The truth is, I have too often not risen to the occasion of myself. I have too often draped myself in the cloaks of softer, quieter.
But I am not fine.
I laugh too loud and fight too hard. I cannot manage a low key entrance and instead show up to trumpets. I like my sex rough and dirty and my love right at the apex of peaceful and passionate. I drink too much bourbon and say too much when others have slunk into the safety of silence. I demand space be made for me in the rooms I enter and I don’t know how not to be relentlessly ambitious. I work long hours and I stay up too late. I want the world and I go after it; I will not settle for whatever serendipity drops in my lap at its leisure.
La – liquorloansandlove.com – “Fine”
For the first half of my 20s, I was truly a carefree black girl. I lived quite spontaneously, letting life be the driver, somehow knowing that everything would eventually work out for my good. My belief that everything would be okay was the parachute for any leaping decision I made.
I was bold. I said what I thought, I did what I wanted, I wrote what I felt.
But life is funny. One controlling boyfriend here, one doubtful boyfriend there, one OCD affliction here, and the next thing you know, you look in the mirror 10 years later, and do not recognize the woman staring back at you.
She is more solemn. Still lively when needed, but the spark, the very magic of her, has been slowly, undetectably seeping out all around her; through fingers that are too tired from writing marketing briefs to write stories, through thoughts that she stifles instead of voicing. Through opinions once boldly professed, now pushed back down into her depths, the fear of criticism all but crippling.
She is a leaking gas stove left on in a household unaware.
It was only so long before I exploded.
It was important, dire even, for me to rediscover myself in 2018. To truly explore what makes me happy, what fulfills me. To leave behind what does not. To marry the valuable and necessary growth and life lessons I’d acquired with the creative parts of me; with the parts that throw caution to the wind. I’d watched women I admire, women I love, live freely and unapologetically, and wondered why I wasn’t.
I kept returning to my friend La’s post that had simply punched me in the gut two years prior.
I have too often not risen to the occasion of myself.
I demand space be made in the rooms I enter.
I want the world and I go after it.
I kept seeing Amber’s mantra. You can have whatever you want.
I started remembering me, the old me. The bold me.
In 2019, I am reclaiming that familiar word, bold. I intend to disassemble my comfort zone until being bold comes easily to me once again. Challenge myself to do the scary but necessary things.
This year, I will stop being the woman that wants to do, and become the woman that does.
It’s a shame it has taken this long for this reckoning. but new year, new start and all. the next 348 days will be filled with purpose, intent, and happiness.
I opened the new year in just that way. Bold.
‘Cause this summer I ain’t finna say next summer I’m finna.
“I look ridiculous.” I shake my head at my reflection, naked save for the five pounds of silver, sequined-covered catsuit I am zipped into, glinting in the dim glow of our hotel room’s romantic lighting.
“No, you look fucking amazing.” j, the giant man with clear ocean eyes whom I have somehow come to love, shakes his head back at me from across the room.
He is one who always thoughtfully considers, then gives a sweet yet honest response to the “do I look bad/weird/stupid in this” questions I still have the bad habit of asking. He means it.
We are roughly five hours from attending a new year’s eve party at a pretty, black-owned loft space in Brooklyn, the grand last dance of what has been a renewing and exhilarating 10 days in New York over the Christmas holiday. Most of my friends that are attending have seen photos of the outfit, but I’m suddenly thinking maybe this jumpsuit wasn’t such a good idea. I feel slightly ill. People are going to laugh at me. I’m sure of it.
“Are you sure I don’t look lumpy and fat? Look at my thighs.” Over the last several years, I’ve managed to quiet the mean girl voice in my head—the voice responsible for the extremely disordered eating for most of my 20s—down from a blaring scream to a quiet whisper.
Today though, she is trying it.
I have always adored women who are comfortable in their skin, confident and happy with their shape and size, no matter how big or small they are. I’ve just consistently struggled to be one of them.
“Nope,” he says, again shaking his head, careful to not make me feel absurd for asking that, as most people in my life have. This brain of mine, it’s been so good to me, and so bad to me.
I sigh, turn this way and that, examine myself from all angles, manipulate the armoire mirror so the entire back of me is reflected in the bathroom mirror a room over.
It was love at first sight, me and this jumpsuit. A simply ridiculous item I’d seen randomly a month prior on one of my favorite shopping sites, ASOS, and immediately knew I had to have it.
“Too bad I went through all this trouble with the boots,” I sent a photo to j in our ongoing whatsapp chat, an unbroken conversation going over a year strong now, “I could have just gone as a disco ball. lol”
I waited to see what clever emoji he’d send. He responded simply. “Damn. that’s perfect.”
