Two days after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, I called my gynecologist’s office.

I’ve known for the last ten years that I do not want to have children. Defended my stance loudly to people who insisted the “right” man could change my mind or “anything could happen.” Nodded firmly when potential suitors ask “Really? NEVER?” You could say I’ve avoided serious commitment during my fertile years to make sure love didn’t weaken my resolve. But I never discussed sterilization with my doctors.

Sure. After terminating a pregnancy at 25, I told friends “If I could have all this shit tied, cut, and burned up, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” Still, checkup after checkup, I remained silent. I heard too many horror stories of doctors petting female patients on the head and cooing “What if you change your mind?” and “But you’re so young.” My sex life was sporadic at best and almost always included condoms. There was always Plan B. If worse came to worse, as I dead-panned to my last boyfriend when he joked about getting me pregnant: “I would not be pregnant for very long.”

Then the Supreme Court turned conservative. And I had to consider a world where I don’t have the power or resources to make decisions about my body.
“How long have you been thinking about tubal ligation?” my doctor asked yesterday.

“Honestly? For the last ten years. I just didn’t say anything because I thought I was too young. But I turned 35 and thought ‘It’s time.’”

She nodded. “Okay.”

That was it. She didn’t ask about my sexual habits or if I was dating or in a relationship or if I intended to marry one day. She said “Okay,” and talked me through the process.

“You know,” I said, once we talked appointment dates, “I came in here prepared to defend myself. I feel like I’m always explaining that parenthood is too big a task to be ambivalent about.”

She smiled. “I trust women to make decisions about their bodies. If you’ve thought about it this long, you know what you want. And you’re absolutely right.”

Everything Tells: On Turning 35

I don’t know how to do 35.

When I was a child, 35-year-olds were GROWN UPS. When my mother was 35, she had a seven-year-old daughter. My friends’ parents were 35. They had spouses and owned homes. They were in charge of things.

I don’t know how a woman who does not want a partner, a child, a harried career, or to own anything that hinders easy movement does 35.

I think it over with friends. They interrogate my desires, make me root out the source of my angst. I hear “Thirty-five doesn’t look like anything.” As long as my choices make me “feel good, affirmed, sexy, powerful…in ya skin,” I’m fine. Another friend gave me the social media equivalent of a pat on the head and advised “Adulting is what you make it. Just keep the things you like about yourself at 34 and MAYBE have one small goal or thing you want to bring differently for 35.” Someone else reminded me “Our generation is different. There aren’t set norms for things we are supposed to be doing.”

Wise counsel. I wish it was enough.

I want exposition, rising action, climax, denouement, and resolution in that order. I can’t wrap my mind around a big-sounding age not meaning anything in particular. I crave an arc. “What is this character’s motivation?” I ask about 35-year-old me as if she is a protagonist on a page.

“You’re in your mid-thirties. Everything tells.”

I heard it in a character analysis about warrior-turned-washed King Robert Baratheon.

Everything tells.

The three beers that show up in a pouch above my pelvis at the end of a too-long night out. The aggravation flashing in my eyes when men bloviate at work. The atrophied muscles during lazy weekends in bed. The lack of inspiration when I’m too married to my routine to get out and interact with the world outside my head. The random charges that hit my account at inconvenient times because “Oh, yeah. That thing I subscribed to when I needed more stuff to consume to distract me from my thoughts.” The drafts of lifeless prose penned by someone trying to “sound like a writer” because the truth just ain’t as sexy as it used to be.

I can’t hide anything from anyone anymore.

There was another version of this blog post. I wrote it in Starbucks. It was full of those intentional run-on sentences I write when I’m depicting the breathless spirals of my inner dialogue. It painted a bleaker-than-reality picture of my mental state. I was ready to exploit my emotions for the sake of artful prose.

In the middle of my Blonde Flat White-fueled pity party, I received the following text from a friend:

Just wanted to say I’m proud of you. For always defining your own lane, taking time to breathe and [being] comfortable being you.

After a near bladder-busting wait for the restroom, I deleted the draft and left.

My Solar Return for this year says:

Saturn ruling this year forces you to face reality and your own limitations.

Not “what my reality looks like.” Or “what narrative about my reality feels right.” But the cold, hard facts of my life.

In other words: everything tells.

Album Review: KOD – J. Cole

The first ten years of Jermaine Cole’s rap career are a tale of two Coles. The first, an easy on the eyes, clean-cut, cocky kid with a ferocious delivery. He’d rap lines like “Either you follow me or swallow me, bitch. And I done hit too many hoes to ever pause that shit,” and if you gave him a feature on your song? Well, it was no longer your song. (Ask Talib KweliWale, and Kanye.) With the release of 2014 Forest Hill Drive, we met a second Cole; a fuzzy-locked, wrinkled sweats-wearing recluse, seeking transcendence from his ego’s desires for fame, acceptance, and the trappings of material wealth.
He was always broody and occasionally prone to a style that prioritized talking to himself over enticing the listener. Vintage Cole visited that domain from time to time. Enlightened Cole lived there, trading his “I rap better than you” bars for gravelly, cathartic croons. Social media snarkers determined to peg him a self-righteous bore retreated to lazy “zzzzz” jokes. Apostles lauded his heartfelt, but straightforward observations as hieroglyphic gospels too complex for the simple-minded listener. Neither side left room for reasonable conversation. Meanwhile, Jermaine’s cult following propelled him beyond the Twitter jokes to platinum sales and sold out shows at Madison Square Garden — no features or radio hits required. [1]
Cole’s latest offering, KOD (Kids On Drugz, King Overdosed, Killing Our Demons) navigates the dark terrain of addiction with a flair that was greatly missed on 2016’s somber 4 Your Eyez Only. It’s an album of marriages. Vintage Cole’s aggression meets Enlightened Cole’s sensitivity. Nostalgic rap and R&B sounds meet contemporary flows and delivery. Ego meets transcendence. And you know what? It works.
You don’t know what you’re getting from the “Intro.” The saxophone-supported preamble about coping with pain could easily lead to the sober style Cole’s preferred the last few years. Instead, it’s followed by the bouncy title track, which features a croon-free, easy-to-repeat hook and an uncharacteristically staccato flow. Then he spits…

