#postPhD

As my readers know, I’m a newly minted PhD, single, and on the cusp of turning 30, which is as amazing as it is frightening. Here are questions and statements by well-meaning folks who just don’t get it.

1. So…you just finished your Ph.D. What are you doing next?

This is like asking someone, “so…you just climbed Mount Everest. Which mountain are you climbing next week?”

mt-everest-peak

Just don’t. Celebrate the moment. Let them #humblebrag about all the job offers they have. In the meantime, be everybody’s favorite person by congratulating your loved one and asking instead:  “where are you planning to vacation?” Or perhaps, “can i contribute to your vacation fund?” Or even, “lets get you a glass of champagne to celebrate!”

They will love you forever, and ever, and ever amen. 

 

2. You have a PhD?!?!?! It will be so hard for you to get married/find a man

Every time I hear this, I want to slap the taste out of that person’s mouth. Yes, some men are intimidated by intelligent women. The women I know don’t want to be with men who have issues with their success.

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A better statement: “you have a PhD? girl, you can have anyone you want.”

And even if that isn’t *quite* true, it is still the best possible response.

 

3. You have a PhD? Marry a rich white man. 

Donald Trump

Yes child: my old next door neighbor wants me to go golddigging, but only for rich white men, because, as she stated: “there are no good niggas left, except for your father” and “if a white man cheats it hurts less.” Sooo many problems with all that.  

Clearly I’m gonna have to move back to my old neighborhood and start putting this degree to good work. 

 

xo, 

RJD

 

 

 

 

but real quick though:

i want to tell you that a homeless man said i could be his girlfriend if he didn’t already have one. and i want to tell you that at least fifteen men mumbled feet-related compliments one day. one of those men met me on a subway platform and asked me on a date three stops later. i declined, but i appreciate his effort.

i want to tell you that a man ran off the train to ask me if i was Sassy. I didn’t know if he was talking about the quality or a person. To clear up the confusion, he took out his phone and showed me a picture of Sassy from Black Ink. “You look just like her!” he said. I was honored.

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i want to tell you that i met a gorgeous guy at the worst time ever. i want to tell you that i’m still single because it is so hard for me to make the leap from “i like him” to “i’m in love with him,” and i am as picky and hard to get as all my family and friends tell me i am.

i want to tell you that brooklyn is still home, even after all these years, even though i lay my head down on long island. i am madly plotting to raise enough money to buy a house here.

i want to tell you that i love academia but i’m so sick of grinding.

tired of the grind

i want to tell you i just bought some hair that will make me look like nicki minaj as a church usher. i plan on wearing it with the dress that makes me look like a nun at a nightclub.

i want to tell you i can’t get enough of red cafe’s pretty girl gang: http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/singles/id.27896/title.Red+Cafe+f.+Fabolous-Pretty+Gang

i want to tell you that i desperately miss my friends in western mass, right along with beer at dirty truth, fries at sierra grille, nachos at high horse, pancakes at lone wolf. i miss the life i built for myself there, and starting over in NY is exciting but daunting….

Photo on 6-6-14 at 11.17 PM #2

 

…and exhausting.

 

xo

Dr. RJD

On Moving (Back) to NY

My big behind is perched atop a rickety chair in a hippie coffee shop in somewhere, Brooklyn. The scarred walls, garage sale chairs, and the unbelievable view of the JMZ line, Family Dollar, a host of shuttered store fronts is not what I anticipated, but I’m writing here anyway, and praying I don’t tumble off this chair in front of God and all these white people.

*

I cried when I left my elegant apartment in Holyoke, a city I came to love fiercely. My best friend, there in open-toed sandals and a pretty dress, stayed until she could hear the rumble of the U-Haul engine and saw my caravan–a truck, minivan, and car–start its journey in her rearview mirror. I cried as we promised to meet for tea in polished hotels. It wouldn’t be the same, though; I’d take her mismatching collection of tea cups and her sunny apartment any day.

*

After the boxes were put away, and plans for the new kitchen drawn up, I left my beautiful apartment on Long Island and tripped into Brooklyn to spend time with a curator and friend from Western Mass. There, I stumbled upon the “Love Letter to Brooklyn” mural: “you were nurtured here” it stated. “I am made to leave, I am made to return.”

I handily dealt with public transportation and the advances of undesirable men as though I never left. I ate substandard tiramisu and missed Johnny’s Tavern; slipped into coffee shops knowing I could never find another to replace Amherst Coffee, and had cups of chai alone. I went to the Kara Walker exhibit and watched couples kiss in front of the Mammy’s naked behind.

