lemonade.

I have been avoiding listening to Lemonade by Beyonce.  Why?  Because I don’t really care about Beyonce’s music, and I most certainly don’t care about “celebrities”.  (Seriously, people ask if I “keep up” with such-and-such…but WHO CARES.  They are people, we are people, and we obsess over details in their lives, details we don’t even care to know about our neighbors.  In that way, modern society is pathetic, imho.)  However, I finally listened to the whole album in the last 24 hours.  And I’m not sure I’ll be able to encapsulate the disappointment and hurt the album caused me, but I’ll try.

From what I’ve popularly heard about Lemonade, people have praised its musical power – specifically in having elements the closest to blues that Beyonce has ever had.  However, some friends I know have praised it (undeservingly, in my opinion) for its powerful black woman message and its unique, poetic sound.  Let me just say first of all: I haven’t listened to much Beyonce, but this album sounded exactly like the Destiny’s Child album I have from 2000-something where she dramatically quotes the Bible.  She’s changed…so much (sarcasm).  And while I do love certain motifs regarding the sacredness of matrilineal heritage and womanhood, I find that she completely destroys those values.  Her “powerful” message was nothing but insulting and weak as I heard it.  In fact, the messages I was hearing were so triggering and upsetting for a person who has been through experiences she was glorifying that I actually had to walk away and keep myself from having a panic attack.

I was thoroughly disturbed by the message she was sending.  After listening to the whole album, I still am.  This is not an album to emulate.  This album brings shame to women.  It hurts me to think people call this “strength”, but I guess these people haven’t experienced the things I have.  If you did, you would likely be triggered in the same way and be revolted by Beyonce’s weakness.  And the argument that she’s so strong for making lemons out of lemonade, for making an album like this out of her pain?  Okay, cool, she’s exploiting true women’s issues for profit.  I don’t admire that.  Who the F*** would admire that.  Especially as a person living and coming from Indian Country, glorifying a man making the sacredness of a woman un-sacred – and her accepting of it – is absolutely sacrilegious, damaging, and horrifying.  Maybe it’s the privilege of not having experienced what I have experienced that makes people fall in love with this kind of bullsh*t.

Lemonade
The album consists of a number of songs: 1) Pray You Catch Me, 2) Hold Up, 3) Don’t Hurt Yourself, 4) Sorry, 5) 6 Inch, 6) Daddy Lessons, 7) Love Drought, 8) Sandcastles, 9) Forward, 10) Freedom, 11) All Night, 12) Formation, and 13) Lemonade.  In the music video, there are interludes of text read the same way Destiny’s Child read the Commandments in their previous work.

Pray You Catch Me starts off in an intriguing way.  Beyonce is in a field, without makeup.  There’s a southern feeling like Savannah to it with women in dresses.  But Beyonce immediately starts off talking about men in a way that implies abuse is “tradition”, that it is inherited.  That it is a curse.  She even suggests suicide from her distraught, demonstrating how completely vulnerable she is.  Fasting, abstaining from anything that makes her happy, acting like womanhood is less than human…everything about the first track and a half screams shame on women, and men are in control.

NOT.  POWERFUL.

The scene is in this extortionist style of film, dramatic but not settling in how it portrays womanhood.  It talks about self-sacrifice, about no matter how much she tries to make herself a better person, she is still bent out of shape over the idea that her husband has cheated on her.  I literally can hear nothing but I’M WEAK I’M WEAK I’M WEAK, I am not an example for young women.  It makes you think: maybe she’ll evolve?

She never does.  She just gets weaker.

Hold Up is about ANGER.  It is about not being able to control yourself.  Beyonce rattles on about how her cheating husband is the best, how she loves him, asking why would he treat her like this if she’s the best.  She’s going through his phone.  She says, “Imma f*** me up a b*tch”…”What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?”

WHAT?

Weak.  Pure weakness.  Honey, you’re letting this man rule your life.  Do me a favor and STOP PROMOTING THAT THIS IS OKAY.  It is HARMING our COMMUNITIES when women default to thinking this way!!!

