Monthly Archives: June 2011

INSANE WHIRLWIND OF EMOTIONS cannot begin to accurately describe the past two days.


Extreme sadness. Hurt. Fury that almost scared me. Fear separately. Deep confusion, or maybe simply a profound lack of understanding.



All of those feelings are done now. Well I’m still sad that it’s over, because I wanted to snuggle into this and stay there for a long while, but I feel nothing like the overwhelming _________ I was feeling. I feel surprisingly good right now. I feel like nothing was as bad as I’d thought/imagined/suspected/worried/feared. I am not a bad judge of character, and I would like to come out and publicly say to all of you who know me in real life and know the other person involved in this situation–he is not the villain here. This situation doesn’t have a villain. It has two good people who made some bad choices and that’s it. #theoppositeofpubliclyflaming


I’m not gonna list out all the terrible things that have been running through my head. They don’t need mentioning, as they’re all either flat out wrong, unwarranted, invalid, or have been deconstructed to the point of my being content. It may have felt at first like the world was ending, but up is still up, down is still down, and I don’t think anything permanently damaging happened here. 



I have, however, learned a lot. And the things I have learned can be listed:

  1.  It is entirely impossible to undervalue honesty, especially when you know the truth is going to hurt. 
  2. Wanting to mean something is entirely different from meaning it. Changing your definition of something so that you can mean it isn’t being honest either. 
  3. Relationships are based on a lot of assumptions. It’s probably a good idea to talk about things rather than assuming you’re on the same page about X issue.
  4. It actually shocks me that these words are about to come out of my mouth, but maybe it really is the thought that counts. Intentions mean something, even when they lead down unpredictable and hurtful paths. Sometimes people deserve the benefit of the doubt even in the most unfortunate situations.
  5. Anger is actually an essential part of the healing process. 
  6. My friends are awesome. But I already knew that.
  7. Pain does not automatically negate all the previous joy a situation gave. Hurt does not erase prior happiness. I’m not saying “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” because I think that crying is a healthy part of LIFE in general, and it’s important to be unabashedly sad when something makes you sad…but when it’s all said and done, everything good that happened still happened. And that’s what you should focus on. 
  8. Your world should always be bigger than one person. I think I forgot that mine was for a little while until the support came rushing in from every direction while I was freaking out and I remembered that I have a whole network of people who love and care about me. 
  9. Love is a nuanced, nuanced thing. It has so many layers and components and meanings and strivings. It varies from person to person and situation to situation. There are lots of things that love is. There are also lots of things that love isn’t. And I’m still learning the differences, I think. Maybe we all are. 
  10. Don’t underestimate the benefits that can come from actually talking to someone who hurt you, instead of just festering in your own emotions. Every story has two sides. 
  11. Analysis of every tiny detail of a situation is pointless and futile. Analysis of what major mistakes were made and what should have been done differently in those specific instances is an opportunity for growth that should not be overlooked. 
  12. It is evidently possible for me to open up to my father under times of complete and total duress. It is also evidently impossible for my mother to let me open up to her during such times. This is unsurprising. Maybe I should be less freely open with my mother and talk to my dad more. 
  13. I have no regrets. None. I might even want to change everything I’ve ever believed about exes and want to try to be friends. And on that note, I will pick a song:
And I’d choose you again…

The two artists I have the most music by are India.Arie and Eminem

As such, the two feelings I’m torn between are:

“And if he ever left me, I wouldn’t even be sad, ’cause there’s a blessing in every lesson and I’m glad that I knew him at all.” –India.Arie, “The Truth”

and 

“when someone seems too good to be true, they usually are. But see, when you’re in it it’s too hard to see...” –Eminem, “Spend Some Time”

Not sure I’ll ever make a decision between the two feelings. Not sure it’s even possible. I am not sure how I’m not supremely angry or if I’ll stay that way. I’m not sure what to believe about the past four months, except that for the sake of my sanity it can’t be nothing. Not sure how long it will take to shake this sick-to-my-stomach feeling or to rebuild the ability to trust. Not sure you ever really know a person. Not sure how to make myself stop caring about him. Even less sure than I ever was before (not including the past three months) about what love ostensibly is. Not sure I’ll ever really understand what happened here. 

