(this post is the prequel to the Spring/Summer 2023 HER COLLECTION Article - Healing the Wounded Warrior, originally posted July 2022)
The caterpillar, which turns into the butterfly analogy, is often used when we speak of transformation. The butterfly is praised and admired for its beauty and ability to fly, but I would argue that the caterpillar is the real hero. Each time it grows during the metamorphosis process, it sheds its skin until it reaches full size. It then forms a pupa (chrysalis), and every aspect of the caterpillar changes; this is hard, and I'd imagine painful work.
I liken the period of quarantine to the chrysalis. The restrictions limited our socialization and made many very uncomfortable with the time we found alone or the constant contact with our families. We came face to face with our life choices.
Do you like what you see?
I removed the rose-coloured glasses from some problematic aspects of my life. I was exhausting all my distractions, and being single brought about feelings of extreme loneliness, forcing me to look at my choices and figure out how I got to this point in my personal life. In doing so, I was compelled to focus on my relationships with men, not only the romantic ones but the men in my life who had the most significant impact. Unfortunately, I don't think I was fully prepared for the revelations.
One of the relationships that needed re-examining was with my Uncle Greg. I never gave it much thought. I dismissed him as my mother's grumpy brother, but in retrospect, I realized that he was a consistent male role model in my life. We lived with him on more than one occasion; we spent most holidays with him and his family. He essentially was the relative that was physically the closest to us. But, unfortunately, he also inflicted the most damage. Now that I am an adult and have a deeper understanding, I was shook as I relived these defining moments.
A girl child ain't safe in a family of men.- Colour Purple.
My Uncle, who, I would guess, is a sadist, took pleasure in humiliating me regularly. He would push my face into the carpet at family gatherings, or when the mood struck him and shouted out, "Kiss the carpet," it became the running joke amongst my younger cousins. My mother says she tried to stop him, but he would retort and say I would be soft. He consistently teased me about my body, especially as it developed and would inflict whatever other cruelness he could muster up. In the end, my Uncle taught me that men who are supposed to love and protect you can be cruel; and abusive. They will overpower you and do what they want; you can fight, but you most likely won't win, and no one will help you. Insert OUTRAGE here!
Interestingly enough, I never recall him doing this in the presence of his other brothers. Insert DISGUST here! These memories and consequential revelations are still jarring.
After these memories surfaced, it seemed I still had more work to do in my pupa—workaround my identity and desirability as a Black woman. You see, all the men in my family married outside of our race. This includes all my uncles on both sides of my family and my father. However, that's not entirely accurate; one of my Uncles divorced his first wife, who was white, then married a Black woman he treated horribly, divorced her and returned to wife number 1.
As I grew up, it became evident that many Black men chose to be with non-Black women. The pain and rejection of this carry with me even now. Especially as I watch the battle of the sexes play out on social media, it's disheartening at times and therapeutic at others, but one thing is for sure all of our ancestors are rolling in their graves.
The impact of seeing the men in my community choose women who do not look like me. This sent a damaging message to my younger self. During my childhood, Black girls were not En Vogue! There was little to no representation in mainstream media, and when there was, they were celebrating Black women with lighter complexions and European features.
I consistently felt confused about feeling beautiful on the inside but having the world tell me differently.
Surprisingly, I never thought I was personally the problem, even though the message was clear; no one wants you. For Black girls, it was Black men or singleness. When your pool of possibilities is few, the trash thinks it's a bed of roses. Needless to say, there was a lot of trash in my life.
Reflecting on what I learned about men and my desirability brought me back to how I tried to gain boys' attention, thinking I was never "liked" and being clueless when I was. My naivety with male "friends" and the devastating relationships and dangerous predicaments I put myself in have all culminated to where I am now. These are my pupa revelations.
Now has been my time to transmutate. Within my chrysalis, the old parts of me that were abused and dismissed, unloved and rejected, have dissolved. This little caterpillar has changed during this time of reflection and healing and is now ready to emerge with wings, not caring what the outside world thinks of my beauty but knowing that I am truly worthy of a healthy kinda love. With that knowledge, I will accept nothing less.
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