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Archive for the month “June, 2015”

Grown Man Confidence

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve managed to see two amazing musicians, known for their persona of sex appeal almost as much as their mind-boggling musicianship and artistry.
I saw Prince two weeks ago, and saw D’Angelo last night.
Seeing these two amazing performers in the same month had to be Kismet, because there were a few things I peeped about them, that made me think about why people are so enamored and attracted to them. It also made me think about how most women are looking for similar elements in men. You don’t have to be a genius musician, but there are some basics that can be applied to anyone, to achieve real sex appeal and that intangible… attraction.
1. Confidence. So everyone says confident people are the ones who win at life. Being in the presence of confident people make us feel more at ease. Confident people seem to be in control and seem like they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.
I will say this about confidence. People say, oh, if you don’t have it fake it. But I say that’s putting a band-aid on a gaping hole in your flesh larger than a paper cut. Confidence develops over time, and is grown and cultivated and forged by failure and being embarrassed and bouncing back after being told no. Confidence develops when you do something someone said you couldn’t do, or when your version of good enough drowns out everyone else’s assessment.
2. Doing things you’re good at and pushing yourself to be even better. Nothing builds confidence more than doing things you’re good at. When people watch you do your thing (whatever that is) and you make it look effortless, watch people get drawn to you. They’ll want your opinion, they’ll want your approval. Watching D’Angelo and Prince perform made me want to pick up a guitar and sing. Now I’ve taken guitar lessons and it’s hard freaking work. I’ve played the drums for years, and it took practice not to suck. So people who have developed a level a mastery for what they do aren’t just sexy because of natural talent, they are sexy because they take it to the next level with hard work, dedication and discipline. There’s a certain devotion musicians have to their work, and trying to get better and experimenting with new sounds and being fluent in music and other artists. They are sponges, they have people they look up to, they study certain sounds or riffs over and over, and then they interpret it, weave it into their own sound to make something unique and new, rooted in the old. That’s levels of sexy.

3. Being yourself unapologetically. Prince and D’Angelo have taken some serious fashion risks. Sometimes they don’t come out with an album right away. Sometimes people don’t get their music. Some people may think certain songs are too sexual, or too political. R and B fans may not like the songs with a more rock edge, the rockers may not like the songs that sound more like R and B… but it doesn’t matter. These artists do what feels right to them, they wear what makes them feel good. Does it stand out? They pull it off because of confidence, but being yourself unapologetically and moving past all of the reactions, leads to the sexy confidence.

4. Inside out. Sexy grown men let the sexy radiate from the inside out. There are some men I know now that aren’t as thin or as muscular as they used to be, but a warm smile, an easy laugh, the sweat they build up from fixing something around the house or an auto repair, makes them irresistible. I’ve read articles that after the massive success of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” he struggled with body image and having to keep up that BODY that teased us in the video. Today’s D’Angelo is thicker, healthy looking and still making women swoon. He has a sly grin that seems like he’s about to lead you into some trouble and you are down for the ride. He had so much energy on the stage, there was joy on his face while he was working the crowd and receiving the love from the crowd. The man was in the moment. There have been times when I’ve observed men I love doing simple things, quietly, looking serene and self-satisfied. In those moments, they were sexy, and in those same moments when I catch them, I might offer them a hug or kiss without a word, because I appreciated seeing them in that moment. They’d wonder, “Oh, what’s that for?” and I’d just kiss them or hug them again and walk away.

5. Maturity. One of the greatest gifts of getting older and living is experience and maturity. Mature people can be confident without being arrogant. They can understand the power of confidence and how it may lead to influence, but they don’t abuse it. They don’t have to win every argument, but can firmly and passionately make a point that sticks with you well after the conversation is over. Mature and confident people don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Frankly, they don’t want to and they aren’t going to. Who they are and how they handle business and how they treat people in the face of adversity or in the pit of failure, in their mind, says what needs to be said. As far as they’re concerned you can take them or leave them, and it doesn’t change their life or who they are, they’re going to keep being who they are. I won’t say that nothing phases confident people, but criticisms, or suggestions don’t turn their world upside down, or represent an accurate reflection of who they are. When people know that, they hold on to their power instead of giving it away to every person with an opinion. They gather more strength to say no when they mean no and yes when they mean yes.

Do you know of any other qualities that make a grown man sexy?

“Dope” is the New American Teen Classic (And over 30s will LOVE this movie, but for different reasons)

Last night, I was so weary from everything I was seeing on the news from the last week.