I am sure I’ll waste lots of time and energy trying to. I am sure that I feel humiliated, like I have been made a fool of. I am sure I’ll throw myself into my independent work like nobody’s business in a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fact that my life doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I am sure that I was happy (albeit a different kind of happy) before this and I can be happy again after it. I am sure that there’s a lot to be learned from this situation.  I am sure that I will never again undervalue the importance of complete and brutal honesty, especially when the truth hurts. I’m also pretty sure that I am (un?)fortunately too good a person to repeatedly flame him on this blog, because like I don’t deserve this, I can’t make myself believe he’s a terrible enough person to deserve that, so I will try to avoid it (after this).

A DirectTV blimp just passed overhead saying “Change your life.” My first reaction? I don’t want to. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. 

I will leave you with an excerpt from my favorite play, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls who’ve Considered Suicide/ when the Rainbow is enuf:

“My love is too beautiful to have thrown back on my face. […]

My love is too sanctified to have thrown back on my face.

My love is too magic to have thrown back on my face.

My love is too Saturday night to have thrown back on my face.

My love is too complicated to have thrown back on my face.

 My love is too music to have thrown back on my face.

And you remember that the next time some man tries to walk away with all of your stuff. 

I know that’s right. Or says I’m sorry a million times.

 It’s ok. I asked myself how I could let that happen and I realized that I was missing something. Something so important. Something promised.

I suppose what I’m left with now is me time. More than time to analyze what happened here, I suppose I should go find what I’m missing to make sure it never happens again. Not that I’m blaming myself–mistakes were made on both sides–but something needs to change.

How did I get here?

"I don’t really think about you as being black, Maya."

Dear friend,

I know you meant well. Or at least, that you didn’t mean me any harm by what you said. I must admit, it was slightly amusing watching you struggle to dig yourself out of this hole you realized you’d inadvertently dug.  It led to an interesting discussion about the differences between “white culture” (after questioning what exactly white culture is and whether it can be separated from mainstream American culture more broadly) and Jewish culture–you tried to draw an analogy between my personality:blackness::Jewishness:whiteness, and really, I want to commend your effort. I guess majoring in Psychology, Philosophy, and Economics makes you more attuned to the reality of cultural sensitivities and how to handle them with finesse more than most of my non-ethnic-minority friends.
And don’t worry, you’re far from the first person to say this (or something similarly-themed) to me. I just a) hoped I had embraced my blackness enough in college to dispel such observations, and b) can’t help but feel as though I should be offended, either on my own behalf, on that of black people as an amorphous group, or both. I cannot blame you–and am not trying to–for your statement because, as I learned during the Black Solidarity Conference this year, even [at the very least some, a concentration of whom I interacted with at Yale in February] of my peers and current race scholars don’t see me as fitting into the larger overall picture of blackness either. But don’t think for a second I’m condoning this, because I’m not. The fact that lots of people, even insiders, do this, does not in any way make it any more acceptable, or any less racist. So, friend, peers, scholars, larger world, I must again beg you to reconsider the apparently negatively themed definition you give to blackness. Who are you excluding from that group, and why, and what do you presume gives you the authority to make those cuts? I ask you to remember that race itself is a social construct, an idea that our forefathers made up to promote white privilege and deny persons with whom they were uncomfortable (or did not even consider to be persons) the rights of citizenship or even simply the rights of man–sure, it’s one made visible by the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the breadth of my nose, but again, these are all things that human beings themselves defined as fitting the construct of blackness, not inherent distinctions.

