This morning I happily decided to do my laundry, which is very strange for me since I detest doing this chore. I especially don’t like it when the laundromat is crowded. What possessed me to do it on a Saturday when everyone in Canarsie would be there? However, today was my lucky day. I was one of three people there. I was putting my clothes in the dryer, when I overheard the words,”I’m an independent woman!” I looked up and smiled at the young woman who had said it with such conviction. She was directing her words to a young man who was flirting with her, and trying to get her to like him. He responded,”I like to take care of women, and pamper them. I like them to be themselves,” to which she shot down, and said, “I don’t like being pampered. I don’t like it when people do things for me.” I internally laughed at the exchange, and at the courting that I was experiencing in the laundromat.
I walked away, and continued on with my business. It so happens that she also disclosed to the young man’s dismay that she had a boyfriend who had tagged her “sistah souljah” after the out spoken recording artist/activist. She seemed so proud of it.
The young man got the point of her dis-interest in him, and stepped out to make a phone call. While I moved my clothes to the folding table, she ended up putting her clothes next to mine. I turned to her, and said, “I understand what you mean. I was thinking this morning that my independence is one of my strengths, but not everyone sees it that way. I’ve been told that it appears as if I don’t need anyone or that there’s no place in my life for someone who wants to be there for me.” She smiled and explained to me that she has always taken care of herself, and doesn’t depend on anyone. The young man then walked back in and joined in the friendly conversation. I then asked her if her mother had been a single mom, to which she said yes. Then she stopped folding, and made a mental connection. She told us that she was raised by her mother who had taught her how to be self-sufficient. So not to make her feel even more uncomfortable, I shared that my mother had raised me the same way. My father was an alcoholic and not always ‘there’, so my mother had been the sole provider whenever he would go astray. I learned it as a good habit to do everything for myself, but that it also didn’t allow me to accept help from anyone.
It wasn’t until hurricane Sandy when I lost so much that I had to allow myself to take gifts from people on an emotional, spiritual and material level — from monetary, to a shoulder to cry on, and even having a place to sleep. So I asked her if her boyfriend tries to help her out. She claimed that he gets very upset because he wants to buy her things, and that she always says no. I laughed and said, “You’re a dream come true to any man!”
I then explained to her what I’ve learned these past six months. “There are two kinds of people — givers and receivers. Those who are givers like to do it because it makes them happy. It’s a part of them. It’s second nature like waking up every day. To them, making someone smile is like winning the lottery, especially when they love that person. By not allowing your boyfriend to give you things, you’re denying him that little happiness that he so deserves as well. To accept a gift doesn’t mean that we are charity or that we need help. It simply means that we deserve it because we give so much to others.”
She fully understood what I meant, and then said, “Oh wow, I had no idea I was affecting him that way. He’s an extremely caring person, so he gets upset when I say no. You’re right, I do deserve it.” As she walked out she said, “I will call him right now, and tell him that I need help with my student loans and that I need a new pair of shoes!” We both laughed. She winked, and told me that she hoped to see me around. The young man also walked out with her, and said to me happily, “I’m a giver.”
I did a little more than laundry today. The young woman walked out with plans to allow her boyfriend to give to her, and the young man was happy to learn his role in the giver-receiver realm.