I was emotionally bruised and battered. Between Rachel Dolezal playing and pretending as a black woman, issues of race and color playing out in the Dominican Republic with the removal of anyone seeming to look Haitian, and then the gruesome shooting of nine innocent people worshiping in a church, it was all too much.

I was totally ready to escape and watch a nerdy, smart black kid and his friends navigate living in the hood and pursuing their dreams of college. “Dope” delivered and then some.

Dope keeps the spirit of- and sticks to a very familiar formula of most American teen classics: be thrown into a situation where the main character and his or her friends are in over their heads, but manage to creatively outwit their enemies/bullies/authority figures, stumble in romance and attempts to get laid, surprise themselves, go to parties, make mistakes and by the movie’s end, mature right before our eyes. You know,  just doing the things kids do.

While writer and director Rick Famuyiwa (thanks for retweeting me last night!!), stays with the formula of teen cult classics, his story and the presentation are far from run-of-the-mill (and for the mill he don’t run… Hip Hop heads will catch the reference, anyway…). The writing is sharp and current, the characters are relatable, flawed, innocent, (sometimes) street smart and full of heart.

While the main character Malcolm and his friends are outsiders, they are very well aware of their world in inner-city Inglewood, California, I love that there are moments in the film where being a nerd in the hood served as a protective factor to give them an advantage in certain situations, but also contributed to gaps in their common hood knowledge (i.e. timing of monthly school drug sweeps).

Dope didn’t disappoint and it was genius because it manged to do something amazing. On the surface, it would not seem intergenerational, but it is. Even though these kids are a good 16 years younger than me, the writing from this story made me see myself when I was growing up, taking AP classes and accused of acting white, but also scrambling to exit the hood parties when the cops showed up to shut it down.

The struggle of teenagers trying to find themselves is a universal theme movies have always celebrated for a long time now. Thanks to John Hughes and his “bratpack,” it’s a genre that really picked up steam in the 80s that’s not going anywhere. Someone just told me they saw articles and reviews on Dope that accurately describe that it’s a where John Hughes and John Singleton meet. I can’t agree more. American Classic!!!

In Malcolm and his friends, I saw Duckie from “Pretty In Pink” (1986). Remember his obsession with old school music and style? Yup, Malcom’s crew’s obsession with 90s Hip Hop in a 2015 world is a strong parallel. The vulnerability and the awkwardness of Molly Ringwald in any movie she did back then, I also saw in Malcolm while trying to gain the affections of Nakia. The kind of adventure Malcolm and his friends experienced, and those moments you find yourself thinking they’re going to get caught, and holding your breath reminded me a lot Ferris Bueller (1986) or “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987). I saw Craig from “Friday” (1995) when inevitably, Malcolm has to show some heart and bravery and stand up to some very scary people, despite his friends often cutting tail and running.

The influence of the drug culture in this movie totally brought me back to the movie “Go!” (1999) where some unlikely characters are forced to moonlight as drug dealers and move the merchandise in creative ways, while trying to avoid the dangers of police and other unsavory characters in the drug world. Other friends said they saw elements of “Risky Business” (1983). I also recognized “House Party” (1990), as Malcolm and his friends love a wide variety of music and perform their own and it’s pretty darn good. And in the spirit of movies like the “House Party”  franchise, or movies featuring Hip Hop stars like Ed Lover and Dr. Dre’s “Who’s the Man” (1993), there are plenty of great cameos by today’s hip hop artists, including Tyga and most notably, A$AP Rocky (who now my old ass has developed a crush on, SMH) who played a very charismatic drug dealer Dom. Supermodel Chanel Iman showed that beautiful girls can be terribly gross, and Dope featured rising superstar Zoe Kravitz, the genetically perfect progeny of Lisa Bonet (Denise Muthafucking Huxtable) and Lenny Kravitz. The celeb children appearances don’t end with Zoe, who totally channeled her mother and was the Uber cool Nakia. The casting choice of Quincy Brown (son of Al B. Sure (Stepdaddy P. Diddy) and long time Hip Hop stylist to the stars and Diddy’s baby mama, Misa Hylton Brim) was a surprisingly good one. He had a brief, but strong and very funny appearance playing a privileged son of a successful man from Malcolm’s hood, hilariously co-opting his dad’s street cred as his own (I wonder if he was making fun of himself a little bit…). There’s a great and super smart scene where even the blerds (black nerds) poke fun at how out of touch he really is with “the hood” and confuses him in the process.

As with the standard teen classic, there were impossible crushes who give our hero a little hope of reciprocity, and a hierarchy of bullies, jerks and druggies and cool kids. There were caring parents who seemed to never be around (a prerequisite for a great teen film), but show up with a word of encouragement and unconditional love. And in Dope, the lovely Kimberly Elise plays that position as Malcolm’s caring, attractive, hardworking bus-driver, single mother.

