Marriage Is Like A Glass Of Lemonade

beyjaylemonade

“I’m not trying to be that kind of wife.”

These are words I’ve uttered to my husband, not once, not twice, but possibly a few times in our almost 5 years of marriage. Some notable moments have played into how I’ve crafted my identity as a wife – the purposeful word choices in our wedding vows, becoming a mother, absorbing research that shows marriage is much more beneficial for the husband than the wife, and encountering some of the rocky moments that have come our way since August 1st, 2011. With each and every life experience, I’ve consciously and subconsciously shaped the framework of what kind of wife I want to be – what she accepts, what she doesn’t. What she gives, what she requires. What she sacrifices, what she deserves.

Watching  Beyoncé’s Lemonade film and listening to the full album the night of its release forced me to revisit the nooks and crannies of my own marriage. Though Lemonade encompasses so much more than just fodder for deconstructing the possibility of infidelity in the Carter relationship, the complex themes within the evolution of a relationship – and the people in it  – hit me hard.

There is a LOT that differs between Beyoncé and I – my bank account is chuckling right now – but being a Black woman in my early 30s, a new mom, and married to a man I’ve loved for years, I’ve felt a new kinship with her especially since her self-titled album back in 2013. Back then I related to both the bliss of “Drunk In Love” and the “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it?” line in “Mine.” I didn’t expect her to delve as deeply into the vulnerability of love, loss, and hope as she did in Lemonade, but I am so glad she went there.

via GIPHY

Marriage ain’t easy. In my experience, it’s a set of consistent and deliberate decisions to stand together day after day. Some days, that decision is the easiest one to make. Other days, you have to dig deep and remind yourself that the moment may be difficult, but trouble don’t last always. I’ve experienced unimaginable highs in my marriage, but have also been through lows that made me question everything I thought I believed about love, my partner, and myself. I’ve screamed “Who the fuck do you think I is?” I’ve walked out of arguments and straight into the club with my girls. I’ve been hurt and done some hurting myself, knowingly and unknowingly. I’ve reconciled. I’ve fallen deeper in love. I’ve learned that betrayal can come in many forms, but so can forgiveness. I’ve remembered why I said “I do” and made the decision, again and again, to keep standing together.

Lemonade gave me a soundtrack to the growth I’ve gone through as my husband’s wife and as my own woman – and though reliving some of that growth was painful, it was cleansing, too. Being a wife is an identity that carries particular responsibility and emotion; one that I’ve defined by myself, for myself, and for my relationship. Lemonade put the sweet and sharp moments of this identity into musical form, and reinforced how powerful hard truths and unrelenting vulnerability can be. So, from one wife to another – thank you, Beyoncé.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

A Model/Mom’s Thoughts On The “Modern Black Family” In Media

family

My fake families never really look like mine.

I do a fair bit of commercial/lifestyle modeling, booked either on my own or as the wife and mom of a nuclear family. Though it’s a positive development to be booked as a natural-haired Black woman, it’s always interesting to see how clients and casting agents create the look of my “family.”

You’ll have me – a Black woman with curly hair (kinks and tighter curls don’t get me work, but looser curls do). Then you’ll have my husband – a clean cut, handsome Black man. Our fake kids are always beautifully adorable, but in my mind they never look like they could possibly come from the combination of my “husband” and I. The children I’m cast with are always biracial, with light complexions and big, loose natural curls – and while my science-loving mind knows that genes can do all kinds of interesting things, this feels more like an attempt to create the perfect visual for a “modern family.”

“Modern family” has become synonymous with “Black family” on many of the sets I’ve been on. Agents and photographers smile encouragingly to ensure that I feel excited about portraying something “modern” even though Black people and Black families have been around for eternity. Seeing us is still new in Canadian media, I guess – so it’s par for the course for set staff to feel self-congratulatory over their forward-thinking booking.

At one of my last shoots, everyone cooed incessantly over how adorable my “kids” were, and it was right on the mark – those children were absolutely gorgeous. However, the remarks about their hair and skin tone from the all-White staff started to feel like they were fetishizing the children, and I got a funny feeling in my stomach. That unease was for both those kids and my own daughter who, with her brown skin and kinky hair, existed on an opposing end of the spectrum.

