Dear Editor: Copy, Cut, Paste, Delete….Writing my Own Story


Funny thing about introspection: it’s just so damn personal!  You see, I had a post all ready written about the perils, trials, and tribulations of dating for highly educated Black women in the DMV.   It was witty, charming, and beautifully constructed.  Trust me.   However, my inner voice suggested that the content was not entirely accurate or perhaps it was simply to simplistic.  I was regurgitating a narrative that I have heard from women like me who are looking for love in seemingly all the wrong places. It was a story of rejection, heartbreak, loneliness, and even shame—albeit not without its light moments.  Yet, it was a story framed from the point of view of a victim.  I am not a victim, though it occurs to me I have operated as one for way too long.

In thinking of matters of love and life, I am resigned to be the editor of my life.  In this role, I have the power to decide who stays and who shall go.   I can write a better story, by way of smart choices based  first and foremost around loving myself and consequently not based on the fleeting opinion of others.  Within this paradigm, I determine my self worth from a higher truth: I am a person in progress, but I am worthy of  pure and genuine love.  As editor, I can redefine the storyline as I go along, being confident not to settle and faithful enough to take a risk in pursuit of my dreams.  However, this is much easier said than done.

I am the kind of girl that thrives on male attention. There I’ve said it.  For as long as I can remember, it was very important to me that boys and men found me attractive and worthy of love.  I  had a boyfriend pretty consistently since the second grade and let me tell you the melodrama of that puppy love affair could rival that of any daytime soap opera.  I kept boyfriends through middle and high school, and married in my early twenties to  further solidify a pattern of serial monogamy sprinkled in with a few regrets.   Divorced by twenty-eight, I was devastated, angry, bitter, and sad.  The man who was supposed to support me, love me unconditionally, and protect me—let me down.  Yet in retrospect, I had let myself down. I am my own editor.

A little armchair psychology will easily connect my “boy issues”, as  I call them to my relationship with my father who loved and spoiled me incessantly, but was limited in his ability to provide the real guidance, nurturing, time, and wisdom I craved.  You see my parents were divorced when I was still a little baby and my father remarried raising a family outside the one he created with my mom.  I do not begrudge him any happiness his choices may have brought to his life; I am just realistic about how they colored my experiences in love and relationships.

I also watched my mom move through a series of boyfriends—none of which ever really deserved her. I know she did this in a failed effort to bring a father figure into my life  as well as to provide the love and security she wanted and deserved.   Yet, as I see this pattern repeating in my life:  toxic relationships, broken homes, anxiety, and depression; I am making an active choice to stop it right here.  The call on my life is too big not to;  I am my own editor.

God is my north star and I always felt very attuned to the universe and what it wanted for me.  I know that I was given a voice, talent, and a passion for living that is worthy of the kind of love that will last a lifetime.  Accordingly, it is not worth it for me to waste the energy and time investing into thin relationships based on my own insecurities, fears, or simply a desire to get the love that has alluded me, thus far.  Yet to say that it alluded me would be somewhat of a misstatement.  I have had great guys—though flawed—love me in healthy and nourishing ways.  However, I am learning that I need to come into a place mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally where I am able to first recognize and then form healthy romantic relationships.

Ladies:  I ardently urge you to do a mirror check.  For all the complaining we do about the foibles, fumbles, and general fuck ups the men in our life enact upon us, it is important that we don’t lose sight of how we are contributing to our own destiny. Of course this not to say that the guys out there don’t require their fair share of introspection, healing, and calls for accountability. They surely do.  The relationships between Black women and Black men are  plagued by historical consequences and cultural baggage.  Accordingly, it is that much more important that we become more intentional about recognizing and valuing the love within ourselves and others.

I say all this to say, I am taking a break to be with myself.   That is right folks—you heard it here first. I am pulling myself out of the game.  I am sure that with this bold proclamation that every guy I ever wanted will come knocking down my door—the universe is not without a sense of humor.  However, my dating sabbatical isn’t about self-denial, but more about self-actualization.  I am taking sometime to embrace the skin I’m in and to learn to love myself fully—flaws and all.  I am taking some time to know the God within me, to tap into my full potential, heal a few wounds, jump over a few hurdles, knock down some road blocks, and most importantly write my own happy ending. I am the editor of my life.  More to come…stay tuned.

