From lost to found: Exploring Rose in ‘Fences’

roseThere can be no discussion of Rose without first acknowledging the amazing job Viola Davis did in making her real. Of course the text was gold, but her performance of it took the words off the page and injected them directly into our hearts.

Against the big, booming backdrop that is Troy, Rose could easily disappear. She could settle into his shadow and live there, only emerging when it suits him. But she doesn’t. More than the stereotype of a 1950s housewife, she has a full presence and functions as the tether that brings Troy back to earth, even when he doesn’t want to be pulled. For example, when he romanticizes the loss of his baseball career, imagining himself the victim of some grand racist robbery, Rose points out that it was his age, not his color, that kept him out of the big leagues. And she does it in a plain and matter-of-fact way that suggests she is accustomed to speaking her mind and refocusing his inflated narratives. It is clear she is no one’s yes woman.

But even in her fullness, Rose is empty. Though the audience learns a decent amount about Troy’s life (his childhood, his family, his friend Bono, his almost baseball career), we learn practically nothing of Rose except that she was looking for the “marrying kind.” Her goal: get married (and not have half-siblings in her family). That is all we know of her. Is it that she has no backstory? No, but the absence of her history is a representation of how completely she’s poured herself into him. As she says in her famous monologue:

I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams . . . and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom. But I held on to you, Troy.

Rose came into her marriage wanting to grow, wanting to create something that was equal parts her and him, but she soon discovered that her dream and her reality were not at all in line. Troy’s lacks the emotional maturity and nuance needed to understand that his wife has needs that go beyond the physical. It is not enough to hand over his weekly pay and “blast a hole into forever.” Rose wants a husband who can temper his big and brash with softness and connection, a Herculean task for a man who only had a brief bit of nurturing from his mother and a fractioned piece of love from his father. As hard as Troy loves Rose (and I doubt anyone would argue the opposite), he simply doesn’t know how to love beyond provision.

But the real loss Rose experiences is not Troy’s lack of softness, but his inability to offer her the feeling of completeness she never had growing up. That’s her biggest pain. It’s also her biggest mistake. Rose, like so many other women (and men too), looks to an external source to solve an internal issue. That never works. (It’s the Swiss cheese metaphor all over again.) We must always have our own foundation of contentment before we can expect someone else to build on it. Every woman must have a special part of her heart that beats only for her, responds only to her call. This isn’t selfish. It is an investment, a protection, a worthwhile commitment to give as much to ourselves as we do to others.

In this sense, Rose, mild-mannered and accommodating, is every woman. She represents the struggle between serving and preserving, between seeking and creating, between healing and being healed. She lives out on screen what we carry in our hearts, and as she makes discoveries about her decisions and motives, we viewers are encouraged, if not ordered, to make discoveries of our own.

It is the uproar and angry release of her popular “What about my life?” monologue that gets most people talking, but I was most struck by words she speaks to her son before Troy’s funeral:

When your daddy walked through the house he was so big he filled it up. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me. For my part in the matter. But at that time I wanted that. I wanted a house that I could sing in. And that’s what your daddy gave me. I didn’t know to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine. I did that. I took on his life as mine and mixed up the pieces so that you couldn’t hardly tell which was which anymore. It was my choice. It was my life and I didn’t have to live it like that.

This is where Rose blooms. Though Troy is certainly guilty of transgressions, she spends no time on blame and launches directly into an exploration of the choices she made that left her feeling empty. Such raw ownership is transformative. It marks the moment when she goes from victim to victor. Rose could easily get lost in the (rightful) sorrow of being loved so harshly, but she realizes there is no growth there. Growth comes only from an even understanding of the role she played in the events of her own life. From that, there can be fruit.

Because of this ownership, Rose is able to extract the good from her circumstances and file the rest under “lessons learned.” This is the lens that allows her to feel love for Raynell instead of rage and rancor. She is freed from the weight of blame and self-pity. I think maybe I should say that again. She is freed from the weight of blame and self-pity. Talk about a life-changing moment.

Can I even count the number of times in my own life where I’ve lulled myself into complacency with pitiful stories of how I’d been wronged? Never a moment of introspection, never an analysis of the decisions I’d made. Only tears and sorrow and imagined bound hands. And in all of those moments, every single one, I have been stagnant, fruitless and mediocre at best. With pain and struggle, it is only when I re-word my stories that I am able to achieve and thrive. I’ve been on this journey time and time again and if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably not done. It is a revolving door of self-discovery, a booby-trapped path I’ve yet to master.

