About Kenya

Kenya is a freelance writer and copy editor from Dallas. She is contributor for HelloGiggles and Apartment Therapy. Her work has also been published on JET, xoNecole, Elite Daily and Bustle, to name a few.

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little black girl sits on dad's shoulders

Always His Daughter, Never a Daddy’s Girl

Perhaps it was willful ignorance, or the deep-seated residue from surviving a traumatic childhood, but the concept of being a daddy’s girl was completely unbelievable to me up until my early 20s. Sure, I’d heard the phrase uttered on sugary sweet commercials and encountered it in a book or two, but the idea that a girl could actually be viewed as something treasured, respected and valuable in the eyes of her father was about as realistic to me as a winged horse. No matter how you tried to package it, I just couldn’t fathom a man who actually took pride in his baby girl to the extent that my father avoided acknowledging me.

Naturally, upon hearing someone proclaim to be a “daddy’s girl,” my first instinct was to dismiss it as bullshit because my father’s neglect had subconsciously caused me to characterize all men that way. Eventually, though, I met with the painful truth: Other girls had fathers who cared about them, and my dad only cared about himself.

Given the overwhelming number of single mothers running households, a father’s absence obviously isn’t a novelty. In fact, the lack of concern my father displays towards my two sisters and I would be much easier to swallow if it could be explained away by his absence. But since he was actually in the home with us, I have no idea as to why he chose not to invest in improving the odds that we’d all grow into strong, self-assured women.

My guess is because he didn’t think that was possible. What is clear is that seeds were planted in his childhood that produced the profile of a father who would eventually become his little girls’ nightmare in the flesh: a chauvinistic, narcissistic adult male. Basically, we were damned from the womb. Being female automatically relegated us to the bottom of his priority list and away from his undivided attention, which was strictly reserved for self-serving purposes, including his desire to father a son – by any means necessary.

But here’s the rawest part of it all – instead of simply replacing that absentee father-induced emptiness with pain and masking it in a thick layer of resentment, distance and divorce, I’ve remained the ever-faithful daughter, hanging in there and providing him with a listening ear, emotional availability and an openness that he never once afforded me growing up.

Until this day, we play what I like to call Hide ‘N Seek: Parental Edition where I attempt to locate and capture my father’s acceptance, which holds the key to my validity.

I chase him around trees and through fields on my last breath hoping to find him crouched in a corner smiling, exhausted from the pursuit yet relieved to finally give me what I came looking for.

Years and many therapy sessions later, I finally understood why I’m dedicated to the chase, and let me tell you, as a grown, married woman, the truth ain’t pretty. Despite receiving love (and later, support) from my mother, I still crave my father’s acceptance. I’ve convinced myself that I need it to validate my worth. It’s the reason why I’m addicted to struggle and have to fight to embrace my happy moments, even when they come as a result of good, old-fashioned, hard fucking work.

No matter how many times I’ve heard it from my mother, my husband and anyone else who supports me, I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that you can’t fully rely on ANYONE to help you accept who you are. Ultimately, that ability comes from within. No matter how broken, scarred, or raw your insides are, they comprise THE ONLY tools you have to work with to piece together and nurture your self-love.

Fortunately, the tides are turning. I recently had a breakthrough when my husband comforted me after my father’s latest self-absorbed episode by saying the words, “You mean something. You are valuable.”

So, how I still expect a man who is and continues to be so violently patriarchal to encourage me to love and accept myself is pure desperation from a woman who still needs her daddy, but has yet to come to grips with the fact that she never had him and likely, never will.

But still, a part of me wants to be a doted on daddy’s girl, and I feel guilty as hell about it.

