I'd like to first take a minute to thank the sponsors who facilitated the major thoughts behind this post. Without Spotify's "Discover Weekly" playlist which featured Beyoncé's "***Flawless" remix, I wouldn't have found this incredibly inspiring woman, Chimamanda Adichie and her TEDxEuston talk entitled "We should all be feminists". Thank you Spotify, for always knowing what I need to center myself for the week, (even if Hillary Duff's "Tattoo" sneaks in). Secondly, I'd like to thank Uber for always providing me with a collection of strangers who, in the late hours of evening coming home from work, early hours of morning slightly inebriated or even on my Sunday rides to church, entertain my conversations. While the conversation I had on Friday evening with my Uber driver wasn't what I expected when I requested the car to take me home after a 15 hr day at the office, it lit a fire inside of me that I had to explore.
If you haven't stopped reading yet, that F word above will definitely get you to X out. This post has less feminism in it than an episode of HBO's GIRLS, but definitely enough of a message that is important to share!
Last Monday, on a packed Path train into Lower Manhattan on my way to our new fancy offices downtown, I began to prep my week. Part of my Monday morning commute involves me making a list of To-Do's while listening to the fresh picks Spotify chooses in my "Discover Weekly" playlist, creatively chosen based on music that I listen to. Obviously, it is no surprise that Queen Bey was part of the playlist (I haven't listened to Lemonade, or watched it, do you watch it? I'm not that cool with the cool kids, but also, who is this Becky?) As the beat dropped (well, I know cool lingo) I recognized this to be her flawless "Flawless" but yet it seemed a bit different.... intertwined into the song was this powerful speech. The words echoing of strength and empowerment, landing on "Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes" fiercely followed up with "I woke up with this....FLAWLESS!" YASS QUEEN! What was this incredible truth bomb that Spotify and the Queen threw at me first thing on a Monday?
As soon as I got into my office, I googled the difference between a song that I thought I knew and this new "***Flawless" learning that the added lyrics were from this incredible Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie and the TEDTalk she presented back in 2013. (I've attached the Youtube link above and highly suggest it) Below are the words used in the song:
"We teach girls to shrink themselves to make themselves smaller. We say to girls 'You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.'
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.
Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same? We raise girls to each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."
Chimamanda Adichie 2013
Can I get a "YAAASSS KWEEN"???
Men, are you still with me? I know moments that aren't focused around you are slightly scary, but I promise you'll survive! The extra 30 cents per dollar you get against a woman's salary should help.
What really resonated with me was the second paragraph, "because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mine that marriage is the most important."
This brings the Uber ride into the circle. While my driver meant nothing by it, and foolish of me to play into it, because I've had slightly aggressive cabbies suggest more than a car ride, if ya know what I mean, I spoke before I thought.
After a quick chat about the wildness of the neighborhood and how I was coming home from working quite late, he asked "oh, well at least he will be awake when you get home."
Prior to this, no mention of a "he" existed. "He" meant that it was assumed that I was in a relationship, and "he" would be waiting up for me when I returned home. (THERE IS NO HE! "He" is a she and she is my roommate/Ben&Jerry's ride or die buddy) In a moment of WTF, I responded, "no he's probably asleep" because this felt slightly more accurate. Technically "he" is somewhere, knowing my taste in men, probably asleep because I'm secretly/not so secretly an old lady tucked inside my body and any man I "relationship" with will probably enjoy passing out early on a Friday night after too much Chinese food and a shitty movie.
If this hadn't been an awkward-enough moment, let's go one step further. I remained quiet, not wanting to grow a nose like Pinocchio or, quite honestly, giving out any more information than possible. I didn't feel completely uncomfortable, I'm in my late 20's, it's not a wild assumption that I am married or in a relationship. It's not uncommon for women to pretend to be married to defend themselves against other men, I've known many who do it to earn some respect from others. I've never needed respect that badly. In this moment though, I felt my defenses go up and even if we were just blocks away from my apartment, I needed to have a security blanket...even if it was a real blanket instead of a man.
*Warning! Mom & Dad...it's all your fault!
Being raised by a couple, each who are strong and independent separately, yet a become a powerhouse together, helped me understand my worth, value and drive for independence. I can remember from our Sunday drives my last few years of high school, my mother sharing her wisdom on being a strong, independent woman (much like the song "Survivor" by Destiny's Child). Raising me to think freely, never to doubt that I wasn't anything less than a boy or man, but inspiring me to want, need and build the life I wanted for myself. My parents constantly supported my growth and never pressured me to settle into relationships for the sake of fitting in, or following the crowd. Instead, the led by example. Both, working together to support one another's wants, needs and the life they wanted together. If I "aspire to marriage" it is for that kind of marriage, a partnership, friendship and nothing less.
But of course, once in a while, among the fears that one day, "The Mindy Project" will be cancelled, or children wont know who Justin Timberlake is, I fear of being that "old maid", locked in an apartment surrounded by cats, cans of fish, copies of "Bridget Jone's Diary" and afghans. Hell, I'll be that crazy old lady whether I marry or not, the only difference is by I'll be yelling at a framed picture of a cute young man because I'll outlive him (it's genetic fact... over 100 for sure). Until those days, I'll keep pinning my dreams of a wedding pub crawl with confetti and mini bottles of Grey Goose hidden in my bouquet on Pinterest, I'll make a playlist of first dance songs, and continue my list of demands...I mean "vows" under #DearFutureHusband posts on Facebook. Forcing myself to change the woman I'm learning how to be just because the world we live in expects me to want that, just isn't something I'll do.
Certainly, if you've found your "person", the one who makes you laugh when you're mad, inspires you to live every moment of every day in love, holds you hard when you need their strength, by all means party on. It's relationships that I see around me, full of love and friendship, that inspire me to keep looking, to not settle and to continue on this journey of discovering who I am, knowing that along the way, the right one will be there. That one day, I'll be in the back of an Uber, hell it'll probably be a space car by then, with a man I'm proud to call mine. Together, as equal halves, with "joy and love and mutual support" we will conquer our world!