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Yawn.com, or Why Pretty Doesn’t Equal Perfect

The other day, I told a surprisingly ballsy baby beauty blogger that I hadn’t had a relaxer since August and transitioning was murder (extra-dramatic, always), and she actually said this:

BBBB: It’s not murder for you. It was murder for me. I have nappy hair, your’s is down to your ass. I had to deal with a ‘fro. Whether it’s curly or straight, you’ll always have good hair. And that face. You have “prettiest girl in the room” swag, no matter what. It’s always gonna be easy for you.

I resisted suggesting she seek therapy for her self image issues, because yawn.com — I’ve been hearing versions of this forever. How I got something because of my looks. How it’s all so easy breezy for me, ’cause of my looks. The thing is, the universe has a way of balancing everything out. Pretty doesn’t equal a perfect life. I give you Halle Berry, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. She look happy to you? Does Kim? Admittedly, she’s in a hell of her own making, but still.

No one thinks black women suffer depression. Black women don’t even think so (girl, get your ass to church). But we do. I do. Chronic, incurable pain will do it to ya. Since I was in fifth grade, I’ve had debilitating migraines. It was a secret. What sixth-grader cares that if I go upside down on the monkey bars I’ll end up in bed for three days? I remember being in the school cafeteria at 13, my friends tittering about Ricky Merced making unh-unh-unh sex noises in social studies, and I was staring at a potato chip, focusing on it with every cell in my body because if I didn’t, I’d surely disintegrate under the weight of the agony…

From a young age, I was doing two things at once: living my life and managing the pain, a demon with claws and fangs that was actively trying to kill me.

I’ve tried everything — acupressure, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, yoga, Easter medicine, biofeedback — and I’ve been to the best migraine doctors everywhere. Once, a very famous one yelled at me in his office: “Why aren’t you responding to my treatments, Jesus Christ, woman!” They all give up, and I end up at pain clinics with cancer patients and toothless vets in heroin withdrawal, just hoping that a shot of morphine will get me through the day. My migraines have been labeled “intractable,” which means nobody knows what the fuck to do about them.

Some years aren’t so bad; some are hell. Right now, it’s the worst it’s ever been — a blur of pills, week-long hospital stays, more pills, and ER docs injecting me with massive doses of the shit that killed Michael Jackson. I spend most of my time paralyzed in the demon’s clutches or paralyzed in a fuzzy drug haze, hollow-eyed and haunted. Sometimes I can’t even see properly, it’s like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope.

But I do all my stuff, swan around, go to parties and lunches and events, and no one knows that seconds before I arrive I’m shooting myself in the thigh with a Sumavel injection or taking a cocktail of pills that could fell John Carter. I hide it well, I’ve been doing it forever. As migraneurs know (how I love and loathe that word), you can hide in plain sight. You’re not bleeding, you’re not limping. Save for my terrible undereye circles, no one can tell how off I really am. No one notices that I’m barely even there, just an apparition. A ghost in fringed booties and bright orange lipstick.

The only thing that helps my horrific migraine bags is Bobbi Brown's Creamy Concealer Kit in Honey. It comes with it's own translucent setting powder, which is genius. And her shades are to die for -- so blendable, and there's a hue for every brown complexion under the sun.

And Lina Bobina. On kinda-bad days, I sit on the floor and passively let her drape me in veils and dresses and sashes, like the mice in Cinderella. Hoping she doesn’t notice my hot tears of shame because I’m so disengaged I should be arrested. On really bad days, she’s with her father because I’m useless. The worst? She’s on constant headache watch. If my hand goes anywhere near my forehead, it’s “Mommy your head hurts? You need a doctor? I Dr. Cabezas, I make you feel better.” The second worst? At bedtime, sometimes she says, “Mommy I don’t feel so well. I think I have a headache…”

After she goes to sleep, I take another pain pill and lurch to the coach. Laying there, I watch the colors slowly seep out of everything, the room turning gray and receding, receding (demon disappearing, too, but not entirely..he’s hiding behind my ‘Sign of the Times’ concert DVD, watching me, waiting for me to wake up). On the way down, words like “terrible mother” “unlovable” “defective human being” float through my head and then there’s nothing anywhere. Just me and my prettiest girl in the room swag.

This isn’t a woe is me moment. I have wonderful things in my life, this is just my assigned cross to bear. Everyone has one. All I’m saying is that you never know what’s going on in anyone’s world. It isn’t “all so easy for me.” It isn’t for anyone, no matter what they look like. Don’t judge and don’t dismiss. It’s tacky.

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  1. Simone Pratt
    March 30, 2012 5:13 pm 

    I paused at the “good hair” comment… people still say and think that?!

    Thanks for this post – I agree with the don’t judge and don’t dismiss… the grass is always greener. “I complained of having no shoes until I saw the man with no feet”. Everyone’s problems are relative in the big scheme of it all…

    And ehugs on the migraines! I wish noone go through anything like that 🙂

  2. mary ellen
    March 30, 2012 5:14 pm 

    You know my daughter had a taste of this and while it’s thankfully being controlled by meds, it’s a scary, scary thing–and continues to be. You’re so right that none of us truly knows what the life and secrets are of another. So we need to remember to be kind, and to be respectful. xo
    P.S. I’m with your mom on F.Douglass. What a manly man.

