Self-Care for the Masculine of Center Black Woman

by Davelle Barnes

I absolutely love, admire and adore femme folk. They remain beautiful inside and out despite the many ways misogyny and patriarchy works against them. Femmes as a group have been finding creative ways to cope with trauma.

I live to be so rebellious. I strive to know myself as intimately. I want to care for myself better than any femme partner ever could. I'm on a journey to identify what self-care means to me. It is my mission to help other masculine of center women define what self-care is while butch/stud/dom/aggressive.
In efforts to meet that goal I officially declare self-care the new butch. We need it just like our femme friends. We deserve it. As Masculine of Center women as a community strive to shed the ways in which we also perpetuate misogyny it is important for us to be gentle with our butch souls.

I believed for years, throughout several failed relationships that my needs were never as important as femme and this thinking allowed abuse to occur. I gave more than I had to undeserving women. I have been by struck femme partners. Never retaliating, absorbing the blows thinking to endure is to be butch. I have in the past bought so far into the toxic masculine rhetoric of “provide and protect” I failed to provide for me or protect myself.

This pattern had to stop in order for me to continue to exist. I had to humble myself, quiet my bravado and pay attention to my desires. Learn how I could fulfill them on my own. Understand that I am complete without counterpart and loved by me first. The question of the day became, "What things do I do for me that bring me pleasure?"

I let my barber transform me. This act gives self-care a shape. In just twenty minutes minus wait time, I am edged with love so I can move throughout this world sharp, sculpted and bold. Me fresh out the chair is me at my finest. I do this weekly. I used to do it for holidays and interviews. I would stretch out the time between cuts, only going because I simply got too scruffy. Because my fro has consumed my ear lobe and is now impeding my vision. At times I did it to gain the attention of a lady friend. I may have done it for the Gram a time or two. Now, me pushing thirty do it for my own satisfaction.

Sweet digital goodness self care be a radio station. It is often I drive further, get lost on purpose just to jam. I'm a proud hip-hop head. Downloading the latest mixtapes is a divine act of self-love. When a rapper’s ad lib become my mantra I love every aspect of who I am. I celebrate me through their music. My love is in sync with the bass line. Self-esteem becomes self-evident. In these moments I recognize my worth and you must also.

I dress as a way to affirm my fly. I deliver self-praises via the button up. Self -love is a freshly pressed Express IMX Slim Fit dress shirt in any color. Some clutch pearls. I clutch my invisible collar when I am in a shirt other than the button up mentioned above. Tip: It broadens shoulders, smoothes over the side rolls, stretches to fit the breast while leaving a flattening effect. God designed it herself. I'm certain. Loving my dapper and nurturing my debonair is adornment.

To the simplest act of self-love as an act of revolution, you rock. #javaisbae. In a combat zone after the base alarms stopped sounding, I would quickly retreat to the nearest coffee shop to stimulate my weary senses. I did this to celebrate surviving. It is no coincidence that higher-ranking officers and Senior Enlisted personnel gravitated towards the same location. Why not self care like a General?

I often find myself having little to no energy to continue being a brilliant black queer professional in organizations rooted in white supremacy. It is important for me to take a moment to treat my mind to a nice cup of shut the fuck up. Not the turpentine they provide in the chow hall for free. Nothing instant! Not the stale pre grinded bag of pick me up for penny pitchers. I go for rich, bold, fair trade bougie coffee. I sprinkle cinnamon on my addiction transforming it into black girl magic.
My butch soul loves to leave. I live to travel. Going to Egypt preserved my sanity. I bathed in warm Egyptian sun. I perfected my melanin. Admired the way life reflected off the sand. The wind blew love and warmth. I saw other people of color live and love. I rode a horse from Pyramid to Pyramid. I took a thousand pictures. I ate like a local and emerged myself in the experience. I got Pyramid dust in my fro and tomb on my American Eagle Henley shirt. I prayed at the paw of the Sphinx. I knew what I needed to begin my journey of healing. I went alone. I slept alone. I shopped in the market place for me. Purchased art for the first time for a home I do not own yet. I'll say you haven't fully loved yourself until you have loved yourself somewhere else in the world. The challenge is to continue to love your self at home.

Some of the things I've mentioned seem menial. We get haircuts when need be and drink coffee often. When it's done for us, done as part of a routine, done intentionally, it becomes ritual. Doing these things for ourselves, putting our wants and needs at the forefront changes our relationship to these actions. Judgment free jam outs behind the wheel refines the radio experience. Express shirts always looked good on me but blossomed into full sexy when I began to love how the material felt on my skin.

What do you for self care? Why is being butch not directly tied to loving ourselves? Why don't we understand that we are of no service to another if we do not love and care for ourselves? Let's make self-care the new butch.

Davelle Barnes aka Ms Dada Esque is a poet/ performing artist from York, Pennsylvania. The Temple University Film Student has participated in the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) and 1Hood Media Academy. Her poetry appears in After Ferguson, In Solidarity and Steer Queer: The Redemption Issue.

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