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yoga featured

Baby Bend Ova: 5 Things My First Bikram Yoga Class Taught Me

After months of passing a yoga studio near my old 9-5, last week I decided to take the plunge and dip into a Bikram yoga class to de-stress. After life kicked my ass one day and took my name for a follow-up whooping the next, I figured there was no time like the present to see what was up with all the talk about the health benefits of yoga. Even if I hated it, stretching and bending in a hot room full of strangers would surely leave me with less regrets than inhaling a #1 Chick-fil-A combo and buying clothes that would land in my closet’s buyers’ remorse section.

Honestly, before I went to yoga class, I didn’t actually believe it would make me feel better than my go-to “remedies.” However, I was surprised to find that yoga yielded some unexpected results. I left the class feeling slightly dizzy but I gained a lot more clarity about myself and my environment.

I’m loud as f*ck.

shhh

As a self-professed small talk connoisseur, I’m accustomed to folks chatting it up before and after Zumba, fitness boot camps and the gym, but that didn’t happen in yoga. One by one, people entered the steamy studio, arranged their mats and took their places on the floor to stretch, sit quietly or lie down. I’m used to alleviating my fears and nervousness about trying something new by talking to my neighbor, but I was forced to center myself on my own. Yoga taught me that there’s a quiet yet effective power in working through discomfort, anxiety or nervousness in complete silence.

I’m addicted to noise. A typical workout session for me includes just as many grunts and moans of exhaustion and pain as it does reps. So, for me it was highly unusual that the entire class proceeded without said grunts and moans, even when the instructor guided us through the 26 Bikram Yoga Postures. How I suppressed a wail when attempting to hold the Awkward Pose is beyond me, but here’s what I learned: relying too heavily on noise provides an easy distraction from what’s happening inside.  I started to feel like I’m cheating myself out of some self-awareness by always feeling like I have to play music, use the TV as background noise or make a phone call when I’m alone.

Yoga taught me to give myself more chances to succeed.

 

maya

Sometimes I tell myself no before even allowing myself to get too excited over a goal. So when the class moved into the Fixed Firm Pose, I sat fixed and firm in a resounding Hell No Pose with the defiant glare to match.  In reality, neither I nor my back believed that feat was possible because, instead of giving myself permission to try to succeed, I’d already decided it wasn’t going to happen.

Concentration is EVERYTHING. Sitting, bending, stooping and squatting in a room where the temp is set at a steady 104 degrees isn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. But focusing on myself in the mirror distracted me from the heat, and it didn’t take long for this to seep over into life outside the yoga studio.

Consider this tweet after two yoga sessions as Exhibit A:

There’s only competition if you create it. So, I didn’t need an expert to tell me that it’s totally normal to feel competitive in yoga class because I feel the effects of comparison ALL THEE TIME with writing. This was my precise train of thought in yoga when ol’ girl on the next mat over began to resemble a human pretzel. But after realizing I’d gotten too carried away with the competitive, comparison bug, I chose to drop the mic on my counteractive need to compare myself to others and just continue doing it.

janelle monae yoga

Namaste.

Images: Giphy (2); Soulatlantic/Tumblr

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taraji

Taraji P. Henson Was the 2015 Emmy Awards’ Most Unedited Black Girl

This past Sunday evening, I sat on my living room couch and begrudgingly prepared to watch and cover the 67th Emmy Awards for work. To keep it all the way Un-edited, during Andy Samberg’s opening monologue, I was ready to flip over to Basketball Wives, or as Andy said in his intro, any of those other “Wives” shows. At one point I considered pouring me a drank to get through, but that Ernest Hemingway quote doesn’t say anything about editing drunk. So much for on-the-job inebriation…

For me, watching the Emmys started off like how it feels to attend a gathering of lifelong friends — as a plus one. Inside jokes go soaring over your head (slightly above your exasperated eye rolls of alienation). Just when you’re about to throw back your fourthfifthsixth drink of the evening, out of the blue someone you can actually relate to shows up, y’all instantly get your own little party going, and it turns out to be the best. Night. EVAR!

