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One Of the Most Adult Things One Can Purchase

Probably the most boring yet necessary adultest-ass things one can purchase, has to, hands down, be a mattress.

That’s right folks a mattress.

When you need a new one, and you are in your 30s and beyond, your body is the first to tell you.

At first, it seems like a little ache here or there. And you think that you just need to go to the gym more. Stretch in the morning.

Then you get new pillows, or special memory foam cushions to put on the bed.

Then the aches and pains come more fast and furious. You can’t sleep and you find you have the best sleep ever on your couch and going back to that bed becomes unthinkable.

So you suck it up. Off to the mattress store you go.
Well off to the mattress store I went.

Fortunately, I had the boyfriend in tow, and it seems that going with a significant other, salesmen tend to assume you’re married, and say things like, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Fortunately, for me I have a boyfriend happy to play along and agree.

As, most web site searches tell you, the life of a mattress is 10 years. And so, my cheap mattress, purchased when I was heading to my very own first apartment alone, is probably heading into its 12 year. It served its purpose. It served me well. It makes sense that it is old, and I have the temporary daily lower back pain to prove it.

I joked that the timing was right for several reasons.

1. It is old as hell.

2. Well, back and shoulder and neck pain.

3. I work really hard, and a good night’s sleep is non-negotiable. Yall, that’s another post. This job is challenging and requires me to be on from the moment I get there until I leave.

4. My new serious relationship.
As for number 4, there’s nothing like being in a new, serious relationship. One where you’ve had a disagreement or two, made up and continue to learn how to deal with each other, support each other and feel like the other person just may stick around. You think about the future, and you are ready for the past to truly be that. Tossing the mattress is totally symbolic of where I am right now and where I’m trying to go.

I joked with a girlfriend that this fresh start relationship-wise, would be a great cleanse of whatever ghosts of ding-a-ling past lingering in the coils.

See, coils, where they do that at? Now, they do memory foam or a hybrid with a few coils and still the memory foam. I’ve moved on to a Tempurpedic memory foam. Growth! Progress! And real talk, this new relationship was totally worthy of not having any remnants of the past and that feels good.

These days, the mattress stores use computer technology to match you to a mattress. You lay down and watch a video and it measures all kinds of things about you and your partner on the other side. And it spits out the top mattresses in the store for you.

So, there were four. Hand-picked by technology that should agree with my body the most, and provide a good night’s sleep for my partner too. I had a good laugh during our diagnostic session, because as the computer measured us, I couldn’t help but notice the deep valley my butt made on the screen. Clearly, my booty is a factor in the alignment of my spine, hence probably contributing to my lower back issues when I wake up. Heavy is the butt that wears the crown, right?

Mattress shopping almost feels like shopping for a car or appliances, or other furniture. You deserve ice cream and a nap afterwards. You have in your mind what you think you want, and you certainly have in your mind what you want to spend and then what you’d spend at the very most. But once you get there, everything you thought about anything really gets thrown out the window. We were certain a firm ass bed was going to solve my lower back issues. The computer said, I still need a soft bed. And after I told the salesman to let us try their firmest bed as a “control,” I realized the computer was doing the Lord’s work. I defer to technology.

In pure salesperson fashion, our guy gives us increasingly better choices. The last choice, was the top of the line. It felt ridiculously comfortable and if either my boyfriend or I moved, we couldn’t feel the other person shifting. Oh man. That was the Cadillac. But, in this case it was more like the Saturn sales model, where the sticker price was just that, no negotiation. No sales, son. And your girl was not even trying to drop $3,000 on a mattress, no matter how lovely it was. So, I went with my second choice. The second choice was probably the third of the ones we tried anyway, just before we got to the dream mattress. It was the best of the ones prior, and the price was expensive, but acceptable in my opinion for the quality.

It is ironic, though, trying out mattresses. We go to sleep every night, and sometimes we share beds with people. It’s intimate, but it’s something we all do. Even when my boyfriend and I tried the mattresses, by the time we got to the third and fourth bed, we kept it all the way real and spooned to make sure it was right.

Here I was, adulting big-time, spooning in public and decided to double-down on the grown folk talk, even broaching future life scenarios with the boyfriend.

“So, um. Since folks buy mattresses every 10 years. Say our living situation changes within the next 2-3 years. We’d be merging furniture and such. Clearly mine would be new, and that could be ours and your current mattress which isn’t very old, could be for guests. Should I buy the dream mattress now, as, say an investment?”

Him smiling at me. “If I were in your situation, and I’m totally not telling you what to do… but I would be thinking the same thing. So we’re on the same page. But, I think this less expensive bed still feels nice, you’ll be happy with it and that’s the one you should get. Because 10 years from now, we’d easily be able to buy that more expensive mattress, together.”

I wasn’t sure if I was floating on a cloud or still laying on the $3,000 mattress, but I made my decision and I’m the proud owner of a new mattress and box spring. And I walked out hand-in-hand with a man who was happy to spend an afternoon testing mattresses, and basically telling me, he’s in it way past the warranty. Yep, out with the old. Good riddance.

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They Don’t Know About This Here…How We Backseat Judge Relationships

Relationships are fascinating.