We struggled to define white culture when trying to establish Jewish culture’s distinctiveness. I would like to raise the challenge that black culture, and (though I know little about it, everything I know about the world as a sociologist or even as an observant member of society leads me to believe that) even Jewish culture cannot be limited to one narrow definition against which to pose some other narrowly defined cultural group. Every mainstream culture has a counter-culture, usually multiple counter-cultures. There is always an underground, a counter-movement, even the smallest of revolutions. There is always someone who is unafraid to open their eyes, see their surroundings for what they really are, and say, “Hey, wait, this isn’t what I want. This isn’t correct/right/fair/justified/appropriate/normal/what-I-should-be-striving-for.” There is always someone pushing for change. 
So, I have more rock on my computer than hip-hop/rap. That doesn’t mean I can’t spit a T.I. verse back at you, and it doesn’t mean I’m not black. I will never fight someone because they scuffed up my sneakers, most likely because I’m in a cute pair of flats. That doesn’t mean I’m not black. I have owned exactly two pieces of clothing from a “black” clothing brand in my lifetime, and they were both from JCPenney on clearance. (I can’t turn down a good deal.) That doesn’t mean I’m not black. I’m not a great dancer–I learned how to two-step less than two months ago and I cannot (and may never be able to) pop or lock (though I can drop it). That doesn’t mean I’m not black. Enunciation and complete complex sentences define my natural linguistic structure; while that might make my 6-year-old cousin interrupt Thanksgiving dinner to start the following exchange:

V: Maya, why do you talk like that?
Me: Talk like what?
V: All…proper.
it doesn’t mean I’m not black. I am and will continue to become highly educated at very elite universities, where my study of blackness and black peoples should not separate me from them. That doesn’t mean I’m not black. I disdain of the use of the word nigg- by any and all persons, much in the same manner that I disapprove of faggot and cunt and a lot of other entirely inappropriate derogatory terms. It doesn’t mean I’m not black. I don’t like collard greens, but I won’t eat macaroni and cheese that hasn’t been in an oven and trust me, your sweet tea isn’t sweet enough for me. This doesn’t mean I’m not black. I don’t have fake gold hoop earrings with my name in them, but again…I think you’re getting the picture here. 
I guess the more significant way to approach this is to examine what means I am black, besides my aforementioned skin, hair, and nose. 1) My recognition of the history this country tries to hide and the havoc that history and its hidden status wreaks on the black population even in 2011. 1b) My disdain for the term post-racial, no matter how you’re defining it. Like my homeboy Brother West says, Race Matters. 2) In my house, Santa and Baby Jesus were both black, and though I didn’t grow up to believe in either of them, I learned to see the world from a black person’s perspective. I learned about the black tax (which I still believe in), and I learned the importance of remembering where you came from, because no one else is going to. I learned Kwanzaa and sweet potato pie and the foods you have to eat on New Year’s to bring good fortune. I learned everyone from the Temptations to India.Arie. So I would like to take this time, world at large, to throw your assumptions about my cultural background back in your face. 3) In line with your mainstream negatively-themed ideas of blackness, world at large, which I do not agree with but feel the need to address, I am no stranger to struggle. I know what it is to be on food stamps. I know what it is to have the electricity/water/cell phone cut off due to nonpayment of the bill. I know what it is to not have food in the house. But knowing all those things taught me to dream, taught me to work towards a goal, taught me dedication and resilience, and combined with a lot of luck, those things have made me successful. Fact: either success nor lack of it are definitive of status as a racial minority. 4)  R&B/Neo-Soul is my favorite genre of music, which is just as rooted in the black community as hip-hop. 5) My ideal breakfast features grits. 6) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I am black because I SAID SO. Honestly, that’s the only reason you should need. Because this is an identity I have adopted as belonging to me and people like me and lots of people who aren’t like me in many ways EXCEPT for their adoption of this same identity. If the work I’m just beginning on racial identity and college students has taught me anything, it is that beyond being a social construct and a category that people will try to place you in no matter what, race and your identification with your race is a choice. Whether that choice is manifested through organizational involvement, circles of friends, or something as simple as being the little guy’s advocate in a classroom debate, it is an active decision. It is a decision I have made, it is an identity that is important to me, and while I certainly don’t want it to be the only thing you categorize me as, I do want you to stretch your notions of blackness to include me. In fact, today, tomorrow, and every day until you concede, world at large, I will do nothing short of demanding it. 

