BY JASMINE ROBINSON FOR NAPPY HEAD CLUB
“Don’t be a hoe like your mother.” These were the words that my father spoke to me at the tender age of eighteen years old when I had lost my ‘innocence.’I sat in disbelief as the words left his lips. I felt that I had disappointed a man who had never taken the time out to show me what it was to be like being appreciated as a woman. And in his actions, there were many gaps that could be left up to interpretation. But in this moment, he held so much power over my body with just a statement of utter disappointment. I slipped into a constant need to please him without taking the time to understand what I actually needed from him was guidance.
As for my mother, losing my virginity pushed me into a competition for womanhood with her. I had always served the role as my mothers confidant and shoulder to lean on. Imagine experiencing a break-up in dealing with adult situations with your mother. I was no longer allowed to ask questions to understand what my lack of development couldn’t, but instead I was required to comfort a broken heart that needed healing beyond my repair. Becoming a woman in my mothers eyes, merely showed her a reflection of all the things that she was not. I was now abandoned with guilt that didn’t belong to me, but somehow defined me.
Fast forward a couple of traumas later and here I am listening to my younger brothers in their tender teenage years, speak to my father about their relations with young women. Most of the conversation prevails from what the media portrays as ‘relationships’ for young adults. They speak in the words of their influencers who think of women as a product more than the production. And even so, the words from my father are guiding with encouragement in navigating their premature manhood.
My mother coddled her son into his manhood. Everything that disrupted his life, happened to him and not for him. The lessons that he needed to face were now her burdens. And the mothering that she never showed me, overpowered his ability to take on challenges that came his way. She showed him sympathy that I didn’t know existed and compassion that was foreign to my soul.
While in the layers of chaos and troubling emotions, I noticed something that has been true all along. The upbringing for children in the household would never be equal. There would always be some expectation from one that had to be met. These expectations were silent but loud in the mind. The roles were set before the child knew of their pure tenderness. It needed to be acknowledged and it needed to be achieved. But would it ever be understood?
The Baby Girl.
I used to cave at the sound of this endearing term, but now the thought of being called those two words taunt me. My father would call for me and I would feel included into a cult of daughters who adored their father like no other man. A mother would look at her daughter as a prized possession that she now would hand off to be pampered by her father. He would show her how a woman was to be adored and loved in a way that a man would have to climb mountains to achieve. I now understand this to be a sense of grooming. Because how can a woman with many wounds teach me how to submit to a man who only added cuts to her scars?
I understand through my years of grooming that I was being recruited into a different demeaning cult. I can now see that the woman that I was being taught to be, was only enabling the behavior of a man who didn’t have to earn his respect. The mere sound of the word ‘man’ would raise hairs and demand to be in the place that power thrived from. And anything that I would do to deminor this power would not only lower his self-esteem, but deem me as an outcast to the order that has been set in place. I was made to love this man, but not hold him accountable for loving me. Respect this man, but only in a way that made him feel superior. Value this man, but only in a way that fear would keep me bound to him.
I searched for the strength in the women’s eyes that I look at now. I cried to them for the troubles that I was now faced with in dealing with my own paternal figure. But those eyes looked back at me. And the stares would solidify what I had already known. There was a silent fear in the place of showing strength. For a woman's strength could not overshadow her respect for the man that she raised to hold his own. The question I wrestle with is if I was ever given a fair chance at my parents' love? Or was their love by design in keeping with the standard that they only knew?
The Little Man.
A boy would admire his father from a distance. This distance would not leave him too far from his mother's comfort. This little man would need to make sure that he was within that feminine reach to feel the nourishment that he needed when life served him what he could no longer feed from. He would forever search for another safe haven that mimicked what his mother created for him to feel desired and constantly accepted. Any woman that would come along would have a standard of love that would almost seem unachievable. But because of what she learned from her mother, she would be determined to make that man feel loved just to be loved.
A boy is taught to hold in their feelings and never show emotion. For emotions were for girls and a man had to be resilient. A boy was never taught the strength in vulnerability. But instead, if a woman so lay her body down next to his, that he was validated in his manhood. She was not to ask of anything for him. His cycle was complete with his physical presence. He was made to protect and provide. But would protect and provide for that ‘little man’ ? The little man that weeps when his emotions became overbearing and not understood? The ‘little man’ whose sexual feelings and desires did not match the man who taught him what it was to simply be, a man indeed?
The boy would harvest these feelings until the bloom of his manhood. But this was now a journey that he would not understand. And his silence would damn him into whom he never wanted to be. The reflection that he would stare at would be unfamiliar to him. Unbeknown to this ‘little man,’ was a boy that he would never have a fair chance to meet. Falling in line with what was expected of him would continue a lineage of the strong black man built from the weakness of not nurturing the ‘little man’ inside of him.
Now, I am aware that the dice isn’t always rolled into these places. Some are blessed with a village that sees where the paths may have taken a wrong turn. But in some fashion, the narrative stays the same. Even in a broken home, there is always a search to heal a parental womb that molds our future relationships. However, being able to identify where the challenge started, gives way to a challenge being accomplished. Acknowledging where the confusion and hurt started is a gateway into the healing that needs to come.
Starting the conversation later in life, I found so much comfort in knowing that my story had many writers. I was not alone in serving as my mothers best friend through my own youth. I was not alone in feeling like the love I received from my father was generic. I was not alone in understanding that I would find healing in mourning a childhood that would never be.
Will there ever be an understanding between what that baby girl needs and what that little man needs to gain? That's a question we will never know. But we are responsible for helping that process change. There is a new generation now, and we are tired of the bullshit.
For the ‘baby girl’ and the ‘little man’, demand to play in your innocence and grow in your own soil.
Your story is yours.
About the Author:
Jasmine Robinson is a creative specializing in singing and writing with a diverse interest in open-minded conversations that spark growth and healing.