That’s probably why as a larger society we can’t get enough of learning about the love lives and pairings of our favorite celebrities and then trying to decide how or why people are together, if we’ve already made up our minds they don’t fit.

And we’re pretty judgey about it. We are very matchy, matchy about it, knowing full darn well, we have probably dated folks who were very different from us ourselves for a variety of reasons. The number one being, we actually liked them. We liked spending time with them, they were good people. They had an ability to give us something we wanted and needed and we liked it.

We simplify this and say good looking people should be with other good looking people. Smart people should be with other smart people. We put folks in various leagues and when our faves end up with folks we didn’t expect, we actually go in on them pretty hard and we judge harshly.

Just google Birdman and Toni Braxton. Look at the hell Jesse Williams’ wife, Aryn went through being called “average” or “regular” while that man openly begs to differ and adores her as the queen she is. She was with him before he became a sex symbol and was just a regular teacher, before hitting it big on television.

We adore the power couple of President Barack Obama and his stunner and intelligent wife Michelle, and we not only love their collective impressive ass smarts, and their super gorgeous offspring, we love how they are both attractive and how their affection for each other seems really genuine and natural.

They look at each other as if the entire world literally isn’t watching. They’ve gotten used to it. It’s their world, we are just watching. They are playful with each other, they compliment and encourage, and they even make jokes about their flaws or small annoying habits.

Those two are easy to love together. And we co-sign enthusiastically.

But other relationships, be it political or even when it comes to music or movie stars, we somehow are the experts on which relationships work and which ones don’t. We somehow become invested in a very personal choice between two people. We got some nerve.

And who knows what the psychology is around that? But we don’t just limit this to folks we don’t know. We do it in our everyday lives. We size up the partners of our friends and family all of the time.

We wonder how an overweight cousin has found love with someone who we think is attractive.

We speculate how a quiet co-worker captures and keeps the attention of a partner who is confident, charismatic and charming.

We wonder how that loud ass chick with the bad sew-in, and broke down flip-flops in the grocery store has a wedding band on her finger.

We just can’t nail it down.

This week’s biggest example of how we scrutinize relationships and don’t really know the depth of people’s relationships from the outside had to be President Bill Clinton. This week we witnessed him send up a heartfelt endorsement of his wife former First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philly.

He went into this speech knowing that the whole world knew about him getting sloppy toppy in the Oval Office from Monica Lewinsky, making Hillary the modern poster child for “standing by her man.” Hell, those actions nearly got him thrown out of office. So while it was a huge purple elephant in the room, we all knew the story. It was 20 years ago. There was no need to rehash. This was finally the moment he knew Hillary deserved.

He knew this. He knew of all of the criticisms and wild accusations about her character. He knew that her sticking with him through the years in some eyes made her seem weak, but he spoke of her inner strength, and confidence in herself that began way before they ever met, and how it was those traits along with her intelligence, and her passion for people and her ability to make things happen is what kept attracting him to her in law school.

I’m glad he gave that kind of speech that said, let it be known, she’s the catch. She’s been the catch day one. And for all the unnecessary shit you give her, and the free passes you give to me off of my charm, I have a deep respect for her. Maybe my penis didn’t a time or two, but I admire her, I’m proud of her. You’ve pulled a part her looks, questioned her womanhood, hypermasculinized her, but she is very much a woman.

I’m glad he pulled out all of the receipts to show the world his wife, the woman he chose and he chased (he had to ask her three times) was not only qualified to be president because he sat in the seat, but that her love was worth earning, and he was willing to earn it over and over from the start of their relationship even through today.

Will we see Bill and Hill share an affection that’s as sexy as Barack and Michelle’s? It may be awkward to watch at this point, and most of us wouldn’t be interested.

But their love is a love no less. It may be hard to understand, because like Sade said, “This is no ordinary love.” But unlike John Legend’s song, Bill and Hill aren’t “Ordinary People.”

There are practical lovers in this world, who operate in the mundane and the hard work of loving someone for a long time and living in true partnership and forgiveness and recognition of that special thing the rest of the world may not see. And honestly, it’s not for the rest of the world to consume.

That’s the thing about love and marriage, its between two people, to be hammered out daily, to morph and change and grow. It’s made of rules that are revised and updated and ratified. It is recovery from defeats and failures. It is the transparency that it’s not always perfect. It’s flexible, while being rooted. It can bend, but it won’t break.

R and B singer Jon B. said it best in his hit song, “They Don’t Know.”

“Don’t listen to what people say

They don’t know about, bout you and me

Put it out your mind, cuz it’s jealousy

They don’t know about this here.”

We don’t have a clue about Barack and Michelle and what they go through, we don’t have a clue about Bill and Hillary, but while there are a lot of contrast in those relationships, there are similarities too.

We’ve balked at Bobby and Whitney, Mariah and Nick, Kim and Kanye, Beyonce and Jay. And we tripped about how fine-ass Janet Jackson even considered messing with an impish Jermaine Dupri. We’ve elevated Will and Jada, and Courtney and Angela and Pauletta and Denzel but for every couple that we admire, the ones that made us say WTF, were no less real, no less honest and no less human.

