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.

My Girlfriends….There Through Thick and Thin


I am a girl’s girl—through and through.  My relationships with the women in my life have been sources of inspiration, strength, and motivation.  I consider these relationships simply invaluable, from the loving counsel of my mother and grandmother to the laughs and tears shared among my girlfriends and Sorors.

The women in my life hold me up, listen to me bitch, moan, cry and complain.  At their best these friendships are an education, they challenge me and push me to the next level. Therefore, it saddens me when I hear Black women talk about how they are immediately distrustful or suspicious of other Black women.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the parody and misrepresentation of Black women and our relationships in popular culture has been internalized.  This creates an insecurity that extends to our relationships with each other in our everyday interactions.  It lessens our ability to love ourselves and our ability love the reflection of ourselves—our sisters (and brothers too). Mainstream society has taught Black women in many ways not value ourselves and this collective sense of inadequacy threatens one of the most valuable cosmic connections in the universe. If we think of friendships as living things, I would argue the relationships and friendships between Black women are created and bound by a unique DNA of shared experience.

As Black women, I believe our human experience throughout history has been and even today remains unique.  How we do and define womanhood is special and beautiful and we need to embrace the magic of it.  Our relationships need not be fraught with jealousy, pettiness, malicious competitiveness, and distrust.  When I see my sister, I see the God manifest within in her.  I see her capacity (but not necessity) to be strong, her Grandmother’s wisdom, her courage, and creativity.

I believe one of my purposes in life is to interpret and voice my experience,  and more importantly the collective experience of the Black women around me.   I see so many parallels in the lives of  my sister friends, from the well-worn narrative around the perils of singleness to the weight of negotiating identity in the workplace.   I rely on my girlfriends for advice, to help me frame an experience, heal through hurt, and to make me laugh until my belly aches.

Toni Morrison said, “The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend” and it is in this spirit that I encourage you to treat the women in your life with love and understanding.  Be a friend and to make a friend.  Love your sisters, encourage them, and treat them with the kindness, respect, and devotion we all deserve.

“Beloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me”
Toni Morrison

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?

If I Were A Boy….: Is Chivalry Dead and Did We Sistahs Kill It?


My so-called dating life is often a platform for improvisational comedy, so I am careful not to extend my romantic foibles and fouls to the whole of Black sisterhood.  Yet listening to my gal pals has revealed a pattern that I cannot ignore.  It seems chivalry is dead and according to Dave Chappelle women killed it.  In general, many guys—not all mind you—are not interested in courting us anymore and this saddens me.

First, I recognize this is not entirely the guys fault.  Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free? Frankly, it may simply be more efficient in today’s economy to skip the wining and dining.  Yet, I yearn for the days of flowers and chocolates.  A little romance would go a long way for the scorned and broken hearts out there. In fact, there are some real incentives to be had, if Black men and women decided to kick it old school style in terms of relationships.

You see I like classic  R&B groups like the Dells, Heatwave, and the Mighty, Mighty O’Jays.  These cats knew how to woo a lady.  The lyrics of love songs like “Stay in my Corner“, “Always and Forever“, and “When a Man Loves a Woman” illustrate what relationships should look like.  There was a time when a man would sing about taking the stars out of the sky for his girl, and now what do we get: “Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol” and “Why Would You Wanna Break-Up?

The once cultural norms of the guy paying for dinner, driving, and generally putting in work to get a ladies attention has been replaced with us doing all the work. We are chasing the guys down like the last pair of size-7, heavily discounted Tory Burche’s at a Nordstrom Annual sale. I see women driving around men.  I’ve been there.  I see women paying for meals.  I’ve been there too.  This role reversal does not feel natural to me and I think it emasculates men to the point where they no longer feel a desire to be the provider. Frankly, they do not put in work because there is no need.  The marriage statistics treat good Black men like a commodity on the dating market, while they simultaneously devalue  Black women.  Moreover, a lot of guys in my generation did not grow-up with  their father’s in the home.  These momma’s babies are so often ruined that by the time they get to us ladies, they simply expect to be catered to.

There is also the matter of the nookie and the cookies.  Guys will tell us, if you want to be chased then don’t give it up too soon.  Noted.   Yet, the sexually liberated among us will argue that we have the right to get ours, just like the fellas do and there is nothing to be gained by waiting.  Their motto: “if you don’t give it up, another girl will”. Yet if you subscribe to the anthropologically  proven notion that men are by nature hunters, then you must acknowledge there is a strategic advantage as well as a valuing of self that comes from resisting sex earlier on in a relationship.  All of us take an L in this arena every now and again, but when it gets tough I like to think of Anne Boleyn.

History buffs among you will know Henry the VIII became so enamored with Boleyn that he went on an unrelenting  pursuit to make her his mistress.  Yet she steadfastly resisted his attempts to seduce her.  He became so obsessed with Boleyn, he broke the entire nation of England from the Catholic Church to have his marriage to Queen Catherine annulled, so he could then marry Boleyn.  Moral appraisals aside,this man seceded his entire country from an entire church, and not just any church the entire Holy Catholic church, thereby changing the annals of history forever…and all because one chick would not give up the cookies.

Only thing guys will break-up nowadays is the dinner bill for us to pay our half.

