Category: Culture


IMG_9429It was the morning after Thanksgiving and I was at a special 2 hour Zumba class that my favorite instructor was leading. As I was dancing and sweating up a storm, I had this flash of thankfulness, which was appropriate given the holiday weekend. I was thankful for the chance to sleep in, thankful for a healthy body that allowed me to move so freely, and thankful for the opportunity to wake up without much thought and go to Zumba class. I surveyed the room and recognized that many of the women likely had to worry about childcare or leaving family members behind in order to make the sacrifice to be there, others had to leave class early due to various responsibilities, and even more couldn’t make it. I breathed a deep sigh of contentment for being just where I was. Less than a week later, I completely removed myself from all online dating sites and apps for the first time in ages.

I always thought I would be married by the time I was 30. It makes sense that I thought this. It was really the only path that was presented to me for a woman growing up in the context I grew up in. When you grow up in small towns or religious settings, people marry young. It’s the cultural norm. Even if you leave this context, the overarching societal norm is that eventually you will settle down, you will get coupled, you will have kids. That’s the way it is “supposed” to be. How else would you ever find true happiness, fulfillment, love, etc. etc. etc.? I went to undergrad at an institution where the unspoken (or quite often, spoken) rule was “ring by spring.” That’s how it was “supposed” to be. You were supposed to meet a nice person in school and you were supposed to start your married life together soon after. The underlying assumption that was subtly communicated was that if you weren’t married by 25 or so, there must be something wrong with you. Regardless of the specifics, if you were a woman who wasn’t married by her late twenties or early thirties, you have to be too much of something or not enough of something else. In my case, I was too picky, not pretty enough, too opinionated, too independent, and too smart. Yes, these were the messages I fed to myself, but I need to set the record straight, these were messages that were spoon-fed to me by others long before I believed them to be true. And being too much and never enough, I remained single long past my expiration date… This meant I got to experience the “joy” of hearing the variety of myths coupled people LOVE to share with single people: he’ll show up right when you stop looking, you’re too cool to stay single forever, maybe once you get (blank) in order you’ll find someone. You name it, I’ve heard it. If these “rules” actually apply, why are there some many desperate, disastrous couples getting married?!

For every myth there is about how to change your single status, there is another myth about people who choose (or don’t choose) to remain single. “Single people are selfish: they only have themselves to think about and therefore, they only think about themselves.” Now without giving myself too much credit, that could not be farther from the truth about my circumstances. I work at a job where on any given day, I could have an issue arise with any number of the thousands of students I’m responsible for. Whatever they walk in with, stories of sexual assault, years of child abuse, time spent in the foster care system, suicide attempts, panic attacks, abandonment, I have to be ready to hold it. I have to step outside of my own worries and cares and embrace all the tears, the anger, the hurt. Then, when the work day is done, I have to step back inside of those worries and cares and still manage to care for all the people that I have been entrusted to me in my life. Selfishness is not associated with a marital status. Believe me when I say, selfish people are selfish people no matter what stage you throw them in. “Single people aren’t busy.” Why don’t you try to say that to me when I was finishing grad school and working a full time job for 40+ hours a week while simultaneously completing 20+ hours a week of my counseling practicum at the hospital? Or maybe try that one on me now while I am working at my job and also volunteering hours at the counseling center to meet the 3000 hour requirement needed to get my license. I get it, some people attempt this kind of schedule while simultaneously having a family, so yes, I suppose in that scenario, a married person would be busier than a single person. But once again, busy people come in all marital statuses.

So if by some miracle you manage to laugh your way through the myths and the “advice” you’re bombarded with as a single person and come out unscathed, what are your options?

