Tamika Lawson Martin

Pieces of my heart and mind

I am the other son

The story of the prodigal son is about me, but not the way that many would think. See, I am the other son. I have spent my life in obedience, doing the right thing. While I have accomplished much in this way of life, it has come to be expected of me. Therefore, when I do something others would consider outstanding, I rarely get the congrats that anyone else would. I take pride in saying that I’ve never done this or have done that and I have a great wealth of memories from being a good person.

 

It can be difficult to witness celebration after celebration when I’ve never had the same reception for my own accomplishments. Yes, there are some conditions that make it tougher for some people to survive. For a child who doesn’t have a strong family or stable home, high school graduation might be but a distant dream. For that, celebrate. I understand the fortune I was blessed with by having direction in my younger years that helped shaped my vision of  life and its possibilities. Much like the prodigal son’s brother, I had an upbringing that prepared me for success and I made the decisions to ensure that. It doesn’t mean that it was easy, but I certainly never lost hope or direction.  So seeing the prodigal son walk off into the distance and come back to an incredible welcome can cause an array of emotions.

 

Just like the other son, I found myself stricken with jealousy, anger, and arrogance when invited to yet another celebration for one who chose the wrong path.  I’d intentionally miss the occasion and stew alone, thinking that my absence sent my message of disapproval. I’d pretend not to notice the excitement of others as they shared the “good news” and instead discuss any and every other thing I could think of. This was all until recently.

 

I went to church and as the pastor began to start in about the prodigal son, I let out a sigh and considered leaving early. I’d grown far too tired of this story and never heard anyone talk about me, the other son. I related to him and wished that someone would tell his side of the story. And on this day, the pastor did. I expected to finally receive that long awaited congratulations for walking along the straight and narrow. I listened with a smirk ready to clap and amen as the pastor chastised others for not being more like the other brother. Instead, I learned that God has shown us all grace and mercy. It is because of that that some of us have had easier lives than others. While we might like to take the accountability for all of our decisions, that isn’t the case. I am where I am because I’ve been kept by grace and mercy that I could never truly earn, despite my best behavior. In fact, the other son understands this and has humbled himself to come home and ask for forgiveness, while I stand in the corner full of self righteousness and pride. I learned in that sermon that I too had sinned. In thinking that I am so much better than my own brother and that I had somehow earned a better place in my father’s house I had allowed jealousy, anger, bitterness, resentment, frustration, pride and self righteousness to take over me. From the outside looking in, I was the better brother, far ahead of him in life and in my Christian walk. However, the impurities in my heart made us even.

 

At the end of the sermon, I began to truly think about all of the opportunities I’d missed to show grace and mercy, although it was consistently being shown to me. Because of my obedience, I had spared myself turmoil and stress. Yet, I failed to recognize the blessing in that and thought it was what I deserved. While the prodigal son is working on  building trust and respect, I was taking them for granted. As quickly as good fortune comes, it leaves. Instead of a pat on the back or celebration for my accomplishments, I left desiring that the same forgiveness and grace that was shown to the prodigal be shown to me. I prayed that my gifts could be used to benefit others. I asked for guidance and grace, mercy and humility. I learned to celebrate my brother.  And when I do, our father is proud.

The rise of the independent woman

I think I’ve heard “I don’t need a man” one too many times. Although I’ve never subscribed to that philosophy, the conversation has made its way to my ears on several occasions. It seems that many young, educated women take pride in announcing that they have no need for a man. Surprisingly, those words have even left the mouths of women who are currently in relationships or even married. I’m perplexed. What’s so wrong with accepting the idea of needing someone, specifically a man? 

 

Aside from the biological need for men, there is absolutely an essential role for a man in a woman’s life. I would even stretch to say that the independent woman needs him even more than others. That woman who is in charge at work and has to deal with sexism, racism, and still maintain professionalism and expertise could use a solid shoulder to lean on at the end of the day. After juggling the demands of corporate America day after day, the weekend looks a lot brighter when you know your man is there to see you through. A woman who takes care of everything on her own all the time definitely could benefit from some relief. Instead of having to make all the arrangements for travel and maintaining the home, it is refreshing to have a man there to do it. Whether it is housework or simply sitting in the passenger seat being driven to dinner reservations that he made, every woman deserves that relief.

