SHIAVON’S JAWN: 5 lessons my mother taught me

Stream ‘A Song for Mama’ by Boyz II Men


Shiavon and her mom in Las Vegas. Shiavon wearing the necklace her mom got her for her 21st birthday, so she could be “just like her mama.”

Shiavon Chatman, Opinion Editor

A jawn. Pronounced jôn. Noun. A person, place, thing, or event that doesn’t need a specific name. An indescribable, but memorable entity.

I’m Shiavon and this is Shiavon’s Jawn. (If these two words don’t rhyme, then you’re saying my name wrong.)

My mom. My mommy. Ma dukes. My friend.

I remember the first time I saw my mother cry. It was Christmastime.

Someone broke her heart.

This changed so much because I now saw her as a human. She was still a superwoman to me, but now with feelings. The things I say to her, the things my brother says to her – they actually affect her. This was news to me. 

It was just the two of us. I didn’t know much, but I knew I had to protect her forever.

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Shiavon, her mom and Aunt Johnnetta circa 1998 at Nana’s house.

Your parents can be your friends. My mom is mine. 

My mom is my mom in the sense that she gives me advice when I don’t want to hear it. She puts my brother and me first. Even in my most enthusiastic attempt at seeming fine, she can always tell when I’m upset. 

We communicate in our own secret language that is completely cryptic to the untrained eye. She tucks my shivering, anemic body in at night with every blanket in the house and I am forever grateful.

But she’s more than that. She’s my hype man. She’s always down to take a selfie with me regardless if it is an appropriate time or not. She’s the first person to tell me I’ve had one too many while simultaneously buying me another Malibu and pineapple. She always has my back, whether she agrees with me or not. 

The lessons my mother taught me, whether it be directly or indirectly, have impacted the way I interact with my family, friends and whoever I’m dating. Even the way I interact with her.

1. Never talk about your ex with your current boo

I was shocked when I found out my mom’s fiance had never heard about one of her exes. This seems perfectly normal, but the ex in question was the ex. This man made my mom’s life a living hell for years. If Scar from “The Lion King” and Deebo from “Friday” had a baby it’d be him. He had to be the villainous character in multiple people’s lives. (And to clarify, I mean Deebo post getting knocked out by Craig.) This man was my mom’s wake-up call. 

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Shiavon and her mom in Albany, New York. Celebrating a party in July 2015.

He was the standard of how she was never going to be treated again. And to never bring him up with the man of your dreams? Queen behavior. She wanted to start life completely anew with this man. And that meant leaving behind yesterday’s toxicity.

I’ll never be the one to bring up past relationships first because of this. Unless I sense that you are a demon and I want to know how much heartbreak I’m willing to endure at that time. It’s always important to know what you’re getting yourself into early. 

2. Stop wearing clothes you were photographed in

And y’all – she is serious. I used to think she was crazy for this, but I can’t afford to be on Instagram stunting one day and then posting a picture in the same outfit expecting different thirst comments in my DMs. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? But she is the queen of recreating a look and turning it into a lewk.

Sometimes it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. Unless you are a man wearing distressed, white jeans. That’s just unfair for everyone who has to see you. 

3. Always dress like you’re going to run into your ex   

Blair Waldorf, Elle Woods and Cher Horowitz combined have nothing on my mother. I would say it’s effortless, but her drip has taken years to perfect. You and I just can’t keep up. She taught me to always look like you’re the queen of the world even when you’re falling apart inside. Appearances are a small part of who we are as a people, but letting someone know you’re a wreck is giving them way too much power. 

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Shiavon, her mom and brother, D’Andre (DJ) in Los Angeles celebrating his 30th birthday.

When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up last year, I was dressed up and ready to go within two weeks. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t ready to take a long walk off a metaphorically short cliff, but looking phenomenal for the girl I caught him texting that was stalking my Instagram stories was so satisfying. 

4. Never settle, but give people a chance

My mom told me to make sure my list of “non-negotiables” wasn’t too ridiculous. Your non-negotiables are the list of deal breakers you’ll never go back on, primarily pertaining to dating but important for friendships too.

According to her, my Seinfeld-high-set standard was getting out of hand. He’s too short. He’s too clingy. He’s too distant. He looks like Calliou’s Black older brother. He’s never heard of Wu-Tang Clan.

That one went way too far, I’m sorry. But he’s married now and an avid reader of the Jawn. Congratulations, Darius. 

My mom told me not to settle but also that having unrealistic expectations, even for friends, will leave me lonely. She said had she not been into short dudes, I wouldn’t exist. 

Yikes, but thanks, mom. 

5. A whole lot of other things

How to throw a party. The fact that there is no such thing as being overdressed. Never buy cheap shoes. How to get stains out of different kinds of fabric. All of the lyrics to Cameo’s “Candy.” But most importantly, the power of forgiveness, family and a good “Soul Train” line. 

I could go on forever, but my mom is calling me and she’ll send a watch party if I don’t answer.

Thank you, Elana.

This is my weekly column where I’ll keep you updated on my straight-to-DVD life, my hip-hop snob opinions, being uncomfortable in this political climate and being a Black woman in predominantly white spaces.