In My Memory

For the past couple of months I have been “unable” to write – a luxury that I can only afford because I work full-time. And in fact it has been the combination of doing The Read, working full-time, and averaging one live show every month that has culminated in an easy excuse for not writing anything significant in weeks. Despite having a long list of reading material and so many things I could or should be talking about on this blog, I chose instead to tweet or drink those moments away. I am excited for the new opportunities that are coming in my direction, but I let anxiety shut down my productivity. Often.

All of my acquaintances who write have been telling me to just get it all out anyway. “Who cares if it’s good?”, they ask. We both know that we are the answer, but this is the thing you say. “Once you start, the gates just rush open”, they add, which is true. So regardless of whether I think it’s any good, here is the one thing I can’t let myself get away with not writing about – my vacation in Paris.

I’ve never been a big dreamer, but I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. Since I was a little girl in Louisiana I have been a touch obsessed with French culture and language and always knew I’d run off to Paris one day, Josephine Baker-style. Now that I technically have three jobs (four if you include freelance writing, which you shouldn’t – yet), I could finally afford to spend a few days in the only city I’ve ever coveted.

Two weeks ago I frantically packed my suitcase at the last minute and rushed straight from the studio to the airport on a redeye nonstop flight to Paris. I was armed with a list of international traveling tips and the kind of nervousness one only experiences when a piece of her vision board springs to life. I was excited, and tired, and happy that I could understand most of what the pilots said in French before translating their speech into funny, stilted English.

I have been fighting one stank, aggressive sinus infection since, but otherwise this was totally worth every dime.

1. I am immensely proud of myself for making it from Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel completely unassisted and using the subway. One of the many great things about Paris is that when pollution is too high in the city, public transportation is free. So of the five days that I was in France, I only had to pay to use the subway twice. Before I left America I downloaded a copy of the Paris metro and step by step train directions from the airport to my hotel. And even though it was still a bit confusing and my French not as great as I’d previously thought, I still made it.

After I checked in, I showered and went out into the city. By this point it was late in the afternoon and my body was still on New York time. I went to a restaurant within walking distance and was immediately found out as a tourist, which was mildly disappointing. I’d hoped that my French was good enough to blend in with the locals, and it definitely was not. I had roasted chicken (I now believe that no one on earth makes a better roasted chicken than the French) with brioche and jam. I couldn’t believe how good it was. In fact, the only food Parisians fuck up is junk food. I tried French McDonald’s – terrible, even worse than in America. I couldn’t get past three bites at their local burger and fry joint around the corner from my hotel. But oh, the real food in Paris? It is relatively expensive, and the meal is small, but it is filling and most importantly delicious. Those people really know how to eat. Bread and wine 24/7? I felt born for Paris.

The waiters at the restaurant chatted me up in French, which was the first occurrence of what would become a common experience. The French people I met enjoy talking to Americans just so long as Americans actually try to speak French in return. I followed their customs, a lot of which reminded me of being back home in the south – saying hello when you enter a room, not walking around with headphones, etc. I think it made a big difference. They congratulated me on my French and I’m sure that when I move there, it’ll only be a few weeks before I fit in with everyone else. Lord knows I easily ignored the Roma kids asking for petition signatures (I was forewarned that this is a common pickpocketing scam) like a professional. Thanks, NYC.

I wrote in my travel diary that first night:
p.s. the cash here is gorgeous.
p.p.s. – i don’t know why i am always so full of self-doubt, but i wish i wasn’t.

2I woke up around 11a and almost fussed at myself for sleeping so late, but what’s the point in vacation if you’re still chained to an alarm clock? So fuck it. I went to the Eiffel Tower (again, a total pro on the train AND it’s free all weekend!) and literally gasped when I saw it. That was my first OH FUCK moment in Paris. It is just so amazing in person… the armed guards walking around with assault rifles were a bit unnerving, though. I waited in line for about an hour to ride to the top and it was worth every second. This is not a sight I’ll forget soon. 

