New Year’s Resolution

You are a human being.

Your humanity is messy; full of questions and contradictions. You are multifaceted and multilayered. Your truth exists, even if you’ve yet to encounter it. You are falling apart and coming together and reaching pinnacles — simultaneously and not always in the order you’d like. Your life’s story is a combination of choices, accidents, and luck. Any given moment, you can find a reason to laugh, cry, or cuss someone the fuck out.

This is what it means to be a person.

You are not a hashtag. You are not a follower count. You are not a summation of likes, comments, pins, direct messages, and retweets.

You are not a list. You are not a ritual. You are not who or what you pray to. You are not a number on the scale. You are not your diet. You are not your hairstyle. You are not the books you’ve read. You are not the places you’ve traveled. You are not the shows you watch. You are not the music you dance to. You are not the letters behind your name. You are not the letters before your name.

You are not the things you haven’t accomplished any more than you are the things you’ve done.

You are not an identity.

Your “self” doesn’t live at the top of a mountain.

You are — and always were — bigger than the goddamned mountain.

This is what I want to remember in 2017.

I hope you remember it, too.

Don’t Invite Me to Dinner

I’m not the girl who wants to meet your family.

I don’t want to bring a dish. I don’t want to sit in a kitchen pretending I care about your mom’s dressing recipe or how to shred cheese.

I don’t want to risk my outfit around your rowdy little cousins or hold your sister’s baby and have anyone making longing glances at me with an infant.

I want to bring the wine and watch the football games until dinner is ready. I don’t want your dad, brothers, or uncles mansplaining sports to me.

I don’t want to bow my head and pretend I pray while your aunt recites a 12-minute blessing. I don’t want to avoid the gazes of those who’ll judge me for not fixing your plate. I don’t want to answer questions about my parents, or my three half-siblings with three different mothers, where I went to school, what I studied, where I go to church. I want these people to stop talking to me so we sneak away from the table for a bathroom quickie.

I’m the girl you call at 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving evening with promises of leftovers and kitchen sex.

I want to slip on one of your T-shirts and sip whiskey and hear the story of your uncles’ fight over the Spades table while we stand at the counter eating my mother’s roasted duck and your mom’s macaroni and cheese that you know I’ll never perfect but you don’t care because that’s what your mother’s for.

Funny. Who knew I wanted anything at all?

Women in Black

Sliding into a black dress reminds me of being eight years old. I was everything you didn’t want to be as an eight-year-old: too skinny, too brainy, too clumsy, too shy to assert myself, too comfortable in my imaginary world. Did I mention the Fire Marshall Bill overbite? Yeah.

The Women in Black made me forget all that. Women in Black were coordinated, powerful, and seductive. They were Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, righting men’s wrongs and making Batman beg; Janet Jackson declaring her first name wasn’t “Baby”; En Vogue making magic from four-part harmony and synchronized hip swirls. Through them, I dreamed of a future where I had curves, grace, and swagger.

“Send it in a letter baby  Tell you on the phone  I’m not the kind of girl  who likes to be alone”  — Janet Jackson, “Miss You Much.”

Being a little girl — subject to the whims of bossy grown-ups and cruel classmates — sucked. I couldn’t wait to be a woman. I would strut into rooms Dawn, Max, Terry, and Cindy style and tell boys I liked them with no shame and dare anyone to tell me what to do.

Little Rob promised herself many things: we’d be rich and famous, marry a man as smart and funny and Dwayne Wayne, have a chef and a maid, travel the world. I’m not sure where we stand on those, but I don’t have the heart to tell a young, hopeful me they don’t work out.

What I can say is: the teeth are straight (thanks to braces), the breasts and hips filled out, I’m slightly less clumsy and (thanks to sharing my rich inner life via writing) more popular than I ever imagined I’d be.

And oh yeah. I rock the hell out of a black dress.

I Told You So

“I’m wondering what happens when this isn’t enough for you,” you say. You hate to say you know how this works; that at the beginning — the “Oh my God, could this be real” phase — you’re seeing the end. You tell him you’re falling. That’s a lie. You’re choosing. Feet planted on solid ground. Refusing to be swept away.

