Update: Brand NEW Posts Coming Soon!!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Open Letter to Single Women

*Single here is defined as not married, or seeing anyone. This article is for single WOMEN! I am not a single MAN; so I’m not qualified to address that side of the issue.

Dear Single Women,

This is the best free advice you are ever going to get so listen carefully:


I want you to know that I am single (never married and not seeing anyone) and have been for a quite some time. I want you to know that there are lots of single women out there and that they understand where you are coming from. I don’t have any of the typical Cosmo, Glamour, Style etc. advice for you about how a new sexual position, outfit, or make up tip will make you magically appealing to the weaker sex.  But I am here to say that pining over a man won’t get you one and complaining about men (even though it’s good entertainment from time to time) won't change them. I know, I know men are selfish, sex -obsessed, narcissistic, blah blah blah. In fact you can insert any other adjective and I will totally agree with you, but how does that help YOU? I’m a huge fan of self-acceptance. There are so many things in life we can’t control. Whether someone is sexually attracted to us and eventually comes to love us is not a factor we have too much control over! That’s tough for women, because we like control. That’s why we read all those relationship books, that’s why we spend money and time on dating sites, and why we stomach inordinate amounts of dating advice from well-meaning friends and family. But part of being an adult is also learning to accept the things that you cannot change. I know, I know your church has a singles groups, and your minister is praying a special prayer for you, and everyone is telling you that if you are single it’s your fault and that you need to change, or that singleness is a gift, or that God is preparing you for yada yada yada.

The fact is women are relational. We love relationships. We love talking about relationships and when our relationships aren't right we are not happy. Being single is a lot more negative, stigmatizing, and potentially heartbreaking to women, just because we are so relational. So here are some things to consider if you would like to be both single AND happy.

1) It is probably not your fault that you are single. I know everyone is blaming you, but in most cases it’s a simple numbers game. You haven’t done anything wrong. Look at your friends who are married, are they really that much more wonderful, enlightened, mature etc. than you? You may still wish to take the time to do serious introspection and work on those things that may hinder positive relationships, but if you are scratching your head and wondering, "why am I single?," it’s probably NOT you that’s the problem. It could be just a bad break. It could be where you are located, and it could be that the other gender is the problem. More than likely women are single because of a skewed male to female ratio or a severe shortage of quality single men. In short, dating is a numbers game!

2)Please enjoy your life. When I look back at some of the best times in my entire life--those defining moments, those times when I was happiest and at my best, I was single! Really examine your life and the things that matter to you. In fact, my regret is wasting my time pining over some guy. When I was fresh out of college I had a good social network. I was always going to parties, game nights, restaurant etc. I had so much fun, but often I put a damper on these great experiences because I was worried over being single, sad that I wasn't pretty enough, and discouraged because Mr. I-forget-his-name-now didn't like me. All the time I could have been and should have been enjoying myself and cultivating meaningful friendships with other people.

3) Leave dem relationship books and seminars alone! Sure the advice may be good, but is it healthy to constantly hear that you are doing it wrong? That if you change x,y, and z factors you will get the incredible man of your dreams? I do not think it helpful to fixate on this stuff. It’s a recipe for depression.

4) As a rule, I don’t go to weddings. Not because I’m a mean person, but because a wedding is no place for a single woman! As a single person, you may not be able to plan your third cousin twice removed's wedding. Those bridal magazines are NOT for you. Those articles on marriage are NOT for you. Drink too much of this Kool-Aid and you will start to believe that you are defective and that marriage will lead you to your happily ever after. Our society knows this is not true. Look at how many marriages end in divorce or how many people stay married out of a sense of obligation but are neither in love nor happy. The bitter truth is that very few people are happily married.

5) Please have fun. I say this because so many people postpone doing those things they have always wanted to do until they have found a partner. Why let life pass you by? Where have you always wanted to go? What are your goals? What fulfilling things can you do with your time? What types of experiences add meaning to your life? These are questions the single woman should ask herself. We only get one shot down here on this planet. We are here, quite literally, for a limited time only! So what things, within your control, can you do that will help add to your happiness and joy (doing things for others can be one of those things). For me, I like to read, play old school video games, plan vacations (even if I can’t afford to go on one right now), take up new hobbies, study chess strategy, write blogs etc. etc. These things add to who I am and make me unique and interesting. I love to learn. I try to teach myself a foreign language, how to play an instrument, how to bake, etc. Fun is a priority to me. When I am having fun I am a better person, a better friend, and yes more attractive! Don’t let society tell you how to feel, what the timeline on love is (e.g. Oh my wow I’m [insert age here] and I’m not married!!!!!!), or what you are worth as a human being!

