Sparkle of Life: A lesson on Black women embracing softness
By: Storie Stone
Growing up as a woman in a Black household is being taught to live your life based on a checklist. This list is filled with accomplishments that lead to enough success to avoid the mistakes made by our parents. That list of achievements is drilled into our minds and we go after them tirelessly to ensure, regardless of adverse consequences, that we thrive. The list normally looks like this: Go to college, study a subject that will always be needed so that you're able to maintain self-sufficiency, don’t get with a broke man, and (per my mom) don’t get no babies caught in your ass.
For lack of better wording.
Sparkle Hyche, hairstylist, and business owner have been working since she was 8 years old. Diligently building a brand and forming a lane for herself in entrepreneurship. She’s now 43 and has been doing so for over 17 years. The other women went to The Groove Hotel searching for love in forbidden waters. She went to The Groove Hotel to allow herself to have fun. To be free. To not be a workaholic. To heal her inner child.
All things that Black women are not afforded.
Elan Gale, the showrunner of Back in the Groove, told Deadline that “self-actualization” is the show's primary goal. After watching it and taking notes, I like to think that of the 3 main characters, Sparkle understood the assignment. It is very seldom that we see Black women in the public eye who are not attached to a rich man, be soft or adorned with no high critique or backlash. The best we’ve gotten are these series of reality tv shows. But, even the majority of those showcase eligible women fighting over men. Not the other way around. As a 32-year-old Black woman, it was essential to see the opposite for several reasons. One, we are consistently told that after a certain age, we become less desirable. Two, desirability and Black women seem to be an anomaly of a concept. So the wide display of it, makes us feel seen and successful just like all the others that are held to high poise in the media. The show, hosted by Taye Diggs presented a dose of nostalgia that was appreciated, and reminded me of my childhood, in the way that my inner child was able to digest a different kind of relationship. The younger man-older woman dynamic was always presented in a “suga mama” kind of way. Intimacy not included. It was a healing that I didn't know I needed until I was older. But the very loud notion of “you're still beautiful at any age and eternal youth is a myth” sunk deep in my psyche until I needed it.
Sparkle mentioned that she decided to close on her widely successful business to focus on herself and her son, and what better way to ground herself than to do it on a gorgeous island with handsome prospects vying for her attention? We’re taught to do the opposite a lot of the time. Rapper, 50 Cent, said, “Depression is a luxury”. And the more that quote mulls over in my mind, the more explicit I feel like he should've been when he said it. He alluded to the fact that when you're depressed and broke you can't afford to stay in bed all day until you feel better. So those that can, often have some sort of resource to go and get their other needs taken care of while they pull their emotions out of the hurricane. But I had wished that he also said, that luxury starts with no longer operating in survival mode to recognize that you're depressed in the first place. Black households of today are the group that acknowledges mental illness and emotional instability. So the idea of rest is foreign to the lot of us. Entrepreneurship in itself has been bottled and sold as a thankless journey for long periods, that rest for the rich. So to get to the pinnacle of the success that eight-year-old Sparkle dreamed of and decide, no, I'm working on me now, is a flex. The catalyst to her journey was her ability to do it in a beautiful place she was probably paid to be at and cleanse in front of the world to see.
Why do opposites attract?
What would an older person want with a younger person anyhow?
I’ll tell you.
To be reminded of what it was to be childlike.
At some point in different walks of life, those that are going forward yearn to go back and vice versa. Life keeps adults busy with all of its elements. Seemingly, the more elements you add -the further you remove the innocent nature of your adolescence. As I watched on, I witnessed Sparkle get more and more driven to the purity of her ultimate choice, Steven. Her initial purser, Akio, had it all together. Focused, driven, and had complete confidence in who he was with experience to match. Yet, that only held Sparkle’s attention for a short time until she began to make Stevens's acquaintance. Your inner child knows what it needs, but it takes for you to truly allow yourself to be vulnerable and impressionable to hear that hollow void. There is something intimate to be said about wanting to connect to the child within. Black women are often the products of parentification, generational curses, and unrealistic expectations. We don't get to be children for very long. Life circumstances somehow always force maturity on us before our time. God forbid you're a firstborn Black girl, you're doomed from the start. We are the poster child for third parents. A lot of what we learn is taught to us by a traumatic experience, so when we get to teach others from such- we see the child in them and speak to it.
Happiness, enjoyment, fun, laughter, selfishness-we relinquish those things being pertinent early on without realizing because adults are often the contrary and adulthood waits on us at the door of unfavorable circumstances. Now don't mistake it, this isn't a woe is me I’m a Black woman piece by far. More of a declaration that it's time for shit to change and those changes start within us. There’s a trend on Tiktok right now playing into the reality that when Black women get bored, instead of taking a trip or learning a new language, we enroll in school. Be that as it may, it's a testament to how we have an issue relaxing. It takes vulnerability to look at all you’ve done and believe in your spirit that it's enough that you're enough. A lot of our biggest regrets as we maneuver through the lives we’ve built come from the building said lives to the accommodation of others. A downward spiral follows resentment forms and somehow we wind up in a life that doesn't want love, intimacy, or anything in between. We long for peace by any means necessary. That inner child has been quieted by architectural mind-craft because pain won before the finish. Grand opening, grand closing. By the time Sparkle got her high school diploma she had her own place, and 2 cars was married at 19 and pregnant at 22.
Life comes at you fast.
If the pandemic taught us nothing, it showed us how fickle time is. This life has so many twists and turns that we will all go through and grow through. But it is up to us to look at things from a child-like perspective. My son is 2. I’ve watched him make conscious decisions to get good at numerous things because of pure consistency and determination. Not because his parents want him to do it, not because he’s pressured to complete his task or risk failing in the long run, his drive is pure want. My son is reading, spelling, and identifying shapes, numbers, colors, animals, and objects. These are the things that interest him, so he goes after them. It seems so simple when we look at small people who we think have no fears. When the reality is, they are the most fearful. Children don't understand anything around them when they first go at it, but what they do know is that no matter what happens, there are people that love me and are going to see to it that I'm ok. So they push on. Children are so vulnerable to everything around them because they are so impressionable, but they hold no inhibitions. They don't “have fun”, they just live and fun occurs.
In my formative years, my confidence was shaken by someone I looked up to and trusted. It's taken me a long time to recover. Our inner child is begging us to recover, to just live and let fun occur. We have the power to create the lives we long for, I challenge you to think back to 8-year-old you. If there was anything that you could do to make that small person, still figuring out how to wade these waters, experience an easier progression in any facet.
Could you do it?