  3. hypnotic
    March 30, 2012 5:18 pm 

    I started getting headaches around 6th grade and they haven’t gotten better. I had my first migraine attack in high school. I am far luckier than you, for me it’s a migraine once every few months. I don’t know what triggers them and my coping mechanism is to go to sleep. Thankfully I don’t need anything really strong to rest. I wanted to say thank you for this post. When you tell people you have a headache they think you are being a baby, they think taking an advil will make it disappear. You’ve accomplished so much despite your pain. We are thought to act tough and KIM despite how sh—y we feel inside. Sometimes it’s OK to say I’m not feeling well, I am not coming to work today. Or saying I am sorry I have to cancel, but I really need to rest.

    Glad you’re back to blogging, I’ve missed your honesty.

  4. March 30, 2012 5:21 pm 

    I agree, you never know what someone’s life or struggle is about despite outward appearances. Every surface has some depth to it & if we’re granted access to learn about another’s journey, there’s always something there to make you say “wow, I had no idea”. I remember reading about your migraines on SYB – The Prequel, & felt terrible for you because headaches suck & migraines kick headaches a** so I can’t imagine dealing with them regularly. Having anything there’s ‘no cure for’ is incredibly scary. I could suggest a million things but sounds like you’ve tried them all, so I’ll just wish it gets better for you. : ) As for that Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit in Honey, it IS the business. No one does skin tones like BB. It’s great for oily skin though I hear those with drier skin have a harder time so be sure to moisturize before using it.. but I love it.

  5. March 30, 2012 5:43 pm 

    Indeed, you’ve spoke for many of us when you say you never know what’s going on in someone else’s world. People do the EXACT same thing to me, I always get the “you’re so pretty” this and “You have the best life” that…chiile, people see the surface and think it doesn’t get any deeper. If they knew the half of what my “behind the scenes” was like, they’d be speechless and never “assume” again. just like you said, we all have crosses to bear and it would just be so much of a better world if people stopped making their judgements by what they think/see and not by what they know. You have the realest posts, I love that you talk about everyday things that go on in life with your mix of beauty. Such balance, love this blog!

    ~ Sharontina

  6. Melanie C.
    March 30, 2012 5:49 pm 

    Hey Tia! I’m so sorry to hear about your migraines. I too suffered from them when I was young and got the side eye from my friends and cousins when I couldn’t come out to play because I was in tears from the pain and wanted to vomit from the nausea of what they thought was “just a little headache”. Though its entirely possible that you have tried this already, I thought would recommend a supplement on the off chance that you haven’t. I started taking a natural supplement called Fever Few (you can get it any vitamin or health food store) and I have not had a migraine in years. If you haven’t tried this already I hope that you will and I will definitely be keeping you in my prayers! 🙂

  7. March 30, 2012 6:16 pm 

    Yawn.com is right….have a seat please. This crazy thing where people try and judge you for things you have no control over like your looks or your hair is so crazy and beyond petty. I also use the BB concealer duo as well, it;s thebomb.com 😉

  8. Kim
    March 30, 2012 6:27 pm 

    I suffer from depression BIG time. My youngest daughter, who is 17, migraines. I’m on the natural hair journey too! Probably 98% there. I did mini snips not a big chop. My hair is about three different textures. I have good hair days and days I’m tempted to shave it all off, or perm it! To top that off I’m unemployed after getting fired from my job of 16 years! Through all of this, I have never looked as pretty as you on your worst day! I’m glad you are back to blogging and much success to you and your sisters on your new venture!

  9. March 30, 2012 8:19 pm 

    Migraines run in my family from my Dad’s side in my tweens. They were horrible but not as bad as yours are. I will get the white spots in my vision and then spent the next 3-5 hours in bed in a dark room vomiting until the mercifully subsided. This would happen every few months. They seem to lessen in intensity and duration as I got older and the last one I had was around 2001. Hopefully they won’t come back ever again. I wish one day the same for you. Huggz.

  10. March 30, 2012 8:31 pm 

    I agree with you totally! Everyone has their cross to bear and you never know what someone is going through at any given moment, so don’t judge. I was diagnosed with endometriosis last year and suffer in pain three weeks out of every month while wondering if motherhood is in my future. But I press on and try to stay positive and yawn.com for anyone that has ANY assumptions about my life one way or another.

  11. Angelica Golden
    March 30, 2012 8:43 pm 

    “Don’t judge and don’t dismiss. It’s tacky.” Can we PLEASE make that our mantra for 2012, ladies?

    Tia, your realness is so refreshing. Thanks for sharing your cross with us.

  12. March 30, 2012 9:04 pm 

    OMG TIA, I’m so sorry to read about your headaches. On another note that Bobbi Brown Concealer gives me life too!

  13. Nikki
    March 31, 2012 12:45 am 

    I’m sure you’ve tried checking your diet but I’ve tried this new anti inflammation diet and it has worked well. Goodness you don’t need to lose any weight but a lot of women who’ve tried it have cleared up high blood pressure, infertility and yes even migraines. I don’t work for them, I promise, just a happy customer with a now active thyroid. Sometimes, when Western medicine doesn’t work you have to go to something else.


    It’s in Harlem.

  14. Cherice
    March 31, 2012 1:00 am 

    Like Nikka Costa said Everybody got their something. We all struggle and try to cobble together whatever sanity we got to keep it together. Props to you for being so honest about your life and sharing it with us. Keeping you in prayer 🙂

  15. DrennaB
    April 1, 2012 7:08 pm 

    Wow, I let out a “Girl, BYE” as I read what that woman was saying to you. Anyway, that is SO horrible to hear your migraines are that bad. I know one other person who has them that bad and like you, there’s nothing she can really do about it.

    BTW, although I believe EVERYONE judges at some point or the other, I am in love with “Don’t judge and don’t dismiss. It’s tacky.”