Monday Notes: Resisting Social Norms

The other day, I went for my biannual haircut. The difference is I’ve been growing my gray hair out since 2021. It’s blossomed a lot faster than I’d anticipated, adding about four inches of snowy white strands on either side of my head, and a salt-and-pepper effect from my crown to the nape of my neck. 

“I saw your pictures on Instagram,” my stylist said. “And I was like, ‘oh, she must done decided to let it all go.’” 

I laughed and assured her that was exactly what I’d decided. 

“It’s been harder than I thought,” I told her. “One time my husband looked over and asked, ‘are you just gonna have a big gray afro?’ But you know…I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do with it just yet.” Then, I confided, “I almost re-dyed it.” 

“Hmmmph,” she replied.

Usually, my stylist finishes my cut and dramatically swirls me around to face the full-length mirror. This time, though, she turned the chair slowly. “Yeah. It’s all just out there,” she said borderline dismayed. “You gotta do something: cut it, color it, braids.” 

“Do I?” 

“Yeah! You gotta give your husband something to look at, glrl. He don’t wanna see that!” she said, referring to my reflection.


People say a lot of things to me. I imagine it’s because I’m open to authentic conversations that lend themselves to a safe space for others’ internal thoughts. When these bursts of opinions occur, oftentimes I’m quiet. I don’t know what to say because so much is going through my head. That’s what happened the day my stylist told me I needed to give my husband something to look at.

I wanted to tell her that her perspective was based on society’s predisposition to bend toward the male gaze. Women are born into a system where we we’re taught to worry about wearing clothes to attract a man, but not wearing clothes where we appear like so-called sluts; female athletes adhere to dress codes that represent the 19th century, instead of the 21st, and still cater to wearing athletic clothing intended to appeal to men; as children, we’re taught to follow K-12 dress codes that teach girls their bodies are something to be policed because boys don’t know how to control their hormones; and we’re implicitly taught to dye our hair as we age, so that we can be more appealing…to men. 

But I was in a hair salon, not a lecture hall, so I said this, instead: “Luckily, I have high self-esteem.” Then, I paid my bill, shared a final laugh, and left. 

However, the thought that another woman, who is a licensed beautician, would suggest to me that the only way to be beautiful is to create an illusion with a cut, color, or braids weighed on me for a couple days. 

Here’s why.

Her comment implied that I’m less desirable, because I have gray hair. And that’s ridiculous. I have a whole-ass body attached to my hair. Since wearing my hair the way it naturally grows out of my head, I’ve also done the following with my body: straightened my teeth, embraced wearing high-waisted bikinis, and worn clothes that fit my personality. Also worth mentioning, my blood pressure, HDL, LDL, A1c, and weight are low. Lastly, I think I look pretty good.

Do I sometimes want my hair to be the reddish-brown color with which I was born? Sure. Gray hair does shift your appearance, but regardless, I’m me. Shouldn’t I love me—the way I look? Shouldn’t I appreciate how I look today, not long for the beauty of yesteryear? 

I don’t want to be too hard on my current stylist. I have nothing against her personally. She—like many of us—is a product of our society. Resisting social norms is hard work. Social constructs abound. Someone makes “the rules,” and we follow them. That’s why I started dying my hair in my thirties. Whether it was family, friends, or the media, I’d learned that gray hair was for a specific decade of life, even though the average age to begin going gray is in your 30s. So, when I found my first strand, I followed suit. I professionally dyed my hair so much one year, it fell out in clumps. You know who advised me to stop over-processing my hair? No one, not even the stylist I had at the time. Women, especially professional beauticians, condone covering up signs of aging, while simultaneously promoting the loss of ourselves and our own sense of beauty. It’s the norm. 

But I wish it would stop. 

I wish we could be happy just being our natural selves. I wish we would stop worrying about impressing men or other women. I wish we could look in the mirror and love what we see, no matter what. 


Monday Notes: The Power of Story

Shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I received several notifications from writing platforms. These publications had an urgent interest in “personal abortion stories.” Suddenly, hearing about women’s lived experiences was integral. I understand why. 

Stories are important. 

It’s one thing to be marching around in your knit, pink pussy hat; it’s quite another to share why you feel the need to. 

