hot black girl mess/ black girl hot mess / hot girl black mess

Sometimes, I want to tell a really unflattering hot mess bachelorette story about myself, like the time I was cooking half-naked on my second floor apartment and I heard someone call my name--but then i remember that the concept of “hot mess” belongs to young white women who are deemed attractive enough that their self-deprecating “mess” is forgivable because their lives have an underlying expectation of goodness and success regardless of their peccadillos whereas my mess as a black girl is not seen as charming but an endemic representation of the failings of my race whose negative stereotypes i must fight with declarations of royalty, fierceness, and beauty if not an 24/7 facade of respectability due to the societal expectation of me being low enough that the mess is assumed while the success is not, the success must be seized, the competency must be asserted, the intelligence must be proven, the confidence must be tested, and with all the time i must devote to these small tasks, i will scarcely be allowed the luxury of a benign mess. But still, I was cooking half-naked in my second floor apartment and I heard someone call my name. Of course I freaked out, thinking that 1) someone could see into my second floor apartment, 2) they recognized me, and 3) they now knew that I habitually went about my day in a state of undress. What else had they seen? Who else had seen me?

But as they continued to call my name, it occurred to me that they might have been calling for a different Maya. And yep, I eventually met a little girl with her hair in barretted braids who lives in the same complex I do. Meanwhile, I bought a frilly black apron to fend off the oil spills and still wear whatever I want at home.

that brief beautiful bubble when i was (we were) rich by osmosis

I was an impressionable child, overimaginative. I caught the sadness of anything near me, even if it was supernatural. After my dad told me about yajuj and majuj, and how Allah made humans of fire (jinn) and light (malaikah), I would idly look for angels in filtered sunbeams or listen for the voices of jinn leading me on--although I'd been told they were not at all like shoudler demons from cartoons, that they were most interested in minding their own business. Still, my dad was so sure that the end of the world was near that I looked for signs as a sort of impulse I still haven't entirely kicked.

Once, when Deadheads in town, my mom got lost on the way from the hospital and I cried of fear that she'd wandered into some other world, taken by ghouls or zombies. I didn't know what Deadheads were. I pictured something like a roving band of conjurers who worshipped the late Jerry Garcia, a baccanal Wild Hunt devoted to a 40-year old rock band. Maybe they even revived him during concert ceremonies--hey, I didn't know what their concerts got up to. All I knew is that the smells and looks of the nomadic van-living dreaded folks who overtook my familiar neighborhoods overnight made it feel as if a gate to the other world had opened. And mightn't Mom have wandered into it?

When Tupac died, I was torn between thinking he would haunt us or that he would rise again. I lived in San Diego while Pac lived and died in Los Angeles, but the mythology around the man was too large for a single city or county. I felt that the fate of the West Coast was tied to the fate of Tupac. He was our lamb and lion, while The Notorious B.I.G. was the martyr for the East Coast.

I didn't understand the difference between Tupac and Makaveli but the fact that Makaveli's album came out after Tupac's death was reason enough to believe in his return. The video for "Hail Mary" was a warning: the spirit of Tupac could act through others and punish those he loved, punish the state he loved for failing him.

The West/East rap rivalry took place largely through lyrical snipes and diss tracks, but I hadn't heard the songs in question. I saw the West/East rivalry as a cross-country gang war in which an underground network of color-coded national alliances, claimed territories, clans and dons and secret passwords. My brother had to assure me that Tupac wouldn't haunt us, that we hadn't betrayed him--because anyway we liked West Coast rap better, right? It was better.

(Well, even now, I prefer Odd Future to the A$AP Mob.)

So I refused to listen to Biggie to preserve my soul, and (when I became less superstituous) as a matter of pride. Total Request Live didn't care about my soul, however, and I couldn't help hearing and seeing the hits from Biggie's Life After Death. I wondered how his greatness had shaped his half of the country. B.I.G's posthumous album sounded not like revenge but like a celebration of a buried harchet. His best friend Puff Daddy mourned with Faith Evans but then they all popped champagne and went dancing in outer space. It sounded like and end and my brother verified that yes, Tupac's and Biggie's death meant the end of the West Coast/East Coast war.

(We would watch the videos for cameos that signified alliances. When Snoop Dogg signed with No Limit, that was irrefutable proof.)

So I wasn't particularly concerned about the y2k bug (we didn't yet own a computer when everyone else was panicking), the year of 1999 was beautiful to me. The apocalyptic symbolism of it, the magnitude of what it could mean... The zeitgeist had shifted from the 90s to the 00s: we'd gone from the hard-knocks and poverty of gangsta rap to the money, power, and sex of party rap.

