A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding my “fire” again—not as easy as one my think. It involves being honest about somethings that make me uncomfortable and turning down some opportunities that would make me financially comfortable, but compromise my integrity (further). That post ended on hopeful note, something like, “with effort, we all get to be who we want to be…”
A woman who read that noted, “that’s just not true.” She followed up to say that assessment was easy for me to make because I’ve been successful at everything. If she was standing in front of me, I would have laughed. Hard. Actually, that’s just not true. I responded to let her know the only reason anyone’s success looks consistent is because the losses usually happen behind the scenes. For every professional win that’s public, there are always more “Ls” in private. For every clichéd cool, calm, collected appearance in the spotlight, there’s madness behind the literal and figurative curtain.
People have been labeling me “successful” lately. (I know. Me and my First World problems, right?) I’m flattered. But that’s not how I view myself. You see accomplishments. I still see the things that I wanted that I didn’t get. I see looming deadlines, the never-ending demands, negotiations, and decisions, and the 50-million things that I haven’t done that I’m supposed to be doing, including dropping Don’t Waste Your Pretty, which I’ve pushed back releasing . (Another blog post for another day.) I live through the disappointments and the insanity for a hard won, well, win here and there. Success, whatever that is because I haven’t figured out my definitive definition of it yet, doesn’t look like whatever I abstractly imagined it would be, what it will be. Success is rosy. My life is chaotic.
I fly into NYC on a red-eye, which means I land at 7AM. Plane sleep doesn’t really count as real sleep, so I’m only half -awake when the plane lands. Before I got on the plane, I cancelled the car to pick me up from the airport because I’ve been gone for the better part of two weeks and CBW wants to see me immediately, so he'll pick me up. Perfect… sort of. For the first time in his entire life, he shows up somewhere on time. But he’s at JFK. I’m at LaGuardia.
I head to the unusually long cab line for this time of the day and I'm freezing. I spent the last two weeks in leather jacket or no jacket weather, and now I’m in wool coat weather wearing leather. Great.
I finally get a cab. Something about the way the driver is, well, driving, makes me feel nauseous on an empty stomach. Greater. The up-side here is that CBW beats me to my apartment and, God bless his sweet soul, has laid out sleep clothes and pulled the covers back on my bed. He knows the routine for when I get back after a long work trip. I greet him “hello” and “good night” at 8:30 AM. He puts me to bed and leaves for the office.
By 1PM, I feel human again. I fart around the house, willfully attempting to do nothing, because for the last two weeks I’ve been required to be doing something all day everyday— and tonight I’m required to do something else. At 5:00, I get dressed for an awards ceremony that I was supposed to get ready for at 4:00. Of all the people receiving awards, I’m pretty sure I live the closest to the venue. It’s at the Brooklyn Museum and I could run there in
10 15 minutes if I really wanted to. And still, I am the last person receiving an award to arrive, damn near 30 minutes late.
The ceremony goes well. I rely on the reserve of energy I’m been storing all day like a bear in hibernation so I can have a burst when I accept my award. My speech goes well too. I talk about Spike Lee and Nola Darling and why I moved to Brooklyn. I talk about how I worked really hard for years trying to be known and seen and professionally, and how everything actually took off almost immediately when I stopped trying to be noticed, and started filling a void. Basically, I became useful. The audience laughs and claps at the appropriate times. I win.
After the awards, I’m exhausted. But a really good friend who is from Brooklyn but lives out of town showed up at the awards to support me. She wants to do dinner, and she won’t care if I yawn through it. She just wants to hang out with me. I have great friends and I neglect them more than I do CBW because I'm always alternately working or hibernating. It's a sore spot between me and, like, everyone. I feel bad about that and I don't want to that girl.. again. So all three of us go to dinner and I kill two figurative birds with one stone.
I stay out too long because time flies when you’re having fun, and I will suffer for it. It’s 11PM when I get home and I still have to pack. The following morning, I have a 6:30 AM flight to host another event in the South. I’m in bed at 1:30, up by 4:30. At the airport by 5:30.
I arrive in the South around noon in tights and Jordans. (You did not think I traveled in dresses, did you?!) The volunteer from the airport picks me up and says she’s taking me to the hospitality suite at the hotel where I can hang out until showtime.
Hospitality suites have food, and chairs, and occasionally liquor. They’re comfy. But they don’t have what I really want. No, need.
I swear I’m not trying to be difficult. But I’ve been on the road since 5 AM. I took two different planes to travel a thousand miles to show up for an appearance on this so-called “celebrity* panel” at this very lovely event where I will take loads of pictures that will be all over social media. I will also sit on this Southern stage in front of hundreds of people looking at me and I will need to be “on”. That means consistently smiling, witty, attentive and funny. To do all that, that means I need to be at my best. And that means I need another shower.
“Um… does the hospitality suite have a shower?” I ask the driver.
She says she’ll check. The answer is “no.”
I don’t get it. I mean the convention center is attached to a hotel. Get a room, let me borrow someone’s room who is working this event and is staying here. I mean, my manager specifically asked that there be a place that I can shower, so it’s not like this is an out-of-the-blue request. And I just flew in for an event. Am I being unreasonable?
I decide I’m not and insist, firmly but politely, that she find me a shower. The events team puts a few people on this task, including a “helper” who has been assigned to work with me.
The helper, a very sweet woman, tries to live up to her job description. She quickly has a solution. She goes to the front desk, gets bars of soap and towels of varying sizes and brings them to me in the hospitality suite where I am the only person waiting. She says I can “wash up” in the bathroom.
Um. No. I can’t. I mean, I can, but I won’t. But I appreciate that she tried it. I insist, again, on a shower. Back to the drawing board.
Twenty minutes later, there’s a new plan. And a shower. An adjacent building has a women’s bathroom. The hotel attendant takes us to it. There are a row of 10 toilet stalls, and at the end of said row, there is a handicap bathroom with… a shower. It’s the equivalent of showering in Penn Station, but like clean. I can smell the bleach. And there is flowing warm water from above. Whatever. I’ll take it.
I’m unpacking my suitcase and not yet in the shower, when a security guard, a Black woman, enters the bathroom. “Uh, ma’am,” she begins. Nothing good ever follows that opener.
She says the hotel attendant should not have brought us here. This building is not a part of the hotel, and Black woman talking to Black women, she keeps it 100: “ I will lose my job if my supervisor finds out you're in here,” she adds. “I’m sorry, but you can’t use this bathroom.”
As much as I want a shower, I don't want one bad enough to put another Black woman's job at risk. Fuckkkkkk. I accept defeat and that I will have to go on stage for my big, fancy panel unfresh. If this is “celebrity” life I want to go back to being "regular."
Part 2: Soon come.
*I don't and won't refer to myself as a "celebrity." If I didn't earn the title from writing, I won't accept it from having cameras following me around. That's not a talent; it's an experience.