Purple Passions & Proclivities, Too

photo of Lindsay Zae photographed by Ashleigh Dye

photo of Lindsay Zae photographed by Ashleigh Dye

An Origin Story

To thine own self be true”... “Don't be unequally yoked”... “Be careful who you have your babies with”...These are some of the most formative of mom’s perspectives about intimate relationships, which she frequently shared with me and that still ring in my head. As a single Black woman raising and homeschooling 2 kids on Chicago’s Southeast Side in the 1980s, mom was pretty unconventional. She was a working-class artist, public intellectual, entrepreneur, urban gardener, Columbia College film student, championship-winning boys’ little league coach, etc. She even championed my auditioning for the male lead in my 8th grade play because the female lead was too wispy (ultimately, due to rigid heteronormativity, I was cast as the female lead).

Long before Dr. Joycelyn Elders was appointed by the Clinton administration as this nation’s first Black woman Surgeon General (and later forced to resign because she advocated for discussing masturbation in sex-ed), mom was the first Black woman I knew who was pro-masturbation. Though strictly heteronormative in her own gender/sexual expression, mom was sex-positive. She was my primary sex-ed teacher and feminine wiles coach. I remember she had a copy of the children’s book, “How Babies Are Made” in my playpen. For Christmas during my freshman year in high school, mom bought me my first lacy lingerie set; explaining “this is the type of underwear a young woman has.” Mom was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and as a result, devoutly nurtured her only daughter’s sexual agency and empowerment. Her metaphor which had the most impact on me was: “You don’t need anyone else to scratch your own itch!” I already knew this adage to be true, however; ever since I’d learned how to covertly rub one out on the edge of my chair in Kindergarten… #masturbationasliberation #masturbationasheirloom

Erotic City, Come Alive

In a two-fold effort to bust my “bubble gum pop” phase and put me on to something more subversive and avant-garde, mom formally introduced me to Prince when she brought home the 12” 1999 double album and explained to me that Prince played all the instruments. However, it was actually the combination of seeing the Little Red Corvette video and then learning that he and I share the same birthday that cemented him as #foreverinmylife…Whereas Prince was contraband in the homes of most of my Gen X peers, those of us with “cool" parents/guardians were exposed to Prince’s intrepid carnal knowledge during our tweens. I’ve often described Prince’s cultural impact and influence as a result of his artistry grabbing us by the root and crown chakras (as his lyrics on ‘Sexuality’ clearly illustrate)! “Little Girl Heat" (LGH) is a term I coined a few years ago during a generative rehearsal with my creative collective Honey Pot Performance. “LGH” succinctly / viscerally encapsulates the phenomenon of tingling sensations and rise in core temperature I’d feel while listening to Automatic, Let’s Pretend We’re Married, etc. The feeling that told my fingers, “Go for it!”, as I pressed my body against the vibrating floor speaker playing Lady Cab Driver & Erotic City. To this day, I still experience that Purple LGH when I’m overcome with desire (whether I’m actually listening to Prince or not)…trust and BELIEVE!

Here & Now

As a grown-ass-woman-for-real, I am both looking back and ahead at my sexcapades. Sex has always been a ‘Quality (v. Quantity) of Life’ issue for me, but even more so for me in recent years. So much so that I’ve put myself in ‘self-love self-exile’, in order to eradicate the lingering effects of fuckboy/fuckgirldom from my life; I’ve pledged to never again fuck guys or girls who don’t/won't “master their domain”....#imakemecumEVERYtime

photo of Felicia Holman

photo of Felicia Holman

Though I’m not a mom, I am a doting auntie who is determined to give my 9 y.o. niece the gifts of real talk and agency that her paternal grandmother gave to me. Conversations with my niece have now begun to include her questions about puberty as well as my ‘leading’ questions to find out what she does/doesn’t already know. I find that sex-ed resources tailor-made for little Black girls are still few and far between in this post-Obama 21st century, so I know my anecdotes and advice will be some of her primary resources. She knows that Prince is my favorite musician/entertainer/artist and that I wear a tribute button every day since he died almost 3 years ago (on April 21st). Though I haven’t formally introduced her to Prince music yet, it’s coming... and so is LGH.

This work is adapted from Felicia’s essay “Purple Passions & Proclivities”; originally published on the Tumblr blog, Gender Assignment (April 2018)