Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

You Nice For A Black Girl

"When the world gets in my face I say have a nice day."
--Bon Jovi

My soror came to LA to celebrate my thirrr...thirrrt...*cough, cough* birthday. You get the point. Anyway, I stopped at the post office to pick up my mail before heading to Santa Monica for dinner and drinks. I'm in the car looking over my birthday cards with the window rolled halfway. My soror nudges me and quickly whispers, "Roll up the window." This older dude, about 50, rolls up on his bike to my car. He looked rough around the edges. Not the kinda rough where I thought my life was in danger, but I could tell he's lived a hard life. He notices I'm in a brand new car.

Dude on Bike: Your car so shiny and bright.
Me: Thanks. Then I go back to reading my mail hoping he'll go away.
Dude on Bike: I wash cars.
Me: Okay.
Dude on Bike: Can I wax your car?
Me: Not now.
Dude on Bike: Well can I wax that ass?

Yes girl he went there. I could've told him to take his left handle bar and stick it, but I didn't. Without thinking I replied, "You have a nice day" and went back to looking at my birthday cards. Out the corner of my eye, I saw a look of embarrassment bloom on his face. I could tell he felt real small. He apologized a number of times. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to disrespect you. I'm really sorry." Then he rode away. What did he expect me to do? Drop MF and N-bombs, move my neck and talk about his mama? Afterall, that's what us "angry black women" do. He deserved to get cussed out after what he said to me. But my reaction didn't fit the stereotype he was after. I didn't get all Shenaynay on him and he didn't know how to handle it. Even if I was hood, I still deserve respect. His nasty comment bothered me a bit because, if you read this blog, you know I can't stand to see brothas disrespecting sistas.

Sometimes I feel that the negative stereotypes of black women has been endorsed more within the black community than mainstream society. How many times have we heard some brothas say they don't date sistas because we're all mean, gold digging, bad-attitude carrying women? Not all sistas are mean. Just like all Asian women aren't docile and all Latinas aren't firery and highly-sexed. A few years ago I was in Oakland checking out jewelry from a street vendor. The vendor was a brotha, looked to be in his 50's. We started talking about news, life, etc. At the end of our talk he says, "You're nice for a black woman. If I had met a black woman like you years ago I wouldn't be dating Asian women." I can't remember what I said. I'm sure I was thinking WTF?. I don't know who he dated to make him jaded about sistas but what's sick about his comment is I think he saw it as a compliment.

That incident was not the only time a black man has said that to me. That belief about black women, I think, is one reason why so many of us have been pushed over to the unmarried category. It's probably the same reason why this white dude I met at a bar was shocked when my soror told him she was a doctor and I had a master's degree. He probably would've had a stroke if I didn't have rhythm. LOL. Seriously, it's frustrating that I'm automatically labeled Miss Bad Attitude or Miss Baby's Mama before opening my mouth. It's bad enough when it's coming from someone non-black. But even worse when you're own people are prejudging you.

It's funny. The older I get the more I really understand why people like James Baldwin and Josephine Baker sought out places where they just could be themselves. A place where they could just be Josephine and James and people didn't automatically make assumptions based on their black skin. I'm not saying Europe is a raceless heaven because I know from experience that's not true. But why can't I just be a cool lady instead of a "nice black woman"? In our "post-racial" society when can I just be? Me.


  1. Miss Jenee, I don't always comment on your articles, but I love reading them. Articles like this one deserve a reread every now and then.

  2. Thanks Wax! I appreciate that you came back for a re-read. Your compliment made my day. Thanks for the support.


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