It began like many other nights. After grabbing drinks with a potential new addition to my dating roster, I stopped by my S.O.’s house. I walked into his room, where I found him half-ass cleaning, kicked off my shoes, and sat down on his bed, criss-cross-applesauce style. I hadn’t seen him in three days. His energy seemed a bit more distant than usual, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. As I looked around the room, my eyes fell on the root of the weird vibes: a used condom. I knew for a fact that it wasn’t connected to me. It was a slap in the face so hard I felt every drop of the IPAs I’d just drank dry up from my bloodstream.

I needed a few moments to think. Ryan* and I had agreed to be nonmonogamous, so I knew eventually the day would come when he would sleep with someone else. But I wasn’t prepared to find out about it this way.

I stepped out to get water from the kitchen, and by the time I returned, the condom was gone. I was suddenly unsure what to say. My shock turned into self-doubt. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ryan’s decision to engage with someone else resulted from me not being enough.

But then my feelings whipped into anger. Leaving a used condom on your bedroom floor for days is gross enough, but leaving it there for me to see is downright disrespectful. Ryan knew I was on the way over and would eventually see the evidence. Even more, when I brought it up, he was unapologetic and unembarrassed.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this mess, but I knew I had to handle the situation with caution. I didn’t want to “overexpress” myself and be labeled as the angry black woman. Although he had never called me that, he had accused me of being all over the place emotionally. I have no doubt that if this were to have turned into a larger discussion, the conversation would have quickly became heated, resulting in him dismissing me to go home and disengage.

Are black women supposed to refrain from speaking out against bullshit? Are we expected to bow down to our partners without speaking our minds? I refuse to participate in that.

But I am not an angry black woman. In fact, no black woman should ever be called or be worried about being called that. We are human, so like most people who’ve ever lived, we experience a full range of emotions. I’m generally pretty happy, but of course, I can be a crybaby, and at other times I can get mad as hell.

“Angry” is not the only descriptor assigned to black women. See also: aggressive, unattractive, hypersexual, and unlovable. It’s 2019, and yet we are still subject to ancestral trauma surrounding dated stereotypes. Let society tell it, and I’m an adversarial bitch who will get all in your face if I have a problem. But I am far from confrontational. If you’ve never had the pleasure of learning the depths and intricacies of black women, you may be blind to our magic. You shouldn’t be.

When the world looks at me, many don’t see a multi-dimensional being, but a skin color and gender. The people I’m dating too sometimes judge my personality by my physical characteristics. The stereotypes I encounter make it harder for me to fall in love wholeheartedly. To invalidate a black woman’s feelings, write her reactions off as irresponsible, and not listen to where she’s coming from is emotionally abusive. Having that stereotype over your head can make it hard to express yourself in most social settings, but especially in dating.

Are black women supposed to refrain from speaking out against bullshit? Are we expected to bow down to our partners without speaking our minds? I refuse to participate in that. Hell yeah I get angry. You’d be mad, too, if your partner wasn’t meeting you with the same energy you knew you deserved, if someone’s inability to love you was based on false assumptions, if your demographic was suffering the most from the wage gap, and if your potential soulmate was locked away for some petty marijuana charge.

Every day, black women deal with these disparities and are told that they are not allowed to be themselves, but instead must conform. Well, the landscape is changing. The black women in my life are refusing to put up with anyone’s bullshit or anyone who’s stopping us from achieving success, happiness, and peace. My sisters and I are out here meditating, saging our spaces, and focusing on healing. Worrying about how the world sees us is the last thing we have time for. We don’t care what you think, because we know how amazing we are.

To my black sisters, I wish someone would have told me this earlier, so I’m telling it to you now. Coming into yourself is a journey that I’m still processing. Am I wrong to (still) feel anger about the condom? Of course not, but I wish I would have said something then and there. I thought that being understanding would make me seem more like an agreeable partner for the long-term, but in reality, it made me feel weak and lesser than. File this under illogical thinking that I’m unlearning.

I’ve started to understand that emotions come and go. Sometimes you have to sit with them and let them pass, and other times you have to stand up for yourself and put your foot down. If you don’t feel comfortable enough with your partner to express yourself fully, look inside to see where that struggle comes from, address it, and practice open communication with yourself and your mate. It’s okay to take up space. You have the full right to do so, and you become stronger by it. The alternative is your mind, body, and soul deteriorating under the pressure of being bottled in. This isn’t serving you, which in turn isn’t serving anyone else. The world is much better when black women are in full form, being their whole selves, and speaking their truths.  

*Name has been changed.