Monday, September 8, 2008

Angry Black Woman

Oh, So It's Like That?

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I like to think of myself as a nice and likable person. Logically, I know it's impossible for everyone, everywhere to like me all the time. Some will. Some won't. That's life. It's a numbers game. One of my favorite books, "The Four Agreements" says, don't take anything personally but sometimes it's hard not to.

Even when someone doesn't like you, they usually have the good manners not to show it. That’s not being two faced, that’s diplomacy; besides, open hostility is no way to go through life. It's become so rare that someone tells me by word or deed that they dislike me that when it happened recently it caught me off guard. While at a gig a few weeks ago I met an industry colleague who's dislike for me was blatant.

I, of course, rationalized her behavior. As Frieda Friendly and I were introduced, she gave me a tepid handshake. Hmm, maybe she's germaphobic. She didn't offer me the perfunctory polite smile. Tooth ache? No eye contact. Shy? And although she muttered a terse, "Nice to meet you." I could see it wasn't nice for her at all.

What sealed the deal was when I saw she had plenty of teeth to flash and personality to share with everybody and anybody there but me. She froze me out so completely I could have died of hypothermia. I thought perhaps this was an isolated incident, but when I ran into her again a day later and said hello, she assiduously ignored me and seemed angry that I had even spoken to her. Seems pretty personal to me.

As far as I know this was our first meeting so I don’t know where any of this was coming from. I began to wonder, "Why doesn't she like me? Why do I make her so angry? Is it something I said; something I did?" It could be anything. It could be nothing. I could look like the chic who stole her ex or she could dislike me by proxy on behalf of a friend. Maybe something about me just doesn't sit well with her. It happens. And sometimes people don't need a reason. They just don't like you and that's all she wrote.

It isn’t really wise to put too much thought into this. The mind can posit all kinds of questions, and lacking real answers, fabricate them. That’s how drama gets started. Better questions may be why do I care? Does it matter? Do I really have the time and energy for this? No, probably not.

Another one of "The Four Agreements" is "Don’t assume anything." I realize now, that’s exactly what I did. I assumed since we were the only two "Sisters" in the group at our initial meeting that we’d share an automatic comradery. And in a way we did. We are both members of the Angry Black Woman club.

A Svengali like comedy club booker once told me he thought I was "a very angry person." I wanted to tell him to go fuck himself, but that would have given too much credence to his theory.

The image of The Angry Black Woman is iconic bordering on stereotypical. Everybody gets mad, but nobody does anger quite like us. That's our thing. We nurture, cultivate and unleash it at a moment's notice. Black Women go from zero to mad in a minute. If our anger was a car it would be a Lamborghini.

Most people remember and reminisce about happy times. Black Women fondly remember the angry times. "Remember that time you pissed me off and I wanted to kill you? Whew, that was great!" We Angry Black Women don't believe in closure. That's some new age nonsense that doesn't apply to us. For us anger is like air. We live, survive and thrive on it.

Paradoxically, many Angry Black Women are also Good Christian Women, trying to get and stay right with the Lord. God asks that we forgive, and we try our best to do that, but we don't ever forget. As a matter of fact, Black Women make excellent historians because of our amazing memory. No matter how old the transgression we can call it up and relive it with immediate intensity. The combination of instant anger and total recall is why most men find it difficult to argue with us.

My Dad complains – not to my Mother, of course, - that sometimes they go to sleep at night and everything is fine; and in the morning my Mother wakes up mad at him. He has no idea why. It could be his snoring but most likely it's again a matter of memory.

Men have great short term memory. This helps them argue about what is happening right now. Women have great long term memory which helps us argue about what happened yesterday, last week and last month. When my Mom wakes up mad she has probably remembered something my Dad did years ago. She won't get around to being mad about what he did yesterday until next year.

I'm amazed that more Black Women aren't serial killers. It's a natural fit: We're angry and amazing multitaskers. We don't kill however because being mad at someone is lot more fun when they're around to feel your fury.

Where does all this anger come from? Is it nature or is it nurture? I certainly get a lot of my surliness from my Mom. It's common to see girls at play with hands on undeveloped hips, necks cranking, eyes rolling, and teeth sucking giving somebody what for in picture perfect imitations of their momma's and aunties.

I, however, think we're born with it. Ever have a baby girl who can't talk yet, stare at you with a very intense look on her face? You know she's thinking about something serious. And she is. She's thinking, "As soon as I learn how to talk, I'm gonna cuss you out."

Sometimes you'll see a random Happy Black Woman. She's usually young. In place of the traditional scowl she is smiling. Somehow the poor thing has gotten separated from the group and is way off message. Other Black Women will look at her and wonder: "What's she so happy about?" And an Elder will look on and sagely say, "Humph. Give it time."

They say it takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown. With all the scowling, the average Angry Black Woman has enough strength in her facial muscles to bench press a Buick. It's not that we can't smile -- Miracles do happen -- but a frown is our default face.

I must confess, I haven’t been going to the Angry Black Woman meetings as much as I used to. I’m at the stage in my life where I realize anger – constant anger – is enervating. It saps my strength, increases my stress, and undirected or unresolved accomplishes nothing. I’m not saying I don’t angry. I do. It’s a habit and I’m good at it, but before I turn myself into a weapon of mass destruction I light a candle, take a breath and remind myself that I don’t have bail money.

So ultimately I’m not mad at Sister Frieda. Several years my junior, she’s just getting started on her anger journey. I can only hope her immaturity, inappropriate behavior and un-professionalism don’t get her into too much trouble. Next time she may not be so lucky. She may meet the fellow Angry Black Woman who says, "Oh, so it’s like that?" takes up gauntlet and proceeds to beat her ass with it. My professional opinion? Give it time.

Thank you for reading The Urban Erma.

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