Resmaa Menakem Does Not Like This
Does Drew Barrymore like the idea of taking a class? How do you know who to trust?
Billy Eichner used to have a recurring segment on his show where he would ask celebrities about what Drew Barrymore likes.
It was called “does Drew Barrymore like this?” It went pretty much as you would expect from the title.
Eichner would read from a list of unrelated things — hearing singing, the IRS, throwing a christmas party, a side salad, when there’s too many people in an elevator — and the celebrity on the show that week would have 60 seconds to guess whether or not Drew Barrymore liked those things.
Drew Barrymore, of course, was not affiliated with the show. This list, and the correct answer, was based on vibes alone.
Micah and I watched a ton of Billy on the Street before their mom died, and after.
It was kind of a guilty pleasure.
We both felt sheepish about watching so much of it, but given the circumstances, not that sheepish. Both Micah and I found the Drew Barrymore bit hilarious, and watched the episodes where that segment came up over and over again. We even played the game a couple of times, not just for Drew Barrymore, but for other people in our life, including ourselves, imagining their answers.
“Does Micah Bernstein like potholes? “I would ask, strung out from sleep deprivation and other people’s grief.
Micah would laugh, as they drove us around pothole filled streets trying to get a break from everything, and yell “No! They do not like potholes!”
It was nice to not have to think. To just feel whatever we were feeling about whatever was going on, no matter how stupid or tragic.
I am deeply curious about somatics and embodiment, but skeptical. As a person who gets more of my information about the world than is healthy from googling at 2 AM. (all of my recent Google searches are some variation of “how to learn somatics” or “is it fucked up to want to live in a van”)
As always, capitalism makes everything complicated: rejection of the fucked up systems previously structuring knowledge is good. But it also means my only real curator of information about somatics is the algorithm, or what people I think are interesting on the Internet have to say about a person or practice.
In this field, emergent as it is, there are a few people I am aware of who have wide spread trust, partially based on their work, and also on their scale of influence. One is Resmaa Menakem, who wrote a complicated and fascinating book about somatics and racialized trauma called My Grandmother’s Hands. Even if you have no idea about what I’m talking about in the rest of this email, you’ve probably heard of My Grandmother’s Hands.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago while trolling the Internet and trying to learn more about somatics, I found a statement from a group about the behavior of a controversial practitioner. It was thousands and thousands of words long. They’d never written a single other blog post about their work before, and clearly they had a lot to say, primarily about this practitioner.
That said, I found it hard to follow in a way that made me feel uncertain. What were the actual problems with this person‘s work? What was the group objecting to? What did they want this person to change? Even though I had zero connection to this controversy or this community, I found myself wanting to know the answers to these questions. The paragraphs and paragraphs of text seemed to create more questions. I found myself questioning exactly what this post was supposed to do, exactly why this group wanted me to disengage with the practitioner that they were condemning.
I have zero context for the controversy, and can’t speak to anything about this except the fact that I found this post confusing.
Most notably to me in this post, at the end, written in all bold, was a single sentence, spaced on its own line:
RESMAA MENAKEM DOES NOT APPROVE OF THIS PRACTITIONER.
(Resmaa Menakem does not like this.)
It was a striking sentence: not only because it was short and bolded, but because it was the clearest most succinct summary of everything else they had written.
In one Billy on the Street episode, Drew Barrymore herself plays the “Does Drew Barrymore Like This?” Game. The premise was audacious — to ask Drew Barrymore to list the things she does or does not like, and have Billy tell her whether or not she’s correct.
It’s awkward at first: Drew Barrymore looks bewildered the first time Billy tells her no actually, Drew Barrymore does not like cold pressed juices: they’re pasteurized. She’s also open to taking a class, Drew, come on.
But as she gets comfortable with the rhythm of it, maybe starts to get the joke, Drew Barrymore gets more relaxed, even bantering a little back-and-forth with him: “Bur I do like that,” she insists at one point. “No you don’t! “Billy snaps back.
Drew Barrymore just smiles.
She’s Drew Barrymore, vibes queen. Whatever Billy says to her won’t change what she actually believes about crystalline energy healing or charcoal based products or whatever is going on with her.
The problem I am gesturing at with this Drew Barrymore game show segment might not really even be a problem, more a symptom of change.
The more we create emerging networks the harder it will be to evaluate what is happening within them from the outside.
Who and how we trust will have to change. We will have to do more discernment on a case by case basis based on our own understanding of the world, rather than on a evaluation of credentials or credibility from a academic institution, algorithm, or influencer.
As Resmaa Menakem himself wrote on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, completely unrelated to the post I read — if you’re not part of my community, I have no interest in being accountable to you.
Because like Drew Barrymore, only you can decide what you like or don’t like, regardless of what anyone tells you.