For years, the kitchen and I didn’t mix well. I used to hate cooking. I wasn’t very good at it, which mildly wounded my ego. It took ages to prep the ingredients — chopping multiple vegetables felt like hard labor — and after all the effort required to make the meal, the pleasure of eating was diluted by the dirty dishes that would have to be dealt with later.
So, I ate out. I ordered in. I helped myself to whatever my aunt, whom I lived with in my early 20s, had made. I wasted money and I missed out on joy, because as I learned years later, there’s a particular sweetness to cooking for oneself.
These days, after long hours at work, I take solace in slicing, sautéing and seasoning. I feel a sense of pride when I follow a recipe and the final product looks like the stylized picture I spied on a cooking blog.
Soon, I’ll be sharing a home, and a kitchen, with my partner, who is moving from Chicago to join me in Washington, D.C.
Who will shop, who will chop? Who will helm the stovetop? Will the process be more sublime, or more complicated, with two cooks?
My bet is on the former, but even if it takes some time to find our rhythm, I can’t wait to break bread together, in a shared home, for the very first time.
That’s what’s been on my mind. What’s on yours?
The Lily is providing glimpses into women’s lives through a new limited series:
We’d like to feature voices from vastly different generations, so we’re asking those ages 21 and younger and 65 and older to tell us about a subject that’s been consuming their thoughts.
Four women responded below. If you’d like to contribute to a future installment of On My Mind, do let us know.
Take a picture. Take 100 more. Narrow them down. Send them to a group chat. Wait for votes. Select the one. Ask for caption ideas. Veto a joke. Veto a meme reference. Veto a Drake lyric. Veto an inspirational quote. Beg for better ideas. Apologize for being picky. Feel embarrassed for being shallow. Post the picture. No caption. Lock your phone. Unlock your phone. Check for likes. Refresh. Check for comments. One comment.
“Oh, no caption? That’s how you feel?”
What do you say when you don’t say anything; when you present yourself without commentary?
Social media has provided us with the opportunity to be creative and clever every day. There’s hardly any better place to practice copywriting. For those who like to write, who like to keep their finger on the pulse of the culture and who like to capture “content,” writing captions is a great exercise.
They prove that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, or that we have interesting perspectives. They suggest that there’s more to us than the physical manifestations of a selfie portfolio; that we have something to say, too.
They’ve become important to us. Not just their function, but their form. Google “good Instagram captions” and scroll through the hundreds and hundreds of listicles written to help you out.
Captions are meant to describe. As a journalism student, the editor of our student newspaper, I can confidently say that I know how to write a caption. A good one, for that matter. I’ve captioned photos of presidential candidates, of game-winning basketball plays and of 10-day student protests.
So lately, I’ve been avoiding it all together.
Here’s me. That’s it, that’s the post. No caption needed.
But does that read as lazy? Does it imply that I have nothing to say? Does it suggest that I’m not clever or creative? Does it mean I think I’m above captioning? Does it mean anything at all? Probably not.
As America commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans to the English colonies in 1619, Fredonia, my great-great-grandmother, has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I first heard her name uttered a couple of decades ago, while researching my family lineage. The more I learned about Fredonia, the more I felt her spirit embody me. She became my mentor, my counsel, an encouraging voice in my ear urging me to remember her name, to share her story.
In 1850, people of color were listed by name in the U.S. Census for the first time. According to the census, Fredonia (Jona) Parrish was born in 1840 in Virginia. Fredonia had been enslaved for 25 years when emancipated. She, and others, struggled to comprehend what this new freedom meant. Left on their own to be self-sufficient, the Parrish family eked out a living as sharecroppers in Aberdeen, Miss. — despite the added burden of Black Codes and Jim Crow.
I would have siphoned all the knowledge I could glean about Fredonia and the period in which she lived. As fate would have it, the flame, which was destined to spark an insatiable interest in my ancestral lineage, had not yet been ignited.
Left with what I believed to be sparse evidence, my search to uncover the essence of Fredonia’s life was challenging, but eventually fruitful. I discovered a photo of Fredonia and used information from primary sources to piece together her life story.
A voice whispered, “Remember my name; share my story.”
It has become my life’s work.
I co-founded The International Society of Sons & Daughters of Slave Ancestry in 1997. ISDSA is a nonprofit lineage society that pays homage to formerly enslaved African Americans by ensuring they become more than mere footnotes in history.
These extraordinary people lived during extraordinarily turbulent times. They deserve to be remembered not only for their contributions to American history but, most importantly, because they are family.
I spend a fairly significant portion of my time thinking about my fake Instagram. Called “finstas” by the youth, these private social media accounts are largely misunderstood by those who aren’t young, hip or neurotic enough to have one (Fox News, which discovered the existence of finstas earlier this month, predicts that the trend could jeopardize “how teens perceive reality”). In simple terms, a finsta is a secondary Instagram account whose following is restricted to one’s “closest” friends — that is, people who you’re pretty sure won’t snitch on you if you just so happen to run for president in 30 years.
In the age of social media, who we are online — the personas we project through our “real” social media accounts — can feel as important as who we are in real life. We clean our social media presence of anything that isn’t our best, most polished self.
Obviously my best self is Me: tastefully filtered, only minorly edited, “candidly” laughing, effortlessly clutching the coffee that I bought just for this photo so that I could have something to hold so my arm doesn’t look fat. Oh yeah, and it always happens to be golden hour. At least that’s what my Instagram presence suggests.
Sure, it’s low-key fun to cultivate a perfected image of yourself — Instagram has enfranchised everyone to become a model.
Finstas are what social media would be in an ideal world: genuine, honest content shared with the only people whose opinions actually matter to us. They function like diaries, where our deepest, darkest tendencies are given free rein to overshare. This results in a lot of ugly selfies of one crying, stories about spilling coffee on oneself in public, and long-winded sagas about the people who never text one back. There’s something undeniably beautiful about co-opting a platform that is innately public to project the realities of your life that are painfully private and purposefully mediocre.
They’re just a bunch of pictures of us being sad and unabashedly owning our failures. And perhaps that is scarier for some #adults to believe.
Something on my mind at age 85? Well, it might be called much ado about nothing. It’s so easy to become totally self-absorbed in this period of life.
Important loves, children, divorces, death and the years all seem to dull and melt together into memories, acceptance and adaptation. Health issues now lurk and loom in the background.
No matter how much we tell the youth about how we have been through this and that, we are aware it falls upon deaf ears. A real concern of mine is watching how we are now being dragged down, accepting the normalcy of hate, name-calling, belittling and lies as part of our daily lives. But oh, how good it feels to see so many women standing up to be heard and counted.
I’m a patient advocate at a rural nursing home. Daily, I’m reminded how lucky I am to still be active and alert — and, most importantly, able to positively contribute to others’ lives. There’s no greater gift at this point in my life. I believe the desire to help others became part of me when I served as a Navy medic during the Korean War.
Do I have a message of wisdom from living all these years? If I did, it might be what has worked for me: to march to the music we hear and to keep on swimming upstream. That’s not original or complex, but simplicity has always worked well for me.