We're Going to Need More Wine - Gabrielle Union
This kind of feels like a first date.
I have that same feeling you get five minutes before you meet the other person, when you’re giddy about where things might go. But also wary, because you’ve been on enough bad dates to know exactly how this can go awry. They order the salmon and pronounce the l and you’re like, How the hell has my life come to this?
No pressure, but I have thought of you the whole time I’ve been writing this book. I have never shared these stories outside of a close circle of people, the friends you can tell all your secrets to because you know all of theirs. So I want this to be like one of those nights out with someone you can be real with. We’re sitting across from each other over drinks, and we’re in the middle of this ridiculous, hyperventilating laugh/cry because even I can’t believe I did some of these things, foolishness that made perfect sense at the time but sounds ludicrous now. “Oh no, it gets worse,” I say, taking a sip as everyone in the restaurant looks over at us losing it. These are the stories that require reinforcements. If I’m going to really get into them, we need to flag the waiter and tell him not to be a stranger and to keep pouring, because we’re gonna need more wine tonight.
Thinking of you this past year, I jotted down notes, sent texts to myself, and went back to look at some of the books that meant something to me and left me better for reading them. One of the things I marked to share was a line from James Baldwin.
“The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.”
Baldwin was quoting a spiritual about the strength that comes from survival. I have felt lost plenty, stuck in the dungeons I was thrown into, and some I even locked myself into. I felt the chains of growing up trying to be someone I wasn’t, and then living in Hollywood, a town that rewards pretending. The dungeon represents so many parts of my life and all of our lives. I don’t think I’m special, or that my pain makes me unique. I’ve had a couple of moments—okay, months, maybe years—where the idea of disappearing and never being seen again seemed like an appealing option. I’ve been lucky that someone was always there to give me hope, whether it was a member of my support group at UCLA’s Rape Crisis Center or my dog Bubba crawling under my bed to find me hiding from life after public humiliation. They rescued me from my dungeons, and later I had to do the work to shake off the shackles that I had put on myself. I hemmed myself in with shame, and also with the fear of not being chosen by men. I remember the moment I realized I was free, looking in a mirror and saying, “I choose my motherfucking self.”
We’ll get to that. Right now, I should just tell you at the outset that I have trust issues. I have to wonder if I will pay a consequence for telling my truth. We’re entering a full-on relationship where I have all this hope that my words are going to be interpreted the way I intend. I don’t want you to have to guess about my intentions. I want to make you laugh/cry as we tackle some big stuff. And if you don’t agree with me, I want you to be able to say, “At least that bitch is honest.” Oh, yeah, you should know that I cuss. You never knew that, did you? Having a publicist has served me well. Let’s press on, nothing to see here.
It was terrifying putting myself back into some of the scenes you’ll find here. But it was also the essential work of finding my authentic self. As I retraced the steps and missteps of my life, I began to stop avoiding memories that triggered emotional flashbacks, and I chose to embrace them as revelations. Each revealed a bread crumb that I had dropped along the way, leading me further on my path to understanding who I truly am.
Reading all these stories together, I wondered if I was really brave enough to share all of this. Then I remembered another quote I wrote down. This one comes from Carrie Fisher.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway.”
So cheers. Here’s to us being afraid and