That’s pretty much how I felt when the commercial that needs no introduction aired.  Y’all  already know what I’m talking about and thank gawd someone had the good sense to make a GIF of Mary J. Blige, Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington’s black girl groove session AKA Apple commercial that presented the first relatable moment of the awards show for me.  

via GIPHY

Prior to that, Amy Schumer mentioning her plan to get blackout drunk was the only remote reassurance that this show was intended for my viewing pleasure.

Luckily, the commercial loosened me up like a few gulps of that stiff drink I so badly craved, but then came another major black girl moment: Taraji announced Regina King as the Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for her role in American Crime.  And in true Taraji fashion, she didn’t bother to maintain any stuffy ol’ Emmys decorum. In fact, she cheered Regina on like she was a shamelessly proud mama on the sideline of her child’s first game and took her time greeting her fellow actress with a huge, genuine hug.

via GIPHY

After Viola Davis’ historic Emmy win, Taraji embraced the How to Get Away With Murder star with a warmth that was palpable, like that aunt who replaces the life she squeezed out of you with love when she greets you at the family reunion. Judging by her excitement, a stranger would’ve been hard-pressed to properly identify which of the two was the first black woman to nab the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. The only girlfriend-in-my-head moment that didn’t involve Taraji’s magical sisterly touch was Orange is the New Black star Uzo Aduba nabbing her second Emmy. However, her teary, heartfelt acceptance speech made for yet another poignant moment.

This tweet basically sums up why Taraji was every black girl’s best friend at the Emmys:

Overall, the Emmys were full of unedited black girl moments. It was clear that they didn’t think twice about tempering their blackness for the comfort of the masses, which ultimately made me feel like I belonged at the party after all.

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Being Un-edited Is Scary As Hell, But Here Goes…

In an art course I took in college, my professor began the day by informally quizzing the class about the previous week’s discussion.  A student I’d recently met chatted with me before the unofficial test began.  When the professor posed a question to the class that I’d confidently answered to my new acquaintance a few seconds prior, she casually turned to me and nudged me in a soft voice, saying, “And that’s where you come in.”  Um…well. Not really.

I knew the answer, but that didn’t mean I was prepared to say it out loud, allowing the entire class a chance to turn and gawk at me. What if my response was wrong? What if I stumbled over my words? What if my voice quivered? What if, what if, what if? Amidst all these variables, I knew one thing was certain—I was not answering that question. Sitting in silence worked just fine for me thankyouverymuch, and the up close and personal spotlight that would temporarily shine on me (and my response) was absolutely not welcomed. A couple of awkward moments passed until someone who was confident and vocal gave a correct answer and averted my classmate’s confused, glaring eye away from me.

As much as it sucks to admit, treating my voice as an active entity instead of a paralyzed bystander still basically describes the way I operate to this day. In my writing and many of my social interactions, I’m still that unassertive college kid who has something meaningful to say but refuses to verbalize it out of insecurity, fear, and an endless list of other irrational reasons. The worst realization is that I’m a hypocrite who exhibits more compassion for others than I do for myself, specifically when I advise close friends and relatives to let their opinions venture freely while I routinely censor my own.

Enter Un-edited. This platform represents a scary new phase in which I speak freely, unfiltered and uninhibited, avoiding the temptation to drown my words with questions and insecurities that only serve to distract me from my purpose.

So, here’s my first Un-edited statement: I am a voice in this world and dammit, I deserve to be heard. OK, I’m busted. That line was inspired by way too many binge-watching sessions of A Different World on Netflix, plus a couple of glasses of 20 Grand’s vodka and rosé drink (more on that later).

Still, it’s a fitting visionary summation of what my Un-edited partner Andrea and I hope to achieve with the words we publish in this space. I, along with the stifled voices of women everywhere, deserve to be heard and my wish is that through Un-edited, the blockages that stand defiantly between my feelings and my pen dissolve and make way for a black woman who no longer quivers at the idea of sharing her innermost thoughts with the world.

 

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