Sometimes, marching is easier than telling the person who disagrees with you that, you too, had an abortion at one point in your life. However, I’d argue that the narrative you share is what will actually create empathy, and eventually, a nuanced understanding of an issue.

Personal story is why the #MeToo movement was partly successful. For the first time that I know of, not only women, but also men were discussing definitions of sexual harassment. Is giving someone a compliment okay? Can I ask my coworker out on a date? If someone says, “yes” to sex, and then “no,” what should happen? I believe the only reason we were able to openly have conversation is because your favorite celebrity, your mother, or your friend shared a #MeToo story, and you offered a compassionate ear.

But personal stories are hard to share. 

I don’t want to speak for everyone, but it seems we’ve collectively bought into a similar message: life should be lived in shame. Sometimes, we do it to one another. For example, anytime you suggest for someone not to openly share what happened to them, you’re encouraging them to live a secret life of shame. And so we keep things from one another, but to what end?

I guarantee you know at least one woman who has had an abortion, and I’d bet money that at least one person explicitly or implicitly told her to hide her story. Subsequently, women who’ve chosen abortion live with the following: shame for getting pregnant, shame for getting an abortion, shame for not choosing motherhood, or D: All of the above. 

Even those of us who lived in homes supportive of our choices still navigated a bickering country that saw women who had abortions as another type of human being, separate from society and meant to be shamed, shunned, and lectured. We were seen as people who committed shameful acts. We were called murderers. In our own ways, each of us wore handcrafted scarlet letters, even if the only one who saw that red “A” was us when we looked in the mirror. 

So I get it. Choices can create isolation, and sharing about them can feel as if you’ll be further ostracized from society. 

But stories are important. Shared narratives make something less of an anomaly. 

So, I was thinking…What if instead of scaring and shaming women, we actually provided them with our own sex stories: stories about contraception, stories about sexually transmitted infections, stories about sex without love, stories about sex with love, stories about pregnancy, stories about birth, stories about miscarriages, and stories about abortion. The stories about abortion would be encompassed in stories about sex, not as fear tactics or moral instruction, but as an option for what could occur, should you need it.

Personal abortion stories should’ve been a part of our sex conversations since 1973. Now, it seems major publications are seeking narratives as a reactive form of storytelling. The conservative, Republican Supreme Court has “gone rogue,” so we need abortion stories—NOW! 

Sheesh! Reactivity to issues seems like an immature and exhausting way to be in the world. 

Personal abortion stories should have been part of our lives over the past fifty years. Perhaps, if more women discussed the commonality of our experiences, then we’d be less likely to allow a court, men, or anyone else to take away our rights. But as long as we’re tucking our lives away in the crevices of our closets and acting as if we know not of what those other heathens speak of, well…we get where we are now. 

Please don’t mistake this for victim shaming. It just seems that at some point, we have to stop living in shame for fear of what others, especially those who look like us and may have had similar experiences may say. Maybe if we would’ve shared “personal abortion stories” sooner, we would have a different national narrative. 

Or maybe I’m living in la-la land, we’re all powerless, and Roe v. Wade was always going to be overturned. I’d like to think otherwise, though. I’m a writer, after all, and believing in the power of story is what gives me hope.


Monday Notes: 3 Things I’m Tired of Talking About

Even though I’m not in the States, the way the world is set up, I’m still in tune with the news, and let me tell you … recent events have left me tired of recycling the same conversation over and over.

Domestic Terrorism against Black Lives

The Federal Bureau of Investitgation (FBI) defines domestic terrorism as violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. 

Therefore, when Payton Gendron not only killed ten people in Buffalo, who were mostly Black, but also left behind some type of white supremacist manifesto, it should’ve been a no-brainer that his acts were the literal definition of *domestic terrorism. What I’ve noticed, though, is that Black people seem to understand domestic terrorism and the consistent role it has played in American history. Other people, not so much. 

There’s always some person who wants to wait until all the evidence comes out, and even when all the evidence comes out, that person wants to take a meticulous look at how each piece of evidence may not really be racist, and even if they somehow agree that this incident is domestic terrorism against Black people, then they’ll only agree that it’s this one incident, not an historical pattern. And I’m tired of talking about it.

School Violence

Speaking of domestic terrorism, I’m also tired of discussing school violence in America. But I suspect conversations centered on the Uvalde incident will not last long. 

