(Originally published on NewYorkTimes.com)

Memories of the day I found out the boy I loved was loving on someone else are stuck on my brain like some Technicolor scab. The moment stays vivid not just because of my own misery, but because of my mother’s reaction. Upon witnessing me clutch our house phone and dissolve into a heap of tears, questioning every little thing I might have done to drive this boy away, she yelled at me for crying.

My mom, Bettye, was part of a generation of superwomen who stood in the crook between the feminist and civil rights movements; she was Black, very much a lady, invisible. There was neither time nor room for crying, so she didn’t do it and demanded the same of me when I was growing up in the ’80s. Buck up. Get over it. Focus on what matters.

“Don’t you ever let me see you crying over some boy!” she said. I hurriedly wiped my tears, sucked up my snot and went back to watching “The Cosby Show.” From that day forward, I knew to tuck in my emotions around her. Superwomen don’t cry.

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