Mental Health · Polyamory · Relationships · Survival

existing (it hurts, but it’s ok; i’m used to it)

Today I’m feeling lots of feels. Blickety Black feels.

Being Black is something I’m always aware of. The times I’ve forgotten, I’ve been very quickly reminded of my Blackness. So I’m always in my Blickety Black feels; sometimes, it’s just more intrusive. This week has been one of those times. I know that a lot of things are exacerbating this feeling – work stuff, family issues, the pandemic (and the worry about it, its implications, and those in my life who are higher risk), a recent breakup, lots of life changes…

Heh. Honestly, though, these feelings are always right there under the surface. Because no matter what, I’m Black. And the implications of being Black in America today bleeds into every aspect of my life, tempers my interactions with everyone, gives a different tint to this pandemic, to recent events, to work life, to home life.

These feelings are constant, but I usually have the energy to bury them, to let them glance off of me, to file them away in the “alone time future shadow work” filing cabinet in my brain. Lately, though, I have been exhausted by all the things hammering away at me, and so these feelings have leaked out: Through my eyelids, where I hastily wipe them before anyone can see because I have shit to do. Through my stress pain flare ups. Through my inability to concentrate, my irritability, my general feeling of wariness. I try to stop the leakage, but it’s pointless. It’s screaming, pushing, shoving it’s way out. So I figured I’d put a portion of it here. Not all, just some.

Am I too much?

I wonder this a lot, especially in my close interactions with white people. In 90% of my relationships with white folk, I’ve basically been told – implicitly or explicitly, outright or roundabout – that my Blackness is a lot. My anger is a lot. My own hurt, the way my feelings are expressed, my cursing, my dark humor, even me punching up is “hurtful.”

I would counter that “hurtful” may be an inaccurate word – that maybe it’s uncomfortable for you, yes. But I don’t have the privilege of being fragile, of being soft, of being nice. My very existence is hurtful to me. My very existance is traumatic.

I have to constantly remind myself that I am worthy, because so much is telling me I’m not. So much is telling me I’m worthless.

There are those who are so upset, who go on forums, post comments, whatever and talk about how the world, how the media is innuadated with [positive] black images…sigh. it’s not. Yes, there is so much more than when I was younger, but still it’s nowhere near the level that whiteness is held, as a standard. They are so upset to see me on TV, to hear folks say they wanna inspire black women, to imagine that we’re upset that we are shit upon.

Then there are the good ones, the “allies.” They tell me I should temper what I say because Black folks saying mean things pushes away good people, hurts their feelings so that they don’t want to help anymore. That my people should stop rioting and protesting and be more peaceful, be docile like the good old days. Maybe I should look differently, or speak differently, or act differently; softer. That they don’t see color so they can’t possibly be an issue. Or not to bring up issues in their group, because it’s better to be love and light – and ignore that my intesectionalities make it impossible for me to be that way.

Because you know what? It’s impossible to be close to me and there only be light. The reality of being tight with me is drama. Is pain. Is over-analyzing. Is me not being part of shit, opting out of experiences because I’m exhausted/uncomfortable/scared knowing I’ll be the minority – and then sad and disappointed that I’m not brave or strong enough to do all the things, to attend events, to accompany my folks. Is me having days of being irritable, close to tears all day long because I still have to function but my insides are tearing apart from news. Is listening to me rant, listening to me vent, listening to me try to calm down from a nerve-wrecking interaction that would not have happened if I was born different. Is seeing me stoic, uncaring, ignoring and avoiding all media outlets because I don’t want to open the floodgates.

Whenever I’m on a date [with a White person], I’ve always felt like I had to explain myself more than I would with somebody who’s of color. Whenever you’re on a date with someone and tryna have a fun time, it’s not necessarily what you want to do in that moment.”

~ anon

In the polyamorous community – my local one and, from what I see online, most others – the name of the game is social capital. And as far as that goes, I’m one of the lowest on the (social capital) totem pole – dark skinned, with the kinkiest hair, use all the Black products, vocal about Black issues, uncensored re: code switching, will bring the bullshit promptly to ya attention type. So, in this community, either I am nothing…or I’m a novelty. There’s the blatant racism. Microagressions. Tokenism. White-caping. Ash Ketchum-ism (the idea that they “gotta catch em all” so they interact with Black folks to add to their collection). Oppression Olympics™. Weird, over-eager, “I’m one of the good ones” falling over themselves to “make you feel comfortable” but instead just making the get-together awkward and further pointing out the fact that I’m one of the only Black folk in attendance. This is one of the main reasons I am wary about attending “community events” – they have such high potential to be more exhausting (and usually are) than socializing generally already is for me.

And so with dating, I’m so very cautious – it can be hard to spot the undercover bammas. Those who hold on to so many preconceived notions and prejudices. Who will neglect me once they’ve done with the “exoticism” of me, when they realize they can’t show me off to their friends and family because I won’t be accepted and hey, I’m a novelty anyway. The ones who tell me the first time they see me in a straight wig that they don’t understand why I’m not this hot all the time, I’m much more attractive like this! That don’t I think reverse racism is harmful? Who constantly do shit like try to run their fingers through my hair or make offhand remarks about the products I use or try to use AAVE or want me to explain why some Black folk don’t date White people, isn’t that prejudiced too? Shit is exhausting. And when it happens, most times I pull back. I let the relationship slowly disintegrate. Or I just cut them off, abruptly.

Right now, I don’t have any non-Black people who I am very close to except for my romantic partners. As I’ve mentioned before, I connect deeply with people in different ways and don’t believe that romantic love is the most important, end all be all. You would think that would mean my closest friends are diverse – but it doesn’t. My closest friends are Black, and they are overwhelmingly Black femmes who understand my experience, who get me.

And I know it’s because I’m tired. Having to explain shit to people – to have someone in your circle not fully understand why it’s so hard, to be constantly questioned, to have to explain things their blinders cannot see – is fucking exhausting. I personally do it with my non-Black partners because 1) they are already in my life, joined my life at a time where I had more energy for this, and so are grandfathered in, 2) for some, these issues rarely crop up and I don’t have to expend a lot of energy because they take it upon themselves to read, research, and work on themselves before coming to me with stuff, 3) I love these folk; I trust them after we’ve known each other deeply for some time (see 1), and 4) I believe it’s worth it to invest time and energy into these conversations with them specifically to deepen our emotional intimacy.

And even with all that…I find myself more frequently telling them no, go do the work by themselves because I don’t have too much energy to do this. I only got room (time, energy, and that special well of emotional energy and willpower to perform this labor) for so many things. I’ve spent so much time in the past catering to non-Black folk in ways that reinforce this notion that I have to rehash my trauma and do all the labor for them to “understand” and I’m done.

Furthermore, until I have established with reasonable certainty that I won’t get troubling, exhausting remarks from someone non-Black, I’m always on my guard with them. I’ve told this to the non-Black folx in my life, so they can understand why I may not be as eager as them to do a thing. That constant state of viligence is draining, yall.

So yes, it’s hard to establish very close relationships with me if you’re not Black. It’s hard to maintain close relationships with me if you’re not Black.

Know what’s also difficult?

Existing. Because I’m Black in a world that doesn’t like me.

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