Many consumers comment positively about the fact that we’re seeing more diversity in media. More people of colour, more Black women with natural hair – but having this kind of intimate view of the industry makes me pause on the celebration. Sure, my very presence on some of these sets means we’re making some headway – but when my deep brown eyes and brown skin and tightly curled hair consistently gets erased from my generation to the next – there’s a direct message there. My nuclear family shoots often feel like casting agents want to fast forward to National Geographic’s view of what Americans will look like in 2050, but a piece of me leaves feeling like I have to hold up my own daughter as proof of resistance. Similarly to how my hair is more accepted in the industry when it’s a specific kind of natural texture, Black children seem to be more acceptable when their look is more ambiguous. Where my darker-skinned child has been called for bookings for charities dedicated to poverty in Africa, lighter-skinned children are consistently the ones booked to work with me on mainstream shoots. It seems that the next best thing to being colourblind is believing that the one true path to seeing everyone as beautiful is to blend us all into one big melting pot. If the beauty in all racial, ethnic, and cultural expressions and combinations therein was authentically validated and represented, it wouldn’t feel so much like casting agents were treating Black families like a lab assignment, picking and choosing the “right” looks at random.

It’s not lost on me that the majority of creative staff I work with are White, so these views on what a “modern family” and what a marketable Black lifestyle and aesthetic look like are through those eyes. As I always say, more diversity behind the camera is needed to help increase diversity in front of it. We’re on the way to a more inclusive representation of our society in media, but I don’t feel like we’re there just yet.

After my last shoot, I felt compelled to go home, lift my daughter into my arms, and tell her how beautiful she was. While I’m cognizant of not solely complimenting my daughter on her looks, days like that one reminded me why it felt important for me to do so. There is so much more room for a wider representation of society in today’s media, and while I’m happy to be taking up the space that I am, I’m working to make sure that my daughter feels beautiful and self-assured in her space too.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

Motherhood, Empathy, & The Scary Side Of Sensitivity

BSMsensitivityThere are so many mysteries in motherhood, mostly made up of the way it connects the mind, body, and soul like almost nothing else. From stories of mothers flexing superhuman strength to lift cars off of their children to the science of microchimerism linking mother and child on a cellular level, I remain fascinated by the layers of this life.

I can’t count all of the changes I’ve undergone since becoming a mom, but there’s one aspect that I didn’t expect and never thought would last: my empathy muscle has grown exponentially, and I’m still coming to terms with this new side of myself.

I’ve always been someone who was concerned about others – just never extremely emotional save for the kind of Taurean anger that simmers below the surface before bubbling and boiling over. Seeing other people sick, in pain, or struggling would have me posted up in my feelings for a bit, but for the most part I could compartmentalize and eventually move past things.

But now? Things done changed.

For the longest time, I chalked things up to the surge and swirl of postpartum hormones. However, it’s been 18 months since I had Little Magician, and I’m not sure how long the validity of that argument holds.

The level of sensitivity I feel towards others and their plights is scary at times. Sometimes I almost feel like I can sense what someone else is going through, even if it’s a physical or emotional pain I’ve never experienced. My ability to shake uncomfortable things like I used to is all but gone – things never seem to leave me, and when the memories return weeks or months later, they barely lose any of their strength.

Positive emotions affect me too, though those are more welcome weights to carry. I feel a heightened sense of excitement for the good news of friends and family, and celebrate their wins as if they were mine. Interestingly enough, this has helped to minimize my habit of comparing my success to that of others. It’s in those moments that I think, maybe this isn’t so bad…

Overall, it’s an exhausting existence to feel like a magnet for other people’s stuff – positive or negative. Motherhood widened my capacity to care for others, and while I thought that was only in relation to my child, I feel like that expansion has created room for way more than I bargained for.

I’m learning where my new boundaries are and when I need to pull away or disconnect. I’m also learning to view this new level of sensitivity as a strength instead of a weakness. Will it fade away at some point? Is this all still the result of residual hormones flowing through my system? Time will tell, but for now, I’ll just ride this wave and see where – for all its highs and lows – it takes me.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough, And Other Thoughts On Struggling As A Working Mom

The Brown Suga Mama -NYC HOPECan I be honest for a moment?

