Thembi’s New “Lady Laws” for Young Black Women
After posting his “Man Laws,” AverageBro made a request for someone to answer with some “Girl Laws.” “Girls” play with dolls and whatnot, and even calling them “Blackgirl Laws”, as much as I tend to use that word for all black women, just won’t do. While in training, young black women should aspire to be ladies. So “Lady Laws” it is. This post is cross-posted at AverageBro.
Living right at the imaginary line where Philadelphia goes from a college city to being straight up hood, I can say that I’ve seen my share of young ladies acting a fool, and if they were behaving themselves I couldn’t tell which were little girls playing with toy babies and which were actually pushing their own teen pregnancy products in strollers down the block. What’s crazy is that unlike AB, who is neatly settled in a nuclear family and has accepted that he is (gasp!) an adult, I have regressed into my teenage years by getting airbrushed nails, dancing at parties like nobody is watching, and shimmying into outfits straight from Bare Feet and other stores in which I have no business. I am proof that whatever ladyghettononsense you may engage in, you can be ok. But guess what – I had to act right FIRST before I earned that right, and I did so by following these rules, all of which were implicit in my upbringing. So I have a few words of advice . . .
1. Stay Off Of The Pole. And For That Matter, Out Of Videos. I haven’t decided whether or not I have a real problem with strippers or strip clubs in general – who am I to say that men shouldn’t be allowed to gather in a public place and expose their inability to be fully intimate with their spouses by fondling and ogling some stray woman? What I do know is that YOU shouldn’t be one of said strays. Letting your body be drool-worthy for a room full of men cheapens and degrades you, and in the long run is not at all worth the money (no matter how pressed you are for cash). You never know who will be in that club, and when the “I saw Keisha on the pole!” story is told, your future boss or uncle who was “just in there with his boys” won’t be the shamed one, you will! If you like showing off your sexy side, which all of us should, save it for the right man, who will love enjoying all of the freaknasty you have inside of you without having to pay for it on a dollar-by-dollar basis. Someone will always do it, just don’t let that someone be you. The same goes for being in videos. That is NOT a profession and will not lead to any sort of meaningful career, modeling or otherwise. A ho is a ho, root word whore, meaning sex for sale, and your stuff is priceless. Got it?
2. Go Where No Blackgirl Has Gone Before. The obvious interpretation of the title of my blog is that I think that I’m some Jesus figure. Not so. Actually, the very weekend before I started blogging, loyal commenter Aaliyah was at an almost all-white party filled with beefy frat boys and was asked to do a kegstand. At her side were two other friends of mine, one of which said to her “What would Thembi do?” The obvious answer – go where no black girl has gone before and do the freaking keg stand! It really IS ok to be you, whether it’s as trivial as going snowboarding or as major as pursing a PhD in Greek Mythology. Do the most random or ridiculous things you feel like doing even if you’re not technically supposed to do them, and do them at all times. The same goes for rock concerts, tattoo conventions, playing the accordion, or whatever! Being a blackgirl comes with a unique set of baggage – on the one hand, we’re accustomed to being a minority in almost any situation a million times over. On the other hand, we feel like there are certain places and activities that aren’t “ok” for us. Forget all of that, risk ostracization, and trailblaze for us all. We can’t keep saying “But blackgirls don’t _______” or else we’ll never do anything at all. Be YOU, regardless of whatever skin tone, sorority, thickness, neighborhood, or whatever you may be a part of. None of it is as fresh as plain old blackgirl you.
3. DON’T Get Pregnant, DO Have A Baby. When people say “Life Is Short,” they really mean that life is short – when you’re unencumbered. Life is really, really long when you’re tied down to some dude who seemed great when you were sixteen years old but hasn’t even made it through his baby boy years when it’s time to send junior off to middle school. In fact, it can even seem too long when you start to calculate the potential unpaid child support, the number of times you tried to “make it work for the baby”, and the time you’ll spend child rearin’ instead of actually growing up, getting degrees, and making a name for yourself. Not to say you can’t have a baby early and have it all turn out rosy in the end, but howsabout having children with someone who can actually agree to be with you in a family unit for the long haul whether or not you just happen to get pregnant? Sidenote: It should go without saying, but why even risk diseases by not protecting yourself? A baby is not the only gift that keeps on giving, you know.
