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 😉