You chose this — the 500 miles between you and him — because it doesn’t disrupt your carefully-crafted existence. When it ends (and you know it will), it’s a clean break. No shared spaces, communities, or friends. Just a few “unfollows” and a deleted text thread. Voila! All gone.

“I feel like you need to be still right now and I wonder what happens when you’re ready to move again,” you say. At some point, he will want more than your arms-length approach. Permission to leave it in post-coitus. Consideration of his unsolicited opinions. Submission to his spontaneous nature. Room to dream of relocation to a sexy city outside the safety of the Midwest, a Vegas elopement, dropping your last name, a kid, a dog.

“Don’t worry about that,” he says. “You’re everything I could want in a woman.”

You don’t worry. You just know.

Five months later, morning texts fade to one-sided threads and calls on the drive home from the bar turn into days of silence and “I love yous” become “I’m sorrys.” You’re driving home from work thinking of nothing in particular when He always got them fuckin’ excuses blares from the radio and rips through you like an electric current.

How many more apologies and justifications can you absorb?

But baby, I’m no fool and I’ve got pride…

He’s decided you’re no longer enough.

You breathe a sigh of relief.

Election Day

If my southern black grandmother was alive, she’d disapprove of the following:

  • My stubborn arrogance
  • My four tattoos
  • My refusal to grow and straighten “all that good pretty hair”
  • My writing and releasing a book that discussed my sex life
  • My sex life existing in the first place
  • My blog where I “tell everybody all my damn business
  • My Instagram feed (especially the bikini and sports bra / yoga pics)
  • My indifference toward the Browns and Cavs
  • My ban on slips and shape wear in my wardrobe
  • My predilection for tall, boyishly handsome, emotionally unavailable men
  • My preference for dining out over cooking
  • My continued disdain for household chores — especially dish washing (not even her switches from the trees in our backyard could whip that out of me)

I like to think I make her proud on Election Day.

I never heeded her warnings about people seeing through my dresses or found value in four hours over a hot stove, but she is my model for citizenship. Her grandchildren were the first generation of our family born with a government-protected right to vote. Since I was the grandchild who lived under her roof (and the brightest — don’t tell my cousins), she prioritized my political education; starting with the Cleveland Mayoral Race of 1989. Six-year-old me didn’t absorb much beyond the mutual hatred between the candidates and their devotees. In the end, it didn’t matter how many “Forbes for Mayor” stickers I collected after my grandmother and I left the polling location — “our guy” lost.

Then came the 1992 Presidential election. This time, I was a sophisticated eight-year-old third grader. Who needed the weekly Scholastic News when Grandma made me watch grown up news? “Four more years” and “No new taxes” were a “No.” Universal health care and a First Lady who was too smart to waste her time in a kitchen or a garden? Hell yes. Al Gore nailing Dan “Couldn’t Spell Potato” Quayle on supporting a woman’s right to choose? More hell yes (I didn’t know what we were choosing at the time, but as a little girl with big dreams, I appreciated the sentiment).

My grandmother and I never voted together. In December 2000, she suffered a massive stroke. She lived until 2010, but only pieces of her strong mind remained. (Even with a scrambled brain, she was furious about the Supreme Court “giving the Presidency to that damn Bush”). When I cast my vote for the first Black President in 2008, I bawled in the voting booth. I wished she could’ve voted. I wished she could revert to her pre-stroke self to discuss the magnitude of the moment with me.

Twenty-four years after being impressed by the lady too smart for baking and gardening, I voted for her. My grandmother would’ve done the same. While I doubt we’d have the same sensibilities (she’d have all the respectability politics and no interest in my feminism), I think she’d be happy she helped raise an informed, engaged, opinionated black woman. She’d be happy I live in a world with a female Presidential candidate from a major party.

She might not have enthusiastically been #WithHer. But she’d be damned proud her grandbaby is.

Grandma and I. 1984. She was probably about to educate me on Reagan vs. Mondale.