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Archive for the category “Is it me?”

Sometimes You Just Can’t Live Up to Other’s Expectations, And It’s Perfectly Fine

I was living my life and enjoying a lovely day while hanging out with a friend. This is a similar friend who I’ve blogged about where we’ve had our ups and downs, and while this person may struggle with some issues, including mild narcissism which I came to this conclusion twice in the same day, I’ve decided to just accept this person as they are and do me.

So we’re hanging out, and all of a sudden she tells me she has to get something off her chest.

I knew where this was going. After spending a lot of emotional energy trying to help her get through some tough times last winter, which included cooking for her and staying at her home, we had an argument over something small.

It’s always something small, that sets me off. So I told her she has a short memory and comes at me for stupid things, yet she has other friends who she won’t hold accountable at all and that with the exception of one or two, I think they are all fake. And her crew goes round and round just being fake to each other and I can’t subscribe to that.

Well during this latest encounter, she wants to go back to that argument to chide me about not talking shit about her friends. I fight rolling my eyes.
Basically, this wasn’t really supposed to be a two-way conversation. And as she talked about me not being there for her, I realized I was in the presence of someone who needed more help and more attention than I’m qualified for.

I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, because I knew what I could give as a friend and what I couldn’t. All I heard was I need, I need and you didn’t and you weren’t there.

As usual, this person expected me to apologize and fall all over myself. I didn’t. I simply said, you need more support than I can give. I feel that you tend to deem your problems more severe than my own and while you may have gone through some very terrible things this year, I supported you as best I could, while navigating my own challenges. I did the very best I could. Do you have a mental health plan in place, because you need other people besides me.

I realized I was in a love languages situation. This person is most certainly a quality time person and thrives on being surrounded by family and friends all the time, while for me, I like physical touch.

At this point I knew I had to be somewhat special, because I do believe I have been doing my best, even though there are times where I get tired of people. I want to spend time alone to gather my thoughts and simply rest.

I’m used to loving a lot of people from a distance because geographically they aren’t close. I’m used to the people in my life having an understanding that I love them and will do what I can for them.

Can I improve? Yes. But I think there is a line, there are some people who expect way too much and can’t see how one person can’t handle and take on all of the other person’s problems. When I asked her what she needed from me specifically, she couldn’t say. She just felt like I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I’m awful at checking up on people. I get wrapped up in the things I’m doing, or I think of people, but I’m way too tired to have a conversation where I’m truly present. That’s why when I do finally have conversations with folks on the phone, it can go to two hours easily. I want to be present. But maybe people really only need 10 or 15 minutes of me when they need me. It’s something I wrangle with.

I don’t like feeling guilty about whether or not I’m giving enough of myself to people, because I feel like it’s in direct competition with giving myself the self-care I need. I hate to see people in pain. My mind immediately goes to thinking of ways to solve a friend’s problem or figuring out the right thing to say. But it’s exhausting.

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But there are times, emotionally where I feel like I need to put my oxygen mask on first, and friends like the one I’ve mentioned seem to feel like me doing that is disrespectful or neglectful to their needs.

I’ve decided in terms of that friendship, I have to be ok with where I am with certain friendships. I already decided a long time ago, that I accept this person and I can’t imagine them not in my life, but sometimes keeping a distance works best for me, but it doesn’t work so well for her. I told that person, that by now they should know me and that my intentions are always good, and I am always concerned, and always want the best for her, but I cannot keep vigil over them 24 hours a day and I can’t be expected to drop everything in my life, for every crisis this person may have everyday. It’s unfair to have that expectation. And this is where other support has to come in, and professional support.

I worry about the boundary lines of where her responsibility lies within herself, and where I’m supposed to come in with support. I feel no person should feel like they are alone, but there are times we all feel that way. We have to spread the responsibility of support around to those who love us. We cannot offload the lion’s share of our worries, pain and neuroses on just one person. But we do have to think of constructive ways to tackle our internal issues and do the work. We won’t grow if we get our fix of having someone just be there to distract us from what’s really eating us. And I think primarily, she likes the distraction and to feel like someone will drop everything for her to feel valued. And that’s a false sense of security, which leads her right back to where she started as soon as someone can’t keep that up. And I think that’s even true of romantic relationships. You can’t drain your human resources just as you would any other resource.

