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This project is a collection of thoughts transcribed and dictated by ivana renee and informed by the honest experiences of various homegirls in the city. In this project, “I” is for all of us.
There are some homegirls whose social life popped off in 6th grade, their “glow ups” commenced early in life. These homegirls won “Princess” at their middle school winter formals and currently have “Jaiden, Kaiden, or Aiden’s Mommy” typed out in their Instagram bios.
There are other homegirls who, at 20-something, are on the brink of their “glow ups”. These homegirls cut their perm out sophomore year of college. Now, they live in some major city and are addicted to frosé.
Circa 9th grade, I had a huge crush on this boy. He was a renaissance man. He split his time between 10th grade and gospel rap, with his most consistent gig being Youth Sundays at our local church. He’d jump around the stage, leading the congregation in a melodic clap, and when the spirit moved him, he’d hop off the stage into the aisles, careful not to over extend himself as the church hadn’t upgraded their sound system to include wireless microphones yet.
After his “sets”, my mom would announce, “He is so cute…”, peeking through her side-eye for my reaction. Obviously, in traditional teenage fashion, I’d roll my eyes and present an impenetrable frown for the remainder of the service.
But despite my adolescent awkwardness, you couldn’t tell me he was not the one. I had a huge crush on him! He was “so cute”, like my mom said.
As a reflection of our love, he and I would spend hours on the phone, basking in our teenage love affair.
Well, that’s actually a lie.
He was not feeling the girl then, but I’ll circle back to that in a bit.
However, despite the one-way infatuation, we still spent a lot of time on the phone together, but again, to be fair, very rarely was our phone time private.
Armed with the God-given engineering of high school underclassmen, we coordinated a standing 5-way phone call, including two of my homegirls and one of his homeboys.
It was incredible how we executed it, actually. First, one person would start a three way. Then, each of the three-way invitees would call the final two contributors. If anyone hung up (for whatever reason), it was a very delicate process because any exit could upset the flow of communication.
Sometimes, we had more than five people on the line, but five was ideal. It was the perfect set up because it was an odd number of judges. “What were we judging?”, you ask. Rap Battles. Yes, Rap Battles.
He and his homeboy would present their best rap over the phone, and the judges, including myself, would deliberate on the evening’s winner.
When they weren’t rapping, they would provide pro-bono analyses on the ideal woman who, as luck would have it, was a junior at our school.
He’d explain that as a service to his future family he didn’t want to have dark skinned children. Therefore, as a dark skinned man, his options were limited to fair skinned women, with a preference towards more exotic looks.
This was before the “Danger: Educated Black Man” screen tees.
Selflessly, he didn’t want his kids, especially his daughters, having “that nappy shit”, so future baby mom would also have to meet his standard for hair texture as well as skin tone.
Looking back, he was brainwashed.
The R Kelly effect.
But the throwback homegirl embodied his trash thought process and considered his “points”.
Anyways, fast forward to a few weeks ago: a dark, medium sized man with ear length locs and a hat comes up to me at an event in Lower Manhattan. “I don’t know if you remember me”, he begins. And I look closer. It’s him.
We greet each other and go back and forth about how long we’ve been in New York and what we’re up to these days. He jokes, “This is like a sitcom. You know, when you’re mean to a girl and she ‘glows up’”
LOL nigga. EXPIRED.
We linger for a while, and I leave our little corner to reconnect with my homegirls by the bar. No contact is exchanged, but these adolescent memories re-emerge in focus.
Nigga, I done glowed up, and I’m booked.
One of the coolest parts about being a late bloomer is being able to flex on the niggas who tried to play us with a bit more perspective. It’s arguably more satisfying than pre-teen social clout.
Note: I’m not beefing with him. He just so happened to be on the wrong side of my personal history. I’m sure he’ll still be able to get into Heaven. All the best.
All the best to the late blooming homegirls as well. The ones who make it to the city are, more often than not, are childhood dust bunnies. We’ve had acne on our faces and spaces between our teeth. We bit our nails, and we sweated through our doubled Aeropostale colored polo shirts.
During our youth, we may have even prepared jokes in advance and mentally drafted discussion points to be presented in social spaces to fit in.
We thought we “glowed up” in college, but we revisit our college memories only to be greeted by images of ourselves in bandage skirts and our homegirl’s shoes.
Our “glow up” is holistic and a work in progress. We’re not there yet, but we’re being pushed by other people, by situations, by ourselves.
Negative situations, particularly, propel us towards our “glow ups”.
We’re trying to “glow up” on our bitch ass boss who completely disrespects the concept of Summer Fridays and leaves us at the office with vague instructions, talking about “don’t leave until you get it right”.
We’re trying to “glow up” on all the companies who emailed us 4 months later, “Thank you for your application but…”
Even more than them, we’re trying to glow up on the ones who ignored our emails and our follow up emails.
We’re trying to “glow up” on our landlord who raised our rent by $1,000 and the building super who works 10–2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, just enough time to never get shit done.
But our “glow ups” really aren’t about other people or circumstances. Our “glow ups” are about us being comfortable with ourselves, regardless of the influence of other people or circumstance.
Let’s be honest few of us are actually there.
But at 20-something, we are working towards our “glow ups”, coming into more honest representations of ourselves.
By now, though we may not be certain, we’ve started to learn more about our goals and interests, and we are definitely getting more clear on what we don’t want — from work, relationships, ourselves.
As homegirls in the city, doing well for ourselves isn’t exceptional. Doing well is the expectation, and we’re conscious of how we present.
Sometimes we give ourselves panic attacks by comparing ourselves to the other shiny homegirls in our life and on social media, by putting our successes and failures on a scoreboard and timing all our moves.
Moving, especially to major cities, makes us look shiny on the Internet.
I saw you were in LA last April, how was that? Your dog turned 13 this year; tell him happy birthday. Did it hurt when you got your wisdom teeth out?
We digitally announced our move and listened to Jay Z and Alicia Keys harmonize over “Empire State of Mind” on our one-way flights to the city, but by the time our first monthly MTA pass expires, we’re feeling like Lil Mama after the 2009 VMAs.
Nevertheless, we feel it here. Our first year is about momentum. We’re energized simply by the space. As the years go by, we’re more thoughtful with our use of energy, and we feel the city in waves.
The city takes us up and down.
But people peep high res iPhone 7 photos on our page, throw some heart eyes under a few pictures, and see us in person talking about, “I see you doing your thing.”
And we think to ourselves, “what thing? I just had a half of a shrimp egg roll for breakfast”.
We’re hard on ourselves. Our mamas notice. Our homegirls notice. Sometimes, we even notice.
But all in all, we know that we’re “glowing up” too.
Even if we still ask for water cups at Chipotle completely intending to fill up with Sprite.
We’ve never known ourselves at this age, in this space, with these resources, and we’re getting acquainted. Our “glow up” is knowing who we are.
This is for the homegirls who’ve been and/or are dust bunnies but are doing our best to moisturize.
Glow up, sis. Base Butter out now.
This is a collection of stories from homegirls who are honest with themselves, each other, and the world. In this project, “I” is for all of us.