Some will argue that God is the only man they need. However, God should be the center of your relationship and marriage as well. He never has to be left behind for the sake of an earthly man. In fact, God wants men to find wives. How can they do that if women are professing to not need them? Men and women belong together. The emotional, spiritual, and physical differences between us work beautifully together to create incredible relationships that are not possible with girlfriends. There is nothing weak about knowing that you need and want a man. When I was single, I was vocal about my desire to no longer be single. That profession included the fact that I needed a life partner and was ready to be a wife. The ideal man for you will complete your life in a way that you never could have imagined as an individual. You will be able to accomplish things with ease that may not have even crossed your mind previously. Women, don’t stop taking care of your life until that man arrives. Don’t stop being the best and achieving more. But it is essential to allow him to be a man when he arrives. Loving a man doesn’t make you weak. It should make you stronger. It should make you better. Chances are if you think that you really don’t need a man, you just haven’t met the right one yet. 

Gone too long – 2

My first thought is to ask the obvious, but instead, I stare in silence. Her expression isn’t as shocked as I would have expected. I begin to wonder if she knew about me. Perhaps her presence does not mean what my first mind is telling me it does, but a woman’s intuition is rarely wrong. And I had been gone.

She walks into the kitchen where I am standing in awe and begins to unload her bags. Fresh broccoli, mushrooms, and squash create a colorful arrangement on the counter-top. Before unloading the second bag, she reaches for a skillet, places it on the stove-top, and turns the eye on. As if she doesn’t even notice me standing there, she reaches for a cutting board just to the left of me. Her long, thin fingers work quickly to chop the veggies and she tosses them into the pan. All the while, I am standing there, still holding the casserole dish I was preparing to fill for my man’s favorite meal.  As she grabs the contents of the other bags and places them onto the shelves, I ponder what to say. Should I announce myself? Should I ask her to do the same? Should I extend my hand for a formal handshake? What is the protocol for this? Knowing none, I simply retreat to the dining room to collect my thoughts.

With the casserole dish still in hand, a picture catches my eye. Nestled between knick knacks and various souvenirs was the vision of the two of us on the beach, sunkissed by the rays of the sun, happy and in love. Seeing the image makes me long for those days. I reach out to stroke the glass of the picture frame as if it somehow will connect me to that moment in time. But that moment is long gone. The silence in my home is screaming at me with questions that force me to face reality. Perhaps that moment is too far gone to reclaim. Maybe it is best that I just leave and act like this never happened. It was my fault, after all, for being gone so long. I talk myself into a defeat and begin to accept that the woman in the kitchen has taken my place because I offered it to her, in my absence. I place the casserole dish on the floor, just on the edge of the kitchen and walk softly to the bedroom to begin to pack my things.

As I remove a suitcase from the closet, the sizzle from the stove top is the only sound I hear. It bothers me that even in my bedroom, I am reminded of her presence and my absence. I begin to aggressively tear clothes from their hangers in an attempt to make my presence known, but the soft fabrics fall quietly and slowly to the carpeted floor, in silence. It is as if even my wardrobe is peacefully accepting my fate. I turn my attention to the dresser drawers, hoping that all the ruckus will cause her to appear at the bedroom door. But again, nothing. I hear the rhythm of her knife hitting the cutting board again. She is unmoved by my attempt to get her attention. How can she be so calm in someone else’s home? Why hasn’t she even attempted to speak to me or argue with me? Anything? Something? I hear her footsteps and my heart begins to race thinking she is finally coming to confront me. Hopefully, I wait for confrontation. Instead, she goes to the hall closet. I can hear her from my bedroom. I tip toe over to the door and peer out into the hall and see her taking off her shoes and placing them neatly in the bottom of the closet. She reaches high above her head and retrieves two candles, ones I’d never used.  She takes them back into the kitchen with her and the sounds of her making dinner begin again.

I can’t be here. I shouldn’t be here. I decide to no longer torture myself and gather a few clothes from the floor and put them into my bag. Somehow, the sound of her making my man dinner in my home refocuses my energy. Self pity turns into anger and anxiety. I’m upset with myself. I’m upset with him. But strangely, I feel no anger towards her. With a few days worth of clothing in my hands and more in my bag, I open the bedroom door and take a look around. It hurts to leave my home this way. When I’ve left in the past, it has always been when I was alone. There was no witness to my escape. I feel like I owe her at least a good bye. Although we have yet to speak, there has hardly been silence between us. Instead, the air is filled with questions and anticipation. I want her to realize that I am not whatever he has told her. I can be the adult here and at least bid her farewell. As I approach the kitchen, I begin to ponder writing him a note. But what would I say? I have more questions than statements and don’t want to put them all out there for him to contemplate and possibly make up elaborate stories to soothe me. So, I decide that I will just walk out. Just as I’ve returned before, I will return again. Hopefully, next time I will find him here, alone. Then we will be able to pick up right where we left off, starting with me cooking him his favorite meal. But right now, there are too many questions that I’d rather leave unanswered. So, I decide to leave.