We really don’t know.

Phone Down

Erykah Badu has penned a culturally current and on-point song about dating in the age of smartphones and our collective obsession with them.
This is an excerpt of my favorite part of the song:
“I can make you put your phone down
Make you not wanna check that again
I could make you put your phone down
Ridin’ in a drop hair blowin’ in the wind
Baby I will put my phone down
‘Cause when you talk Imma listen
I can make you put your phone down
Leave it at the crib guarantee you wouldn’t miss it
I could make you put your phone down
And it wouldn’t leave your pocket
I can make you put your phone down
Probably wouldn’t even know how to unlock it
I could make you put your phone down
I see your friend callin but forget em’
I can make you put your phone down
Your mama probably think you out there missin'”

I’ve recently been having a string of dates (with the same person, hurrah!) where phone down has been in full effect.
We’ve naturally done this as there is a genuine desire to converse and just get to know each other, and it probably helps that we’re past the age of 30. So both of us can recall a time of being booted off the single landline shared by your entire household, when conversations with “your little friend” have gone on too long.

Alas, things have changed a lot even in the last decade. Our worlds are fast-paced. Our food is fast, our computers are fast, our smart phones are even sometimes faster than our computers. And yet the things that may be most important to us, like the relationships we develop, we try to blow past that too, with the expectation that we’ll gain the kind of trust, closeness and intimacy that can only come from honest-to-God-true put-in-the-work quality time. This should happen naturally of course, but quickly. Quickly is the key. Our collective attention span is crap, trash, ga-bage, basura. And this is probably indicative of the types of relationships we’re seeing come together and then quickly fall apart.

It’s been liberating to spend an entire day with someone, sharing thoughts about all kinds of things, learning about who they are only to glance at a phone for directions to the next location, or a yelp review for a restaurant we’re about to try or movie times at a nearby theater.

Sometimes we fear quietly co-existing with another person. But with the RIGHT person, sitting quietly, letting your thoughts or the last words expressed just linger in the air can be comforting. And it’s very honest. From every snort of laughter, to blush of embarrassment, or pause you take to complete a thought, you’re completely exposed. Distractions have been eliminated and you’ve shown each other how much you value the other person and their time. You’re saying, you are all that matters to me right now. It’s a powerful statement. It’s worth more than thousands of likes.

There was a time where people argued about the value of sitting down each night for a family meal because parents were working and kids involved in different activities. People were scattered. Now, we’re in an age where people are sitting down for the meal (more people work from home, kids spend a lot of time at home) but aren’t truly present because glued to their own individual phones and devices. The premise of connection has always been the same, but the practice has totally switched up.

So go ahead, and put the phone down. You probably wouldn’t miss it. I know I didn’t.

Love Literacy

I’ve spoken in great detail on this blog about my journey to love myself, love other people, deal with the ugly and very real things in my life that have shaped me.

It’s really easy to talk about the past. It’s easy to dissect the past, but when you are confronted with a person trying to find out what you want and offer it up to you, it becomes overwhelming, scary, and your reaction to this is one of fight, flight, conflict and confrontation.

I met someone via Match.com, and he had the nerve to not even have a photograph on his profile. But for some reason, I continued to talk to this person online, and we eventually went out. Before we went out, he did send me a photo.

He wasn’t bad at all.

So let’s fast-forward.

I don’t know if the last couple of years of dating has made me a nutcase…

Ok, it has.

Spending time with this person who is actively trying to get to know me, has made me catch myself being secretive, scared, and sensitive. I feel him approaching my space, but in a way other men half-assed at, but didn’t really push.

His questions about what I do, my family and friends and how I feel about things made me feel as if he was being nosey and intrusive.

Which made me question myself while questioning him and his intentions?

Why did I have this reaction?

Well, he’s trying to get close to me. In fact, he’s said plainly. “I’m trying to get to know you. I have to ask you questions.”

Well, duh.

And while I pride myself on the relationships I’ve had in the past and my relationships with family and friends, as of late, the relationships I have with people are based on some very clear boundaries.

Right now, there’s one friend I’m avoiding because we exchanged words around Christmas and I just blew up.

My family dynamics are strange, I love everyone from a distance. I’m hundreds of miles from my nuclear family and when I go home to visit my parents, I spend a lot of time with my friends or my favorite cousin. My father chooses church, my mother stays trapped in the house because of her mental illness. My home hasn’t felt like home in decades, and I find solace in the spaces of my friends homes and whatever degree of normalcy they bring.

So the idea of someone being in my space, when I’m so used to moving, being on my own, and in most cases, thriving is very scary. More scary than I thought, when I was making up my dream man, courtship and happily ever after. The cold, hard truth is: Thinking of sharing my life with someone on a daily regular basis, may scare me more than being alone.

This is the lesson of my new friend. This is what I’m fighting against.

He wants to know what I’m thinking. And he knows I think too much.

I’m scared to tell him. I’m scared that it won’t make any sense.

I’m scared he’ll call my bluff and prove me wrong. I’m scared he’ll be patient enough to stick around and see just how vulnerable I am and what a disaster that will be.