Listening to "Mo Money, Mo Problems" felt like being in a national sweepstakes: I'd get a car, you'd get a car, they'd get a car, we'd all get cars! I thought that when Diddy said 'we' he meant 'black people,' not just his friends and labelmates. I thought he was wishing into being a world that finally loved black people. I had seen enough Mo-Town documentaries to know the history of black music, and I knew that we were often copied, unpaid, uncredited, erased. But here we were, front and center, successful and loud, top of the charts! Brandy's "Top of the World" told me where we were headed. Mya's Ghetto Superstar" was written with me in mind. The world finally loved black people.

Missy, JanetTLC wore armor and jumpsuits to summon the future with love songs, bye songs, and synced dances. Computer graphics was younger but came closer to replicating our world with every new game and film. Cell phones were still yet twinkles in investor's eyes, and all technology shone with hint & possibility. Black people were front and center in the media, happy and copied and admired by the world. And yet...

I don't know how much money my family had at that time. I know that we moved to the East Coast (Providence, Rhode Island, to be specific) around that time, and we seemd to have moved right into the music. I was ten, tuning my ear to hear the production differences between Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, and Timbaland. Some part of me knew I would be rich someday, I knew it, because I was a good person and a hard worker--A student without even trying). I was creative and I was young and it was about time. I had everything the world said I needed to be rewarded.

The world was new and new and new no matter where we went and I would be one of those pretty naked girls in Cancun one day, no doubt! I wasn't allowed to wear swimsuits and show that much skin but it would be a matter of course that I would meet Carson Daly.

This was just before politics mattered to me, when everyone was corrupt in a way that didn't matter because everything was fun and everything was fine. Who cared!? The future was coming on. I don't remember how long we were second-hand rich, how long I had the future. I do know that it was gone by the end of 2001. By the end of that September, definitely, it was gone.

Even now, I am one of those impressionable, overimaginative people who think there might be an alternate world in which Bowie and Prince are still alive, a world with more balanced energies in which Trump was not elected. In that world, the FBI caught the hijackers when they were simply names on a watchlist, Bush was not a wartime president and thus not re-elected, the nation that Obama inherited was not a limping thing but a spritely hyperpower arcing towards peace & progress, there was no housing crisis or Great Recession or need for Occupy, and the world really did love black people and the hiphop hit party never ended.

there are things blackness hasn't touched

or doesn't touch

or will or should, like


the cork-hat or the cork-hatted man,

his sons: Irwins, Kratts, Hanna

in safari tan, all.


or the mother of watching, who crouches

hidden recording & watching a band

or family troop or community that--

(how does she rank them? a step above us? me a step below her?)

in the light of the college's chapel

what did she think when i raised my hand and voice:

'i think their rights are not as pressing

for now'? or the plant-fed girls seated around me


or the father of altruism, sitting tenured

over his envisioned drowning child,

hands forming professorial barrels

around something like 'liberation'

--i want to say he stole that word

just as his young infiltrate a farm quicker than a prison,

free cattle sooner than a man


before all that, i lay before the tv

(9 or younger

(legs swinging

(hair still braided)

with my animal books & a notepad

sketching the photos of roseate spoonbills

pallas cats

fennec foxes

endangered and extinct:

that whales this pigeon that tigers

i am not Black yet

when we are all beasts


a human onscreen talks of warmth and breasts

& i realize my mothers (& my own someday)

but i don't yet weigh men's bodies

against dogs or lions;

link the wildness of the Motherland

to my own blood

or recognize the yokes or cages & colonies in it no


i learn somethings of Human Nature,

build my morals it brick by fact by brick

they tell me something about tooth and claw

violent innocence green wonder

black theory has yet to address

how i overcame my fear of the women's bathroom

With that title, this sounds like a gender dysphoria story. To some extent, it is: there was a period in my life where I rejected feminity. I styled myself a tomboy and wore only pants, but I also wore a hijab, and if you can imagine for a second, a blue-jeans-wearing hijabi playing Pokemon Yellow on the bus... But still, I was the kind of being-person who would read about Susan Pevensie and think, serves you right! Piss off with your nylons and lipstick and invitations! Something like that.

I still got pissed off when I was referred to as "he" by the boys I played Yu-Gi-Oh against in the comic book store. I wanted the admiration due a girl, as well as the respect/usefulness/competency/confidence/freedom that belonged to men, I guess.

I suppose. This experience made me aware that I talked from the wrong part of my body however.  Chest voice? Head voice? I'm not sure what it's called, but I later trained myself to speak in a higher tone--although I still laspe into my tomboy voice when too comfortable.

In any case, I was a homebody whose my parents raised them not to use public restrooms if I could help (they were filthy! You couldn't do istinja in them unless you felt like running out to wet the tissue.) They, like many things not in my house, inspired a sort of foreign fear in me. Just as the cardplaying boy mistook my gender, I would be misgendered by the women in the restroom, chased out and attacked. Or worse, I would enter the men's room in confusion and...something bad would happen. I didn't know what.

Public restrooms made me anxious, for years and years, until I joined the Conservation Corps and learned to pee outdoors and wipe myself with leaves. Digging my own poopholes (proper term: latrines) made me feel like an very accomplished cat, and squatting myself small down among ferns and bushes was often very relaxing. I considered buying a shewee. I kind of still want one.

