The New Femininity
“I need a wo/man,” I find myself thinking when I’m feeling some void or another. More accurately, I’m a approaching an empty nest and have never felt more single while mothering. The desire, the almost palpable necessity for a masculine presence, especially when it comes to raising my son, is apparent more now than ever.
I actually enjoy my solitude, probably more than the next girl. And there’s no lack of interested parties when it comes to sex and companionship. Also, I’m not one of those women who fails to fully function without the “security” of a committed relationship.
Further, I’m not looking to simply replace one man, one child, one project, one being needing to be cared for with another. So, in essence, I suppose it’s the actual emptying of the nest, the process of teaching my little bird to fly, that has agitated this desideratum.
I’ve got most of the mom stuff down pat. We laugh, we talk, I teach, he teaches. But when it comes to pushing him in a more forceful manner, to showing him how to navigate from boyhood to manhood, from childlike carelessness to assertiveness to strength, I haven’t been able to figure that part out. And it’s started to stress me out a little.
I just want things to turn out well. For everyone. But especially for him and sometimes I’m not sure I’m doing such a great job on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot. However, I’ve had some relationship mishaps (Single moms often feel guilty about the things we never had the chance to show our kids) and my income hasn’t matched my outcome as of yet. And because it’s just me, I feel guilty and even more stressed when I need or take a break.
“Pumpkin, do you want help deciding where to go to college? Or is this something you want to figure out on your own? Either way, deadlines are approaching. And if that’s your decision, to wait before going to college, there needs to be a plan for that as well,” I text him.
“What deadlines are approaching?”, my son replies. “Deadlines may be approaching for early action and for most good schools. I don’t have the transcript to be competitive so…”
He has tested gifted, a 3.5 GPA, National Beta Club member, one AP class with a passed exam and one in progress and dual-enrolled in early college classes. But also, we’re both quintessentially Gemini with the notorious people-pleasing syndrome (in young adulthood)/ empathic nature (in maturity) and difficulty making decisions (throughout a lifetime.)
“It’s not all about the transcript, Jordan. Maybe for some cookie cutter majors/ professions or schools you wouldn’t want to go to anyway. You have the talent and intellect! Do not base your decisions on things that have nothing to do with you. Decide on the school and we will MAKE it happen. But I’ll need time to do so.”
“And your transcript is great. Along with your personality, talents, and intellect, you are most definitely in a position to compete with these lifeless drone kids,” I continue.
“When doing early action, it is only about the transcript,” Jordan rebuts.
I can’t tell if I’d been dramatic and misunderstood his word choice for insecurity or my motivational speech worked but I concede, “Oh. Okay. We don’t need to do early action.”
Crisis averted? I feel like I’ve encouraged him and can rightfully check off “Talk to J about college” from today’s three page to-do list. But as I replace the garbage bag he removed a day ago and move his dirty dishes from the sink to the empty dishwasher, I can’t help but think, “I wish he had a man to talk to about this, to remind him to do his part, to be a little firmer than I am with the discipline stuff. I wish he could hear, “Let’s figure this out,” or “Get it together, young man,” in a voice like his own.
My ex gave me shit for “raising a mama’s boy.” But I’m a mama, though. I’d make his plate (after hers and before mine) when I cooked. I’d clean his room periodically and, in between, fuss at varying decibels to keep it clean this time because I wasn’t doing it again. (I’m proud to report that it’s been 3 months since I cleaned his room for him. #onedayatatime)
She’d say, “Jordan forgot to take out the trash,” or “Could you remind him to rinse his plate before he puts it in the dishwasher?” As the supposedly masculine presence in my life, my fiance at one point, shouldn’t she have been in charge of that, the discipline? Or at least okay with speaking to him directly? I mean, I’d expressed on several occasion that it’d be just as well doing those things myself, my way. Only sometimes they’d have to wait since I was also busy bringing in my half of the bacon.
At times I’d remind her that I wanted my son to be awarded the same opportunity to be a kid, to just focus on school and soccer, that the white and/ or rich kids were. “Why are black and brown kids expected to man up so fast?”, I’d ask.
Yes, on one hand, I want to empower, not enable, him. I want him to understand managing basic human responsibility for your personal environment and the life you’re designing. At the same time, according to the Universal laws (oneness, vibration, attraction and the like,) can it not be said that we’d simply created or attracted a symbiotic relationship in which he does the things he enjoys (being a kid, stressing over procrastinated homework and navigating high school drama) and I do the same (cooking, cleaning and caring for a kid who’s way cooler than most)?
“Truthfully,” I told her, “the only thing I’ve missed from my ideal is a steady, strong and providing masculine presence to lighten the proverbial load of my femininity, my black womanhood.”
“She’s jealous,” I’d sometimes think. She grew up under similar conditions (raised by a financially challenged single mom) but felt she had to become the “man of the house” in several ways, some of them traumatic. She didn’t understand my version of motherhood (Each mother has her own,) what it meant for her and our relationship, whether it was best.
Essentially, that’s the very struggle a mother constantly faces: how much of who you truly are benefits or handicaps your child? And how much does who you pretend to be? How are your relationships affecting them? How much of your life is for them and how much for yourself?