I find myself sitting in the car watching my dates walk all the way into the restaurant only to find that I am not beside or behind them.  Many are shocked when I insist they not only open my car door but hold the door when I walk through the restaurant, as well. Most cats have so much swag there is no hand holding; or public displays of affection.  Moreover, they also want you to call them and text them, and we run the pace with a smile on our face because hell, a half a man is better than none…right?  I’d venture to say no.

I think there is something to be said for letting a man feel like a man.  This of course does not mean unwittingly meeting his needs—  i.e. cooking and sexing ’till the cows come home without acknowledging your own needs. It does, however, mean raising your level of expectation from what think you can get to what you truly deserve.

All of us deserve to be the princess sometimes and sure we will kiss some frogs, but when true love comes a knocking and you walk through the door, chances are he’ll be holding it for you.

Number Crunching with Lyfe Jennings: The Problem with Statistics


I’ve never been good at math. Perhaps that is why I find Lyfe Jenning’s “Statistics” so troubling.   Several months ago I addressed the issue of the “lonely black girl” narrative and how it is pervading the cultural zeitgeist.   Since then this narrative has become even more familiar, as the subject of Black radio broadcasts, editorial pages, and  general water cooler conversation.  With Helena Andrew’s Bitch is the New Black on bookstore shelves and the sequel to Terry McMillan’s Waiting to ExhaleGetting to Happydue in stores this fall, I have no doubt the BGBHS (Black Girl By Herself) onslaught will continue. Into this cultural mêlée, enters Lyfe Jennings, a R&B artist well-known for his gritty urban  story lines, with his new song Statistics. While it purports to be an education to help prepare women to find Mr. Right, I  suggest that it is a further contributor to the widespread miseducation of Black women in the lessons of life and love.

For the sake of the overall polemic, we will leave aside Jenning’s fitness as a teacher on such matters, given his history.  But the basic premise of the song suggests that there is only a certain percentage of black men available due to a series of maladies, personal shortcomings, character flaws, and other characteristics—sexual preference—that makes them unavailable.   The song opens:

25% of all men are unstable
25% of all men can’t be faithful
30% of them don’t mean what they say
and 10% of the remainin’ 20 is gay

That leaves you a 10% chance of ever findin’ your man
That means you better pay attention to these words that I say
I’m gonna teach you how expose the 90%
and show you what to do to keep the other 10.

It goes on in similar fashion setting forth rules for the women folk, which include among others “Don’t be a booty call”, “Tell him that your celibate”, and “Be the person you wanna find”.  On their face, I don’t have a problem with any of these propositions.  However, if Statistics if at all prescriptive, it is a merely chicken soup for what has really become a relational cancer in the Black community.

I have heard people suggests how deep this song is and how Jennings really hits the nail on the head with this one.  Yet to me its more like he is tightening  an already well-driven screw.  Suggesting that only %10 of men are quality/available within the dating pool will only make the situation between men and women more tenuous.  Right now what Black women and men need to hear is a message of self-love.  One that demonstrates how to live a life of experiences and joy, how to leverage their personal power to make a difference in the Black community and society-at large, and how to the heal the historical wounds and mend the discords between them.

The extent to which Jennings algorithm is valid is debatable.  So many of the women in my life—self-included—are so consumed with meeting societal norms of having the loving boyfriend, big white wedding, children, and the white picket fence that we fail to acknowledge if this convention is even aligned to what will really make us happy.  What would it look like to be beautiful, intelligent, educated, financially successful and completely self-possessed to point that  having or not having a partner did not define our happiness?

The blogosphere has been rumbling for months now on the role of the Black church in keeping Black women single.  Columnist Deborah Cooper really sparked the conversation, which has since been picked up on by the likes of CNN.com, with her article The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely. The article basically blames the Black church as an institution for a sort of magical thinking within its Black women parishioners that has left them single and alone.  It goes on to make the argument that Black women should abandon the Black church en masse and focus on themselves and their families.  Essentially, I disagree with this premise because it suggests that Black women and the Black church are a monolith.  However, I do think a refocusing on what it means to be a fearless Black woman is in order.

Many of us our not living our lives to the fullest because we are afraid.  We are afraid of being alone.  We are afraid not reaching our full potential.  We are afraid of tapping the most divine part of ourselves. Many of us are deathly afraid of loving ourselves fully.  We are afraid of loving the God within us.  We are afraid of sacrifice.  We are afraid of failing.  We are afraid of getting outside of our comfort zone.  We are afraid of forgiving.  We are afraid of putting down our bags (baggage).  We are afraid of our creativity.  We are afraid of our dreams.

Yet I am convinced that if we sat aside these fears and tapped into our greatness we would not care about statistics—daunting or otherwise.  We would be convinced that providence has us precisely where we need to be and “with” who we need to be at any given moment.   I am tired of seeing the women in my life unhappy in relationships and unhappy alone.  I am tired of seeing this in myself.  As I grow and learn each day, what has become manifest to me is that life is truly an opportunity to love and be loved.  This love will emerge in all manners, romantic and otherwise; it is our responsibility to be available to it in all its forms.  This responsibility requires us to learn to accept ourselves as whole, perfect, loving, harmonious and happy—even if we do not always feel this way.  My hope is that in the “knowing” and “accepting” of our greatness will bring love in to our lives in such abundance that the numbers will not even matter.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson
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