I don’t even allow myself to go there. Number one, because I’m happy. Even if I wasn’t happy, like when I was with my ex – I didn’t go there. But now I’m in this great relationship so I definitely wouldn’t do it. When my man suggests otherwise, I tell him, the only thing you have to worry about is these books and these words. That’s what I get lost in. I get frustrated when I can’t read and write and study as much as I want. But I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any dudes out here. I just don’t feel that way. And maybe because it is really good at home right now. I feel very fulfilled. Especially now that I’m writing every day, I feel really fulfilled. My life isn’t perfect – it’s really busy and there’s chaos. Every moment is accounted for but I can appreciate that because I only give my time and energy to things that are important to me. There’s only so much time in the day, so I only give it to the things and the people who deserve it, and who mean something to me. If I’m not front and center in this family situation with this man – I’d have to step back and reevaluate if I want to be with you. Because number one, I can’t be phony and he’ll know it anyway. And number two, if I’m not feeling it, I’m just not feeling it. Point blank and period.
MW: What do you think about polyamory?
That sounds dangerous to me. I can't do the two in one.
MW: I don’t think women are built that way.
I think some are. I just know I can’t. That’s just me. My shades of gray are very minimal. It’s either this or that. And I think that’s good in some ways and I actually think it’s bad in some ways. You have to balance that out and balance is hard for me sometimes. If I’m with you, I’m with you. And if I don’t fuck with you, I don’t fuck with you, point blank and period. It ain’t no, on the fence. But I kind of admire people who could do that. I just know I couldn’t. I don’t even want to picture my man with someone else. And then he’s getting it?
MW: But you’d be getting it too!
It’s interesting. But see, that means feelings are going to spark.
MW: Well definitely – especially for a woman.
Even for a man. See, this why I’m a feminist, right? Because I feel like when we attach gender roles or gender ideas we lose our humanness. I think when we suggest that the women do this and the men do that – I mean, men fall in love. It can happen either way. That’s a human thing. But ultimately it’s like, for me, if he’s taking her and laying her down, those are very comforting things. You’re not just trying to get one off. So where is this going? You might say you’re going to stay with your family, but you’re not just trying to bust one. You are building with this person. That’s why I don’t like the idea of side chicks. It’s like, no, he has another relationship. She’s not a side chick. He’s building another relationship with another woman, point blank and period. They might not be married with kids but he’s building with another woman. And I think sex is healing. It does something. I need it in my life. I need it like water. It’s a need. So when you’re giving yourself to someone like that, that’s dangerous. It’s so much more than physical. Because for my man to step out on our family, he has to feel something for this other woman. I’m sure my man sees women that he’s attracted to all day. But if there’s one that he’s willing to take that risk with and be with like that, something’s going on.
MW: You know how people say, if you love one person it doesn’t take away from another person. And I believe that. But only as far as love itself…
But we’re not talking about relationship and a marriage.
MW: Right. Because building takes time. And when you have children and there’s only so many hours in the day and you gotta be here for me and feed them and cook and clean and help me pick out clothes – when you start spending time to build with someone else, now you are taking away from me.
Exactly. Loving someone and being in a marriage/ relationship are two different things. You can love someone but that doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship with them. You can love and that’s great. But when you’re in a relationship…to me, love is unconditional. I can love you no matter what. But to be in a relationship, this is what I need.
MW: (Laughs) There’s some stipulations around this piece.
Yeah, love is unconditional but if I’m in a relationship, this is what I require. And I need to know what you require. And if we get to the point where it’s not working, then we should renegotiate and see how we can move forward. Because there are some rules to relationships. I expect you to be faithful. I expect you to be honest. There are conditions. Me loving on you? I mean, I can love college dude and it is what it is and nothing happens. But for this relationship, I require x, y and z. Point blank and period.
MW: Good answer. So, what did you learn from your last relationship that helped you in this one?
Just like I need to be free and be who and what I am, I learned that everyone needs space to do that. And I just feel like if we get to the point where I’m like, I need you to do this and I’m nagging… I can’t stand to be a dictator. So I’ve learned not to be like that. I’ve learned to give people space to grow and build within themselves, and I need to compliment that. I’m not your mother trying to tell you what to do and not do. And that’s kind of how it was in my marriage. I need you to want you be here. My motto for my man – and sometimes the children – is be free. Do what you want to do. And if at any given moment, what you want to do is not the right thing for me or with me, we need to investigate that. I don’t like that struggle. I don’t want to nag.
MW: So you’re not trying to change a person. You either come ready made or….
Exactly. The way I viewed him was, if this man never changes – and that could be his career, his habits, whatever – because he was really messy when I met him. But in my mind I was like, you just have to deal with him how he is. Don’t try to change him. It’s like if my hair is natural and I get with a guy who’s like, you ain’t gon’ get a perm? No. don’t change me. When I came to him, there was no trickery. What you see is what you get. So for me, I had to ask myself, if he never changes, am I okay with that? Now, ideally, in relationships people grow and change but it has to happen organically. I need to give people space to be who and what they are. And on my end, I need people to give me space to be who and what I am. So we can flow together. And if we don’t, we have to step back and see if this is what we want.