As I close in on the kitchen doorway, I part my lips to say goodbye. I pause briefly to consider my words when  I look over at her and see a smug smile on her face. She pretends not to see me standing there with my bag and opens a cabinet above her head.  Maybe my anger has been displaced. Perhaps I should confront her as well as my man.  In normal fashion,  my inner voice has an angry dialogue with her while I just stand there silent, wishing she knew what I was thinking. She doesn’t deserve my farewell anyway. I quickly and angrily turn to walk away, trying hard to keep myself from lashing out on anyone or anything that gets in my way. I decide that the best thing for me to do is just be away from here, to leave. Just on the verge of surrender, the sound of a car in the driveway breaks me from my stride.

 

The Question

I smile a lot. What I’ve learned over the years is that a warm smile encourages strangers of all races, ages, shapes, and sizes to talk to you. I don’t mean a simple greeting. My smile has made me privy to the inner workings of people’s lives. They come and share with me about work, relationships, financial stresses, recipes, pets, their dreams, their fears and more. Because I am a fairly good listener, some don’t even realize that they’ve chatted my ear off, unsolicited, for almost an hour.

In return for my time, many then feel it’s appropriate to turn the tables. They begin to ask me questions about myself. How did I come to be such a great person with such empathy and compassion, wisdom beyond my years even? They are intrigued as to my status in life and want to know how I reached this point on my journey. We approach a point where they each want to know one thing about me. The most typical, and most annoying, question from both men and women is, “Why are you single”? That is a question that irks me beyond most others. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I don’t have a real answer

I’m a catch. This isn’t just by my own standards. I’ve been told that countless times. My personality is inviting and optimistic. I enjoy life, live to the fullest, have freedom financially and emotionally, know how to cook, love to laugh, and am easy on the eyes. These along with other qualities make me appealing, at least I’ve been told. But that hasn’t been enough to meet single men who are interested in what I am….a relationship leading to marriage. I know that may seem like it’s asking too much from someone you have just met, but give me a moment to explain. I believe that most people know whether or not they want to get married. These same individuals have an idea of what characteristics their future mate will possess. Believing those two ideas, I do not see the value in spending months or years with someone who isn’t interested in traveling the same life journey as I am and I already have that information up front. I’m not talking about shallow things that may change like home ownership, current job, or languages he speaks. I mean his spiritual values, what he dreams about, the type of father he would want to be, what he enjoys to do with his free time…these are the things that will show me more about a man and his capacity for marriage to me than any checklist of tangibles he may currently possess.

So, back to the question, my usual reply states something about him not finding me yet or being on his way. See, another thing these strangers assume from my smile is that I’m willing to share as much about myself as they have with me. I’m far more private than meets the eye. I’ve never been the type to air my inner most thoughts to strangers, unless it’s in the written form. So, those strangers get a polite reply and, of course, a smile.

Bucket list

Until the movie came out a few years ago featuring a pair of elderly men who set out to do things before they died, I’d never really considered myself to have a bucket list. Sure, there were things I wanted to do. However, I never formalized them into a list. Yet, each year as I got older, I seemed to be checking things off of my mental list of “Must do before I die” and feeling better and better about it. I’ll be honest the list has changed, grown, and shaped up differently over time. A few things got on the list only after I’d completed them. I never knew until I tried that I even wanted to do that in the first place.

One such thing for me was singing at an event and being the primary entertainment. I’ve never wanted to be a solo musician. I love harmonizing and enjoy just the occasional show. Now, background vocals? I’d do that for life. Anyhow, when I moved in 2010, there were several things that I set out to accomplish in my new town. One of those things was to sing with a band at an event. I had no plan of how this was going to happen and had never done it before. Yet after a few short weeks in the city, I was rehearsing with a band and had gigs regularly around town.