Dope sets the standard in handling how the new generation is dealing with the mashup of race, gender and sexuality in a clever, and intelligent way. Malcolm and crew have a brilliant, white hacker/druggie friend (who spends most of the film wanting to have permission to use the N-word), and within the crew, Dig is a lesbian galpal who is often mistaken for a boy, but pulls off a quirky, androgynous kind of sexy probably purposely reminiscent of TLC, when she occasionally chooses to wear midriff tops and sports bras instead of loose baggy clothing from head-to-toe. Jib, never specifically says what he is, except when he self-identified as “14 percent African.” The closest we get, was a description of Jib’s ethnicity by their befuddled white friend Will, as a mixture of middle eastern…

Well-played, writers.

There were some other nuances that I enjoyed about this movie especially in terms of looking at the “scary” drug dealers or gang members. And how bad guys come in a variety of forms, some not so obvious. Dope shows you that even the “thugs” are really just kids. I love one interaction where an OG security guard (who is De’aundre Bonds all grown up from Spike Lee’s “Get on the Bus”) reads a gang member from cover-to-cover explaining that he ran the streets with his dad and to try him and the kid stands down. There was some comedy with some of the drug dealers revealing some were smarter than they seem or weren’t always the cool guys on the block. And some of the characters were silly, reminding me of how Full Force used to chase Kid N’ Play around in several movies. They were bullies, but generally, they just wanted to have fun and be invited to the parties too.

Malcolm’s punk band Awreeooh (pronounced Oreo) could rock a party just as hard as Kid and Play did. Speaking of which, some of the epic party scenes and the social media aspects of Dope’s storyline reminded me of a recent teen hit “Project X” (2012), where another group of “nobody” kids decide to make a name for themselves, go balls to the wall and finally get some. Murphy’s Law played a significant role in Dope as it did in the Harold and Kumar flicks. I’m also reminded of certain scenes in both films when gorgeous women are found doing really gross things… Oh Chanel Iman!

I could really go on about the genius of this film because while it felt familiar across generations, the story was fresh, but it’s built to hold up over time. My nephew is 11, and I bet you he’s going to discover this film in high school or have it downloaded into whatever new technology he’ll bring to college and watch it with his friends over and over and love it too.

One final piece to making an American teen movie a certified classic, is the soundtrack. We know the John Hughes movies by the music. We just do. I’m an old head, and I love the blend of late 80’s and 90’s and early 2000 hip hop classics with some of the newer music of today. It was only fitting that Pharrell Williams, a.k.a. Skateboard P, founding N.E.R.D. member (who actually helped a lot of black nerds get some love), led the sonic effort as the music supervisor of the film. Because Mr. “Happy” himself had personal experience as a Malcolm, and a student of hip-hop who forged his own unique sound, Dope’s soundtrack is going to also stand the test of time, pleasing old heads and young bucks alike.

You can tell a lot of thought and heart went into the making of this film, it’s music and the selection of the cast. Newcomer Shamiek Moore (Malcolm) has a bright future ahead. I’d love to see a sequel where he may have to get the band back together… I think there’s fertile ground for it based on how the story ended. GO SEE THIS DAMN MOVIE. I’m probably going to see it again before the weekend’s out.

CLASSIC.

Church Families Mourn With Mother Emmanuel AME

I’m hurt and tired today.
With every new story or update in regard to the church shooting in Charleston, SC I just grow more weary and hurt.
I grew up in church. Church was a second home. You’re there so much, it’s bound to happen. You build an extended family there, you go there to be vulnerable. After all, you’re confessing your sins, trying to get free. You cry there, you may dance there or show emotion in a lot of ways that even surprise yourself. There’s a heart connection that happens if and when you let it.
The folks you serve with, they’ll watch your kids, and you trust them to discipline your kids if and when they act up. You may travel with them on mission trips, or even personal vacations because you’ve grown that tight. There’s lunches and dinners and brunches. They shower you with love when you experience positive moments, as well as when you are at your lowest points. When you lose a loved one, they step up to serve the repast meals and make sure you’re eating when it seems like you can’t think to.
You go to church to lay a burden down, and also be a support system to other people who have similar goals of being better people, despite our imperfections, and trying to please God.
It turns my stomach to even think that any person could walk into a church and just start killing people. Millions of people go to church on Wednesday night for prayer meetings and bible studies, kind of like a midweek boost to get over Monday and Tuesday if Sunday’s spiritual high already wore off, and to take them through until Sunday again.
I am praying for the families and the survivors. As quite a few people in my Facebook timeline said, this act of terrorism and violence hit very close to home, regardless of region or church denomination. I don’t know anyone from that church personally, but I think most people who have been blessed to have a church family, the kind of pain that community is going through has to be unfathomable. I pray that the survivors remain strong in their faith and stay close and even get closer to God. Because this kind of situation could easily make a person wonder why? Especially if you’re trying to do the right thing and follow God. Why, didn’t you protect them, God in your own house? Why did you allow this awful person to walk through the doors? It has to hurt so badly.