Remember Columbine? That was 1999. We were shocked. Though we have made strides in police officer and teacher preparedness, I mostly remember the US arguing about gun control. Remember Sandy Hook? That was 2012. It was a traumatic mess. Schools have done a great job of decreasing bullying, which Ron Avi Astor attributes to a decrease in overall school violence. But even then, we argued about whether it really happened, there were a bunch of lawsuits, and there was no national shift in legislation. Remember Parkland? That was 2018. It, too, was traumatic. Know what happened? There were more lawsuits, and because it’s Florida, a hasty bill was passed allowing teachers to be armed. Luckily, school districts disagreed. Still, there was no US legislation to protect public school students, faculty, or staff.

With this one, I’m tired of talking about school violence as if history hasn’t shown us things will worsen. Why do I have to convince someone there’s a problem, whether it be a mental health one, a gun control one, or a school violence one? In my opinion, the reason school violence hasn’t been resolved is because it is not a priority for elected officials. You know what is a priority? Banning critical race theory, redistricting every ten years, and drumroll please …

Abortion

Though I’ve decided to continue sharing part of my story and other people’s stories as a way to raise awareness, I’m tired of talking about abortion. Abortion has been a topic for half a decade, not reproductive rights and not women’s health, but abortion, specifically. You know why? (Aside from patriarchal ideology), it’s because it has remained a priority for elected officials, who want to advance a conservative ideology, and as the current Florida governor has shown, when elected officials prioritize something, that something gets all the attention in the world, sans what the majority of constituents actually want or need.

For example, even though the majority of US adults agree that abortion should be legal, no matter the circumstance, states continue to push for the opposite. Kind of like school violence, why do I have to convince you that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, whether you, the Bible, or the church agree? The only thing I have left to say is I hope there’s someone left to revolt when the government comes for something you have the natural right to do.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk. Is there anything you’re tired of talking about? Let’s put it in the purge pile in the comments, then let us go effect change that will protect all US citizens.

*Officials are considering a terrorism charge for Gendron


Monday Notes: A Post-Mother’s Day Message for the Motherless

Dear Motherless Child, 

I see you.

If you’ve just lost your mother, then a holiday, like Mother’s Day may seem strange. You’ll want to acknowledge that you, too, had a mother, good, bad, or otherwise. A woman birthed or adopted you and provided you with unconditional love. But now you’re in a different club. You may walk by aisles of Mother’s Day cards, their pinks and reds taunting you. You may feel inclined to buy one, forgetting you have no one for whom this would be appropriate. Or you may feel as if someone should buy you a card as recognition for your loss. Wouldn’t it be nice if Hallmark made a greeting card that began—I know it’s Mother’s Day, and you just lost yours…? But they don’t. The most you may have is Mother’s Day at church where you’re encouraged to partake in a new tradition, wearing a white carnation, symbolizing your mother’s death

Women who possess a nurturing gene may try to mother you. Their gestures will stem from kindness. Their heartstrings will lengthen and tug and wrap tightly around you, until you can’t breathe. But they will fail, because they are not your mother. As Mouse, a seven-year-old fictional character from the book Looking for Hope says, “there’s nothing like your own mother.” She’s right. Only the woman assigned to you knew the lilt in your voice when you were angry or excited. Only your mother knew when you needed a hug or extra encouragement. It is normal to have mixed feelings about others’ good intentions. Feeling grateful for other women who’ve served as proxy is understandable; wishing you had your own mother is also valid. The latter doesn’t make you ungrateful; it makes you sad and grieving. And that’s okay.

If it’s been a few years since your mother died, then the compassion some showed may have worn off. Friends and family may even suggest that you should “get over it,” as if losing one’s mother is akin to a bad breakup. However, even bad breakups can be hard to “get over.” Sometimes, bad breakups last years in the cells of your body and crevices of your brain. Shouldn’t losing one’s mother take a bit of time? Still, you’ll learn to have compassion for these people. They don’t get it. They don’t understand. Though we may suspect, not one of us knows how we will feel when our mother dies. Even if it’s an expected event, prompted by a terminal illness, or even if you hated her for trivial or grandiose reasons, no one understands the bundle of emotions that may bubble to the surface, threatening to erupt, until it happens. So, offer a smidge of grace for those who think you should “get over” your mother’s death. They simply don’t know.

