A “little” news…

Anything is possible. I know that for real, now.

“The Finer Things” is the cover story for The Washington Post Magazine’s special fall Home & Design issue (available in print now), and yours truly is on the cover. It feels very surreal, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Thank you to the team at The Washington Post Magazine, photographer Andi Rice, Courtney Kirk (hair), and Kim Colvin (makeup), and to Juniper. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has celebrated with me this week. I feel the love and am humbled by it.

As you read, I’m by far not the most gifted person on either side of my family.

The fabulous four: my grandparents, all dressed up for my parents’ wedding.

When you see me, I hope you see the very best of my parents, and of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse H. Crawford, Sr., and Mr. and Mrs. Edd L. Barton I reflected: their style, their work ethic, their good sense and gumption, their self-respect and easy elegance, their talent, their wit, their intellect, their resolve, and — most of all — their faith.

They left big (and fabulous!) shoes to fill, which is partly why I appeared barefoot in the photos. I’ll always try to live up to their example.

Alexis E. Barton, photographed by Andi Rice at Juniper for The Washington Post Magazine.

Love, Alexis

P.S. To order a copy, visit The Washington Post’s site where you can order back issues. Select the second option for Back Issues and then select “select a different issue.” Choose Sept. 18, 2022, adjust the quantity as desired and enter your mailing address, then place your order. Issues are $10 each, which includes shipping an handling. (Note: this issue was part of the Sunday, Sept. 18 paper, so you’ll receive the issue tucked into the newspaper.)

In which I overshare on Roy’s Job Fair

Tune in!

It’s a vibe. You can listen here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/roys-job-fair/id1557272095?i=1000568095278

This is long overdue…

If you came here for a think piece, this ain’t it. When you’ve been in the house two years, what you create is inspired by what you experienced in solitude and what you wish to experience once you return outside.

Stay tuned.

Dear Cheslie…

I didn’t know Cheslie Kryst personally.

I have no particular personal, or professional insight into her life or any struggles she may have had.

But I saw her in Essence’s issue celebrating the triumphant triumvirate of historic Black pageant queens.

I saw her in her Miss Universe costume: an elegant platinum, gold and white-winged bird, uncaged and carrying Justice’s scales.

I saw her—super sharp, super talented, super chic—on ‘Extra.’

I read her essay in Allure.

I saw the news reports that she’d fallen to her death this past Sunday. Read that she’d left a note.

I saw her.

I see our Black queens, of all ages, economic backgrounds, and occupations, drowning every day right in front of our eyes, poised in public but crying off camera, dying inside while living their best lives in carefully posed and filtered and hashtagged social media posts.

You might look at someone like Cheslie and wonder, “What did she have to be sad about?”

You might look at me and wonder the same.

And that’s part of the problem.

Our varied crowns are heavy, sometimes even more so when they are invisible. We are buckling under their pressure. We are not often allowed to take them off—or the loads on our backs, hearts, and in our arms—not even for a minute.

We often can’t afford to. The narrow pedestal we are put on—or that we scramble to climb, or that we race up—demands we stand erect while bearing the weight of the world, often at an unbearable cost.

We know people are depending on us. We want to do our best, to make you proud, to achieve before our time is up. And that clock is ticking so loud—is there time enough to do or be it all?

Can we out-stride the pressure, the fear, the racism, the imposter syndrome, the naysayers? Our own expectations and limitations?

No. There’s never enough time.

We’re judged and discounted when we aren’t perfect. When we don’t push through. When we say, “No.” When we prioritize our healing, self-care, fulfillment, and joy.

Like Naomi. Or Simone. Or Janet. Or any number of women who fiercely protect their energy, their time, and their privacy against the demands of a public who believe they are owed much, much more.

Just because you see someone’s posts—famous or not—doesn’t mean you own or even fully know their narrative.

“Stand up straight. Smile!”

I see you looking. But do you see us? Do you know someone can look like they’re flying when they’re actually falling?

“Hold your head up. Fix your face.”

I see you.

Flawless, multi-talented, ambitious, and articulate.

Exhausted, traumatized, burned out, anxious, depressed, and trying desperately to keep going. Praying life begins at 30.

At 40.

Praying that it’s not too late to start over, to get there, to leave storms and clouds in the distance.

I am so close…

I recognize your pain and desire for peace of mind. I know you ache for real rest: the kind that allows you to soar sky high, then find a cruising altitude without sacrificing your mental, emotional, and physical health to an inevitable free fall.

I see you.

And I don’t want the soft place any of us land to be a casket.

***

If you or someone you know need help:

  • Crisis Center Crisis & Suicide Line: 205-323-7777
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Additional Resources:

Image via Instagram

I did a lot less in 2021.
I rested. On purpose.
I tended my 40 plants, I cooked, I read.
I slept and decluttered.
I walked and ran.