But I don’t expect it to be easy. The transformation we watch Rose make in two hours is actually an abridgment of a six-year process that starts the day Troy comes clean. And had he not destroyed her in that way, perhaps she never would have been moved to truly find herself. So even in her heartache, she finds value. It is as if she is determined to let nothing befall her except that which she can use. Once Rose releases her pain and finds a peace that is enhanced by (and not drawn from) others, she is free to truly live. From that, there can be fruit.

~Nadirah Angail

A reflective reading of ‘Fences’

Preface: This movie has so many layers, I couldn’t possibly tackle it all at once. This focuses mostly on Troy’s character. I don’t even mention Rose. She’ll need a whole post of her own.

fences*Loud exhale* And now, I feel complete. For years, I’ve seen snippets of the Fences stage play floating around the internet. In three- and five-minute bursts, I’ve watched James Earl Jones and Uncle Zel (that’s Denzel Washington to you) breathe life into August Wilson’s brutally honest dialogue on manhood, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why it was called Fences. Now I know. Now I get it. The circle is complete.

What is a fence other than an edifice of demarcation?  It is a way of publically claiming what is yours. It is a way of highlighting ownership, privacy, value. “This here is mine. Respect that.” Can you imagine why a poor black man in the early 1950s would want to make such a proclamation? Troy needed to prove, not so much to others but more so to himself, that he has done something in this world, that he has carved out a piece of it and created within a sum much greater than its parts. He needed something to define him, and that’s what fences do. But what about mental fences? How many of those have we built to separate ourselves from what we despise, only to find ourselves locked in with a destiny we thought we’d thrown away? Is that not what happens to Troy? Is that not what happens to all of us when we want better but don’t know how to achieve it?

If nothing else, Fences teaches us that we are not necessarily who we want to be, but only who we know how to be. That can be both a beautiful and scary thing. Our desires for ourselves can go no farther than our actions can carry us. And our actions, those sometimes nonsensical deeds and movements, are wrapped up in and intertwined with the muck and mire of everything we’ve experienced and seen. That’s heavy, man. And it adds meat to the bones of the dysfunctional relationships so many of us can’t help but to pass on and down.

Consider Troy, with his tall tales and big belly laughs. He left home at 14 to escape a hellish father he wanted no parts of. Troy describes him as a devil who chased away every woman he ever had, including Troy’s mother. Troy wanted to be the man his underdeveloped father couldn’t be, but how much better did he do? How successful was he in erecting that fence between himself and his mean ole daddy? Well, he never learned to read, became a thief, fathered Lyons at 19, spent 15 years in jail and ended up missing all his oldest son’s formative years. In turn, Lyons grows into a pained, underperforming man whose only solace is his music. Different circumstances, same loss.

Even after Troy marries Rose and becomes a better man, he still fathers his second son in a harsh and insensitive way that leaves young Cory feeling unliked and unwanted. Troy’s goal is to make Cory strong, prepare his dear son for an unforgiving world. But to Cory, it all feels so mean and unloving—just like Troy’s father. As hard as Troy tries to run, he doesn’t make it all that far. Right down to the vicious fight in the yard, he is his father’s son, fenced in for life. These are the cycles that preserve our misfortune and pain.

All Troy wants to do is steer Cory in a direction that will be fruitful. He wants him to achieve and succeed so he doesn’t reach the age of 53 and feel trapped in his own life, seeking out scraps of joy between the sheets of strange women and building hardwood fences in the hopes of keeping death at bay until he can become something worth mourning. But the message gets lost in translation. Between all the barking and braying, Troy forgets (or probably just doesn’t know) that a son needs his father to be soft, too.

To the viewer, it is clear that Troy loves his son. (Why else would he pour into him the importance of manhood? Why else would he offer to go half on a television?) But this is what we see from our perch far removed. To young Cory, insecure and searching, it feels like cuts and digs. It feels like a father slashing away at the budding wings of a son. And he’s too close to see that what he perceives as slashing is actually a form of building and sharpening. Flawed though it may be, it is Troy’s best effort to grow his seed. If only Troy knew that seeds need not only heat, but water, too.

