feature image via From The Front Row/Focus Features
Please put on Alice Smith’s Secrets if you want to get into the same semi-somber mood I’m in while writing this. Let me tell you it was my goal, my aspiration, my hope! to be really positive this week but I’ve got cramps and something slightly life-altering occurred at work and so we’ve got this. Stay with me though – I have stories and we can make this fun!
After having a run in with a probable family member that we’re not going to acknowledge as family cause this mini reunion brought about more questions than answers, I’ve been thinking a lot about family and secrets. Like how keeping secrets to keep a family together is some shit you’re just never prepared for. I think a good chunk of us can understand that in regards to hiding sexuality, mental illness, trauma from family because you think (or know) it’s the only way to keep family together. But I’m wondering, what if I had some people as family and it was about liberating ourselves, not keeping shit secret? If we have to work with blood family and the shit that comes along with it, why aren’t we allowed to imagine more family that helps us through shit?
What I mean is this: Morgan Parker writes in “And Cold Sunset,” from her new book, Magical Negro: “I am not aware who made me.” What I mean is this: I can only trace my family back to my great-grandparents because none of us really can afford to know what happened before them (at least not all at once). After you hear about the KKK coming to your grandfather’s house, your grandmother losing her father when she was only nine, and see another grandfather who walks out on the Roots marathon because, as his wife says, “He can’t watch this anymore. It makes him a different person. Hard for him to come back,” you just don’t keep asking them to go back into their past just so you can get a glimpse of how they came to be who they are. There is a lot of shit to uncover and sometimes you just don’t want to go therapize yourself into grief every day, sometimes you need to believe you’re also worthy of good shit too.
What I mean is this: Carmen wrote earlier this month: “If there’s a crop of rumors surrounding Josephine and Frida, there’s a reason. I understand it intimately. It’s a desire to be seen, to imagine there’s a you before the you that you are now. That, she, too could have found love.” I desire to be seen and it often feels like no one is fucking looking for me so I gotta stay looking for me and make this shit up.
You know, I pull my family from everywhere. I imagine having a queer auntie from the South, that makes me think of Debra Morgan and Diahann Carroll from Eve’s Bayou who saw me coming and intentionally put up protection spells to keep me alive. I imagine having a big uncle with an even bigger deep laugh that always wraps me up in hugs every time he sees me and looks at me with really kind eyes whenever I ask him, “Does you see it too?” and never lies to me when he answers. Throughout middle school, I kept Alicia Keys as my black soft butch role model (and I refuse to believe that she is not some kind of not-straight so don’t even try to convince me otherwise). From elementary school still to this day, Langston Hughes is my great-great uncle that would’ve given me space to write and cry and just *feel* whatever I needed to feel because there’s a lot of poetry in just allowing yourself to feel and work through the truth of yourself. But it’s not just famous people. At work, a customer asked me if it was okay if they vented about something and said, “I didn’t even know I was holding that in.” When I told them it was okay to share they told me, “The world is a good place because of kind people like you,” and they’re my family. Even if we’ve only met once and we’ll never meet again, there’s something to be said about that connection. In high school, my friends and I weren’t on the best terms with our families and we said we were each other’s family (complete with ridiculous backstory documented on a blackboard somewhere that I think included Taylor Lautner, stripping, and a few cases of gender bending) until we couldn’t be family anymore. And even though it didn’t last forever, it got us through some very tough things and that’s what family is supposed to do right? Even if they can’t do that forever.
I wanna know who you keep as family, the kind of family that cheered you on when your family didn’t want to come to your basketball games, the kind of family that stood by you when you came out and keep standing by you, the kind of family that totally understands your alien obsession and reminds you that “you don’t need everyone loving you, just the ones that matter.” (DO YOU MISS BOMB GIRLS LIKE I DO???)
ANYWAYS that’s probably a lot and it’s totally cool if you don’t want to do this unexpected deep dive into the buried crevices of your psyche! Tell me about your week! What’s your pet up to (and can you remind them that I love them)? Did you also have a very interesting sex dream about your friends last night? I wanna hear all about it!
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