It was a love story that rivaled the best of Hollywood movies. Young up and coming African American Columbia graduate, president of the Harvard Law Review and community organizer meets Princeton and Harvard graduate lawyer from the Southside of Chicago, and they fall in love. Barack & Michelle Obama go on to rewrite history becoming the first African American President and First Lady of the United States of America. We smiled when Barack serenaded his wife, did a historical fist bump with her that was felt around the world and showed a genuine, authentic love and appreciation for the woman he was destined to be with. The Obama’s relationship photos were tagged with hashtags like “#goals.”
During his final address to the nation when Obama said Michelle’s full government name – Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama-as Black women we all melted. We knew what that meant.
That was almost equivalent to Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s Drunk In Love song:
“We woke up in the kitchen saying
How the hell did this shit happen?”, oh baby
Drunk in love, we be all night
Last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding off in that club
Drunk in love
We be all night, love love
We be all night, love love”
We knew it was gonna be on and poppin’ at the White House and we loved that. We related to that. We wanted that. It was incredible to see pure, unadulterated Black love on display, live and in color for the world to see. That this man loved his wife, the mother of his two beautiful children and was as physically attracted to her that day as the first day that he met her.
The Obama’s spoiled us with their love which is why seeing the stark contrast of the Trump’s marriage is a shock to many people. We caught a glimpse of the Trump’s marriage during the inauguration when Trump and Melania exited the car. Trump did not open the door for Melania; he didn’t lovingly hold her hand as they walked together up the stairs to greet the Obama’s. Memes were made across the world depicting what was in the Tiffany box that Melania gave to Michelle Obama-many saying a simple note crying for help was in the box. More images consumed social media of Melania looking solemn, stoic and at times sad . The images of Trump exiting Air Force One show a man that feels he is the center of the universe, reveling in his power and she is just a bit part in his production.
From the moment Trump decided to run, I felt this was not something that Melania signed up for, never wanted and could do without. Video of her awkwardly reading to sick children surfaced online. I cringed as I watched the video. English not being her first language, it was not her accent that shocked me as that was to be expected. It was that she seemed not to understand how reading a book to kids worked. This was clearly not the role that she had signed up for. In her mind, perhaps they had a deal and casting a woman that has been fairly absent from the spotlight, into the global spotlight was not a part of the arrangement.
Some people have started #FreeMelania threads, but I do not weep for Melania. As a woman, I understand Melania. Many of us at times have been Melania. I have been Melania. Perhaps we have never known that degree of wealth, but in our own way, many of us have all been Melania. We may not have dined in five-star restaurants, stayed in the finest hotels or flown on private jets, but we have been Melania. We have been a woman that has settled for a man. Settled because we didn’t think we had any options. Settled because he seemed like the best option. Settled because we needed to get away from a home that was not ideal. Settled because someone could pay the bills and provide for us when we needed it. Settled because as women, many of us don’t chase love, we chase security. Settled because we have always been raised with this clock ticking in the back of our minds. A clock with hands that beat steady to remind us that our beauty will one day fade. That our breasts will not be as perky at 45 versus 25. That our bodies will change. That on the heels of our beauty is another woman that is faster, stronger, prettier, better that your mate will find desirable. So, we clutch on to what we have, hold it tightly as if we are fighting against the currents of life that threaten to wash us away.
And we smile when we want to cry. We laugh to hide the pain. We speak when all we want to do is be silent. We are silent when we long to shout. We sit pretty and poised. Not one hair out of place because we must project and protect the illusion. We become mechanical in our movements, our actions, our love. We do what is required to sustain the myth. We fuck men we do not want to fuck. We leave pieces of who we are on satin sheets, our voices hidden in empty moans. We fold inside of ourselves. Create bends and creases in our souls. We make excuses. We find reasons to forgive and pray that we can forget. We hide the woman we long to be for the woman that we must be in order to survive. We cover the puppet strings in fancy clothes and red bottoms hoping that no one will see them.
I have been Melania. I have done all those things, not to that degree of wealth but in my own way, I placed who I was aside to gain a life that was substantially different than the life I knew. Until one day I realized my value, my worth and no amount of money could buy that. I was no longer for sale to the highest bidder. My life was my choice. Who I fucked would be my choice. Who I built a home with was my choice. Who I had children with would be my choice. And it would no longer be a choice built on the foundation of settling. I deserved more. I deserved to be loved, truly loved. I learned that material things come with a price that I was no longer willing to pay. I had paid that debt with my body, my heart, my soul for too long. Shiny trinkets no longer impressed me. It took years to find me. To value me. To love me enough to walk away from it all with the clothes on my back, daughter in tow and know that somehow, I had the strength to make it.
Once you realize your value, you will no longer settle. Once you recognize that everything you desire to be is held within you, you will no longer settle. Life is far too short. Do not chase what can be temporary, blaze your own trail to forever. Your happiness is just on the other side of realizing that you hold all the cards, all the power, all the ability to build the best life you desire on this earth. Should any tears will be shed, it will be tears for women that do not yet know their worth and I pray that one day they realize just how exceptionally amazing they truly are as they step into their freedom.
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