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Thembi’s New “Lady Laws” for Young Black Women

15 May 2008 24 Comments

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!


  • Lady_M said:

    I concur.

    Love the blog!

  • Regina said:

    Awesome Thembi! I am so loving your list but am really feeling #5!
    So many of our young people only know what is around them. It’s so sad. But even sadder is when you don’t even know what is around you. I grew up in NYC and lived the cultural artsy life, but I knew people who grew up around me that NEVER saw the twin towers, or never been inside the empire state building or been to a Broadway play. That is truly sad…

  • Anonymous said:

    I’ll be printing this out for my sisters (14 & 12) and my cousins! Thanks Thembi!

  • Danielle said:

    Fantastic Thembi and words for our young girls to live by for sure!

  • Aaliyah said:

    Hallelujah! Amen! Amin! Allahu Akbar! Whatever your preferred phrase of praising the one who made it possible for this eloquently expressed intuition and wisdom…SHOUT IT! Thembi, like I’ve told you many many times, you represent an unconscious validation that who I am and what I do is always cool. Doing a keg stand, dancing like I might die tomorrow, taking a year off to see the world, it is what I would do and what Thembi would do and that is so LADY-LIKE & FLY!

  • Kim said:

    Thembi girl, you are the truth. You buy an ad in Hype Hair so the young girls will see it. I’d like to add a couple if I may —

    9a. EXERCISE!!!! And not just for weight loss. Although I’m still trying to lose that extra 2 year old baby weight (tee hee); I am also thinking of my health as I get older (38 now). I use my two grandmothers as what to do and what not to do. My maternal grandmother ate that heavy southern cooking and never even walked unless she had to. She ended up a diabetic, living in a home and spending the last few years of her life on dialysis. My paternal grandmother watched what she ate and walked everyday. She lived on her own up until a few years ago (she’s in her late 90s now) and she made the decision that she couldn’t live by herself. She’s never had any major health issues except cataract surgery. And although now she has slight dementia, she is in very good health. That’s how I want to be when I get that age.

    11. Read a book, not that street lit mess, some Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and my favorite book of all time “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neal Hurston. I was in my early 30s before I read it and I wish I had read it sooner. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to become OK with myself.

  • Vee (Scratch) said:

    Hey Thembi.
    Cool post. I totally agree with #4, but I pretty much doubt you will see natural hair often.

    You may enjoy the Makeover.

    Now, I agree with #10.
    “It’s very natural for us to speak loudly” . . . that is not a fact nor true. I hear you, but that’s just passing off a stereotyped caricature as a regular trait. Had to be said.

    Great work, I’m passing this off to some young wayward “ladies” that I know.

  • Nancy said:

    oh #9, how you are the death of me…

  • sparkle said:

    this is the definitive list regarding precisely how to conduct oneself as a black woman. i’m posting it on my very own blog. it’s necessary.

  • C said:

    I think there’s a lot of truth to some of the things you’ve said.

    “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).”

    – I think this is only really true if you allow the experience to cheapen you. Some women (not all) feel confident enough about their bodies and their sexuality to “get on the pole” and if they’re comfortable with that – more power to them.

    “but after that it’s just a quick ride to Lane Bryant once you get addicted, so don’t do it.”

    – I guess because I’m a fat girl, I take a bit of umbrage with this. I definitely understand what you were trying to say, and black people should take control of their health, but there are a lot worse things in life than having to shop at a store that carries plus sizes.

    Interesting read.

  • blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said:


    This is a HILL-AIR-EE-US list!! *LOL* Absolutely. Positively.



  • pjazzypar said:

    Excellent post! All of your pointer were well thought out and articulated. Young women please take heed! I remember when I lived in Long Beach, California and working in Compton and South Central Los Angeles. There were people who had never been to the beach or Hollywood and I was astounded because it was less than 20 miles away.

    I agree with Regina. While visiting NYC some years back I met these very nice people from Brooklyn and was talking to them about my itinerary when they mentioned that they never visited the statue of Liberty or the Twin Towers. Sometimes when you have something you think that it will always be available to you. We found out the hard way that there are no guarantees when the Towers were demolished.

  • Lola Gets said:

    I loved this list! I do concur with “C” about that Lane Bryant reference though.

    But I definitely, whole-heartedly agree with,

    “Learning and maintaining the balance between withstanding pressure from dudes and getting yours is part of becoming a real woman.”

    Its a fine line, but oh so rewarding once you learn to differentiate between the two!


  • Undercover Black Man said:

    Spectacularly good, Thembi.

  • Thembi said:

    @C and Lola

    Please dont get it twisted, Ive been a bigger girl my whole life. The thing is, as much as we may accept our bodies its just not healthy in the long run!

  • Qucifer said:

    Thembi I Love you, Love you, Love you for this!!!

    So Many hoodrats, no hometraining having girls, and in general young inexperienced chickies Do need to be told!!

  • KelleBelle said:

    Okay I’m about to be ignant so get ready.