I’ve always loved music, singing especially. So, this wasn’t entirely out of my element. But because I had never done it before, I wasn’t sure if I could. I don’t mean that I wasn’t capable, but I thought that somehow perhaps I would not be allowed. My experience was so long ago, and even then, was not comparable to what I was seeking to do now. But after a few rehearsals, I felt grounded. I could do this. And we began building our set list.

The more and more we did, the more and more I wanted. I gained confidence and excitement about singing again. So, I believe it was then that I determined what my goal would be for singing with the band. I wanted to do a New Years Eve show. The guitarist had an opportunity for a gig and I was all about it. I invited 10 friends and family to come join me at the event as soon as I heard. And they were all on board. That to me, would be the culmination of this great experience with this particular band. So, the countdown to midnight began.

The next month or so until December 31, we continued to perform at corporate events and nightclubs. It was fine, but I was simply ready for the real deal. To me, the only gig that counted was New Years Eve. When that night finally arrived, I was ecstatic. I could barely contain my excitement. Most of my friends had never seen me perform before and this was my night to shine. No, the songs weren’t all my favorites. Yes, there were some moments when we weren’t in sync. But overall, it was a great night.

New Years Eve was my final night performing with that band. For some reason, the vigor and life seemed to leave after that performance. I wanted to end things on a high. They were still doing nightclubs and had some other events lined up. But for me, I had already checked off one of my mental items, hopefully far before I kick the bucket.

Gone too long – a work of fiction

I return from one of my disappearing acts like nothing ever happened. I do that…disappear. When I’m fed up, tired or just need some “me” time, I leave. Sometimes I’m gone too long and all the food is spoiled when I return. I spend my first moments back from being gone making a grocery list. My man doesn’t do grocery stores.

So, I go to the kitchen and open the refrigerator door. To my surprise, there is about half a gallon of milk left in the gallon jug. Instinctively, I life the jug to my nose expecting a foul scent, but am greeted by none. I then look for the date and see that this milk doesn’t  expire for another three days, which means it was bought when I was gone…and my man doesn’t do grocery stores.

But I’ve been gone for 3 weeks, surely he needed some cereal in the morning. I can understand. He had to do what he had to do, since I was gone, so long. But then I check the bread expecting to see a green molded mass contained by a twistie-tie. Instead, I see a fresh loaf of soft wheat bread, not my usual brand, but something from a local bakery. Well, I had been gone. Perhaps his mother felt bad for him and brought him something to eat. That was sweet of her.

Upon further investigation of the refrigerator, I find fresh meat, cheese, and veggies as well. So, I decided to cook my man’s favorite meal. Everything I need is here. So, I get to work. I take out everything I need and begin to prepare a meal that will make him forget that I’d been gone so long. I remember the first time I prepared this meal for him. It was more than 4 years ago. We’d sit and talk over candlelight at least once a week. But that time had come and gone and so had I.

But tonight, I’m going to make things right, starting with this dinner. I turn on some music and get to work in the kitchen. I’m having such a good time that I don’t see or hear what I should have seen or heard to let me know that I’d really been gone too long.

A woman stands in the doorway with a fresh bag of groceries.

laptop

Shortly after my last post, my beloved desktop computer bit the dust. Now, to say that I’m not technically savvy is an incredible understatement. I’m also very hesitant to try new technology because of the learning curve. So, when my brother brought me a laptop to type on, I was insistent that I needed a full keyboard to be able to put my thoughts onto screen.

I was frustrated because I’d just gotten into a groove with my blogging and had ideas for several, more radical topics that I wanted to cover. But my lack of a “real computer” prevented me from doing any of that. I wasn’t ready to convert to the world of wireless computing. Much like those who still have house phones, I wasn’t ready to go completely into the next phase of technology. What would I do without my computer?!?! I still need a desktop, right?

So, this isn’t really a rel post. This is my attempt to say that I’m back, not with a vengeance, but instead…with a laptop.

May 17, 2027

It’s a week before my 47th birthday and I’ve got a lot on my mind. I wake up naturally around 8:30am daily. Gone are the days when an alarm breeched the world between slumber and the conscious. However, I’m still a night owl, so waking up before the sun is rarely something I can accomplish. Instead, I now wake up when I’m finished sleeping and I get to savor the last moments of each beautiful dream.

