For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted people to like me. For years, I tried to please everyone, tried to juggle countless personalities and identities, hoping to please everyone and be universally liked. I tried to be everything to everyone, to the point where I didn’t know who I actually was. But as I’ve found my voice and begun to embrace who I truly am, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only impossible to try and please everyone; it’s harmful.
In the tattered scrapbook of old friends and extended family members, we all have one or two people with whom we continually clash. Perhaps it’s religious differences. Maybe it’s politics. It could be even be bad blood between other relatives or friends of yours. It could be anything. You may even learn to embrace the tension, to learn from the discord. But what if that relationship becomes more than a simple clash? What do you do when it turns toxic? Keep reading »
It is simple, what happened. I was an eager-eyed and relatively coy 18-year-old who was convinced that I was going to attend any four year university for acting, because I was a Capital A Actress. I applied to many schools for acting, I performed earnest monologues in front of expressionless adults behind a folding table. They thanked me for my time, my tights and sensible flats making me feel pulled together and adult. I wrote an essay about moving to California. The first paragraph contained the word “plucky,” which my eleventh grade English teacher Mr. Green circled with a red pen and scribbled “Good!” in the margin. I applied to Emerson College on a whim, as a backup plan, on the off chance that one of the prestigious and extremely competitive acting programs I applied to wouldn’t accept me. I navigated the hell that is the FAFSA, calling my father on the phone every night to make sure he got the papers and filled them out, pressing the papers into my mother’s hands, making sure that she did her part. I gathered all these things, I sent them in, I waited.
Emerson accepted me as a freshman — for writing, not acting — for the fall of 2000, a welcome relief after two weeks full of skinny rejection letters from various acting programs. I awaited the bounty of financial aid money that I would surely receive. Thanks to complications and a couple of sticky conversations about finances I mediated between my father and stepfather, it turned out that despite how it actually was, on paper, it looked like my combined parents made too much money to qualify for much financial aid, despite the fact that my mother and stepfather had already informed me they were not contributing to my higher education. What came was a paltry offering, an insult really, and not nearly enough money to pay for even one class, let alone an entire semester. After a week of tears and debate and gnashing of teeth, I had two options — apply to the state school in Buffalo, start in the spring semester and go to college in a town where it snowed from October to April, or defer admission at Emerson and reapply for financial aid. Deferring admission seemed the lesser of two evils, so I packed my bags and flew back to New York after high school graduation where I’d wait out my self-inflicted gap year. Keep reading »
When you grow up in a relatively small town in suburban New Jersey, being the only person of color in your class, you’d understand why I had no idea that other members of my race consider me “light-skinned.” Where I grew up, there was no such thing. You were either black, white, Spanish or Indian. No one paid much attention to the shade of your skin or where your blackness/whiteness originated –at least not in my circle. You only cared about what you saw. Sure, some racism and stereotyping existed, but there was no in-depth analysis or scrutiny about the shade of your skin.
In some ways that method was great. It erased the turmoil experienced by many other African-Americans and allowed everyone to just be accepted for who they were. On the other hand, my peers and I were ill-prepared for the real world. We grew up a bunch of colorblind individuals who believed in treating everyone equally regardless of historical implications and racial indifferences. We were ignorant. Keep reading »
“Oooh this one looks discreet.”
My mom held up a hot pink vibrator. I was 16 years old and instead of going home to do homework or grab a snack like any normal teen, our mother-daughter outing consisted of going to the Love Boutique. I knew in my gut that none of this fell under the guise of “normal parenting.” She wanted me be the self-possessed, precocious young lady that she has spent years cultivating. Still very much a virgin, my eyes widened at the extensive array of sex toys that lined the dimmed store. Picking up a tiny silver bullet, my mom nodded her head in agreement. She was my constant companion and I never wanted to disappoint her, so I remained silent as she took the device that I was so nervously clutching onto.
While my friends were envious that I had been blessed with such a young and attractive mother, I loathed being in her presence. Yet, I was addicted to her in a way I couldn’t shake. The rest of the world thought I was the luckiest kid this side of Santa Monica Blvd. to have my mom as my best friend, while I viewed it as a nasty curse.
“You’re going to need some lube for that one,” her soft South African accent instructed. Keep reading »
This week, I found out my brother is going to be deployed to Afghanistan. Ever since he joined the Marines, as difficult and stressful as the journey has been, I have always comforted myself with the fact that he wasn’t in a war zone, and that, thanks to the type of work he does, he probably would never have to be.
Over the course of the past couple years, I watched him swear his oath of loyalty to the military. I read his heartbreaking letters from bootcamp. I fell into a pretty deep depression. I fought with him and for a long time, we were estranged. I saw my family fall apart as we realized that our ways of dealing with such a massive change were completely incompatible.
But none of that mattered, because at least my brother was safe. At least my brother wasn’t at war. Whenever I read stories about military families with a loved one in the Middle East, I shuddered. When a friend of mine’s brother was deployed and she resumed her day-to-day life, I thought, She is so much stronger than me. I would just be a constant wreck. Imagining my brother in such a dangerous situation left me feeling frozen with fear. The idea of him killing people, the idea of him being killed — I had been able to stomach every other difficult milestone of this journey, but those two possibilities? I couldn’t even bear the abstract, hazy idea that someday they might be part of my reality.
And now my brother is going to war. Keep reading »
Here are my first memories of my sisters.
My newborn sister Jenny is brought home from the hospital, three days after my birthday. I am excited, suspicious, eager, and in my curiosity, poke her in the eye, provoking a banshee shriek that does not stop. This sets the tone for all of our interactions for the rest of our lives, including adulthood, where we routinely bicker over the remote control and create pillow barriers on the couch at home, creating our separate but equal spaces.
Keep reading »