So one of the weird, very writer-y things I like to do is find spots across the city to write and work (build/create curriculums and lesson plans). The outdoors is my favorite, of course, because I’m so very outdoorsy and am inspired by nature–trees and birds and water, etc. I also find that when I jump on my blades or bike, the journey and rush of adrenaline, that meditative state I enter while weaving through traffic and people-watching, feeds me in a way that when I reach my destination (which I may not know ahead of time), perhaps Purple Lights at the end of Battery Park City or a stoop in Brooklyn, a bench along Chelsea Pier, wherever, I have to pull out my journal and write.
As of late, I’ve been visiting libraries around the city. Porque? Because there’s something about the smell of a library (stale, mossy, old wood, old books) and the energy of it that I’ve always loved. Ever take a book off a shelf that hasn’t been opened in years? It’s a heavenly smell, I swear.
Today I’m sitting in a room at the Public Library on 42nd Street. Yes, the one with the lions out front (lions always make me think of my Millie, she was a Leo). The one with the huge, ornate Greek columns. The one from the first Sex and the City movie. The one where Big stood Carrie up at the altar, except it wasn’t an altar, it was a library, this library. Yes, that one.
To be honest, sometimes the chaos of the city gets to me. The grind. The crazy, ridiculous crowds. The pushing and shoving and nastiness of some people. (“Don’t push me.” “Move out the train door, yo.”) Rush hour is a nightmare. While I do love my city, I’m in a more sedated mood these days. I seek something more peaceful, more serene most days. It’s why I love living in Inwood. Where else on Manhattan Island can you hike in a natural forest, hear the screech of hawks, the hushed whirl of nature? Nah, Central Park doesn’t cut it for me. It was planted. It has a completely different feel. And Riverside Park doesn’t cut it either. There’s the constant drone of traffic from the West Side Highway.
Anyway, what’s my point? That I can sometimes find this tranquility indoors (which is good porque ahi viene el frio). In New York’s libraries. I haven’t been in this particular library in years but when I was planning my day last night (teaching at 9am in the Bx then in the Wall Street area at 3:30pm), I thought maybe I’d come here to write and plan between gigs. At first my insides said: Oh, hell no! I mean, serenity and 42nd street sound like complete opposites, right? But, check it.
I know the picture isn’t exactly clear (blame it on my bullshit Blackberry. Upgrading to iPhone soon) but it captures what I found: stacks and trees. I love stacks. As a student at Columbia University, I’d go into the stacks in Butler Library to study and get my work done and escape. The reading rooms were always noisy, full of far too many people I knew. I’m far too social sometimes (read: often). “What you studying?” or “What are you reading?” would always lead to conversations, great ones most times, I admit, but I went to the library to study, not to socialize. I needed solitude. Silence. I could find that in the stacks.
And, as I’ve said before, I love trees. Nature. Who knew I’d encounter such a picturesque view of the trees in Bryant Park from this reading room on the north side, first floor of the library. And, get this, I don’t hear the traffic outside. Instead, there’s the white noise that fills most libraries. Air. Cool air coming from the vents to conserve the books. Yes, I heard the wail of the sirens on an ambulance (or was it a cop car?) that sped by. But that was quick. Only a minor disturbance.
All of this is to say that I seek peace to counter the turmoil that goes on inside me sometimes. I mean, these stories I’m writing often make my insides roil. Picture a caldero of bubbling sancocho. Imagine the thick-as-your-arm tendrils of Devil’s Snare wrapping themselves around your intestines, squeezing with the strength of a boa constrictor. Yeah, it’s like that. Sometimes. Does this make me crazy? Maybe. I prefer to call it beautiful madness. What’s maddening is not that I feel this way sometimes. You can deny it but we all have a bit of crazy inside of us. I’m just more apt to talk and write about it. I mean, I write memoir. It’s what I do.
Anyway, my latest boiling moment was brought on by a recent comment made by the Republican incumbent, Mitt Romney. Si, el desgracia’o ese, who just doesn’t get it. He’s from a different world than me and while that’s okay, the problem comes in when he tries to impose his shit on my world. Makes a judgment of/on mine based on his born with a platinum-spoon-in-his-mouth upbringing. Yeah, that causes beef, and he ain’t ready.
So yesterday he insinuated, not so discreetly, that single mothers are to blame for the gun violence in this country. Listen, as a single mother, I got something to say to this fool and anyone who wants to co-sign his shit.
Yes, I’m a single mother. And what?! I’m tired of being judged for that. I’m tired of the idea that I’m somehow failing my daughter and society because I made the decision (yes, I made the mothafuckin decision) to raise her by myself. Yes, I chose to leave her father. I chose to leave an abusive relationship. I chose not to raise my daughter with a man who did not respect me. Who does does not respect women, period. Who thinks that women should behave and speak a certain way because they are women. You know because you’ve probably heard it in some iteration or another: “You think you’re a man.” Or as my ex from years ago would say, “Respect you? Tu tienes grajo?” Basically he was saying that only men are worthy of respect. Fuck that!
Let me introduce you to Vanessa Martir!
I chose to raise my daughter by myself because I will not teach her by my example that it’s a woman’s job to deal with a man’s shit. You don’t put your hands on me. You don’t scream at me and put your finger in my face. (Not if you wanna keep it.) You don’t tell me where to go or what to do. I’m a grown woman. Children learn by impersonation. I will not teach my daughter that. Punto!
Yes, I understand a relationship requires compromise but compromise does not mean I have to sacrifice who I am. Compromise does not mean you can speak down to me. Compromise does not mean I have to put up with misogynist, patriarchal shit that you consider normal and acceptable. Nah. Not happening. Been there. Done that. Wrote two novels about it. Not doing it again, though I may write about it like I’m doing now.
What’s my point? That instead of berating single mothers for raising their kids alone, we should, you should, be applauded us for taking on what we take on. For raising our kids. For the hustle we take on for our children. How many times have you seen a mother rushing to take her kids to school to then have to go to work? She comes home exhausted and she still has to feed them, help them do their homework, make sure they’re bathed for the next day. She has to clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, and entertain the kids. Take them to the park, teach them how to ride a bike, how to exist in this world that will treat them differently, like they’re less than because they’re brown, because of where they come from, because they come from single-parent homes. (Notice that there’s no mention of down time for her because there usually isn’t any.)
You don’t help by berating a woman for raising her child or children alone. You make her feel small. You make her feel like a failure. That doesn’t help her in her job of holding up her home.
We gotta stop this shit. We gotta stop pointing the finger at people who are doing what they can to survive. To raise our kids to be functional, productive members of society. Yes, I get that a two-parent home is the ideal. I’m not from the “you don’t need a father” school. That shit is ridiculous. Yes, my daughter needs her father. I’m raising her alone for the most part but he is a part of her life and I put up with some of his shit because it’s a sacrifice I have to make to make sure he’s present for her. I know when to say, accept, that this isn’t about me. But that’s not my fuckin reality. I walked out of that relationship because it was the right thing to do. For me. For my daughter. Get the fuck over it and stop blaming me for society’s ills, Mitt. Look at how your white, rich, patriarchal system. Look at how that has contributed to how effed our society is. (We’ve all played a role in it, folks.) Yeah, you can’t. You won’t. It would mean you’d have to take personal accountability. You’d have to stare at yourself and your forefathers. Impossible. Yeah, I didn’t think so. Estupido.
Phew. I feel better now. 🙂