b[A]e +: A Sensible Balance Between A’s and All Baes by Rhajaa Wright

I never was the girl that got much attention from boys when I was younger. In 5th grade, my friend Max called me the ugliest girl in the class. All through junior middle school, white boys would tease me about the size of my nose. And by junior high a few guys had told me, “I really like you, but I don’t think I can date you (because my mom is low-key racist, and would never approve of me bringing home a black girl)”.

The white guys at my high school would not date black girls. And I’m not sure if the four black guys at my school were aware that they were black, but they didn’t either. Of course, I had my fair share of white boy crushes, flings, and prom dates, but they never really went anywhere because of the aforementioned reasons. So, I was chilling. 

I wasn’t tripping. I mean, my mom is flawless. So I could only hope that one day my glow up would ensue, and I’d snatch everyone’s edges at my 10-year high school reunion. So while I waited, I was steadily following the motto: A’s before baes, just trying to make it to college.

It wasn’t until my BSAI experience in 2014 that I truly realized the magnificence of an intelligent, well-dressed, well-mannered (debatable), black boy. I also would soon realize that maybe people at my high school were sleeping on me…After my initial visit at Duke, I was convinced that I’d come here and instantly get cuffed. I just had to graduate first. 

But, of course, it didn’t work out like that. After intense observation and analysis of my own experiences, I developed a theory that might explain why the dating scene failed for me during my first year.  Of course this theory does not apply to everyone in black Duke, but it is worth noting that many black women that I have talked to identify with my observations. 

As a black girl at Duke coming from a predominantly white high school I was not used to getting attention from the guys at my school. On the other hand, I noticed that the black guys that I was interacting with at Duke were used to being “sought after” in their own ways, both good and bad. The “good” being, that girls of all races were open to dating them back in high school. To top it off, once these black boys got to Duke they formed these impossible to infiltrate squads that hyped them up. And rightfully so, because everyone deserves a little credit where it’s due. But, thanks to their friends, they had developed an unmatchable confidence that seemed like it was beginning to approach arrogance. 

Unfortunately, when I was “pursued” by these black freshman guys, I was still and still am discovering my own beauty. This new attention was alarming for me, and sure, I liked it, but regardless, I reacted strangely, because I wasn’t used to it. The black boys, unaware of the environment and interactions that I had grown up in and adapted to, wrote me off as a “prude” or “acting too good for them”. When the reality was, I was still trying to come to terms with my self worth and beauty in this twisted world.

And that’s when things get messy. These black boys I talked to assumed that I thought I was “too good for them”, when in reality I was just trying to navigate a world that constantly told me that black features were pretty cool, but black girls are pretty not. These boys didn’t realize that everything is NOT about them, and though the smiles on my face and the melanin on my skin might hint that I am strong, I am still dealing with parts of myself that I want to learn to love. Unfortunately, writing me off as a prude for not “hitting you up”, doesn’t help that. Shoot, the only thing I need to be hitting is the gym.  

Ya see, I’m currently still going through the glow up. I like to think that my entire life is a glow up.  The glow up does not stop. The glow up should never stop. But, it’s right when you’re finally trying to get your life in line that you’re thrown off the course. 

If I learned anything my freshman year at Duke, it’d be: Don’t date freshmen boys (for various undisclosed reasons). So when I was asked on a date by a freshman boy this semester, I was not down for the cause. Not to mention, that my friends would always joke about my attraction to younger boys, and I was trying my best to refrain from affirming their statements.

But…you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So I went out on a date with the boy.  

It wasn’t anywhere fancy. We went to Pitchforks. He paid for my food, on his freshman food points. He opened every door for me (already outdoing 85% of the boys at Duke). We went to breakfast the next morning. He paid for my food again...(Did I mention he’s a freshman?) 

After going through the sophomore slump last semester, I returned to Duke hoping to dedicate more time to loving myself in all ways, and being intentional with everything I did. But…dating was not in the plan.

I told my friends that he caught me at the wrong time. After a few dates, I called my aunt, telling her how much I liked him, but how everything was too good to be true. 

She asked me:
“Do you think that you are undeserving of someone who treats you right?”
“No.” I said.
“Then why are you complaining?”

When we have not fully learned to value ourselves, we have trouble realizing that other people can value us too. Positive attention feels strange, when you’re so used to thinking that “you need to do this better”, and “you need to do that less”. 

To get into Duke, obviously you have to work hard. Some more than others. But, once you’ve gotten into the cycle of working hard to keep achieving the next step, this work ethic begins to replace more important things. We’ve been planning out our classes, our extracurriculars and everything in between for too long. This habit then interferes with our social lives too. We begin declining spontaneous invitations, just to study a little more. “I can go to dinner next week once I’m…” We try to plan who can pursue us or when will be ready to date. “I’ll date when I’m...” We pass up amazing people, amazing opportunities because they were not in the plan (not just yet). We are always trying to improve ourselves, have more achievements, be involved more, something… But, we forget what we really need.

But, I digress.
When he asked me to be his girlfriend, I responded,
“Do you even have time to have a girlfriend?”
“Do you even have time to have a boyfriend?” he said back.


We make time for clubs, meetings, class, homework, studying. All things that we are so quick to say that “we hope get cancelled” when there’s any sign of snow, or a tornado warning. 

So what if a tornado hit Duke? What if lives were lost? What if it’s the person you were supposed to get lunch with last week? 

Another day it came up again, 
“Do you even have time to have a boyfriend?”
This time, my response?
“I can make time.”

I know that when I’m lying on my deathbed, I’m not going to be wishing that I finished one more homework assignment. I’m gonna wish that I sat down to have dinner with Setonji one more time. Or wish that I took Melaney up on that roller skating offer. Or wish that I made the trek to Edens, to see those few friends that are worth the walk. Or wish that I had called home, just to hear my nephew call me auntie again.

Life is too short to live with the mindset “A’s before *baes”.

Por qué no los dos?

 

*in this context, “baes” is an all inclusive term that includes friends, family boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.

A Letter to my Future Son by Michele Nsianya

I THINK THEREFORE I AM by Michele Nsianya