I don’t know my father. I know his name, I know he looks like me and I know we share the same taste in music. Outside of that I’m clueless. Now, before you start jumping to conclusions that this is one of those poor-little-black-girl-without-a-dad stories. It’s not. This is a tribute to my strong, beautiful mother who I refer to as MAD… mom-dad.
Every morning, when I was a kid, I would watch my mother put on a pantsuit and heels, as she got ready for work. I would study her as she put her make up on in the bathroom and joined as she danced to Gladys Knight. She would take off for the day and I usually didn’t see her until several hours later. This is the everyday reality for single moms. While my grandmothers, (both paternal and maternal), also helped raise my sister and I, it was my mother who had to absorb both household roles. She taught my how to line my lips and line the walls for painting. She showed me how to snake the shower drain and how to pick the perfect pair of snake skinned pumps. When the garbage disposal got jammed, she would crawl under the sink, wrench in tow, while simultaneously helping me with my math homework. This was the norm for my family. I can’t remember the last time I saw so much as a handy man come to our house. It just wasn’t an option. Even though my mother had three brothers to call for help if she ever needed it, she enjoyed doing the work herself. So naturally, I figured this is how everyone’s house worked. The mother would blend into one super parent, essentially creating a mom-dad. I even started to become resentful during my teen years for my mother constantly explaining to my sister and I the importance of independence. Sometimes a girl just wants to watch reality T.V. with no judgment.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to understand how imperative these skills are. I moved to Los Angeles from Lansing when I was nineteen years old by myself. Since then I have encountered car failures, broken door hinges, clogged pipes and just about any other small disaster you can imagine. While I’ll admit it would have be much easier to have a boyfriend or hell any man to help me, in retrospect, I’ve grown so much more because of it. The accomplishment you feel knowing that you and only you completed an almost impossible task is indescribable. For example, I remember being in my one –bedroom Korea Town apartment desperately wanting to rearrange my furniture. I had no roommates, barely any friends and family that lived far away. I decided to move the furniture myself and while it was hard work, it felt rewarding at the end knowing that I did it without relying on anyone else. And while in actuality the room didn’t look much different, it felt different to me because I was so proud of the work I did. It was almost like I had shifted the energy just by producing confidence in myself. Now I finally understood douchbags. How could you not develop an ego after all of that!
My biggest pet peeve has to be the constant daily reminder that women are nothing more than damsels in distress. Whether it’s in the movies, in a book, or staring at me from the pages of US Weekly Magazine, it seems as if women are in need of saving. Take for example any super hero movie you’ve ever seen. Batman, Spiderman, and now the soon to be released Man of Steel. All of the women are merely beautiful clumsy dames that must be saved by the men who love them. Because how else would Mary Jane get around New York without Spiderman? Dare I say, hail a cab? This fact is probably more annoying than the blonde who always trips and falls in a horror movie. Seriously ladies, get it together you’re barely even sprinting. Now, I already can hear some of you in my head saying, “But what about Wonder Woman?” Ah, yes. Wonder Woman. Anytime someone brings up the lack female roles in super hero novels the first example the opposition counters with is Wonder Woman. When was the last time you saw a Wonder Woman franchise? Granted, Hollywood has been trying for years to get a Wonder Woman film in the can but without luck and do you know why? No one wants to see a woman saving a man or even more shocking…saving herself. Where’s the heroism in that, right? We would no longer need super heroes, if the women were able to get themselves out of danger. The villains would have no one to kidnap and use for ransom and Bruce Wayne would have no more sex appeal. No, best leave the men to the rescuing and the woman to the falling and screaming.
My mother always said the two things a woman needs in life is: street smarts and book smarts. Street smarts being the ability to handle situations using common sense, while book smarts being the ability to apply education to the same situation. Unfortunately, the everyday skills we use in life are not taught in school. Your English teacher is not going to show you how to assemble your dresser table while comparing and contrasting Shakespeare. This is why we need our parents, to teach us the street smarts we need to survive. But what if you don’t have a father? Will the dresser just never be built? Will the trash continue to pile in the corner? Shall we as women just give up those duties until we find a suitable man? The truth of the matter is, in this day and age women MUST learn how to do it for themselves.
A few years ago I attended a woman’s luncheon with a few friends. We played a game where we would all write a question on a piece of paper and put it in a hat. One by one we would pick a question to answer. My friend across from me had pulled what seemed as a simple inquiry, but soon turned out to be a heated debate. The question simply asked; “ Who would you call if you got a flat tire on the side of the highway?” In my head, I’m thinking “ No one! It’s just a flat. I’ll just fix it myself”. Alas, as we went around the table I was the only one who had even suggested the idea of fixing my own car. Everyone else answered “ Dad”, “ Boyfriend”, Triple A”. Now don’t get it twisted, I am not by any means bashing those girls for their answers…but I’m not praising them either. I literally sat there mouth agape, as they exclaimed how “lost” they would be without their men. Really? In the Twenty-First Century where ever car comes with a spare and wrench, (not to mention the ever so handy fix-a-flat), and not one lady besides myself thought to just get on their hands and knees and fix the problem.
What if their men were busy at work?
What if their phone had died?
What if Melancholia had change course trajectory and was headed towards earth?
What if Carrie had chosen Aiden?
Would they sit there and reapply their makeup until someone came by and offered to help? Would you let the world end without hugging your loved ones goodbye? Would they have made that god-awful Sex and the City 2? Lord have mercy it was so bad. In a world where, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, woman can no longer afford to wait on a man. I digress, I am no better than most when it comes to cars. I can’t lift my hood up and diagnose what noise belongs to what car piece, which is why I know my way around my local Auto Zone. However, I also know how to ask the right questions. The right questions being, I now how to lie to make it appear I’m an expert in what I’m talking about so I don’t get scammed. When I was a cheerleader, for that brief shallow semester in high school, the one thing I took away from that experience was “Fake it till you make it, honey!” Anyway, after my coolant light went off I decided to take my baby to the shop. Low and behold as I pulled up into the parking lot what do I see…a woman changing her oil. Grease up to her elbows and dressed like a million bucks. I was astonished, the same thing I had been preaching to my friends all these years happening right in front of my face. I decided to approach her and ask her where she learned how to do that. She told me a male co- worker of hers had taught her when she was in her twenties, (I didn’t ask her current age because I like my teeth), and she has been doing it for herself ever since.
As I said my valedictions, I thought to myself, that’s the way it should be. No more hiding behind the ever-allusive definition of gender. This is the future. The lines have been blurred and man or woman does not apply anymore. This was just the kind of reassurance I needed. On the drive home I called my grandmother to tell her about the woman and this blog I am currently writing. We talked about her mother who was the one who taught her most of the “man” duties she knows today. I thought about how much harder it was for her back then before the invention of IPhone, Google, and Oprah. How did she get through that? She took a deep breath and said, “ We had no choice! We still don’t have a choice! Sista’s are doin’ it for themselves.” Grandmothers are always so wise. So ladies to sum it up, the harsh reality is we may not all end up with the storybook ending where our commitment phobic boyfriend proposes to us with a vintage Monolo Blahnik shoe. Seriously, how perfect was that. We may not marry Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne or Idris Elba. So we must acquire the knowledge that will expand our street smarts because after all…it’s survival of the fittest, isn’t it?
Sade Sellers is a twenty three year old aspiring actress originally from Lansing, Michigan. Currently she manages a gourmet market in Beverly Hills and spends the rest of her time watching re-runs of Sex and the City while eating chocolate. Don’t judge…you do it too.