Tracee Ellis Ross
Every once in a while, something comes along that affirms you in a way you could not have imagined. I recently read two novels that did this for me in different ways. A couple of weeks ago, I read an amazing advice column that left me feeling great. Today, I want to say that a friend shared this speech by Tracee Ellis Ross on her Facebook page and it has me shook. In the best possible way. If you've visited this blog before, you know I struggle with finding where I belong as an aging single, childless woman. Well, Ms. Ross has some excellent, beautiful, and extremely empowering words for women in my position. If you haven't, please read or listen below. You will not be sorry!
It’s really interesting to be a woman and to get to 45 and not be married and not have kids. Especially when you have just pushed out your fifth kid on TV. You start hearing crazy shit like: “Oh, you just haven’t found the right guy yet,” “What are you going to DO?” “Oh, you poor thing,” “why is someone like you still single,” “have you ever thought of having kids?” “why don’t you just have a kid on your own.” It’s never ending and not helpful.
I grew up planning a wedding. My dress was going to be corseted with multiple antique Victorian camisoles spilling off my shoulders and I would change into a white double-breasted suit, wide leg trouser (with an exaggerated cuff) for the reception. I dreamed about being chosen by a powerful, sexy, kind man who had full lips and gave good hugs and having baby boy named Lauren.
But…I also dreamed of winning an Oscar and being on the cover of magazines and making a difference in the world, helping women find our voices. And from that dreaming, I have built an incredible life. I have become a woman that I am proud to be.
And then someone tells me about their friend who adopted a child at 52 and how “it’s never too late for your life to have meaning,” and my worth gets diminished as I am reminded that I have “failed” on the marriage and carriage counts. Me! This bold, liberated, independent woman. I mean, I work out, eat well, I mostly show up to work on time, I’m a good friend, a solid daughter, a hard worker, my credit is good, I take out the garbage before it gets smelly, I recycle, and I won a Golden Globe! I’m killing it! So, why? Why do I get snagged this way? As if all that I have done and who I am doesn’t matter.
I look back and think about all the ways we’re told that those two #goals: being chosen and having kids, are what makes you worthy. I mean: Nursery Rhymes. Fairytales. Books. Movies. Sixteen Candles, every love song, and even Black-ish—all reiterating this narrow story of “husband plus child equals woman”. And the patriarchy—the patriarchy is not pleased with me right now. I’m failing at my function. Let me tell you, Mike Pence is fucking confused by me right now.
Frankly, I often get a little confused. So, here is something I have done way more than I care to admit: Trying to gather the courage to tell my ex (whom I love by the way) that I want to date other people even though we were no longer together—we are broken up and have been! And during this last bout of doing just that, I did what enlightened ladies do and I got out my journal. I’m sitting there free writing, maybe conversing with my inner child, and I write down: MY LIFE IS MINE. My life is mine.
Those words stopped me in my tracks and honestly brought so many tears to my eyes. so many tears to my eyes. Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn’t. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own. I mean to a certain extent yes but on a deep level no. So, if my life is actually mine…then I have to really live it for myself. I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so.
But, when I put myself first, what comes back at me from well-meaning people—most men, social media, random ladies at the gym, Mike Pence, whoever—they tell me in all sorts of ways that I am being selfish, pushy, aggressive, controlling, relentless, stubborn, a slut, a nag, oh, and my favorite, a ball breaker, because god forbid a few balls get broken along the way.
When we put ourselves first by doing things like saying no, speaking up, sleeping with who we want, eating what our bodies intuitively tell us to eat, wearing training bra’s instead of push up bras, posting a picture without using Facetune...we are condemned for thinking for ourselves and being ourselves, and being ourselves, for owning our experiences, our bodies, and our lives.
That kind of stuff is seen as threatening and scary and it’s certainly not what the patriarchy had in mind. Join me for a moment and imagine: What would it be like for women to completely own our own power, to have agency over our own glory and our sexuality, not in order to create a product or to sell it, or to feel worthy of love, or use it as a tool for safety, but instead as a WAY OF BEING? Imagine that…truly owning our own power, agency, and sexuality.
Especially at this moment, in all its volatility, with all that is happening as the “Pussy Grab” tree is being shaken and grabbers are dropping like rotten fruit. And at the same time, with the surge of empowerment: Black Lives Matter. Black Girl Magic! The Women’s March! Me Too! I mean me too…you too?
I am trying to gather all this energy around me, step into it, and match it with my realization that my life is mine. My “I am the chooser, 45-year-old life” ...is MINE. It’s no coincidence that these two forces are meeting at the same time. So here I am sorting out what MY LIFE looks like when it’s fully mine. It takes a certain bravery to do that. It means risking being misunderstood, perceived as alone and broken, having no one to focus on, fall into or hide behind, having to be my own support and having to stretch and find family love and connection outside of the traditional places. But, I want to do it. I want to be the Brave Me, the real me, the one whose life is my own.
It means I'm going to have to break an agreement that I didn’t really officially agree to sign in the first place, a document drawn up by a bunch of old white guys in a back room, the same group of old white guys who like to pass laws about our reproductive health and choices without us being there. That agreement says: We are here to be of service to others, that our destiny is to live in the shadow of men, that we are simply objects of desire, and that we are willing to live with having our voices stifled again and again by the misogyny of our culture.
Well listen here, ladies: I’m tearing it up. It’s going bye-bye and I’m drawing up a new one, and my terms are this: I am going to own my experiences. I'm going to pay attention to the reality of my life and the audacity of my dreams instead of the expectation I was raised with. I'm going to make space for the good and the bad of it, even the yucky scary fear-inducing parts, and embrace all the bits and all the questions. I know that’s how I go from being Tracee to being the Brave Tracee.
Here’s some good news: you too can go from being You, to being The Brave You. And you should definitely try it if you haven’t already! Because Brave You is so beautiful! Not beautiful like your hair all did, or your brows all clean. When I think of what is beautiful, I think of a tree; I think of seeing a bird soar. I think of an embodied woman; I think of my mom in her ‘this is me’ glory stance, arms up, heart open, hair big, sexual, powerful, and full of agency.
Beings at the height of their own resonance, their own selfness. Fully in bloom. That’s what bravery and beauty looks like. But most of all because The Brave Me reminds me that I am complete just as me. Not in relation to anyone or anything else, just wholly, fully me.
The Brave You gives you the courage to hold your own agency, your own choice, your own desire, your own longings, your own fear, your own grief, your own future. She’s just one aspect of your soul that helps you become your fully embodied and completely integrated real, true self. She’s in you right now, in your journal, in the back of your mind, in your Netflix queue, waiting for your invitation. So let her out, let her have her glory. This beautiful, powerful part of you is just waiting for your invitation.