What’s In a (Last) Name?

You may or may not have seen the story circulating the internet about actress Zoe Saldana’s husband Marco, making the decision to take on HER last name.
Of course, this sparks the debate about why women always have to change their names in the first place.
My initial reaction is that I think couples should do what’s right for them and for their family.

On one hand, the romantic and family oriented side of me loves the concept of signifying familial unity by sharing names. You have become a tribe. And the Saldanas have done just that, just in a more non-traditional way. Does Marco’s decision represent a shift in male/female power even within a relationship? Or does Marco’s decision reflect that his wife has established her name and made it famous off of her own hard work and merit and that he’s proud of her? Well, only Marco can answer that, but it is a bold move on his part. Even Zoe herself was hesitant and reminded him of the cultural implications and outside views on his manhood, to which he replied that he didn’t “give a sheet.”

On that same romantic and family oriented hand is the black consciousness side, that wants to preserve black families. I know the stats. 60% of black households are headed by black women, yet if a successful black woman marries a black man, especially one that is not the main breadwinner, in most cases, he would be staunchly against taking her name. I’ve even heard of black men being offended by the notion of hyphenation. But there’s all sorts of murky historical stuff that I could go into as to why black men may feel this way, but I can save that for another time and another post.

I had always said that I never wanted to be in a position where my children didn’t share the same last name with everyone else in the household. (I’m not knocking blended families or single parents who have different names this is my personal preference.) I just remember the confusion and embarrassment of a lot of kids at church and school who had a bunch of brothers and sisters but different last names. My dad was the superintendent of Sunday School and after being corrected several times for our annual Christmas program, he learned never EVER to assume siblings had the same last name, when he would introduce them prior to a speech or a song they’d present.

****TANGENT WARNING: While this is part of the reality in the black community that can’t be ignored, I hate the assumptions placed on black mothers that they are automatically single mothers. Black women– black people, for that matter never get the courtesy of being judged individually or on a case-by-case basis. Generalizations prevail unless we go out of our way in further discussion dropping tidbits like “when I got my masters degree” “or my HUSBAND said the other day,” and then there’s a shift in how we are received and how our narrative is processed. This disarming of employees in stores, or even at the doctor’s office or the bank, or with the realtor is necessary to possibly ensure better treatment. As soon as I say words like, “I’m from Long Island” or “I go to George Washington” something changes, people loosen up, they want to learn more about me, and become impressed with my accomplishments. Not sure what they assumed about me, but it was probably nothing like what I told them. And it’s frustrating, there are times I hate even having to stoop to that level as if my education or where I’m from should give me a pass from subpar treatment or service. I should have that right simply because of my humanity. But that’s not the case.

Sometimes when BOTH of my parents showed up to my parent teacher conferences, you could tell by the look on the teachers faces that this was indeed rare, and my parents were given rather condescending comments praising them for taking an active role in their child’s education after collecting themselves from the shock. That bothers me and I’m sure it pissed them off being talked to that way, as grown, responsible, tax-paying folks just like everyone else. I’ve heard stories from married black women who face those assumptions if they go to an obstetrican appointment or when they go to have their babies, people assume FIRST that they aren’t married and no man is in the picture. And all of that is very disheartening.

People automatically police and dissect the morality of single mothers, but sometimes automatically put those same labels on married black mothers too!

***TANGENT DONE

The feminist in me loves my name. I wouldn’t want to change it to something wack, and sometimes, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around arriving to this planet as one name and then leaving as another. The professional writer says whatever published work I produce should always have my name, regardless of my marital status. I’ve built my career off of that name and it will stay with me, professionally.

In some cases, people have chosen to hyphenate, in an effort to retain everyone’s name and give the children both names, and seemed to be a natural, logical choice for same-sex couples.
But change is the nature of life. We either evolve or we die.
As we evolve into a very new world, where does tradition still play a role? Is there room for tradition or can or should traditions evolve with the times? If they do, can they even be considered traditions?