To make matters worse, she goes into this dark poetry, discussing how she’ll take on the appearance of this other woman.  She’ll wear her face, her hair, her skin – basically saying, use my body if you think it’s this woman you love more and I won’t complain.

This.

Is.

So.

Wrong.

I CAN’T EVEN!  From a women’s rights, anti-women’s-violence perspective, I literally just can’t even… (Yes, that’s me going into teenage sass-mode, but I can’t even.  Can’t even so much that I just can’t…I just…can’t.)

Oh, but wait!  She mentions her father’s violence against her mother.  Strangulation.  Brilliant.  So now we painted this picture with violence and somehow justified it in the name of broken love (which, sorry, but it doesn’t exist anymore.  Not after all of this.)  She mentions that everyone else can see her, but he can’t.  And this disturbs me too.  This attitude that, just because someone is a celebrity, they are a “catch”.  F*ck, no.  People are people.  If you think a celebrity is a catch, you’re probably just sexualizing her body.  Probably because she exploits it for fame.  And that’s not the f*** okay.

I’m also not a fan of how she exploits men.  Women don’t talk as much about this topic because women are currently much more exploited than men, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen in the other direction.  Her sassy, “strong” look is merely accompanied by language like “dick boy”, how she’s going to walk out on her husband for what he’s done.  There are traces of strength in this song, but not in any degree worth applauding when you look at the abusive language she chooses.  Also, she quotes Malcolm X, saying that black women are the most unprotected and neglected Americans.  That’s actually not true, but close to true.  Violence against Native women is considerably higher.  Like, appallingly higher.  (It’s not a pity fest, and I understand why she put it in there because black women need respect in society, but I’m just making that point.  Not enough people hear it.)

In her Apathy monologue, Beyonce compares what her husband has done to her as killing her.  This is insulting, as many women are actually killed because they won’t leave their abusive husbands.  Beyonce was cheated on, and yet she won’t leave him.  I don’t know, isn’t that kind of hypocritical?  In some way, isn’t that privilege?  Either way, it’s not doing anything to hold up women in bad situations.

Her song Sorry, she wears some kind of tribal painting and hints that she’s leaving him.  But she doesn’t.  Oh, actually, she becomes a complete hypocrite.  This song is about how he’s “interrupting [her] grinding”, in other words an “eye for an eye”.  That is NOT something to EMULATE!  Seriously.  I was expecting a powerful album out of this, not hypocrisy and weakness.  She even suggests killing herself again, suicide.  It’s disgusting.  She pathetically ends a song, crying “Come back, come back, come back…”

She talks about abuse.  Physical and sexual abuse.  Father and husband abuse.  She normalizes it.

She repeats, “You are the love of my life.”  Over and over and over again.

“10 times out of 9 I know you’re lying”, she says.  “You’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me?” she asks.  Then she says, the only way to go is up, she says her skin has gotten thick and she’s tough.

Beyonce is literally saying toughness = weakness.  Toughness is dealing with problems you should be LEAVING.  This is what we see in Indian Country, this dependency.  THIS is what you should never teach your daughter.  THIS is an example of severe weakness, of needing help.  Beyonce is making this look like strength.  I am disgusted by it.  (Also, anyone else catch the New Orleans Indian headdress exploitation?  Yeah, sore topic.  Thanks, Beyonce, for sexualizing the headdress yet again.)

Her next section is Forgiveness, and I wish I had an album in hand so I could smash it to a million pieces and make something useful out of it.

Sandcastles.  Letting another woman completely tear her apart.

Freedom.  The idea that returning to a cheating husband is somehow freedom or strength.

Redemption.  Comparing the strength of her grandmother to the choices she’s making today.  That, to me, is an insult.  That is not how you honor your ancestors.  “Nothing real can be threatened” should mean a real woman can move on and be strong.  Instead, Beyonce twists her grandmother’s words to justify her weakness and her dependency.

All Night.  Trusting again.  Like, are you joking me.