I’m really sucking at this working mom/side-hustler/work-life balance seeker thing. Really sucking.

Watching this week’s episode of Being Mary Jane and its focus on Kara – a driven TV producer, divorcee, and mother – was like a huge exhale for my soul. The episode shone a spotlight on how work, motherhood, and love all collide in her world, and there were a number of times that Kara said something that left me like


One of those things was when she told her friend and co-worker, Mary Jane, that “I just feel like I’ve been an A-student all my life, and I’m just a freaking C-student in everything in my life right now and I just hate it.” Actress Lisa Vidal’s delivery in that whole scene – the whole episode to be exact – had me on the flo’. I felt it. I feel it. I get it.

I’m trying to be a good mother and be good at my job. I’m trying to grow as a good writer and develop my side hustles and be a good wife. I’m trying to be a good friend/sister/daughter, and I’m trying to find time for myself through it all. I can’t give any of this up. My job pays my bills. My family is my heart. My writing and passion projects are part of me. I can’t give any of this up and I want to do it all well, but I feel like I’m not doing a good job with any of it.

Maybe it’s not that I’m not doing a good job. I’m doing the best I can, but do you know how frustrating it is when your best isn’t good enough for you? Whether it’s getting to work by the skin of my teeth, skipping out on reading a book to Little Magician before bed to save time, neglecting laundry that needed to be done yesterday, or staying up late to finish writing (which will undoubtedly make the next morning hellacious), I more often than not finish my day just hoping that I’ll do better the next.

I want to be an A-student again. I want to feel like I’m doing a good job in all the roles and identities I carry. I know that I can’t have it all, and I know that “balance” is more of a fluid equilibrium than a perfectly weighted scale. The lesson life is giving me right now is to figure out what MY all is, and how to make it work in a way that leaves me feeling happy, capable, and whole.

Constantly feeling guilty, dissatisfied, and inadequate isn’t healthy – so what am I doing to fix this?

I’m in the midst of a self-imposed break, being very careful with my time and saying “No” more than “Yes.”

I’m using my time to map out life and to figure out what I want it to look like.

I’m getting better at asking for help when and where I need it.

I’m celebrating my wins where I get them.

I’m promising to be kinder to myself.

That last point is probably the most important. When your best isn’t good enough for you, it can be all too easy to employ abusive self-talk that you’d never utter to anyone else. Before I can make anything better, I have to promise to be kinder to myself throughout the process.

Here’s to being kind to myself and honest about life. Here’s to getting back to A-student status sooner rather than later. Here’s to hope and faith and the belief that things can and will get better.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

“How To Be A Better Hugger” And Other Life Lessons From My Baby

BSM-LMteacher

Parents spend so much time and energy thinking about the things we want to teach our children, when a simple moment of reflection reveals all of the things they’re teaching us. Whether she knows it or not (honestly, I think she knows), my Little Magician is currently running a masterclass on affection, being genuine, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

Affection

Hugging was never really my thing. I maintain my personal space quite stringently, and have never really been able to free myself up as much as others do when it comes to handing out hugs. I’ll give you the BEST side hug ever, and I really mean it when I do – but going for the gusto with a full-on bear hug is something I do very rarely.

I guess things with personal space loosen up a bit when you’ve grown a human being inside of you.

The older she’s gotten, the better LM has become with her hug delivery. When we’re saying goodnight, when she wakes up in the morning, when you pick her up and carry her, and any moment that she totters towards you with arms outstretched, she hands out the most love-filled hugs.

They surprise me at times – her baby grip is not to be messed with, and she lets you know if you attempt to pull away from a hug before she’s ready to disengage. The only thing better than feeling her tiny arms around my neck, a fat cheek either pressed against mine or buried in my neck, is when she takes her two hands, purposefully puts them on the sides of my face, and pulls me close for a quick kiss. She reminds me that closeness and showing affection aren’t things I need to fear, and she helps to pull my wandering, wheels-always-turning mind out of the sky and into the moment we’re in.