 

After a simple breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, I turn on the news to see about the weather for the day. Looks like it’ll be beautiful, no clouds, no rain, just sunshine. The high is only in the 70s. Perfect. This is my kind of day. I look at my phone and see that I’ve missed a few calls and texts. There are some people who just refuse to accept that I’m not a morning person. They still call at hours they know I won’t be awake. It’s ok though. They’ve learned not to expect a call until at least 10am. Today is no different. I put the phone down and return my attention to the news. Local stories have always been my favorites. I love to hear about the young girl who sold the most cookies or a family whose corn stalk looks like Jesus. Those stories make me smile. I know there are many more serious issues to report on, but I still like the fluff, even after all these years.

 

Just before 10:00am I begin to return my phone calls. My brother and friends know this is a big day for me. Every year since I was in my 20s, we’ve traveled for my birthday. Sometimes we leave a week before, sometimes a week after. But it’s still for my birthday. This year’s trip has been postponed a week because of my impending announcement. Those closest to me already know. I told them years ago, back in 2011 to be exact. So, they have been prepping themselves for years. Now that day is finally here and everyone is anxious, except for me. I’m relaxed and casual. That’s been my norm for years. There is very little that can break my stride, even something a significant and life changing as this.

 

Usually the conversations between my friends a week before my birthday involve finalizing travel details. This year is similar, but different at the same time. They are asking me when they should arrive and which calls they should return. Speculation has been building outside of my inner circle and some people have reached out to those closest to me to get the answers I would not provide. My trajectory has been strategic, but not usual. I didn’t go to law school or participate much in the local political scene. I’ve made a name for myself in other ways though. My involvement in local organizations has grown to make me a local celebrity of sorts. My business is flourishing and has granted me the opportunity to be in the national news on more than one occasion. Still, I am not yet a household name. Even with that being true, I’ve made a decision and I’m committing to it and today is the day I let the world know.

 

Once my friends arrive at my place, we get right into our routine of talking and laughing. From the outside, it would appear this is a normal gathering. But we all know there is something more happening. We’re dressed to the nines in business attire and there’s a limo waiting out front to take us to our destination. I check the mirror a few times before we head out. I’ve always loved my reflection. My emotions are clear on my face. I’m excited, eager, and a little scared. My best friends are making sure I’ve prepared for all the questions I might have to answer. I appreciate their help, but I’ve done the same thing a million times myself and I do believe there is such a thing as being over-prepared. So I suggest that we flip through some photos from previous vacations and steer the conversation towards the trip we’ll take next week, for my birthday.

 

We walk outside and all take our seats in the limo. I’ve never been a fan of limousines. I’d much rather have a chauffeured sedan, but my friends wanted us to all be together. And I obliged. Silence takes over and represents the multitude of feelings on the ride downtown. I love them for being there. I’m excited about where this journey will take me and I’m glad this day is finally here. When we arrive at the park, there are already people there. Passers-by innocently ask if I know what is going on here today. I tell them that I heard there will be an announcement of some sort. They stick around to see what it is. The news channels are all there, but I’ve escaped the eyes of anyone just yet. I’m enjoying the view of the lake. It’s beauty is why I chose this location to hold my press conference. After a few moments of solitude, my brother tells me that it’s time to begin. We walk up to the podium looking like we just stepped out of a magazine. Sharp. After a brief introduction by a friend and colleague, I step to the microphone and smile. Cameras are snapping pictures before they even know what I’m here to say. But I’ve cleverly dropped enough hints to make the speculation necessary.

 

Thank you all for joining me here today on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie. Many of us live here and rarely recognize the magnitude of this Great Lake. Even fewer of us recognize its power. Simply because it has been here all of our lives and we pass it in our daily commutes, we underestimate it. Perhaps we take it for granted. Yet if we took a moment to relish it, we would see what a gift we have been given. However, sometimes it is necessary to speak up in order for someone to recognize your strength or contribution. The lake sends waves roaring and crashing into the shore for us to acknowledge its presence. In the coming summer months, many will enjoy the afternoon on the shores of this very lake and will wonder why they don’t do this more often. How sad for our beloved Lake to go over looked. Like our lake, there are many in our society who go unheard until they cry out in an uproar. Until there is an epidemic, a boycott, a walkout, a bankruptcy, their voices seem mute to the world. But I hear the cry. I hear the outpouring from communities around this nation from people who deserve to have their voices heard. I recognize the contribution of every segment of society and believe that it can be incorporated into success for us all. When you thrive, I thrive. Together we can create the type of nation that is representative of everything is should be. I may not be a big name in politics. I haven’t been at this game for years. However, I’ve been an active citizen. I’ve been a member of a community. I’ve made a difference and I’ve helped others realize their dreams. A visionary who believes in action and difference is what we need right now. I am a visionary and I will make a difference. I am Tamika Lawson and I’m running for President of the United States.”