2nd 30 Day Letter Challenge–Day 12: Letter to a Sibling You Didn’t Write to Last Time

Dear Kids A and W,

First off, I’m sorry I still think of you as kids. At 16 and 17, going into your junior and senior years in high school in September, you’re not anymore. I remember when I was that age, soooo many of my daily struggles were to be treated like I was a real person, and so I promise you that I’m going to do my best to remember to treat you like real people, because you’re not children anymore.  That doesn’t mean I won’t still try to give you advice or check in on you–that’s a siblings thing for life. I am always going to care about you (even if we go weeks without speaking sometimes), and I’m never going to stop acting on that caring–that’s a promise (please don’t see it as a threat), but I will try to be less patronizing/seeming like I’m on a high horse.
Now, I’m going to be honest: I’m worried about you. I have this vague sense of danger whenever I think about you, like something is on the verge of or in the process of going horribly wrong. Part of that worry I can address to you both simultaneously: college is right around the corner, you guys. I know college is the last thing you guys like to listen to me talk about because I raised the bar to this ridiculously high level, but fact: I don’t give a fuck if you guys don’t go to schools like Princeton. Neither does anyone else in our family. I am an exception, we all know that. I don’t care if school isn’t your thing like school is my thing. I don’t care if you don’t want to go to graduate school. I don’t care if you want to major in something that will turn directly into a job and then do that for the rest of your life. I just need you to understand that you have to go to college to make it in this world. Hell, in this economy, even going to college can’t secure anything, but you’re damn sure not going to get anywhere without it. And, another fact, just in case you somehow weren’t aware, our family does not have the money to pay for you to go to college. If you don’t qualify for scholarships, you’re going to be either a) unable to afford school at all and wind up at community college, b) in debt up to your eyeballs for the rest of ever, or c) some unfortunate combination of both. I don’t want to see that happen to you, but you are the only people in any position to prevent that, and I need you to see that. I don’t know what’s going to happen to you if you don’t see that. It terrifies me.  You both seem to be so oblivious to this process and the fact that you’re running out of time, and that scares me.
Okay, now for the separate parts: A, I’m entirely uncomfortable with this boyfriend of yours and the fact that our mother doesn’t know about him. I’m entirely uncomfortable with the fact that he wakes you up out of your slumber to talk on the phone at damn near three in the morning. I’m vaguely uncomfortable with the fact that he’s up then–what has he been doing? Mostly, I just want to meet him, or at the very least for our mother to meet him. I feel like you’re hiding him and this relationship and that worries me to my core. I also want you to know, however, that I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’m not going to rat you out. But I’m not ratting you out on one condition: I want you to know that you can come to me and talk to me about things, things that have to deal with him or anything. You seem to think I’m prudish and boring sometimes, but I have more experience with these sorts of things than you’d probably expect. I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone in our family. I remember those days. 
W, I want to know what’s going on with you and school. Well, okay, school is actually probably a symptom of a larger issue and not the issue itself. What’s the issue itself? My mind instantly jumps to these hoodlum friends of yours. I hate saying that, but it’s true. The vast majority of them are just no damn good. Whether or not you recognize that is not the issue I want to dwell on right now, though…what I want to dwell on is the fact that you don’t have to be just like them to be their friends. If their friendship is contingent on your conformity just based on you being the same as them, then you can do better than that. I remember when you liked school. I remember when you came home with the star-studded report cards and A was the one I had to worry about. But W, you FAILED a marking period in Honors Biology. Brought an F home to our mother’s house. I don’t know what I believe less, that you did this or that our mother barely punished you for it (in comparison to the punishments I used to get). But again, I don’t think the root issue here is that her standards have softened since I left the house; a) they were near-impossibly high to begin with and meeting them stressed me out every second of the day for 10ish years, but more importantly b) there again seems to be something larger here. I want you to talk to me, I want to know what’s wrong. I don’t want to call this acting out, but it’s a significant change and I want to know what is causing it. 
Back together again: I’ve had enough of this you-two-against-me shit. We’ve been playing that game for about 14 years, it’s time to do something new. Especially now that you’re not a united force anymore regarding anything else. I would like us to try to have conversations like adults. I would like us to try to not let the smallest things blow up into the biggest arguments. It has recently come to my attention that other people, normal people, people I know and love and am convinced aren’t crazy, are friends with their siblings. I would like to give this a try. 
But I guess first that would require feeling like I could ever, in a million years, say any of this to either of you. I don’t think there’s much hurt I could do to our relationships by trying, though…we barely interact when we’re not in the same physical space anyway. So, #declaration: I’m going to try. Maybe I’ll start small, maybe I won’t say it all at once, but I’m going to call you and try to talk. Please do me a favor and try to listen.