There are all kinds of valid arguments for taking on your partner’s name, hyphenating or not making a name change at all… which goes back to my original view. Couple’s should make that decision for themselves… but most importantly they have to agree on what the world should call them.

What do you think?

Relationship Status Not A Reflection of Your Individual Value

If you survived your mid- to late-twenties without going to a lot of weddings, and you are in your 30’s, you better guard your loins and brace yourself like Braveheart and his crew.

I’m starting to get a bunch of save-the-dates, as some of my dear friends (mostly male though…but that’s a whole other post) are finally making their way to the altar.

I’m very happy for my friends. Most of the folks I know getting married over the next two years are folks who have been in very long-term relationships. They’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, they’ve been able to watch each other change and grow, they’ve had serious battles and challenges, and they’ve decided to keep on choosing each other for the rest of their lives. It’s really beautiful. I’ll probably shed a tear because I know the behind-the-scenes stories. These couples haven’t always had the fairy tale, and for that reason, them making the conscious effort to choose each other over and over again, every day for the rest of their lives, is what makes these new unions magical. They put real thought into the huge life decision they are making. And for that, I applaud them and can be confident in their futures and really relish the celebrations.

But I had a thought as I was talking to a friend. It’s nothing new that a lot of women place their value on being proposed to. Simply being asked elevates them.

And I’ve even had the thought that being asked was in direct correlation to my value.

I had even said on a number of occasions, the reason I’ve kept my engagement ring is because it was physical proof that “someone loved me that much, someone wanted me to be his wife.”

Well, I’ll have to tell myself now after about four years of healing that in the illustrious and oh so truthful words of Brandy, almost doesn’t count.

I understand now that simply getting “chose” as my southern friends would call it, isn’t a reflection of your value. There are so many amazing single people who are amazing, period. If they got married tomorrow, they’d be amazing. If they were single forever, they would still be amazing. There are people who are just really great at being a human. They do it well, regardless of being involved romantically. And I do believe in my heart, because they’ve been so excellent at being a human, they will attract an equally amazing human, decide to be together and save the world by creating more awesome humans.

In my biostats class, we talk about independent and dependent factors. If an independent variable changes, the dependent variables are studied to see how much the independent variable effects them.

I think of marriage, relationships etc., as independent variables. They can change the other dependent variables about you, but those dependent variables you always had, your intellect, your ability to care for other people… you get the picture.

So for people thinking getting selected by someone makes you better than all of the other “pitiful” single people (something must be wrong with them) out there, or if single people believe married people or people in a relationship are “better” you’ve got it completely wrong.

Maybe I need to do another post about something that’s taken me a long time to figure out. I kept wondering why some people never got married or why they are still single. I’m learning it’s a bunch of things.

You know yourself too well to settle, even if it means turning down people who seem to be really amazing (on paper, or physically).

You trust how you feel first, even if it makes no sense to other people.

You know that you can be selfish sometimes and you’re just not ready to share anything, your space, your food, your time, your life…

You still have big decisions that you want to make and only want to have yourself to consider. Do you want to move to another country? Do you want to change jobs? Do you want to buy a house or sell it? Do you want to take out $60,000 in student loans to go get a degree? Do you want to take a significant pay cut for a dream job?

Do you just want to opt out sometimes? Being single gives you the space and freedom to say fuck it and it doesn’t affect anyone else but you. Want to take a few days off and go away? Book the ticket, you’re gone. Want to call in sick? You aren’t squirreling away days just in case a kid gets strep, you can take your mental health day and not slave to make it up. Wanna stay in your sweatpants all day and eat pho? No one is going to tell you no in your own house. Compromise isn’t something you have to consider in the single life. Doing you is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Entering into a relationship can make you a better person, because that person can bring out the best in you or challenge you to be your best self, but you’re relationship status alone doesn’t make you better than anyone else, especially those who aren’t attached.

Entering into a relationship is just a mutual decision between two people. Let’s be together! Ok! Whooo hoo! So is getting engaged and getting married. Let’s make this thing legal! Ok! Whoo hoo!! It’s the decision to choose each other for an undetermined amount of time, based on if you want to continue the relationship or if one of the parties expires. (Singing Fantasia’s Free Yourself, or Mahalia Jackson’s Upper Room) That’s it.

So people in love, even though you feel like it, you didn’t cure cancer, or create wrinkle-free clothing or the cronut.

You were simply able to match hearts at the right time and right place, which is quite a feat, but not one to place you on a perch.

Single people wanting to be in a relationship. Take some inventory of the luxuries and freedoms you currently have in your season of single and be that excellent human. Because it will sustain you when it’s time to really dig in, compromise, love and give freely to your future love.

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