Single-Minded: The Tyranny of 'Keep It Moving'

Enough, already! Playing chicken with your feelings can get old. Real old.

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''Right, dude, you gotta keep it moving. K.I.M.'' That was the advice I got years ago from a good friend who moonlights as my own personal psychiatrist. She was telling me what to do after a bad breakup. Move on. Quickly. Before something -- I don't know, like, feelings -- catches up with you. I used it then, despite knowing how dangerous all that bottling up can be: Eventually something will explode out the business end.

But now, as an adulthood-adjacent, almost 30-year-old, playing chicken with my true feelings seems a bit cowardly. ''Silent treatments are dumb,'' announced yet another Gchat savant after I told her I planned to break one that I'd been clinging to nearly four months. ''We're too old,'' she said. No, no, no, no, I tried to explain, they work! It's not so much the silent treatment I sought out so much as active ignorance -- me trying to will myself onto the set of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Isn't forgetfulness a gift?

Not really. Sometimes I just want to admit that my last breakup shook me -- not to my core (of course), but enough to give me recurring nightmares of spinsterhood. I want to tell the jackass in the cubicle to the left that the phrase ''I've dated black girls before'' doesn't earn you 1,000 cool points. I want to stumble and wail and stay down and not think about dusting myself off for at least five minutes or more. No one's stopping me, right?

Everybody's stopping me. And everyone's stopping us. Our mothers are stopping us. You're stopping us. And of course, we're stopping us. Underneath this desire to let go, I'm still scared to let go for real. We wake up each morning chanting the same practiced mantra like pious Buddhist nuns: ''Keep it moving.'' And we keep moving -- or flying, really -- through our new careers, from one failed lovah to the next, from city to city and from independence to womanhood to who knows what.

We've been chasing first lady Michelle Obama (or, more accurately. the idea of her) since before we knew she existed, chasing her without knowing it, chasing her and not losing our breath. ''The main thing is hope,'' said a friend of mine recently. ''Black women need that more than Jesus.'' Baby Jesus must have heard our collective complaints -- er, prayers -- and given us Michelle either to shut us up or to show us the way out of the ''strong black woman'' woods.

I grew up believing that black romance could be untouched and infallible, thinking The Cosby Show was real and my life as the only little brown girl on a tiny island populated with nothing but white people was fake. I grew up thinking that black women should be, among other impossible virtues, perfect. Someone I know, who is married with a child, once said, ''The Cosby Show screwed us all over.'' I think she was right.

Educated black women have a horrible PR campaign. We are reluctant amazons. Once a rallying cry, we now loathe the billboard sign flashing above our heads: ''Strong! Black! Woman!'' Once, this cry was predicated on the definition of our men, who were just as black and just as strong. But now it means something entirely different: That we didn't need or want these men. Or that we were men ourselves.

And unfortunately, Heartbreak Hotel just isn't on my sightseeing tour. Does this make me a bitch? Possibly. Or perhaps just very hyper aware. Recently I told a boy I used to know that my limitations were known to me: ''And, well, being acquaintances/friends with you vastly surpasses them. And not because I'm some angry mouse black woman but because I just hate losing. The end.''

I find the fact that I had to qualify my own immaturity outside the context of being a black woman both ridiculous and very necessary. If not, then all my very idiotic idiosyncrasies would get tied up in my singleness, my blackness, my otherness, instead of just remaining where they belong -- in my head (or this column). ''Keep it moving'' is a frantic affirmation that can cause just as many traffic jams as it claims to cut through. Maybe we don't need a mantra; maybe we've got a better sense of direction than most people would have us think. Maybe we can find our own way -- without the GPS.

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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