Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nina Simone is an American and So am I (Part II)

Nina Simone came back into my life just a few years, which included an eye-openingly toxic relationship and a move to Georgia, after I returned home from England. Pandora internet radio introduced itself and destroyed Slacker Radio forever. 

I was living in an adorable little house in downtown Dahlonega (the site of the first American gold rush, I kid you not) (I’m a woman of the world) with my dog and two cats. The little house had a clawfoot bathtub, the bottom stained with red clay from my days as a full time gardener and general mud wallower, and I would fill it with hot water and epsom salt, light me some candles, and put on some Nina Simone Pandora radio. 

Because I chose not to pay for an account, my Pandora stations always had advertisements, and those sneaky advertisers are always creepin’ around on your internet searches to find out what they need to be advertisin’ to ya. If you listened to Nina Simone radio at regular intervals, like I did, you would more than likely hear this ad: “Are you a strong black woman in search of a strong black man?” 
And I always thought, I wish. 

I had never been introduced to a woman who sang with what felt like her whole body and soul. I felt embarrassed for her because of that vulnerability and the hostility it invites...or had invited into my life. 

I never really learned to stand up for myself. I don’t know if white women aren't taught to do that, or if it’s everyone, or if it was just me. Thus, I spent a lot of time trying not to rock the boat, despite my (kind of really) intense emotional relationship to, well, reality. 

I also spent a lot of time trying to keep from having a noticeable muffin top, trying to hide my psoriasis, trying to hide. Trying to live up to that khaki WASP standard. I despised my hips and my thighs. So wide. Too wide.

But black women, at least the poets (All women experience shame within the constructs of a patriarchal society. It's a form of domination, control), spoke of their bodies like a painter might paint a figure, with respect and awe. Maya Angelou uses phrases like “swing in my waist” and “ride of my breasts,” and she has that deep gravelly voice that you can feel along the hairs of your neck. She says her secret lies “in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips,” and then she tells us she’s a woman, with a knowing half-smile.

In the same vein, Nina Simone, with her smokey, lovely moaning, made me feel the span of my own hips, to sit in silent awe at the ride of my own breasts, and to breathe fearlessly into the stride of my step...for a the tub. 

I want to let my body spread out as wide as the ocean. Then, what I might normally think of as my wobbly bits, become ripples on the water. I want to see my imperfections, delicately painted, like flower petals. I want to sing with my embarrassing voice, the vulnerable one, the one that sings, “take me for what I am,” without quivering. Without shame.

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