It was just such an utterly beautiful day. After the tower, I had a croque monsieur in the park and took a dark taxi that smelled faintly of Hot Pockets to the Pompidou. Sadly, most art is lost on me but the Frida Kahlo CHILDREN’S exhibit was fantastic, so this was thirteen euros well spent. I chatted in broken French with local merchants selling jewelry right outside the museum and suddenly understood why tourists in NYC shop on the sidewalks while the rest of us breeze right past them. It’s not because they’re getting some amazing deal or a piece that they could never find back home… It’s to be able to say “Oh, this? I got it when I went to New York City. Right in the middle of Times Square, actually.” I get it now.

The elevators here have scales which is a real life LOL. And riders operate the train doors which could never work in NYC. At any rate, I am beginning to enjoy myself very much… so goodnight, until tomorrow…

3. Paris has a flea market called Les Puces and we (a friend joined me for most of the trip) spent all day Saturday visiting the vendors. There was an elderly black man selling paintings while painting, and he could not believe that we weren’t French. This was when I knew it was smart to dress nicer than I do in the states – the Parisians don’t do “casual” the way we do, not even in NYC. These people don’t wear tennis shoes and I rarely saw jeans. Most everyone was dressed neatly but nicely, and all-black was extremely common. By now my French had improved to where I could trick most shopkeepers into thinking I was native unless their questions came too quickly or used words I’d never heard before. We wandered past the women selling homemade jewelry and the men selling fake YMCMB apparel (some things are the same even overseas) and into the antique markets where items older than slavery in America sold for several thousand euros. We eventually journeyed too far and reached an underpass where people jammed together by the hundreds to find deals on socks and used, broken-down appliances. After a mild panic attack (I’m not great with crowds) we made our way back to the train station and the hotel room, already referred to as “home”.

Our hotel was directly above an Irish bar and St. Patrick’s Day just happened to be that weekend, so I got to see drunk and rowdy French white people live and in the flesh. It was like watching American frat boys party in the streets but with the modicum of sense necessary to be back on the sidewalks before the traffic lights turn green again. Because we were in the heart of Paris, just down the way from the Louvre, there were lots of late-night crepe spots open (the French really fucking love their Nutella) and we drank cans of Orangina til the sun came up.

4. I had every intention of getting up early to head to the Sacre-Coeur when it opened at 6a, but I’m glad we “overslept”. We arrived during church service, and because we were dressed nicely we were allowed to quietly tour the building during the sermon. As someone whose church is frequented by packs of tourists every week, I made the deliberate choice to not look raggedy when we visited religious sites. Outside the church, bootleggers sold illegal souvenirs and snatched up their packs to run like hell when police approached. Small groups of young people collected on the grass, smoking the eternally-present French cigarette, drinking from their beloved tiny cups of espresso, and listening to a harpist in the middle of a field. For seven euros we devoured roasted chicken with potatoes and bread and more Orangina, tearing through the bird with our fingers as if starved.

We went to the Louvre and freaked out over the glass pyramid and the fact that there was essentially no line to get in. [If you go to Paris, go before tourist season - trust me. It's a little colder but it's worth it.] Twelve euros later, I was a few feet away from the Mona Lisa and having the most out of body experience of the entire trip. Here was a painting I’d seen my entire life, perhaps the most famous painting of all time, and I was not looking at a replica or a reproduction but the actual real live Mona Lisa. Right there… well, right there behind the velvet ropes and glass case.
But again, I’m not one who really appreciates most art, so I was ready to go after that moment.

5. We saluted the tomb of the unknown soldier, climbed the Arc de Triumph, and had a steak dinner with French fries (yes, they really are better in France) and a chocolate cake too rich to finish. Before I knew it there were three empty bottles of red wine with dinner, and we paid too much in celebration. We hailed a cab to the Eiffel Tower and overtipped again, this time because the driver wryly answered our declarations of American citizenship with “well, we all have our faults”. This time the monument was all lit up for night, and the admission line even shorter. We played N*ggas in Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower and I stripper-kicked to Kanye while my friend moshed with drunk Spaniards, boys who have always been a train ride away from this moment. Living the dream.

I bought souvenirs but haven’t given them out – I don’t know why, but they feel awkward to me now. I don’t even think anyone was really expecting one, but still. We spent vingt-deux euros on groceries and didn’t care that we wouldn’t finish it all before we left.