I’m finding being single in my thirties far more enjoyable than it was in my twenties. So what does that mean? Does it mean that I never want to be married? Does it mean I don’t want to have children some day? To me, the answer to those questions is simple… Of course not!!! Since when does contentment and thankfulness with what you’ve been given preclude you from being content and thankful if someday you happen to be given something else? I realized something recently, which is I have wasted a whole lot of energy being in a place of discontentment about something because everyone else was telling me that I should feel discontentment about it. It seems whenever I am with single people they are heartbroken about their singleness and whenever I am with coupled people, they are trying to convince me how incomplete I must be without what they have. The problem with all this information I am being provided is that I don’t believe it. My wholeness and satisfaction doesn’t come from whether or not a boy likes me, my happiness isn’t wrapped up in “achieving” the husband, picket fence, and 2.5 kids. I don’t believe the deepest love is found in having a child. I also think I have accomplished some pretty cool stuff, like being the youngest in my family, but the first to get a graduate degree, discovering a career I love, and having some of the most amazing friends. I’ve gone on trips and I’ve learned to dance. I’ve mentored and been mentored. I’ve read, and written, and learned. I’ve given of myself and received in return more love than I could ever imagine. My life is full. Sure, it has dark spots. I’ll never be the rainbows and butterflies type; I see the world for what it is, with all of it’s brokenness. But still, my life is full.

Getting married young works for a lot of people. That’s not my personal journey, but I don’t have a problem with you if that’s yours. Can you be happy for me even though our stories are different? Can you believe me when I say I don’t see my singleness as a death sentence? Can you support me for as long as I choose (or don’t choose) to be single? Can we celebrate each others’ successes, mourn each others’ losses, carry each others’ burdens? Can we laugh at what’s funny, cry at what’s sad… vent when marriage is hard or singleness is hard without believing it means one wants a divorce and the other is desperate? Happiness doesn’t come easily to me and I have a lot of things in my life that could give me cause to be unhappy, but as strange as it is to say it, I find myself pretty happy right now. So please, PLEASE, let me enjoy it. Let me live loved and full and joyful. After all, this is a celebration, not a funeral.

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2 Years Max…


As I’ve shared many times, I was an anxious kid and continue to deal with quite a bit of anxiety. As I am getting older, I am coming to terms with different aspects of my anxiety and where it comes from. Recently, I have noticed that my anxiety and my identity might be more intertwined than I previously realized.

This month marks 2 years I have been living in my apartment. While to most my age, this would seem a rather ordinary landmark, for me it is somewhat of a feat. I haven’t been able to sit this long before. Since I graduated from college, I have lived in 3 different cities, rented 5 different apartments, and held 5 different jobs. In fact, other than school, I have shown a complete inability to sustain any aspect of life for even 2 years… not a goal, not a career path, and certainly not a meaningful relationship. While hitting this 2 year mark seems that it would indicate growth, rooted-ness, or even increased contentment, instead it is riddled with anxiety and unrest. And here’s why…

I’ve never been truly comfortable anywhere or with anyone. I used to think this meant there was something wrong with me, but as I dig deeper, I am learning there is something entirely different going on here. When I walk into a space, I never know what I am going to get. As a kid, other kids might insist I was adopted because I looked so differently from my mother, call me Brillo head or state I had pubic hair on my head because I had a fro, or children and adults alike would just blatantly stare. In college, it was hearing racial slurs because I was in the presence of people who didn’t know I was half black and constantly explaining my racial make-up. Then in adulthood, it’s people still attempting to ignore my blackness and/or whiteness to make themselves feel more comfortable, not include me because I don’t look quite right or get all the pop culture references, or include me because then they get to up their diversity quotient. In fact, it is so tiring, that I can’t believe I am just now realizing how stressful it is to not be able to walk into a job, or a church, or a store, or wherever it is you want to go without someone touching your hair without permission, making an ignorant comment that directly impacts you, or just downright making you feel like you don’t belong.

Believe me, I get it, my fair skin and mixed identity come with SO many privileges, beyond that I have the privilege of having both an undergraduate and graduate degree, excellent health, no disabilities, and the list goes on and on. I’m not afraid to own that. But… what I am coming to terms with as well is that I am not afraid to own that most of the time, in fact all of the time, I feel uncomfortable. Not with myself (though for a very long time that was the case) and who I was created to be, but more so the world and whether or not it has the capacity to receive me. I’ve reached a decision. It doesn’t… and I don’t have a clue as to what to do about it. Now, as evidence of that, here is the time when people chime in, “you do belong!” Except for the older I get I don’t know what’s worse, the people I don’t know being unbelievably hurtful or the people I do know and love making me feel crazy for sharing what has been true time and time again about my experience. Whether it is friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances, people are so uncomfortable with me being uncomfortable that they engage in tactics that make things even more uncomfortable for me just to ease a little of their discomfort. It is so confusing to be a little kid who is constantly being told you are “just like the rest of us” when all the while how you are being treated could not be farther from “the rest.”

