Yesterday, I was reading one of my email newsletters and came across an essay written by a black woman musing about the birth of her biracial son. Intrigued, I decided to click on her weblog to see any more of her writings. The first thing that popped up was a picture of the woman, her husband and her newborn son.
It was like looking into an alternate universe and seeing myself.
The woman was slimmer, true, but she had lovely long locs spilling down her shoulders and her back. Her white husband had the same brown hair as mine, but he was a musician, not a computer guru. Their son gazed out into the camera with shocking green eyes, something that’s not in Daniel, but the curls and cappuccino skin I immediately recognized on my own son.
Furthermore, this woman is also a writer mama and have already published several essays, stories, and poetry, though she’s more a literary writer while I work in fantasy. She’s traveled to India whereas I’ve traveled to Africa. We may have passed each other in Rio, though. She lives on the East Coast, I in the Midwest. But the grade school picture she posted, we look eerily alike, right down to the pigtails. It’s in the eyes.
The first thought that popped into my head was Whoa, she’s just like me! The second thought was, Eep! She’s just like me!
How do I respond to that type of thing? Do I respond? Should I go to her blog, post a comment: “Hey! We share the same interest! Let’s be friends!” Or do I continue reading her blog from afar, mentally comparing myself against her? She has all these essays published and I only have a measly couple. She got this award for a story. I haven’t gotten anything. So far, she’s doing this and this and this. Me? I haven’t done diddly-squat…
That’s the funny thing about being unique. You strive so hard to stand out of the crowd, to not conform to whatever is around you. But in making yourself unique, you also become lonely, because you don’t share the same interests as the people around you. At the same time, however, when you do come across someone who is like you, you fear of losing your uniqueness. Suddenly, you don’t seem all that special anymore. Worse, you start comparing yourself to that other person, seeing them not as an ally, but as a potential threat.
I’m currently reading The 2006 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (much better than 2005), and I see there’s a story in there from a black woman. Haven’t read it yet–I took one look at the woman’s credentials and felt incredibly small. I can’t attain to her level of expertise. I can’t…I can’t…I’m no longer excited to meet someone in the same field as me. Instead, I’m scared and feeling very insecure. I simultaneously stretch forward and shy away.
Deep female relationships are very hard to come by. I think it’s especially hard for black women. You want to stretch your hand out in friendship, but at the same time, you don’t want to make yourself vulnerable. You don’t want to be hurt. It shouldn’t be that way. As a black woman, I should be supporting other black woman writers. Not that we are such a rare breed…boy, am I finding that out…but to help sharpen each other, to be mentors and commiserators. I shouldn’t be worried about losing my unique status. Granted, there are many black women out there who have accomplished more than me, but on the other hand, there are others who have done less than me. There are women who share my same interests, true, but I have yet to meet anyone who has the same lifestyle, the same family, the same anything as me.
It’s dangerous to compare myself to someone else, especially if that someone has a presence on the Net. I don’t know anything about that other person other than what they’ve put out there. But it doesn’t help me any if I see that person as a rival. If anything, I should be excited in knowing that there are other black women out there who are also on the writing path, that I’m not alone in that regard.
To this day, there’s a part of me that yearns to meet another black woman who’s into writing and anime and has a white husband. We could visit each other houses and talk about the challenges of raising bi-racial children, of finding our identities, and the last episode of Full Metal Alchemist. I don’t know if that ever, ever will happen. But I think I’ll go to this one woman’s blog and post a comment. Something along the lines of “Hey…I know exactly what you mean…”