Balls and Strikes: Boy versus Girl in the World Series of Love


Single Ladies: it’s cold outside and as the Celsius drops you might find your stock going up. Seemingly out of nowhere, men you have not heard from in months are contacting you  just to sayhello”, “what’s up”, or “would you like to accompany me for a week-long, all expenses paid vacation to the Cayman Islands” (seriously dude I haven’t talk to you in like 5 months…we are not going international…that is how people end up on Snapped).

Basking in the glow of this onslaught of attention, you might assume that you suddenly got more gorgeous, intelligent, and charismatic than you were in say July or the fella(s) in question finally wised up to how awesome you are.  However, sadly this is not likely the case.  This time of year many men are simply looking for—and I’ll put it delicately—a winter cuddle buddy.

All my professional daters know that  the end of August through Thanksgiving represents peak hunting season for the men folk.  I will guess that first chilly nip in the air marked the return of some long-lost friends for many of you ladies.  That said, this sudden shift in your dating fortune may present some challenges for the choosey lovers among you—those who have no real desire to jump from bed to bed, but are seeking intimacy and daytime activities along with the passion filled nights of winter.   So how do you keep your winter snugfest alive through the holidays and past the darling buds of May?   Suffice it to say, you are going to want to be strategic about whose tree you tinsel this year.

Men want to have sex.  Women want to have sex too.  However, women often prefer a relationship to provide a context for the sex. Accordingly, we seek them out to accommodate this desire for security and essentially love. I mean there are exceptions.  There are many women who are perfectly content to engage in relations with a man with no strings attached; however, a large percentage of us are looking for more.  Accordingly, the idea of casual sex particularly among élite and well-educated Black women is a sensitive topic because so many of us feel bound by our sexuality, when we should feel empowered.

Being a choosey lover is  your prerogative and saying “no” or “let’s wait a while” is a real option. A quality man will actually find this appealing and may even pursue you because you are a challenge.  That doesn’t mean get all Doris Day on them; men are driven in many ways by sex.  Yet, I urge finding a happy space where you are being true to yourself and your needs, while respecting those of your potential partner.

One of my favorite stand-up routines is Dave Chappelle’s women killed chivalry bit.  He humorously posits that as a collective women have devalued their self-worth by being overtly sexually accessible and even promiscuous.  In this way, we have essentially put our sexual agency in a box, wrapped it in Christmas paper, topped it with a bow and turned it over men.  Chappelle states, “if p***y was a stock it would be plummeting because women give it away to easy”.  Touché.

Our society allows our male counterparts to penetrate ad nauesem every trash-box rocking a cheap Forever 21  Herve Leger knock-off  without penalty or judgement, while we women often feel bound by certain rules—rules from the Bible, the Koran, Steve Harvey, or whoever.  The extent to which this reality is a result of patriarchy is important, but nonetheless it remains a reality.  While shows like Girlfriends and Sex and the City worked to subvert these rules; they are woven in our Puritan cultural fabric.  And it is within this context, men and women become like two nations caught up in nuclear brinksmanship, rather than impassioned lovers caught in an intimate embrace.

Because women are aware or even perceive that men have many options for copulating— particularly in our large urban cities (like D.C.), we feel a pressure to engage in this kind of relating early on to attract or keep a man. Society tells women to play the game to get the guy by either being sexually inaccessible or overtly sexual.  Both of these behaviors are imposed constructs and I would argue not aligned to really connecting with another person.  Many times the internal pressure to give it up is almost as bad as the external.  We have needs too.

Quite frankly I know many men and women I have talked to are exhausted, by this whole tango.  They are fed-up with checklist, game playing, timelines, dreams deferred, minimal treatment,  and manipulative tactics that we use on each other to get what we want or need.   Essentially…

Men want this…..


Women want that and this…..

 

Both wouldn’t mind this ultimately…

 

but as a collective we often end up like this…


Frankly, I find the term casual sex sort of misplaced. The fact that an act so connected to the universe and the God within us can be reduced to khakis and a polo is odd to me.  Yet, I cannot accept the whole puritanical wait until marriage construct as natural, healthy, or realistic for most women and men.  While I know some choose to live this way, many of us heathens cannot.   For instance, many people are not looking for marriage.  Companionship—yes, but marriage—no.

So what happens to those of us in the badlands of dating purgatory where we believe in the possibility of love but are stifled by the dual desires to keep self-respect and dignity and yet find unbelievable passion?  How do we negotiate and balance love and lust in our life?  How do we connect our mind, bodies and spirits to another’s?   How do we begin respecting the God within ourselves and someone else and stop using each other as a means to an end?  Essentially,  I asking how do we make love and not war?

Let’s Have A Toast to the Assholes: Leave Kanye Alone….No Really


Google the search terms Kanye West + Asshole, and as you might imagine; you will get a surplus of returns.  Kanye’s manic form of genius combined with a decidedly lax brain to mouth filter has resulted in his name becoming almost synonymous with the insult in certain circles—amongst Taylor Swift fans for instance.