MW: For me and my husband, when we got together, it was really organic. We kept saying that – oh wow, this is so organic. But when you put labels on it, a lot of times people stop letting it be organic because we start making ourselves flow toward whatever that title says we are.
And that’s why people have to be free to be who and what they are. Because my married might look different from your married. I read a few of your pieces about women with the housework and everything – and as far as the distribution of labor in my house, we all do everything. He washes clothes. There is no, I’m a woman so I have to do this. That doesn’t exist in my house. I simply don’t buy into gender roles. My son will wash the dishes and my daughter will take out the garbage. Everybody does what has to be done. I think people have to define it for themselves.
MW: What do you know now that you wish somebody would have told you ten years ago?
I wish somebody would have told me don’t hold back. Go hard. It’s like that Marianne Williamson quote. [“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”]
As it relates to my worth in general, I always wanted to relate to people. So I felt like if I really just be myself, I might overshadow people. I felt like people wouldn’t be able to relate to me. And now – and it goes to that other quote about when it gets to the point where being closed tightly in a bud feels harder than it does to bloom – at some point you can only hold back for so long and then you have to get out there and be who and what you are. In the past I was holding back in a lot of ways, and I thought that was admirable. I thought it was a way to relate to and connect to people. But it ain’t. I have to be who and what I am in any given moment. And if that means I won’t always connect to people, that’s okay. I felt like with me moving away from religion and Christianity, I’ve lost friendships because of that. And that was really hard. I don’t know if it’s that whole “equally yoked” thing, like they can’t have friendships with people who aren’t like them. In terms of religion, I’ve even felt that within my family. I used to make my kids go to church with my mom because I wanted a break…
MW: I do that too.
But the older they get, I feel like, if they want to go, they can go. I’m not going to make them. And it felt like she had a problem with that because she was like, you were raised like that and they should be raised like that. For a minute I felt like there was little tension there but I’m over it. I’m going to do what I want to do in my life for me and my kids.
MW: Can you talk about what you said before, when you said you’re a bitch if you don’t write? Because I thought this thing was recording but it wasn’t, so we lost it…but that was important.
For me, I’m becoming more disciplined in my life. There are things I have to do – like take care of the kids – but now I’ve been taking care of myself. I was exercising last week in my living room on this little elliptical machine because I know I can’t get to the gym. And my kids were all over the place and I felt like, I don’t care! I’m going to be on this thing for twenty more minutes! It didn’t matter because I’m like, I need to do it for me. I think that’s where resentment comes in, for women especially, because I think in society we are taught that everything comes first but us. But it’s like, yeah, I’m a mother, I’m a wife but I have dreams. What about me? And if we suppress that, it’s going to come up. So I would get up and get the kids ready, and take care of work business and my clients, and then it’s like, I did all this other stuff for everybody else – what about me? And I became a bitch. Just real cranky. So now, I make myself get up an hour earlier to write, and I have an extra pep in myself because I’ve done something for me. And I used to try to do it at night, like, okay, I got the kids down, now I’m going to write. But I would fall asleep. I had to change it to where my day starts off with – I’m not going to say the most important thing because it’s a given that our families are important – but in order to take care of them, I have to make a space to take care of me. Even when I don’t feel like doing it, I force myself to do it. Because if I let that hour get by and I get into mama mode without having done something for myself, I’m pissed. I’m a real bitch. (turns to recorder) I’M A REAL BITCH. (laughs) So I have to do it.
MW: (Laughs) Thanks girl. I appreciate you.
"I know you worried about how the bills is gon’ get paid but what that got to do with us having sex? We can have sex if the lights get cut off. The lights need to be off anyway." [an interview]Read Now
MW: I heard through the grapevine that you’ve started running. You look good girl! What got you started?
Running saved my life after my granddaughter died, because I was very depressed. I went back to New Orleans and I was angry. My spirit sisters in New Orleans held space for me. When I found out initially that she had died, I was so distraught and my spirit sisters all came within minutes. They descended upon the house and just encircled me, bathed me, got me in my right mind. They gathered all their money together, bought a ticket, and put me on a plane to come home. They were like, you gotta be strong because you gotta take care of your family. And that’s what I did. And then I brought my daughter back to New Orleans with me and they did healing work on her and prayed and laid hands on her and sent her back home stronger. And when she left and got on the plane, I cried. And I heard distinctly, my granddaughter's voice in my ear – and she was a baby, but I felt like it was her spirit – and she was like, run. Go run. And at first it was just a block, two blocks. And now it’s miles (laughs). I’ve gotten to miles. On average I do about four miles every time I go out. I’ve been increasingly going further. I’ll be doing my first half-marathon soon.
So, you know, running saved my life because I was depressed and I wanted to leave here. You know, death has that… you have to come to terms with death. Which is why I’m so into ancestor worship. Because it’s about making peace and knowing that energy… we’re all energetic beings. We don’t lose energy, it just takes another form. And that form to me, is ancestor. They’re in the spirit world and they’re working and I believe it. Because honey I go to my altars and I have a conversation. I say, I don’t know how I’m going to pay this bill Grandma. Daddy, I don’t know what I’m gon’ do. Imma have to leave this up to you. And they come through every time. I’m like, thank you, thank you creator, thank you ancestors, thank you for being in the spirit world and always being a guiding and driving force for me. So that’s the way I make peace with death, knowing that it’s just life transformed to another way.
