Response to Footnotes for 4:44/Welcome to the Rest of Your Life

This post starts off a little off topic, but I’ll bring things full circle. Promise.

If you haven’t heard JAY-Z’s latest album, 4:44, you either live under a rock or you hate JAY-Z, neither of which I blame you for. Today I watched a video on Tidal entitled “Footnotes for 4:44,” in which JAY-Z explains some of his thoughts behind the song “4:44.” One of the things he said was he felt he was free to love once he met his father.

When I heard that, I immediately thought, “That’s bullshit.” Now, I’m not from the projects and I haven’t been shot at so I don’t want to diminish JAY-Z’s lived experience in any way. What I mean when I say bullshit is I’m sick of hearing men blame their inability to express/give/feel love in a relationship on their absent fathers. I’m 34 years old and have never seen my father’s face. That hasn’t hindered my ability to love anyone, especially not men.

I think what this is really about, and again, I’m not speaking for JAY-Z or trying to invalidate his feelings, is the way men are socialized. Men are told “Men don’t cry.” Men are praised for mistreating women, worshiped for sleeping with as many women as they can and rarely prosecuted for raping or beating women. Combine this socialization with the rampant sexism, misogyny and patriarchy in our society and it’s not surprising it took JAY-Z until he was 47 to be unequivocal in expressing his love for Beyoncé and regret for the mistakes he made in their relationship.

JAY-Z’s actions may not be surprising but that doesn’t make them more excusable. In this short video, several men are sitting around with JAY-Z, listening to him bear his soul, and seemingly in awe of his ability to do so. I’ve never seen a more clear case of hero worship. Men love to worship one another because men are the “rightful” leaders, right? 

Isn’t it funny how avid Beyoncé fans are blind followers and don’t know a “real artist” when they see one but avid male JAY-Z fans just relate to what he’s saying? Just so we’re clear by “funny,” I mean sexist and misogynistic.

Brittany Luse, the former co-host of the For Colored Nerds podcast and current co-host of The Nod podcast, once said, in a conversation about Beyoncé no less, sexism runs so deep in this country that anything women like is considered to be stupid. Truer words were never spoken.

Ok, so how does this tie-in to your grandmother you ask? Great question.

My grandmother raised me to never take shit from anyone, especially men, never depend on a man for anything and always have my own money. Now that she’s left the physical world, I believe she knows everything. So now she knows how I’ve let men walk all over me in the past, paid for plane tickets, cellphone bills and to get a car back from the repo man for men. I’m quite sure she’s appalled.

But believe me, Mom-Mom, now that you’re gone, I will NEVER dishonor your memory by being a doormat for a man again. I am committed to the feminism you instilled in me like I’ve never been before.

I’m 34 years old and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait approximately 14 years for a man to be unafraid to let the world know he loves me. I’ve given everything I have to give to men and I have nothing left. Not after I’ve stood over the body of the person I love most in the world. Now it’s time for a man to give to me.

I know a one-sided relationship can’t last so I have no idea when I’ll be in one again. And frankly, that doesn’t bother me. Once, a man who was threatened by me asked me if I wanted to go gray alone. At the time, I answered, “No.” Now my answer would be, “It wouldn’t bother me.” Now, more than ever, is a time for me to be selfish. Sometimes I’m so grief-stricken I feel ill. I need to be caressed and held and paid attention to and brought lunch, dinner and breakfast, etc., etc. And why shouldn’t a man do all of the above for me?

After all, I’ve spent 15 years of my life doing that for men.

My grandmother’s gone and I can’t do the bullshit anymore. With men or anyone else. Period. If that’s cold, I don’t care. All of the extraneous people around me have been removed. I don’t have acquaintances anymore and it feels good. I don’t need fake friendships in my life when I have real ones. This is the most horrific time in my life but it’s also the most freeing and eye-opening. This is the most I’ve ever grown as a woman. I don’t have time for anything that’s not honest and real. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. If I don’t want to talk to someone, I don’t talk to them. Sheena, welcome to the rest of your life.

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