6) You may have to change your friends. I once had a group of friends who only wanted to talk about relationships. I became angry and bitter. I didn't want to talk about being single every time we got together. Some commiserating is healthy, but as mentioned above fixating is not. On the positive, if you have great girlfriends you have a wonderful blessing. Enjoy each other!

7) Don’t do anything that reinforces the "you're single = your broken = you need to do something about it” message. You may have to quit the singles ministry. You may have to stop pursuing relationships for a while. Leave the blind dates alone, or shut down your okcupid profile etc.

8) Do not settle. There is a reason you don’t date men who smoke, party, harm animals, etc.We all have deal breakers. I don’t date men who have children, who are unemployed, and who don’t practice basic sanitation and hygiene. When you start compromising on things you said were unacceptable you may cease being single, but I assure you, you will also cease being happy and cease being you.

9) Yes men as a gender are (insert bad adjectives here) but how does that fix anything? How can you become better and not bitter?

 I’m all about living life to the fullest. I’m about going out, having a good time, meeting new people sharing new experiences, laughing, and in the process hopefully doing something that makes a difference down here. I am a complete person, with thoughts and feelings, and goals. The best advice I can give to single women is to live life in such a way that someone has to be truly exceptional  in order to compel you to change your single status. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Tribute to The Max

On Monday I had to make a decision that no pet parent wants to ever have to face. I had to decide to put my beautiful tabby, Max (Maximilian Maxwell Maximus aka The Max) down. Max suffered from a common cat affliction, Feline Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) or kidney disease. No cure exists for CRF so a diagnosis of kidney disease is a looming death sentence. For more information about the disease please visit http://www.felinecrf.org/.

 Max was a fighter. He was diagnosed in early 2011 and I was told that he would probably not live through 2012, but The Max lived more than a 2 and a half years past the doctor's expectations. Apart from a roller coaster appetite and the occasional spot of  lethargy, Max never had any real complications. He responded well to treatment and he played, ran, jumped, and thrived until last Saturday when he slowed down. He had had enough. On Monday, I took him to the vet and decided that the most humane decision I could make for him was to put him down.

Life without The Max is like a life without music. 

But this post is not about his death. This post is dedicated to Max's life. Here are some of my favorite memories of  Mister Max.

This is Max when I first brought him home in the Spring of 2010. He was dirty and suffering from a fungal infection.Though he loved hanging out in the bath tub, he hated getting wet.
Max and his roommate Precious taking a bath together. (Precious my favorite cat of all time died at the age of 20 in November 2012.)

He loved having his picture taken and would often pose in front of the camera.

Max in the hall closet

He frequently slept just like this or completely on his back

This is why I'm hot

Silly boy
Wearing a Hawaiian leis

He had an appreciation for books 

Smile for the camera
A handshake

Him and his dog

We were a family.

The last photo I ever took with  Max two days before he died

The name Maximilian literally means "the greatest." So here's to a cat who lived his life to The Max! Rest in peace, boy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 Blessings

“Here I am now looking at 30 and I got so much to say...
I’ve reached a fork in the road of my life
where aint nothing gonna happen unless I decide
And I choose to be the best that I can be
I choose to be authentic in everything I do
I choose! –India Arie

I approach each birthday with fear and trembling. I don’t like getting older. I have even joked that birthdays are morbid because they document how close you are to dying. It also seems that as soon as I have mastered one age---figured out what is age-appropriate, learned the lessons of that year, and managed to thrive—then, in comes a new year with new challenges and new expectations. This year I am facing a new decade!!!!!!! I’ve been in my twenties for 10 years. I got used to being in my 20’s. I was in denial that I would one day NOT be in my 20’s. I know many people who can relate.

I have some thoughts on coping with a new year or new decade:

1) Stop Counting. Last birthday I ran into a young lady when I was out shopping.  During our conversation, I asked her how old she was. She didn’t know…at least not immediately. She said, "I’m either 32 or 33 or maybe even younger." I looked at her like she had gone mad. I watched amazed as she tried to calculate her age from her birth year—but she could not readily remember the year she was born.  Then she said that she stopped counting her age. She just lived her life daily as best she could and never worried about how old or young she was. She found that this philosophy made her a much happier person.  Maybe all the hoopla the western world makes over birthdays is actually damaging. Maybe even as damaging as our obsession with youth.