Losing one’s mother, no matter your age, is not easy. But here’s what I hope for you. I hope these words are comforting. I hope you’ve found a space where other motherless children convene. I hope peace fills the void. 

Love,

a motherless child

RESOURCES

Motherless Daughters Online Source

Motherless Daughters

Blog Post about Motherless Daughters Retreat

Abortion: A Return to Pro-Choice

I usually don’t post on a Thursday, but given the times we live in and circumstances in the United States, today it’s necessary. You may have read this personal essay already. If not, it has been re-published by Tangled Locks Journal to raise awareness and support organizations, like Planned Parenthood. Comments are turned off here and there. If you’re interested in reading personal stories centered on abortion, then please follow Tangled Locks Journal; they’ll be featuring essays as long as women’s rights continue to be disenfranchised.

Tangled Locks Journal

My father taught me about sex when I started my period. We sat on the loveseat, where he explained how menstruation worked, a banana balanced on his thigh. I suspected this was my mother’s idea, although she and I never discussed sex or women’s bodies.

My father explained bleeding meant I could now get pregnant, if I ever had sex, and that it was my responsibility to avoid such circumstances. A condom would do the trick. He pulled one out of his pocket, ripped open the small package, and showed me how to put it on the banana, a mock penis. I suppose he thought it appropriate to cram three separate topics – sex, safe-sex, and periods – into one conversation because we never revisited either again. But at ten years old, I couldn’t comprehend what fake penises and condoms had to do with the pain in my lower abdomen…

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Monday Notes: 8 Titles of Blogs I’m Not Going to Write

Frequently, I think of a title of an essay or a blog post, but then I don’t really have a lot to say about it. I’m doing a little spring cleaning of my phone and thought I’d share these with you before I delete them foreva.

Women and other Objects

Women used to be treated as objects. I’m talking about literal objects. For example, it is common in many cultures for the father to be “in charge” of his daughter and then when she marries, the husband is “in charge” of her. One clear is example is found in this article, 18 Countries where Women Need their Husband’s Permission to Work. I was going to write something about this, but honestly, I didn’t feel like researching more facts to prove my underlying point, which is that the United States isn’t too far from treating women like other countries do.

CliffsNotes and Sound Bites

I’m sure by now you know that people will argue on social media about something that they haven’t fully read or even viewed. Well, people do this offline, too, and I’m kind of tired of it. I realized this while reading Will Smith’s memoir. I found that people really thought they could hold a conversation about Will because Jada hosts the Red Table Talk, where she shares personal stories. However, Will’s book includes additional information from his point of view. You cannot discuss Will (the book) if you haven’t read the book. You just can’t. I liken this to when people used to read CliffsNotes, instead of the actual novel. It’s never the same.

The Price We Pay for Entertainment

I recently watched We Need to Talk about Cosby, which is excellent, by the way. Prior to viewing, I already believed (if that is the right word) that Cosby drugged and raped women, so I didn’t watch for confirmation. I viewed this doc to see if there was another angle to the story, and there was. But afterwards, I thought about other famous men who’ve been accused of sexual deviancy (i.e., R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, etc.). There’s always this societal conundrum where we don’t want to give up our beloved entertainment seemingly at the risk of protecting or believing women. And I don’t get it. I don’t have to watch The Cosby Show ever again, and he didn’t even violate me. I can’t imagine how the women he actually hurt feel when they see his face on television.

Banning Critical Race Theory

The first time I learned about critical race theory (CRT) was during my doctoral program in the early 2000s. However, while I was teaching high school English, specifically AP and Dual Enrollment, students read about and responded to texts in ways that demonstrated CRT. For example, I showed the documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning, about Brenton Butler, a Black Jacksonville teenaged boy who was falsely accused of killing a white woman. Students discussed and wrote about structural racism, the justice system, and their rights as teenagers should this happen to them (because after all, it happened in their city). When I hear about Florida banning CRT in public schools, so as not to “distort historical events,” I want to laugh because clearly there’s a misunderstanding about what CRT is, and I want to cry because academic freedom is being stripped right in public view, but no one seems to care.

Anything that isn’t Nurtured Won’t Grow

Relationships, talent, whatever you can name, if you want it to blossom, then you have to nurture it.