In many, many ways; the great outdoors was gender-neutral.

I finished my half-month Americorps term with confidence in so many other areas, but the restroom anxiety stuck with me. I was no longer afraid of bars or liquor or distance from my home or so much else.

I think I was at an airport when I decided to innoculate myself against the "something bad" of public restrooms. An airport, maybe a mall where the women's room had a line or was full, and the men's room was empty and hidden in a corner where no one could stop me entering with a funny look. I'd read about women who used the men's room when the women's was full. I'd decided to become one. Maybe my failure to perform femininity would serve as camouflage to help me avoid wetting myself.

The men's room was exactly the same as the women's but with a urinal. Of course. But what was so forbidden about seeing a urinal? The single-occupancy ones were so similar, I really didn't understand the seperation.

In any case, after learning firsthand the banality of baños, my anxiety towards them was gone. 

One of my recent jobs had two genderqueer restrooms. On one of its last days, I remember exploring the men's room on a celebratory drunken buzz. I think I shouted in joy, "I'm in the men's restroom!"

My coworkers probably thought I was joking. But ah, they have no idea what it took for me to get there.


poems about having a booty


it takes a french curve --see?

the flare of the tennis skirt

in front versus back

hiked as if beckoning

(& this is why mom called me fast: for having a body)


i spend a lot of time asking

why are leggings flat?

who has straight legs

(besides Sally the Witch)?

this slit ia not enough, why?

how do I become a pencil?

should i, must i be hobbled?


maybe lessness is freedom (more like a boy)

because there is not enough

my lucky fighting panties gingerly

meet the bus seat

& my brown bottom contemplates

being made wanted by an unbrown vulture

(though we were before

& will be after

(before knives and without)


the waistband too takes the longer route

along the french curve

dips like a body aggrieved,

like a grunt, surprised:

i didn't expect to carry this much

unrequited love for the human race

Imagine never feeling comfortable, ever, except with alone (or drunk, or (sometimes) with family). Social anxiety is kind of like having a one of those nausea-inducing crushes, except it holds for the whole human race: you want to make a good impression, you're hyper-aware of everything wrong about you, and failure is your worst nightmare but you can't stop thinking about failure even though it makes failure more likely. So of course 90% of your day is spend imagining and remembering past and possible failures.

Sometimes you manage to do or say something cool, but then you have to immediately run away so you don't fuck it up right after. Sometimes you decide to cut your losses and not even try. That's always easier.

Almost every action is on the conscious incompetence level of the four stages of competence. You know you suck, you know you suck, you know you suck. Or worse, sometimes the stages get broken and you believe you suck and you feel that you suck but you don't actually know if you do. All you have is a constant sucky feeling without adequate proof.

You do know that everything, even smiling, takes extra brainpower. People can probably tell that you have to force yourself, and some will dislike you for being "fake."

The part of your brain that says yes, I am secure and comfortable and loved by others never quite switches on. If you are clever enough, you can reason your way into believing that you're safe, into believing that people want you around. Sometimes. Like, only if they actually return texts and stuff like that, start conversations with you and check in when you withdraw.

And you're going to make social mistakes because they're necessary to learning, but mistakes during adulthood mean missed job opportunities or lost wages, falling behind in life because of the ways you've already suffered. The solution is often exposure therapy, but sometimes you feel guilty for testing things on people:

"Will this person mind if they're the first person I've ever asked on a date?"

"Can I tell them that their behavior makes my anxiety worse?"

"Should I thank this person for helping me overcome my fear by actually showing up?"

"Should I hide that this took all my courage?"

And since social anxiety isn't agoraphobia nor general anxiety nor stage fright, you may be perfectly fine in the anonymity of crowds, but break into a cold sweat when you receive a phone call. Or you may be in your element with public speaking, presentations, and other professional situations that can rely on scripts, but have no idea how to relax or "hang out." Or maybe acting is freeing in a way you rarely feel in the day to day, because it is a mask. But then you go home and can't leave your room and have to skip dinner because you can hear your landlady through the door and you can't deal with another person being in the kitchen the same time as you, especially because you feel like living garbage in the vulnerable state of sweats or pajamas.

I personally wonder if people want me around when I'm not being "useful." A couple friends indicate that they want me around for my own sake, but for most, people there is an unspoken obligation to perform, give, or act in specific ways. Even if the obligation isn't there, I always feel it. Maybe it is always there.

Nothing completely erases the suspicion that most people are only friends with me out of pity. Nothing can turn off the hypervigilance that makes my eyes, my mind constantly scan for signs of rejection. The suspicion does grows quieter, very nearly vanishes with people I can read well. It also alerts me to people I should distance myself from, so that we don't hurt each other. That's one of the upsides of anxiety, that is it a deluxe version of the Gift of Fear.

Something like that.