I’m supposed to be writing something else today. Perhaps I still will but not before I exorcise myself of the “Lemonade” demons infiltrating my thoughts. Much has been written that Lemonade is of and for black women and white people, particularly white men and presumptively black men should just sit this one out and let black women have their day. I would do that, but for the demons that won’t let me move on.
Rightly or wrongly I read many of the reviews of Lemonade, some from total strangers and others from women I know (or at least follow) and respect in an Internet kind of way like Awesomelyluvvie and Ijeoma Oluo along with a Very Smart Brotha Damon Young. So I viewed Lemonade with an expectation of what I’d find and for the first twenty minutes or so I was impressed with the visuals, understanding of the message and trying to see the many things that a black woman might identify with. I didn’t expect to feel all the things I felt as a black man and father, imperfect at both. I won’t even attempt to describe what Lemonade means to black women. Perhaps I shouldn’t attempt to describe it as a black man, but the demons…
Some of my “black man view” is generational. I’m four years younger than Matthew Knowles who I played with on the same college basketball team for a year at Fisk University. The Matthew in the video playing with young daughter Beyoncé is the one I know rather than the music mogul he became. I’m 14 years older than Jay-Z who has faced different pressures than I because of his wealth and fame. That which faces black men in their teens, twenties and thirties may vary but there will be commonalities that we all have to deal with. Side chicks have always existed. One difference is that today it seems more acceptable for side chicks to operate openly instead of behind the scenes, sometimes glorified in urban literature. I’m not absolving black men. Sometimes the attention you get is in direct ratio to the signals you’re sending.
Becoming a strong, faithful black man is about unlearning the messages received since youth regarding measuring your manhood in conquest. It’s about giving yourself permission to turn down a pretty woman because the value fleeting and the cost great. It’s about recognizing that it’s not what you once thought, “it was something you did for yourself and not to your lover” but now knowing it is something you did to your lover. Whether or not you got caught. Growth comes, manhood comes, when you accept the values of friendship, monogamy and mutual respect in place of those you held before. It comes from vulnerability and walking in truth, sharing your pain and weaknesses rather than hiding them and holding them in. Black men are taught to be stoic and proud and those protections may indeed be their downfall until they learn to let others in. Sometimes their defense mechanism instead of sharing with the one you love is trying to maintain the respect of your lover and escaping with another. The end result is destruction, the only variable is degree.
Lemonade also spoke on fatherhood. There is no greater feeling than being perfect in the eyes of your little girl (or son). Perhaps no greater loss when she discovers your flaws and failings and your fear she’ll never see you the same way again. If lucky, you’ll find that the love was strong enough that it will even exceed what existed before. I pray for Matthew and Beyoncé, perhaps because I recognize it could have been me.
Lemonade is powerful. Both poetry and pain. It’s universal and individual and will require further watching and listening to peel back the layers. Maybe one day I’ll watch it and merely be entertained. The demons are quieted, for now, perhaps gone. Besides all the messages for black women which I may never be qualified to describe. There are those for black men also, deserving discussion as well.