2) You are really only as old as you feel. Cliché. I know. I know, but there is so much truth to the saying. I still feel 25. In fact, when someone ask me my age I say “25” and use finger quotes. Then I smile and change the subject. I still feel young.  I still have plenty of energy. And I have made the decision to become better as life goes on, instead of bitter.

3) Do something new. Gain new insights, new experiences. When I turned 26 I went on my first Caribbean cruise. Now cruising is my obsession. Try to find something new. A new food—I’m a fastidious eater but I try to introduce myself to a new food as often as I can. A new hairstyle—I got Havana twist this year and (gasp) I learned to wear make up. A new goal--I used to be a lot more uptight, but I have decided to let a lot of things roll off my back. “My past don’t dictate who I am. I choose.”

4) Age aint nothing but a number—albeit a somewhat important number.  When I am at work, I strive to act my age. Now that I work with young children, I find that accessing my inner child makes for a better day. In my private life I act whatever age I feel like. After I type this I’m plugging up my Nintendo and playing an old school video game. Yesterday I ate cotton candy and stayed up past midnight. I sometimes skip when I am excited, and it is not beyond me to do a happy dance when I am delighted with something. Some people think I’m much younger than what I am. Could it be that what is mistaken for immaturity is actually exuberance! When people look at me they often guess that I’m in my early to mid 20’s, but after we have conversed and they get a hint of my wisdom and ingrained-in-me-to-the-core common sense they guess my age rather easily. We are all complex people. We have many layers and sides to us…I will not let the coming year define who I am!

5) Do not lose your sense of humor. Humor is a powerful coping mechanism. The difference between someone who has a break down from the trials and pure hell that can be life, and the person who thrives is often a heck of a since of humor. Find the irony in maddening situations. Take yourself out of the situation. What would you say if you were a casual observer and the situation were happening to someone else?

6) Do not take yourself too seriously. When I was 23 I took myself way too seriously. I felt my every opinion needed to be heard and heard loudly! As a result I often alienated people. My world is a mad one. Between having a crazy supervisor, a demanding job, the government breathing down my neck because of my student loans, and a seemingly endless amount of plumbing problems, I could drive myself crazy. Now I laugh. I pay my student loans and joke that I “work for the government.” When the garbage disposal went up this week, I rolled my eyes and then thought of all the crap I poured down there over the years. “I’m surprised it made it this long,” I concluded nonchalantly. My opinions are just as valid now as they were when I was 23, but I do not need to “impale” people with them. I can laugh at my mistakes more easily. I know myself a lot better. I feel increasingly more comfortable with who I am as a person.

7) Give someone else a “birthday gift.” When we say birthday gift we often think of what someone will purchase for us, but what if we flipped the script! What if we decided to be the giver on our birthday instead of the recipient? Find something small to do for someone else on your birthday. You’ll feel better. I guarantee it.

Finally, what do I want for my birthday?

If you want to give me a birthday present here are three things you can do for me.

 If you have other suggestions on coping with getting older, please leave them in the comment section below. 

Happy New Year everybody!

Collage of my new look for my new year

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interracial Dating Lies

Like many black women, in 2006 I went to see the controversial movie “Something New” starring Sanna Lathan and Simon Baker. Lathan plays Kenya McQueen, a successful, hard-working, black woman trying to climb the corporate ladder. Like many women, Kenya longs to find the perfect black man. Enter Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) an attractive landscaper from an entirely different social class, oh and he’s white. The two initially bump heads, but like everyone else in the magical land of Hollywood, they fall in love and live happily ever after. The film sparked an ongoing dialogue concerning the singlehood of black women. During the film’s release, the media bombarded us with ominous statistics like 70% of black women are single and 45% of black women will never get married. Accordingly, even if every black woman married a black man 1.5 to 2.5 million black women would be left unpartnered because of the lack of marriagable black men. Lastly, we heard that the more successful a black woman is, the less likely she is to get married. The media, which loves to marginalize black women, had a field day with hundreds of discouraging articles, news segments, and editorials. And then black women panicked! After all black women have feelings too. We want to find love and support. We enjoy romance and affection.  Like any other women, we do not want to be alone.