The last few years, I’ve been very prepared for the men I’ve encountered to do something wrong, to break a deal or two, to offend me, hurt me, not understand me, or have erection problems. Anything to write them off, but say to family and friends who can’t believe I’m not in a relationship, that, “No, I’m trying. It’s just hard out here in these streets.”

I’ve experienced men who thought they could deal with the emotional ups and downs of me. But they confused giving me space with indifference. And that’s when I realized no matter how handsome, or how much money or successful they were, the indifference was something I knew I couldn’t get past.

In the dating world, I think that’s what things have become. Indifferent. And I have gotten used to it. But the rise of indifference has come along with people accusing others of being “thirsty.” The concept of thirst has ruined us.

It’s made us not believe when a man looks you in the eye and says “you’re beautiful.” It replaces the feeling of receiving a compliment, with contempt, because you want to believe he means it, but you don’t want assume the risk of letting the compliment take root and growing.

We’ve become like those bullies in after school specials who are hiding a secret that they can’t read.

We’re romantic bullies hiding that we have a difficulty loving. We have to be privately coaxed out to at least try, and once convinced that we are safe we stumble and stutter. We lash out because of the shame of our deficiency. We are told to keep trying. We stumble and stutter more, until eventually, we triumphantly get through a complete sentence.

And that’s what makes letting someone new into your life so hard.

I’m stuttering and stumbling, trying to recognize and connect symbols to words I know how to speak and hear. I feel ashamed that I had to get this far by pretending or creatively distracting others from my deficiency.

I’m realizing that I don’t like being exposed. I absolutely hate it. But I’m going to walk through it. I’m going to see what happens.

2016 is the year of the unexpected. If I’m going to breakthrough this year, I’ma have to break through.

 

Accidental Pioneers

As of late, I’ve been getting into a lot of conversations about love in modern times. I’m interested in reading funnyman Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance” but, I’m also afraid that his use of real statistics will make me feel even more off balance about the future.

I may have mentioned this earlier, but it seems to me that “traditional” relationships the follow the traditional life cycle works well or seemingly works well in situations where the power structure (vis-a-vis) the key breadwinner is the male.

This is all anecdotal. But especially in the black community, I’m finding that people who are working class and lower middle class who aren’t highly educated pair up faster. The people who live in smaller communities away from major cities are also linking up. (Google DC and Dating… all negative results) They will either marry young, or they have kids from previous relationships and have come together. There’s struggle, but they stick it out.

Throw the military into the game, and you have several young, married couples and that’s across ethnicity. It all boils down to choices. The young people who often enter the military are doing it to advance their life, because they have limited choices (some are actually really patriotic or do it out of family tradition). They may not have higher education, but it’s still the one place where you can rise, regardless of your pedigree, and get training, benefits and support yourself. The military promotes structure, and values marriage.

If you are successful and in a large city, you assume your options are endless and that you will get the best of the best. But you’re competing with everyone else who thinks the same exact thing.

I do think if you’re living in a smaller community away from the noise and distractions of a big city, people are focused on different kinds of activities that lend themselves to the ideal of family and friends and when you meet those kinds of people who share those values, it’s easier to connect.

There was a huge culture shift when I lived in the south. Since there weren’t any really great clubs, or you literally saw the same people all of the time, I found myself enjoying barbecues with my friends and visiting some beautiful parks and recreational facilities to just lay back and enjoy a beautiful view. When your mind and body has time to rest and relax, I think you can be more vulnerable. The pace of life seemed terribly slow. Too slow.

The hustle and bustle of urban living makes us harsh, and it makes us impatient, always on alert and skeptical and looking for the new restaurant or show coming to town, because there always is one. You expect change, you expect variety, you expect to show up someplace and be entertained, you expect instant or near instant gratification.  This isn’t to say I’d find my bliss in a small town, but living in a major city provides a lot of competition.

Even my friends living in smaller cities find themselves with a different view on life than other residents, which makes it a bit harder to connect. So there are all kinds of caveats here.

I used to scratch my head. Here I was with all of these beautiful, intelligent friends, and folks that I went to high school with in my boring ass town, or people who could be labeled as hood, who may have already had not just one, but multiple kids in tow, were getting married.

I knew I didn’t want the type of men they had because I didn’t feel like they’d stimulate me, or they had kids, but I did notice a common thread.

These guys may have not had a lot, but they were hard workers. It seemed like they may have learned some tough lessons and wanted to get it right once they met a good woman. They were accepting and they knew when to stop acting like they had every option in the world and bet on a sure thing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my very-well educated friends tried to listen to the don’t settle noise and they chose dudes who they thought were like the men I mentioned, but they were not. They wound up attracting losers who had no problem with living off of them, and having them take care of their kids, bringing absolutely nothing to the table. They almost always had something negative to say about their previous relationships and that it was always the other person’s fault.

So, it is kind of baffling that the first type of man who I mentioned doesn’t end up with the educated woman, but at the same time it’s not.

That first type of man, needs to be the man and doesn’t want to compete or feel like he’s competing. He’s going to be sensitive about his woman making more than him. So I think he avoids dealing with these women on purpose. Strong women will attract scrubs, but it doesn’t mean you should say yes to them.

