Single-Minded: On the Making of a Superhero

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The making of a superhero is hard work—there's the toxic waste-soaked meteor shower when Mercury goes all retrograde and the cost of cape cleaning to consider. Whereas the demotion to super villain seems pretty easy—just add absentee father, too much free time and delusions of grandeur.


On Wednesday during Nightline's celebrity ''face-off'' to figure out why the BLACK WOMAN can't find A MAN, comedienne Sherri Shepherd spoke about all the time it takes to validate a superhero but not the half hour it takes to typecast a villain.

Because if there's a good guy, there just has to be a bad guy. There can be no hero without a heel and with so many stiletto-clad single ladies stomping down Lonely Street, the scapegoat seems dangerously obvious. Problem is, so many of us become the baddie unbeknownst. I know because a long time ago I was once—inadvertently—a villain, too. According to my then-beau, this meant that I was a ''girl'' who assumed super-perfect powers in order to, perhaps, someday, force perception into reality and instead was eventually vanquished by that mighty weapon called timing.


He might have meant it as an insult.

Maybe if he called me a stuck-up jerk whose sadistic obsession with a mythological black male would inevitably leave her childless, maybe then I could've slapped him like a monochromatic movie star before slinking off to the boudoir to be ''ahvown.'' Instead, he called me Perfect Girl—able to dice onions and dodge commitment without crying.

First you have to know that this guy already had a growing urban harem of ''girls.'' There was hotel girl, club girl, 7-month girl, law school girl, London girl, and a girl whose secret identity I knew, but whom I refused to refer to as anything other than Prom Shoes.

Actually, back then I knew the secret identity of each girl, because thus far, I'd been losing at a little game I play called, ''Super Cool,'' in which I pretend to be the super coolest girl in the history of the universe, so cold, in fact, that it's totally cool for us to chat about all your other so-called relationships because it's cool, my baby, and we both know that in the end you'll choose me, the coolest. Despite totally sucking at all things sports-related, I kept at it.


The toughest part of my favorite pastime was making sure the other player never caught on to how I really felt. Keeping secret that one more word about Prom Shoes' complete lack of moral authority as evidenced in her choice of rhinestoned footwear might send me over to the dark side Red Rover-style—sweaty, pissed and eventually submissive.

I'd spent the last 30 days doing everything to prove myself worthy of a cape and tights. When he called me at 3 a.m. wanting to talk about nothing in particular (but really everything indefinable), I answered the phone (which had been waiting impatiently beneath my pillow). When he wanted dinner, I cooked as if I hadn't been ordering the No. 17 from Sala Thai for the last six nights in a row. I did his laundry while going pantyless by necessity. I gently lectured him on fiscal responsibility while waiting in line at ACE Check Cashing and Pay Day Loans.


In short, it was no surprise then, that when given the Rorschach test of all premeditated crap I never usually do, the suicidal adjective that leapt from my future arch nemesis' lips was ''perfect.'' It was an involuntary response based on shoddy research, like having a panic attack after a missed period. Just wait a couple more days.

What shocked me was that he'd actually bought it. He seriously believed that he'd found the Ivy League Barbie Doll, the fully posable collector's edition. No wonder Frances refused to buy me those monsters as a kid. It wasn't about the impossible complex I'd develop—to be young, gaunt and blonde—but the all-too-possible fulfillment of that fantasy. That's who Perfect Girl was. Just a momentary lapse in perception. I figured pretending to be perfect would work just as good as being.


Thing was, he didn't want perfect. He wanted regular. ''You are actually better than me as a person,'' he confessed, unnecessarily. ''If we had a person contest, you would defeat me—handily.'' This scared him as much as it did me. So in my quest to be a super woman—protecting my secret identity until it was safe—I ended up stuck in the phone booth too afraid to let my overworked Clark Kent off for a day. Because the only real difference between heroes and heartbreakers is timing.

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.


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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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