Sunday, April 04, 2010


This morning I received an email from a former student who has morphed into the role of a friend now. She had written the word "transitions" in the subject line and included the photo above (yes, she's the kind of person who would illustrate her emails). And thus she gave me the opening I needed for writing this first blog post in five weeks. I have been going through -- no question about it and as many of us are just now -- a period of transition.

To begin with, I have -- for the first time in ten years -- entered and become committed to a relationship with another person (we'll call him Boxer because he did a LOT of time in prison winning bouts and teaching others to win bouts). I spent so long alone because it took that to emancipate my mind from mental slavery. Being raised to be a woman in a patriarchy (despite my readiness to belligerantly decide exactly how I as an individual would manifest that role at one point or another) had stripped me of my ability to say "no," which in turn meant that I had no ability to say "yes" in any meaningful sense either. So I retreated for a decade, never knowing whether or not I would ever enter a romantic relationship again, nor what type of person it might be with once it occurred. Enter Boxer.

Initially, I was unapproachable. For very nearly a year.

I didn't want to hear it. Didn't know what to do with it. And didn't have any intention of giving up the slightest shred of my hard won independence. Even if he didn't try to or succeed in taking it from me, I knew too many women whose internalized oppression had led them to voluntarily relinquish it. And I have no intention of joining them at this late date.

Complicating the situation was the fact that I found him wildly attractive the first time I laid eyes on him and he was instantly drawn to me. That sent up all kinds of red flags for me. My past record is one that is strewn with unhealthy choices, so my fear was not of him as much as it was of myself.

Still, month after month, he steadfastly held to his course, never pushing, never going away (which becomes even more amazing when you consider that he had done twenty-seven years in prison and had been out for two years without sex because he felt that such a sacrifice was the only way to achieve the intimacy he valued even more than some knee-jerk sexual encounter).

Finally, out of frustration with his refusal to walk away, I accosted him in my own inimitable fashion.

"Obviously," I blurted out in a very harsh frontal assault one night at a gathering we both attend, "the only way to get you to see that this won't work is to actually do you want to go to the movies or what?" (Romantic, huh?)

He didn't miss a hitch, however startled he may have been at that moment.

"Yes," he responded simply.

And we've been together pretty much ever since.

Needless to say, I didn't become comfortable with it over night. I was ruthless to the point of brutality at pretty much every juncture. I hid nothing about my least attractive qualities, determined to run him off if at all possible, while vigilantly watching for any indicator (however slight) that something about him would prove to be a deal-breaker for me. I told him every garish detail of my life and demanded that he do the same. Nevertheless, in the insuing months, we created a bond and began to believe.

"How did this happen?" I once queried incredulously while lying in pitch black darkness.

His answer was succinct, which is often his way: "Faith."

I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall. And while waiting, other transitions have forced themselves upon us.

He's had trouble pulling down a decent, on-going job, for one thing, though he has mad skills. Then, in the middle of coming to grips with the thought of what the implications are of this difficulty, they give me the news at work that we all will be taking a pay cut beginning this month, a pay cut that could be as high as 20%. Gulp.

Now, I've never had a lot. I worked for five years collectively, never drawing a paycheck at all per se. Then, I was a low income stay-at-home Mom for several years followed by a period of five years on welfare. During my seven years in grad school, I raised two kids on student income and food stamps. And as a social service administrator, I made the bills, but not much else. It's only been in the last couple of years that I could consistently cover my needs, take care of some of my wants and still give away a fair amount to folks that needed it worse than me. And now, I guess, it's over. And I ain't a little bit happy about it. It's amazing how quickly we become accustomed to even a modicum of prosperity.

But I knew that the economy (that monstrous bugaboo that has been horse-whipping so many in this nation of late) was going to get around to me at some point. I know how to be poorer. I just didn't want to. And, typically, I've been far more worried about my politics getting my ass kicked than my financial situation. Suddenly, my politics have taken a back seat and I'm mulling a game plan to stock pile diabetic supplies and make sure the money I've contributed to a "retirement" fund stays in my pocket. Sigh.

Major transitions include (as always) minor ones, as well. The bedroom my daughter's significant other once referred to as "Amish" (marked by lace pillows and pink roses) is now in tones of brown, black and beige, with the floral English country wing chair traded out for brown wicker. A-hem!

I am (inexplicably, as far as I'm concerned) developing muscles and wearing snappier clothes. I don't always get my papers graded in a timely fashion (which I choose to call having a more balanced life). I'm having WAY more fun -- just because there's fun to be had (who knew?). And I've gone from being celibate to...well...not being.

So all of this is why I've been quiet for the last month. But I'm back. With a long list of stuff I want to write about and a whole week of spring break to write about it. Transitions (personal and collective) are really what this blog is all about anyway. Because change is continuous and inevitable. The nature of the change is what I write about, along with the way we might get from here to there. I write about race. I write about life. I write about transition.

1 comment:

Tinsmith Snow said...

Amish?! Amish? I'm sure he doesn't remember (or believe) that! It's so nice to have you back, we've missed you! What wonderful news, by the way. Look forward to hearing more from you.