We have to figure out ways to improve our self-care techniques with outside support as a companion to a multi-pronged approach to our emotional well-being. And that may be really challenging, but I think it has to be done.

I love my friends, but I should be allowed to have the space to speak up and say I have limitations. I may disappoint you sometimes, as you may disappoint me. May we not have short memories for the times we offered our support in just the right way, may we have the strength to offer the best support possible when our friends need us most.

Sexting: An Exercise in Patience, Imagination, Liberation and Consent

I found myself in a precarious situation last night.

This had been building for quite some time, on and off. Basically innocent.

He was safe. Someone who I knew from a long time ago, didn’t really talk to much or pay attention to. We became facebook friends and he’d occasionally have flattering off line comments that may have led to longer texting conversations or facebook messages.

I knew he was interested. He’d stick a toe in the water and flirted, but never crossed the line. He was respectful. He waited and watched to see if I’d give him any room to talk a little slicker.

So last night, I went ahead and let him hit.

Well, not really. Just by text.

Sexting is an interesting thing, because it forces people to do what they often don’t want to do when it comes to actually having sex.

Explicitly and without any room for misinterpretation telling people exactly what you want how you want it and how you like it.

It’s actually a great exercise to build your confidence in asking for what you want and having a safe space to either feel good about asking for it, or finding out how your partner tries to derail your efforts in their own sexy way without breaking the mood.

Sexting does have some draw backs.

It’s not the real thing.

Faking it is even easier.

You can file your nails, send other texts (just don’t send the wrong ones to the wrong people, please), sit in the drive thru and order your food, while sending your lover into a complete frenzy.

Which subsequently created a new problem.

Refreshed from the whole encounter, he asked it we’d do it again tomorrow and this time speak over the phone.

I was taken aback.

I told him that disciplined men turn me on and to pace himself.

He said he was addicted and it would be hard.

So the following day he asked again, and the day after.

At this point my Aquarian nature that hates routine or feeling obligated to do anything for anyone just because I did it once was starting to show itself.

So when he was hinting at wanting to engage in another session, I simply told him no.

Actually nope was what I typed. And with no further explanation. That actually felt liberating. I felt that I had the right to say no, without explanation because hey, I can say no to something I don’t want to do. Aside from just being cool, I have no real obligation to him nor him to me.

This is where the liberation and consent come in. In this new age of texting and skyping and online dating people have had no problems with sending racy messages or nude or semi-nude photos to people unsolicited.

Women or anyone, for that matter will always have the right, even if it’s via the exchange of words to tell someone you don’t want to do something, or you feel uncomfortable with the way the conversation is going.

So when two days later, my sexting friend wanted to have another moment and I wasn’t in the mood and he began to use similar tactics men use when they are in person and want you to have sex, I had to stop him in his tracks.

I wasn’t going to be a complete jerk about it, but I had to be firm and I had to let him know this is where the conversation is going to end, and this is where I stand.

I replied: “I don’t mind playing along and being a fantasy when I feel like it. When I feel like it, it’s fun. But when I don’t feel like it, it’s not fun for me.”

His response was simple. “That’s fair.”

And we kept it moving. Any response other than “That’s fair” or “I respect that” or “Whatever you want” was going to get him deaded. Period and the end.

I think my response was very accurate while creating a boundary for myself that I don’t want crossed. I have agency over me, my body, my thoughts and how a respond to whatever is happening to me.

As harmless as sending a sext could seem, I think even with some good grown people fun, it’s important that as soon as one person in the party isn’t having a good time, then it needs to get shut down.