With the recent brouhaha over the Matt Lauer interview and Bush’s claim that West’s infamous black people gaff was the worst moment of  his presidency (apparently worst than Katrina itself, the domestic economic meltdown, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Valerie Plame, Harriet Miers….I’ll stop in the interest of time), Kanye is back in the headlines again.  And the coverage ain’t good.

Lauer’s interview with West was at best poor journalism and at worst an intentional attempt to create another Kanye moment.  You know Kanye moments: insulting the Commander and Chief by implying he was a racist, interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV movie awards, as well a series of rants, interruptions, politically incorrect pop-offs, tantrums and most recently rogue tweets.  Yet it’s these moments combined with leveraging the most creative musical brain in hip-hop to make hit after consecutive hit that makes Kanye both genius and walking spectacle.

He  has been called the villain,the asshole, the jerk, the douche bag but he is more accurately described as a man in progress.  He occasionally back slides but this understandable for someone burden by an ego the size of the twitterverse. He is admittedly self-conscience and evidently a driven perfectionist—who really does love his art.  Over the years, Kanye has had a series of personal dramas play-out within the pages tabloids and on gossip blogs.  Despite a life threatening car accident, the untimely and tragic loss of his mother, and a series of public break-ups, he has continued to be a prolific and evolving artist.  I believe this is because he is driven first by a desire to create and is more conflicted and quite frankly limited in his ability to manage the fame.

Kanye is  the modern Andy Warhol.  Both aesthetically driven workaholics bound by an excess of personality, they have in common a vision to achieve wealth through their art  and an unfettered desire to see their dreams manifest. In another time, Kanye might be considered colorful or brash.  However, with a 24-hour news cycle largely padded by entertainment news, he provides the  perfect patsy for a world dominated by far less ingenious and productive assholes.  So I’m saying: leave Kanye alone.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Kanye.  Okay its more than a soft spot.  I date him in my mind and we are in love, but in the interest of a neutral analysis I have put that aside.  Instead I have tried to speak to the madness at the heart of his genius or the genius at the heart of his madness—depending on where you stand.  Suffice it to say whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion of Kanye.

If  Kanye is anything, he is unapologetic.  He is unapologetically Black, unapologetically brilliant, unapologetically flawed, and unapologetically wealthy. “Wake Up Mr. West”, said the late great Bernie Mac in the opening of the Kanye’s classic Late Registration album and I do mean; recall Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Diamonds From Sierra Leone. Wake up indeed and recently Kanye has woken up.  Sure he is still brash, cocky, fashionable, and manic; yet he has managed to temper his special brand of swagga-dopeness with a swig of humble juice.  He kind of apologized to the president, though he did refuse to perform on the Today show plaza in a return visit.  With an album on the way perhaps this wasn’t the most expedient choice from marketing stand point, but it was aligned to his convictions and you cannot be mad at that.

Wherever you stand, you have to respect Kanye for his what he is doing with music.  I appreciate and salute him for his authenticity even in his most ungraceful moments. My only hope is that the tedium of fame that he both craves and despises does not stifle his creativity or leave him jaded .  I want Kanye to be his irrepressible self.  Hollywood is so celluloid that it is nice to see someone so completely themselves.  Suffice it to say: Kanye I love you—flaws and all.

What It Feels Like for a Girl: Poem and Polemic in For Colored Girls


Tyler Perry’s film adaption of Ntozake Shange’s theatrical masterpiece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a commentary on the boundlessness of black genius, as much as it is a polemic against patriarchy.  The genius is found in the performances of the all-star cast and Shange’s poetry.  A self-proclaimed Black Feminist, the polemic is Shange’s—yes—but as retold here becomes largely Perry’s.

Last weekend I had the privilege of seeing the film with a group of sister friends and it is an experience that I will not soon forget.  The film is Perry’s best work yet and this is a testament to the genius of Shange’s material and the film’s brilliant cast, as much as it is to Perry’s artistic vision. For Colored Girls is examines how black female identity is negotiated, subjugated, represented, co-opted, and often times negated. Told through the interwoven narratives of nine women, the film uses the plays poetic voice to its advantage. Shange’s words drip of the tongues of Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, and Phylicia Rashad, with as much potency and relevancy today as when the stage play debuted in 1975.  Look for Oscar nominations  Newton and Elise.

Based on the narrative thread of his films thus far, Perry is clearly negotiating some issues around black male identity, as much as he is black female identity.  The narrative arc of Perry’s films usually finds a female protagonist bound by an addiction to a man, to a drug, to a lifestyle that finds her losing herself.  The films usually end with the Black woman finding redemption through an act of spiritual transformation—a divine intervention.  With this transformation, she is fully formed and in touch with the God with her.  She is then able to access worldly love with a deserving man.  Tyler has a prototype for his ideal man, he is hard working—and often blue-collar,  he is spiritually in touch, and essentially neutered—void of any overt sexual aggression.

