Single Lady Quotes: bell hooks

From Goodreads

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.

As a young writer, I aspired to be a poet like Ntozake Shange, who distilled so much of the black girl’s experience in her poetry and a warrior like Alice Walker. Intellectually, I yearned for the freedom, clarity and possession that marked bell hooks’ work.
bell hooks was the first black woman intellectual I admired. I read Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life – a conversation between bell hooks and Cornel West, when I was 13, and never stopped admiring her work. It also allowed me to envision myself as an intellectual in my own right. hooks has written over 30 books.

“To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.”

“Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.”

“One of the major tasks black women face as we work for emotional healing is to understand more fully what love is so that we do not imagine that love and abuse can be simultaneously present in our lives. Most abuse is life-threatening, whether it wounds our bodies or our psyches. Understanding love as a life-force that urges us to move against death enables us to see clearly that, where love is, there can be no disenabling, disempowering, or life-destroying abuse.”

“It is the absence of love that has made it so difficult for us to stay alive or, if alive, to live fully. When we love ourselves, we want to live fully…When we love ourselves, we know that we much do more than survive. We must have the means to live fully.”

“Exclusion and isolation, whether they occur through overt or covert acts, have always been useful tactics of terrorism, a powerful way to coerce individuals to conform, to change. No insurgent intellectual, no dissenting critical voice in this society escapes the pressure to conform….We can all be had, co-opted, bought. There is no special grace that rescues any of us. There is only a constant struggle to keep the faith, to relentlessly rejoice in an engagement with critical ideas that is itself liberatory, a practice of freedom.”

100 million single people…and it’s still rough out there.

A book excerpt from Single & Happy:

I could not believe no one had written a first-person account of dating as a single woman in the 21st Century and how to cope with all the shenanigans that come with the package, because no matter how brilliant, sexy, big-boobed, erudite or compliant with societal norms a woman is or is not, it is really rough out there for single people. The insinuation that singles should be coupled or something is wrong with them doesn’t make it any easier.

Not just a little bit rough, honey. It is incredibly hard to find like-minded people with true commitments to self-awareness and goals that are scheduled beyond a calendar date in the next couple of weeks. There are books on weight-loss, getting your money right, how to be more devoted to God, and of course, how to get a man. What I really needed for a good decade, though, was a book on how to be happily single.

The book I wanted to read and kept waiting for was one that would inspire other single people to slog through the ridiculous maze that comes with being alone in a culture that devalues single people.  I wanted to create a space online for others who were uncomfortable with the dominant cultural narrative in the United States that continues to profit those who constantly tell singles that we are incomplete, not enough, not worthy and amoral if we are content to live, travel, dine and go to the movies by ourselves.

I also wanted to celebrate the beauty and community available to a vast network of singles that did not rely on anything but a community of singles and our allies for exposure.

I’m not interested in being the anti-Steve Harvey, the new Oprah or any kind of New Age guru, relationship expert or life coach. I am just one nerd in a big world who does the best that I can to make sense of an influx of information, social cues and daily life. The narrative that casts single people as the avatars of loneliness, as Michael Cobb has written in his new book, just happened to get stuck in my craw as I was making a lot of transitions in my life. As other journalists will tell you, sometimes you can’t just let a story go.

My motto is to take what is useful and leave the rest. I hope that the stories and information here will be applicable across gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities and economic backgrounds. My intention is to celebrate and document the moment we are all in. While I bring my own biases to this predicament as someone who has been self-reliant and a loner since I was very young, I wholeheartedly believe there is something valuable her for most dating adults.

And we are a huge tribe. In 2010, almost half of all American adults, 100 million, were single – the highest rate in recent history. While those singles spent $2 trillion a year on consumer products, according to Boston Magazine, marketers were still marketing mostly to a culture wedded to heterosexual relationships. But outside of the blogosphere, aside from isolated examples of singular (pun intended) narratives of single people and their journeys, there are few stories that contextualize single life in a positive way.

The stories I found lacking are those that express the fun, joy, humor and moments of serenity that come with single life. The Boston Magazine story was one and Kate Bolick’s now-infamous piece in the Atlantic was another. What are some of the positive stories about single life you’ve seen?

Single Lady Books: The Best Advice I Ever Got

Goodreads Cover Photo

Kate Couric is one of my virtual mentors, even though initially her perkiness got on my nerves, I have always appreciated her hustle.

And I admire the way she has continued to work and write about her very personal experience of losing a husband and raising two girls by herself while also commanding respect for herself in the broadcast journalism industry, which can’t be an easy feat.

I wrote about graduation/career advice at Bitch Magazine last week and it made me think about The Best Advice I Ever Got, which is essentially a compilation of advice from commencement speeches that has so much good stuff in it was a good thing I read it online, or I would have highlighted every passage.

Here were some of my favorite quotes:

Anna Quindlen
Acts of bravery don’t always take place on battlefields. They can take place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations, and yes, your soul, by listening to its clean, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world. So carry your courage in an easily accessible place, the way you do your cellphone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail, but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high. Take a leap of faith. Fear not. Courage is the ultimate career move.