I know there are things I am forgetting and I’m sorry that I didn’t spend more time writing them down. But I wanted to really “live” in Paris… to really immerse myself in my dream, and I am glad I did. People have asked if I feel any different than before and I do, but in a way that is hard to articulate. I took to Paris immediately, which is not something I can say about NYC, but I returned with a better patience for New York and the renewed ability to call it “home”.

closing doors

this is my conscious blessing, the one I didn’t ask for until after it already chose me. 

My dad bought our first computer when I was a junior in high school. It sat in the den with a giant CRT monitor that illuminated the entire room whenever it was on, and my brother and I fought regularly over whose turn it was to sign on to AOL. My first screen name was “LOL15″ – partly because I was fifteen years old, but mostly because my dad made me pick on the spot. Horrible name aside, “LOL15″ was my first introduction to the internet and my love of social media. Sixteen years later I’ve gone through a few LiveJournal diaries, a handful of MySpace accounts, a couple attempts at Facebook, one public Twitter, and countless message boards, apps, and blogs. I drove into adulthood with the internet in the back seat and spilled my twenty-something angst for every passenger to see.

Before 2013, I had a large but manageable online presence. I dealt with internet drama before, but not in person. I shared photos of my family and close friends and cleavage and whatever else came to mind. I could (and did) tweet anything, using social media to get through the misery of my former job and dragging celebrities for any faux-pas I found inappropriate. Was I a bully? Am I still? Regardless, 2013 is the year that determined that my use of social media in all of its many incarnations would permanently change.

Last summer, as The Read burst in popularity, my personal problems were published just after I became homeless through a separate set of fucked up circumstances. I moved twice in three weeks. A relative few celebrated my demise, furiously gloating over my perceived indiscretions while I privately adjusted into living in a permanent space again. I was working full-time, taping the show every week, and wanting to give up with every passing day. I didn’t want to jinx what we had by complaining, but the rapid ascension of The Read drove me to the brink more than once.

And so I suffered silently through the wounds of August. After my internet existence blew up, I took my now-annual solo trip to Long Beach to play alone and splash away my new life. The gravitational pull of the moon dragged me across jagged shells and slapping seaweed and quietly moved me in whichever direction it pleased, all throughout God’s body. I felt the ocean spread around me and felt small, like just another drop in the infinite mass of our world.

I was recognized right before I decided it was too cold to stay and lifeguards signaled for swimmers to move closer to shore. The irony of deliberately leaving the city to be alone only to be confronted while rib-deep in the ocean was not lost. It all clicked while I internally panicked over a fan seeing me bare thighed and without makeup: “Crissle” wasn’t going anywhere, and there was no peace in running from her.

The next week I received an email from ESSENCE asking me to write an essay for their November issue. The rest is history.

In 2014 I am officially saying goodbye to LOL15, the dozens of screen names that came after it, and the part of me that freely posted home videos and dark secrets and told the rest on sex filters. What used to be my space to vent and laugh and drag and uplift and simply exist is now made up of nothing more personal than an assortment of usernames.

Happy New Year, all.
I will miss sharing the details of my life, but that’s not my life anymore.

i still see the world in essay form, at least

i haven’t written in ages because i am tired all the time.

i came out of the internet personality closet at work about a month or so ago, and my boss and a few coworkers have listened to the show. they’re cooler about it than i could have dreamed, which is fantastic because although i really love the perks of this podcast, i have no desire to stop working here any time soon.

75% of my day is spent at work (for the purposes of my life, “work” means “everything i do” not “day job”), working, or thinking about work. more and more, i feel the line between my real life and my entertainment life growing thicker. Crissle is a hat I wear, a business. Crissle is for hire. And since I am property of my day job while there and swaddled in being Crissle otherwise, my only escape is sleep. i don’t get enough of it but i cherish it every night, usually drifting off fairly quickly after earnestly praying for blank brains and gray dreams.

i can’t in good conscience complain.

so this, i think, is what being a hustler feels like. i made the decision to go for it, whatever “it” or “this” means, and i don’t know if i’m flying or falling but i can’t go back to who i used to be.