Hometown

There’s something about Detroit that will always be home. No, I don’t still have my address ending in 48224 or have to take an exit off of the Lodge to visit friends. But there is a considerable part of my being that is derived from Detroit. It’s become a bit more popular to talk about Detroit since the Chrysler commercials and the “Imported from Detroit” epidemic. People here have asked me what it’s like or what it was like growing up there. I share vivid stories of all the things I loved about the city I left more than 10 years ago. I’m keenly aware that there’s a fascination here with the city. It has a history and a legacy that are worth discussing. See, I respect Detroit and love it for the person it shaped me into. My street smarts and witty humor are directly related to my hometown. I’m proud to be a descendant of a city that played such a huge role in music, international relations, fashion, and Black history.

Today, however, the city itself is foreign to me. Everything that made Detroit home has changed or disappeared. I can drive through my old neighborhood and find maybe one person who remembers me. The others have moved away. My favorite restaurants have closed down. The mall is no longer what I remember from working there as a teen. The people, the places, the memories of home are just that…memories. I’d rather preserve them in the beauty that they are in my mind than have them tarnished with the reality of Detroit today. Those people aren’t my neighbors anymore. The kinship I felt when walking to the corner store or cruising on the isle with classmates is not there anymore. The closeness I felt at church is gone as well. It’s moved to another building and I don’t even know what section my friends sit in anymore. In the old location, we always sat about 8 rows back, against the right wall. I don’t know where to find familiar faces anymore.

The route I’d take from college back home is different too. I recognize some of the same potholes, but my normal gas station isn’t there anymore. The car wash has burned down. When I turn onto my block, yes my childhood home is still there, but who I really would want to visit at home is not. It’s a house now, no longer the place of refuge and joy it was all those years. Now, it belongs to someone else and the reason I’d go there is no longer waiting for me either. I still have my keys and can remember how excited I’d be pulling up to the house. Now, I’m grieved when I drive down Outer Drive. That drive makes me miss my mother more than anything. Visiting her in the cemetary isn’t nearly the same as pulling in the driveway. So, why go to Detroit? Why? It only reminds me of what was and no longer is. Why go to Detroit? It saddens me to realize how much things have changed, and not all for the better.

I haven’t had a visit yet that hasn’t left me in tears. I long for the Detroit I thought there would be when I was a child. I imagined I’d always maintain a home there, just to come back to. But now, I don’t even like to visit. Detroit reminds me of my own mortality and that one day I’ll no longer be here. It reminds me that someone, someday will ride down these same streets and wonder what ever happened to me, and I’ll be gone. Someone rides down the street today and wonders that about me or my family. We’re gone.

Home is supposed to be a place of comfort and security. I have found that, not only in another city and state, but in particular places. I am at home with the church family I have locally. I feel like I have a place that is all mine. People take me at face value. They let me be who I am and don’t want me to become who I am not. I’m appreciated. I’m loved. I’m home. When I travel with my friends I feel the same way. It is not the location that I am comfortable in, but the company. With my friends, I have a comfort and security that extinguishes all fear or self-doubt. Instead, I am challenged to become a better version of myself. I’m encouraged. I’m supported. I’m home.

So, if I’ve found a home, why do I need to go to my hometown? It brings me such sadness and no one seems to understand. It isn’t the city alone. It’s everything. It’s knowing that the life I lived there will never, ever be again. People constantly ask me to come to the city. They nonchalantly try to persuade me to spend some time there. I’d love to. I wish I could. I wish I could enjoy the city while I’m there as much as I do when I’m away. Here, away from the city, I eagerly tell others that I am a Detroiter. I defend my city’s honor to the end. I speak of the vitality and resurrection like I’m an eyewitness myself. I’m a believer. I know too many good people from my city to throw it all away, but I just don’t want to go to Detroit. I wish that could be respected. I wish people would stop asking me. I wish they would just understand and accept that it’s not them, it’s me. I like the life I’ve created for myself across the state line. Here, my mind isn’t filled with memories and my eyes aren’t filled with tears as I drive down the street and recall taking the same drive with my mother as a girl. Here, I can pretend that all is well. I can act like I have it all together. I can be strong and resilient, captivating and legendary, just like Detroit.