It couldn’t happen though. I’d already sunk $200 into a pair of almost-as-ridiculous thigh-high sparkly boots, even getting them tailored to fit my legs and not the very large wrestler calves they’d apparently been made for, and had been crafting an outfit around them for the past week.
“This is dreamgirl shit right here. I’ll buy it?” he continued.
A smile got the best of me. Dreamgirl was a moniker he’d given me early on, often expressing how he hadn’t known he’d had an actual girl of his dreams until he met me. If you know me, you know this both charmed and horrified me, as I often met this sentiment with some sort of straight-mouthed emoji, or simply “stopp,” … but that’s another essay.
I knew he’d like it. I’d somehow managed to meet a man whose fashion aesthetic was just as sparkly and flamboyant as mine.
He wore white pants on our first date. White. Pants. … with a white shirt. Chest hair peeking out and all. Like, full Miami Vice. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 6’8” white man in all white on a regular Wednesday, but it’s … a lot.
And so, with his encouragement and the many YES, ALWAYS and DO IT responses to an instagram story in which I’d posed the question of going “full disco ball,” I decided to get it.
Something in me falters now though, critiquing myself in the hotel mirror. Am I bold enough to wear this? Inside, I like to think that I am. In my 20s, I definitely was. Most people who know me now wouldn’t be surprised that I am considering wearing a disco ball catsuit for NYE, but the residue of years of being second, of tamping down my brightness to support the efforts of people I loved, rightly or errantly so, still clings to me.
I question myself, the nerve of me. Who am I to wear such an audacious outfit? Undoubtedly I will look ridiculous, slightly outrageous, and pretty awesome, hopefully. But who am I to do that?
It seems silly now, that night now two weeks in the rearview, but the question was big and stormy then, doubt telling me that I was as always, doing and being too much.
The day I found the jumpsuit was the day of j’s company Christmas party. That night, I’d still not pressed “purchase” on the catsuit. In the hours between our WhatsApp conversation and the Lyft ride deep into the secluded mountains of the rich and techy, doubt had crept in, made me unsure if I should do it. j promptly re-hyped me though, my biggest, loudest fan, and I pulled out my phone to make the purchase.
Turns out deep winding roads through pitch black mountainous neighborhoods don’t have the best (or any) cell reception. By the time we’d thanked the driver, joined the party, clapped for the rah rah rally speech of the CEO, filled our plates with food from the buffet tables, and saw service bars reappear on our screens, the jumpsuit was sold out.
Thankfully that’s lightweight work for a shopping ninja like me. I tracked it down on the original designer’s site. After an annoyed call to his credit card company to assure them that yes, he was making an unusually expensive purchase from a London vendor for a person named Shanae’, the catsuit was procured.
j’s boss, intrigued by the credit card drama, asked what we were doing.
“I’m going to be a disco ball for new year’s eve.” I said, showing him the photo on my phone.
“Oh wow. That’s awesome. And what are you going to be, j?” he asked.
“The lucky man standing next to her.” j said casually, as if it was an indisputable fact.
“well that’s fair.” the man laughed.
Turns out, he was right. The catsuit was a hit. Yes, it was ridiculous. It was also awesome. Just the confidence booster I needed to know that doing what I want, being who I want, is not going to end the world.
Most people simply don’t care. Other people, especially brown and black women friends, are the biggest hype squad you can have when you’re feeling un-brave.
I was surrounded by love. I felt amazing. I felt like, me.
I want to be the girl who doesn’t prioritize people’s opinions over my own happiness. I want to be the confident woman my mother raised once again. Wearing a sparkly jumpsuit without inhibition, loving myself and my body enough to be shameless, and bright, and ridiculous, was a small move towards that. This wasn’t just a jumpsuit. It was the first step in reclaiming my boldness. My extra, my magic. The me that I’ve stifled for so many years. A sequined, glittery glow-up, if you will.
I had fun. So, so much fun. I loved and got loved on by so many brilliant, gorgeous friends. I had random people ask to take my photo. At one point I asked a friend to take a photo of me and j, and it turned into an all out paparazzi session—seemingly 8 or 9 phones appearing out of nowhere—inspiring him to dip me into a dramatic kiss to a chorus of squeals and whoops.
“Had to give them the show they wanted.” he said when I eye-rolled afterwards.
And so Bold is the brightly colored thread I will weave throughout my 2019. First and foremost, boldness in my writing. In my work. In the pursuit of my happiness, whatever that looks like. Bold in all of the projects I’ve been wanting to do, but had some excuse or another stopping me.
I cannot manage a low key entrance and instead show up to trumpets.
What I’ve realized is this. We are who we tell ourselves we are. Nothing more. Nothing less. The ability to believe yourself one way or the other is ultimately what will reflect in your life.
This should be a fun year.