This is all to say I love you,

Big Sis 

"I don’t read books. I devour them."

An interesting character on the train today (actual real-life character, not one from the book I was reading) reminded me today that we, readers, bookworms, bibliophiles, are a rare and perhaps dying breed. Maybe we’re just being replaced by these newfangled Kindle/Nook e-book readers. [Sometimes I wonder if an alien who was coming to observe our planet would think humans derived their energy from portable electronic machines, the way we’re all so dependent on them–myself included. (Think about it, our headphones are chargers. Music on, world off, *regains strength*. Anyway…)]

So I’m sitting on the train, I put lipstick on and then pull my book back out of my bag. [Currently reading How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu. I read his first book, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears last summer and loved it, so when I saw this at the library, it had to be mine for two weeks.] Out of the corner of my eye I notice this guy (middle-aged, overweight, semi-broke-down looking black man) drinking what appears to be a 1.5ish L bottle of Arbor Mist straight from the bottle alone on the train at 4pm, half roll my eyes, then open my book and continue reading along. A few minutes later, I have the distinct suspicion that I’m being watched, so I cautiously raise my eyes at the next page turn, and sure enough, Mr. Cheap-Fruity-Wine-o [I can’t hate too hard, though, I love Arbor Mist, haha. Fruitiness+alcohol=my favorite] is looking at me. *does not acknowledge him in any way, returns to book* Minutes go by, and the next time I happen to glance up to see where we are in my journey to Princeton, I notice that Mr. Cheap-Fruity-Wine-o is speaking, and looking in my direction…oh, is he trying to talk to me? *cautiously takes out one earbud* 
This is a paraphrase of his spheel: “I was just looking at your book there. I was just saying how nice it is that you’re reading. Don’t think I’m some pervert, it’s just, that’s not something you see everyday on the train, a young girl reading. And I know you’re actually reading too, cuz you’re turning the pages, that’s how I know you’re reading. Otherwise you’d just be sitting there on some stupid shit. *realizes I might be offended* Oh I just–that’s just how I talk. These just my words, man. Yeah, but you readin. That’s, that’s what’s up.” Me, interjecting in my faking-being-sincere-voice: “Thank you!” *tries to put headphones back in* He beats me: “I could tell you some real good books to read. Books that’ll flip your mind. Cuz I read them a long time ago and they flipped my mind…” His phone rings. It’s his mother. I escape back into my book.
First off, what is it about me that makes strange men think they can just talk to me? Is there an invisible sign above my head saying Open to Conversation? Someone teach me to turn it off. 
Secondly…he’s right though. I take the train to and from Princeton everyday, and I see lots of people on their cell phones. I see lots of people listening to music. I see people on their laptops. I see people sleeping. I see people chatting and drinking coffee. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone else reading. I even have friends at Princeton who simply do not, under any circumstances, read things that aren’t for class. And I mean, okay, guys, we are the raised-by-TV generation, but come on now. I love movies and music just as much as the next girl, but I’ve never reacted to any tangible object the way I react to a good book. I love the chance to be inside someone’s or someones’ head, to have their thoughts presented to me as if they were my own. I love wrapping myself up in their relationships, applauding their successes and dreading their downfalls. I love both being able to predict what happens next (because real life rarely works that way) and being surprised by a plot twist (because real life works that way). I have learned not to read series, because when they come to a close I feel almost as though I have lost a group of friends. I may never travel to India, or Pakistan, or [insert name of some random small Midwestern town here], but I can know the lifestyle and culture and feel of these places and their inhabitants from the comfort of my…wherever because a book is entirely transportable and will never run out of batteries or overheat. I love the ability to get lost in someone else’s life, even if I’m in love with my own–no other medium of entertainment can give me that. 