Being Genuine

If you greet LM, you’ll receive a most heartfelt “Hi!” in response. She takes a deep breath and turns a monosyllabic word into a melodic wave, starting off high-pitched then letting the “i” tumble down a few notes, always ending in a beaming smile. She says it like she means it, and says it like she’s genuinely happy to see you – and dammit, her “Hi!” makes you feel good.

She’s the most genuine human being I know, likely because she doesn’t know how to be any different. Aside from the little tricks she pulls where she uses her cuteness to get one more snack, or to try to keep playing when it’s time for bed, she doesn’t fake the funk with anything. I’m trying to be more like her and infuse my “Hello!” and “How are you doing?” with more sincerity. She reminds me that sincere acknowledgement – one person truly seeing another – isn’t as common as we think it is.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Similarly to how genuine her “Hi” is, LM pulls no punches when she likes or dislikes something. She’s only 16 months, so we have some time yet before we can finesse her social skills – but right now I love seeing how definite she is when she likes or wants more of something, or when she never wants to see or do something again. She’s down to pretty much try anything once, and she generally is concrete when she’s decided what (if any) place it will have in her life.

She loves tummy rubs from HomieLuva, but if he starts to slow down or stop, she’s sure to grab his hand and place it back on her stomach, looking him square in the eye like “You GON’ rub this belly some mo’…” She hasn’t come to temper tantrum phase yet, but her “No” is strong and sure. You might be able to try her later with the thing she’s currently rejecting, but right at this moment? She’s letting you know that it’s not happening.

She hasn’t developed the kind of self-awareness that makes you a bit shy about sharing or being excited about what you like, or makes you worry about coming off too strong. Seeing her conduct herself in such a self-assured, self-centered (in a good way) manner is utterly refreshing, and reminds me that I need to indulge more in the things I enjoy, and need to be more firm with my “No,” regardless of what anyone else thinks. No more pussy-footing around issues – my “say what you mean, mean what you say” muscle has been re-strengthened thanks to the teachings of one Little Magician.

I marvel at the way she’s changed and continues to change me, and sit in awe at how powerful this tiny human is. You’re never too old to become a better person, and I’m just thankful that I have a pretty good teacher here to show me the way.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

Little Black Girls & Praising Pretty

LittleMagicianbeauty

Thank you to my girl KJ for the photo! 

At a recent event, I was mesmerized by the sight of this little Black girl, no older than 5. Her thick hair was styled into a bundle of long, ropy twists, and I thought of my Little Magician. She was born with a head full of kinks and curls, so each time I see a beautiful hairstyle, I lock it in my memory bank. I commented out loud that I could see my daughter rocking those twists, and a family member said “Oh, but that little girl’s hair is nice! ______’s is tough!” In that moment, “tough” meant bad and incapable of the beauty the other little girl possessed. My heart dropped and I thought, ‘I have so much work to do.’

A post on Today’s Parent listed eight things to say to help build the self-esteem of girls.  #7 read “Go beyond ‘You look so pretty!'” and talked about not resting compliments solely on how a girl looks. “Beauty can be tricky—it feels natural to compliment a child, yet it can reinforce the message that looks are what matter most.” My immediate reaction was bisected. On one hand, I totally agreed. When the first – or only – thing a girl hears being positively attributed to her is her looks, that creates a slippery slope that can be extremely difficult to climb.

On the other, as a Black woman raising a Black girl, I’m constantly reminded that our beauty often isn’t revered at all. That reminder comes when magazines relegate Black beauty to special “diversity” issues or when family members comment on who has good hair and bad hair. That reminder comes every time I realize that I need to fill my daughter up with the beauty of her skin, her hair, her body – because at only 14 months of life, I’ve had to deflect and protect her from too many messages alluding to the contrary.

My daughter is – and will continue to grow to be – a multifaceted being. She’s smart, hilarious, resourceful, and determined. She’s also beautiful, and I have no qualms about letting her know that. I always preach hair love, but I’ve never fallen in love with a head of hair like I have hers.  Her brown skin is so smooth and luminous, and she loves to pretend to lotion it when she sees me doing so with mine. I go beyond praising pretty as Today’s Parent recommended, but I’m very purposeful about making sure my daughter sees the beauty in hair that grows to the sun and skin brown as the earth.

