Thanks in large part to reality television, the crazy black woman is the most saleable character on the air, maybe second only to the sassy, finger-snapping, neck-rolling gay guy and the belligerent, loud-mouthed antagonist (who, very often, also happens to be a black woman or a gay guy). Apparently, the people out there in TV land just love a good storyline that includes at least one incident when one of us goes all sistergirl on somebody. And why not? Over the years, we’ve watched other people paint our picture as the oversexed black woman, the racially hypersensitive black woman, the I-ain’t-gonna-get-no-man-so-I-may-as-well-be-about-this-money black woman. So the crazy incarnation is just rank and file in a long list of rote cast members.

Inasmuch as she’s overrepresented on TV, she does exist. You know her. I know her. We see her in everyday interactions — at the family barbecue, on the 15 items or less checkout line in the grocery store, in church when the usher gives her flack about making change for a $20 bill. Those are the ladies we give the slow head shake and make snarky posts about on Facebook. Their outspokenness is briefly entertaining but far removed from our own personal reality because, unlike them and their wild-blooded sistren on TV, we know how to act.

But, in the context of a relationship, all bets are off. I’ve seen seemingly normal, reasonably even-tempered ladies turn into ranting, raving, vigilantes ready to cut a negro’s tires — or the negro himself — when a dramatic incident makes them boil over into a bona fide Snapped moment. The crazy black lady is an alter ego a lot of us don’t want to admit we have. But she lives in many of us and, on occasion, has to come to the surface to make the kind of point that just doesn’t come across with an expressive, four-page email. Sometimes you. Just. Go. There.

Honestly, I thought that part of me was dead, her ashes sprinkled across days long gone when my first love had me on some Jazmine Sullivan program of revenge more than once or twice. And when she bubbled up, I didn’t even recognize myself. One time in college, during a particularly rocky period in our us-ness, he answered the phone feigning a groggy voice and explained that he was going to bed. He was so tired, he said, and was on his way to sleep until I rudely interrupted him with all of my calling. I apologized and put the phone back in its cradle, then glanced at the clock on the desk. It was 7:00 in the damn evening. And no dude on no campus is taking it down at that time of night unless he’s drunk, sick, resting up for a party, or about to get some chocha. I had a feeling it was the latter.

That was the first time my crazy black lady had to surface. And she had an entourage, too. In an incredible Hulk-like transformation, my face flushed, my fists clenched, and I half-bawled, half-screeched some words into the phone that three of my ride or die friends (who are still ride or die friends, by the way) understood as trouble. They stood outside of their dorms outfitted in Timbs, sweats, and camouflage pants for the showdown, ready to join the tiny band of temporary thugs, and we went blazing over to his room to set it off. The rest of the night is a fleeting memory, but there was a girl, there was a confrontation, and it is, even to this day, a moment in my personal history that is very possibly my realest one. After several similar bouts, a breakup, and many self-reflective years later, I realized how unhealthy that relationship was and chalked it up to knowing better for the next time around. It brought out ugly parts of my personality that, up until that point, I didn’t even know existed. And that temper? Ugh. No thank you, ma’am. Put that away.

So I happily put a moratorium on the appearances of that alter ego and threw a headstone on her grave. But every so often, just every once in a while, especially when matters of the heart are involved, she tries to poke her head up and make a reappearance. Thank God my good sense keeps her in check whenever I feel that old familiar sensation surge, like emotional acid reflux, to make irrational thoughts dance around in my head about driving cross-state in the middle of the night or leaving work early to set the record straight. Love is no excuse to act crazy, I know. I think we all know. But knowing and feeling are two completely different things. And that’s where crazy black lady finds her in.

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