Some say once you’re a mother, it’s all for them. But how sustainable is giving everything, living entirely for another, even if to or for your children, if there’s eventually nothing left for you? Who then is left to care for them?
I’m a relatively young, black, liberal (read: hippie,) college-educated, bisexual, single mom. Society’s description of me requires a lot of commas. My personal definition (personal implying that I know some won’t agree and I don’t care,) of masculine energy is a being that thrives from giving, from thinking, from propelling, putting out, projecting. And my personal definition of feminine energy is a being who thrives from receiving, feeling, taking in, processing, cultivating, regenerating, and nurturing. For me, bisexual means the capability to be attracted sexually to either gender. And finally, single means unmarried, for purposes of this piece.
What was initially a point of insecurity (being a young mom) became one of advantage as I now have plenty of youth left to focus on me without the typical guilt of a mother’s self-care. I’ve rolled my eyes at sayings like, “A woman can’t teach a man how to be one.” I’ve ignored ignorant assumptions, true and untrue, about me and my child because of the aforementioned labels.
I’d joked with friends about feeling like I’d have a personal “aging out of lesbianism.” (And I did. I moved into a space of being able to overcome the stigma and comfortably share that I’m bisexual and my attractions have always been more about emotional safety with women and physical safety with men.) And I’ve been in all manner of relationship on a never ending seesaw between what they say is best and what feels best for me, a relationship with someone who, regardless of gender, is a masculine-centered being in touch with their feminine side.
But it was seriously my plan, upon finding myself in the daunting role of mother, to be found by a suitable husband with whom I was madly in love by the time my son turned two. This husband of mine would be sexy, funny and smart. For him I’d be the same.
He wouldn’t mind, he’d prefer even, if he handled the money, I handled the home and we handled each other with care, made love daily and saved the world together. We wouldn’t take all day to recognize the sunshine in each other and we’d stand in it, in each other’s sun, proudly, boldly and bravely. I would have another baby, a girl, and we’d all live happily ever after.
I prayed, I worked hard and yet, here I am; single-handedly emptying my nest and still worried at times whether I’m doing what’s best.
I thought I’d done everything right. I’d always sought a balance between what other people wanted for me and what I wanted for myself but I essentially followed the rules and played by the book. I made it home by curfew. Though, I was never where I said I’d be and did things my mother would’ve never allowed. I went to the least expensive college close to home. But I ran myself into debt celebrating newfound freedom and put very little effort into academics. I got good paying jobs. However, I spent entire paychecks chasing fulfillment and quit without notice.
I did finally get the hang of this balance thing, though: you don’t. Instead of balancing, you tip the scale all the way to what’s best for you and let your children and other loved ones reap the benefits of being around someone totally and unapologetically in love with her life.
Yeah, I’ve got some things finally figured out. And it’s only because it took me a little time that some manifested residue of my old thoughts (money issues and less than ideal relationship dynamics) remain. Among a few other things, I’m still unraveling what it means to honor my inherent feminine desire to receive, to nurture, to ease and uphold my IRL obligation to be independent, provide for my son and bring home the entire pack of bacon.
But I know that I will. I will figure out and unravel the fuck out of every challenge that presents itself. Because that’s what moms do. And I’ll laugh, have fun, enjoy life, make it look sexy, master self care, and raise an amazing man, too. Because that’s what young, black, liberal, college-educated, bisexual, single moms do.
I just returned from a life changing vacation. (More on that in a separate post because it was the difficulties and challenges more than the breathtaking views that changed me. My recent experience, combined with previous visits to the same country, can be described only as enlightening.) I set aside my guilt (It’s hard to feel like you deserve a break, even as a single mother, when bills and responsibilities are calling for more work.) and traveled with four other black women to the Dominican Republic. When I returned, I found out I’d been turned down for a job I really wanted and had been counting on.
After a few hours of tears and conversations with the most important people in my life, I could see the err of my ways. It wasn’t in taking a much needed break when there was work to be done, in getting my hopes up or feeling excited about what seemed to be a great opportunity. It wasn’t in seeking a job after many years of self-employment and business ownership. My mistake was in my willingness to do for someone else what I hadn’t yet done for myself, to place yet another speed bump in the way of my own success and in my attempt to use a regular paycheck as justification for doing so.
A beautiful man reminded me that I’m beautiful, necessary, whole and good. My incredible sister reminded me that I’m capable, smart and talented. And my amazing best friend reminded me that a pimp is an unnecessary middle man and that I must stop whoring out my power. My village reminds me that I am doing what’s best. And that my son, the man I’m raising, is great.
Yes, we need men. But this is the new femininity. She is strong, independent, figures shit out, beautiful, capable and a boss. Single or single mom, she waits for no one. Because the world stops turning without birth and creation, without the divine feminine.
She pays her own bills, cooks, cleans, raises and disciplines her children and loves herself. She girl trips and solo travels. She makes a house into a home even when she’s the only one there, when the nest is empty. She lives. She thrives. She decides what’s best. And if the day comes that she recognizes a light as bright as her own in another, a masculine energy as brave, as strong, as generous, as providing as she, she receives it.
She puts down her remaining baggage. She clears the debris of the protective wall that used to surround her heart. She quiets her whispering fears of being hurt, of letting someone else lead and figure things out, of not being in control, of being helped. And she receives him, so help her God.