There is a condition out there quietly plagues many females of the Black community. It is whispered of in hushed tones, and although it is easily diagnosed by anyone with an eye, most of the women who suffer from it are completely unaware they have it. It is an isolating and restrictive condition, and if you know of it, the you try your hardest not to develop it. it’s called Angry Black Woman Disease and every woman I know who knows of it bristles when she spots it.
There are varying strains, of course. There’s the Rasputia strain of ABWD; the loud, brash, easily angered, unreasonable and irrational Black woman who Eddie Murphy forever immortalized in Norbit. There’s the Deliver Us From Eva strain; the professionally aspirant, personally miserable, cut’ em off at the knees Angry Black Woman whose bitterness is her defining trait. There’s the Celebreality strain of ABWD that is preoccupied with looking perfect and acting crazy, torn between being likeable and being “real”. This woman’s temper is regulated solely by the perception of disrespect or lack thereof. There are many, many strains and the whole world is very adept at spotting them all. The Millennium Black Woman is very adept at avoiding the label all together.
Indeed, the Millennium Black Woman (at least this one) strives towards a different social archetype: The Claire Huxtable/Michelle Obama Black Woman. This Black Woman is perfect! Words like, unreasonable, irrational, brash, and bitter don’t apply to her. This woman is personable, relatable, likeable, and classy! She’s Every Woman! Yes, Momma may not take any mess, but she uses convincingly subtle suggestion, not finger wagging and neck rolling, to make that clear. THAT’S who I’m trying to be. Okay let’s be honest; that’s who I am,…..right?
Thats what I thought, anyway, until Leila suggested otherwise. We were sitting on the couch watching TV and a commercial of a woman yelling like a crazy person came on. “That’s how you talk to Daddy,” she says to me offhandedly. Aghast, I replied “That’s not true,” to which she very matter-of-factly replied, “yes it is”. Because two wrongs of course make a right, I look for parity. “Does Daddy talk like that to mommy?” I asked, waiting for her to say yes. After all, she is just probably misinterpreting the way that we communicate. Somethings kids misunderstan – “Nope”, she says before I can even finish rationalizing her observation. “That’s how you talk to Daddy, but he doesn’t talk like that to you.” Wait a minute….did my baby just diagnose me with – clutch the pearls – Angry Black Woman Disease!?!?!
Now I will say this: I am not a yeller and I am not a disrespectful conversationalist. But I do know two things: I have short patience and a sharp tongue and tone. The two together can lead to some very tense communication. Leila pointed out that the tone of my conversation – the sharpness of it, the one-sidedness of it – is not lost on her. I have to acknowledge that for better or for worse, she might have a point. And if she feels like I am speaking meanly to her Daddy…. how does he feel? Oh dear me. Could it be that I am as unaware of myself and how I make people feel as those ABW’s I have cocked an eyebrow and shook my head at? It is very possible that I have a slight case of ABWD, strain unknown. It is also equally possible that I don’t have ABWD, I am just overworked, highly stressed, overly expressive and sometimes unaware of how my more pointed tones could be received. Hell, nobody can be Claire Huxtable 24/7! Even Michelle Obama gets criticized when she indulges in a moment of just being herself. And that’s when it hit me: Claire Huxtable, Postcard Perfect Michelle Obama (not FLOTUS herself), Rasputia, Eva, Evelyn Lozada, NeNe, all of these “personalities” are constructs. They are reductive, two-dimensional boxes that fit none of us comfortably. Instead of trying to be/not be any of those socially created jumpsuits that make defining me easier for other people, maybe I just need to be focused on being a better me.
So I recognize that maybe I do need to be more mindful of how I talk to folks, regardless of my intentions. After all, Leila is watching. I want her to understand that life and love is about respect, both receiving it and giving it. I want her to know that you can disagree with people in a way that doesn’t leave them demoralized. I am trying to be more mindful of how I talk to my husband and the tone I use, especially in front of Leila. Because whether we are discussing something big or trivial, it’s the tone that turns it into an argument. And in the words one of my favorite fab “Millenium Me” TV characters right now, Ms. Jessica Pearson of Suits, “Mother and Father should never argue in front of the children.”