I Want to Dance With Somebody

I want to dance with somebody
I want to feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I want to dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me

I swear this song has been following me around. Yes, the song is popular as heck so it’s kind of silly to say that it’s “following me”. Every store, radio station, etc plays it, but hear me out. A few minutes ago, I realized I was having a conversation that I was too drained to have, so I hung up and found myself on a bench near some store and bar lights. I allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling in that moment. Sadness. Frustration. Stuckness. My needs. My… wants.

I want to dance with somebody
I want to feel the heat with somebody
Yeah, I want to dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me

On the bench, I hear the lyrics from a pizza shop behind me. I’m seized by how many “want”s are sung. And also: “with somebody who loves me”.

Flash back to a few weeks ago, I went to a reception-prom-dance party at a conference in Chicago. And I danced. Awkwardly. But I danced still. Being able to let go in song and dance is one of my favorite things in the world. I’m meeting someone who I agreed to meet with, she shows up in a flowing black dress, and in my sweaty vintage jeans and disheveled braids, I am aware of the ways I felt like I didn’t dress for the occasion. Then Whitney begins to blast, we cease our strained conversation and shy bids and we turn our attention to the song.

As we’re belting Whitney, I’m not able to lose myself completely, I notice the woman’s body language and I became aware that maybe the person I was meeting with wasn’t in a place where she wanted or was ready to turn towards me. What I mean is, I don’t know if she really was open to being around me. I couldn’t shake being so physically close to someone whose body is turned away, her eyes avoiding mine most of the time. I became aware of how vulnerable it felt to be turned towards her, to search for her eyes, and to not find her searching back for mine.

So, I search the dance floor to find a few friends. And they turn towards me. And we dance and we shout. And we are silly. And we see each other, if only for seconds, minutes, for the remainder of the song.

But it’s enough to realize what I want. It is hard to ignore the difference when the difference is so stark. It’s uncomfortable. To your left, someone who wants to dance with you — saying “yes” to the connection with their whole body, their whole enthusiasm, with mirroring, synchronistic joy — to your right, someone you agreed to meet with, who doesn’t seem too keen to dance with you, despite her words saying that she wants to see me, she wants to talk, she wants to connect.

I make a few more attempts to connect with her — trying to see if it is just me. I wonder if I’m lacking generosity by assuming she’s not interested. Am I trying my best to reach out? Am I doing my part? When I ask her how she is, she is short with me. Later, she leaves without a goodbye. I take a Lyft with some friends, and I cry.

It is scary to put yourself out there, to want to dance with somebody.

Not just anybody, but to want someone to get to know me. Maybe try out this dance or conversation with me, no matter how awkwardly. Someone who might try to love me.

To be black and feminine and to want is scary when the world tells you that it doesn’t matter what you want. You are here to serve, after all, whether you are custodian at an elementary school, or an award-winning writer and justice driven Reverend-Doctor. Your job isn’t to want, to desire. You’re taught that you are here to serve, to make the world better for everyone else. To fight, but not be fought for. To listen, but maybe not be listened to. Who are you to be so bold as to say that you want to have fun? And to be picky about where your energy goes, too? To choose, and not just settle for crumbs, not just anybody who thinks they can dance with you. But somebody who loves you. Who takes pleasure in you, with you, too.

To not have to do chores or be a chore. But to do something because your heart wants it.

I want to dance with somebody, but the world is burning. Kids are locked in cages. Our climate is changing quicker than we humans can currently adapt to. The confusion and despair and numbing and grief abounds. But, I can’t seem to shake off the fact that I still want to dance with somebody. I tell myself that it feels incredibly selfish to be so focused on seeking playful relationships above work relationships right now. It feels silly to worry about being seen and finding people to connect WITH and laugh WITH, who want the pleasure of being WITH you during such time as this.

But the more I tell myself that seeking what my heart wants is selfish, the more I put myself into situations that drain me and rob me of my own energy. I begin to think about how maybe I would be able to be more clear-headed about what I need to do in this hour in history if I wasn’t spending so much of my internal energy trying to talk myself into believing that the crumbs that I’m receiving in my life are enough when they aren’t. Somehow, I convince myself often that I should be satisfied by something that will never make me full: the people who just aren’t that into me, the interactions where I’m talked at like an audience, the abundance of spaces where I am expected to stay small, servile and miserable. (I know that my brain fucks with me like this to protect me from pain, but also, brain, please. You don’t make fighting society’s expectations for my emotional and psychological martyrdom any easier by erecting these defense mechanisms).

I have been trained to think and feel that wanting is selfish and unimportant, but it doesn’t mean that feeling and that those beliefs are true. Black women, especially black queer women, have long been writing and talking about how important it is for our people to feel good. They suggest that black women’s pleasure is political and can change society. They suggest that pleasure is both a means to an end, and the end in its own right. From Alice Walker, to Audre Lorde to adrienne maree brown to many others.

I really want to dance with somebody. And I say dance, because I don’t want to just talk. I want to play and connect in all the ways beyond “how are you?” with people who are present with me, and me with them. I want to have the audacity to yell and scream and lose myself in that desire and not be ashamed. I want to dance with somebody who wants to be in this moment with me.

Don’t you wanna dance? Whitney says.
Yes, I do.
Yes, I do.
Yes, I do.
On my own, yes. But to share, too. It’s very vulnerable. Very scary. It might not happen tomorrow. I don’t know who will want to dance with me, even when I put myself out there and ask. Dancing with somebody isn’t something you can do by yourself, exactly.

