Let me be honest, I've said it over and again, my self-esteem was very low at 23 and my worth was between my legs. As a girl I was taught that sex was love. The men in my family started touching me when I was 6 years old.
Touching was what I knew how to do. By the time I was 19 years old I believed that if I sucked a man's dick until he plead for mercy, he would love me forever. A relationship couldn't be deep if we didn't have sex. Like For Real, what was a relationship without doing that thang? I was all jacked up, and I didn't even understand that I was.
I say it in my latest book, The Politics of Respectability, that a fuck is a fuck is a fuck and the only difference is how we spin it to make ourselves feel good about what we are doing. This is more true for women than men. A woman and a man can have equal sexual partners and the woman is seen as a whore and the man as mack daddy with a tight game. So we women spin sex in a way to make people think good of us, I talk about that in my blog, Crafting Our History,
But this blog isn't about that per se, it's really about my how I saw and now see my worth. Russell Simmons Global Grind tweeted the other day, "All that we are is the result of what we thought."
I remember the night I told him as if it happened this morning. The same evening that I learned I had HIV, I waited with nervous energy for him. Within minutes of his arrival I told him. We stood in the middle of my living room. I didn't even give him time to sit down. I had to let it out.
We need to talk I said. He gave me the easy smile and I felt reassured already. "I donated blood and the Red Cross sent me this letter." I paused and that got his attention. He stopped in his tracks. "What's wrong baby?" He asked. "I have HIV." He froze. "What?" He asked. "I have HIV," I repeated." It started to sink in. "They told me I have HIV." I repeated, "They told me that I have HIV." He stood there frozen almost as if in time. I was to afraid to say another word. He spoke up, "Are you for real?" "Yes," and I grabbed this piece of paper with the number to the National Institute of Health (NIH) where they had referred me." I'm sure you're not infected because we used condoms," I added as I handed him the piece of paper.
I was left to deal with HIV on my own. It was a scary time for me. At the center of my agony was my dating life. Of course I was concerned with what people thought of me. This was the an ugly area in the history of AIDS in the United States. Cosmopolitan magazine had declared that women with, "Healthy Vaginas" couldn't get HIV. Did that make my vagina unhealthy from day one? How does one navigate life when everything you thought about yourself changes?
It was crazy, here I am this wonderful woman with so much to offer not just a man, but the world and all I could think about was would he want what was between my legs. It was the ultimate validation.
As time went on, I began to feel lost... Like I was missing... Yes that's it, I was missing. I had given so much value to one thing, I lost the rest of me. I started to not like the parts that were adjoined to me and that took me searching for something I could like, something I could be proud of. Be clear, not what others were proud of. By many standards I had arrived; the covers of magazines, Emmy award, designer clothes the Oprah Show, it couldn't get any better.
As me and that accomplished young thang were riding down on the elevator it hit me. I needed to find me. He sensed something and asked, "Is everything ok." "No," I said. He reached over and grabbed me and asked, "Is there anything I can do?" I looked up into that rich dark brown chocolate face of his and said, "No, but there's something I can do."
That day well over 10 years ago, was the beginning of my journey of self-actualization. It took years and a lot of hard work to get to this place where I'm at now. It even meant a lot of lonely nights. I understood that it wasn't enough to know better... I had to apply it to my life. At the center of the madness was the little girl who had been violated. The little girl who had been taught that sex was love by example. I had to cry for her, the little lost girl and the lost of her innocence in order to move beyond the woman that she had become to the women I was intended to be.
Today I understand my worth. I understand that my vagina is only a part of the whole and to place value above one is to diminish the other. I will never go back to that place, not for ANYONE! My wholeness is the cornerstone of my life.