The first time a Beyoncé song saved me, I was 24 and had broken up with my high school sweetheart. Two weeks later, we were technically back together. Like most things, it was Kanye's fault. That week he had just released 808s & Heartbreaks, and every time I turned on the radio he was Auto-Tune crooning at me, "How could you be so heartless?"
Kanye had me feeling so low. I had tossed my boyfriend's soul like it was a trinket whose gold plating had worn away and exposed the dull metal at its core. But after six-and-a-half years there was no shine left to our relationship. We inevitably broke up again.
After our second breakup, it was Beyoncé I listened to. I didn't know who I was if it wasn't in relation to him. I went out drinking and dancing in a freakum dress six nights a week. And although I'd been the one to do the dumping and he'd been the one to move on first, "Single Ladies" became my anthem. At my favorite college bar, I'd grip a neon green Tokyo Tea in one hand and hold my other hand high in the air, wriggling my ringless ring finger back and forth. Beyoncé had given me the swagger to get to the other side of the pain and drama. I danced until my flat-ironed edges crinkled up and the arches in my feet ached. I danced until I believed every word Beyoncé preached, until the spirit of the song consumed me, until I was no longer ashamed to be a single lady.
I was delivered.
It wasn't until I was on the verge of 29 in wintry-ass Denver where I'd been unwillingly transferred for work that I once again called on Beyoncé for guidance. I was hundreds of miles from the people I knew and loved and who knew and loved me. I'd applied to grad schools to get my MFA in creative writing and I needed to know letting go of my grip on the corporate ladder wasn't a mistake. I was still single and felt totally out of place as a black woman in Denver. I didn't hike or feel like yoga pants were all-occasion wear, regardless of how bomb my booty looked in them. One of my friends liked to refer to Denver as "white people's Atlanta." In other words, Beckys were winning and women who looked like me were not. I had to get out and I was uncertain that my writing was enough to whisk me away.
Then she, mother of Blue Ivy, lover of Jay Z, dropped her self-titled album, Beyoncé. I played the tracks on my way to a night of bowling with other dateless black women. I didn't need her to introduce me to feminism. I already knew what it was and what mine looked like, but I was happy she'd discovered it. I remembered that moment in undergrad when I learned the word that framed the feeling of unfairness I'd sensed all my life. Her discovery reminded me that there was more to me beyond men and love. I had shit I wanted to accomplish.
I was a little over a year away from being 30, but here was a woman who'd crossed that threshold and become a bolder, better, unapologetic version of herself. She was blooming as an artist and brimming with confidence in her business acumen. If this woman could do this standout thing in an industry where nearly everything had been done and clichés were what turned profits, then it wasn't too late for me to invest in my own art. Beyoncé gave me that. She stripped away my fear that the rumors were right; that misspent twenties was time wasted. She showed me that my best years were still ahead. She redefined the power within womanhood for me and many black women my age.
This brings us to Lemonade and present-moment me, as I grow one word at a time closer to publishing a memoir about some assholes I dated (and some moments where I was an asshole, too). I've spent many late nights trying to figure out the polite way to say some dude hurt my feelings, or how to write about my father without really writing about my father.
Beyoncé plays May 12 at Qualcomm Stadium
When my fingers hesitated over my keyboard, Beyoncé blasted back into my life with a baseball bat and lyrics airing out her husband's trifling-ass ways and shared the "Daddy Lessons" that led to her Daddy issues. The Black Woman might be the most neglected person in America, but Beyoncé sees us and we see her. She's telling black women we can feel pain, be angry and find a way through all of those hurt feelings to healing and forgiveness. But forgiveness does not beget silence. We can speak on it and we can use our tongues to twist our words into more than just words—to create art out of what the world and our men have wrought. I could forgive those men who made me feel like I was too much, I could forgive my father of his shortcomings and I could use it all to tell my story; how I became a woman. On a Sunday morning, a day reserved for renewal and rebirth, Queen Bey taught me how to squeeze blood from stone, lemonade from lemons.
Minda Honey is writing a memoir, An Anthology of Assholes, about squandering her youth on the wrong men. Follow her on Twitter: @MindaHoney.