MW: I used to get so freaked out about death because so many people kept dying. But then I realized that there’s just as many people over there that love you as are over here. You know, if Grandma and Granddad and Auntie and cousin can do it, then I can do it too when my time comes.
Right! So when my time comes, I’m going to be on the other side helping out my folks. I’m going to be annoying. (laughs) Because spirit has got your back. You make decisions but you don’t always have to be right. In our minds, we start thinking that we have to be perfect, and we don’t get to make mistakes. And that’s just a falsehood. We do get to make mistakes. I’m not a perfect parent, I’m not a perfect spouse, and I don’t profess to be. I’m on this journey. It’s a learning experience every time I walk out my door, every time I’m blessed to be able to wake up and breathe that life energy into me. I am not going to work to be perfect. I’m going to work to be a person that contributes to the society in the only way that I can. And that’s all that I can do. I know people are like, oh you have to perfect, but I’m not buying into that. That is one of the ways that they oppress us. There was a time when I felt like, oh I gotta be perfect, and I don’t deserve to be in certain spaces unless I show up perfect … and then we buy into this belief that we don’t belong in these well off spaces and these nice places, like we don’t deserve to be there.
I’m a student laureate for the state through my university… and the whole time I was in my ceremony, among a sea of white folks… I was feeling like, I don’t deserve this. Even though I had worked hard and I graduated with honors, and I did so much – because it’s based on what you do in your community, your grades — even though I had done all of this phenomenal stuff, I still sat in that chair and I felt like I did not deserve to get this award. And so as I had been processing information about what I deserve and releasing fear in my life – because that’s been a constant work for me – I realized my fear in that situation was because I felt like I wasn’t perfect. My skin wasn’t perfect. I was among a sea of white folks who I have to be certain way around, and my dialect and my speech has to be a certain way in order to be a laureate. Hell, I ain’t Gwendolyn Brooks! (laughs)
MW: Shoot, Gwendolyn Brooks wasn’t “Gwendolyn Brooks” in that respect! She could be real hood.
Exactly! And I had to say, oh my God, you deserve it, yes! Ancestors opened the door and you need to walk your black ass through it. (laughs) Walk through that door.
MW: Even if you ashy.
Even if you ashy. Walk through the door. You got crust in your eye. Walk through the door. Ancestors opened up a way for you. They smiling down on you in this very moment. This is a sacred moment. And don’t devalue it by thinking you don’t deserve it, or you’re not worthy. Or that you gotta be perfect to be worthy of it.
Ase. (laughs) Shit.
MW: So, I saw on Facebook that you and your wife recently had a civil union?
We did. We were the first couple to get our civil union in the state of Illinois.
MW: What? Awww! Ya’ll so fancy! You just gon’ be the first, and the first black, and the first black women… (laughs)
Baby let me tell you. I had to trick this woman. I was like, babe, they’re going to give us a vacation. They’re giving us a trip if we go. And she was like, seriously? She wanted a trip so bad. She was at that computer doing some work – I think it was for school – and I was like, shut it down, let’s go! We arrived, and like two minutes later, a white couple arrived. I was like, yes ancestors! We would have been number two if we had arrived like two minutes later…
MW: So you were there right when it opened?
No, we got there right before midnight and set up our chairs.
MW: You waited all night? That’s amazing…
We waited all night. We were also a part of the lawsuit to get marriage instituted for LGBTQ couples in the state of Illinois. So now Illinois has marriage equality, which doesn’t start until June 2014, officially. Which is a huge step, right? And I am very clear that for black LGBTQ people, we need extra support beyond just being able to be married, just like any other couple. We’re battling racism, among the LGBTQ community, okay? So I’m clear about that too. And we’re also battling poverty. Joblessness rates. I am working two part time jobs – doing things that I love – but in order to make ends meet, I’m clear that as a couple, we’re still existing in a state of poverty. We’re trying to transform that, and making the best of what we can here on the west side of Chicago raising our sons. We’re still battling the same fight that a straight couple is battling to exist in Chicago, in the hood.
MW: And single people too…
Single people, right. You know, just as a black person period. On top of being an LGBTQ couple, we have not had the comfort of being in the closet. We’ve got six kids we’ve been raising for 14 years.
MW: How old was your youngest child when you got together?
Our youngest son was one. He’ll be 15 this year.
MW: And he’s biologically yours or your wife’s?
He’s biologically mine but we’ve adopted them all together. But we each came to the relationship with three children. I came with two boys and a girl, and she came with two girls and a boy.
MW: Were you married to men when you…
I was married and getting a divorce when I met my wife. She was not with anyone at the time. She was just seeing other women.
MW: So did you two know – well I won’t ask you to speak for your wife – but did you know that you were a lesbian or…
So… here we are with these boxes (laughs). I would rather say…
MW: Get me out my boxes, girl.
I would rather say that I love people. Period. I’m attracted to who I’m attracted to. I just happened to be in love with a woman for the last 14 years. And when I was with the boys’ father, I was in love with a man for several years.