Corona Chronicles: Why COVID is Still in the United States

This was going to be a criticism of everyone, including myself. Here’s a running list of what I’ve observed:

  • Not wearing a mask
  • Wearing a mask below the nose
  • Taking a mask off to sneeze
  • Loose and confusing restrictions
  • Allowing K-12 schools to be open without mask mandates
  • Not washing hands
  • Wearing a mask in the restaurant when you walk in, and then taking it off while you’re sitting down eating and socializing
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people, inside or outside
  • Having rules for your establishment and not enforcing them
  • Spreading false information. My daughter works at Starbucks. According to her manager, if you have COVID, you can come to work three days later, because you won’t be able to spread it to others. Let that sink in. Your latte may be coming with a dose of something unexpected.

The American Dream and other Fairy Tales

This was probably going to be a critique of the myth of meritocracy and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, but I don’t remember. I stand by the title, though.

Emotion Words

The next time you interact with someone, remember this: everyone doesn’t know how to use their emotion words, so be kind.

As usual, please feel free to comment on any or all of these, or if you’re a writer, feel free to tag me if you’re feeling inspired to take on a topic 😉


Monday Notes: Understanding L❤️VE with Will Smith, bell hooks, and Gary Chapman

Recently, I read Will Smith’s memoir, Will, bell hooks’ All about Love, and Gary Chapman’s, The 5 Love Languages. Here are three common themes each book reinforced about my understanding of love:

Love is deeper than what we’ve learned.

Each author makes clear that love is more than what we were implicitly shown and explicitly taught.  

As a Black, feminist scholar, bell hooks’ message is that what many of us have learned about love is based on the fantasies of men, which is rooted in patriarchy. Therefore, she uses a more in-depth definition from social psychologist Erich Fromm. Fromm says that love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” That’s deep, right?

Gary Chapman is a pastor, and much of what he writes is rooted in Christianity and scripture. For example, he alludes to Genesis 2:24, but he clarifies that “becoming one flesh … did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way.”

Pop culture icon, Will Smith describes the evolution of his relationship with Jada as something that grew to be more spiritual. They’ve publicly call each other “life partners,” which implies something more than riding off into the sunset with a beau.

As someone who’s been married for twenty-five years, the idea that love is more than what we’ve been fed resonates. My marriage to Dwight is the most transformative relationship I’ve ever had. He’s been instrumental to my self-evolution. Through our relationship, I have learned what it means to love someone and to be loved.

What you learn in your family of origin shapes how you view love.

The idea that our families teach us how to love is not new; however, each author shares a nuanced approach to this concept.

bell hooks’ says that “to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” She also suggests a family’s love doesn’t always feel like love because the love we receive from family is primarily care, which is just one component. Many of us do not learn each characteristic of love from our families. Do you see how this can pose a problem for future relationships?

Gary Chapman also explains that many of us have learned how to show love based on the family in which we were raised. For example, my mother showed love by giving gifts. She expressed this love language by throwing parties. I always had two birthday parties—one on my actual birthday and another on the weekend with either family or friends. Guess what I thought love was for a very long time? Guess what my primary love language is?

Will Smith’s memoir brilliantly illustrates how we pass on generational patterns of showing love, whether they worked for us or not. His abusive father showed love through a work ethic and the result of the work ethic, making money, which provided safety and shelter. bell hooks would call this care, and Chapman would label it acts of service. Will then showed that type of love to his wife and children, and even though their family looks hella successful, it backfired; his wife and children didn’t feel loved.

Love is a choice.

Is love a choice? My experience makes me say no.

I maintain that I didn’t not choose to love Dwight any more than I choose to breathe. As soon as we met, our union was solidified. Gary Chapman found this concept so important he devoted an entire chapter to it. He calls this beginning, in-love phase “a temporary emotional high” and “on the level of instinct.” Everything after that is where he says the “real love” begins.

Cool. Chapman agrees with me. We don’t choose to be in love. But maybe we do choose everything after that, which maintains love?

bell hooks says it’s important to acknowledge love as a choice as a way to take ownership of our feelings and actions. She says, “to begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.”

This makes sense to me. Choosing to love or to be loving makes every act intentional, not some willy-nilly, out of control situation.