there’s no gluing the mirror back together.
no pouring the milk from the floor to the carton.

even if i wanted to pretend none of this ever happened, “Crissle” will always be attached to me no matter what. if it ends today or sixty years from now, if it’s a successful brand or flops after a year, i’ll always be associated with this. the digital age is terrifying.

my friend is my partner. this is an adjustment too and not a bad one, but unfamiliar.

i’m in the middle of a fast and so far it’s easier than i thought it’d be. i’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

i have been casually yet consistently dating. i usually find myself in the company of interesting, engaging women but walking away feeling like i am still not missing out on much by staying single. that is honestly nothing against them – it is me, and the way i am consumed by my two lives, that makes it impossible to add another responsibility. i am selfish and guarded. i fixate on my flaws.

most of the time i would rather be alone and not thinking.  my life has bigger highs and sadder lows now. i can’t figure out if i’m hypersensitive or if every joy and pain around me are really as intense as they seem. i didn’t want to believe it but i’m not going to be able to make everyone proud. that keeps me up at night, but not much else.

and so i am at the intersection of being eternally thankful for my blessings and not knowing which way is up from here.

Whatever Feels Good

I’m coming in when I feel like, so turn this muhfucka up only if it feels right.

How do you thank the universe for a gift you didn’t want and with which you don’t know what to do?

I’ve been feeling conflicted about writing this, which is why I haven’t done it until now, but it’s pouring out of me and my friends are tired of hearing about it every other day.

On one hand, I am completely stunned by the success of The Read. I think most of that comes from the fact that the show requires almost no effort on our part. We literally just go in the studio and talk to each other the way we always do. I didn’t think that would be entertaining, but I guess that’s part of the reason why Kid Fury is Kid Fury and I’m no one – he comes up with great ideas.

The show took off immediately and my “life” was really flipped upside down overnight.  Most of these changes are happening in my digital world, changes I frankly wasn’t prepared to accept. Over the past four months I’ve gained over ten thousand followers on social media networks, appeared on television, and been recognized at work and around the city. All of a sudden I’m getting shit like round-the-clock tweets and tumblr messages and fan mail. Fan mail. Me, the girl who works as an assistant during the day. I still can’t believe that.

We’re blessed enough to have advertisements on the show, which is nothing short of amazing given the fact that 1) most people still don’t really fuck with podcasts like that and 2) we only have fifteen episodes. Suddenly I’m meeting with people who want to see me “succeed” and receiving gifts like professional headphones from Beats By Dre. Every day there’s something new for me to feel Taylor Swift-y about, and I always feel like I’m on the edge of a major shift in my life.

But on the other hand it feels like I’m not. Despite all the many ways my life has changed since the show started, it is still the same in all the ways that really matter to me.  My online world is very different now, but virtually nothing has significantly changed in reality. I still go to work every day (still love my job), still hang out with the same friends, and still live in the projects next door to screaming Dominican toddlers. I get recognized fairly often, but not enough to be annoyed by it. In my head I downplay everything that’s going on because if I am being really honest with myself, I don’t want to be disappointed if these dreams I never had end up never coming true. Things are happening quickly, but not so quickly that I can look around and say Yep, I made it. Everyone around me is gassing me up, so my natural instinct is to turn myself down.

I didn’t move to New York to “make it”. I moved primarily because I wanted to escape my horrible work situation in OKC. I found an “okay” job just a couple of weeks after moving, but I found the job a million girls would kill for eight months ago. Since then I’ve been so happy that I could have never dreamed of asking God for anything else, and unless you count a brief stint during my adolescence when I was convinced that I wanted to be Janet Jackson, I’ve never wanted to be famous.

And I still don’t. Fame is trash. But…

What if it’s possible to do something like this show, something I love and that is nearly effortless for me, and become “somebody”? What if it all does go somewhere? What if this time next year I’m in a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side writing about how I never thought it could happen to me?

But if you look at it like that, then that’s what I’m doing right now. That’s what my life has been since I moved here last June.

