In the summer of 2007, I graduated high school, considering myself a woman. I put on makeup and dressed in heels. Later that summer, I moved out, against my mother’s wishes, and shouted that I was grown up. I worked, I wrote, I became incredibly lonely at times; but also respectfully independent. I was a woman.
I couldn’t afford full meals, eating cup o’ noodles when I could and counting pennies to pay rent. I went to house parties with my Dominican friends where I danced bachata and merengue and swayed my hips to words I barely understood. I got my heartbroken, obsessing over texts that went unanswered and ephemeral relationships. I barely spoke to my mother. I was a woman.
One afternoon I snaked through the busy streets of Midtown to meet my mother. My cheekbones sharp and my voice raspy. It was obvious, in my quest for womanhood, I was struggling. My mother asked me to come back home. I politely refused. She never pressed. She was a woman. I was a woman.
These days, my womanhood is pronounced in my hips and breastless bra. My womanhood looks a lot like cooking and cleaning; writing and making art; and raising a one-day woman and a boy who will respect women. I see the various degrees of what it means to be a woman. The many faces womanhood takes on. The many swings and punches we duck along the way.
On January 20th, while the sky is still dark and the garbage trucks still clank down the Brooklyn streets, I’ll bundle my body against the winter winds and tie the ragged laces on my kicks. I’ll kiss the kids and leave Oak overnight for the very first time. I’ll tell them that mommy is going to work. And I will be.
On January 21st, I’ll exit my hotel with a group of girlfriends, I’ll hold a sign and will likely shed more tears than all the other marches of my adult years. Those sneakers will hit the pavement and go to work. Locked arm-in-arm, signing and shouting and standing together—women.
When I think of why I march, it’s being a black woman. I’ve always been predisposed to injustice and judgment, even with the privilege of a white husband and a financially-stable family. I march because one day, not too far from now, my daughter will stand up to me and claim her own womanhood against my wishes. And in that moment, I’ll look at all the things I’ve done, all the fights I’ve fought and the punches I missed and threw back, and I will have no choice but to back down. I’ll trust her, because she’ll be a woman.
“Women, if the soul of a nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul,” Bernice King, sending her blessings to the march in the form of quote from her mother, Coretta Scott King.