Happy International Working Women’s Day!
I am a working woman. I wasn’t born this way, of course. I was born into the rarefied world of moneyed, blue blood Mississippi Negroes, the colored half of the powerful, feared, and respected white DuSables of Marshall County. I was raised to hone my needlepoint, master the pianoforte, and conquer every social season before my beauty faded and I would be forced to secede the field to any beautiful and perfect children I might have.
I was not meant to work in the sense of how some of my ancestors worked in the fields or how indentured servants worked in town or even how Pullman Porters humped twenty-four hours a day as they crisscrossed the country. Mine was destined to be a gentle slavery of catering to my husband, directing the governess, and setting social policy amidst afternoon tea and spelling bee competitions. I was meant for a gilded cage. Although I dreamed of a different life, I didn’t choose it. Terror, luck, and circumstance chose my path to late nights, back breaking foot-punishing labor. And I love it.
I wish I hadn’t had to sneak off in the middle of the night in fear of my life. I wish I hadn’t had to sleep on the streets for a time or fight off one too many wandering hands and terrifying propositions but in the end, I love that every dollar is my own. I call the shots. I stay when I want. I go when I want. I’m not dependent on my love for my husband David or my love for my lover Declan. I’m not even dependent on my love for my best friend and my goddaughter Lily. Work, almost no matter how, arduous, is worth it because it is the great liberator. As long as I have breath in my body, be it on stage, screen, or a cook in a sweltering kitchen, I will work. Because work is life and life is freedom.
Happy International Working Women’s Month!
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