I am letting myself be a loser.
It has become a part of growing up.
If you are a black woman in this country, then it is very, very likely that you have had The Talk.
The one that Procter and Gamble is getting a lot of flak for because they made a tidy commercial about it
Comedian and actress Jessica Williams recounts hearing from her mother:
She looks at me and she’s like, “You, my daughter, will never be average. You are never allowed to be average because you look like me. And because you look like me, you will always have to work 10 times harder than somebody else who will get more for doing less work. You will never ever be average. Do you understand me?” …
There is no room for middling for black women.
When I think of the constraints of perfectionism and hyper-success, I don’t think of some white lady in a smart pencil skirt choking down mouthfuls of Valium.
Now, I know this is a face of perfectionism, but it is not the only one.
Social media snapshots are a TERRIBLE predictor of real life. I mean, I know I don’t stand in pretty places in pretty clothes, arms akimbo 24/7. And I do more than eat pretty food and visit pretty places.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about hashtags in the vein of #allidoiswin #blackgirlswinning, #blackgirlsrock.
I love them, I really do. But, I also know that no one wins all the damn time.
There is a call for people to be more “authentic” online. And while it is sometimes refreshing to see people let down the mask and show us their “jiggle” and the after effects of a panic attack, I really don’t think true transparency is ever possible. We are always performing, if only for ourselves.
So please: this blog post is not a clarion call for black women to showcase the nadirs of their lives within online spaces.
For this too can be another type of performance.
I‘m just wanting to be a little more honest: sometimes I feel more #blackgirltragic than magic. I feel more #flawsandall than #flawless. Sometimes I honestly don’t want to care about “winning” or “being so good they can’t ignore you”.
Sometimes I just want to live and have the freedom to lose.
I remember when Serena Williams was set to get the Grand Slam, to win all four major tennis titles in 2015. I always admired how vocal she was about not feeling pressure to win, even as every sportscaster asked her the same damn question Just how nerve-wracking is it, Serena? I love how she erected such a powerful boundary against the vicarious hopes of others.
She lost that year to a comparatively much lower ranked player.
Serena Williams. The G.O.A.T.
Most commentators blamed the overwhelming pressure placed on her.
Some blamed Drake.
And though it was obvious that she was upset after the loss and wanted that win, Serena Williams’ explanation for her loss was much less dramatic: she just had a bad game.
Serena Williams is one of the most winning athletes ever so it may seem a tad simple-minded to compare her losses to the more mundane ones we face. Most of us don’t have coffers in the millions to return to when we lose face. We aren’t getting photographed by Annie Leibovitz or twerking alongside Beyoncé.
What we do have in common is this: we are not immune to the siren song of winning. Of beating out the White Girl. Of being Number One always.
Sometimes I will lose. And it doesn’t mean I am letting the “race down” or that my self-worth has diminished in any way.
I wish society was aligned with my belief. But, I’d be lying if I was to say that the standards of not winning are the same for everyone.
They are so, so not.
If I have kids, I’ll probably give some version of The Talk.
But, I hope to also overly emphasize that I love and see them no matter what trophies they bring home.
And make no mistake, I know that this call to be better than the best has served us: So many of us out there being Firsts. Earning multiple degrees. Starting world-renowned non-profits. Being the fastest growing percentage of new entrepreneurs.
Black women ARE winning in so many arenas and I abso-fucking-lutlely love it.
The dark side of all this winning (and trust, I love winning! I’m an Aries!) is the belief we can do it all the damn time. That we need to berate and castigate ourselves if we don’t come in first place.
We are not machines.
It’s okay if you feel more tragic than magic some days. Shit, it’s okay to feel like a giant-ass loser. It’s okay to fail publicly. To not beat the white girl.
Even when you’re a black woman or girl.
Once in a while, even we can loosen the death grip of #alwayswinning and embrace our messy human-ness. I know we may not always feel safe to do this “out there” (I definitely don’t always feel safe to do so) but we can relax and the sky will not fall. I promise 😉
And, I do hope you have someone or better yet, some people, who will still look at you sans diplomas, sans memberships, sans the pretty outfit and think you are fucking stardust in woman-form.
We all deserve that and sometimes the best place to start is looking at our own faces in the mirror with that kind of beatific acceptance.
Part of me growing up is finding ways to celebrate myself when I don’t win, to see my losses not as devastating failures but further evidence that I put myself out there and I tried. I did something.