MW: So it wasn’t like, I love you but I have to go be with a woman now…
No, no, no. It was like, that was the end of our relationship, and it was done. And then my wife came along and I started loving her. It just happened like that. I never left my husband for somebody else. It was because our relationship had run its course and it was done.
MW: How did you know your relationship with your husband had run its course? Because that’s a really hard decision to make, especially when three kids are involved.
MW: Especially when you love the person, you know? And no one is necessarily the “villain” in the situation. How did you do that?
When your try just ain’t enough no more. When every attempt that you have made to reconcile the relationship is just not enough anymore. When it’s taking up more energy to try to reconcile the relationship than it takes to love each other. I think for me, that was it. There was moments where… because he and I had gotten back together. Actually, my youngest son was conceived when we were separated…
MW: You were on a break (laughs).
Yeah, on a break. (laughs) My goodness. At that time I was working as a traveling CNA and I was up here at a hospital working a midnight shift and I was too tired to drive back home. I ended up at his house in his bed and our son was conceived. So we got back together again. But one of the things that was the final nail in the coffin for me – and he was a cheater – oh my goodness, just, such a cheater – but that was not even the final nail in the coffin. For me it was like, whatever dude, get your shit together. But he left me stranded in the car with the babies and no gas in the car. I had been telling him, please put gas in the car, I have to travel with the kids. I was stranded at their babysitter’s house. I had went to pick them up and the car would not start and I looked at the gas tank and it was empty. And you know, for a man to not put – it’s like those simple things that’s like, ok, that’s the nail. It’s just gas not being put in the tank but it personifies him not even looking at the minor things about caring for him and his children. You would leave us stranded somewhere. And it could have been worse. I was a traveling nurse’s aide, so I could have been on a highway with your kids or whatever. So the babysitter gave me money to get home. And when I got home, this asshole was standing on our porch – and it was a hot day and the neighbors were out – and he goes, you got me running late for work! I'm running late for work and you ain’t showed up and bitch this and – in front of the neighbors. And I was like, whoa.
MW: Oh yeah. That’s it.
The babysitter gave me money to get gas. She not only gave me the money, she sent her boys to the gas station to pick up gas – just enough to put in the tank so I could drive to the station with the money she’d given me. And this is my babysitter. (laughs)
MW: So you’re supposed to pay her.
Right. I pay her. And then I get home from putting money in the tank that she had to give me, to get cussed out because he’s running late for work. And he left us stranded and did not put in any gas in the first place. And that was it. I packed a bag. And I had been saving money because it had been getting progressively worse. I had been tucking away money in a savings account that he did not know about. I’d just been tucking away $20 here, $30 here, whatever I could. And I took that money and I left him $20 and a note.
MW: You left him $20? You so sweet.
I was very nice. I was like, here’s $20 for the gas tank because I knew he didn’t have any money. I was very responsible with like, keeping the money and maintaining the bills, so I left $20, like, this is for the gas tank for you to get to work, have a nice life. And he came over my mama's house that night, just raging. Where’s my family?! (laughs) Knocking on the window, acting a damn fool.
MW: Oh no!
After all that. And this is why I love women because bitches will come together on a nigga’s ass! (laughs)
MW: Girl, won’t we though!
My mother was like get off of my motherfucking porch before I blow your ass off.
MW: Thank God for mama's.
And that was it. That was the last straw.
MW: (Laughs) I can’t believe he was like, where’s my family?! Shit, you left your family stranded!
Exactly. Nigga your family was stranded and your ass wasn’t there. You didn’t show up.
MW: Cussing out your woman in front of her kids…
That’s right. I endured years of foolishness from him. We were together for about 7 years.
MW: That’s what always happens at 7 years. That’s when you decide, either you’re gon’ stay or you gone.
They call it the 7 year itch. But it is that 7th year that is the critical moment where you be like, what am I going to do? Am I going to keep doing this or am I not? You gotta decide. You’re at a critical moment where you ask, am I going to do another 7? And I’m gon’ tell you something – I am in the 14th year, and every 7th year is like, ok, what are you doing? It’s a reevaluation process. I think it’s that mother energy. Those waves, that Yemaya, that change… what are you doing now? What are doing with your life? You start questioning your life. This is the 7th year, how are you doing financially? Are you on your goals? Did you get to define yourself? Have you been loving yourself? I feel like the universe asks these critical questions of us all the time, and its whether or not you choose to hear it.
MW: And it gets worse if you don’t…
And it gets worse if you don’t, yeah.
MW: She gets so much louder, to where you’re like, ok. I got it.
And me and my wife go through it too. In every relationship, you just gotta be guided by spirit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you just gotta be guided by spirit and know, ok spirit, what am I doing? Speak to your spirit internally. Those spirits – ancestor spirits – those are great spirits to speak to, but you gotta speak life into your own spirit and say, spirit are you doing what you want to do? Are you dancing? Are you laughing? Are you playing? Are you enjoying life? Are you doing work that is meaningful to you? Are you writing? Are you praising? What are you doing? And I do that all the time. That’s part of my running. Running is a ritual for me. All of that is spirit work for me.
