A “femme” is anyone who makes of femininity a ritual and practice of everyday life, through dress, makeup, energy, and/or affect, whether they use that term for themselves or not. You are my greatest inspiration. You are some of the most talented healers of the world. You teach people to be better and you do it lovingly. You have such vitality that the world moves around you to let you through. You are femininity on wheels, dancing this world in a pair of heals or sneakers. When you laugh, you share it like an aural bouquet that floats above heads for all to smell your joy. It is in large part because of your nurturance, because of you lovingly schooling me when I regurgitated femmephobia, who helped me come in to my identity as such. Through you I learned that authentic beauty and sexiness is as wild as the flowers in a grassy field, and born of the sun, earth and water that is the makeup of your life.

Our vital energy, like air, water, and life, is a resource. People sometimes honor us by bearing witness, by saying “my god, YOU.” People can be with us and let us be, and often this is the most powerful way of allowing us to generate more of our own energy. But often times, people take our energy. They expect us to care for them, to do the work they just can’t do (they can), to create the structures, meals, and feelings that they need to survive. Femmes, when people do not inspire us back equally, we make of ourselves a shell to house their honesty. We place ours in the corner and say, you are so abundant, there is plenty for me. I will take it up later. It is so easy—we love to give without being asked, we are the people people feel better around without knowing why. But when people are not able to give what we give (and, let’s be honest, it is a higher bar than some of us would like to protect), our energy drains away. It often begins imperceptibly, but as surely as a body of water slowly leaking over a damn, that which we forget is a resource leaves us, ounce by ounce, day by day.

In a world that teaches us it is normal to feel like we would feel just a little bit (or some days a lot) better about ourselves with someone having staked their loving claim on us, our identities become tethered to an identity of caring for others. Those of us who are women of color carry the legacies of un- or poorly paid domestic labor in our DNA. We are supposed to love even those who are not able to love us as well as we can and in exchange for that love, we prefer to pretend that it is enough rather than challenging part of the structure of our identity in the way that we would necessarily do if we said, “I love you, but I must go heal myself now.” I believe we are on this earth to figure out how to love our own lives.

I’ve only ever fallen in love once where instead of walking around in a cloak of the other person’s energy (which is a pleasant enough feeling but is also disorienting and distracting), instead of that, I actually felt more myself. It just felt like was like I was walking around with this person’s separate energy near me, lovingly, like a celestial friend. It didn’t last long, but I am grateful for that experience because it made me ask of myself, “what would my life have to look like to be so awesome so as to not need that?” It inspired me to dive headfirst into the deep end of my music, to practice every day, and, without realizing it, it was also a practice of self-love, which, for me, also has to do with being a femme. I am also grateful for the experience because I know that that is out there and I am not losing myself to a n y b o d y. I know that that is not love. And that the only true quest is the one where I make of my life an adventure that I would go over and over again all by myself which is to say where I find myself over and over again.

When you are in a relationship, you are actively practicing a relationship with yourself, as well. In relationship, it is more important than ever to practice that relationship with yourself. If any part of you senses you are in a relationship where you are making yourself smaller, or where you are getting a feeling of belonging from that person that you fear you can’t have on your own, take some time to be with yourself. Give yourself the gift of time to look at the consolation prizes you’ve built around yourself in exchange for them not being able to give to you, or to see you. I guarantee you if they don’t see you they are not seeing anyone right now, and it’s not your fault or yours to fix. Take some time to ask when and how you make yourself feel small so that when you look into their eyes you look bigger to yourself momentarily in the reflection. Take some time to practice healing yourself. Take all the time to create the life of your dreams each day. Hoard your energy if you have to. You need it. Dare to put yourself first. Dare to be single even! Dare to be. I love you/me.

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