And so this is the way my brain goes, in that same “what if/what if not” circle, over and over until I grow tired of myself. I spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve convinced myself that any day now people are going to stop listening to the show and the emails will run dry, that the tweets will disappear and the tumblr messages will stop pouring in.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing this show. But because I never wanted to be in the “industry”, all the annoyances that come along with it bother me and there’s no emotional buffer of “this is the sacrifice you have to make” to soften the blows. I didn’t want to “make it” in the first place. As a black woman without representation or experience in this field, I’m terrified of someone taking advantage of me.

So I take on a more aggressive attitude than I’d like when it comes to business dealings because I want people to understand that I don’t give enough of a fuck about this entertainment shit to just agree to any old damn thing. I love what I do, but not enough to change who I am. I’m still morally opposed to doing reality TV and I’m not going to pretend to love a company or brand simply because they’re interested in paying me.

Nor do I want to take a great project like The Read, sign with the wrong people, and see it go in a horrible direction. So many young black artists find a cult audience with their indie projects only to turn into utter shit once sponsors and mainstream attention enter the picture. I’d rather not do the show anymore at all than have that happen.

I don’t have a manager. I doubt that I need one. I REALLY don’t know if I want one. Sometimes it feels inevitable, and then I tell myself that it isn’t. And that same damn circle continues…

Not The Mama

“Ugh. Girl!”

My friend’s voice, laced with exasperation, came huffing through my iPhone. He was going through a lot and as a result had taken to disappearing for days at a time. This was a few months ago, and I’d been lovingly needling him about it for the past twenty minutes.

“Listen”, he continued. “If I don’t check in with my mama, I’m not gonna check in with you.”

Kinda true, but for the most part he texted me at least once a day to let me know he’s okay. It’s all I asked and I appreciated it more than he knew. For reasons I haven’t yet identified, I can’t help but mother my friends.

Mothering my friends started when I was in high school and my parents had my youngest brother. At 14, I was definitely old enough to help out with the baby, and I spent a lot of afternoons and weekends making bottles and changing diapers. By college I was already more responsible than most other students my age, but not in a way that provided a benefit to me. I was unmotivated to go to classes or study, but I took care of others when they didn’t budget for food or got too drunk. I wasn’t the friend to turn to with questions about classwork, but I always had a big bottle of Tylenol and a ready ear.

After college I made friends who didn’t need me to make a lasagna or nurse them through hangovers. Since I was a few years older than they, I had a lot of advice on how to get through the pitfalls of the early twenties that they were all experiencing for the first time. I knew the major relationship red flags, how to get along with overbearing bosses, how to schedule a doctor’s appointment – life skills like those. All the things we learn once and then, much later, wonder how we ever didn’t know.

Now I’m in NYC, where everyone needs a mother (myself included), but no one needs their friend to step up as a surrogate.

Again I find myself surrounded by people who are a few years younger than I am, brimming with mid-twenties angst that looks and feels so familiar. I want to take everyone by the hand and explain that things will be okay, that heartache and long nights and tiny apartments don’t last forever, that one day you’ll wake up and it will all click. I want to give good, sound advice, and I want it to be heard. But as any parent knows, children don’t always do as they should.

My friends are not my kids, even though sometimes it feels that way. I woke up at 7 AM today not because my alarm went off or because I had a bad dream, but because a friend had a flight to catch and I wanted to be sure he was awake and headed to the airport. I had to force myself to turn over and go back to sleep without calling him. This is who I am and this is how I love, but I know that I. Am. Not. Anyone’s. Mom. My challenge is making an effort to not act like it.

When I see my friends going down a proverbial pothole-covered road, one that I’ve already traveled, all I can do is give my best advice and pray the fall doesn’t hurt too much when I see them continuing anyway. I had to learn for myself and so do they. It’s okay, I tell myself. I survived, and they will too. I don’t want to be the “mom” of my friends. But I have been in that role for sixteen years – I’m not sure how to stop.

I don’t ask that friend to text me every day anymore. He is climbing out of his grief, and I trust him to take care of himself. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t help that I can usually find him online anyway.

