When you need a helping hand, who do you call?
If you’re a Bonnie, you have a Clyde (the man you’re riding for). And, you also have a crew (the one or two women who ride with you). You’re a ride-or-die chick so you’d think you’re list was long. Yet, ironically, it isn’t. Why is that?
It’s because Bonnies are rock-till-they-drop enablers. It’s common for Bonnies to feel really lonely and really tired. Most often, though, Bonnies feel lonely. Many women who embody the Bonnie Lover Identity work so hard, so long, and for so many people that they also make it so easy for others to forget their needs, dismiss their frailties, and miss clues that they need a helping hand, an unselfish ear, and a place to rest. They work through strained, fake smiles and tightly clenched fists, ignoring their real preferences and needs. So, the people around them don’t acknowledge their real preferences and needs either. The people surrounding Bonnies don’t know anything about a Bonnie’s real preferences and needs.
Because of these imbalances, inequities, and emotional drain, if you’re a Bonnie, you also try very, very hard to keep under control a low-grade anger that threatens to erupt on a much more regular basis than you admit.
You’re furious and exhausted.
Really furious and really exhausted.
You know what I mean.
If you’re a Bonnie, you “take care of your man” in a lot of ways.
He is your child.
You pay his bills (on the low), you cook his food (to order), do his laundry (regularly), run his errands (weekly, if not daily), and help him with his work (maybe you got him that job or cleaned up his credit?)…that is, if he works at all.
You listen to his sob stories, encourage him, motivate him, direct, order, and decorate his world. You make excuses for him.
All the time.
So, the fury and anger inside you comes out at him in your bursts of temporary strength (e.g. the times you yell and tell him about himself…right before his pleading starts and he finds a way back in). Or, your fury and anger comes out at anyone who suspects that you’re really a prop. You’re being pimped. You’re not a partner.
You know who “anyone” is. Anyone is any person who can see the reality of your relationship because the signs are showing through the holes in the curtain you hide behind. You don’t want to be reminded of this. You don’t want anyone to really know what’s going on. So you lash out at anyone who has anything to say against your man or your relationship. And, you’re so angry.
You’re mad at him.
You’re mad at them.
You’re mad at it…the embarrassing spin you feel so stuck in…so sick in.
In truth though, none of this madness is the root of your tree. Swatting at him, them, and it is like swatting at speckled leaves, hoping to stop a disease.
The root of your disease – your fury, anger, and madness – isn’t outside anywhere. It’s not with anyone else.
The root of your disease – your fury, anger, and madness – is inside you. It’s with you.
You know everything you don’t admit.
You know you’re the one dressing up, and propping up, an able and capable adult. You know you’re doing this based on a sense of obligation that you can’t trace. You know this sense of obligation can be manipulated by his voice, his touch, his guilting, or mind tricks. Your desperation to please is triggered almost instantly by his, “please, baby, please” or, “I need you baby” or his, “Come on, you know I’d be lost without you, babe.”
You may be confused by your anger because you were told that this is what women do for men. You saw your mom do it and your grandmother too. Your aunties did it and the older women you were raised with modeled the way.
You were taught to be a Bonnie for your Clyde.
You were told it was the way to win…win the respect and devotion of a man, and therefore, win the Get One & Keep One game of supremacist patriarchy.
No one told you it was just a story though.
When I say it’s a story, I really mean it’s a story. The construction of this intimate partner dynamic is taken from the infamous “Bonnie and Clyde” allegory. The Bonnie identity means living out a feminine ascription that is at once loyal to the death, dependent without question, and yet very resourceful in her own right.
In a supremacist patriarchal society, a Bonnie is considered a valuable partner in romantic relationships because she is strong enough to “have her own stuff” and devoted enough to give it all to her man, and their relationship, at his request, and by his direction.
She is “gangsta” in this way of being. While this designation makes a Bonnie a desired partner for a striver, a hustler, or an infantilized man, it also makes her a potential victim of socioemotional and psychological abuse (i.e. terror in love). This happens because decisions about how to capitalize on her gifts, talents, and resources are not left to her reasoning and devices. She must abandon such independence to don the title, Bonnie. She is told she must do this to not be alone. She is told she is must do this to be worthy of love.
You were told the same thing, sold the same tattered dream, fed the same poison.
No one told you you had a choice or that there are other ways to love and be loved…ways that would not make you sad and sick.
Ways that would not kill you.
Which brings me back to my original questions:
Are you a Bonnie? Who’s got your back?
When you need a helping hand, whom do you call?
If you don’t know, you’re in deep and there’s a way out. There are stories with infinitely happier endings. It’s not too late. You’re not exempt. You can read a new course and write a new way. Contact me today and I’ll show you how
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language & African American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, spring 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.