    4. I know you ain’t talkin’ bout my hair. You know I have mixed race issues. Ha! Jokes, folks. I’m pro weave/natural/braids/whateva all the way. Whatever makes you look thinner.

    8. Sometimes you DO have to play the game! I’ll let you know if I win this round in my game I call Life. :)

    9. I know you ain’t talkin’ ’bout me always pressing about exercise and diet. Who are you even talkin’ to? I had no idea my old hair salon in Philly subscribed to your blog. Good stuff!

    Love you, mean it!

  • Gadgetgirl said:

    Great post! You nailed everything and #5 (Get out of town) especially hit home after talking to a cousin of mine a few days ago. She is 40 and haven’t been further than 5 miles away from her house. I mean, I don’t travel to St. Barts yearly but damn if I don’t have a passport stamped! Life’s too short not to have experienced something other than the usual bull. I told her about a baseball game my bf took me to and she was in awe! “For real?! Me and my man don’t do stuff like that…” It’s a ball game!

    Not to discount the other things like eating right, not becoming “Ghetto Stats” and the like, but more of us Black people need to broaden our horizons and go places-hell start with a museum and work from there 😉

  • Anonymiss said:

    LOVE it!

  • Luscious Librarian said:

    Hey Miss Lady. I think I have a solution to your dilemma regarding #4. Go old school. Straight up 1964 press and curl. You won’t have to deal with the chemicals and you can try out a few other styles. If you’re looking for more options check out Naturally Sophia’s blog. She just posted pics from the 1st Natural Hair Show in Atlanta.

  • Naturally Sophia said:

    I like all of the points you make here. My only small quarrel is with number 7. I don’t equate “acting white” with speaking correctly. If you need any evidence, please watch the Jerry Springer show. LOL! I get your point. We should speak correctly but that has nothing to do with how a person racially identifies. BTW, I LOVE your blog.

  • Brown Girl said:

    There’s a Queen on the throne not a King, so that would be ‘speak the Queen’s English’ … which in any case is basically impossible for an American to do.

  • ofthesun1 said:

    I’m late to the thread but I’m new to the blog, so there ya go. WWTD? – I totally enjoyed your list very much and would like to add:

    1) you are SPOT-ON re: #9 – black folks need to “turn the page” on fried foods and processed sugar, period. No disrespect to anyone on the message board, but black folks tend to get all prickly when the subject is exercising and getting fit, like it’s a vanity on your part. LISTEN people, we’re of all different heights, shapes and sizes, but EXCESS FAT CAN KILL YOU. Sorry, it’s the truth – heart disease, liver/kidney failure, diabetes, malignant tumors, the list goes on – all atributed to carrying excessive weight. You gotta exercise, period – not to get down to Kelly Rowland size, but to live past the age of 40 with no chronic illnesses, fibroid and post-menopausal tumors and to prevent the onset of osteoperorsis. One more thing – EAT YOUR (FRESH)VEGETABLES! Eight-hour cooked greens with smoked turkey doesn’t count. Always have a bag of fresh salad greens in the fridge. And a salad dressing with little sodium and NO SUGAR; the Hidden Valley Ranch should not be hiding in your arteries.

    2) EDUCATION, Education, Education – high school diplomas/ GED’s just don’t cut and we all know it. However you can and as long as it takes, GET THAT DEGREE. It’s not about just to make money – college teaches you how to think, react, follow through and accomplish, and how to represent the best of yourself. No excuses, just do it.

    3) Charity/Volunteerism. The world is not all about you and your young fabulosity, and selfishness is honestly, unattractive. I’m not talking about tickets to some annual NBA/United Way Baller Jam; find a local charity/non-profit/social work and show up. Keep showing up. Instead of stressing about fitting into that little-too-tight but nice older skirt, give it to a charity that helps Skid Row women find meaningful work, and go meet a few of the women. Then treat yourself to a new skirt; you’ll love how it fits.

    Lastly, I co-sign on travel; it’s what the world is FOR ladies, and let me tell you, Sistas are the American Express of travellers – WE ARE ACCEPTED EVERYWHERE! Just remember to be, as my parents taught me, a good guest/mind your manners – learn a bit of the langauge, at least greetings, please and thank you. Don’t fear traveling alone – if you really want to go somewhere and no one else is available when you are, plan it, save up for it and GO ANYWAY. It will be the best thing you ever did for yourself, I promise. Frankly, I prefer it – it’s not always the cheapest way to do, but it really is a vacation away from EVERYBODY, and that’s always a good thing.

    Again, good on ya for the list; thanks for letting me post.

  • Melly said:

    So beautiful! I am a 27 year old, married, mother of three, and I have been on this road to embracing the skin I am in for a little while now. This article has empowered me to keep moving forward, and love the skin I am in! Thank you thank you thank you! I am beautiful, from my thick hips, to my thick lips! Love it, and I am sharing it with every black woman, young and old that I Know!

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