We are nine to ten months into quarantine and close to wrapping up a year that felt very humbling and illusive. If you would have told me last year, around this time, that I would be in the house for almost a year with no physical contact with the outside world beyond a grocery store run or a trip to the post office, I would have laughed. Sadly, the only thing that laughed was 2020–and it laughed dead in my face.
At first, it felt like this sudden change was the needed break that I needed away from people and things to reenergize myself. However, that notion soon disappeared after month three when I stopped brainstorming and drafting action plans about my future in my notebook, and started buying a new Sims 4 expansion pack every pay day (side note: escapism won). And believe it or not, even downloading new wig mods from other players on the Sims gets boring after a while.
So, if not the Sims, what kept me afloat this year during quarantine? Well, I’ll tell you.
5. Megan Thee Stallion
I’ve had my eye on Thee Stallion since her “Houston Cypher” verse back in 2016. Her cutthroat lyrics and fiery Houston flows immediately separated her from her rapping peers, and her freestyles that she frequently shared on social media solidified that notion. And standing at 5’10 out of heels, it’s easy to assume how this Amazonian-esque woman demands your attention and respect when she hops on the track.
This year, we watched Megan bloom into the performer she was meant to be. She was a headlining performer for award shows, had the entire internet moving with her Savage challenge, earned TWO #1 hits on the Billboard 100, collaborated with Fashionnova to bring women with thicker physique flattering and comfortable clothes, and earned ten awards, including Apple Music’s “Breakthrough Artist of the Year.” And while one bad apple in her basket could have ruined her bountiful blessings, Megan rose from the flames like the Phoenix and channeled her energy into the rollout of her debut album, Good News, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200.
While this was the year of the coronavirus, I would definitely say that it was equally thee year of THEE STALLION. Seeing her win has been such a pleasure this year. Though we are living in some of the worst of times, seeing her give her all in every rap she spits and performance she does makes me feel good. Megan has undeniably proven that she is very much in charge of the girls, and there’s not a person or a thing that can stop her rule. AH!
4. “The Body Is Not An Apology” Book
Quarantine weight gain has been a common and central theme for a lot of folks. While sitting in the house every day, all day, I gained so much time that I never rendered possible. My commute to work usually takes an hour both ways. I work from 9 am to 5:30 pm. And between cooking dinner and finding time to watch my shows at night, there just wasn’t much else going on besides prepping for community work on the weekends. A lot of those hours that were gained affected my eating habits. I’m a stress eater and sometimes that felt uncomfortable.
“The Body Is Not An Apology” is a text that I purchased about a year back that I decided to revisit this year. This is a book about radical self-love written by a fat Black woman. Sonya Renee Taylor uses this book as a lesson to readers that we learn to be self-conscious of our bodies by the social projections of westernized and colonized ideology. We don’t come into the world hating the details that make us who we are until others tell us we should. And in revisiting that text I realized that while I was shaming my body, it was helping me survive through a pandemic. It was taking care of me, but I wasn’t returning that same courtesy and love to it.
The reflection activities that Taylor adds frequently throughout the book that subserviently reminded me that I am human, and am not exempt from making mistakes. Mistakes matter. And I used those mistakes to remind myself that my body, especially during a pandemic, is not an apology.
To resume the discussion around my body, I decided that after a long period of self-reflection that I needed to find some way to celebrate my body for keeping me alive. As a person who’s always been fat, I have also always been active and engaged with fitness. I’ve always been able to walk at least 6 miles without feeling some real exhaustion, I could get up and do an impromptu dance session without breaking a sweat, and I could lift the heaviest of items with almost no effort. But being in the house has changed that.
My weight has always fluctuated and I’ve always been able to do these things because I’ve always had jobs that required some degree of physical activity, and I also visited the gym at least twice a week. I lost a lot of motivation while being in the house to the point where even cooking felt like an extreme chore. So, I was still a lot. I was either sitting in a chair or laying in the bed, so even the ways I moved my arms and legs had lessened as well. There were days I could feel the discoordination in my body and that made me uncomfortable.