A story from Will Smith’s memoir that shows how love is a choice was about his daughter, Willow. Willow asked him this paraphrased question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He implied that every argument, every misunderstanding asks this question: Does it matter to you how I feel? He goes on to explain that we show each other the answer by our actions, by the choices we make, which reveal how we choose to love one another.

So, yep. I get it.

We can say, “I love you” a million times, but when it comes down to specific actions, are we choosing to be loving toward the person we say we love? The answer is the difference between someone feeling loved as opposed to just hearing words.  

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I know I got a little theoretical, but hey. It happens. Let me know what you think about love.


Thoughts On My 25th Wedding Anniversary

“They look like somebody made them!” That’s what one of our wedding guests said on the day we married. She’d reiterated my exact sentiments ever since the first day we’d met—someone made him just for me.

From the very beginning, we’ve had best friend vibes. Whether we were bouncing a ball around outside of his apartment or lying in the grass on campus, while staring at the clouds, once we decided we were a couple, we pretty much did everything together.

I did that thing that a lot of people do—ignored whoever was a friend at the time and poured all my attention and energy into this new relationship. We created a bubble and constantly prioritized one another.

One time, when his friends were over having drinks, one of them kept asking me to grab him another beer.

“Aye! My babe is not the maid,” he replied, while gently stopping me from leaving the couch.

He saw me as important, and in that moment, decided I wouldn’t be treated any type of way.

I felt secure.

When he graduated, leaving me to finish two years of college and creating a 140-mile long-distance relationship, we remained committed to one another. We spoke on the phone every night, until our voices turned to snores. Friday nights, he arrived on campus as soon as he finished with work; Monday mornings he arrived back home just in time to clock in.  

We. were. in. love.

The three years prior to our marriage, we spent a lot of time talking. We still do. Whether it’s the big stuff, like abortion, religion, and politics, or concepts, like veganism and over-population, there’s nothing you can ask either of us that we won’t know how to answer for the other person.

By the time Dwight asked me to marry him November 1995, I already knew I’d say, “yes.” We’d talked about it. But I still cried. The whole ordeal seemed surreal. Even when we married the following year, I floated above our heads and watched myself utter those famous two words, and ride in a horse and carriage, and eat chocolate cake, and do the hustle, and…and…and. Even for my extroverted, partying self, our wedding was very performative, and I had a nagging sense it was unnecessary.

All I ever wanted was to be with Dwight, lying in the grass, looking at the clouds.

“Are you okay?” my father asked as he drove us to the airport for our honeymoon.

I always wondered if he saw the dream state in my eyes, the awe that any of this was happening.

“I’m fine,” I said.

Life buzzed by and we met the expectations of a husband and wife:

✅ 2 kids

✅ house

✅ dog

✅ bills

And the couple who used to walk in the rain, hand-in-hand, just because ceased to exist. Handwritten love notes attached to roses dissipated. Instead, we were replaced with society’s version of love and marriage. The world calls it “growing up,” but I call it a factory-model rendition of love.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I want to be clear. You can be in a committed relationship and never marry. You can marry and never have children. You can have children, be in a committed relationship, and never marry. I’ll stop here.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, I finally realized we could’ve done this love thing however we wanted. We can do this love thing however we want. Whether it’s walking in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica or biking on a trail at the beach, I hope we’ll spend the next twenty-five years making up ways to be in love…in whatever way best suits us.



*Monday Notes: Doctors and Meds

In 1999, I delivered my first baby. Back then, it was almost a given that you would have an epidural. But I decided otherwise. I went in knowing this wasn’t what I wanted. The nurses almost seemed to mock me as the day wore on. Eventually, I did ask for one because the pain was unbearable; however, it was too late. All I could have was a small amount of Demerol. But you know what? Our daughter was the only baby in the unit wide awake. That’s because when mothers take drugs, then babies are drugged…and it makes them sleepy. Since then, I’ve always wondered why doctors in the United States are so quick to offer medication and why we’re so quick to take them.

Fast forward to a few years ago. My gynecologist told me I was perimenopausal, and then she off-handedly said, “I can put you on a birth control pill.”

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why I would need to take birth control in my forties. It made no sense, and she didn’t explain it. After research, I now understand it was because menopause is a hormonal situation that may require replacement hormones for balance. However, I’ve also learned that there are other ways to manage hormones other than popping a pill.