“How come you won’t get a few features?
I think you should? How ‘bout I don’t?
How ‘bout you just get the fuck off my dick?
How ‘bout you listen and never forget?
Only gon’ say this one time, then I’ll dip
Niggas ain’t worthy to be on my shit”

Is it 2009?
Not quite. KOD has its share of brooding, reflective moments. Of these moments, “Once an Addict (Interlude)” is the standout; detailing the guilt and resentment of a son coping with an alcohol-addicted mother. The imagery of cheap Chardonnay and Al Green songs are vivid callbacks for adults of a certain age who’ve parented a parent. On “BRACKETS,” he veers a too far into hotepery, [2] bemoaning high tax rates and having “no say” over how it’s spent. It’s the only heavy-handed song on an album that otherwise handles its hefty themes gracefully. I did, however, appreciate the reprisal of his Lil’ Cole character trading his Sallie Mae evasion for arguments with Uncle Sam.
These songs sandwich a bold three-song stretch that serves as the album’s climax: “ATM,” “Motiv8,” and “Kevin’s Heart.” Each track recalls a 2000s’ classic. He rides these old favorites with today’s popular choppy phrasing and repetitive ad-libs. On an album that explores addiction, the choice feels deliberate; producing a “this is your brain on drugs” mirror image to the pill-popping culture of mainstream “trap” rap.
The lead single “ATM,” is by far the best song on the album. Here, Cole warns of the perils of paper-chasing using Trillville’s “Some Cut” drums and Native Tongues-inspired piano loops. On “Motiv8,” he gives us simultaneous breakdowns on the refrain; weaving a monotone emotional unraveling around the opening drums from “Knuck If You Buck.” (See below.) “Kevin’s Heart” explores infidelity with a syrup-synthed version of the “Say Yes” melody; heightening themes of temptation by lulling the listener into a body roll over confessions of selfishness and self-loathing. The preceding two songs accomplish a similar feat. They jam so hard, you almost forget how dark they are.

“Too many times I swallowed my pride
I’m crackin’ a smile, I’m dyin’ inside
My demons are close, I’m tryin’ to hide
I’m poppin’ a pill, I’m feelin’ alive
I’m feelin’ alive, I’m feelin’ alive
I’m feelin’ alive, I’m feelin’ alive
I’m feelin’ alive, I’m feelin’ alive
I’m feelin’ alive, I’m feelin’ alive
 — “Motiv8.” Like I said. Over the “Knuck If You Buck” drums.

The closing tracks “Window Panes (Outro)” and “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’)” offer more juxtaposition. With “Window Panes,” he once more lays prostrate before the ills of the world, regretful of how little he can do to prevent them; once more to the tune of body-moving drums. With “1985,” he plays wise elder to the new generation of poppin’ rappers over stripped-down hoodie-and-Timbs production; issuing this warning shot to any face-tatted youngin’ speaking out of turn:

I’m hoping for your sake that you ain’t dumb as you look
But if it’s really true what people sayin’
And you call yourself playin’ with my name
Then I really know you fucked, trust
I’ll be around forever ’cause my skills is tip-top
To any amateur niggas that wanna get rocked
Just remember what I told you when your shit flop
In five years you gon’ be on Love & Hip-Hop, nigga”

For the first time in a long time, Jermaine Cole sounds like an artist who, in his bones, still loves rapping. No longer chasing the shadow of a larger-than-life mentor nor shunning contemporary sounds to prove he doesn’t need them. For the Vintage Cole fan, who missed the wit and bravado of his earlier work, KOD is an enjoyable pairing of the two Coles: a socially aware man of the people who can still grab his dick and proclaim himself a rap god.
That’s the thing about transcendence: you never kill your ego. While Cole’s previous two releases felt like attempts to completely abandon his, KOD reflects an artist willing to bring it along for the ride while maintaining the integrity of his overall message.
 [1] Okay, okay. “Can’t Get Enough” and “Power Trip” did well on radio.
 [2] Hate that word, but can’t find a more appropriate one.


Ten years ago, I died.

Twenty-four years old. In a university office. With a nice job title. Six packets of off-brand Asprin on my desk. A montage of my favorite Facebook photos on loop in my head and guesses on which one they’d use on my funeral program. Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” humming through computer speakers. A handwritten note.

I swallowed the pills two at a time. Crying. Certain. Waiting for it to end.

I want to say doubt died in that office.

I want to say fear died in that office.

I want to say hopelessness died in that office.

I want to say that I lived happily ever after.

That I spent the weekend in a psych ward and it was fine.

That I lost my nice job title and was underemployed for two years and it was fine.

That I terminated two pregnancies that year and it was fine.

That I moved back home with my mother and it was fine.

But nothing was fine and I had to breathe through the not fine-ness.

Nothing was fine but I therapy’d and loved and laughed and wrote and sexed and drank and danced and cried and road-tripped and dreamed and read and yoga’d and studied and dropped out and fell apart and patched up and fell apart and patched up and nine years after I died, I am alive.

And whenever I get lost in who I am not, what I have not accomplished, what I don’t have, what I didn’t say, where I haven’t been…

I remember the year I raised myself from the dead.