But still, Troy is beautiful. Despite his rough edges and multitude of missteps, there lives in him a palpable love that no one could deny. What Fences does so amazingly well is incorporate the complexity of the human spirit. It shows that no one is a complete villain or victim. We are all but a mix of good and bad, of dignity and shame. We all struggle to blot out our own darkness with light. And sometimes we fail. Horrible and embarrassed and undignified, we let our weaknesses take root and move us to places we truly should never be.  Because we are meant to be golden. Pumping hearts and buzzing minds our confirmation, we are greater than we know. And so the embers of good will exist within us even if we don’t stoke them. Even if we stomp them out in a drunken rage, even if we muzzle our own calling to right, it will live. It will smolder and glow and softly rumble beneath, beckoning us back to our nature, back to what we were designed to be: upright and good.

That’s why Troy is able to have at least the tiniest bit of empathy for his father.  When he says to Bono and Lyons, “The only thing that was separating us was a matter of years,” he is recognizing that his father was young, immature and ill-prepared. And though it is not stated or even implied, it is safe to assume that he never received from his own father the type of love that he struggled to give Troy. This is the context that makes it possible for Troy to hold love for the “evil” man who bore him. He knows his father wasn’t meant to be that way. This is why he sings his father’s song with pride and zeal. This is why he drills into his children the lyrics of that song and points out its author every chance he gets. It is his way of recognizing the embers of good in his mean ole daddy.

In the end, it is his granddaddy’s song that gives Cory the perspective he’d been missing. It helps him see the bits of water that had all the while been mixed in with daddy’s heat. In singing that simple song about a dog named Blue, he realizes that his father really did the best he could with what he had. And so that fence he started building six years prior no longer needed to stand. That’s what healing looks like.  That’s where growth begins.

~Nadirah Angail

Kiss my tear ducts

zara
My daughter, Zara. She cries and she is strong.

A funny thing happens when water wells up in a woman’s eyes and—God forbid—falls out. It seems those tears, salty and shameful, trigger a mighty trumpet to blow, signaling to the world that weakness has arrived. Never mind the strength she’s had to develop just from living in a world that scrutinizes her so deeply. She is definitively weak. Her leaking eyes are my witness.

And though a woman’s tears they may look similar to regular, run-of-the-mill tears, know they are not. They belong in a class all their own, far away and separate from everyone else’s. Because other tears have meaning. They bring about empathy and compassion.  Baby tears, for example, are considered a valid form of communication. When a baby cries, people know there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Man tears are sweet, endearing, and sometimes sexy. Even whiny kid tears, which can be soooo annoying, get more love than the cleansing waters a woman produces. Silly me, here I was thinking all tears mattered.

Over the past week, I have been bombarded with comments regarding my “Mind your own womb” blog post. Though much of it was positive and quite moving, I was struck by the number of women who were upset with my “portrayal of women.” According to said comments, I made women look weak by suggesting that we cry all the time.

*Deep sigh*

First off, can we talk about the fact that I only mentioned three women in the whole post? There is a 30-year-old, a 34-year-old and a 40-year-old. That’s it. Sure, I mentioned various scenarios that I knew would apply to many different women, but at no point did I mean for this tiny group of ladies to be a symbolic stand-in for all womankind. The fact that so many people would assume this is, well, pretty crazy to me.

Second, can we talk about the fact that I only described these women as crying in response to this one particular, highly personal matter? At no point did I say that they cry all the time, every day, about everything. In fact, it seems it would make more sense to assume they spend most of their time NOT crying. But then, I wrote it, so perhaps I’m able to read into what others can’t.

Third, can we accept, claim and rejoice in the fact that crying is a natural and healthy part of the human emotional response? And though not all women are frequent criers, the ones who are have nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling many of these decriers who found fault with my portrayal probably consider themselves feminists. They probably felt like they were standing up for the portrayal and progression of women. Good for them. Please do stand up for what you believe in, but recognize that equating crying with weakness does nothing to further the cause of women. And recognize that crying is only considered weak because it is a so-called feminine trait. It crying were considered masculine, no one would have a problem with it, and they’d probably be encouraging us to do it more.

But guess what? I’m that type of feminist who doesn’t feel the need to take on so-called masculine traits to be valid. I’m the type of feminist who feels comfortable crying (or not crying) as much as my little heart needs to, and I recognize that different women handle different emotions differently. And I’m so cool with that.

