Adiba Nelson, an Afro-Latina mama to 13-year-old Emory, is a retired burlesque performer, TEDx speaker, and disability rights advocate. Her debut memoir “Ain’t That a Mother: Postpartum, Palsy, and Everything in Between” (Blackstone, May 2022), explores race, place, parenting, disability, dating, and all the delicious deets in between.
I've known Adiba for several years. We're both from Tucson, Arizona, and our artsy community is relatively small—most writers know of each other.
During a recent Zoom coffee date, I asked Adiba questions about what I lack in life and what I feel many women do—support, self-love, and confidence. One of the things I loved most about her memoir was the thread of strong female friendships. So, I was curious how Adiba learned to be a friend. I was surprised to hear that, like me, Adiba is an only child, and like me, she also always wanted siblings. Because of this, she said she treated all of her girlfriends like sisters. She said, "It doesn't matter that we're not the same color. We're family."
Adiba's had the same best friend, Faith, since elementary school. Adiba said about their friendship, "You get both of us when you get one of us. If you mess with her, you mess with me. That's just how we roll." Adiba explained friendships are transparent and authentic and that keeping it real is the ultimate form of respect and love. She said, "I'm loyal to a tee. If I say I love you, I love you. If I say I got you, I got you."
I've found that it's more challenging to make new women friendships later in life. I'm an introvert and have a small circle of close people in my life, but Adiba seems to be the life of the party, so I asked her if she had recommendations for women who'd like more friends. I was surprised by her answer. She explained that she doesn't have a huge circle of female friends, but only a few. She said, "A big group of friends was very high school. We had the squad, right? I would say if you don't have a lot of friends, that's OK. You need one good friend that's your homie." She continued, "If all of my friends died tomorrow, which I don't ever wish, I'd be devastated but OK, but if Faith died, I'd probably throw myself off a cliff. I cannot go through life without Faith in my corner. I'm one lung; she's the other."
Adiba's memoir is the doc's order for a healthy dose of self-love. I asked what self-love looks like to her. She answered, "Self-love is owning your no’s and the repercussions of your yeses. It's knowing your body and when you need to stop and breathe. But, it's also knowing when you need to push." She also said self-love is masturbation and that, as women, there are so many things we're not supposed to do, talk about, and admit to, but self-love is proudly owning all parts of ourselves.
Adiba's a natural in a crowd, and I wanted her to sprinkle me with some of her fairy dust. I asked for advice for people, such as myself, who aren't as comfortable. She explained she grew up on a stage as a dancer and is used to performing in front of an audience. But, she also said she's not an extrovert and likes hanging out at home. She said, "At a party, I'm the chick in the corner eating chips." She said she was a very quiet kid until you put her in front of a mic. She explained this might be her escapism. She said, "I advise finding an escape route that feels comfortable for you. Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce as her alter ego, so create your own Sasha Fierce."
I learned so much from Adiba's memoir, but mostly I learned the power of staying true to myself.
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