4. Know Your Own Hair. Black women have more hair options than almost anyone else, and we exercise them to the fullest. But even those of use who switch from weave to ponytail and from blonde to red would never dare to wear our natural hair in public. I can spend the whole day running errands and not see one blackgirl without a perm, and the same goes for watching television or opening a magazine. What is up with that? Granted, I went natural the easy way with the Philly soul thing being at my heart and a head of naps that never really took a perm quite right, but what pains me is when another blackgirl says to me “I love your hair! How long did it take to grow? I could never get my hair to be that texture. How did you do it?” The reality of it is, most of us don’t even know what is growing out of our own heads, and its very sad. Not one other group of people on this planet can say the same. It’s fine if you settle on a perm or some braids or even a Jheri curl after exploring your options, just get to the point where you can say that you know what your natural hair even looks and feels like before you aspire to be Beyonce by default.
5. Get Out Of Town. I’ve met young women who have never left their cities, seen the ocean, or even set foot in another zip code. It’s not always cheap, and it’s not always fun, but the sooner you start traveling the better. In fact, this Lady Law applies to almost everyone of every race and gender. Make a list of dream locations and get started as soon as possible. The more time you spend in the same surroundings the less you understand about the world, and for that matter, what the world thinks of you – you’ll learn that you’re not trapped after all. Besides, you can’t conquer the world if you don’t know what’s out there, and it should be your goal to conquer it! Let the trailer trash of West Virginia confuse Mexicans with Spaniards and believe that Africa is a country and not a continent. Learn your world because it is yours to learn, even if you have to do so only an inch at a time.
6. Don’t Get Called Out of Your Name. I’m not on this whole “we were queens” tip, but I know that none of us should be called or let ourselves be called any of the following: bitch, ho, trick, and on and on and on. Don’t sing along with songs about “makin’ it rain” unless it’s for the sake of irony. Don’t even participate in anything misogynistic unless you know it’s only a joke to you, and even then don’t ever pay for it. Recognize that just like when he talks about selling crack you’re not selling crack, that when some rapper talks about his hoes he doesn’t mean you, download that song from Limewire, and keep it moving. And lastly, never, EVER call yourself anyone’s “baby’s momma.” My first encounter with an ex’s grown BM involved her introducing herself to someone as such, and as much evidence as I may have already had that she was feeble-minded, giving herself that label sealed the deal. Don’t be that broad.
7. Act White. I won’t bother justifying this term because you all know just what I mean. Talk white by speaking the King’s English, using full sentences, and the most intricate vocabulary you can muster. Act white by doing well in school, participating in any activity that suits you, and playing musical instruments. Don’t worry, you will never, ever actually BE white. If it were possible, don’t you think that all of those people who were lynched and beaten back in the day would have white-acted their way out of it?
8. Get What You Deserve Without Worrying About What He Deserves. This is a weird one. All too often women say “I’m not giving it up to him, he doesn’t deserve it!” But what do YOU want? While it’s not smart to just go giving it up to any old body, getting caught up in the idea that your sexual desires should be based on what men deserve is the exact opposite of feminism. If we only had sex when men deserved it we would be a bunch of bitter, mean, deprived wenches. Learning and maintaining the balance between withstanding pressure from dudes and getting yours is part of becoming a real woman.
9. Don’t Eat That Mess. Our country is facing an obesity epidemic, yadda yadda blah blah. But it’s all so very real, ladies, and I’m as guilty as the next chick. The thing is, you can get fat and out of shape eating regular food and that’s damning enough. It’s the Chinese Store chicken wings and fries (saltpepperketchup or no), grape soda, chips, quarter water, or other mess. If you can believe for one second that AIDS or crack was planted in the black community to kill us, what do you think Crown Fried Chicken is here for? And your body may be able to metabolize it before you hit 25, but after that it’s just a quick ride to Lane Bryant once you get addicted, so don’t do it.
10. Be A Lady. I have never been the most ladylike of blackgirls and most women like me can trace that to our upbringings, but it’s really very simple. It’s very natural for us to speak loudly, but it’s more powerful when used in small doses, just like hot sauce. Making that lip smack before you start speaking is not cute either, especially if it’s followed by a “weeeeeeeeaaaaal,” twist of your neck, and then whatever it is that you have to say. By doing that, not only have you butchered the word “well,” but whatever you have to say is eclipsed by that attempt to get attention and gear up like you need prep time just to speak your mind. Swearing every other word may be cute to around-the-way boys but if you ever want to get off of the block (see Lady Law #5), it won’t do you any good. Although every once in a while another female may make your blood boil, fighting is not cute – just think, aren’t you way too pretty to get into a fight and get some gash across your face? I don’t think I need to caution young blackgirls on good grooming because we’re good at that, but do you really need to let all of that unravel just because some girl is talking about you? What does that even really mean? Like Katt Williams says, if you’ve got fourteen haters, you need to find a way to get sixteen!