Katie Couric

I realized that whatever your path, whatever your calling, the most damaging thing you can do is let other voices define you and drown out your own. You’ve got to block them out and find that place deep inside you, shaken but still intact, and hold on to it.

Maya Angelou

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for sixty-five years. She said, “If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to your place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a brand-new path.”

A List of valuable lessons from The Art of Non-Conformity

You may have noticed that I am a fan of lists. I especially like inspirational lists. Check out this great one, “34 Things I’ve Learned about Life and Adventure,” at the blog, The Art of Non-Conformity:

Balanced people don’t change the world.

Passionate people who don’t have it all together change the world. If you’re worried about life-work balance, something is probably wrong with your life or your work. Instead of agonizing over balance, get excited and create change.

Deadlines and quotas are your friends.

Set them and live by them, or live by the law of procrastination. Forced deadlines are better than artificial ones, but take whatever you can get.

If you want to publish a blog, do so on a regular schedule—no exceptions. If you’re trying to write, aim to write at least 1,000 words a day. These practices will serve you well.

Get over it.

If you’re like most of us, something bad probably happened to you at some point. It was unfair and cruel. Maybe it was even really bad.

But you have to get over it for reasons that are entirely selfish. Simply put, you can’t let these things define you. It’s about your life, not anyone else’s. At some point, you just have to move on.

Even atheists want something to believe in.

We all want a mission. Eager volunteers will usually work harder than paid employees. Give people something to believe in and they will support your cause. Challenge them to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Susan Cain’s TED talk on the power of introverts

I really enjoyed Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet.” Here’s the review I posted here in January.

There’s a lot to love about this talk, including her wonderful, moving story about her grandfather and his modest presence.

But the quote that really resonated with me is “Solitude for some people…is the air that they breathe.” This is totally worth 20 minutes of your time.

A great weekend read: Toni Morrison on an authentic single life

Hat tip to my brilliant friend Andrea for sharing this lovely article about Toni Morrison ahead of the publication of her novel, Home:

She never took drugs, she says, not even as a teenager when everyone around her was smoking dope. “I did not want to feel anything that did not originate with me. Because the big deal, as they described it, was that it made you feel so good. I did not want to feel something that was dependent on it. I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means. Because you’re all you’ve got.”

When she started The Bluest Eye she was the single mother of two boys, living in Syracuse, New York. She rose at 4am every morning to write before work. If she felt discouraged, she thought about her grandmother, who had fled the south with seven children and no means of support. Any existential panic – about her income, her prospects as a writer, her availability as a mother – evaporated in the face of daily necessity.

At one level, says Morrison, it was terrifically simple. “I was young. I started writing when I was 39. That’s the height of life. The real liberation was the kids, because their needs were simple. One, they needed me to be competent. Two, they wanted me to have a sense of humour. And three, they wanted me to be an adult. No one else asked that of me. Not in the workplace – where sometimes they’d want you to be feminine, or dominant, or cute.” She smiles. “The kids didn’t care if I did my hair, didn’t care what I looked like.”

She had married Harold Morrison, an architect, after meeting him at Howard University in Washington DC and they had divorced six years later, leaving her with two sons, Harold and Slade. At Random House, she was first an editor in the textbook division and later, moved to offices in Manhattan, a fiction editor. She was supported at home by a network of women friends, who helped her with the kids, and some of whose fiction she published. As Morrison has said, “We read about how Ajax and Achilles will die for each other, but very little about the friendship of women.”

I adore Toni Morrison and have for many years. She is inspiring to me not just as one of the greatest living American authors today, but also as a woman unafraid of self-possession and authenticity. The piece is rather long, but it’s quite good. It provides insight into her that we’re unlikely to get elsewhere since she’s decided not to write a memoir.

When Maiden Ladies Live it Up: Lessons from Zelda Kaplan

In an interview recently, I was asked what my driving passion is in my life now.

For years, my answer to that question was always the same. I want to write. I am a writer.

What I’m evaluating now is the idea that I want to live my life to the fullest. What is the point of being untethered in any way if you don’t use that freedom to get to know yourself, to give of yourself in all the ways you were meant to?

This is fundamentally why I’m writing a book about being contented as a single person. The goal is not to disparage relationships or companionship, which I believe are their own gifts, when you find the right one. It’s to celebrate the moment you find yourself in, single or not. Celebrating yourself is not, nor should ever be considered, disparaging someone else’s life choices or predicaments. Being happily single is not a critique of people who are not.

I thought of this in February when I read the New York Times obituary for Zelda Kaplan, who sounds like she was a riot. A couple of things stood out for me in her obituary. She was married twice times, but it was after divorce that she seemed to steer her life in a more vivid direction:

It was not until she and Mr. Kaplan divorced in the late 1960s that Ms. Kaplan moved to New York, finding work as a ballroom dance instructor and as a framer in an art gallery. At parties she would demonstrate the fox trot and other dance standards. “To me the dancing that young people do in the clubs is exercise,” Ms. Kaplan said.

Living largely off her inheritance from the sale of the family horse farm and the proceeds from investments, she developed a passion for indigenous cultures and began traveling to countries like Mali, Ghana and Ethiopia in search of the woodcarvings and fabrics from which she made her designs. She made many trips on behalf of the World Culture Society, an organization she founded and financed.