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?

Redemption Song: Why Chris Brown’s Man in the Mirror Performance Will Save His Career


Chris Brown has had a rough year: 1,400 hours of community service and a dropped endorsement with Wrigley;  banned from the UK and blasted by Oprah; the nation was turned against this guy. A platinum selling artist out the gate, his last project Grafitti sold fewer than 100,000 units.  So now, a little over a year after pleading guilty to assaulting pop princess Rihanna, he has done the impossible.  He has redeemed his career.

Browns’ performance did what an appearance on Larry King and a scripted video apology could not do.  It showed the frailness of humanity and how our moments of greatest weakness can be the dawning of our greatest days to come.

To me Brown’s performance was a purely redemptive moment that sent chills up my spine and I was as mad at Chris as anyone. Prior to the BET awards, he was in R. Kelly territory for me.  And there was little to nothing he could do to get out because I just could not wrap my mind around how he could batter this girl in this way. Young, gifted, and Black, he was throwing it all away. I’ve had friends tell me various versions of the “he didn’t beat her, they were fighting” line, but I just could not get past it.

Brown’s tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards was nothing less than transformative.  An insanely talented dancer, Brown mimicked the late superstars moves with the perfect combination of pinpoint accuracy and breathtaking artistic freedom.   As Brown tried hopelessly to croak out vocals to Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, he was overwhelmed with absolutely genuine emotion. I mean I can’t listen to that song without crying, much less trying to sing it live in front of a audience, perhaps less hostile to you than the general public, but still skeptical.

Yet watching him  stammer across the stage lost in emotion, I can say without the slightest doubt that we were watching a humbled and talented man emote in a way that is so rare in our culture, but particularly within Black community.  The collective experience those who watched performance had was transformative in many ways. It showed “black maleness” in all its strength and frailties to a Nation.  Therefore, this moment means  more than just forgiveness for Chris, it will represent seminal moment in the re-launch of a career destined for superstardom.

In our community, it is often said that Men Cry in the Dark.  Yet Brown cried in the light.  No doubt his tears were for the pain he caused his mother, the disappointment he brought to his fans, his personal foibles and failings, challenges throughout year—and for the loss of one of his mentors—Michael Jackson.

His performance left me asking, how often do we see Black men cry in our lives, much less in the media? Last Year, in an article for Black America Web, Tonya Pendleton asks: Can a Black Man Cry Openly Without Ridicule? She names D.L. Hughley, Ne-Yo, and Stephon Marbury as notable Black male celebs who turned on the tears, only to be mocked and scorned by the public:

“Since black men in particular are encouraged from childhood to show a stoic face to the world, is it possible that their pain is viewed as unimportant? Could that be why black men tend to die earlier than white ones, and are often disproportionately violent towards women and others? Is the inability to express pain keeping black men from healing from various wounds” (Black America Web 2009).

The cynics will say that Brown’s tearful and broken effort was a ploy for the nation’s forgiveness and regain his career.  This conclusion marginalizes Black male pain and illustrates a disdain for any kind of weakness shown on their part.  But let it not go unsaid that he was entirely wrong for beating Rihanna.  He was more than wrong.  What he did was absolutely unconscionable.  His behavior showed an immature spirit carrying demons that one will hope were released with this cathartic performance.  I don’t doubt that this man carried and continues to bear a lot of anger and pain from childhood and beyond; ironically having expressed this pain in a  wholly different way than the Rihanna beating, he is now being questioned and doubted.  I’m am convinced this is unfair.

Ironically, the same folks questioning the Brown’s authenticity, condemn President Obama for not showing enough emotion for the Gulf Oil spill.  When it comes to emotional expression, Black men face a difficult catch 22.  Show too much emotion and you are angry or somehow damaged, and too little you are haughty, professorial, and unfeeling.  Go figure.

Americans want to forgive talented people: Kobe Bryant, Robert Downey Jr., Bill Clinton, Ron “I want to thank my psychiatrist and hood” Artest, and any number of celebs and politicians have, through the continued execution of their genius, overcome the darkest of moments.  Tiger you’re up next if you can win another green jacket.

This is Chris Brown’s moment to say: “America, let me transform you; I’m about to do genius.  Watch”.

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