Friends with Benefits – A black woman’s ode to anxiety

Photo for the article: Jae Nichelle 'Friends with Benefits' anxiety poem. A very arty shot of a woman painted half yellow and half black with each of her hands touching the opposite cheek.
Caption:

What happens to a black girl who is too anxious To ever feel like magic? can she still be fly with wings that tremble? Can she forget the lifestyle of an ant? The fear that no matter what she does she is in danger of being crushed

Credit:

©Mike Orlov / Adobe Stock

Jae Nichelle’s Friends With Benefits poem is re-published from jaenichelle.com with the kind permission of Jae.
Read the original poem text and watch the video of Jae Nichelle’s live performance below.

Friends With Benefits

Jae Nichelle

 

My anxiety and I have what some would call a friends with benefits relationship.

We have no love for each other but she still just

fucks with me sometimes you know?

 

She and I moved in together some years ago.

We have inside jokes.

Like when I say “I’m gonna go talk to that person over there”

my anxiety looks at me and is like “bitch, please”

 

My anxiety is the reason I didn’t talk to you.

She’s possessive.

She doesn’t like me talking to other people.

 

She’s irrational.

Because of her

I’ll take the long way to my building to avoid someone I’ve passed already

Because I don’t know the limit on how many times you can say “hey–”

 

Because of her

I don’t correct servers who get my order wrong at restaurants I just eat it

because maybe sweet potato fries are what I wanted

But the broccoli you gave me is what I needed? Thank you.

 

Because of her

I’ll take the long the way to my building to avoid someone

who kind of looked like my ex-boyfriend.

Because when I hand her the aux cord,

She makes sure to play back all the times

He told me no one else would ever want me

 

Because of her

I still think no one else will ever want me

 

I constantly wonder

What happens to a black girl who is too anxious

To ever feel like magic?

can she still be fly

with wings that tremble?

Can she forget the lifestyle of an ant?

The fear that no matter what she does she is in danger of being crushed

What I’m trying to say is

My anxiety doesn’t like to be made into metaphors

but she is constantly reminding me of how easy I am to crush.

 

As I speak,

I am pushing against her weight on my shoulders

and that is why I shake sometimes.

 

I have to fight

To stand up straight

To stop rocking

 

She and I picked out this outfit together. Something that dries fast.

 

If I am sweating

It is because standing on this stage

Is like fighting a boxing match that you can’t even see

and I am determined to knock her out.

I’ve been fighting her for control of our house, for years.

fighting to not crack

Stop rocking.

Dont shake.

Breathe.

 

I think

the reason that my relationships don’t work out

is because no one knows they’re signing up for a threesome

 

I understand.

I know how hard it is to live with both of us.

 

When we don’t like feeling out of control.

we don’t handle conflict well

we don’t handle being yelled at well

everything you say to us will be repeated and deconstructed in our head a million times after

and if I am silent for a while,

it is because I have to fight with her before I can fight with you.

I have tried to cut her off before.

I cannot.

 

We do not handle separation well.

Because of our parents,

I mean our ex

I mean our friends

 

Breathe.

So I guess

My anxiety and I just learned to live together.

 

She is the longest relationship I have ever had.

She is the only relationship I can count on.


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‘Friends with benefits’ poem is republished from jaenichelle.com with the kind permission of Jae Nichelle
.

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