All that to say, I don’t think the answer is moving and changing jobs every year and a half. I also don’t think the answer is holding people at arms length as I have often done. I do think sometimes the answer is saying “no” more boldly to situations in which I already have some awareness that I will not be received well. The answer can also be honesty when I’ve been hurt and refusing to be gas-lighted when I genuinely express that hurt. Part of the answer is certainly continuing to celebrate myself and fully enjoy and honor mixed-race spaces whenever I have the chance to be in them, regardless of how infrequent that may be.

I wish I could provide a happier ending. I wish I could be oblivious enough to think that there are more mixed people now and the world is becoming more welcoming of us. I especially wish I could believe that children of mixed-heritage were born into families that love and accept all angles of them and are leeched of all racist tendencies upon first glimpse of the beautiful child. I’ve lived too much of this uncomfortable life to buy into any of those fantasies. This, however, I do know to be true… discomfort will not kill you and it certainly can’t rob you of the joy of moving forward, that is if you don’t let it.

Cheers to the 2 year mark.

What did she do?!

Ever since I started this blog, I have tried to write a post every 3rd Thursday. Once a week or every 2 weeks seemed too frequent, and once a month didn’t seem quite enough. Somehow I landed on Thursdays and for the past 4 blog posts, I haven’t looked back. This Thursday I was due for a new post, but I just couldn’t write. I only had one thing on my mind and today, that one thing occurred…

My whole entire life I have had a love/hate relationship with my hair. In most recent years, however, the hate has dissipated leaving only love behind. For that reason, the past few months have been hard. In the last year, I started noticing that my hair was thinning. For a long time I tried to ignore it, then I started doing things that would help distract people from noticing it, but in the past few weeks I have started coming to terms with it. Maybe it’s genetics, my diet, known or unknown health concerns, or the weight of my heavy hair, but for some reason, the thickness at the tip of my long hair was starting to look drastically different from the thinness at the top. After talking to my mother, sister and a loctitian, and crying it out a bit, I knew what I had to do. Some (or rather most) of my hair would have to go in order the leave the new growth strong enough to be sustained.

It’s funny how something as simple as a haircut can really shake you and change how you view yourself. In the last couple of years, my hair has been one of the largest, if not the largest, source of the compliments I have received. It has felt really good to be showered with those praises. It wasn’t abnormal for me to have 5 to 10 strangers complimenting my hair on any given day. Friends took part in the practice as well. Just a couple weeks ago I had a fun shopping day with friends and got countless positive comments on my locs. Little did the commentators know that I had be using headbands to cover up my thinning hairline for weeks. Most of my friends haven’t even noticed. Yet still I arrived at today and I had to face the truth.

What made losing my hair or cutting it so hard in the first place? Sure I might not be as “beautiful” as I was before or I might not have the versatility of doing as many styles, but that wasn’t really what it was about was it? My hair has become and will probably always be a piece of my identity. The truth is I was (and still am) scared of what will or won’t be left when this thing that has become such a big part of me disappears. When I am not getting compliments on my hair anymore, will there be anything left to compliment? Now, for many of you reading this (especially males) this probably just seems like a lot of random, useless personal thoughts, but it isn’t. What I am saying applies to everyone out there. Maybe for you “that thing” is your hair like it is for me, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s the fit figure you lost after you went through a difficult stage of life where working out wasn’t a priority. Perhaps it’s the job you were fired or laid off from, the significant other you thought you were going to marry before the relationship started deteriorating, or the career, dreams, or free time you had to release after you had a baby.