MW: I know that every marriage is unique – so this might be kind of a hard question for me to ask – but is it different being married to a woman than being married to a man?
Girl yes! And let’s talk about how it’s different being married to a black man than to a black woman! Yes, let’s get real specific! (laughs) Hell yes it’s different. We women, we are emotional characters. We are heart centered. We are sacral chakra centered. We sit in our seat of creativity. We are loving, we are nurturing. We are ferocious and crazy sometimes. (laughs) And I’m speaking to me. My wife has had to deal with a lot from me, as I have from her. But being with a woman, there’s been more communication. When I was with my ex – like, there’s a secret life of men that women know absolutely nothing about. But being with a woman, I feel like there’s so many levels that her and I connect on. Very woman centered things. Like understanding that we both have a womb and what is needed to take care of that womb. I can go to her and be like, did you do your breast check? That’s caring and nurturing too. Sometimes men don’t want to talk about that stuff. I tried to talk to my ex about caring for himself but… in society, men aren’t given permission for self care. That’s very soft and there’s supposed to be so hardcore.
MW: Like, I’m a real man. I’m gon’ let the crust on my feet get as thick as possible… (laughs)
Exactly. And my wife and I get to cry together. But society says to men, men and boys don’t cry. There’s been moments where both us have been breaking down and crying and boo hooing and snotting and saying, what we gon’ do about the kids? and both of so emotional. And then also, I get to walk with her side by side and be very warrior woman. I’m very warrior woman. And she is very logical, brain, very sweet. So there are times when we play good cop, bad cop. And then there are times where we both fucking annoy the fuck out of each other.
MW: What are ya’ll signs?
She is a Libra and I am a fucking Ram. I’m Aries.
MW: Oh shit, so ya’ll are like direct opposites!
Oh my God. And there are times when…
[Her wife walks past and completes the sentence] I want to strangle the hell outta her…
And I want to strangle the hell outta her too. Even as we speak right now, we have been going through this very critical point in our lives, figuring out whether we will go another 7 years. Because the last year has been so hard. Losing our granddaughter. And then I was in New Orleans. And then she went to Paris. We essentially spent this last year apart. Apart not only in physical space, but also being apart spiritually, sexually – because of the physical space. So this year we’ve been asking ourselves, you know, what will this look like for us? Are we going to go our separate ways? And if we do, what will that look like?
MW: Damn girl, that’s real…
That is real. Yes. (laughs) But I’m at peace with that. She’s at peace with that. And we’re still friends. And that is my best friend. Like I can talk to her about anything, including how I feel about her. And I love that. I love that – even if we do decide together to go our own ways, since that is my best friend I can still talk to her about, I hate you right now. And I know you’re hating me.
Yeah. We live life, we learn honey. Nobody ain’t perfect.
MW: So, with you two getting together and having three kids already – apiece – did you have any kind of honeymoon period?
Girl no. Which is why, at 14 years, and the kids are already raised, we’re thinking, what are you going to do for the next 14 years? Because there has never been a honeymoon phase for us. We stepped into this shit and we’ve had guns blazing. We hit the ground running. And now we’re at the point of self-reflection, evaluation, and asking, what do you want to do for the next 14 years of your life? I’m 37, so that would put me in my 50’s. I wouldn’t consider that an old woman but right now I feel like I’m in the prime of my life. I feel good. When I wake up in the morning, I feel good. I put on my running shoes.
So yeah, we never had a honeymoon period to answer your question, but we have had moments of sweetness. She and I – I remember this one time where we just loaded up our car and asked Daddy at the last minute if he would watch the kids and he was like, yeah, bring them all over here. It was during winter break. We loaded up the car and went to Canada because I wanted to see Canada. And when we drove back – and let me tell you, we didn’t have a lot of money either – we drove back on gas fumes pretty much from Michigan to Chicago. We put our last bit of money in the gas tank in Kalamazoo, and we were like, Lord Jesus, Jesus take the wheel. (laughs)
MW: Like, pray that ‘E’ don’t really mean Empty… (laughs)
We laugh about that to this day. We’ve had so many moments of sweetness. Taking the kids on vacation, arguments and make up sex, all kinds of stuff. Our life has been so interesting. And I couldn’t have chosen – the spirits, the ancestors– could not have chosen a better person for me to have gone on this journey with the last 14 years. There is no other person I know in this world that would have gone on a journey like this with me. She’s helped me tackle this autism thing with my son. She will research the heck out of something. And then she’ll come back and say, you need to say this or do this, or you need to read this article. And I do the same with her. So it has been a very cohesive journey, fighting schools, doing things in our community… and I could not have done it with anybody else. I can look around my friends and I’ll be like, could I have done that with this other woman? No.
MW: So how did you know that she was the one?
