‘Dear Nat’
by Anastacia Tolbert


everyone should have 5 multicolored washcloths. a white one for the face, one for the body, one for your front private area, one for your back private area and one for the feet.. this method is not for germophobes, but for everyone. if you use this method it doesn’t mean in your real world you don’t shake hands or receive kisses. it just means you agree/believe that these areas deserve their own specific geographical utensil.

if you’re ever just raped, even if it sounds like a good idea, don’t put alcohol on your va-jay-jay. (i learned that nifty term from the oprah show.) if the person that assaults you has just put on lotion, or vaseline or shea butter or let’s say they are older and still use baby oil for moisture, when you go to scratch them you’ll get the lotion or vaseline or shea butter or baby oil under your fingernails so scrub really hard when you wash your hands because that’s the last thing you need is to see a curd of lotion or vaseline or shea butter or baby oil under your finger nails a week later to remind you. if your legs are spread so wide you hear your thighbones crack—relax. by that time it’s not like you can get away or anything so just stop fighting. if you are not as tense, at least the cracking will stop. you can also scoot your butt down and it will take your pain level from a 100 to about 98. according to rosie we have a high thresh level for pain. i have found this to be true.

if you find yourself having nightmares repeatedly. don’t sleep. believe it or not the body can survive for at least 4 days on no sleep. naps are also suggested during this nightmare phase because while napping one doesn’t fully drift off into the r.e.m. state.

remember you are a strong woman. you do not need to be bandaged or healed or taken care of. you’ve got all the tools you need to fix whatever ails you. don’t go around searching for cure-all or fix-it’s for anything. every day you get a clean slate to begin all over again. think of life like the etch-a-sketches’ i used to try and make you play with. nothing remains.

that’s all for now. feel free to email me back. i check this account regularly. but regularly for me means once a month. i tend to think internet is like processed cheese. one small portion of good health and the rest palatable recycled manure. i know you won’t email me back but i do hope you are doing okay nat. i really do.

dear nat,

i have had an epiphany: permanent lipstick really is permanent. and is that really good? do you really want to have number 151 mystery berry on the next day? i think not. stay away from things that don’t rub off. stay away from things that stain. stay away from red smears and monochrome puckering. if you have to pucker, be original. move your bottom lip back and forth. give the person you’re puckering to a ghostlike stare. but don’t be a gloss girl nat. gloss is for little girls who miss their daddies. our father has always been around. Gloss-wearing girls are the kids that like it when the wind blows their skirts up. short skirts up. speaking of short skirts…i saw a face book upload… from one of your friends. you in a short skirt and long socks and lip-gloss. be very careful nat. first lip-gloss, then short skirts and the next thing you know you’ll be one of those women on some pro masturbation campaign in a new york city park.


as promised, another email. in this email i want to tell you some things about love and then some other interesting tid-bits.
i am not angry that you haven’t written back. in fact, it’s a relief you haven’t this gives me more things to tell you.

i tell you things about love because apparently you don’t know much since you are no longer with louis. i remember rosie saying you took it pretty hard. but did you really love him? i don’t think you did. if you did, you wouldn’t have waited five years to make it official. it use to take you all of 30 minutes to buy a complete wardrobe. it took you about 2 months to buy the house of your dreams, although, unlike me you dream small and it probably only takes you about 10 minutes to get drunk off any kind of alcoholic beverage. at least this is what i assume.

love is an illusion. it does not exist. it is only a construct of strong desires and temporary crush-like emotions.

love will not last. (mom and dad are not in love. they are in comfort. they are in like. they are in knowing that he has to watch his salt intake and she is prone to bladder infections.

love is never fair.

love can actually make you insane.

but, i’m sure you will meet someone, fall madly in love and then when it fades away like a pair of my gap jeans—you’ll stay. you are the committed kind.

i really would like to come and visit. i am just not sure if i am up to it. coming home is not my favorite thing to do. you say that i am the favorite but i am not. i am just the oldest. i am the nostalgia of rosie and wayne. i am the first tv, the first house, the first car, the first savings account. that’s all. i am just part of the firsts. the first child.

