When the fear of losing yourself is greater than love
When I left the theater after seeing Fences, I sat in my car in silence for 15 minutes. This film tapped into an internal feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I drove home in silence, made dinner, showered, and, right before bed, it hit me. As I laid there alone I realized that Rose is the woman I’ve been running from.
I am a workaholic to the core. Work comes before relaxing and friends, and like many “grind-minded” millennials work is my excuse for being single. “I don’t have time” is my automated response to questions about boyfriends, dating, and grandchildren. In that moment, however, I realized it was more than that.
Set in1950s Pittsburgh, Fences tells the story of a lower class, black family struggling to stay afloat and stay connected. Though the story focuses on the father, Troy (Denzel Washington), and his issues with depression, loneliness, and supporting the family financially, his wife Rose (Viola Davis) is the character who spoke to me the most. Troy is aware that he has more than he deserves when it comes to his doting wife who cooks, cleans, and keeps him and his family together. Like many women, Rose is the brick, the foundation, and the house.
After hearing of Troy’s infidelity Rose delivers a monologue that screamed to the soul of every woman in the theater.
“I gave 18 years of my life to stand in the same spot with you…I took all of my feelings, and wants and needs MY DREAMS and I buried them inside you. I buried a seed and watched it, prayed over it. I planted myself inside you waiting to bloom…”
This felt like a scene I knew all too well. It was deja vu in a space I knew I’d never been. But in my room, before bed, I realized that I knew Rose and that she was everything I’ve been structuring my life not to be.
Growing up I’ve seen my aunts, cousins, and even my mother take center stage as Rose and dim their lights for men who fill all the space and make all the rules. I love my father with all my heart, however the saying “girls marry men like their father” has terrified me for as far back as I can remember. He is the hardest working person I know, but the small space he allowed for my mother in the world is something I’ve never wanted.
Like many millennials I know, I’ve watched the women around me give up their lives to take care of men and raise families. Though our mothers were the maids, nannies, accountants, and the chefs our fathers were still deemed heads of household.
I used to resent my mother for not standing up for herself and leaving sooner than she did. I too made her feel small and rarely without force paid her the respect she was due. I didn’t want to be her, or my aunts, or any women who lived the life Viola Davis portrayed on that screen.
Because of this I built my own fences; strong walls of work, experience, and arrogance made to keep people out. Dating is defined as distraction. A husband and children take a lower rank on my aspiration list to career success and stability. Though “busy” is the simple, less controversial answer to questions about my missing wedding ring and lack of children the fact of the matter is I, like many other millennial women, don’t want to be Rose. I don’t want to put my goals on the back burner to pursue men who could eventually let me down. I don’t want to be dependent on someone else to provide my sustenance. I don’t want to be forever waiting to bloom.
If you haven’t seen Fences you should. It’s a phenomenal movie. Subscribe for Tiff + Coco fun!