At this point in the game, I think love, socioeconomics and power (or at least the perception of power) go hand-in-hand and that’s what’s keeping me and my friends single. There’s an invisible caste system, and the stronghold of patriarchal society that’s a barrier to our societal advancement in areas of marital love. Men have to play a role in normalizing women’s equality in business and at home and be more comfortable with the blurring of traditional lines instead of being perfectly fine with a second income, but still not helping enough at home or with the children. That’s today’s man’s new conflict. He’s either going to implicitly protect patriarchy or he’s going to readjust his home and make serious and real room for his wife in not only financial decision-making (which men do seem to be good about), but in home and child care as well (still seen in the eyes of many as the woman’s job).

There’s a little old song that says, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Need and the ability to lean on another person and even trust them to do the right thing in your best interest does take your relationship to a deeper level and will get you there faster.

I’ve seen this several times when I’ve dated educated black men, it’s far more difficult to get them to open up, and be vulnerable. Just like us, they do not want to exhibit weakness, but they want to keep you at arms reach.

At this point I feel like dating is more about convincing someone to care about you with the least amount of effort and emotional risk on your part. And that’s where we’re fucking up..

We can drain our bank accounts and give ourselves heart disease over start-ups and professional aspirations that we wholeheartedly believe in, but we can’t break a sweat for love.

It’s too risky.

We can build just about anything.

But loving someone is the ultimate in unpredictability, and we just can’t do it. We see it as this impossible moving target.

How are we a generation of fearless innovators and boat-rockers when it comes to everything else, but absolute punks when it comes to love?

I do think on both sides, if both parties are highly educated and they make good money and have been able to take care of themselves, it’s difficult for two semi- to very successful people to be vulnerable enough to depend on, another person. They know how to fail and succeed on their own and take the praise or take the wrap, and these individuals can accept either. But it seems there’s another standard these people, male and female, have for their partners.

Deep down we want our partners to be exactly how we want them to be with little or no effort on our part. On top of that, we want our partners to accept us fully and be in love with us flaws and all.

There, I said it out loud. That’s what we say when we are adamant about not settling. And while I hate the S- word, people in a difficult economic situation, don’t have many choices, therefore they settle strategically for survival. If you’ve ever had to struggle, you dream about the things you want, but you are realistic about it. With the resources you have, you have to get the things you need first, and then make that stretch.

I honestly think that all of the sisters and brothers who have those “hood love” relationships, at their core they understand and practice that without even thinking about it. People who may have struggled financially, especially in their youth, know all to well about broken promises and the pain of going without. The act of consistency is much different from the promise of it. And I think two people who share that kind of background can far more easily get on the same page and fight for their relationship.

You have to get creative to make things happen for yourself, and you protect your loved ones and your family. You share so everyone has something. It’s communal.

It’s very different if you grew up in another type of situation where you had your own room, barely had hand-me-downs if at all, and could tell your mom she forgot your favorite name brand cereal and she’d pick it up the next day.

I’m not saying well-to-do people can’t love or don’t know how to love. That’s ridiculous. We are all humans.

But I think for me, as an educated, self-sufficient black woman, we may have ascended humble beginnings, but with that ascension we naturally want more. We demand more. We feel betrayed that after all of this hard work and sacrifice to make ourselves better, and make our families proud, and after all of our positive choices, we don’t get the prince charming.

We’re given different messages depending on the weather. Settle, don’t settle. Be more of this, don’t be that. You’re intimidating.

We struggle with having the traditional values instilled in our families about sharing and responsibility to our loved ones, while in our professional lives, we are playing the individual success game, by totally opposite rules. There’s a conflict in the spirit of successful black women. We are suspended in between worlds. No other generations of black women have been where we are, and that’s why they are no fucking help whatsoever and why our conversations around relationships include more questions than answers.

Our mothers and grandmothers want us to find love, and even though they got married young, they knew it wasn’t easy by any means, and they may secretly envy our independence. That’s a whole other post.

And our largest struggle isn’t finding that right man, it’s reconciling that conflict and making peace that we are living in a strange time of duality. Our largest and most awful reality is that we have to wing it. There’s no one before us to tell us how to do this because we are the pioneers in a new terrain, with very different challenges. No one else, no matter how much we respect them are going to have the answer for this. Sorry.

We have to stare down and grapple with:

What is it to be a woman in a relationship?

What is it to have the most power, education and financial freedom of any generation?

What is tradition?

What works for me?

Who is the type of man to help me define and refine our relationship just based on us and our unique history, experiences, strengths and weaknesses?

I think that’s why the conversations between us and our mothers and aunties and grandmothers are so difficult. A lot has changed within just one generation. Our mothers and aunties and grannies may have stayed in marriages that we would have left or avoided altogether, but economics and opportunity or lack thereof made those women work with what they had.

Love will always be about love. But marriage, it’s the day-to-day operations, the sausage-making that keeps us accountable to one another. Marriage is the teeth-cleaning and the oil change, it’s the practical and necessary maintenance of a union. It’s often not glamorous, it can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can heal, make you better and make your execution of love run healthily.