I wrote.

I refused to document most of it publicly, because I want it to become the norm. Honestly, that was hard. Social media has conditioned us to believe if we don’t post a pic or a reel or a TikTok of us posed as if we’re doing something — particularly something everyone else is doing at the same time, or something many others can’t do — it didn’t happen or is irrelevant.

I also dislike this “main character” narrative and energy social media supports. If I’m the star, what does that make you?

Instead, I finally came to understand what Coco Chanel meant in saying “Elegance is refusal.” In 2021, I refused to subvert myself in a way that is incredibly tiring, totally unfulfilling, and ultimately unproductive. If all I can control is myself, I won’t abandon myself to an endless, performative rat race that leads nowhere anymore. My energy is needed elsewhere.

A natural introvert, I found peace in complete silence, an empty calendar, in declining invitations.
My health flourished, for a change.
Instead, I chose to work on projects that have deep meaning for me, that challenged me but that also nurtured me.


But I prioritized rest.

Resting saved me from the overworking that used to make me feel needed, from the nonstop busy-ness that made me feel…worthy.

Resting saved me.

And as an unexpected result, I’ve done the very best work of my career as a journalist and writer so far. I’ve shed over 1,000 items and become more self-aware about my relationship with acquiring, saving, and wasting things. I developed healthier habits and am enjoying the best health of my life. But not because I overworked, dieted or shamed myself into being an exhausted, starving, tightly wound, profoundly unhappy perfectionist.

Despite my disconnecting from parties, projects, certain people, and other “opportunities” that I opted out of and after having lived in almost total solitude, I experienced genuine abundance and connection last year. I’ve learned that when I am rested, I have the capacity to do what matters most. To show up for the people who count in ways that are actually valuable. To feel joy, to be hopeful, to be present instead of posed for a photo, to create from a place that only I can access.

So yes: Meet the new me.

(Virtually, of course. Because, pandemic.)

-Alexis

Sha’Carri is still #ThatGirl.

Almost every Black woman has been Sha’Carri Richardson, whether she’s willing to admit it or not.

Most of us learn very early and in very harsh ways that we have to be perfect to win.
That when you’re born with two “strikes” you don’t hand anyone a gift-wrapped third.

Especially when you’ve been raised and trained to be #ThatGirl.

As disappointing as this is for her, learning you can’t always out run certain choices is also part of growing up.

So is learning that often our only competition and the realest threat to our success is no one but ourselves.

So is learning the hurdles are always higher for us.

So is learning sometimes life will break your heart to see how you respond.

Especially when you are #ThatGirl.

So I’m not judging her.
Not for this, or for her nails, her lashes, or her hair.
None of those things kept her from literally smoking everyone else.

Do you know how hard it can be to propel yourself forward when obstacles real and invisible tell you to stop?
To perform at your very best with all eyes on you, dissecting your skin, your face, your hair, your stride, your name, your voice?
Looking for any reason to name why you don’t belong?
Or making up a reason, when none appears?
On top of surviving your biological mother’s death and a pandemic?

Many of us have failed in settings we thought we were ready to succeed in because we had habits, associations, baggage or beliefs, or made choices that eventually disqualified us.

Or maybe how we learned to cope with vaulting ourselves over and beyond racism, sexism, perfectionism, grief, pain, pressure, trauma, doubt, disappointment, stress, heartbreak, fear or anxiety held us back, slowed us down, triggered us or tripped us up.

Still think Naomi Osaka should force herself to do press conferences?

It happens to the best of us.
It happens to all of us.

The only thing that matters is how you recover.
That you get back in your race,
And run it.

Your latest Quarantine Update finds me exhausted, 40 pounds lighter and in a contemplative mood:

I am complete but never finished. I have a lot to say, but not a single thing to prove. It took me a long time to figure that out.

This has been an incredibly difficult year but despite the fear, grief, helplessness, stress, and sadness I’ve felt since March, I’ve tried to focus on gratitude for its many joys: an abundance of love…knowing that I am divinely cared for…joining BBVA and seeing the power of words during simultaneous crises…being heard all over on NPR…the Barbie piece…being accepted into a competitive writing workshop…and finally growing my hair to my bra strap. (The pandemic has not reduced my vanity.) As for the rest: I’m enduring and surviving it. With God’s help, I’ll make it.

Despite so much uncertainty, I’m at peace with myself. And I’m looking forward to the best that is sure to come.

Love, Alexis

Sally Forth

Brewton Blueberry sticker

“You’re from that dirty swamp water,” a used-to-be used to tell me. I’m sure he meant it to be endearing but it always got my Davis-Crawford-Hill-Barton pride up. I’m fiercely proud of where I’m from. It’s why I shout out Blueberry Hill, Brewton, The Dirty 30 and Lower Alabama whenever I can and would not want to be from anywhere else.

