When I need to clear my mind, I go for walks by the water. Here in non-coastal Washington, D.C., that’s the Anacostia River, which doesn’t even begin to be as glamorous as the alabaster-colored beaches of some far-flung exotic island. But it serves me well until I get my money together to buy a bona fide writer’s oasis in Antigua.
My time strolling along the wharf is a respite from my scattered thoughts and restless spirit. The sunsets are gorgeous, there’s more often than not a refreshing breeze and, even though there are dotted people sightings—and a bar that serves a zealous happy-hour crowd—peace and quiet hover over the area. It all made for a very poetic scene as I walked along last night, the light wind twirling my prairie dress and Erykah Badu’s first album whispering through my earbuds.
It’s times like that, when you’re at your most serene, that a local guy on a bike will roll up and try to holler with a bag of BBQ ribs in his hand. Just to remind you that the real world will eventually insist on your return from Xanadu.
We chatted, me and Mr. Ribs, even though I let him know good and early that no numbers were going to be exchanged, and he compared me and what he called my “elegance” (which was really nothing more than basic home training in a long, flowy dress) to the ratchet young ladies he’s used to dealing with. “My last girl was something else. One hundred percent hoodrat,” he said, shaking his head like he was trying to rattle her memory from it. “That chick was crazy.”
In the recounting of our love pitfalls and heartbreaks, we can be as liberal with creative license as we want when the person doing the listening doesn’t actually know the story’s characters. Sometimes we get so used to telling it in a way that makes the absent party look like a villain that we downplay our part in the debacle, little bit by little bit, until the other individual comes off like a complete nutjob.
This is the fourth time in the past few weeks I’ve heard a guy describe an ex like she was a cocked and loaded lunatic. I couldn’t help thinking, hold up now. A piece of the plot is missing. Ain’t that many psychos running loose on the streets. So what did you do to make her act that way?
A Black woman will come out of character if you mess with her kids, her man and her heart. There are exceptions, of course, but a sista generally gives the whole of herself when one or all of those are involved. Even for a guy who, to the casual onlooker, seems like he doesn’t have a pot or a window—no job, no haircut, no plan, no health insurance, just no no no—there’s someone out there who’ll ride with him in the name of love. We’ve been known to stay in bad situations because that loyalty is so intense. So excuse us for becoming what men call “crazy” when it’s taken for granted, misappropriated or betrayed.
One of my 90-year-old auntie’s favorite expressions is “you keep kicking a dog, one of these days he’s gonna bite you.” Sometimes she throws a bit of colorful language in there, but I think y’all get the point without it. Basically, what you won’t do is press all the buttons you know are going to set a woman off and then expect her not to respond. And when that happens, you can’t choose what kind of response she has. Most of us ain’t in the business of writing letters to express our hurt feelings, particularly in cases of extreme pain and impulsive reaction. Jazmine Sullivan is most certainly not the first or last to think about busting out some car windows.
What may seem like “crazy” to a man may really just be a woman trying to establish her own resolution and vindication in a situation that has spiraled beyond her control. I’m not saying any of that is necessarily justifiable. I’m pro-woman, but I’m not pro-vandalism and Snapped murder plots. But when dudes are sharing the vivid details of how ridiculously unstable their exes are, they should fit a sentence or two in about their own bad behavior.
Admit that you had pictures of three naked chicks in your phone. That you lied about five different things out of both sides of your mouth. That you got another woman pregnant. That you have a whole other family, including a darn dog. When you tell the story, tell the whole story. And then don’t do that mess anymore. There’s no one standard reaction to trouble, and you might not like the one we have.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.