How to be a Carefree Black Girl, Part III

In Part II of How to be a Carefree Black Girl, I encouraged black women who have spent their lives feeling crushed by the weight of society’s racial, religious, gender and cultural expectations, and who would like to get closer to uncovering their authentic selves, to start by practicing self-care.

Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and people tend to associate it with getting mani-pedis, massages, and bathing in an Evian-Prosecco mix. In reality, self-care is just what it says on the tin: taking care of yourself.

Now that we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, taking care of yourself is more important than ever, especially if you’re someone whose situation has changed drastically for any reason.

In the 21st century, even self-care— literally caring for yourself— has been taken over by capitalism. Buying the most expensive make-up, bath bombs, lotions, and candles is marketed to us as self-care. Marketing psychology is like, a job that people have. But really, self-care something we can practice every day: by enforcing your boundaries, by saying no to people and things that make your life worse, and stop comparing yourself to others.

A degree of privilege underlays being able to think about practicing self-care, even if you’re not exactly wealthy. I — a precariously middle-class person —have had times when the idea of being able to afford three squares a day, let alone a manicure, was laughable (which by the way, if that is something you can afford, maybe keep your mouth shut when someone tells you they can’t instead of saying some unhelpful shit like “it’s just what you choose to spend your money on”. People can’t choose to spend money they don’t have in different ways). But I was still privileged compared to most people in the world.

The next step in becoming a carefree black girl is figuring out what self-care means to you. Start by questioning everything you’ve been taught, whether explicitly or implicitly, about what it means to be black, to be a woman; hell, to be a person.

In my case, having spent my entire childhood in two of the most consumerist societies on earth (Japan and America), I bought into capitalism to an extent that I didn’t even realize (until a few years ago). Although I was never, like, “FUCK YEAH, CAPITALISM!”, it wasn’t until recently  that I began to be more deliberate about what I bought, and more importantly, why I was buying it. Even though I knew that people making the products we buy weren’t always working in great conditions, I didn’t really know what I could do about it.

Being a black woman, being “good” meant submitting (something I was never great at doing, to be honest), accepting people’s disrespect, and putting the needs of people who didn’t give a shit about my own well-being above my own. 

Same with having children. As I’ve mentioned before, I never wanted to be a mother. It wasn’t until I thought about it that and read feminist theory that I realized that I was allowed to live according to my own values, regardless of what our patriarchal society tells us we should value. 

Once you’ve evaluated the values you’ve been taught, you may find that some of them still very much resonate with you, and some of them are total bullshit. The next step in becoming a carefree black girl is to figure out what you really like and value. Do you actually like diamonds, or is that just that the diamond industrial complex, built by stealing black people’s land and then enslaving them, that taught you that diamonds are a beautiful symbol of love? Is having a whole new wardrobe every season actually something you care about, or is it a result of aggressively calculated marketing? Maybe what you really value and enjoy is something entirely different. Maybe you’ve never even had a chance to consider it.

My self-care is working out, reading, hiking, figuring out ways to organize my apartment, hanging out with friends, and *gasp*, the infrequent massage or manicure. 

Self-care is about taking care of your own needs, or hell, your own wants. We all have limits to our time and resources, but you still deserve to carve out part of your life to do what makes you feel taken care of.

How do you practice self-care?

Photo credit: Rawpixel

Childfree in the Time of Coronavirus

Image via rawpixel

Hello, readers, the world’s worst blogger is back!

I’ve had a few topics I wanted to discuss on my blog, but in light of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, I thought that it would be a bit a frivolous time to be discussing childfree issues when thousands of people are dying by the day. Ultimately, though, I decided that all this time spent at home should be put to work on things I enjoy outside of my working hours. Plus, who people (myself included) could use a distraction from the chaos.

A recent Vanity Fair article, Dispatches From the Gender Gap: Work-From-Home Moms in the Time of Coronavirus, put into perspective the issue of being childfree in the context of the pandemic. Specifically, when it comes to unpaid work or emotional labour. 

Even in the 21st century, there is no country in the world where women and men perform the same amount of care work. Those of us who have been sent to work from home — by the way, not nearly as sexy as Fifth Harmony would have you believe —already have an enormous amount of privilege, even if our conditions are less than ideal. Compared to those who have been laid off, and “essential workers” who either are in the line of fire by working with Covid-19 (the illness resulting from Coronavirus) patients every day, cleaning surfaces where the virus could be lingering, or interacting with people who could be carriers (and getting screamed at while not even earning a living wage), people working from home have it pretty good, even if it’s not an ideal situation.

Many households with two parents who both work outside the home are now in a new situation: both parents are now home full time, along with their kids. What does this mean in terms of childcare?

To a misguided manager who wrote in to Ask A Manager to well, ask a manager if it is “Reasonable to expect an employee to find a way to work her normal schedule even while she is telecommuting” while the employee is taking care of her toddler, because “It is frustrating to hear ‘I can’t’ do such and such when she would have been able to do it easily in the workplace”, and she shouldn’t be having trouble because “Her husband is also at home”, apparently, it means that men and women do equal amounts of childcare. 

This is demonstrably false. Even in the most egalitarian countries (and households). Men simply do not pull their weight when it comes to childcare. When a man does, it’s the exception, not the rule. 

The women quoted in the Vanity Fair article are dealing with things like a husband who goes to his home office and shuts the door because he’s “Pretty strict with keeping his office time pristine” and having to find ways to keep their kids entertained, because their husbands simply don’t. Even if their husbands are self-sufficient, they simply don’t care enough to take care of their own children.

Part of emotional labour is what author Eve Rodsky calls in an article on CNN by Elissa Strauss is “worry work”: “Moms are more likely than dads to anticipate the needs of the family and plan ahead for worst case scenarios. (Listen closely, and you can hear the hum of ‘what’s next?’ on a constant loop in most moms’ heads.)” Rodsky says that “research shows that the majority of daily life disruptions are handled by moms, including when both parents work”, so during a crisis like the one we are living in now, by default, the majority of the burden falls on mothers’ shoulders. 

This pandemic is not an easy time for anyone, not even for people like me who have it good: despite being able to work from home, not displaying any symptoms, having an uncompromised immune system, and an apartment to myself, I can’t work out, socialize in person, or buy groceries without planning my day around when there will be the fewest number of people out (both to avoid long lines and to avoid spreading or contracting the virus). These are petty complaints compared to what so many have to deal with. People are being laid off, struggling to find childcare, or are forced to put themselves at risk every day to keep society running; many without hazard pay, reasonable precautions, or personal protective equipment

Despite my own personal blessings, this still isn’t an easy time for anyone. I’m still concerned for how other people will make it through this. I’m still at risk every time I need to leave the house, just like everyone else — and no, being young(ish) and healthy doesn’t mean that you’re safe. I could be a carrier and be putting people at risk myself without even knowing it. And from my friends who’ve survived Covid-19, even if you make it through without permanent lung damage, it makes you feel worse than death. (So, like, stay inside, even if you feel “fine”.)

Even if being stuck at home alone without being able to go out and see your friends can be lonely (sometimes — I’ve been Facetiming like there’s no tomorrow, which is not a bad substitute), I still would not trade my relative freedom for anything. 

As Kim Congdon on Twitter put it,

Stay inside. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. We will get through this.