But I’m still not sure how the hell I’m supposed to even get there.

 

Women, You’re Dating Each Other

A guy friend of mine who I very recently reconnected with after a few years blew my mind with an observation he made over drinks.

I’m still single, he’s still single. We probably met a good ten years ago, but stopped speaking after a perceived slight on my part. We didn’t discuss that.
But we did talk about the world of dating, how things have changed between our parent’s generation and how awful going to the club is, but how “Netflix and Chill” and online dating is contributing to our social downfall.

He lamented that our generation’s dating fails are connected to one thing our parents had on a regular basis, that we lack.

House parties.

He said that house parties were unpretentious. There, you got social, you danced with people, you met a few new people outside of your social network who were friends of friends, there was good food and drink. Who wouldn’t want to warm up and get friendly in that kind of environment? Anyone in attendance was already vetted by someone in the room that you know.

I agreed. I couldn’t think of the last time I went to such a party. The best ones were probably in college. The closest thing in my adult life were ones I’ve thrown on a far smaller scale, and a wine party hosted by a couple I know, that was mostly attended by other couples and was quite awkward for me in the beginning.

I digress.

He also made my ears perk up when he said, let’s face it. Most women are actually dating their friends and don’t realize it.

I blinked. I needed him to elaborate, so he did.

“Look, y’all go to the movies, out to dinner, to the theater. And y’all all look so nice too, but out with your girlfriends. Great restaurants everything. Y’all even go on vacations with each other. Y’all don’t need to date a man because you’re already doing it with your friends. At the club, you dance with each other and get mad if a man wants to break it up and ask one of you to dance.”

I had to laugh.

He was absolutely right. I’d just come off of an extraordinary trip to Belize with some girlfriends, and it’s not unusual to hit up my friends to go out for a nice meal or see a movie.

I was complaining a few weeks ago, that being a part of a support system for a crew full of single women was tough and could be emotionally draining.

It felt like I was pulling double duty, doing things for some of my friends that I think boyfriends should do, right down to helping each other move, fix things, hunt and remove rodents and insects, or helping each other shovel out our driveways in the winter.

Sisters are doing it for themselves, but it’s kind of worrisome.

We’re leaning on each other a lot, and there is a void of protection and security and companionship a man provides.

I was getting worn down from helping my friends recover from bad breakups, health problems and other issues.

I wanted my friends to have a man, so he can help carry the emotional load and just give my friends that dose of male stability they are yearning for. Not long ago, I even prayed a prayer, saying, “Lord, I don’t even need to be first. I can be last. But give my girls the partners they need and deserve.”

My male friend went further to explain that this is a female phenomenon.

“You don’t see groups of guys out with the same frequency of women going out together.”

I had to agree. My friends won’t ever be a substitute for a real date, but if there are nice things you want to do and you don’t want to sit around at home, you will invite your homegirls. Usually, those really cool things that would make a great date, you still want to go, whether you have a man or not. On three occasions, I’ve bought tickets to some really great concerts that I invited men on dates to, and I was either stood up, or we fell out by the time the concert came around. So, I’d invite a homegirl to join me, because I’m still going.

So by my male friend’s description, I have been going on a lot of “dates” with my friends. However, there are times I have really, really, really wanted and needed the company of a man and some flirtation. My friends can’t give me that, and I can’t give them that either. Do I tell my friends they are beautiful and awesome? All the time. But there is a difference and a tingle you get, when the right man hands you a well-timed compliment.

I’ve joked with some friends that honestly, it’s almost like we’re in a relationship anyway, the way we support and come to each other’s rescue because at the moment, there are no men to do so, or no “Steady Freddies” that have come along. But then my joke didn’t feel so funny when I really started to think about it.

I found myself getting angry. I was angry that so many women have to lean on each other when they are sick, tired, sad, mad and in-between.

I’m thankful for my village, but there needs to be more diversity. By diversity I mean penis. Penis support.

So what say you? Are you unconsciously dating your friends? Be real!!

In a land far away on another social media thread, I peeped that people said, this post made sense, but I had no solutions.

I don’t have solutions. I was sharing a really funny observation and perspective I hadn’t considered. It had some truth to it. So, Sway, on this one, I don’t have the answers.

I do think women shouldn’t sit at home and twiddle their thumbs. There’s so many great things to do and see. Waiting for a date (and sometimes your company is awful) isn’t the look. Pick who you want to spend time with and go and most importantly, have a great time, whether you’re with your homegirls, homeboys, boo, undercover lover, hotline bling…

Oooh, back to answers. I’ma go with my friend. OLD SCHOOL  HOUSEPARTY!!!

More specifically to my life, maybe for me, myself, personally, I should try to get my guy friend to take me on a date…

Who Are We Really Competing With When We Critique The Exes’ Next?