I’m sorry but, as a woman defined by our lovely government as a person of color, I seriously cannot tolerate this.  I fight too hard on the policy level to allow mentalities such as the one perpetuated by Beyonce to solidify in the minds of women in our communities.  We face the highest rates of violence, rape, assault, you name it.  Abusive relationships are so rampant, we become numb to it.  When Beyonce writes an album like this, she’s touching people who feel the same because they’ve been through it – then she proceeds to normalize the abuse and to justify accepting it.  It’s so freaking damaging, I’m literally in shock that people are okay with it.  Does no one else feel this?  Maybe you have to feel what she’s talking about to realize it’s so wrong.  The irony of it all.

It took me reading other articles with the same vein of thought to realize I’m not alone.  I just wish more people could see it.  Because they can’t, well that points exactly to why certain elements of this society are crumbling.

feeling so small.

I’ve shut out some friends lately who have become damaging. I noticed their absence more than ever today when I sat alone in a frozen cow pasture.

I just got back from two weeks overseas, but I filled my weekend with travel and distraction from what’s been eating me alive. Well, last night I had four hours of sleep before finding myself driving towards Wheeling, WV, Frankie Ballard blasting, then the stillness of a hilltop field as I waited for my subcontractors.

No one. Anywhere. Just the birds and the frost and some lonely cows. I could have been home again.

That freeness reminded me also of the vastness of the world, the humbling sensation of feeling pathetic which travel often instills in me. Like when I hiked the Calanques solo last July, emptied my canteen, and realized how easily I could die in that desert and no one would know. Or this month when I stood on the Bettmer alp and beheld the frozen cruelty of Swiss altitudes and how small I am.

So small, in fact, that what are my woes? What are my complaints? Who are the tiny people who hurt me and bring me down?

All those people I left behind when I drove to the cow pasture, they could stand before me and still be as distant and small. I am small and so are they. And there are so many more of them because this world is full of people who could treat me better or worse in the snap of a finger.

I am small, and not just because my construction clothes in XS short are still too baggy and long on me. I am small because I represent so little of the matter on this planet, so little of matter to a stranger. But I can control how much I matter to someone just as much as I can control how much someone matters to me.

And now I’m in Columbus traveling towards the Indiana state line and I’m still as small, but my accomplishments are big. My strength is bigger. And those mean, selfish pains in my side I left in Cleveland are diminishing with my distance and my apathy.

It is so humbling being small.

This Bell Jar, and Plath.

I love Sylvia Plath.

Yes, she’s rather morbid.  Yes, she had “issues”.  Yes, she eventually killed herself.  But I think it was that internal struggle she was dealing with that made her writing so freely profound, poetic and yet harsh.  She had a way of wording things and of looking at life in a way that was beautiful in the same sense as a deadly storm.

I started read The Bell Jar at the beginning of the year.  It wasn’t until I was recently inspired to read an entire list of “life changing” books that I found online, as well as books on the histories of religions, that I decided it was time to finish up some books I had forgotten I’d started.  I’m kind of surprised I stopped reading The Bell Jar midway – I think it was due to finals and me leaving the country.  But, either way, I finished the rest of it in essentially one sitting.  I feel like there is a lot to take away from it.

OUR OWN BELL JARS

The whole “bell jar” bit didn’t make too much sense to me until, somewhere in the middle of the story, Plath drops the words “…because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”

I thought, WOW.  THAT is what the bell jar is.  The bell jar is what we pull over ourselves.  We live in this little world of our own, yet we can let our own negativity suffocate us if we don’t lift that jar every once in a while.  No matter where we go, we carry that emotional baggage with us, a kind of baggage that no change of scenery will alter enough for us to completely forget if we don’t cause some kind of resolution or absolution within ourselves.

I began to think of my own bell jar and what I feel like inside it.  It feels terrible a lot.  Too often, in fact.  But that’s why I bury myself in sports, arts, books, cooking, dance, and especially travel… It’s like my way of lifting that jar a little bit every once in a while, like a small distraction.  But that jar never totally disappears.

DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT IN LIFE

I feel that jar heaviest when others affect me.  I have the tendency to go out of my way too much for other people just to feel useful and have worth.  I don’t expect anything in return.  But when I get stood up or let down, I think it hurts twice to thrice as much.

