A Walk in Her Shoes

I always try to keep my Friday posts happy and light hearted, but this has been a tough week for a number of women in my circle.

This week, I’ve been on the listening end of some real big girl issues, and in being a part of these conversations, I’ve realized that the final nail in the coffin of my somewhat happy-go-lucky youth has firmly hammered it shut.

There is a point where Life gives us many things, and then slowly begins to reclaim them. If we’re lucky, we find the love of our lives in youth, only to have him die in our old age. We work on our education to get good jobs, only to be robbed of it by a broken economy in the future. We work to foster strong unbreakable relationships, only to have them dissolved by betrayal, both real and imagined.  

This week, a friend of mine lost a baby; another discovered she had a half-sister floating around out there; and another was subversively berated on Facebook for not being more “selective” with whom she slept with – a remark meant to ‘advise’ all women.

Let’s start with the last, because it’s the easiest to address. I can assure you that no little girl stands in front of the mirror, looks at herself and says: “You know what? When I grow up I want to get a degree, fall for a guy, convince myself that he’s not lying when he says he wants to be together, have his baby, and raise that baby on my own on just a little bit more than minimum wage because it’s the only thing available. Oh, and I definitely want to make the decision to live in the basement of my mother/best friend’s house with my child – because that’s what a WINNER would do. I just WANT to struggle. That’s the future I want!”

People kill me with their judgments. There was a time when I was judgmental of these so-called ‘loose’ and “unselective” women too… and then God gave me a bitter bowl of reality to lap up. I’m amazed when I read and listen to the drivel of these self-important, pious women, who point their saintly fingers at women who did selectively choose who they fell in love, and ultimately into bed with. Dear God, was I ever that repulsive? To be so high minded that I could not recognize that it only takes someone who is just a wee bit craftier than you to take advantage of you? Well you know what – shame on me and women like me. We shoulda had a V-8. But blaming a woman for not being “selective” with whom she sleeps with and unrepentantly ending up as a single mother is like blaming the investors in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme for not sniffing out a fraud. Some men are just that good, and that’s why sixty-something percent of all Black children will grow up in America this year. But by all means, please keep judging.

Moving right along.

Last night, I sat across my friend who lost her baby in the womb one day ago. We were eating ice-cream and marveling at life.

“I never thought I’d be in one of those circles,” she said. “You know – divorce, miscarriage, things like that. None of those things were supposed to happen to me. And tomorrow I’ll go for a d & c… for some ‘scrapings’.”

(‘Scrapings’ = scraping what was once a baby out of her body.)

I nodded sympathetically, spooning ice-cream into my mouth.

“Malaka, I won’t lie. This hurts.”

“I know!” I yelled.

“How do you know?” she yelled back, her accent becoming more Ghanaian as her emotions escalated. “Have you experienced some before?”

“No.  I haven’t. But I can only imagine that it must hurt.”

Herm. I’ve seen another part of Life,” she replied, looking off into the distance.

Somehow, someway, I managed to leave her with a smile on her face. It’s the grace of God that has kept her in good spirits and peace, because she readily admitted that she could dwell on it and go into a deep depression or choose to be detached. As detached as she may confess to be, I know there is a stinging inside of her. I hurt for her as much as she hurt for herself.

And then finally, something right out of a Jane Austen novel : The long lost (half) sister.

This story has too many plots and twists for me to discuss in one post, but let me summarize it by saying it is a casserole of neglect and betrayal, baked in a case of lies and poor attempts at deception. At the center of it are two now grown women, one of whom has made something of herself despite the absence of a useless “father” and another who is struggling to find herself because of the absence of her useless “father”. Like I said, the plot in this story is so thick that I would have to pen an 18th century sized novel to convey every detail, but the most tragic aspect of this tale is that the younger of these two sisters was raped by the father of one of her friends when she was seven, and this useless father has NOTHING to say about it. In fact, the only words he has spoken concerning this girl has been to deny that she is his child (which brings me back to yesterday’s post concerning the bonus that men have in denying their part in the birth of a child – simply by denying it).

My friends have been pretty beat up this week, and I feel like I was tied to the whipping post with them. I feel like I’ve taken a stroll in their shoes; but these experiences are their shoes. I have hurt, laughed and winced in them, but I do have the luxury of handing them back.