As a result of this discomfort, I decided to reward and renew my body with what kept me in bonded with it in the first place—movement. I bought a Boxing modulation game on the Nintendo Switch that I play almost daily, I am trying to cook every day (yes, even this small amount of movement is important to me), and even began walking to corner stores in the neighborhood that were further than ones right up the block from me. Finding the motivation to just move has helped me connect with my body that much more. And I want to remind everyone that movement isn’t about weight loss. I’m not losing or gaining weight at the moment, and I’m okay with that. But I want to be sure that I am able to allow my body to do what it has always done no matter what figure it takes.
2. Masturbation & Self-Pleasure
Your first thought might be “chile.. how did we get here,” and I don’t blame you for that. If this had been last year, I would have told you that masturbation does almost nothing for me. But that is because I never had the time to actually explore things that could bring me heaps of pleasure.
I think a part of me has also subconsciously seen sex toys as items that people use when they can’t get a sexual partner, and that felt shameful, so I adopted that shame. I’ve always been able to have a sexual partner when I’ve wanted one, so the idea of a sex toy when I could get “the real thing” seemed unnecessary and stupid. But, in the last few years I have been decolonizing my sexual practices by expanding my view of how sexual experiences vary. I realized that the shame I was holding was prohibiting me from reaching my full potential of pleasure. These last few months have allowed me to further explore what brings me the most sexual pleasure, and exploring and fulfilling those pleasures have put me in great moods. And I’ve learned that the more comfortable I’ve gotten with one toy, the easier it became to begin using other new ones.
This year I brought my first prostate stimulator and my mind was blown out this world. I could have never imagined that in my 24 years walking this earth that a device could have such a fulfilling purpose that even no man had brought me. While the touch of human is great, and it sometimes feels essential, there are just some areas your sexual partners may not be able to deliver in. But the awesome thing that I learned is that where there’s a toy, there’s a way! Since then, I’ve expanded my collection to about 20 toys that vary from stimulators to strokers. I would also like to add that toys aren’t just for solo pleasure. You can kick it up a notch and use them with (or for) a partner, too.
1. Social Media
While this is going to seem cliché, it’s the cliché that’s necessary to add. Before the pandemic, social media was something I guess I didn’t realize impacted folks as much as it does, or at least could. Sadly, this year the Black community was tasked with surviving two pandemics—a health pandemic and a racial pandemic. But with so much happening in so little time, particularly in Philadelphia, I asked myself “what if all this information could be in one place and people could be connected with resources and armed with information during their scroll breaks on Instagram. Thus, @PhreedomJawn was born.
Creating this hub has allowed me to serve folks and engage in movement work more than ever. More importantly, it has allowed for the building of community and heightened the mobilization of countless folks across the city of Philadelphia. Social media seemed like much more of a distraction pre-COVID times. It seemed like a place where discourse could only be attempted, but not much practice. But I’ve learned that the way you engage folks is what motivates to them continue efforts after learning about a new theory or concept online. Share some events that relate to what you’re talking about, share some articles and book titles, and encourage folks to relate their experiences in the real world with what they’ve learned online. Handling education with care is important because education can be intimidating when you grow up learning something completely different than what you may be presenting. You must have examples, references, and receipts.
And even away from discourses that may surround abolition or fat liberation, it’s always just refreshing to connect with folks on different levels. There are people I can talk about all my reality tv shows with, there are some folks I can talk about WWE with, and there are some people I can share memes & gifs with. Interacting with folks about lighthearted topics is the type of escape I need sometimes. Either way, I am grateful for the personal and professional development that social media has awarded me with this year.
Honorable Mention: Animal Crossing New Horizons & Dionne Warwick
While I’ve only had ACNH for less than a month, I finally understand what the hype was about during the beginning of quarantine. But as much as the game is cute, it’s also exhausting. When I say this game keeps me afloat, I don’t mean it in an endearing way. You literally spend hours building up an island that you never do much on, all while having to actually pay a mortgage to a talking bear. The only word that could possibly ever come to mind when I say ACNH is CAPITALISM. If you buy this game to kill time, you definitely won’t regret It, but you also won’t have much time for anything else.
On the flip side, legend and vocalist, Dionne Warwick joined Twitter and has become an instant source of joy. At 80 years old, Warwick shares her journey of finally using the Twitter app 14 years after it’s launch. As much as she is modest, she’s equally hilarious and often finds herself interacting and engaging (pleasantly) with younger audiences and it leads people to think someone else runs her Twitter for her. But Warwick assures us with her tweet vids that she runs her own Twitter and is getting better at it everydays, hussies!