But since you want to equate tears with weakness, let’s take a closer look at that. I’m reminded of my late aunt Umaimah Khalifah (may Allah have mercy on her soul), a true pillar of strength in my family. She died in 1999 and left a void no one could ever fill. Talk about strength. This is a woman who was always looking to help others, always looking to give—even when she didn’t have much herself. I remember it like yesterday. She would say, “If there’s enough for one, there’s enough for two.” Wasn’t no way you were coming in her house and not sharing whatever you had! She used to let a whole group of us, my cousins and I, come over her house to spend the night. She never complained, never seemed in a rush to send us back to our parents. Her heart was so full of love and kindness…and strength.

She was one of those “I only fear my Lord” sort of women. I remember she took all us kids to an amusement park once. It was probably around 5:30 pm or so and it was time for Asr (the 3rd daily prayer for Muslims). We just assumed we’d make it up when we got home, but she wasn’t having it. She found a nice spot in the grass and made us pray on time, right there in the park. While we were embarrassed and concerned about onlookers, she stood tall and unbothered. She didn’t care who looked or what anyone thought. My aunt would let no one interrupt her connection to God. She was loving, kind and unapologetically Muslim. And she was also a crier, a huge crier. She cried so much that her nickname was Boo. She’d cry if she hadn’t seen you in a while. She’d cry for happiness. She’d cry for sadness; it didn’t have to be her own.  She just felt things deeply, so much that water leaked from her eyes. I assure you, there is no weakness in that.

mamie
My aunt, Umaimah Khalifah, aka Boo

I’m also reminded of my own daughter, a nearly 7-year-old with a heart of gold. Like her great-aunt, she feels things deeply. She’ll even get teary-eyed during touching commercials, and I swear I saw her crying once during an episode of “Iyanla, Fix My Life,” but she denies it. I guess I’ll let that one slide. Her heart is incredibly open, and that scares me sometimes because there is so much ugly in this world that I’d hate for her to take into herself. But I can’t live in fear. That would be unfair to us both. So me and my leaky-eyed child just live day to day, sunrise to sunrise. We don’t focus on the many people who lie in wait, judgment in hand as if we were made of glass and gears instead of skin, blood and bone.

And even with tears in her eyes, perhaps because of the tears in her eyes, she is strong. Every day this child becomes more of herself—more confident, more intelligent, more grounded in who she is. A few weeks ago, her first-grade class had a performance. Her teacher asked them to wear something special, so she wanted to wear a headscarf, the first time she’d done so in school. This is a decision she made completely on her own despite the fact that no one in her class, maybe even her whole school, wears hijab. But she didn’t care. She wasn’t concerned about the possible judgment and didn’t fear rejection. On that day and every other day, she was nothing more and nothing less than her entire self. That’s strength, and I dare you to tell me it’s not.

So on behalf of my aunt, my daughter, myself and everyone else whose eyes tend to leak, kiss my tear ducts.

~Nadirah Angail

To the mad people in my comments: Tell your own story

TypewriterOn May 25, 2016, I published “Mind your own womb,” about some of the struggles of women who want to conceive and others who already have. When I wrote it, I had no idea it would go viral. It actually started as a simple Facebook post, but it got so long that I decided to move it over here to my blog. I assumed I would get the usual assortment of shares and likes and that would be that. But it touched so many people and I’m truly grateful for that. I always hope that the things I write are beneficial to someone, even if its just me.

But what I’ve noticed (and this is common) is that anytime I write something that gets popular, there are people who cry, “What about me? You didn’t tell my story!” The only reply I have for those people is that you have to tell your own story. I say this not because I’m unwilling to tell it and not because I don’t think it has value, but because there CANNOT be only one story. There just can’t be. That blog could have gone on for another two thousand words and some women still would have been left out. No one person can do it all. If this world is going to work, if people are going to see and understand and receive each other, it will be because of the varied stories we tell that allow others to truly see us for who we are, no filter or distortions.

This is the message I tried to get across in this FB video, but I’m a better writer than I am a speaker so… just check it out.

