Beyonce is a Woman, and Women Like Her Can Not Be Contained
I said to someone recently “I’m willing to take my chances”. I know that’s all I have, and my chances (choices) sometimes boomerang hard and fast. Who knew Beyonce has fucking problems too.
Like many of you (I assume based on the cross section of people I deal with in my life), I’m obsessed with Lemonade. I can’t claim to be Beyonce’s biggest fan or anything – other than her hits I really began to notice her last year when a friend put “7/11” on a playlist for our lake trip. I’m not usually into edgy sounding (are you getting I don’t know what is edgy in this genre?) dance music but that one really grew on me (how FUCKING cool is that video?) and I got into the rest of Beyonce when the need arose very quickly after that trip. I needed upbeat empowerment. Yeah, I had Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora (“Black Widow” and “Work”), Demi Lovato (“Confident”), Zara Larsson (“Lush Life”) and even a little Hailee Steinfeld (“Love Myself”) in my playlist – that’s how badly I had to brainwash myself into thinking I’d someday not be the pathetic mess that had replaced the confident sexy vixen I’d been. This is the fallout of romantic rejection on a powerful woman. Tell yourself in the mirror honey, “I love you, and I’ll always be there for you.” It’s sad but it works – and you have to make it true. Oh yeah, Ryan Adams singing the entire Taylor Swift “1989” album… that really suited me.
More than a companion to these other female pop stars – Beyonce was my queen. Not just with Beyonce, but with Nicki Minaj on “Feeling Myself” and with Destiny’s Child. I always fantasized about doing an “Independent Woman” parody featuring myself washing my car at a self serve, carrying groceries, and sexily mowing a lawn.
Then, Lemonade. A friend gushed to me about it the day after the film was released on HBO. I was tired from my two jobs and we were hiking and talking, a little bit, about dudes and the need to get laid. “They’re just so dumb,” I said. “I really sometimes think all I need them for is sex, but they can’t even handle that.” I love men. Really. But I have everything I need, other than sex (intimacy!), because I don’t think one of them is ever going to take care of me. So I finally buy Lemonade the next day and I begin listening, but I don’t manage to watch the entire film until a few days later. I find myself in tears at the end of “All Night Long”, because I can’t believe Beyonce is still with Jay-Z.
Obviously Lemonade is about so much more than a marriage and infidelity, real or imagined, and I can’t stop reading articles about everything it means. It takes the synchronized (by Bey herself) contributions of so many artists to make such a piece of work. It’s also about more than womanhood – though I take this message from it so intensely seriously – it’s about being a marginalized American black woman of course. I think – even Beyonce deals with this shit, this relationship shit, this gender-specific shit. We are women – she is sexy, she is a parent (mother), she is smart like a fucking whip, she is a badass, she “gives you life”, she is still grinding with no pants on at thirty four after giving birth, she has piles and piles of paper. I love her. In other words, she is everything that is traditionally a man.
In the end of Lemonade, Beyonce claims that true love has saved the day. I am left wondering, do we ever really fall in love? Or do we just fall in lust that sometimes lasts for years? Then that link is broken, or tired, and is it just whatever we brainwash ourselves into to keep a relationship together? I wonder this about myself. Never one to stray, but also not one to stay, my relationships always ended when I got bored and frustrated. I finally told myself, as an adult in my thirties, that people stay together because they want to and decide to. If this is unconditional love, I tried to practice it, albeit on someone I had such a burning lust for I could validate my own devotion easily. I still ached for his body even when I hated every word that came out of his mouth, and for months after he gracelessly and abruptly ended things. Seeing him with another woman (flagrantly) was the cruelest backwash of our ending, because what did we have if not the strongest of physical bonds – which I thought was an ephemeral issue of our love? It seemed clear then, nothing.
Despite never being cheated on (to my knowledge), the betrayal aspect of Lemonade strikes me the hardest. It’s so difficult to believe a man you get on your knees in limos for would actually need something sexually from another woman – especially if one aspect of your connection is that transcendent kind of “we’re in love” sex that accompanies deeply intimate relationships. No matter how much she kept it sexy and fun, and had her own money, and no matter how easy it is for her man compared to when a man had to really support a woman and her children (giving him more of a license to stray) – it doesn’t matter. Even Beyonce gets cheated on.
Here’s the thing though – what I get from Lemonade is that Beyonce fixed everything that Jay-Z fucked up by forgiving his betrayal – by loving more deeply. Her power seems to be claiming that only true love is real and her husband’s transgressions are the object of a problem greater than them. But of course she has to be the one powerful enough to know this, if it is true. She saves the fucking day in her marriage, her love overcomes the pride of her much older husband, she is stronger than everyone. Which is to say, she loves more than anyone, and harder, more painfully.
I want to think it’s noble: forgiveness, and repairing something, and unconditionally loving a flawed man who has cheated on you with another woman (and by Dan Savage’s rules if people asked permission before they cheated, maybe we could make all this stuff ok) but – why are women the ones that have to be strong? Why do we have to do everything? Every angry moment of the first part of Lemonade resonates with me – the doubt, the denial, the beast awakening into absolute rage on my favorite track “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. As the redemption process begins there’s a birth, things change, Beyonce comes out in the end a different woman, and as is pointed out in this article, the sex is still there but it’s different now – it means something again now, after it’s been used both to maintain a man and betray a woman. It’s sacred, like most people agree it is when you love the person you’re with.
The times I’ve climbed out of despair, of that burning rage that comes with the most betrayal-laded heartbreak, in my mind I’m a phoenix rising, with new stuff in my closet and jewelry around my neck and probably some of my comfortable “boyfriend” weight melted from my hips. I emerged alone. Never did I transform and come back to that same man, whether he wanted me to or not. Part of me just wishes Beyonce would “bounce to the next dick”. Because what else can we really count on?
To quote poetry from Lemonade read by Beyonce… “why are you afraid of love?” I think, we all know why.