Author: Deesha Philyaw

a yellow telephone from the 1970s/80s

Making Prank Calls: Finding Retribution as a Kid in the 80s

Growing up, I was a good kid. Forever on honor roll, obedient, well-mannered, and respectful. The kind of kid teachers in the late 70s and early 80s left in charge of the classroom when they had to step out for a moment. The kid who wielded that piece of chalk like a weapon and wouldn’t hesitate to write your name on the board if you made a sound or got out of your seat, in the teacher’s absence. So I guess it would be more accurate to say I was a full-fledged goodie two shoes back then. Rules were meant to be followed. And I learned early on in elementary school that following the rules and getting good grades was an easy way to stay in the teachers’ good graces. And staying in teachers’ good graces was important to me — until sixth grade when I had a teacher who had disdain for the kids who got good grades. Some of us overheard Mrs. K* tell another teacher that she didn’t like the weekly gifted-and-talented …

Nope, It Doesn’t Need to be Steamed, Sprayed or Douched

A few years ago, I was talking with a relative and the talk turned to douches. I don’t remember how we got on this subject, but there we were, biding our time at the grownup table of a kid’s laser tag birthday party, talking about vaginal cleanliness. I was saying that while I had previously douched every month at the end of my period, I had stopped because it gave me a fire crotch of yeast infections. I had even given up the long, super-hot baths that I loved. “Wait…you don’t douche?” my relative asked, her voice full of judgment. She side-eyed me. She might have even sniffed the air in my vicinity; I couldn’t be sure. She’s only about seven years older, but suddenly I felt like I was talking to my mother or my grandmother, the women who raised me. Growing up, a hot water bottle with a hose and applicator attached always hung inside the shower in our bathroom. At some point, I must’ve asked what it was for and was told …

Horses run free in Mexico

Fear and Fresh Air: How Two Trips to Mexico Set Me Free

My lifelong bad habit of not reading the fine print has been rivaled only by my bad habit of ignoring relationship red flags. Ignoring the fine print landed my acrophobic ass on a pissed-off horse on the edge of a cliff in Mexico. Ignoring red flags landed me in a second marriage that should not have been a second date. I survived both situations. But only now, nearly four years after that trip to Mexico and nearly three years after I left that marriage, do I realize how the former set the stage for the latter. To be honest, the fine print wasn’t really fine. All the pertinent text was the same font size on the horseback riding adventure company’s website. I just didn’t give much thought to what “exciting and rugged” and “our horseback rides are definitely not nose-to-tail, unless you choose so,” might actually mean. And I failed to register just how high “150-foot cliffs” are. I just booked a reservation for three, my daughters and me, and looked forward to riding a …

9 Books for a Better World

Let’s face it: The ’10s have been quite the shitshow of a decade. Given the sad state of our democracy, extrajudicial police killings, and the reinvigoration of fascism and white supremacy, never before have I wished so hard for peace on Earth and goodwill toward humanity. So, as a firm believer in the transformative power of a good book, I invite you to roar your way through the ’20s, starting with these deep, daring, delicious reads.  1. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman Did you know that at the beginning of the twentieth century, young Black women in New York and Philly sparked a radical cultural movement defined by free love, queer relations, and alternative forms of cohabitation, intimacy, and kinship bonds? Neither did I, until I read this aching, gorgeous, brilliant book. Hartman spins painstaking research into gold that reads like fiction. It is at once scholarly and literary, imaginative and the hardest truths. $28.95, wwnorton.com 2. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani PerryAt a time when Black children’s lives are …