The feminist in me was irritated that he wanted to do this every night and that he’d have the audacity to keep asking. I mean I do have a job, and friends and family. I’m not a phone sex operator. Now if he wanted to pay me $20 a minute, I think I can muster up the energy to work something out… no just kidding… or not… (I do have student loans)

Anyway, it made me wonder if he did consider me to be a fantasy woman to be there at his beck and call. He lives far away, and when we actually lived in the same area, I wasn’t checking for him nor were we even in the same social circles. We only knew of each other, and he was married. Now divorced, he started popping up from time-to-time sending me friendly Facebook messages privately. Only fairly recently did he bring up that he thought I was attractive during a brief period of us working at the same company.

I’m not sure what his angle is, especially considering he’d been popping up off and on going on for years.

At any rate, I like the fact that I learned a lot about being more comfortable about expressing what I like and what I want, and what I don’t want. I also liked the fact that I bluntly stood up for what I didn’t want. I was proud to not have to apologize for being a woman who liked sexting but felt no obligation to keep the party going on demand for a man.

A New List of Things You Need To Know As A Woman In Your 30s

I feel like I make this list like once a year. Normally, I’m inspired by a conversation I’ve had or an experience.

I’m just avoiding studying. But please add these things you need to know as a woman in your 30s. I may repeat some I’ve said before.

1. If you like it buy it in every color.

I was in NY and Company the other day and I found pants and tops that fit well, and I straight up bought multiples. You’ll see how important this is. You need ONLY things in your closet that make you feel good about yourself and like you are the finest person walking the earth. Facts.

2. Own at least one freakum dress. It doesn’t have to be scandalous if scandalous is not your thing, but going back to number one, it needs to fit and flatter your body and your favorite assets and make you feel sexy when you wear it.

3. Embrace your shape, understand it and find things that work with it.

Sometimes this means you can’t go with the crowd. Or the latest trends. If there’s something that looks awesome on you, stick to it and don’t let go, you will be timeless and polished.

4. Accessorize. I’ve always noticed that older women had tons of jewelry, real, costume, hats, scarves, brooches. They adorn themselves. Lately, I’ve noticed the power of adding a statement necklace to a simple outfit and it takes my ensemble to another more mature and unique level. It helps bring out my personality so I can stand out from the crowd. And shopping for accessories is just fun.

5. Never underestimate the power of the T. Whether you get cheap tees or more expensive ones, plain black or white tees make you look like you woke up like dis. Keep it simple, rock it with a blazer for work, and amp it up with a great necklace and boom. You look all effortless.

6. Keep mints, lip gloss, tampons and at least $20 in your purse at all times. The last part is most difficult for me as I’m always reaching for plastic. But the times that I actually do carry cash, it just feels like a safety net juuuuust in case!

7. Read stuff.

Read anything, read the newspaper, read the magazines, read books, join a book club. Grown women are informed and keep growing and have interesting things to talk about and an opinion. Books are easy ways to develop opinions and provide good party chatter.

8. Vitamins.

I had to learn about this one the hard way, but for real for real, B complex has changed my life this week. I can press on just a little bit further thanks to these energy boosting vitamins recommended by my doctor.

9. High/Low As a grown woman, you have every right to indulge in an expensive handbag, pair of shoes, suit or fantastic coat or pair of jeans. So for big items that you’ll use forever, I say go for it if you can afford to or save for it and then buy your cheaper items to go with them. When you’re grown, you want to stay polished. That’s the goal.

10. Have a signature drink you like to order, signature fragrance, and signature dish you can cook and cook well EVERY time. It just makes you feel good about yourself.

11. Take dance breaks. Throw on your favorite jam and just dance.

12. If you are wrong, beat folks to the punch and own up to it.

13. If you know you are wrong before you do something and you’ve made the decision to do it anyway, then George Bush that shit. Don’t hide. Bask in your wrongness and if anyone has something to say about it, say you did it for America and keep it pushing.

14. Truth over everything. When you know better you do better.

15. Try something new. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, fail, or look silly. Just try. Trying shouldn’t be for kids or folks screwing up in their 20s. As long as you are breathing you better find the sweetness of life and the feeling of accomplishment when you do something you’ve never done.