We learned through the film and through the barrage of media, that black men are no good. They are either low down or down low or otherwise undesirable. The miniscule few who actually have something to offer are married to white women. So what solution does our media propose? How can the media capitalize off of black women’s suffering while making themselves appear racially progressive? Suggest that black women actively seek out relationships with white men! Boom, solution! Just like the movie, in sweeps the very desirable (and very white) Brian Kelley, patiently waiting in the wings to fill the black woman’s void. The great white hope has come to rescue us! Alas we poor Nigresses are saved!

Not exactly! First there have been several articles questioning the validity of the gruesome statistics. So the diagnosis may not be completely accurate. Secondly, the prescription may not be either. Consider that in the United States the vast majority of people marry within their own race. Compound that with the fact that many white people still cling to antiquated views on race, and that many white men (especially American white men) are closed-minded and refuse to consider a black woman as a dating option (see  http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/).

Another problem I have with the ‘solution’ is that it presupposes that black women are the closed-minded ones. Accordingly, black women are surrounded by a plethora of intelligent, attractive, and quality white men, but refuse to date them because they are pining away after black men who are unavailable, abusive, or nonexistent. The white men are just waiting in the wings, ready to swoop down and whisk away these black women to paradise…if only these women would simply overcome their prejudices and see what is right in front of them. I laugh out loud! I do not believe most women are like Kenya McQueen. Sure, women have their reservations, but I don’t know of any woman who would forgo a quality relationship out of some perverse loyalty to men who do not want her. Contrary to the stereotype, most black women are open-minded and white men are not exactly sitting around waiting for the right black woman to fall into their arms*. As the okcupid article I linked suggests, the majority of white men exclude black women as a dating option, despite the interest showed to them by black women. 

 Moreover, the simplistic solution stereotypes three groups of people: black men, white men, and black women--black men are no good, black women have too many hang ups to know what is good for them, and white men are two thick to realized they are unwanted. Do you see the problem?

So should black women date out! Absolutely!  Good, kind, successful black women should seek out relationships with good, kind, successful men and race should not be a factor. Women in general should go beyond the race issue and look for someone who shares their values, ideals, and beliefs. People should also date who they are attracted to. If you are primarily attracted to white men, then by all means date white men. Even if there were hundreds of available brothers, I think black women should still keep their options open. My problem isn’t with dating out, it is the idea that black women have to date out or be doomed to a life of celibacy. It’s dating out because of fear. When fear is the motivator bad decisions are inevitable.

To be fair, yes there are some white men who are seeking real relationships with good women and race is not a factor for those men. I have nothing but the highest regard for those individuals. But, if I were one of those open-minded white men, I would feel kind of, well, crappy knowing that black women are only interested in me because there are so few black men. It would make me think that if the situation changed and suddenly hundreds of black men became available, my woman would leave me. That’s not how we should treat people. We should not view people as our back-up plan or as placeholders.

I also suggest that black women gain a deeper understanding of themselves. If you tend to attract and date losers than dating a white, Latino, or Asian man is not going to guarantee you find happiness. If there is something in you that attracts abusive relationships, than the only thing that will change for you when dating out is the color of your abuser. Address the underlying reasons for poor relationship decisions, and then seek out men who have the internal characteristics you are looking for, regardless of race.

Lastly, can I debunk some of the madness that masquerades itself as knowledge on the internet? There are several online resources that talk about how to get a white man. I encourage black women to date Latino, Asian, Brazialian, Eskimo, South African or any other kind of man, not just limit themselves to white men or even just men in the US.  So how do you date out? I really do not believe there is a secret recipe for interracial dating success, regardless of what some of the online content would have you believe. Since I am on the subject of online-hype,  I have to admit that I am tired of the youtube vids in which black women do “show and shares” displaying their white husbands and boyfriends like my preschoolers do their new toys. What originally started out as a community supporting interracial relationships (something I’m 100% for) has, according to one author, become a viral onslaught effectively marketing “a certain kind of picture of who black women should be with.”  She goes on to say, “it’s difficult to scroll through picture after picture of beaming-black-woman-with-smiling-white-man and not feel that interracial relationships are being idealized, rather than simply celebrated, an experience discomfiting enough that it has at times made me question my own relationship with a white man.” 