So I know that people don’t often believe in love at first sight but I want to say it was a spirit connection at first sight. She and I met over Yahoo personals. She sent me a message and I sent her a message. My best friend who lives in Canada right now was like, there’s this cute girl on yahoo personals. I’m going to send you a link to her profile. And I said ok, I’m going to do it. This was right after I left my husband. I was like, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that. She might be some rebound booty or whatever. And that’s what I thought it was going to be. And then I came up to Chicago and I met her. I must have tried on like 16 different dresses and I pulled my hair up this way or that way. The first person who greeted me at the door was our daughter. She was a little bitty baby with these cute little locks and her bows were in her hair and they were just stuck in her hair any kind of way. My wife does not know how to do hair (laughs). And I fell in love with that little baby. And then my wife came to the door and it was a soul connection. That’s all I can tell you. We stayed up way into the night. In a month she had moved down here. And we’ve been on the west side pretty much ever since. Except there was this brief moment in our relationship where we lived on 119th.
MW: Oh shit…
Yeah, that’s wild wild. The wild wild hundreds.
MW: Yeah, that block is hot.
Hot. As soon as we moved there, a boy got shot right here on the corner. In the head. Right there on the bus stop. We tried to set up a block club right there. We had a block party. Girl do you know them people got an attitude because we had blocked off the street? The crackheads stole the dinner plates.
MW: Shut up!
It was a hot mess! My baby girl was manning the tables. Me and another neighbor had pitched in and barbecued. We had little Styrofoam plates we were going to hand out to everybody. My baby turned her back and the crackheads bum rushed the table, girl. Stole the dinner plates. I was so upset. And they were like – we had this little inflatable jumping house that the kids were jumping in – and they were like, you got this blocking the way! I said, the kids are playing! I had to move quick fast in a hurry. I was like, give me my west side back! Give me back my community! I love the west side. And I love New Orleans for that fact too, because of the community. I would go out on my porch in the morning and wave – and you better wave! Because if you don’t wave, folks gon’ be like, oh really? You ain’t gon’ say good morning? Well we ain’t gon’ watch out for you.
MW: We gon’ let it happen to you.
We gon’ let life happen to you, baby.
MW: A lot of the women I talked to discussed the inequality of marriage, and the disparity between women’s and men’s roles. How do you and your wife share the work? And how is that different from the way you and a man shared the work?
So, for instance – and it’s not perfectly hashed out, but… I feel like we do more of like, if you see something that needs to be done, just do it. It’s not a role. If the trash needs to be taken out, take the trash out. The kids have chores that they’re supposed to do and I’m forever hollering, like, do your chores! It can seem unequal in a same sex relationship too. Like, financially. Like over the years, there’s been an imbalance where I’m making a little bit more that what my wife is making. And it’s because of our education. She hasn’t graduated college and I have graduated college. What we try to do is be conscious of one another. Like for instance, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking note of what she does in the house and thanking her for it. Like when she cooked a couple of days last week, I had these little cards left over from Christmas and I wrote her a note that said, thank you honey for cooking. It’s about being conscious in any relationship because sometimes we’ll miss what somebody else has done…
MW: But we don’t miss what we do…
Yeah, we’ll be like, because I paid the bills! Because I, blah blah blah! And she had to tell me, like, yeah ok, you paid the bills, but I did these other things. And you didn’t notice that I mopped the floor. So I started coming in consciously, with more conscious effort and saying, she mopped that floor. Thank you for mopping the floor. Thank you for whatever contributions you are doing in this house. Because society will have you believe that everything must be equal. Well, there needs to be some equity but everybody can’t contribute in the same way. Especially right now where we in the African American community are experiencing such a drastic rate of unemployment and cutting in services. We have to gather whatever resources we can – whatever forms of community we can and try to bind them together to support us and save our community. And we are under some forms of attack. When you cut resources in the community like mental health services and drug rehabilitation programs and you’re cutting the SNAP program, that puts pressure on any relationship. It’s hard. And then you gotta think about like, okay so, I’m going to make a conscious effort to love and appreciate this person that much more.
MW: So how have you changed in the 14 years the two of you have been together?
Girl bye, I was a hot mess. (laughs) I’m still a hot mess. [Calls wife] Babe! How have I changed in the last 14 years?
[Her wife laughs and walks in from the other room]
MW: That was a very telling laugh…
She’s a lot more patient. A lot less naïve. A lot more understanding. A lot less demanding… she’s still demanding like she was but in a different way.
How in a different way?
Because I was a pushy ass bitch.
Yeah. It was like your way or the highway.
MW: Well that makes sense. Because she's the Aries, right?
(laughs) Oh yeah baby, April 9th. I’m on the nine which is Oya energy. So my Aries energy is a warrior energy. I will wipe it clean. I will show up and show out honey. I’m more mindful that I can be that way and I make a concerted effort to not be that way.
But sometimes it’s helpful to us for her to be that way. People will ask me, how do you deal with that? Well, okay, it is a lot. But on the flip side, when we have to go and fight CPS (Chicago Public Schools), all I have to do is say, well we can’t seem to work this out. Maybe I should call my wife. And they say, oh no, no, no. We can work this out.
My name precedes me (laughs.) But in a very good way. Let me tell you, I don’t attack people over freaking nothing! Usually it’s because you fucking over something. You know you doing it and I can’t tolerate it. I have no tolerance for people being wronged. I just don’t have that in me.