Lots of lives, free and otherwise, had to survive much more treacherous waters in crossing from the African continent or setting sail from England, Scotland and France to land in and leave or escape South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana to come through Central and South Alabama to meet precisely in Brewton, Alabama for me and mine to be here.

It is a place I am ashamed to say I spent a long time wanting to get away from, in favor of places with more to see, more to do, people who didn’t know my life story, who wouldn’t report my whereabouts to the nearest relative.

It’s the place I now know offered me the best preparation for going anywhere else. It’s the only place that has genuinely welcomed me home, first when I was young and foolish, then when I was older (and a little less so).

My heart breaks right now, for home. For Mobile, where proud, grand oaks older than time have been plucked from the earth, roots exposed. For Pensacola, submerged. For the people I love and for those of us from and tied to these places who know pieces of ourselves have been snatched up from their foundations.

Our roots ravaged.

That dirty water—from Murder Creek to Mobile Bay to the Great Gulf Coast—is our lifeblood. It’s where we get our strength from, our rhythm, our blues, our peace of mind. It’s where we are washed clean, and where we are nourished. I see my way clearest when I cast my line into its dark depths, and I am grounded by its sand, mud and clay under my feet. In my heart of hearts I am caught in its net somewhere under the Dolly Parton Bridge, even as I have been flung into the wide world from its Florabama shoreline.

Always will be.

Sally can’t wash us out.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, And through the rivers, they will not flood over you.” -Isaiah 43:2 a, b

Yes, things have changed.

We’re over it.

No matter where you are reading this, I know to some degree what you may have experienced over the last nearly six months.

You may be working from home.

You probably are wearing a mask when you leave your home. (I hope.)

Your socializing has been curtailed.

You pay much, much more attention to cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting your home, car, groceries and self. You’re social distancing, and Zooming, and you’ve probably danced in Club Quarantine with D-Nice at least twice.

You either know someone who has had or died COVID-19. You may have been tested for it or had it yourself. And if not, maybe it’s consumed your thoughts. You wish life would go back to the way it was while knowing it will never, ever be that way again.

Same.

So I don’t feel comfortable sharing outfit posts or “lifestyle tips” anymore, not even on quarantine couture or my process for safely grocery shopping. It feels tone deaf and privileged in a way that is extremely narcissistic and gross in its attention-seeking. It was fun while it lasted but it doesn’t reflect what I spend most of my time thinking about or doing, or who I am. And honestly: it never did, outside of showing you a carefully curated slice of who I am and what I enjoy.

But I do want to acknowledge this space as a place to remember exactly what this time is like, in a way that feels appropriate. I do want to document how we carry on. If no other phrase accurately describes this time for me, “same chic different day” does—although my brand of chic is leaning toward cut off shorts, house slippers and lots of self care (reading, running, and praying) in solitude.

So I’ll resume posting periodically, but they may not look like anything I’ve done before (as you probably have already noticed).

But I’m still here. And if you’re reading this, so are you. That’s something to be extremely thankful for. For today what I want you to know is: I hope you’re safe and well. Mask on, and mask up.

Alexis

The Irony

Ohhhhhhhh—

Be juuuuust the right shade of light and dark
With natural hair that looks like weave
Or weave that looks like it’s your natural hair
Be ambitious at work but domestic at home
Honest but not direct
Smart, but not smarter than you
And never smart enough to see through you
Beautiful, but not in a way that outshines you
A workhorse who doesn’t try too hard
Be over 18 but look forever 21
Be a contender but not a threat
Be an asset but don’t ever expect reciprocity
Have a lot to offer but be willing to accept the least and last
Curvy but only in the right places
Strong enough to hold you down but ready to also be your doormat
Holy but down for whatever
A “real” woman, but not the kind with periods
Or empty wombs
A perfect lady but a ‘round the way girl
Well-dressed but not materialistic
Speak up but don’t be outspoken
Assert yourself but wait your turn
Get paid but, you know, not in an equitable manner
Of childbearing age but not with too many children or baby daddies
Independent enough not to ask for your financial support but submissive
Desired and desirable but not for the streets
Eloquent but careful of how we talk to you
Pro-Black but not militant
Refined but God forbid bougie
Down to earth but definitely not country or ghetto
Available but never thirsty
Untouchable but not frigid
Well-maintained in an effortless way…but not high maintenance of course
Well-read and awake but not vocal or opinionated
Ready to lead as long as you go first or determine the vehicle, destination, direction and speed
Equal
but
not…

Got it.

Thanks
but
no thanks.

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