So what can we take from all this? 1) Statistics and media hype should not be the primary motivator for who you choose to date. 2)The same people promoting interracial dating as a “solution” are not addressing the underlying reasons for why there is such a lack of quality black men 3) White men are not our saviors. Racism has not suddenly come to an end. 4) Interracial dating/relationships can be beautiful and healthy but, 5) interracial relationships should not be sought after because of fear or because of the glut of interracial images online that seem to promise an interracial happily ever after. 6) The color of the man does not determine who he is: his character does.

I went to see Something New with my boyfriend, who happened to be white. I did not date him because of the gloomy statistics, the dearth of quality black men, or because I wanted to experiment with “something new”, but simply because he was fun. He was a good friend and we had a lot of chemistry. The end! As a single woman, I look for men who have substance. Sure, I have my preferences (Eastern European men are so hot), and yes I can be superficial, but when I am evaluating a man I try to look for those characteristics that will be long-lasting and I endeavor to see beyond socially constructed boundaries like race.

*See how subtle racism is? See how white men become the heroes, and black women are depicted as the ones with the issues. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Perception and Reality

I was on a flight from Orlando back to Baltimore and had the pleasure of sitting next to a…well a rather interesting individual.  Donned in an oversized t-shirt and baggy jeans, his eyes roamed from seat to seat until he noticed the empty one to my right. He swaggered over, cell phone propped against his ears muttering some nonsense about a “baby mamma” between ample amounts of expletives and ghetto slang. My brother, who had the window seat, elbowed me and smirked, “there’s a guy for you.” I rolled my eyes, but I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of me dating some thugged-out guy who looked like he was late for a rap audition. When we were in the air and allowed to turn on our devices, I grabbed my tablet and began a game of chess. My thug companion looked over at me, “I aint played chess in a long time,” he declared before asking me if I wanted to play a game with him.

This ought to be an easy win, I thought, once more taking in the guy’s rough appearance and his abundant use of Ebonics. After all, everyone knows that chess is a game of intelligence and strategy. I cleared the game I was playing and reset the application to two players. And everything after that is a blur, because in just a few moves my seat mate cleaned the floor with me. I challenged him again. And again with quick thinking and phenomenal strategizing he swept all my pieces off the board. The last thing I remember hearing was “checkmate.”

“Good game shawty, but next time you gotta back up your pieces, know w' Umm sayin.” Then he proceeded to give me a slang-infused lecture on how to predict my opponent’s moves. The chess masters may have laughed at him, but everything he told me was accurate. That day I was schooled, not just in chess, but in real life. I am biased. I assumed I couldn't learn anything from someone who I perceived as ignorant, but this is a lie. Everyone has something he can teach you, if you are willing to learn.  So often we use the way people talk as an indication of their intelligence. I've done that too, but there isn't always a clear-cut correlation between speech patterns or accent and intelligence. We use the way people dress, they way they walk, their size, color, and country of origin to make inferences about them. And I do too! This is perfectly normal, yet we must remember that these are surface characteristics that do not always reveal the true nature of the individual.

Last week I watched a poet on youtube, who expressed her opinion on the objectification of women, not just in the media, but in everyday life. I applauded the sister, but you know there was at least one person who missed the message of the poem. That person and his supporters chose to focus on the woman’s accent—which was a distinct urban mixture tinged in a charming Spanish cadence. That person literally missed the entire point of a poem against societal evils because he was too busy focusing on what did not matter. Our society does that a lot. Especially when it comes to minorities. We assume that delivery and presentation are everything and as a result we miss out. We discount people as unintelligent because they don’t speak like those in the majority. We miss the words, the lessons, and the experiences, because we don’t like the way a certain segment of the population delivers them.

In her poem, “Broken English”, Jamila Lyiscott explains that she has three ways to speak English, the dialect she speaks with her friends, in the classroom, and with her parents. Take a listen here https://www.ted.com/talks/jamila_lyiscott_3_ways_to_speak_english. BTW, Jamila is a doctoral student at an Ivy League school. It would be easy to look at her t-shirt and jeans, and make certain judgments about her, but in doing so, you would miss out.

This isn't an article validating Ebonics/slang, although I agree with many of Jamila’s points. Instead I’m just shining a light on our collective biases. All of us judge people.  Perhaps judging people isn't even entirely wrong, but before you make a judgment take the time to get all the facts. We make all kinds of assumptions about people, sometimes those assumption can even be accurate. But be careful, assumption are not always reality! Like my travel companion taught me, you can learn from anybody! Before you write someone off, take a moment to reevaluate your personal biases. Perception is not always reality.