16. Travel. That’s it.

17. Be cool with going out alone. Start with the movies or a play. Something that doesn’t require anything but your attention and everyone shutting up. Then elevate and take yourself to dinner, but don’t get a table for one… have dinner at the bar. You’ll meet interesting people and bartenders like to give you free drinks or discounts for bringing more boys to the yard who’ll pay full price.

18. Be kind, be giving, be gracious.

20. Smile at yourself, laugh at yourself out loud when you do ridiculous things or look silly or fall down. Like, there are times I got so into it, I couldn’t stop laughing and that felt good. I’m serious though take a moment to smile at yourself in the mirror at work in the bathroom. Don’t give yourself a fake smile either, smile at yourself like yo, I like you. You’re cool people. And after you say that, if you’re me, you’ll start laughing at yourself for even saying something like that. But to see yourself naturally smile at yourself or laugh at yourself, it’s kind of nice.

21. When you have a tingle to check on someone or just ask them, how are you today? Or are you alright? DO IT! IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Even if you text some one and say “I’m thinking of you.” Or tell them something you like about them, it makes all the difference in the world.

22. Say you’re not ok, when you’re not ok. Some folks ain’t gonna know how to react to this. Expect their inability to react because they are used to folks lying, so this is going to throw them off. Tell them it’s ok that you know they have absolutely nothing perfect to say to fix it, but you are just satisfied with them caring.

23. Ask for help. If you don’t know, ask for help and be bold about it. I don’t know, I don’t understand, but I’m smart at other things, so my ego isn’t bruised. Help me so I can be good at this too. Most people will appreciate that you kept it so real and be very eager to help you understand. This is truth.

24. Be proactive. If you see things about to take a twist or a turn and you know you can prevent it or lessen the blow, then do so.

25. This is linked with 24. DON’T WAIT ON NOBODY ELSE TO FILL IN THE BLANK. If there’s something you want to do and folks keep making excuses or blowing it off go back to number 17. If you need courage go back to number 20 and remember number 15.

26. You are in charge of your narrative. Don’t let anyone else write it or define it. You do that. You represent you. If folks have it wrong, you have every right to correct their uninformed asses.

27. Stop cussin. LOL. Only do so for emphasis and impact to let fools know you ain’t playing and that this is not a drill.

28. If you did it right, the walk of shame is a strut of satisfaction.

29. If you really regretted it and didn’t have a child from the situation, you can subtract that bad situation from your “number” I’ll allow it.. like twice. But don’t get carried away.

30. If you are a woman in your 30s, you already know that you’ve never felt this alright with yourself and secretly looking forward to how bad ass you’ll be at 40.

Undergraduate life Vs. Grad life

I graduated from undergrad 10 years ago, yes, if you read the blog regularly you know this fact.

However, this is important because 10 years ago, I was 22 years old. I entered college at 18 years old.

I’ve entered my graduate studies at 32.

The differences in my lifestyle and habits as a student often crack me up. I’d been wanting to write a post about it, but, alas. My 32-year-old, full-time working, three class taking arse has been tired and clearly busy.

I wanted to fight a guy who texted me this morning talmbout, “Where have you been, I haven’t heard from you.” After I went on my tirade about doing nothing but work projects and school and trying to eat, sleep and poop in between, his response is “Cool. Are you still single?”

I fought the urge not to take off my shoe and throw it across the room. I digress.

The point is, I’d like to point out some of the differences I’ve observed between my undergrad life and my grad studies life.

In undergrad, you may have taken two or three classes a day for three to five days a week. You may have had a job or an internship.

In grad school if you choose to still work your job/job… you know the one you got your undergrad degree in, the stakes are a tad higher. You likely have your own spot you are paying rent/mortgage on, car payments, credit card bills, food… either way, you have more pressure to produce and stay employed. You still have to have energy and brain power to do what you need to do for your job, and still bring it for your class discussions and assignments.

