When Beyonce’s first visual album dropped, I remember feeling a new kind of exhilaration. The kind that wakes you up, confuses you, scares you, propels you; a magnetism so strong, an understanding that you don’t know quite yet what just happened to you, but you will do everything you can to find out. I remember sitting on my bed, five days before my 23rd birthday, watching “Grown Woman” for the first time and really letting the words sink in. “I can do whatever I want.” “I can do whatever I want.” Having grown up away from my family, I’ve always thought that to be exactly my life’s philosophy.”Priscila is always doing whatever she wants!” Sometimes, a praise. Sometimes, an accusation. But this was different. Because I love structure, I thrive in structure. I love the conquering of a structure. I make structure my b*tch. Crude? Yes. But it’s exactly how it feels.
“I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want.” “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want.” I think it might have been the first moment in which I totally and 100% realized that there was a world one step wilder, smoother, more colorful than mastering the structure. And I was old enough to grab it. Beyonce in that moment presented a possibility I had never recognized and from that moment, I was hooked. I wanted more.
I don’t think I’ve mastered the subtle and necessary art of not giving a damn, or the art of celebration: of self, of womanhood, of all my loudness, my harshness. Celebration. I’ve been inching into it. Slowly. But something also happened when I turned 25. An age at which I thought my brothers were already grown men of the world, belonging to the suits and the ties, and part of the solution for potable water in disenfranchised parts of Colombia. And they are. And they were. So what’s my 25? I’ve thought more about pleasure and what pleasure means in my life. Pleasure.
I’ve always chased pleasure. I smoked. I drank. I threw up. I kissed too many. I chased too much. Slipped away too many mornings. I wrote. I ran. Pleasure. Pleasure. Pleasure quietly ruling my life. The late realization has been tremendous. That word. Quietly, pleasure, quietly leading my life. Realizing that I will take any and all opportunities to feel good, to “feel myself,” to celebrate and to be celebrated. And yet. Quietly. And why?
When I was little- and I mean little, picture seven, eight, maybe nine- I was so prepped and primed to rule “the party.” Sometimes it was the Senate, sometimes it was a Palace. Sometimes it was 3AM at the Steakhouse. I remember pouring champagne and filling whiskeys and passing olives and so many peanuts. I remember entertaining. I remember being so little with so many adults and learning to speak so quickly so I could be a part of it all sooner. Catching up one vocab word after another and hoping my smiles would fill in the blanks. I remember sitting on my father’s lap with such tremendous pride as he led every room, his chest as my armor, thinking that if I just put my head down, his energy would seep through my own, and power would radiate from me just as immensely. That. I live for that. As I grow older, I take pride in those rooms, and I chase them, I recreate them, there is no sweeter feeling to me than feeling that power- that deep ancestral, almost mythological power- radiate out of me on my own field. My own rooms.
But pleasure. Pleasure. I feel pleasure in power. In all its forms, honestly. In its stillness, in its surrender, in its conviction, in its honesty, as well as its speed. Power. True. Raw. Honest. Power. The kind that raised me. Shaped me as a little girl. The feeling I chase again and again, always pursuing situations that will bring that vibration right out of me. Hear it ring. And yet the chase of that feeling as also been accompanied by a surprising amount of shame. Because as I grow older, I’m still looking for someone to tell me it’s okay to step forward, or assign some structure, and it’s slowly, but deliciously, sinking in that I no longer have to ask for permission.
Woah. Permission. No more. And is that a womanhood bit or a human bit? I no longer have to ask for permission, the actions I take are mine and I get to own them, but where is all this shame coming from? I had an amazing time. A powerful time. But was I too loud, did I not pay enough attention to that person, and did I laugh too deeply? Did I make my pleasure public? Did I make my pleasure public. How could I have allowed myself to make my pleasure public.
See that? That’s the path it takes. And I’m transported back to a time when my brothers and I were taking a private salsa lesson. I remember wearing these ridiculous, very tight, very pastel (although with a touch of neon) green pants. I remember we stood in the middle of our living rooms, its marble floors supporting our freshly learned steps. And I remember feeling the awkwardness of my newly existing big Colombian booty melting into sexiness and movement, slowly transforming this new rhythm into the power I knew. Through these hips you can feel that power! I thought. Feeling seduction in my bones in such a real way. In such a powerful way. And I grew wings. But time stopped. Froze in the worst of all hells. My brother (bless his teenage heart at the time) pointed my dancing out. His fingers incriminating what I had just felt. Maybe what was seeping from me made him uncomfortable. Maybe I did genuinely look ridiculous (although I doubt it:) But I remember feeling such shame. I stopped dancing. I left the lesson all together. I remember feeling so embarrassed. I had been caught. I had made my pleasure public. And it must have been colossal because when I trace all my pleasures back, I can’t remember not ever feeling shame, too.
Today, my body’s changing again. Through a welcomed but very big change in diet, my hormones are finally going through the growth I once halted them from. My thighs are growing, and so is my behind, my skin is clearing, my senses are awakening again. It’s a second puberty of sorts. And pleasure is such a part of that. Like its part of adulthood. And I sit with myself and I realize it’s all I ever want to feel. Pleasure. And I’m over being ashamed of it. I’m over celebrating in private what I want to praise in public. I want to take pride in my pleasure as I take pride in my body, as I take pride in my pride. I don’t want to care about being too much, anymore. “I’m a grown woman. I can do whatever I want.” Because my celebration, my pleasure, isn’t just about me. It’s about my lineage, my heritage, my indigenous grandmother, my pink palms, the languages I speak, the women I’ve loved, the men I’ve loved, my goals. My huge goals. My pleasure is a freaking revolution. And I will stop asking permission. Because feeling shame is a way to apologize for my pleasure. And that’s nonesense. And I will celebrate you as you do yourself.
I will be proud of my pleasure.