Mirrors

You don’t realize it until you have to, but you are an oak tree. We are all the sum of thousands and thousands of days wrapped and packed so deeply inside ourselves that recovering those memories feels like living them all over again. But this time around, there is a warmth surrounding the lesson. I learned this once, I tell myself, and now I am finding out why.

I’m going through life as my own reflection, as a girl on both sides of the glass. I am on the one page in every book that changes the entire course of the story. I know that the new me is right there, glowing, reaching out to me with neon fingers. I am becoming her.

But I am also made up of all the people I used to be. I see me in slow-burning Oklahoma mornings, feet caked with red dirt as I fed the dogs. I see me in my plastic blue glasses and swaddled in hurt ten year old feelings, reading in the private retreat I made for myself between two old evergreen trees on the edge of the front yard. I can still see the old me approaching the fence between the life I’ve always known and the one I was created to live, unsure of anything other than the time to change had come.

I wanted to say goodbye, but I’m already gone.
Nothing left in the mirror but dust.

Spring

The only season I haven’t experienced in NYC has arrived as I am entering the fourth quarter of my first year here. Spring marks a new beginning for me – a rebirth of the thrill that died during winter and a fresh wave of air for my spirit.

Last summer was such a frenzied blur that I don’t think my brain fully realized that we were in a new place. I was in shock like someone dipped headfirst into a freezing lake, and just trying to get through every day. I was emotionally uneasy until September, which brought my thirtieth birthday, a new job, and the first time I’d ever experienced a real autumn and the joy of going to a workplace I love. And as the days grew shorter and colder, I put away my favorite hoodies for the black wool coat I bought three years ago in Oklahoma but never needed to wear until now. Trudging through filthy slush and whipping wind has certainly not been the most pleasant part of my journey, but NYC has taught me to find comfort in every undesirable situation. Yes, I hate snow, and no, I’ve never been in any city quite THIS cold, but it is certainly beautiful to lay still at night and listen to snow falling softly atop my seasonally quiet neighborhood.

It’s still 40 degrees outside, but winter is officially over and my heart sings for spring.

I finally feel like I’ve figured it out. In a little less than three months, my first year in New York will be over and I could not be more content. I’ve made and trimmed away friends, turned my uptown micro-apartment into a makeshift home, and strengthened my once-wavering faith. It has been nothing short of miraculous to see how every lesson I learned in my twenties has proven to be a survival skill in NYC, especially saving every piece of loose change for the days when dollar pizza was all I could afford. Sometimes I wonder how much better my life could have been if only I didn’t wait so long to move, if I’d just managed to find the nerve to get up and leave sooner, until I remember that everything in my life has happened for a reason. I am where I am supposed to be, in the exact right time and the perfect place, and my tiny apartment has no space for regrets.

It has, after all, been a marvelous nine months. Six weeks after I moved, I met Jay-Z and Nas. I saw Beyonce at the United Nations and again at the premiere of her documentary. I survived two fashion weeks and rubbed elbows with Tim Gunn, befriended dynamic black women who are changing the world, and walked away impressed and humbled by people I have admired my entire life. I grew up when I thought I was all done growing. I learned to be easier with my heart and gentler with my words. And I am growing my own business, which is a strange juxtaposition of learning to market myself and staying true to who I am.
All of this has made me so much fuller inside.

I had to leave my sweet mama in Oklahoma in order to pick up a true appreciation for what it must mean to have raised me. My mama loves to tell of when I was born, a screeching red-skinned bayou baby with a thick head of hair and a relentless voice – a voice that has not quieted thirty entire years later. I am so much more grateful now for my mother’s hands and the way they shaped a woman out of a screaming pile of girl.
I am loud, and kind, and here.

I am so full of love that I could shout it to everyone I pass.
Can’t you see it on me?
Doesn’t my face tell my story?
I am enamored by the beauty all around me, and wholly in love with New York City.

Sweet Dream

This movie is not for the people who already don’t like Beyoncé.

It is not for those of you who are sick of her (2013 is going to be a rough year for you, just FYI). It is not for anyone who thinks she and and her talent are overrated. It is not for anyone who thinks she is more robot than human and enjoys picking her apart. It is not for those who have never purchased any of her albums, solo or otherwise. I could go on and on, but this movie is not for those people.