MY BFIMH (best friend in my head) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks so eloquently about the danger of the singular story. To quote her 2009 Ted Talk (which I highly suggest you watch in its entirety), “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” That is not what I am here to do. I am fully aware that there are people who exist outside of those I describe. I know there are ideas, circumstances and emotions I have not shared. This is not to be exclusive, but only to be focused. My intention in everything I write is to share MY perspective. That perspective may mirror yours or it may be nothing like it, but it is mine always. So on those days where my perspective rubs you the wrong way, rest assured that there is more than enough space for you to share your own. And know the world will be better off because of it.

As a black Muslim woman, I stay on the outskirts of representation. Discussions of black women rarely include me spiritually, and discussions of Muslim women rarely include me racially and culturally. (Plus I’m just kinda weird in general so I don’t really fit with nobody!) But that’s why I have a whole separate blog dedicated to the intersection of race, religion and female bodies. Because what I’m not gon’ do is wait for other people to speak on my behalf. Nah, son. Can’t do it. If I’m feeling lonely in the dark, I’ll light a candle and make my own light.  This is a message marginalized/under-represented/misrepresented peoples really need to make use of. Wait for no one to champion your cause.

To that, some people may say, “But not everyone is a writer. We don’t all have the resources and ability to create a platform.” Understood, but if your story is important enough that you felt the need to give me an earful in the comments section of my blog, then you need to use your network to find the right people who can help you make it happen. Every day, cultural narratives are being maintained and changed based on the new stories that emerge and the old stories that linger. Don’t think you have to be a bystander in that.

~Nadirah Angail

Photo credit: Florian Klauer, Unsplash

 

Mind your own womb

 

pregnant bellySomewhere there is a woman: 30, no children. People ask her, “Still no kids?” Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint.

“Nope, not yet,” she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration.

“Well, don’t wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know,” the sage says before departing, happy with herself for imparting such erudite wisdom. The sage leaves. The woman holds her smile. Alone, she cries…

Cries because she’s been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one. Cries because she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago. Cries because her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children. Cries because she wants desperately to try in vitro but can’t even afford the deposit. Cries because she’s done in vitro (multiple rounds) and still has no children. Cries because her best friend wouldn’t be a surrogate. “It would be too weird,” she said. Cries because her medication prevents pregnancy. Cries because this issue causes friction in her marriage. Cries because the doctor said she’s fine, but deep inside she knows it’s her. Cries because her husband blames himself, and that guilt makes him a hard person to live with. Cries because all her sisters have children. Cries because one of her sisters didn’t even want children. Cries because her best friend is pregnant. Cries because she got invited to another baby shower. Cries because her mother keeps asking, “Girl, what are you waiting on?” Cries because her in-laws want to be grandparents. Cries because her neighbor has twins and treats them like shit. Cries because 16-year-olds get pregnant without trying. Cries because she’s an amazing aunt. Cries because she’s already picked out names. Cries because there’s an empty room in her house. Cries because there is an empty space in her body. Cries because she has so much to offer. Cries because he’d be a great dad. Cries because she’d be a great mother, but isn’t.

Somewhere else is another woman: 34, five children. People say to her, “Five? Good lord, I hope you’re done!” And then they laugh… because those types of comments are funny. The woman laughs too, but not in earnest. She changes the subject, as she always does, and gives the disrespect a pass. Just another day. Alone, she cries…

Cries because she’s pregnant with another and feels like she has to hide the joy. Cries because she always wanted a big family and doesn’t see why people seem so disturbed by it. Cries because she has no siblings and felt profoundly lonely as a child. Cries because her Granny had 12 and she’d love to be just like her. Cries because she couldn’t imagine life without her children, but people treat her like they’re a punishment. Cries because she doesn’t want to be pitied. Cries because people assume this isn’t what she wanted. Cries because they assume she’s just irresponsible. Cries because they believe she has no say. Cries because she feels misunderstood. Cries because she’s tired of defending her private choices. Cries because she and her husband are perfectly capable of supporting their family but that doesn’t seem to matter. Cries because she’s tired of the “funny” comments. Cries because she minds her own business. Cries because she wishes others would mind theirs. Cries because sometimes she doubts herself and wonders if she should have stopped two kids ago. Cries because others are quick to offer criticism and slow to offer help. Cries because she’s sick of the scrutiny. Cries because she’s not a side show. Cries because people are rude. Cries because so many people seem to have opinions on her private life. Cries because all she wants to do is live in peace.

Another woman: 40, one child. People say to her, “Only one? You never wanted any more?”

