The invitation reads:
“This year's theme is BAD BITCHES. I'm talking killer kool, fashion-forward, strong women in real life and fiction! Everyone from Harriet Tubman to Grace Jones, from Storm to Beatrix Kiddo, from Catwoman to Jessica Rabbit, from Angelina Jolie to Nicki Minaj, from Emma Frost to Claire Underwood, from Erykah Badu to Buffy Summers, from Angela Davis to Lara Croft.”
Seeing that Harriet Tubman made the list helps my bad attitude improve a little. Anyway, I have to go. I ought to be grateful that Kenya, a 34-year-young man, wants this 64-year-old at his party. And I haven’t seen him in 10 years. Also, this party is a great opportunity to reunite with Kenya’s mother, Madilyn, an outrageously brilliant designer—and fun to be around.
In the month before the party, I labor over who to go as. Madam CJ Walker? Harriet Tubman? Frida Kahlo? Getting their wardrobes together seems complicated, costly, and requires more magic than I can conjure.
The night before the party, an idea alights on my shoulder. Go as a gypsy! From my closet I pick out a printed strapless top and mate it with a printed skirt that doesn’t match, and together it looks crazy. I take yet another unmatching print fabric and wrap it high on my head. Next I pile on all the jewelry my neck can hold, and rather than try to choose which bracelet looks the best, I slap on all my favorites.
Don’t have any face paint, but I figure acrylic paint should hold up long enough. I choose my favorite Tarot cards and put them in a cloth bag that I sling across my shoulders, which are dusted with glitter. Lastly, I grab the red shoes I revved up in a workshop.
I go to the mirror expecting to have a good laugh and perhaps a directive to peel off some of the jewelry. To my shock, surprise, and amazement I look like myself. Oh my goddess! I am a bad bitch! The revelation floors me. However, I proudly gather myself and walk out the door floating through the street to the number three train, then sit reading as if I am lounging in my living room.
When I was a teenager, an older girl told me I had on too many necklaces, so I peeled them off on the spot and never made the mistake again until I met an artist named Onnie Millar, whose signature style incorporated many pieces of jewelry. As an artist, my motto is “no such thing as too much,” but I try not to stand out too much in my everyday life.
The Bad Bitch Birthday was a summons for me to stop hiding and envision myself as my full-out self rather than cowering in the safety and security of conformity to the tribe. I will not necessarily dress every day as I did for the party—I’m usually dashing out—however, I can accept and approve of myself for what is unique, outrageous, unconventional, and free about me. I can show myself mighty, show myself strong, and show myself awesome.