Tracee Ellis Ross is still the ultimate girlfriend.
In a recent episode of the We Can Do Hard Things podcast, the Pattern beauty founder opened up about life at 50, establishing purpose outside of a romantic relationship and perimenopause.
"I've been single for a very long time. I have had many wonderful ins and outs of things, but no one stuck to the pan," she said.
But rather than feeling limited by her romantic solitude, Ross says being single actually granted her the ability to enrich her circle of love uniquely.
"As a result, I get to curate my family, my chosen family around me. And I don't think I realized the gift of that until I've started to get older."
And while she has struggled with the implication that being single and childless makes her a "burden" on her friends, she finds sordid humor in the notion that her only purpose comes from her relation to a man or her ability to procreate.
"We go back to this model that you're sold, that not only are we sold it, but we are fed it and we have to drink it and it's everywhere. And if you're not careful, you actually think it's true. And it's the only bit of news for you. Which is that my job as a woman is to learn to be choosable. Having nothing to do with who I am, what makes my heart sing, floats my boat, makes me feel safe, makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel good, makes me feel powerful, makes me feel smart. Any of those things. But really it's more about how I might be seen, so that I might be chosen so that my life could mean something as a chosen woman who then gets to have a child and then be a mother and do that for a child," she said.
Coupled with the nuances of being a Black woman in America, Ross says the projections can become hard to tune out.
"Everything starts to fall into that messaging. And then if you're a Black woman, there's like a whole other blah, blah, blah. There's so many different versions of that. But that's like that overarching thing as a woman," she said.
Beyond the impact this can have on her romantic happenings, Ross says this messaging can also bleed over into platonic relationships as well.
"And then your friendships fall into that hole too. So if you haven't been chosen for a guy, then you're going to fill all that God-size hole and all those different things with a friend, and then you become the best friend. And then it just gets all real tangled and real confusing," she said.
She also opened up about embracing the unknown as she reaches the end of her reproductive years.
"I'm also going through perimenopause. So I have, for my entire life, been tethered to a very routine cycle. And I'm very connected to my body. So I would know I'm ovulating, I would have all the feelings of knowing that. And all of that is out the window. And I turn 50. And here I am in this open space now, sort of allowing the bubbling up of whatever might be here," she said.
Through this, Ross says she has been forced to reexamine her relationship with femininity and what it means to be a woman beyond the patriarchal standards fed to her.
"As my body becomes a foreign place to me that doesn't really feel safe or like home. And I don't know how to manage or control or fight the external binary narrative of the patriarchy that has haunted me and haunted me most of my adult life. Is it my fertility that is leaving me? Is it my womanhood? Or is it really neither? But I have to fight to hold my truth, because I have been programmed so successfully by the water we all swim in, by the water we all are served. And I feel fertile with creativity, full of power, more and more a woman than I've ever been. And yet that power that I was told I must use was not used," she said, quoting an excerpt from her journal.
"I mean, just trying to figure out what that means, because my ability to have a child is leaving me. But I don't agree that that's what fertile means, I don't agree that that's what woman means," she said.
Ross can now acknowledge that her space as a woman is not composed of her ability to have kids or get married, a realization she thanks the transgender community for.
"The freedom that the expansion around gender has offered me, and the knowledge that is being shared with us by the trans community is like, 'Oh my God, thank you. Thank you for finally unpacking something that I had no ability to unpack, because of what was handed to me in a culture that thought of it in such a limited way,'" she said.
"But it is an unbelievable injustice that is laid on all of us as human beings. That there is one pathway that is informed by this random construct that somebody came up with around gender. When I pull back from it, I’m like, 'That’s a joke. Who did that?' You know what. I’m just like, 'Who did that? That’s so silly,'" she said.
And while she may not have a husband or kids, Ross still embraces her nurturing nature.
"I say this to people all the time, I'm a wonderful mother. And I'm very mothering. And it’s been hard for me to claim that. In a world where I don’t have the thing that says...," she trails off, later adding that she is ultimately thankful for her inquisitiveness surrounding the topic.
"I’m grateful to be able to look at it with curiosity instead of heartbreak. And the heartbreak does come up, and I get to hold that gently and lovingly and then say, remind myself, 'I woke up every morning of my life and I’ve tried to do my best, so I must be where I’m supposed to be.'”
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