Long story short: read. Evidently it sets us apart from the train-riding masses. Maybe it says you, sir/madam, are an intellectual. Maybe it says you’re a thinker or a dreamer. Maybe it just serves as an icebreaker for sketchy middle-aged men. Regardless, read. It will serve you greater purpose than solely being interpretable, I promise. 

Interesting Developments

So I may not have mentioned that my father has a new girlfriend. (Boy/girlfriend is a weird word to use for senior citizens, lol. I feel like there should be a more grown-up word. Except, I’m fine referring to my mom’s boyfriends as such. Maybe I’m just being ageist. Anyway.) This is…weird for me. I know, I know, I should be used to the whole parents dating thing now, as I can basically recount the various stages of my life according to who my mother was with at the time, but something about this just feels…off. I suppose that I have simply come to think of my father as a person who is alone. My mother and I both describe him as hard to live with (though I think he would say that other people are the problem,  not him); she calls him (and anyone related to him, myself included) a kook. He has never been particularly social–he doesn’t have many friends, loves sports but doesn’t go over to like, bars or live games with “the guys”. My dad, Mr. Solo Dolo. 
Whereas my mom has never been man-less for any substantial period of my lifetime, as far as I can tell, my father has dated at most four people (both my mother and his current booskie included) over the last 21 years. My mom left my dad when I was just a few months old. When I was a kid, maybe 6 or so, we used to go over to my dad’s friend K’s house, where should would let me bring all my stuffed animals over and my teaset for tea parties. She had nieces whose stuffed animals she’d let me borrow, and I thought she was awesome because she gave me real (iced) tea for my tea parties, whereas my mom made me play with water. [Lame.] It has recently come to my attention that they were most likely dating…didn’t cross my six-year-old mind. When I was twelve and he was living in Detroit, he was seeing some woman who was a figure skater. I never met this woman, but I absolutely hated her for a while, because he was supposed to come back to NJ to visit me for my 13th birthday [it would have been the first time he’d come home since having moved when I was 9] and she went and broke her fucking ankle like three days before my birthday and he stayed in Detroit to take care of her instead of coming to see me. I was furious. (And now I’m wondering regretfully whether my fury influenced their breaking up at all, hmmm.) And now, all these years later, he’s started dating again. He was even on an online dating site (but met his current girlfriend in real life). 
I suppose it didn’t strike me until recently that my father was probably very lonely. I figured he was used to it, being the only child of only children and having lived alone for all but maybe 8 years of his adult life…but just because something has become a habit doesn’t mean it’s the way you should keep doing things. I’m glad he decided he need something in his life other than sports (which don’t give anything back for your time, dedication, and anxiety…especially when your fantasy team does really well in your league for the vast majority of the season and then tanks in the end losing you lots of potential money/bragging rights) and two grown daughters who live thousands of miles away from each other and him. I’m further glad that beyond just deciding/accepting this, he actually went out of his way to act on it. I really hope she’s good to him or I will go to Florida myself to smack the shit out of her. #that’sapromise 
It’s just weird to be on the opposite end of the hey-I’m-kind-of-busy-with-this-person-who-is-actually-physically-present-in-my-life-right-now-and-I-don’t-wanna-rush-you-but-I-actually-do-kind-of-want-to-rush-you phone call. Since I became a teenager (a period of my life that ended a year and a half ago, wow), that’s always been how I feel talking to him. It has always been a chore, something that is interrupting whatever I’d rather be doing. It’s…both offensive and amusing to recognize those same patterns of trying-to-end-this-conversation-asap-in-as-friendly-a-manner-as-possible-ness coming from him. I guess it’s cute. I’m glad he has someone. …And somewhat also glad that this someone is taking up all the empty space in his life he used to try to fill with talking to me, haha.