 

In Williamsburg, I drank IPAs out of mason jars in front of a sign that said: “Spread Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way”, and tried not to look like a hipster. I stopped in the middle of the street when I heard Biggie’s “Warning” blasting from an Exhibition, as though it was 1998 all over again.

 

On a Saturday night, I rocked too-high heels and a dress long enough to wear around relatives, but short enough to make men believe their wishes could come true. I shared shots with new friends in the V.I.P. section of a crowded lounge. I barely avoided the Bridge and Tunnel crew–loud men with well-waxed eyebrows and women with orange skin and thick bodies stuffed into last months’ styles. (They still believe they run the city.) I kept a bouncer company, and did the most terrible shoulder shimmy I could muster up. He raised one eyebrow and asked, “Is that your twerk?”  I spent days wishing for a tea with Ya., and nights missing the sexy Marine I met right before I left Western Mass.

 

*

I love NY, which is the perfect backdrop for my new adventures. Here, I have the courage to face the future and fight for what I want. In NY, I am reminded of the fullness of my power.

I miss everywhere I’ve been, but I know I am where I’m supposed to be. I’m ready for this. So ready.

 

 

xo,

RJD

Grown woman, but still Daddy’s girl

kingRJD:

Vintage post!

Originally posted on king RJD:

 

I loved my Daddy so much that i used to chew on his shoes. 

Yes. I know it’s gross, but I was only a toddler. I wanted to be near him, I wanted to be like him, so I chewed on his shoes. Not his work boots, mind you, but the leather shoes he wore to church every Sunday. The shoes he preached in. I still remember how he’d sit on the edge of the bed to polish them on Saturday nights.

*

I’m a Daddy’s girl. I used to sit and watch him build things. I still love the smell of sawdust and sheetrock. He taught me how to think, and how to question absolutely everything. When i felt insecure, He reminded me that i’m beautiful and smart, and i should always KNOW that, even without him or anyone else saying so. My Dad listened to my stories…

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Rest in Power

I have always loved the term “rest in power”. It is usually granted to people who were powerful in their lives, and suggests that we hope they will be just as powerful in death. We on earth, hope that they will continue to influence and empower us, even though they have passed on.

But I wonder if we can use the term in a different way. In a work-driven world, a shady job market, and a shaky economy, we give the term ‘rest’ a side-eye. We burn the candle at both ends to fulfill our obligations.

What if we thought that we, too, should rest in power–even though we are still alive?  How would our work be transformed if we reframed rest as a time to gain and store our energy so that we could become more powerful?

*

Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee are both powerful artists who lived full lives and transformed the lives of others through their art. But I am sure that, as they shook up the world, they had time where they rested–where they stood apart, renegotiated who they are, and thought carefully about how they want to contribute to their families, to the world around them.

I want to honor God by making a powerful contribution to the world around me. But I can’t do that without rest.

*

After the PhD, I have fielded too many questions about my plans for the future. In a bleak economy, strangers have showed concern about what job I will take next. To be honest, I have more projects than I can handle right now. I’ve been commissioned to write several academic and non-academic pieces. But still, the questions persist. Saying that I’m going to rest and write does not seem to be an acceptable answer in a country which glorifies the 24/7 hustle. At dinner parties, when I am pushed about how I will pay for my existence, I eventually politely reveal that I am in a position where I don’t have to go to work right away. Those people have abruptly ended the discussion and turned their backs on me. They were uncomfortable with the idea of an educated black woman who is not financially ruined because of her education. They were uncomfortable to encounter a black woman who has more class privilege than they realized.

Thinking about Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee, and all the other amazing black women whose work I appreciate remind me that my survival and continued success depends on my ability to be still before God, and take my cues from Him alone. Even Beyonce, queen of empire building, took a 9 month vacation as an adult. Most of us–myself included–are not in a position where we can completely stop working. But I refuse to be vilified for choosing to rest after 24 years of school. I refuse to be rushed into taking a job that God doesn’t want me to take.

I choose to see my time to rest as powerful.

As I close this entry, I realize that Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee have indeed taught me something new in their death. They have taught me to stubbornly protect my resting time. They taught me that rest is not a dirty, four-letter word. They taught me that recognizing my own power and abilities comes from solitude. The wisdom to negotiate the struggles within our daily lives comes from rest.

May your rest bring you power.

