Dear Marooned Alien Princess

How can I deal with these messages from media and even family that I’m not a fully valid person because I’m a single black woman in her 30s?

I just read a headline about a woman committing suicide because she was unmarried and childless by 30 (R.I.P.). Can I just say, let’s take a breather because this is obviously a whole lot of unwarranted pressure. Black girls gotta be out here doing Lamaze breathing to deal with the added pressure of being a woman who is also black, and if they’re also a trans woman their average life expectancy is only 35 due to elevated rates of violence they face. Shit’s real as fuck.

We live in the intersection of never being wooed and protected and usually being the ones catching the worst ire because others think we’re undeserving mules who can take any roughness and pain.

As adults, most abuse and femicide happens to us in romantic relationships, and at higher rates than for most nonblack women. You’re actually safer being unattached. The same patriarchal institutions that validate us literally kill us the most too. I’m not trying to be morbid, I’m just being real about what this compulsory romance shit entails. It’s not just the warm fuzzies and support that puppy love offers.

Let’s stop and remember we are born “single” and being partnered is not anyone’s purpose in life. Romantic relationships do not define human beings. Marriage does not validate anyone’s worth.

You are a universe unto yourself, you have lived and have stories to tell, talents to offer, you have done and undone a million things already, you are a stand-alone phenom. Whether or not someone else has the fortune of being graced with your presence in their intimate life has no bearing on the fact you are great and whole as you are.

There’s the rest of the world’s fuckery and impositions, and there’s what actually is: who you really are. Sometimes it’s necessary to sift and separate that, for our sanity’s sake.

I’ve been in a few bad relationships and I really relate to a lot of what you say about abuser dynamics in relationships. I also experienced abuse growing up and struggle with my feelings because of that. Some of my relationships ended up being toxic not only because of who I was with, but also because of my own shit, because I didn’t know how to handle my emotions. Do you have any advice on how to be caring towards myself for the abuse I have suffered, while also being able to recognize that I have myself behaved abusively sometimes?

Your healing from abuse is very important and will have to go hand in hand with correcting the ways you re-enact it. It’s great that you have the self-awareness to realize when you are the one who is harming people. You already have the key aspect of self-examination.

It is not an easy or short road to rehabilitation. I don’t know if you have access to worthwhile therapy, but if so, please do seek it out. If you don’t have access—like, unfortunately, most of the world—it will be an unguided journey through yourself, your memories, patterns, and cycles. You have already begun.

Taking time for yourself, to unravel your woes, helps, even if its just 15 minutes every other day before you go to sleep. Avoiding processing trauma is how a lot of us stay tangled. It’s necessary to delve into yourself, albeit at your own pace, according to your own comfort level.

Keeping a journal or memoirs while googling material on abuse cycles and different modes of abuse to ground yourself and compare is a legit form of self-therapy.

You’re not a monster. You deserve to give yourself time and space to heal. This doesn’t mean: Freely engage others without self-analysis at every moment or without respecting their boundaries and qualms, of course.

Coming back to the point on self-awareness: You are relearning how to love and engage with others and this is only possible via that. Don’t feel like you’re alone though. The whole world needs to relearn how to love in a healthy way. We are unfortunately products of a globalized dysfunction. You are already on your way to doing better and are conscious enough to know it.

I am black with mixed heritage and there are white people in my close family. I want to maintain good relationships with them because they are my family but it’s also really exhausting sometimes trying to deal with weird comments about other black people or my difference from them being ignored/erased. I just wondered if you have any advice about how to manage this?

This is an uncomfortable predicament, not in the “you’re a tragic mulatto unicorn” kinda way but in the “my fams are kinda assholes yet they’re all I got” kinda way.

I always say isms are systemic abuse culture and this is basically a prime example given this is the kind of uncomfortable situation you get when people you love just don’t know how to treat you or others right. You could say they aren’t abusive, just anti-black, but honestly those are one and the same. If anything the latter doubles in intensity.

All this to say that like in other unsafe abusive spaces where we cannot suddenly morph everyone into non-biased, non-abusive creatures, it becomes about harm reduction and survival. Finding out how much crap you can accept and how to manage it and cope.

This can mean spending less time around them, or it can mean not seeing them at all. It can mean ignoring the offensive shit they say just because it takes up too much of your energy and affects your mental health to fight it all the time. And it’s not a viable option for you to somehow re-educate them all when you have your own life and healing to do.

Ultimately you know how you feel and you should trust yourself. Sometimes fighting back is therapeutic and teaches people to offend less. Sometimes fighting back makes you feel worse and fixes nothing. Some people put folks in check in more subtle ways. Only you know yourself and what you’re OK with, what your family is like and what they’ll respond to. These aren’t situations with clear-cut answers. I wish I could wave a magic wand. Unfortunately to remain close to fucked-up people, we end up making compromises. You decide what compromises are worth it and when. Just know your self-care matters and trust yourself to know what you need and can put with and how.