Human beings are so competitive even when it’s absolutely useless to be so.
Especially when we are in an imaginary competition with our exes’ current girlfriend, wife.
The most ridiculous part is when we compete with women from his past.
So we compare ourselves regardless.
I’m thinner, I have a better body, I’m more educated, she has kids, I don’t and the list goes on and on.
Our friend even get in on the action, and as well-meaning as they are, even when you aren’t really thinking about the comparison game, they pull you into thinking about the comparison game.
It’s kind of petty, but it’s something we naturally do because we tend to think highly of ourselves, especially when it comes to the type of girlfriend we may have been to the other person who at one point agreed to be with us seriously, or even if it was a casual hookup or 40.
So we pull people we know nothing a part based on a scant amount of information, even if we’ve happened to take a look at their public social media accounts. If your competition is gorgeous, you look for any flaw in their body, intellect or personality.
If the person isn’t attractive, you question your exes taste, you say that they downgraded from you or upgraded to you.
And all of these things temporarily make us feel better, but why?
Your ex is an ex for a reason. It didn’t work out. What is it about human nature that makes us still care about what they think of us?
It’s probably that same part of us hoping that ex runs into us when we’re looking our best or us going that extra mile to be super fabulous if we know they are attending and event we’ll be going to.
Deep down inside, whether we still want the other person or not, we always want them to ALWAYS want us.
That’s why it’s easy to take a phone call from a friendly ex who wants to reminisce about the past or compliment you on a photo they happened to see of you online.
As I get older, bashing the past and present girlfriends of my exes or even guys I’ve been interested in is loosing its pleasure and just makes me feel petty.
It makes me ask internal questions about why I care and why I’m competing with someone who isn’t even thinking about me.
Or maybe she is and she’s comparing herself to me…

What Are You Willing to Be?

On Jill Scott’s latest album “Woman” she has a simple interlude during which she runs off the typical man’s ultimate short list for the kind of woman he wants.
“You want me flawless. You want me patient and sweet. You want me willing. You want my honesty. You want me to be appreciative. Respect your space, ignore your fears. You want a good girl and a freak,” she speaks.
Then she sings the following, a lovely reality check.
“You want something that you’re not willing to be.”
Oh, that’s when I lost it. I was waving my hands in the air, swaying back and forth.
Jill done did it again and in less than 2 minutes.
We all have expectations. And for some odd reason we place even higher ones on the people we want to have in our lives as if we aren’t flawed and that the person isn’t being patient with us.
Reciprocity makes and the lack thereof breaks every relationship romantic or otherwise.
When people feel like a situation is one-sided with no signs of improvement, you can expect that relationship to end.
A life lesson that keeps coming back to me is that just as I want to be heard and my opinion and feelings to be respected regardless if the other person agrees or not, the other people I interact with want the same thing.
It’s not unreasonable.
However, we’re selfish people. We can only account for our souls and the actions our flesh and bones carry out. So sometimes it is hard to imagine what it’s like to see ourselves from someone else’s point of view.
Jill’s sentiments weren’t the first time I heard the concept of becoming the person you’d want to date.
I’d heard it on a panel at Essence Fest a few years back and I’ve even read something to that effect in Dr. Phil’s book, “Love Smart.”
And honestly, this draws on the law of attraction too. If you’re out of shape, someone who’s in shape may not be beating down your door.
If you don’t smile at people, they probably won’t smile at you.
The interesting thing about being a human is we do feed off of each other. We feel more comfortable with people who are like ourselves, because you can find obvious things to connect on.
So, from time-to-time, I ask myself if I’d date me.
Do I like how I look when I look in the mirror?
Do I like the food I cook for myself?
Am I proud of the work that I do or the activities I engage in?
Am I loving to the people in my life?
Do I make time for people who I love?
Do I make time for me?
Am I taking care of myself?
I do think all of these things help usher in new kinds of people in your life. You’ll radiate something.
Lately, I’ve been seeing posts about how folks tend to meet people or even strike up short-term relationships while traveling, and I can see how that happens.
When I travel, I’ve picked out all of my favorite clothes that make me feel good, stuff that I wouldn’t be able to wear at work. I can be a bit more sexy. I also tend to try new hairstyles, so I feel like a new version of myself. I wear brighter colors. I’m well-rested, I’m curious, I’m open to whatever the day has in store.
The vacation version of me seems to be an ultimate version of myself. I’m not thinking about work or any of the things that stress me out, I’m strictly about the business of my happiness and satisfaction and embarking on something different and making the most of the moments.
I’m bolder because I’m certain I probably won’t see these strangers ever again. And like me, they are also about having a good time if they are traveling too.
So getting back to Jill, I’ve been wondering about being more willing to incorporate my vacation self into my everyday life. Because that’s the version of myself I’d really like to date!