Life Is But A Dream is the type of film most fans want to see about their favorite celebrity, especially one who has worked so hard to guard her privacy and protect her image as Beyoncé. We see home movie clips from the 80s shot by Beyoncé’s father, Mathew – and no, not the same clips we’ve seen in her concerts and interviews before. We see Beyoncé in the most natural-looking makeup of all time, relaxing barefoot on a couch with her blonde box braids twisted in a high bun atop her head, being faux-interviewed by a young man whose face is never totally shown. And although Beyoncé is answering his questions, she is also the director of the film – which means that even though she appears candid and honest, she is still telling us exactly what she wants us to know.

While the Beyoncé detractors (a word i don’t like to use, but “haters” is so incredibly played) will be turned off by the admittedly narcissistic premise of the documentary, the 90%* of us who can’t get enough of King Bey are only too grateful for these intimate peeks into her life. The opening scene is a modern-day shot of Beyoncé’s childhood home, and throughout the film she takes her fans inside her world in a way we have not seen before. We learn more about her personal and business separation from Mathew, her outright disgust for the ugly rumors that she hired a surrogate to carry daughter Blue Ivy, the pain of losing her first child to miscarriage (including audio of the song she wrote shortly afterwards), and her ocean-deep love for husband Jay-Z. For in all the ways Beyoncé is not like anyone else on the planet, in some ways she is just like every other woman you know – she plays in front of Photo Booth with her sister and best friend; she takes her nephew swimming (albeit in France); she has her mama put her hair in rollers before she gives birth.

For those more interested in the business that is Beyoncé, we are treated to a glimpse of just how much work it takes to keep this empire moving, to keep Beyoncé a step (or two, or twenty) above the rest. She is meticulous and strong, and demands the same from those she employs. Rehearsal scenes are a frantic mess of beautiful girls learning choreography and Frank Gatson yelling at everyone to get their shit together, and Beyoncé reviews stage setup and lighting with a critical, exigent eye. At times she comes across as “mean” or “bitchy” until one remembers that she is solely in control – and if things are not done to her liking, why are they being done at all? She may be a typical perfectionist Virgo, but she is also signing everyone’s paycheck. It is evident from the film that she is still adjusting into the attitude required to be Beyoncé’s manager, still trying to balance her sweet disposition with calculated, no-holds-barred criticism.

So yes, Life Is But A Dream is Beyoncé’s version of Beyoncé’s life, all shot and directed and produced according to Beyoncé, filtered through the Beyoncé lens, packaged and promoted in the Beyoncé way. And for those of us who understand that her personal life is truly none of our business, we are only too grateful that she allows us inside anyway.


(*I totally made up that number. It’s probably closer to 99.99999%.)

Disappear

I didn’t know just how much I already loved you until we lost you. Feels like my heart has been scraped away.

The Remix

This train smells horrific, but that isn’t enough to make me switch cars. The elderly man next to me wheezes loudly and then violently coughs into a dilapidated handkerchief.  His eyes roll back slowly into sockets pleated with what I recognize as drug abuse. The stench of living underground radiates from him. He smells like hard packed green mucous in lungs that wanted to give up long ago; it is not unlike that of death.

But I’ve had a trying day, I’m tired, and this funk isn’t enough to make me move. As soon as the train goes above ground, an iMessage from my sister-in-law pops onto my phone. Every day she sends photos or videos of my nephew, and I smile as I unlock my phone. I could really use a boost just now.

The photo is indeed of my beautiful nephew, sleeping soundly in my brother’s arms. But at the bottom is a positive pregnancy test and the caption “It’s a secret :)”.

Not since her last pregnancy announcement have I felt this ethereal swell in my heart, this joyous rolling from one component of my soul to the next. Before I can reply to her message I am back underground, and instantly the man next to me shifts awake. He is sadder than I first realized, soaked in tiny puddles of urine and covered in weeks of crust. But it is not enough to make me move.

I can feel hot tears pricking and I will them away just long enough to pray, to thank my God for this blessing, to plead for a safe pregnancy. All I can I ask is a happy delivery, a healthy baby, and another soul to keep.

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