here are some other big sisterly golden nuggets.

if you get pregnant by someone who you don’t want the baby by or let’s say if you’re raped and he doesn’t use protection. have an abortion.
if you think you are not brave enough to kill a newly formed fetus, keep the baby.

don’t give the baby up for adoption because he or she will always feel out of place and wonder who the parents were that gave them up.

if you are stupid enough not to use protection when you are having consenting sex, immediately go to the drug store and the morning after pill.
when you are having the abortion don’t think about it. think of it as a horrendous pap-smear. one in which saves someone else’s life.

when you are having an abortion don’t take anyone with you to hold your hand. people you want to take rarely stick around afterwards. you don’t need anyone feeling sorry for you.

after the abortion, never tell anyone you’ve had one. they say they won’t judge but it’s natural that they do.

that’s it this time. i hope you are taking care of yourself. i hope you are living the life you want to live. i always want the best for you nat. i will write again but this time i’m not sure when. it might be sooner, it might be later.

dear nat,

today at the park i saw a woman shooting up and then proceeded to shoot up her cat as well. the thing about the woman was that she was very pretty. she did not look like the typical drug user. even her teeth were white and sparkly. i know this because after she drugged her cat i ran over and asked her why. she responded laughing. her laugh was not a secret either. her nails were freshly coated but not freshly polished. i know for a fact the shade was marmalade #6. i own this polish. i use two coats but when i want my nails to look updated i coat them again. you can put up to five coats on your nails before you have to visit the nail salon. the women at the nail salon don’t like me. every time i book an appointment they want me to get the all-day deal: manicure, pedicure, wax and massage. i am convinced they want me to do this because they only want to see me twice a month. they are always very sweet to me. too sweet. always giving me pet names and over massaging me. always trying to get me to drink more and more and more water. i don’t like drinking water in the middle of the manicure because then i have to use the toilet. and this is what i want to say about the pretty drug using woman, after she laughed at me she had the nerve to tell me it was an insulin shot but when i asked her why she gave it to her cat, she said her cat had diabetes and that’s how they were introduced to each other. she expects me to believe there is a shelter that specializes in felines who have diabetes and matches them with humans who have diabetes. can you believe that nat? cats are sneaky nat. never get a cat. they never really love their owners. they will only use you for your cat nip and free liter boxes. as soon as you stroke them they go and wash it off because they think humans are dirty. don’t ever fall in love with a cat. are you watching your sugar intake? i don’t want you to end up some possibly diabetic woman who spends her lunch at the park shooting up her cat. in fact don’t go to the park alone. don’t go very many places alone but don’t have to “need” anyone.

dear nat,

don’t turn into a liar nat. when you lie, you always have to cover it up. when you cover it up you always have to make sure you’ve covered everything. lying is hard work. i’d take a killing someone over birthing a liar any day. i’m sure rosie was lying because she couldn’t even finish her sentence and it’s not the first time. i saw that once on a police show. a police detective who could read faces and one of the things he said was that a person has a hard time completing the lie in sentence form. rosie stopped mid-sentence. rosie always used to lie to you when you were little. stories about princesses and faeries. moralistic stories about right and wrong. she never liked to see you cry. when grandmother died she lied and told you that she went on a vacation to heaven. like an innocent idiot you believed her and when she didn’t show up for christmas dinner mom told you her plane was stuck. first of all there are no planes in heaven. second of all if there were planes in heaven who would be stupid enough to fly back to this crazy place we call earth?

