Age Ain't Nothin But a Number: Creating A #CarefreeBlackGirl Movement for All

by Inda Lauryn

The #CarefreeBlackGirl is one of my favorite social media movements among Black women. While we live under the auspices of #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, #YouOkSis, and other social justice movements, the carefree Black girl reminds us to take time for ourselves and make room for happiness—wherever we may find it. However, many of us who embrace the movement and the hashtag have only been able to do so during our adult years.

My childhood definitely did not allow much time to be “carefree” and some days I still hesitate to stake my claim on the label. Poverty doesn't allow too many opportunities to celebrate the mere joy in existing even when we're children. Poverty gives an additional burden already placed on Black girls to grow up before our time and leave girlhood behind as soon as possible. Black girlhood teaches us survival no matter the costs, the cost often being the innocence afforded most children until they come of age.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Carefree Black Girl movement has resonated so much with those of us who saw the last of our girlhood decades ago. Many of us are finally on our own and making our way as adults without the aid of our families as a safety net. That means we've learned something we weren't taught no matter how soon we were forced to grow up: adulting is hard.

In addition to the personal obligations of work, bills, families, social lives and other facets of adulthood, social media bombards us with a constant onslaught of news that make movements such as Black Lives Matter necessary. Self-care has become a necessity, not a luxury. We must find ways to take care of ourselves and the carefree Black girl movement provides such an outlet.

I have been tagged as a Carefree Black Girl on Twitter. I enjoyed that friends saw me in this light. But sometimes I wondered if I was truly worthy of the title; I worry over every little thing and often miss out on chances to enjoy life as much as I want. Then there are times I feel too old to be called a Carefree Black Girl.

Then I'm reminded that this particular title is actually not limited by age. If we think about women like Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna, they did not become the faces of carefree Black girls everywhere until they were also in their late 20s and early 30s. They also had a lot of hard work behind them and have definitely earned their right to be seen in their happiness. As much as they are criticized because many still cannot stand to see Black women happy and loved, they continue to give us these moments of escapism.

This goes also for younger girls such as Willow Smith, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Amandla Stenberg. We don't often get to see young Black girls with so much quirkiness and freedom to be who they are outside of arbitrary notions of blackness. As I was coming up, I didn't see too many of these types of quirky Black girls in everyday life—not until Ms. Erykah Badu, who the mainstream tried to dismiss as pretty but flaky.

Fortunately, I see more Carefree Black Girls now. It mostly happens in selfies. Daily I see an array of beautiful Black girls and women posting selfies to show off their handiwork with lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, hairstyles, tattoos, clothing and other fashion. I see Black women cosplaying as characters in pop culture or as characters of their own creations based on their favorite aesthetics.
Age Ain't Nothin But a Number: Reflections on Embracing Your Inner #CarefreeBlackGirl in Your 30s and Beyond
I no longer worry about what my age means regarding the carefree Black girl. While it cannot take over my whole lifestyle, I can embrace it when it comes to finding those moments of joy in my life. Whether it is a chat session with dear friends or taking a walk by the lake on a nice day, I find ways to make this life more bearable. Being a carefree Black girl is not simply a means of escape. For many of us, it is a lifesaving coping mechanism.

Even though platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr remind us why it is necessary to #SayHerName and that all #Black LivesMatter, they also show that Black girls are much more than our pain. The #CarefreeBlackGirl movement is a powerful reminder of our full humanity. It is a reminder that blackness and black womanhood/girlhood encompass more than the narratives of struggle that mainstream likes to see. Taking a moment to be carefree is not a “distraction” from the problems plaguing our communities. And for those of us who had no time or luxury to be carefree Black girls in our younger years, we can indeed embrace the aesthetic… during our 30s and beyond.

Photo: Shutterstock

Inda Lauryn has previously been published in Blackberry, A Magazine, Interfictions, The Toast, XOJane, and Callaloo, as well as had her work featured on blogs such as Black Girl Nerds, Bitch Flicks, and AfroPunk. She is currently working on a novel and countless other unfinished writing projects, occasionally blogs at Corner Store Press, cohosts a podcast and shares music playlists at MixCloud.

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