Tyler’s critique of Black men is perhaps even more powerful than his edification of Black women. In this film, they are misogynist, rapist, philanderers, liars, cheats, and decidedly weak.  There is no growth for the men and  no redemption  Accordingly, the films powerful performances are at times subjugated to Perry’s penchant for melodrama—at times it’s not clear if this is Perry’s moment of artistic maturity or a dressed up version of his usual wound picking.  For Colored Girls continues a narrative thread in black dramatic works like “The Color Purple” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” that explore the strange dyad that is black men and black women—a relationship historically plagued by forced separation, gender role reversal, and plainly said pain.

This is not Madea.  It is a film with an artistic voice and cultural merit; it is well-positioned  among other classics in its exploration of the black women’s relationship with each other and the men in their lives. Perry is not Spike Lee (the one who makes good films), Spielberg, or Scorsese. Yet with this film, he addresses issues and concerns that will resonate with colored girls everywhere: a need to find their voice in a world that so often seeks to negate it; the desire to love and be love; and the innate resiliency that makes Black women the survivors we are.

Darling Nicki: Okay I Admit it….You Had Me At Hello


I am about to admit a very painful truth.  I am now a Nicki Minaj fan and I have probably always been ***hangs head low in knowing embarrassment***.  My girl crush on Nicki started with her feature on Yo Gotti’s 5 Star Bitch, but for a long time I was stuck in this moment of cognitive dissonance trying to figure out who this girl was and why was she everywhere like parsley.

I know that it is standard operating procedure for the dayum near thirty and over set to hate on Nicki for among other things her purported lack of lyrical prowess (I disagree), her uncanny ability to produce strong features while simultaneously offering lackluster solo efforts, her affiliation with the Young Money Crew, her penchant for pink, her surgically enhance derrière, her fake love affair with Drake, her faux British accent, and cartoonish sputtering flow.

Yet what I’ve come to realize is what we hate Nicki most for is not being Lauryn Hill Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Remy Ma, or Trina. Nicki represents a  shift for hip-hop fans of my generation; and the sting is particularly potent because she has come on the scene like an all consuming flood, after a long drought of successful female MCs.

I can imagine a similar tension was felt by fans of Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and Mc Lyte, when Kim and Foxy hit the scene.  Their anti-cconscious hip-hop aesthetic was certainly frowned upon from a certain kind of feminist hip-hop head. Kim and Foxy created a brand that  eschewed traditional feminist values—apart from a hyper sexual aggression that could be viewed as a form of sexual liberation.  They created an archetype for the female MCs of today whose material largely focuses on sex, materialism, the criminal life and excess.

As far as the Lauryn Hill nostalgia goes, I can certainly sympathize with a desire for her educational, heartfelt, and emotive—if not sometimes preachy—brand of hip-hop.  However, Lauryn is highbrow; comparing her with Nicki is like comparing Tyler Perry to Spike Lee.  They both have their unique brand of genius, but one is driven by popular appeal and the other by artistic merit.

Nicki Minaj has appropriated aspects of this brand of female rapper, but has created her own infectious rap style  and persona that makes allows her not only bankable but primed for superstardom.  Her verse on Kanye West’s Monster marked my conversion moment from secret fan to outright Minaj advocate: “So let me get this straight/wait I’m the rookie/But my features and my shows ten times your pay/50k for a verse no album out…”

Fire.  This lil’ broad is going in!

Nicki’s theatrics have also been subject to critique.  A lot of folks have a problem with her strange voices and singy-songy animated delivery; but like her visuals and the dramatics are part of her brand.   A former performing arts student, Nicki understands the importance of being over the top and its has been invaluable to helping her stand-out.  It’s like hip-hop Glee and I love it.

Set aside the animated facial expressions, cartoonish voices, and references to Barbie and listen to her verses.   Her flow is multi-faceted and dynamic, mixing Jamerican inflections, brash storytelling, and yes pretty decent use of metaphor. Check her verse from the 2009 Hip-Hop Award Bet Cypher and tell me it’s not fire:

Nikki has the bravado, confidence, and killer instinct of some of the hottest male MCs and she does it in bad ass Giuseppe stilettos.  The girl’s shoe game cannot be slept on. This signals another thing I’ve come to appreciate about young Nicki.  She does not apologize for being a girl’s girl succeeding in a testosterone laden industry. Right Though Me and Your Love are written from a uniquely female point of view and are void of typical sexual innuendo. These songs are about relationships and I can dig ’em.  However, Let it not go unsaid that Nicki does manipulate and leverage her sexuality. She  even plays with her sexual preferences in the same way drunk girlfriends dance with each other to beg male attention in the club, see her verse on Usher’s Lil Freak:

Excuse me little mama but u can say im on duty
Im lookin for a cutie a real big ole’ ghetto booty
I really like ur kitty kat n if you let me touch her
I kno u not a bluffer.. i’ll take you to go see usher
I keep a couple hoes like santa I keep a vixen
Got that dasher dancer prancer vixen
Comet cupid donner blitzen….

I cannot wait until Pink Friday.  On November 22nd, along with much of the 106 and Park contingent, I will be purchasing the album and Kanye’s effort due for release the same day. With her mentor Lil’ Wayne released from prison just today, it will be interesting to see where Minaj’s career goes next. I’m excited to see.  So Nicki critics, here is my message to you:  put down the haterade and let this young girl do her thing.

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