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

Wise words.  I should listen to that.

I’ve come to realize I’m never disappointed when I expect someone to back out, no matter how much they swear they’ve committed.  I just shrug it off.  But that’s hard to accept all of the time, to expect disappointment.  I love the anticipation of something.  It’s what makes the days happier.  Why ruin that with expectations of letdown?  (“I couldn’t see the point of getting up.  I had nothing to look forward to.”)   It just makes one feel inadequate.  (“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it.”)  And Plath’s character continues to struggle under her bell jar for a long, long, long part of the story.

GETTING OUT OF YOUR BELL JAR

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

Yet the whole story isn’t just about depressing thoughts (although, some of them really make you think, like when Plath wonders if the most beautiful thing in the world is actually shadow).  In reality, Plath’s bell jar sealed shut just after the publication of The Bell Jar.  Esther Greenwood, however, the narrator of the story,… she finally flings off her jar and takes a deep breath.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people.  I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”

If that isn’t testament to how the best medicine for anything is just a breath of nature and the world, then I don’t know what is.

ACCEPTING BETTER LOVE

Finally, one of the quotes from Plath in general that I recently shared on Facebook (and which received a lot of applaud) is one about love.  I often think about how lousy we can get it when it comes to friendships or relationships, and why is that?  And my answer always come back to The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  Not to mix up authors and stories here, but I think that is true.  And I find it particularly interesting to take that notion and juxtapose it with Plath’s quote.  Plath seems to be quite the self-loathing person with little value in herself, should you base her personality off of her writing style, yet she shows strength enough to reject men who don’t strike her very specific fancy.  Here is the quote I adore so much:

“Yes, I was infatuated with you: I am still.  No one has ever heightened such a keen capacity of physical sensation in me.  I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy.  Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams.  And you weren’t having any of those.”

In the words of my mother-aged peer, “What a wise, tragic woman who said that.”

Perspective

perspective

I’m in Europe.  I came here after two weeks in India and I’m not going back to the US until mid-August.  I was lucky enough to find the job I wanted in a company that was willing to wait for me to start after my return this summer.  I’ve been able to see so many incredible things, thanks to the inside resources I have in each country I’ve gone to so far.  For example, in India I had several professors who are well-known in their country and who got us VIP entrances into temples where we were blessed by holy water and, in Slovakia, I had a friend whose wife’s aunt knows the wife to a long-lost cousin of mine who managed to answer age-old questions about my family history.  What are the chances that such great things could happen?  My summer is full of amazing things and I should be happy.  But I’m not.

I’ve felt alarmingly depressed.  Why?  Well I can’t help thinking about home.  No, I’m not homesick.  I’m just stressed about the people at home, back in the States.  I’m stressed about guys, about a guy who I thought was something special and who is now not replying to any message I send, about guys who don’t matter but whom I wonder about anyway, etc.  Yada yada yada… all this stupid stuff that you would hear from a rambling teenager.  Stupid just in its own essence, but here, comparing it to where I am and what should matter to me… it’s ESPECIALLY stupid.

And that’s why I decided to write a little quip about perspective.  Although I might think a relationship or an individual is crucial to my life right now, the truth is it’s trivial.  It’s especially trivial if someone doesn’t have the decency to acknowledge me.  And maybe I’m nothing special, but I’m nothing ordinary either.  So have fun missing out.  The whole thing is even more trivial considering I’m in Europe, I’m traveling the world, I’m doing what so many people my age or older wish they were doing.  I don’t need anyone’s sympathy or lack of attention.  My problems might seem big on a local scale, but step back and it’s nothing compared to the world and everything there is to see and do in it.

I have guys asking to Skype me while I’m away, guys messaging me and reading my blogs to keep in touch as I travel, guys planning to meet me in various cities along my way.  I have friends who have kept in touch for years and who have never changed.  It’s people like these who matter, not the ones who flicker and fade.  So, while I’m sitting here watching a movie that is set in his city, all I have to do is PITY that city for having him and his ignorance and PRAISE mine for showing me that the world is my oyster.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important; I’ll always preach that here.