We live in a homogeneously White neighbourhood, and within our own family we have some members who still ascribe to ideals of good hair/bad hair and joke about the woes of getting “too dark.” These are my motivations for ensuring that my daughter feels valued and validated in her own skin, and mean that I not only have work to do with my daughter, but with our family and the society we live in. I seek out diverse representations of beauty and humanity for her, making sure that she sees girls, boys, doctors, and princesses that look like her. I never complain about her hair while washing or styling – all she hears from me is that it’s beautiful and healthy, or that mommy needs to add some more conditioner to help detangle it. I’m working to fill her with love for the parts of her that are presented to the world and judged first – a portion of my efforts as a mother to raise her as a being who loves her skin, hair, and smile as much as her laugh, math skills, and dancing ability (or whatever amazing attributes she develops as she grows).

As with anything else, discussions around compliments and focusing on the internal vs. external are all about balance. Because I find the discussion around the beauty of brown-skinned, natural-haired Black girls to be lacking, I’m doing my part to balance it for my daughter and the other girls I encounter. It’s of great importance to affirm both their internal and external attributes – shaping them positively before any other force has their way with our beautiful girls.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

What Do I Tell My Daughter About #SandraBland?

Photo via boingboing.net
Photo via boingboing.net

To my Little Magician: We’ll read this together when you’re old enough to understand.

Motherhood has been an incredible adventure, but I have always been haunted by the guilt of bringing you into this world – a world that has not been very kind to little Black girls who grow into Black women. Whenever I face some injustice simply for being Black and/or woman, and whenever I learn of someone else suffering solely because they possess one or both of those traits, I take your cherubic brown face in my hands and apologize. I don’t know what else to say, sometimes.

A few weeks after your first birthday, the world learned about a woman named Sandra Bland. A young Black woman with a university education behind her and a brand new job in front of her, her life was cut short after being arrested for a simple traffic violation. Police said she assaulted the arresting officer. They said she died by hanging herself in her jail cell three days later. I have a hard time believing either of these points, but the one thing I am sure of is that Sandra Bland became a target because she was a Black woman who knew her rights, owned her voice, and didn’t cower in the face of egregious authority.

I read about Sandra Bland’s memorial service, where her mother Geneva Reed-Veal said:

Once I put this baby in the ground, I’m ready…this means war.

Reading that quote lit a fire under me. A mother left to bury her daughter is ready to go to war in order to get truth and justice. I’m a mother who’s ready to go to war for you in the here and now, fighting the complex battle of preparing you for this world while trying to change it at the same time. You’ll come into your Blackness, your girlhood, and your womanhood on your own – but my promise as your mother is that you’ll never be alone.

What do I tell you, my baby, about the world and how to navigate it? How do I balance my efforts to encourage you to use your voice while simultaneously transforming forces that seek to punish you for that act? What will I say to you when you tell me that someone called you “angry” or “mouthy” or “arrogant” because you said “I won’t accept that” or “I earned this” or “I feel good about myself today”? How will I shape the discussion around police behaviours and how to be safe without making you feel afraid to exist? How do I replenish your belief in the right to occupy the world in the way you choose when someone makes you feel that you’re on borrowed time and in borrowed space? What will the conversation look like when we talk about Black womanhood and respectability and racism and sexism and why people want you to know your place when you should have the freedom to create your place? What do I tell you, my baby?

I asked these questions after being moved to tears by a recent live reading of James Oliver, Jr.’s piece “After Eric Garner, What Am I Supposed To Tell My Son?” Oliver’s piece was recognized at the BlogHer 2015 Conference for its impact, and only reinforces my thoughts on all of this. As evidenced by Oliver, Sandra Bland, and numerous others, there is immeasurable power in the impact that our voices can have when we can leave nothing else behind. So, what am I supposed to tell you, my daughter? I don’t know, but Sandra Bland’s life, voice, and story will help me to find the words.

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

Motherhood in colour. Motherhood with flavour.