Yeah, I was telling one of my co-workers – we were talking about the lengths we’ll go through to help people – and I was telling her that one time we were driving down Sacramento and this woman runs out into traffic with one leg in her pants and one leg out and no shoes on, screaming, screaming, screaming. We saw the cops pass her. This woman is standing there…
Naked. Coming out of the field…
The cops passed her right on by and kept on going. We stopped. It turned out she had just been raped.
She had just been raped. She said the man was still over there in the field.
She had got away.
She had got away with her pants in her hands. No shoes on. And cars just passing by. This naked black woman screaming in the middle of the street…
With her pants off…
And ya’ll won’t stop?
Screaming and crying. So we stopped. And my wife gave her the shoes off her feet. And we called the police.
Yes, and we called the police. And you know them suckers showed up…
Acting a fool…
Talking about, what did you do?
What did you do?
And you know I have told the police off honey, let me tell you, plenty of times.
Yes, she is a cop cusser. (laughs) I keep bail money.
Because right is right and wrong is wrong. I mean they were addressing this woman who has been raped as if she raped herself. You know? Come on. This is a black woman. And they’re talking about, what did you do? Asking her, why didn’t you call the police? Come on! This woman standing here butt ass naked in the middle of Sacramento, a large major thoroughfare, boulevard…
Where the police just passed her by…
And you’re asking her what she’s doing wrong? Baby I was like, no. And we think about her often and how she’s doing and what she’s doing. Because she just got in the car with the police and you never know…
What they did…[Her wife goes back into the other room]
Did they take her to the hospital or file a report? What happened? Where did she go? Did she get counseling? So many times when shit happens to black women we just gotta live through it. We just gotta deal with it. And I feel like we shouldn’t just live with it. Because that – whatever that dis-ease is with us, it manifests in our physical body. We’re never allowed to line up spirit and the wholeness of ourselves. And so we’re always diseased. We’re always – it’s like – I know the First Lady – and I love her for it – has this fitness program now where she wants to get everybody moving and that’s going to be the answer to all that ails us… but when you’re talking about the complicated lives of women, and specifically the complicated lives of women of color, and you’re only addressing the physical, and you’re not addressing the mental / emotional, and you don’t have enough resources and you’re cutting resources for counseling and mental health and we don’t have these community healers anymore or we’re not seeking them out. We’re losing critical resources and you want us to just run it off. Exercise it off.
MW: Just eat right…
Eat right. When we ain’t got nothing in the community…
MW: Food deserts…
We got food deserts. Come on. We got work to do. And I ain’t got no time for all that stressed out trauma shit. You gotta find sliding scale services, seek out a healer, do what you got to do. Because we have to heal our whole selves. Exercise is only one part of it. I do reiki therapy, I do energy work. I tap into all of that because I need to heal my whole self. Running is just one part of that. And it fuels me to say, okay, I can run. Now what else can I do? Can I dance? And so I started dancing and that helps me, oh my God. Dancing was like, yes!
MW: And I love how open your house is because you have so much room to dance or do yoga, all that stuff.
Do alla that.
MW: Some of the couples I’ve talked to say that after being together for so long, and sleeping together for so long, and then the kids get in the bed… I hear women say they’ve totally squeezed out their own sleep. And more than their sleep, they’ve squeezed out their own rest. They say they have no space that’s just their own space. But when they tell their husbands they need space, it hurts their husbands’ feelings. So with you two both being women, do you ever sleep apart? I mean, do you ever need to? And is it ok?
I live on the third floor of this house. That’s my space. My bed’s up there. She has her room and I have my room. And there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Because we need our own spaces. My grandmother on my father’s side had her own space. I would see them sleep together sometimes, but my grandma had her own room. She had her sewing room and she sewed in there, she had her bed in there. I saw her doing prayer work in there. I think elders figured it out long ago. I used to think, why would people do that when they’re married? But I was younger. But now that I’ve been married for some years? Know that it is critical that you have your own space! You have to have your own space! Sometimes in the morning, I just need to wake up to my damn self, and she does too. It’s self preservation. And you also have to be able to have conversations with yourself and then be able to take it back to others and have a conversation with them that is more cohesive than arguing. Sometimes, you know – just being silent. I had never lived by myself until I went to New Orleans. And that was the first time I ever had a room of my own, just by myself. And that was so great. I had moved from my mother’s house, and then I moved into my own place and I had my daughter. I was a young mother then and my baby slept with me. And then when I met my husband, I was with him. And then I went from my husband’s house back to my mother’s house. And I lived a little bit alone in between there, and then I met my wife. And then we were together and we existed in the same space. And I never just had my own space for any length of time.
MW: So when you went to New Orleans, that was pretty much the first time for both of you, having your own spaces. And so when you came back together you were both like…
I need space! I need my own space. (laughs) And she was like yes, yes you do. And I do too.
MW: What are some of the struggles that the two of you have faced together?
An easier question would be what haven’t we faced together. (laughs) I am telling you, we have been through a lot. Monetary struggles. Housing struggles. Communication struggles. Intimacy struggles. You name it, we’ve been through it. And I’m looking to change that. I want to thrive. Everybody’s in such survival mode when it comes to this life and I don’t want to be in that survival mode anymore. I’ve been there. I want to have fun. I want to enjoy my life. I’m ready to thrive. I’m ready to see and touch things that I haven’t seen before. And travel. I’m ready to worry about my damn self.