On her foreign jaunts she would hire a driver to take her from village to village to speak to tribes about the perils of female genital cutting and to lobby for a woman’s right of inheritance. Like her tireless partying, her humanitarian efforts attested in part to an appetite for novelty and adventure.

“I’m a curious person,” she once said. “I want to keep learning until it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over.”

That about sums it up. I believe we do ourselves a disservice complaining and whining about the single life when it’s completely possible for you to find more useful, joyous ways to spend your time. She lived to be 95, after all — that’s a ton of living to fit into a maiden lady’s life.

Single Lady Quotes: Coco Chanel

Audrey Tautou as Coco Chanel

When I was little, I used to sketch women in pretty outfits from magazines.

For a period of about four years, I was obsessed with the idea that I would grow up to be a famous fashion designer. (True story: I once stalked Byron Lars at Macy’s in New York and spent our entire interaction covering my mouth with my hand like Celie in The Color Purple.)

All I knew about Coco Chanel at the time was perfume. In the Plaza Hotel, where mom and I would stop to use their gorgeous and decadent ladies’ room, we could not only wash our hands, but we also could spritz perfume — perfume! That wasn’t in a can! — on yourself.  We would hoard those little thimble-sized samples of perfume from Saks Fifth Avenue and use it during special occasions. But at the Plaza? You could put on a little Chanel No. 5 like it was nothing.

So when I watched Coco before Chanel a few weeks ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it, subtitles and all. It made me want to dedicate myself to learning French one day, though I’m not sure I’m capable of that level of elegance in real life. I also gained a new appreciation for Coco Chanel from watching the movie, since she was apparently bent on not marrying in her life:

From the wise Coco Chanel:

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

“It’s probably not just by chance that I’m alone. It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he’s terribly strong. And if he’s stronger than I, I’m the one who can’t live with him. … I’m neither smart nor stupid, but I don’t think I’m a run-of-the-mill person. I’ve been in business without being a businesswoman, I’ve loved without being a woman made only for love. The two men I’ve loved, I think, will remember me, on earth or in heaven, because men always remember a woman who caused them concern and uneasiness. I’ve done my best, in regard to people and to life, without precepts, but with a taste for justice.”

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”

Reads for the Weekend: February’s over? Women at War & Queering Black Herstory

So, yeah, we got an extra day. But March still snuck up on me. February was crazy!

Lovely Guest Post from WomenWellLoved: You deserve your love & affection

Planned Parenthood Saved Me (aka, Kiss It, Komen.)

I loved Nippy, crack quotes and all. My love note to Whitney.

Speaking of fantastic women, Rest in peace, Marie Colvin. I read this 2002 Vanity Fair piece about war reporters who happen to be women and it did my heart good. “Boys get fascinated by toys about age two, and that never changes,” Colvin says. “That’s not what I think is important about covering a war. I think the story is the people.”

I haven’t written a lot about the LGBTQ community here yet, but I intend to get there. In the meantime, this was a great piece about whether or not it is a disservice to women in black history to require that they present according to popular standards of gender norms.

In black relationship dynamics, incarceration has been a huge, tragic and ongoing factor. Michelle Alexander, an expert and scholar on The New Jim Crow, writes about the myth of desegregation in America.

Thought Catalog on five steps to embracing your single self

A friend of mine kept sharing well-written blogs from Thought Catalog last year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I noticed this list in January and it made me smile. I hope it’s useful for you, too:

..Single means you have no significant other, and by significant, I mean someone not genetically related to you for whom you’d walk on newborn babies or hot coals or dissolving wads of cash to save him/her from even an ounce of pain. The person you sleep with, even regularly, does not count. He or she does not cuddle under blankets with you pre-midnight and put up with your ice cold, winter-crusted feet to watch bad reality television. Your 3 A.M. “hangout” buddy doesn’t feed your cat when you’re out of town, or buy fabric softener in your favorite scent so you smell heaven when you’re dreaming. Single means you’re alone at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively speaking. But it’s ok. Here’s how to enjoy it.

1. Continue to sleep with your special friend
That is, however, only if he/she doesn’t make you feel like crap. But if you enjoy the company of a late-night someone providing you pleasure on a platter like a midnight gourmet cheese tray, stick with it. Enjoy it. Recognize it for what it is, and don’t try to turn that person into your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you two (or three…kinky!) have never left the bedroom, you probably never will. If you can’t accept this, then stop fooling yourself, or stop seeing this person.


2. Be all that you can be
No seriously, this is not just the Army’s vague mantra. We all know that when you’re in a relationship, you get round and happy from all the eating and midnight sex games involving whipped cream and chocolate and the love-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin-emphasis-on-thick and the comfort and security of lurrrrve. So if you’ve always wanted to run a marathon or speak a new language or learn how to cook or sew or grow plants or dance the damn jig, now is the time to acquire new skills. Once you have a significant other, they suck the life out of your life in every area except love. (Just kidding! Kind of).


You can read the rest of it here. When is the world supposed to end this year? May? I might need to get on this list, then. Joking! Sorta.

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