The real reason

I have nappy hair. It’s my natural texture and I don’t change it with any chemicals or straighteners. Lately, there seems to be a bit of a revolution going on with black women and their hair. More and more of us are publicly embracing our natural textures. I’ve been invited to workshops, posted in online forums, and read many articles about black women and natural hair. Because of this phenomenon, when people see me and my nappy hair, they are comfortable asking me a variety of questions. The most popular questions relate to my reason for “going natural.” For most sistas, this is quite a decision. The period of contemplation can last anywhere from weeks to years. Some have decided to go natural, but not publicly, and still wear weaves and wigs. Others begin the journey only to turn back a few weeks in. As a black woman, there are few things I can think of more important than my hair. Yes, it frames my face, but it also is an expression of how I feel and how I want others to receive me. There are styles that are flamboyant, reserved, classic, and just plain sharp. Ask any black woman you know about her hair and you will engage in quite the conversation.

 

So, when I’m approached with these questions, especially from black women with straight hair, I know what they are expecting. They want to hear how I made the decision, how I wore my hair in the interim, and how others are receiving me now. They might be pondering the same choice themselves and need some guidance. I welcome the questions. I usually say something about wanting to learn to take care of my hair in its natural state or appreciating my natural beauty. But I have to be honest; none of that is true. The real reason I went natural is because I’m impatient.

 

A black hair salon is not a place to go if you’re short on time. Even the most considerate of stylists will probably take a couple of hours to complete your style. Regardless of appointment time or style, black hair salons, in my experience, are slow. There was one stylist I had on Gratiot in Detroit who was prompt. She would schedule me right after school and I’d be out of there in an hour flat. Other than that, I’ve never found someone so considerate of my time and schedule.

 

Once I moved to Ohio, this problem worsened. I’m impatient by nature, so waiting even 10 minutes past my appointment time is too much to ask. Most stylists assume their customers are used to this practice and don’t even apologize for running behind. On my search for a new stylist, I scheduled times at salons all over town. I got recommendations from friends and coworkers. I had a simple bob and didn’t think that would be tough to maintain. My primary question when asking for a recommendation was whether or not the stylist was timely. Apparently, I have a different definition of that than most people. Stylists who came highly recommended had me waiting for 30 minutes after my appointment time and then were sluggish in completing their other customers ahead of me. The icing on the cake for me was when I called 30 minutes ahead of my appointment time to be sure that she’d be able to accommodate me when I arrived, only to find there were three people waiting when I got there. I didn’t stay for my appointment.

 

My time is precious. The abuse of it is not something I take lightly. When stylists disregard our appointment time and keep me waiting or become distracted and chatter with clients while I’m in the chair, I’m offended. If I showed up to the salon an hour after our scheduled time, that would be addressed. However, when a stylist is an hour behind schedule at a black salon, it’s just supposed to be understood. No, not by me. I have plenty of other things to do besides wait in a salon for hours. Although I wasn’t willing to wait for the services of a stylist, I still needed them. And so my journey to going natural began.

 

Since I was unable to maintain the relaxed styles and layered cuts myself, I decided that going natural would allow me to regain control of my hair and my time. If I wanted to go to a salon for a special style, I could. But in the meantime, I could maintain my own hair and still look gorgeous doing so. Becoming comfortable with my own texture would allow me to find styles and tools that made me feel confident and beautiful without spending hours in the company of someone who took my time and money for granted. That wouldn’t be acceptable in any other industry or for any other clientèle. So, I decided it would not be acceptable for me either.

 

I went to the barber shop to get a haircut and have only been to a salon twice since then. I get compliments on my hair all the time. To say I’m feeling my hair would be an understatement. I love my hair. Having the free time that I savor and more cash on hand makes me love it even more. As I play in my kinks and wrap my naps around my finger, I think about my ancestors in Africa. There were beautiful women walking around this planet with nappy hair long before I decided to do so. This isn’t a revolution after all. It’s simply returning to my roots, literally. I feel more beautiful than I have in a long time. Other women tell me they wish they had the courage or confidence to do the “natural” thing that I do so well. I’m an inspiration to others and a force to be reckoned with…all because I got tired of waiting.

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