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9 Things Black Women Need To Add To Their Radical Self-Care Regimen

Because Black women need more than masks and spa days.

Wellness

Have you ever looked at the hashtags of self-care? The first few hundred photos are mostly of white women smiling, brunching with their girlfriends, and in facial masks and expensive robes. The takeaway? Black women can't afford to take time for themselves.

I'm a firm believer that self-care Saturdays and Sunday should be abolished because my needs aren't defined by what day of the week it is, but I get it - the goal is to emphasize check-ins on you.

But who sets that standard for us? Last year, I decided that my self-care would be radical - which meant that I'd go out of my way to take care of me. And while I love a good spa day as much as the next person, I needed a routine that doesn't cost much, and helped my life run much smoother. Here are nine things you can add to your self-care arsenal:

1.Making difficult decisions.

Someone once told me that happiness isn't a destination that you find yourself at, it's a series of choices. It's those things you don't notice--getting up earlier, saying 'no', leaving your ex on 'read', setting a budget--that ultimately helps you create a life for yourself that love.

2.Owning when you need me-time.

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I find that most Black women wear being there for everyone as a badge of honor, and I refuse to subscribe to those toxic expectations that left our mothers and grandmothers overworked, underpaid, and their love tank on E. When I need time for me, I take it. I've learned that the opposite of selfishness isn't selflessness; it's boundaries and realistic expectations.

3.Doing your laundry before your hamper overflows.

Because being on your last pair of underwear, or your favorite workout gear not being clean in time for a gym session with your girls, never made anyone feel better about their lives (now I can't tell you that I folded the laundry, just know I washed it, sis, I don't know what you want me to tell you).

4.Drinking tea while it's hot.

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Raise your hand if you made tea, sat it down to take care of a million other things, and by the time you picked it up, it was cold - you all just virtually raised your hands. Taking the time to be in the moment and drink my matcha while it's hot in the smallest way is a way I can affirm that I deserve to be still, and enjoy small pleasures.

5.Going to therapy.

Therapy isn't free, but for Black women, it's essential. The weight that we carry around in this world mentally and emotionally deserves release, and we need to normalize prioritizing our budget for it. My co-pay has become my happiest weekly expense because that time on the couch will benefit me for years to come.

6.Clearing out unread emails.

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Answering unread emails/cleaning out spam has become my new favorite pastime. Having tons of people awaiting my response can trigger anxiety, so taking the time to assess my priorities and what I can/can't say 'yes' to is paramount to my organization routine.

7.Spend time with your best friend.

As crazy as my schedule can get, I make it a point to at least once a month make time to hang out with my best friend. Even if it's something as small as a coffee, take that time to check-in with the person that knows you like no one else.

8.Twerk lessons via YouTube.

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I don't know if it's just me, but I got tired of not being able to twerk like my girl, Meg. One Friday night, I locked myself in my room, and I didn't come out until I learned how to twerk like the Houston rapper. Even if twerking isn't your thing, learn a new TikTok dance. Laughter and movement are therapeutic in and of itself.

9.Watch your favorite show.

My favorite show of all-time is Girlfriends, and I love watching it in the bathtub with some wine (as well as rose petals, if I have any on-hand). I used to think that romantic baths had to involve a partner, but that time to myself helped me realize that I can treat myself well, whether someone is there to facilitate, or enjoy it with me, or not. I deserve self-care because being a Black woman in American is a revolutionary act and as much as we can - we need to honor that and tend to us, first.

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Originally published on May 20, 2020

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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