dear nat,

i made friends with a black woman today. i mean, i see them all the time. i have a high regard for them…especially angela davis and ruby dee. i say “friends” because we actually went out to lunch. but in the new world we live in i guess going out to lunch doesn’t make us friends. her laugh is not a secret like mine. i asked her why most black women were loud laughers. she poked her lips out and laughed. i wasn’t sure how to respond. we don’t do this in our culture right nat? neither one of them. i have never seen our mother make that face. at the café we ordered the same thing. i thought this was surprising. i’m not sure why but i assumed our orders would be different. we both picked the pickles off and turned our sandwiches to yeast carcasses at the end. do you still eat the crust on everything nat? we met at the library. i was there to make copies and she was doing research about buttons. i purposely pried and ask her why she was researching buttons but her response was beat-around-the-bush-ery. we are meeting again next week for dinner. she’s picking the place. this worries me a bit but she seems to be way above middle class. she smells like something i can’t put my finger on. it is a really, really good smell but i have no clue what it is. i guess if i had to put it in a smell category it would go with incense. i know she can’t be wearing incense but it sure smells like it. here are my tidbits for you post black woman meeting: 1. gaps in teeth can be quite pretty 2. not all black women use slang or smack their lips or asses between words. 3. don’t touch a black woman’s hair unless you ask permission first. i made this mistake, except…i did it with a spoon. i simply told her that her hair looked like the perfect bowl of noodles and i motioned the spoon…in her hair. anyway nat, i’m sure you won’t make my same mistakes.

dear nat,

i can’t sleep tonight. i’ve just been laying in the dark thinking. darkness makes me think. when you were small you used to crawl in my bed and tell me you were afraid of the boogie man. i told you countless times there was no such thing as the boogie man. as i sat in the dark i wondered if there was some truth to the myth of the boogie man and this is what i think happened. the boogie man was born from a legend that a lonely boy was picked on by his classmates. they thought the boy was so ugly that upon seeing him at school they all said, “booh” this horrible greeting accompanied him to high school. in high school though he grew out of his prepubescent ugliness and became quite handsome followed him. once he became a junior in high school the name changed from “booh” to boogie man. he died a lonely man and never quite felt like he was done living and so he comes back from time to time to try and make friends with the living. i believe perhaps you saw this man and i apologize for all the times i told you he didn’t exist. i think at the time i was afraid too but being your protective big sister and all, i definitely couldn’t tell you. but you need to know the tooth fairy, santa clause and the easter bunny are completely fake. have you ever noticed the similarities between santa clause and satan? the same outfit, reading people’s minds, using animals, controlling people with the concept of reward with gifts and promoting greed, targeting children and sneaking up on people unexpectedly. do not be fooled nat by all the “ho, ho, ho.” it is all just a ploy to get you to buy products. are you a christian natalie? have you been baptized? do you read the bible? do you pray? i pray all the time. my last prayer was this, “please let there be fresh strawberries at the market so that i can make the best smoothie ever.” i guess i’ll try to sleep now nat. i hope you are sleeping soundly. tell the boogie man i said hello.


so the whole, whole foods craze. don’t do it. i went in there the other day and can you believe they are now making coffee with the same thing that people smoke marijuana with? yes nat, the barista asked me if i wanted my almond latte made with hemp milk. i told that barista (who had dirty fingernails & smelled like some kind of granola tan oil) that i wouldn’t take part in any such thing! the nerve of her, trying to get me high in the middle of the day. poison in my almond latte. and to make matters worse it was going to cost almost $7 for a small. do you know how many carrots i can buy with $7 dollars nat. so be smart, don’t go there. be smart with your money nat. put some in the bank for savings, pay your bills and then take about $50 and put it in the freezer under your ice tray. once you feel like the ice tray won’t lay flat because of all the money you’ve saved, then you know it’s time to wrap it in foil like it’s a piece of meat. go so far as to label it pork loin and date it. for the most part people hate pork. no one will think twice to look there.

Anastacia Renee Tolbert is a queer super-shero of color moonlighting as a writer, performance artist and creative writing workshop facilitator. She has received awards and fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Jacks Straw, Ragdale and Artist Trust. Her Chapbook 26, recently published by Dancing Girl Press, is an abbreviated alphabet expression of the lower and uppercase lives of women and girls. A Pushcart nominee (2015), her poetry, fiction & nonfiction have been published widely. Recently Tolbert has been expanding her creative repertoire into the field of visual art, and has exhibited her painting and photography surrounding the body as a polarized place of both the private and political. This year she has begun a yearlong theatrical mixed-media project in collaboration with the Project Room, 9 Ounces: A One Woman Show. Lately she’s been obsessed with the body & the stories (true & not true) it holds.