“I’m happy with my one,” she says calmly, a rehearsed response she’s given more times than she can count. Quite believable. No one would ever suspect that alone, she cries…

Cries because her one pregnancy was a miracle. Cries because her son still asks for a brother or sister. Cries because she always wanted at least three. Cries because her second pregnancy had to be terminated to save her life. Cries because her doctor says it would be “high-risk.” Cries because she’s struggling to care for the one she has. Cries because sometimes one feels like two. Cries because her husband won’t even entertain the thought of another. Cries because her husband died and she hasn’t found love again. Cries because her family thinks one is enough. Cries because she’s deep into her career and can’t step away. Cries because she feels selfish. Cries because she still hasn’t lost the weight from her from her first pregnancy. Cries because her postpartum depression was so intense. Cries because she can’t imagine going through that again. Cries because she has body issues and pregnancy only exacerbates it. Cries because she still battles bulimia. Cries because she had to have a hysterectomy. Cries because she wants another baby, but can’t have it.

These women are everywhere. They are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters, our co-workers, our cousins. They have no use for our advice or opinions. Their wombs are their own. Let’s respect that.

~Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Joey Thompson, Unsplash

To the People Who Keep Asking Me to Write for Free

RihannaHey, how’s it going? Hope you’re well. I’m glad you like my writing–I mean that truly– but I just wish you liked it enough to actually want to pay me for what I do. It’s not that I don’t appreciate your generous offer of “exposure.” It’s just that, well, after a long exhaustive search, I’ve yet to find a landlord, utility company, insurance provider, gas station, grocery store, department store, surplus outlet, car lot, restaurant, or any other good and service provider that accepts exposure as payment. So…

Ya know, I wonder, do you get paid in exposure? Does your employer withhold some of your exposure for taxes? Do you get exposure bonuses around Christmas? Is your exposure direct deposited? Nah, I bet you’re old school. You like your exposure handed to you in a paper check. Gotta feel it, know its real. Can’t risk some computer glitch making your exposure go up in smoke. That wouldn’t be good. Exposure’s important. You need it. I feel you on that. I need my “exposure” too.

Or is it that you thought I didn’t have those types of needs? Did you think I live in some Twilight Zone unicorn utopia where exposure is the currency of choice? Did you think I’d take all that exposure and go buy food for my house and then put the rest in the bank for a rainy day? An exposure nest egg of sorts. Sounds cool. And then I’d take just a little exposure and buy my son some new pants. He’s such a rough and tumble thing. Tears up everything I buy him. Thank God for all this exposure.

Or did you think I harnessed the power of Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, Tony Robbins, Les Brown and the Dalai Lama to become a super saiyan who can manifest her every need with mental power?

super saiyan

Or did you think I was one of those extreme minimalists who lives without money? Honestly, those people are pretty intriguing, but alas, I am not one of them.  I haven’t learned how to get my needs met with plain on happiness, gratitude, sunlight, or exposure. Yea… crazy, I know.

So until I get to that point, I’m going to have to ask that you respect my decision not to work for free. You do understand, don’t you? You’ve got to because I have a sneaking suspicion you collect actual money for the work you do. And you’d probably quit immediately if your boss asked you to work for free, but still here you are in my inbox with generous offers of… eyeballs. You drive a hard bargain, my friend, but I’m going to have to decline.

It’s nothing personal. I’m certain you’re a wonderful person in real life. You just don’t understand what an offer of mere exposure means. You don’t see how you’ve created a totally different and unfair set of standards for freelance workers. You don’t realize the slap in the face when you pay for everything else but assume it’ll be ok not to pay me. You don’t understand the mixed message you send when you suggest that my work is good enough for you to use but not good enough for you to pay for. How does that work? How Sway?Kanye and Sway

Can be real with you? (I’ll go ahead and assume I can since you were real enough to submit such a disrespectful offer.) My main problem is this: you’re straddling. Pick a side. Recognize that my work has value and then pay that value, or write it off as worthless and move on. There are no other options. You can’t say my work is valuable but you don’t want to pay for it. That would make you the politest robber I’ve ever seen… but you’re still trying to rob me. You know I can’t have that. Now if you excuse me, I have bills to go pay.

Peace.

P.S. If you find any retailers willing to accept exposure, please let me know. I may reconsider… Nah, I still want my money.