MW: A lot of the women that I talk to say that some point – especially when there are children in the house – the men complain about all the sex they’re not having.
Girl bye, yes.
MW: So do you…
Yes. (laughs) Yes! That’s what I mean by intimacy problems. Yes.
MW: So which one of you doesn’t want to…
[Her wife says from the next room] Me!
MW: (Laughs) Right… because she’s the Libra and you’re the Aries…
Yes! I want it want it want it want it! That’s why I went to a concert the other day, so I could see some booties twerking!
MW: For me, the thing that turns my faucet off – cause I’m a Virgo – if my money is not right, my coochie’s not right. [Her wife runs in and gives me a high five]
But shit, we black women. Our money ain’t never fucking right! I ain’t got time for that. There’s a struggle out here and we should have sex through it! (laughs)
MW: Oh shit, I love ya’ll!
Shit. The struggle is real and I need sex. I really do believe that when you can have some intimate loving, energy begins to flow. And I know ya’ll worried about money but money problems is gon’ always be there if we can’t manifest anything beyond thinking about money. If we’re concerned about money and struggling about money and everything is about money, we ain’t never gon’ have no money. If we always seeing lack and we not seeing abundance and beauty and being grateful for what we got and trying to be intimate with our partners and loving to ourselves and patient with ourselves, we gon’ always struggle for money. We cannot let money continue to be the sole basis of why we fucking exist. We can’t. Girl I know it’s hard, I know. But I need some sex. I know you worried about how the bills is gon’ get paid but what that got to do with us having sex? We can have sex if the lights get cut off. The lights need to be off anyway. (laughs) That’s one less thing we gotta do. But that’s what I always try to tell my wife. Don’t the ancestors always keep us? Seriously. Things always work out in the end. We always uptight and worried about how we gon’ pay this and stressed out and blocking our own blessings… Shit always works out. A check always arrives from somewhere, somehow, we don’t know. But it always works out. You got a roof over your head, the babies are taken care of, you’re loved abundantly – that’s all that really really really matters. It really is. Because this white man will have you thinking, all I gotta do is work, all I gotta do is work, all I gotta do is work. (laughs)
MW: Okay. You shamed me. (laughs)
Shit, don’t give the white man everything and your vagina. I’m just saying.
MW: But you know, when I don’t want to have sex, I think what I’m really saying is, I need time for myself. Because when you wake up with somebody and go to sleep with them, and you cook and clean and deal with the kids, it’s hard to open your legs at the end of the night because you don’t have anything left. And so I think sometimes I withhold sex because it’s the only thing I have control over. I can’t not take care of my kids or cook or clean for my family, or deal with my husband kindly. So I think sometimes I keep my sex because it’s the one thing I have control over, that I can keep for myself.
Right, yeah. You need to restore yourself. You need to be able to go in your little room and say, babe, tonight I just want to be by myself and nurture myself. I take baths. I take long baths. I moisture myself up. And it ain’t for nobody but for myself. My wife don’t get to see it. It’s all about me. Maybe you need that. It gets greater later though. Right now we’re in the struggle. But at least we have partners. Because so many people don’t have partners. And whether we’re male or female or what have you – whatever relationship you’re in – there’s got to be a compromise. And you just gotta decide what you’re willing to compromise. For me and my wife – she doesn’t make a whole lot of money. So it’s about equity. At one point I was like, you’re not putting in money. I need you to put in the same amount of money that I’m putting in. But that’s not feasible. Her job pays low, you know? And they’re only giving her part time hours. So she’s putting in whatever she can. And she’s putting in some other things that I wasn’t accounting for, like the times that she would cook and I would come home and I didn’t have to cook. Or if she would clean and so I didn’t have to clean. And that is equity. You have to look at relationships from all aspects of what a partner can contribute beyond the money piece. The money is only a tool. That’s one tool that you have in your tool box to get you from point A to point B in life but you also have other tools that you need. And your partner may come with those tools.
MW: What advice would you give to women that you wish somebody had given to you?
I wish that somebody woulda told me don’t take my damn self too seriously. Have fun. Enjoy life. Run, jump, skip, dance, holler, scream, laugh real loud, be obnoxious, read everything, and enjoy. And just enjoy life. I know there is stuff that we need to take serious but we don’t have to be on edge every moment of our life. ‘Cause what it does it build up the fight or flight hormone in our body, and you see those women that have these bellies. My mama used to say, your gut bigger than your butt, baby! It was her way of saying, don’t be stressing out so much. Your seat of creation is off balance. Enjoy life. The stuff you gotta take serious, take serious. You do that job and then, once that job is done and it’s the end of the day, make sure you take some self care. Take a long hot bath and take care of yourself. Take care of yourself. I wish somebody would have told me to take care of myself real good. Love myself real good.
MW: And don’t wait for somebody else to do it.
And don’t wait for somebody else to do it. Love yourself real, real good.
MW: That’s so perfect. Thank you.
"MARRIAGE IS NOT EQUAL. There Is a Mexican proverb THAT says 'the home does not rest on the ground, it rests on a woman.'" [AN INTERVIEW]Read Now