Dr. RJD

FaceTime + Beauty

Most women know the panic of unexpected FaceTime. My makeup was making its way off my face, my hair was looking sketch, and my nails are getting raggedy. But one of my friends lives in a remote location, in a completely different time zone, with no internet access. I haven’t seen him for eight years. It was sheer luck that we were online at the same time, and I couldn’t turn down his request. 

But I could make slight improvements to my appearance. I ran around my apartment, looking for a brush that could tame my hair, a compact that would even my oily face out, and I attacked my lips with a too-sharp lip pencil. I arranged myself prettily at the desk just in time to accept his call, with a bright smile and a barrage of questions. 

*

I never thought I’d be a woman who fixes her hair and puts on makeup to go to the mailbox. I never thought I would arrange myself just so before taking a picture. But somewhere in my twenties, I realized that I have to be a steward of my beauty as well as my intelligence. God has given each of us a set of talents and gifts, and He doesn’t like it when we discard them. I am irresponsible when I don’t use my intelligence and wisdom–and I am just as irresponsible when I neglect my health, or don’t take care of my physical appearance. Furthermore, I feel better when I am put together. 

*

Of course, my friend didn’t care that my face was 25% less oily than it had been moments before. Instead, we talked about his little piece of paradise, and he showed me the quaint kombucha bar where a band was drumming. We talked about how his blonde hair looked exactly like my last weave. And he tried to get me to ditch civilization and live in the jungle. 

I didn’t have the heart tell him that I couldn’t live in the wild because I really, really needed Sephora or Mac counter, and a good hair supplier.

 

 

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stay beautiful!

 

RJD

Respectability Politics and the Academy

In the aftermath of the “Ratchet PhD” post, I realize how many black PhDs are concerned with respectability politics. This term, which has been used by bloggers in recent years, was originally defined by historian Evelyn Higginbotham. According to her, 19th century black Christian women promoted “temperance, cleanliness of person and property, thrift, polite manners, and sexual purity” as a project of racial uplift and full inclusion into American society. 

However, in the 21st century, after we have at least theoretically gained equality, black folks are still concerned with being thought of as respectable, especially by other middle and upper class citizens. We prove we are good middle class citizens by policing others who have values which seem to be radically different from our own. It is easy, for example, to glance at websites such as http://www.hotghettomess.com, or ‘ratchet’ tumblr accounts to see pictures of half-naked people shopping at Wal-Mart, or a woman taking a picture of her butt while a child looks on in mild confusion.  These pictures are meant to be humorous warning signals–and, it seems to suggest, you are not a ‘good’, (read: middle class) human being if you participate in these behaviors. 

 

If my Facebook feed is any indication, educated, middle class people of color are most invested in policing these behaviors. It is as if we still believe that, if a person of color engages in behavior we consider abnormal, it reflects poorly on all people of color. Some people who post and re-post these pictures do it to show, “look, I am not like this. I am respectable, and this person is not.”

I was a part of the respectability politics police…until I came to graduate school. Studying black feminist, womanist theories, and African American women’s literature liberated me from the erroneous notion that there is only one way to live a respectable life. If I’m a saved woman or a stripper, I still have autonomy. I still have the right to be treated with the privileges of any other citizen. The quest for perfection forces some to live small lives which will not be worth a historian’s time. 

Many academics of color feel as though they have to be perfect to remain in the academy. Their scholarship is on point, hair perfectly coiffed or cut, outfits just so. This is not a bad thing: it is important to create good scholarship, to be invested in one’s career. It is important to come to work on time, to be a good departmental citizen. 

However, I am concerned with the pernicious idea that we must perform in a particular way all the time to be accepted by the academy. It is as if we believe that a 24/7 performance of perfection will allow us to ‘pass’ into elite spaces where others believe we do not belong.   

Perfection is too high an admission price for the ivory tower. 

Academics who are considered ‘non-traditional’ (i.e. first generation college graduates, people of color, etc.) can be happy that we have ‘made it’, but we should also interrogate the space. Rather than policing the behaviors of people whose personal lives are ‘ratchet’, we should see the academy as an elastic space which ought to be inclusive to all smart people who do good work. 

My wise father once said that academics are the architects of thought. We have a responsibility and the power to question respectability politics, and to create an academy that reflects the diversity of the world in which we live. 

 

Dr. RJD

 

For those reading who are unfamiliar with the term respectability politics, this gives a good explanation and background: http://alineinthesand.com/respectability-politics/