Is There a Method to Being Messy? The Do’s and Don’ts of Airing Dirty Laundry

 Photo illustration by Elena Scotti/The Root/GMG
Photo illustration by Elena Scotti/The Root/GMG

It was the “hell hath no fury” moment many women have had … and even more wish they’d had. A good, old-fashioned read for an utter and complete filth-of-a-no-count man and his side hustle—broadcast for the salacious awe and delight of anyone active on black Twitter.


With a single post titled, “Open Letter to My Husband and His Mistress on His Birthday,” blogger Negra With Tumbao opted to turn her scorned womanhood into scorched earth … and the interwebs were gleefully here for it.

Happy 43rd Birthday, Babe! I hope you enjoyed your date. You had to have been looking forward to the weekend. I mean your boo got her hair done and shit. ... I am sure she’s a great person. She fucks married men for Christ’s sake. ...

Whew. And that was just the beginning. What followed can only be described as a thorough dragging that was simultaneously cathartic and cringeworthy. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone ultimately came away clean, since even I needed a shower after reading it. But regardless of the response, it was indisputably a bold maneuver—one that “Negra” would likely admit is not suited to amateurs.

In addition to being a (now-estranged) wife and mother, Negra is a blogger and writer; it’s safe to assume that she gave plenty of thought to the question of whether to present her private rage for public consumption. Admittedly it was a titillating read, likely tempting to others in similar situations. But in an era when many of us readily broadcast our lives online as if auditioning for pilot season, before any of us follows suit, perhaps it’s worth pausing to consider the “Five W’s”:

1. What’s the Point?

As someone who’s been publicly humiliated by someone I both loved and trusted (OK, several someones), I empathize with the desire to exact revenge. Real talk: There’s both catharsis and closure in telling someone how you feel about him or her in the most indelicate of terms. After all, petty does love to play with others …


However, there are letters we occasionally need to write but never send—let alone send to strangers. Because while catharsis may be immediate, the internet is—Cardi B voice—FOR-EVAH. The darkness you make light might tarnish not only the other person’s rep but yours, too, since it’ll henceforth appear under every Google search of your name from now until the end of time. So unless betrayal is your intended brand, going public might not always be your best option.

2. Who Wins—and Who Might Suffer?

You probably figured that I wouldn’t speak about this publicly because I’d be embarrassed. NOPE. Not even. In fact, this isn’t for you so much as I know there’s a sister out there who is falling apart over her ain’t shit husband and begging for her family to stay together. … I might as well empower some sisters while giving you my ENTIRE ass to kiss.


Sounds noble, but truthfully? Most sisters will read someone for filth even while falling apart—it’s the paradox that likely created the dangerous “strong black woman” trope. It’s perfectly fair to admit that you’re acting solely on behalf of your own wounded pride and peace of mind … if you’ve considered the collateral damage.

In this case, Negra apparently got the go-ahead from the teenage daughter she shares with “the clown formerly known as [her] husband.” But when attempting this kind of stunt, if kids are involved, consider how such a public shaming might embarrass them—especially if they’re of internet-using age themselves. Also, beware of missing your intended target, since anyone who would treat you so carelessly may not care enough to be as hurt as you are.


3. When Is the Right Time?

By all appearances, this was a well-thought-out dragging, since our writer gave herself ample time to seethe and collect evidence before dropping the bomb on her already-compromised marriage. But is there ever a good time to blow up your life—let alone publicly?


If dramatic effect and maximum damage are your goals, sure: Go for a birthday, an anniversary or even a family gathering. But while you plot, scheme and perpetrate normalcy, how much damage might you be doing to your own heart and mind? Is the stunt worth your sanity, or might it be better to cut ties quickly and cleanly? Only you can decide.

4. Why Go Public?

Again: The internet is forever. Do you really want your name publicly—and eternally—associated with someone you may very well be over a year (or, at most, a few) from now? Moves like this may feel powerful in the moment, but how much power might you be giving away in the long run?


Public displays of pettiness can be fun … until they rear their ugly heads in job interviews, custody hearings and future relationships. If you’re OK having a humiliating incident on your personal record, go forth and prosper in your petty. Who knows? It might even pay off. But for every Zola from Twitter who spins a sensational tale into a purported movie deal, there are thousands who simply leave a virtual trail of their vitriol.

If you’ve got nothing to lose, go HAM. But if you’ve got a rep to protect, it might be worth dealing with privately … or trusting karma to do the work for you.


5. Where Does It Get You?

True-confession time: I’ve most definitely flexed my petty muscle in the past. Unfortunately, it never eased the pain of a broken heart. Our favorite first lady may have advised that “when they go low, we go high,” but we all know it’s not that easy when we’re hurt and betrayed.


So is there any middle ground between revenge and resignation? Or any better way to avoid feeling like a doormat when someone wipes his or her feet on your love? Perhaps not … but not everyone deserves a front-row seat to your pain. You might cause momentary embarrassment to one who hurt you, but the damage to you has still ultimately been done.

And the only way out of that mess … is time.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



6W’s-Because it feels good.You’re cold and miserable and anger is warm and delightful, and you feel alive again.Revenge is revenge, like an urgent need to piss. At some point you need that reliefwhen you feel powerless and ashamed.Years after i don’t feel bad or embarrassed, it was the purge needed to get those guys out of my system and move on.