I’m Every Woman
Black girl factory: no two the same.
Fat black girls with strong thighs and thick heels. Mixed, black girls with uncertain smiles and kinky hair. Green-haired black girls with glittery overalls and artistic souls. Athletic black girls with Adidas slides and a smirk. Dark, shining, dark skinned girls, glasses-clad bookworm girls, hand on hip, “look at me” girls, “i don’t like to be touched- get over it” girls. Blackity black black black black girls in every shape, size and curl pattern under the sun. Black girl, we love you.Black girl, I love you. This is my love letter to all the black girls I knew growing up, and it’s already too short.
Remember when you were a little black girl and you would sit cross-legged in front of the TV in your older sister’s room, on your older sister’s floor? Your notebook would be to your left and your fluffy, pink pen would be to your right, and your Barbie would be sitting, central in between your legs, arms perked out to the sides. You would comb her hair and with each stroke you would marvel at how quickly the hair would give in, would allow itself to go limp underneath the pressure of your life-size comb.
Do you remember channel 63 and channel 64? Nickelodeon and Disney Channel and “tune in for this on Friday at 7/8 central”? Do you remember the old Spice Girls tape that you would slide into the VCR player- how you fell in love with watching the tape glide in and be lowered on the platform once the flap broke? Do you remember sucking on the Fantasy Ball lollipops and doing your best Baby Spice impression, tilting your head to the side and widening your eyes like a surprised doll?
In this room, you would write out your first imaginings, your big ideas. You would start writing your Harry Potter fan-fiction, inserting yourself into every story (always ending up with Ronald Weasley at the end). When your favorite shows went on commercial, you would sit rapt with your journal, writing down every toy/doll/kitchen set that you would add to your Christmas list that year. Every night, you would groan with your sister around 9 pm when Nick @ Nite started and all these classic shows you didn’t know how to appreciate at the time would come on (think Golden Girls and Cheers).
In this room, you would receive your first glimpses of pop culture and be introduced to the black girls that would act as mirrors for you- mirrors that you would long to follow to wonderland, and mirrors that you couldn’t wait to shatter.
This is my ode to Sheila, Galleria, Denise, Scary Spice and Raven- the black girls I grew up with in front of my older sister’s television.
Profile 5: “I’m Sheila so back up.”
Remember the Amanda Show- the sketch “The Girls Room”? Like everyone, you loved Debbie, the silly girl who was obsessed with eggs. You remember laughing till your stomach hurt and mimicking her famous line “I like eggs” at inappropriate times throughout the school day. It wasn’t till years later that you would re-watch old clips of the show on Youtube and truly be introduced to Sheila.
Sheila- remember Sheila?
The watch-woman of the bathroom, following all orders doled out by the popular and narcissistic Amber. Wiki calls Sheila the “aggressive girl who disposes of unwelcome guests by giving them swirlies.” They don’t mention black. They never mention black.
In college, you would finally notice Sheila, and your fond memories of the sketch would be tarnished when you remember how everything Sheila did was emphasized with a snap, a hand on her hip, sucked teeth, a neck roll. You would notice how much of Sheila you tried to embody in your childhood; the way you often did these sassy black things for a laugh on and off stage, how resigned you were to be a sidekick to someone else’s story.
You will suddenly feel a desire to hold her, and hear more of her story
-to rewrite the black best friend narrative
-to finally give her voice.
Profile 6: Scary Space is the only SANE one here
Like Sheila in “The Girls Room”, you spent years being obsessed with the Spice Girls without ever fully seeing Scary Spice. When you and your sister chose Spice Girls, you would always choose Posh Spice, and she would always choose Baby Spice.
You remember despising Scary Spice. You hated her big afro hair, you hated her outfits (cheetah print was not your style), and you hated how she had to be so…BIG all the time. You didn’t desire to be big. You longed to be soft, to be lovely, adored; not larger than life.
As you got older, you would reclaim the words that have been used to oppress you. As a black woman, you reclaim Nigga; as a queer person, you reclaim queer….
“Crazy, bitch. Women are crazy. She cray. It’s scary!”
and as a woman with anxiety and depression, you begin to reclaim the word “scary” and “crazy” just like Scary Spice. You inhabit the things about you that people are too closed minded to embrace. You shift into yourself. You wish that you had the knowledge and support to reclaim these terms as a kid, but you know that you can reclaim them now.
You imagine Scary Spice staring head on into the camera, stretching her jaw to prepare for a roar.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 4!