My Aunt Violet was no joke. She was the second oldest female in a family of thirteen kids born and raised (literally) next to a sugar cane field in the Northeast Region of Guyana, South America. She assisted in raising all of her younger siblings, sacrificing her own schooling, ambitions and marriage options to do what was best for the family. My father was the youngest and ironically, the one who headed out for America first. He was, she often told me, the best and brightest of them all. He reached America, got worked like hell and eventually sent money to bring over as many of his older siblings as possible. My Auntie Vi came over and settled in New York City for a while. After my father moved to Texas and established his medical practice, he put the down payment on a house for her and told her to come on down.
She was in Dallas by the time I was born. I never knew her when she was young, she was already in her sixties when I came on the scene. What I always knew about Violet is that she put up with no nonsense, had a strange penchant for that lime-jello dish with the fruit and marshmallows in it (ew), loved her nieces and nephews dearly and was never married. Violet never finished high school but could quote Shakespeare and classic literature from memory. She was not great at math on paper but could not only pinch a penny until it screamed bloody murder but also tell you exactly what a $99.99 suit would cost with sales tax off the top of her head. She paid back my Dad and paid off her mortgage by running an in-house day care for years. She was a God-loving woman who loved her spirituals, never missed a Western re-run on TV and dressed to kill when she left the house. She never learned to drive but she was always on the go, well into her eighties. I recall swinging by to say hi once to find her pulling on a gold slingback shoe – "I have plans, Mich-Mich, you'll have to come see me tomorrow." I asked no questions and left.
When I was born, she told my mother – I won't live to see her walk. Then when I started walking she said – I won't live to see her enter school. Then it was driving, then graduating high school, then college, then getting a place of my own. Her last proclamation was – I won't live to see her get married… well, sorry about that one Auntie. J
It always struck me as so sad that an amazing, attractive woman like that never had the chance to have a family of her own. And I can't even recall how many times I have said, "I just don't want to end up like Aunt Vi."
I thought about my Aunt on Monday evening as I spent time chatting with an anomaly group… according to popular culture and mainstream media, they do not (or should not) exist. And yet, here they were on my phone alive and well. I spoke with a group of happy, content, successful unmarried black females over the age of 50. Not a cat-owner in the bunch, not a man-hater among them, no bitter over/undertones, just intelligent professional women. They called themselves the Unicorns.
Some had been married, some not. Some had kids, some not. What each of them had was a clear understanding of who they were and what their lives all about. Asked to describe themselves, I noticed a trend. No one started with "I'm a lawyer or Vice President of a Fortune 500 company." No one started with "Single mother of two or divorced grandmother." They started by describe things that made them each unique, they started each sentence with… "I'm a woman who-" and then they finished the sentence. An example of one I loved: "I am a woman who gardens, loves the color red, keeps family close and drinks more red wine than I should. I read voraciously and travel to Europe once a year. I need to pray more and curse less. I fight with my hair and my hips and refuse to bring work home. That's who I am."
I spoke with them at length about how they coped with the societal pressures to be coupled up and even probed to find out how some of them got to where they are professionally and personally. I asked if they still got lonely and how they dealt with it. The answer: yes and a moment at a time. Some have "special friends," some were still actively dating. One lady said, "Sweetheart, I've been dating since I was fifteen and I just turned fifty-five, I have this down to a science. Two minutes in and I know if it's a breadsticks and salad, full entrée or after-dinner drinks kind of date." Hilarity.
The other brilliant thing about chatting with the Unicorns was that there was not a life scenario that I threw at them that somebody hadn't lived with, survived or witnessed. I could write a month's worth of posts celebrating their stories. They formed this "club" about 10 years ago by accident. Three of the women regularly met for drinks and shopping, each of them brought a friend and so on and so on. One of the ladies just got married for the first time at 52 years of age; ironically to a man one of the other Unicorns had dated, not clicked with and introduced her to. Now that's maturity! At any rate, I know that my Aunt Vi would have been in regular attendance at the Unicorn get-togethers. Laughing and sipping her champagne (which she enjoyed with two cubes of sugar added in).
In retrospect… there are far worse things that could happen to me than living the life Aunt Vi had. That woman still woke up singing (in a really thready soprano) until the day she died. How can you not wish for that? Living to be a hundred (or so) and still in possession of all faculties, debt-free, secure as a person with literally hosts and hosts of people who loved and admired her. Really, when I think about her life – what a study in triumph. I hope to have a quarter of the class heading into my golden years.
Now BougieLand, I'm not prepping for eminent spinsterhood, I just thought after yesterday's rant, it would be nice to hear a story for perspective. So what if we think like the Unicorns for a second? How would you describe yourself outside of profession and relationship status? Fill in the blank: I am a woman/man who ____________________.
I'll start. I am a woman who loves all things purple but not the scent of lavender. I wear pony-tails too often and have a tendency to snipe when I'm tired. I've a penchant for fruit flavored rums and vodka but I'm allergic to fruit. I've developed an addiction to my Wii Tennis game; sometimes determined to play until I win every set. I take a spa vacation at least once a year and I hope to meet Maya Angelou one day. That's who I am.
And now the floor is yours…