We all have those things we hold on to in order to help make sense of our identity. Whether it is something seemingly shallow, like my hair, or far more complicated like goals or ambitions, at some point most of us have to ask ourselves the question, “who would I be without that one thing?”. Would I matter? Would others still like me? Will I still be me? I debated with myself about whether or not to write this post. I was afraid I was being too personal for the online world or that I’d feel ashamed  if people knew about the situation I am in, but then I decided I have no reason to be ashamed of something I ultimately had no control over. I also decided that, fortunately, I am rooted in an identity far more unshakeable than my hair. Even if someday every last hair falls out of my head, I’ll know the truth is that my hair never defined me in the first place. So in the meantime, I’ll be humming along to India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair,” and hope that my words caused just one person to do some soul searching and realize he or she is far bigger and better than that flimsy thing they spent so much energy hanging on to, believing their identity was hinging on it… IMG_1003

I’ve been hearing the question “What are you?” my whole entire life. Sometimes I hear it from curious little children and other times I hear it from adults it seems should know better. There was a time I wasn’t sure I knew the answer, but as I’ve gotten older, I have gotten closer. Today is the last day of this year’s Black History Month. It’s a month that always makes me a bit reflective. I think about the warriors who came before me such as the Lovings who made a marriage like that of my parents possible. I contemplate what it means to be black or white or both. I wonder if someday my children will grow up around people who have found a kinder way to get the question “What are you?” answered.

As a teenager, I always hated the way I looked. Tears would roll down my cheeks as I stared at myself in the mirror despising my pasty-white skin, giant forehead, curly hair, and gap-teeth. I couldn’t believe how ugly I was. I’d put on a brave face and wear big dangly earrings, pleather pants, and silvery lip gloss, but I still felt the same. My style never fit, my hair was labeled as sponge-y, interesting, or weird, my taste in music and movies was nothing like that of my peers and my skin was too pale for most of the people in Maine to realize at first glance that I was mixed. Boys never liked me and girls never envied me. I wasn’t white enough to fit.

I was so excited when I got to college. I was no longer “Caitlin,” I was now “Cat” and I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be loud and smart and quirky and cool, but most importantly I thought I would no longer an anomaly! Chicago was this glitzy, glamorous place in my mind where black women were proud to wear their hair in afros and mixed college students were a dime a dozen. People of all colors and background would mix and I would finally find my place. If I had done my research, I would have found that Chicago was far from the promised land I had pictured it to be, but instead I found myself in one of the most segregated cities in the States and mixed people over the age of six seemed no where to be found. The few I did spot didn’t seem quite as anxious as me to talk about it. I discovered that black people in Chicago are very different culturally from my mother’s family in New York and I didn’t fit in with them any better than I had in Maine. In addition, I found myself at a college filled with more tall, thin, blonde women than I realized it was possible to contain in one place. When you lined me up next to them, I might as well have been an alien from an entirely different planet. Boys still didn’t like me, girls didn’t want to borrow my clothes, nobody wanted to burn my cds or borrow my movies, and it was beginning to look like no matter where I went my problems would follow me. I blamed everyone else for a really long time. They were all closed-minded, ignorant, mean, superficial, and the list went on and on. I was angry at God, angry at my parents, angry at my friends, angry at those tiny, toothpicky blondes and angry at myself for my inability to fit in. Why couldn’t I be normal for once? Why did I always have to stand out? Why couldn’t my skin be a little bit darker, my hair a little bit straighter, my waist a little bit smaller and my stature a little bit taller? I’d never be white enough or black enough or the perfect blend of both like the women you see in the magazines would I?

Sometimes things in life just click. We have a magical moment when we are reading something in a book or having a conversation with a friend and we’re given an epiphany and we see things clearer than ever before. This isn’t one of those times. I can’t pinpoint a moment when things changed, but for the first time in my 26 years, I wake up and I love the women I see in the mirror. She is beautiful. Her hair is long and gorgeous, her eyes are a bright, bold blue, her short stature is endearing, she has great fashion sense, and her makeup is stunning. Men may never like her, women will absolutely never envy her, and she will never be good at being black or being white, but now she knows she doesn’t need to be. The Lord made her to be unique with fair skin and curly hair and the question “What are you?” doesn’t scare her quite as much anymore. She is who she is and she doesn’t plan on changing for the comfort of anyone.