Fast, fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist for a recurring cough I’ve had. He diagnosed me with laryngopharyngeal acid reflux, asked me if I drank alcohol or coffee, then quickly wrote a script. When I read the side effects, one of them, though rare, is lupus. Lupus? In addition to this, it’s not good for people with low white blood cell counts, which I also have.

“Is there something else I can do…something more natural?” I asked the physician’s assistant.

The answer was another prescription, with 40 possible side effects. That’s when I decided I would do what I always do: read and research on my own and talk to my friends to see what they knew.

Like most illnesses, this type of reflux can also be repaired with a specific diet. One of my friends revealed that she was prescribed medication for her acid reflux, too. And the meds were only supposed to be used for months, but her doctor had her on them for years! She changed her diet, figured out her triggers, and removed the meds from her life. Another friend suggested an Ayurvedic diet. When I confirmed my dosha and read about the types of foods I should eat, they perfectly aligned with what I’d read about non-acidic foods. It is totally possible to shift my diet and reflux.

Part of my point here is that US doctors seem to be on a different page than I am. Their purpose doesn’t seem to be to get to the root causes of issues or even to heal them. It seems they’re paid to prescribe medications for as long as humanly possible, no matter the side effects, even if there are alternative, simpler solutions.

My other point is, as patients, we should be a bit more discerning about what medications we allow in our bodies. I know there are times when there really is no choice in the matter. For example, my youngest daughter had to be delivered via C-section. There was no way I could opt out of an epidural; it was mandatory for that type of operation. But if your illness isn’t extreme or chronic, then I think it’s worth taking a second look at alternative options.


*I’m a Dr. but not that kind of doctor. This is my opinion. Seek advice from your physician if you’re having medical issues.

Monday Notes: BOTH/AND

I’ve been living in a space of both/and since 2020. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been living in this space for a while, but I decided to be more blatant about the message December 2020.

I started with a photoshoot.

When I planned to take photos, I knew I wanted to wear something a little edgy to represent my personality. A friend and I saw these faux leather leggings at a Jacksonville boutique.

“These are perfect!” she screamed.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What about my belly?”

You see, ever since I gave birth via C-section in 2001, I’ve been leery about showing my midsection. For some reason, the obstetrician didn’t have the good sense to sew my lower abdomen back how he found it. No amount of Crossfit or crunches can mend it.

“If I had your belly, I’d buy five of these,” friend said.

Perspective. It didn’t matter. I can be both sexy and show my fupa…in public.

The next thing I wanted to convey was professionalism on my terms. The last time I took photos, I was entering my writing persona. I wanted to convey confidence and a personal identity. You see, my mother’s side of the family retells a story about how decades ago, one could tell women who were ladies of the evening by the color shoes they wore—red. The problem in my mind was that I’ve always been fond of red. But who wants to be associated with prostitution? In 2016, I decided a white suit, red blouse, and red heels were symbolic. I could be both educated and stylish…in red shoes.

This time around, I was truly exhausted by all of the rules we put on ourselves and others. I mean, you don’t have to wear a business suit to mean business. Do you? A black, denim jacket with puffy sleeves seemed ideal. I could be both business minded and unconventional.

Finally, I wanted to convey my love for reading and writing. I also wanted to show that you don’t have to look a certain way to be a reader or a writer. I know this is common sense, but for some reason, it seems society views readers and writers in a stereotyped way. Maybe it’s because in reality only 5% of traditional publishing includes Black people, or maybe it’s because of media portrayals. I mean can you name three characters in a series or movie who are depicted as loving reading or writing who are not white?

Apologies for that major digression. My point is I wanted to be photographed among the stacks (of a bookstore) on purpose. I know librarians and people who work at bookstores have been stereotyped as having top buns and looking over readers, but again, I wanted to shatter that myth—for myself. I don’t have to fit a mold to be an avid reader or a successful writer. I just have to love books and write.

So, yeah. Both/And.

I can be both sexy and a certain age with childbirth scars.

I can be both professional and wear a puffy, black denim jacket.

I can be both an avid reader and writer and be my regular Black self, two-and-a-half-inch patent leather heels and all.

What are your both/ands? And if you have a few movies or television shows that depict Black characters who love to read or write, drop them in the comments, so we can all be more aware 😉