With uncertainty, there isn’t anymore to say. That is the other vulnerable part about it all: who knows that will happen? All I know is that if there is to be any possibility, I need to fight the voices that say that the crumbs are all I get, or that I should be content to dance on my own. There is a voice that says that loneliness is all there is for me, a voice that wants to close my heart up. I write to punch back at that voice: you are not true, I hope. I hope so.

A Terrible Thing to Ask of Anyone [poem]

I wrote this poem on April 4th, 2019. It’s late May now. Today, I made the difficult decision to let go of someone that I love. For good. As indefinitely as I possible, though I struggle to imagine a future without them. But, now I have the clarity to know what is happening, and to know that love can’t cover everything in this realm. Sometimes, time and justice and other graces in life need to intervene and it is out of my individual control.

I thought I would have the chance to share it with the person I love but it never seemed like the right time. I didn’t want it to come off as dismissive if they didn’t resonate with the story that I share in this poem, if they aren’t there yet. I suppose I share it here now because it is my way of beginning this process of accepting that we need to not be in each other’s lives indefinitely. And I want my grief recognized. Finally, the poem:


A Terrible Thing to Ask of Anyone

There is so much work to do
There is so much joy ahead
Why waste time ruminating over the things we dread
When our wounds keep us in cold prisons?
Ram your head against mine
And I’ll strive to breathe slower this time,
I know better now.
We’ll take turns breathing slower than the other,
(even if 10-90, 80-20
we must take turns, one can’t save the other).
I will tremble because you see me
You tremble because we see us, too.
There is no love encounter without such trembling, human and hurt as we are.
We might want to believe that there is.
Our eyes flash-but also sparkle-at each other:
please, proceed with care.

Rilke told us about love’s landscape*
So we sow over and over again.
There is a spring after winter
And then winter comes
But then spring again and again.
There is work to do
There are wounds to heal, fires to put out
And joy ahead
Places to rest one’s head
however momentary
Warmer than yesterday’s prison.


*Reference to Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, “[again and again, even though we know love’s landscape]”.

The waiting is vulnerable.

There’s a vulnerability in waiting — waiting to find out if you got into school, waiting for a woman you are curious about to contact you back, waiting for a friend to reach out to you after a break in communication.

Waiting for answers, waiting for clarity, waiting for inspiration. Waiting to see if the work you’ve invested in for months will finally pay off. Watching others in your life get the job, get into the school, enter a new relationship, maybe get married. Meanwhile, life seems to be standing still for you, or worse, life is handing you rejections — you don’t get the job, you get told by someone you are interested in that they don’t see the two of you being together. Life gets you so down, you miss all the deadlines for the schools you were planning to apply to.

It becomes difficult to hope and keep putting yourself out there. You begin to wonder, is it worth it to keep putting myself out there? Can I take a break? Or is this “break” just me being lazy? 

It’s been hard for me not to wrap my worth up in how many times I’ve been rejected. It is hard not knowing if all of these rejection have to do with me, or something else. Am I not good enough for the job? What was I missing? Am I not good enough for the relationship? What did their dreams have that I didn’t? Life is hard enough being queer and black, but knowing that I have some disadvantages for me systemically doesn’t ease the words of self-doubt, the words that say “yes, it is all you. You didn’t get what you want because the problem is YOU.”

On top of all of this, constant rejection means I often feel like I don’t have the right to be picky. I live with guilt when opportunities that I know aren’t right for me come my way — someone expressing interest in friendship, but “being tired of white people” being the reason they claim they reached out to me. Or someone informing me of a job opportunity, easy to apply to, a skill I’ve wanted to learn, but difficult hours, more that I may have the spoons to commit to.

Taking a day at a time while in a season of rejection and waiting feels like using life as a distraction on the worst days. On the best days, it’s reconnecting with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while and reconnecting with old hobbies. Momentary respite from the waiting. The next day, you will encounter the endless flatlands of waiting once again upon that moment you wake up after resting from yesterday’s full day of distraction.

There’s a lot of loneliness, a lot of wondering if people will still believe in you if you are not accomplishing or announcing the next big thing. Most days, I feel internal and external pressure to find a silver lining, a reason for this season of life that will make it all worth it in the end. Sometimes I can find it. Most days, I just want someone to see that it’s really hard for me right now. I don’t want to feel like I “have to” find the silver lining to make others comfortable.

In our culture, especially with the likes of vulnerability researcher Brene Brown in the mainstream, we talk about vulnerability as if it is an easily renewable resource, something that you can just muster up whenever you are able to will it. As if we don’t need life to give back to us sometimes, especially after so much rejection. As if rejection doesn’t truly wound us. I could use a win, but not what other’s consider a win. I could use more kindness my direction, not in the way that other’s think I need, but in a way that I need, in a way that I understand. Or dare I say, in a way that I want.

It is hard to want right now.

That is, to want without want feeling like a lead towards even more heartbreak and crushed dreams.

If I seem guarded, if you see my arms crossed and you see my shoulders draped over my chest, know that I am trying to protect what little spark is left that is hiding in my heart, waiting to be known, received, delighted in and protected. This spark is precious. Who knows when she will feel like she can expand again, with no inhibitions. Nothing in life is entitled to that precious spark.