For Educated Black Girls Who’re Just Tryin to Maintain when Degrees Ain’t Enuf

A Black woman academic steps into a bar. . . Okay, okay. It’s not a funny joke. So here’s what happened. I decided to venture out  to a bar for St. Patty’s Day in my small predominantly white college town.  The beats, which I could hear as soon as stepped out of my car, immediately put me in the mind of a different version of my life, a time in the not-too-distant past where I could meet with my girls, grab a drink, and shake something. But when I stepped in the door,  I immediately started thinking of one of those items on the checklist of white privileges that I teach to my students: “I can arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” Must be nice.

I must admit though that the bass was bumping, and the crowd was jumping. And I was hoping that music would be the great unifier, since most of it was good ol’ all-American Hip Hop. After a few awkward attempts to network, I gave up, made my way to the middle of the floor, and started to move. A thick Black girl in the middle of a sea of smiling white folks is not exactly inconspicuous, however.  So a few moments later, my [happily married] colleague Brice rolled up: “So what’s your situation? Are you married or single or what?”

Situation. What a good word for it. I’m really glad this music is drowning out my sigh.

“Single,” I said.  Then he peered at me, concerned, shaking his head: “how do you maintain yourself here?” It wasn’t pity, for once. It wasn’t even the presumptive arrogance of those guys who then promise to introduce you to their boy or tell you what you need to do to get a man. None of that. He was right. Most of my colleagues can maintain here because they’re partnered.

Groping for a good feminist response, I said simply, “it’s a good thing I like myself.” Since I spend so much time with myself. And I do like myself. But what I was thinking was, I’m just trying to MAINTAIN my dignity right now. And it was certainly being tested, as I stood in the middle of that dance floor feeling the kind of lonely that you can only feel when you’re the only one in a room full of people, who are so color blind, that they literally can’t see you.

While I was busy “shaking it like a Polaroid Picture,” I was reminded that this moment was just a snapshot. It’s not the whole picture.

And that is all I have to offer in the way of pithy aphorisms. I will, however, share with you

A Top Ten List For Educated Black Girls Who’re Just Tryin’ to Maintain when Degrees Ain’t Enuf

10. In the words of Zora, Love yourself “when you are laughing, and then again when you are looking mean and impressive.”

9.Drown your sorrows in Haagen-Dazs or your grandmama’s mac-and-cheese while watching Love Jones on repeat.

8.Get a gym membership. Use it. [See #9]

7.Get a hobby. Cooking is mine. Btw, reading and writing might not work if that’s what you do for a living.

6.Embrace your sexy. Yes, feminists can be sexy.

5. Stop waiting to exhale. Go on and breathe.  Why? Because holding your breath until you get what you want has all the markings of a temper tantrum, and the end result is that you’re gonna faint and nobody will be there to catch you. And that really will be a situation.

4.Read feminist romance novels and erotica. Yes, feminists like sex, and since we read about it, theorize about it and teach about it, I’d venture to say, we’re probably pretty good at it. [Reading Recommendation: Gwyneth Bolton]

3.Refuse to dumb down. Why? Cause it’s dumb, and you’ll look dumb doing it.  Besides the fact that you can’t pull that shit off.  Hebetude, like attitude, is not the business. [See how those big words just come slipping out.]

2. Retain the services of a maintenance man or woman. [See #4]

And when you find yourself in a crowded room, and you feel invisible go on and

1.Dance like nobody’s watching. Because hell, for good or ill, they probably aren’t.

crunktastic

9 thoughts on “For Educated Black Girls Who’re Just Tryin to Maintain when Degrees Ain’t Enuf

  1. After attending grad school at a small university town in California and then moving to Portland, I certainly know what it’s like to be the black girl alone in the middle of the dance floor. Your posts always hit home, but this one was on point. I wish I’d read your Top Ten list BEFORE I decided it was pointless to go out last night.

    Keep posting! We are reading and listening!

  2. Top Five Ways I Maintain

    5. Take a moment for myself
    4. Disrupt
    3. Quote Audre Lorde to everyone who will listen (See #4)
    2. Diversify my hairstyle
    1. Keep a crew of crunk feminists on speed dial

    Thanks B. for sharing your maintenance plan. #5 and #3 were particularly helpful today.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! Your list is on point and I’m loving #5. All the “positive energy” in the world doesn’t change the fact that black women who don’t spend their lives in their hometowns find themselves in these situations frequently. Like Sheri said, I’m thankful for the CF’s I have on speed dial!

  4. Peace Educated Sista!
    Thanks for your courage and honesty. I really enjoyed this post.

    -B

  5. Pingback: Feel Your Way Thru, When You Can’t Think Your Way Out: Advice from a Classic Overachiever « The Crunk Feminist Collective

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