With Each New Trip, Comes A New Epiphany

There’s plenty to blog about today as I’ve just returned from Toronto to attend my first ever Caribana. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed hanging with my travel mates, some of whom I’ve never traveled with before. It was a success!
But with every trip, when I come home, I have a renewed sense of purpose and wanting to live out my life in a bigger, better way.
In 2013, the result of this post-vacation feeling pushed me into looking into grad schools, then applying, then taking the GRE and then getting accepted and starting in 2014.
In 2014, after 7 years of working in the same place and going on at least 4 different interviews over that time period and none of them panning out, a job I didn’t think I got had offers waiting for me upon my arrival from the Cayman Islands.
So it’s 2015, I’m half way through my studies in Grad school, I’m working very hard at that new job I took on in 2014, and after Toronto, I’m looking around wondering, “What’s next?”
The thought started to enter my head that maybe after nearly a decade in the Washington, D.C. area, moving someplace else to start fresh might be a good idea. Last year, that idea only seemed to be reserved for after I graduated school, but thanks to online education, it’s really not the deal breaker I made it out to be.
For 9.5 years, I thought to myself I have not had a stable healthy relationship with any male who actually lived in the D.C. area. Two of the relationships I had while living here, were long distance.
I was starting to wonder, if it was me? If it was D.C.? And if together, we weren’t a good match for my love life.
Let’s face it. It’s a competitive city.
We compete for jobs, we compete for great places to live, and women, whether we want to admit it or not, we’re out here competing for the same men.
We know it and they know it and for this reason, the game has lost its fun factor.
Most women in any city will say there are no men there.
What Caribana revealed to me most was there are men everywhere. There are men of all kinds who are interesting, kind, funny and considerate and hard-working. There are men who are selfish, egotistical ass hats who have subpar penis.
So I wondered to myself, where were these men in DC?
Are guys only fun when they go to an event in other parts of the country or the world? Are they more open? Am I more open?
Could I waltz into a club and channel my Caribana vacation self and charm someone silly? Is that my problem?
The DC, everyday version of myself hates the clubs and has no desire to dress up, heel up, make up and play the game. Sure, I’ve been slumming it at local TGI Friday’s and I guess I shouldn’t complain about what I get.
I refuse to go back to online dating because it’s exhausting and annoying.
So, I can admit, half of the problem really is me. I can’t blame D.C. and I can’t blame how wack men are these days, especially when I’ve turned down really nice guys, who I’ve complained I have no chemistry with.
In terms of me taking care of myself and doing things to make myself happy and making choices for me and only me, I’ve been doing a fantastic job.
But my love life has taken a position on the back burner. I told myself that this selfish phase I’m having really doesn’t allow for me to give anything to anyone else, but there’s a small part of me that calls bullshit.
And that voice is getting on my very last nerve and keeps me up at night. That voice makes me wish for the intimacy I’ve shared with exes that is nothing but a memory, that voice makes me wonder about what random flirtations really mean or what they don’t mean.
That voice makes me wonder if I guy I met on vacation who lives in this area will give me a call and want to actually meet up.
I don’t deny any of my feelings. I think they are natural. But something is pulling at me for change and it’s not surprising. I started out my adult life on an adventure tip. Out the gate, I moved to places my friends and family would have never gone or tried to leave a long time ago. I tested my mettle, and there’s a big part of me that feels like I lost that adventure in the name of security. But even when I was running around, moving from place-to-place and job-to-job, I wondered what the secure life would be like.
I told a friend, I’m never satisfied. When I’m hot, I want to be cool, when I’m cold, I want to be warm. When I’m in a situation, I want the opposite of what I’m in at the moment.
I have a problem with patience, I have a problem with process. I can change my mind on a whim, however, I believe I’m a steady person and a reliable friend.
While I do have fantasies about what my next meaningful relationship will be like and how happy I’ll be and how grateful I’ll be for it, I also fantasize about random romps with strangers if I had the courage and the ability to just walk away and never look back. Is it conflicting to want to be fully present in both of those situations, even though they are polar opposites?
Probably, but that’s how I feel.
I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. But when I don’t feel like making a decision, it would be ok to go with what’s decided for me sometimes.
I like to be alone with my thoughts and work things out in my mind until my thoughts wear me out so much, that I want to be held by someone. Then, you may enter my space.
I shared my recent thoughts of moving with a few friends and they had varied responses, most of which were for me to do what I felt like I needed to do.
One joked that it would be my luck that once I moved, I’d meet someone from this area. That same friend, who is in a relationship then gave me the, “chin up, he’ll find you” phrase. Ugh.
For single people, when people in relationships tell you that, the only feeling comparable is when employed people tell unemployed people exhausted and demoralized by consistent rejection that the next interview will be “the one.”
In both cases, you know people mean well, but you don’t want to hear it.
They’ll tell you how great you are and can’t understand why you don’t have a man or a job because you’re qualified in fact you’re over qualified, and that’s the problem!
While this so-called pep-talk (and I’m guilty of giving these) is going on, you either really think about your shortcomings preventing you from having the job or the boyfriend, or you get mad at the system because given the right chance you know you’d be great.
I’ve learned a long time ago that a lot of things are based on timing. There’s an ebb and flow of life. There are things you have to look and listen for in your heart and in your gut to lead you to the next point. I get impatient with what seems like the slow-moving points because I have no idea what’s ahead, be it good or bad. Sometimes you just feel like you’re stuck in one place. One thing is for certain, even when you’re stuck you either find the strength and motivation to unstick yourself, but if you sit around long enough, something will come along and move you and when that happens, it’s involuntary. It may be due to necessity, or fear or a little of both and I can’t stand operating in fear.
I believe in God. There are all kinds of scriptures about being still or standing still. So maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s a big part of my lesson or journey trying to identify the peace in stillness over the loud ass sounds of my thoughts, fears, insecurities and anxieties.

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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