Medicine for Melancholy

Watch a film multiple times and you can expect to see something new in each viewing.  I’ve seen Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones an uncountable amount of times – I’ve moved past the stage of seeing new things into reciting the lines in sync with characters. Baby, you ain’t got to save mine for later, I’d rather have it right now.  Nina we’ve already done it before…repeatedly!  It’s my go-to movie when I’m in need of a heavy dose of romanticized love.

However, when I’m in need of something a little more relatable, I turn to Medicine for Melancholy – Barry Jenkins’ feature film debut that was released in 2009.  I own it on DVD and have seen it about six times with others and on my own.  I’ll never get enough of the beautiful images of San Francisco, Wyatt Cenac’s quirkiness, or the film’s amazing soundtrack.  I’ve probably noticed something new in each viewing of the film, but it was during the last one that I felt something new.

No I love this city, I hate this city but I love this city.  San Francisco is beautiful…You shouldn’t have to be upper middle class to be a part of that. – Micah

I could write for days about my love for NYC, but I could do the same about my hate for this city.  I love that NYC has given me so much access to different cultural experiences and that a car doesn’t have to figure into that; but I absolutely hate some of the rude thoughts and behaviors I’ve developed towards the elderly and other slow-moving people on crowded sidewalks.  I love that with $30 and a few hours to spend, I can make a round-trip to Philadelphia, Boston, or Washington D.C.  I hate that because Manhattan is so expensive to live in, a bus ride to Philadelphia takes almost the same amount of time as my commute to work.

While NYC’s fast-paced rudeness is in direct opposition to the more laid-back ways of San Francisco, the dating scenes of the two cities seem to be similar:

Is it any surprise that folks of color in the scene date outside their race…everything about being indie is all tied to not being black…People call it interracial dating but there’s nothing interracial about it, nine out of ten times it’s somebody of color hanging on to a white person  – Micah

It was shortly after this statement that I felt Micah’s loneliness for the first time and I empathized because I’ve been there.  I grew up in a city that, from my vantage point, might as well be 99.9% black.  Call me naïve, but I never anticipated living anywhere with demographics so different from my hometown.  I was completely unprepared to live in cities that are similarly segregated but with fewer black people.  It’s not that I didn’t have exposure to non-black people growing up, but in my new surroundings I had to re-examine my ability to navigate interracial relationships.  I worked jobs where I had to process the undertones of racism alone.  I met black women and men who had no problem identifying as black but felt no need to be connected to other black people; and this crazy idea that black women struggle in trying to partner with black men became a reality.

So I feel like I’m seeing myself on-screen as I watch Micah go from an angry rant about interracial dating to begging JoAnne to stay with him, if only for one more night.  I’ve been there.  I used to rant to no end about how black men in New York City hated themselves and were only seeking women with physical characteristics that I do not have and refuse to obtain.  It was only after a friend checked me about my complaining that I eventually got to my truth: I miss black men.

When I left home, I left all of the men that I love the most: my father, my brother, and the friends I’ve made throughout the years.  In an attempt to fill the spaces that Skype and phone conversations can’t replace, I, like Micah, tried to hold on to the few black men I met regardless of our compatibility or their availability.  I’ve since realized that relationships built over years cannot easily be replicated in such a short period of time, especially in a city as transient as NYC.

There are so many layers to learning how to survive “the big city.”  If there is one thing I absolutely love about New York City, it’s the lessons in relationships and emotional maturity I’ve learned.

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