In undergrad, time management was merely a suggestion. Something responsible classmates and older folks tossed around. In undergrad, procrastination was the way of life. Instant gratification was way more important than proper planning. You’re young and beautiful and you have energy. You can live off of the McDonald’s menu and Mountain Dew Code red and pull a paper or project out of your butt crack only hours before walking into class and handing it in.

Not so in grown up grad world.

You set aside time in your planner to plan planning.

You plan when you pee. You plan when you are going to call someone back, like um your parents who want to make sure you are alive. You plan when to wash and twist your hair (2 hours). You plan the one day out of the week where you refuse to do any work, but if you’ve planned a concert or a dinner out with friends, you amend your planned chill day so you can get ahead on your work so you can enjoy the planned events on a non-planned open day. Whew.

In undergrad, there were days you just weren’t up for going to class. There were quite a few of them. And you didn’t go.

In grad school, you are all about those attendance and participation points just in case they will make the difference in the end. Because when you don’t show up and you realize those points kept you from your desired grade, you bang your head on things.

In undergrad, you don’t believe your professors when they say everyone does poorly on this test or this unit or this project. You think you are better, you think you are different and you think you’ll still ace this thing with the minimal amount of effort. You’ll show them.

In grad school, you not only believe your professors, but you freak out and spend two weeks before said test, project or paper trying to figure out how to at least do better than the worst folks.

In undergrad group projects suck. They just do. There’s usually only one really responsible person and they never stand up for themselves or call folks out on their bs. Folks depend on them, they carry it for the group and the wack people remain wack for another day.

In grad school, you are surrounded by the responsible people from undergrad. How do you think they got this far? Nobody is trying to even hear or entertain excuses. Everyone has a full-time job, are officially grown people with serious responsibilities and have sacrificed their time, energy, and hours of sleep to pursue this degree… throw in some kids into the mix… if you don’t come prepared with your share of the work, not only will you get the side eyes of death, you’ll get cussed out mightily and rightfully so. So yeah, if you in a group assignment for grad, you better represent. The professor is the least of your problem if you are a slacker. You will get jumped by your group for underperformance.

In undergrad, you had to go through the accumulation of friends, fighting with said friends, the loss of friends to only be whittled down to a special few.

In grad school, most folks kind of have the reality game show mentality of “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Since you don’t have a lot of time anyway, and if you are in an online program like me, making genuine connections can kind of be tough. But when people connect, they make their alliances count. They may compliment you in a chat or an email about a point you made in class, or you may thank someone for finding out some additional information. There’s really no need for fakery, because no one has the time. They just won’t mess with you.

In grad school, you’ll find yourself comparing and contrasting your undergrad experience. It’s pointless. It’s a different beast.

In undergrad, your teachers spend a lot of time teaching you concepts, then you read about em and take a test.

In grad school, you read about the concepts, you learn and in class you need to ask your teachers for clarification. They illuminate how to apply this stuff. No vocabulary lessons or definitions in the live class. Nope. You better already know the terms they throw out.

In undergrad, folks can tell when you are bsing and didn’t do the work.

In grad school, folks can tell when you are bsing and didn’t do the work.

In undergrad, you may sleep all day because you partied all night.

In grad school, you sleep all day because it was your assigned day devoted to sleeping. This will be the most consecutive hours of sleep you’ll get all week.

In undergrad staying up till 2 or 3 isn’t a big deal, you’ll be distracted by friends.

In grad school, if you managed to get all of your work done before midnight, the day before your class, during the work week you count that as a win.

Does anyone have anything they’d like to add to the list? I’ve already gone over my allotted time for blogging. LOL

 

Season of Single

There have been plenty of pastors and older, wise married folks who have said, “Don’t rush into marriage. Learn how to enjoy your season of single.”

Most of the time, women, myself included have plugged our ears and started singing “la, la, la” because we wanted to be in love so badly. And what’s the highest height of romantic love? Getting married or so we think.

At 32, being in school and working and really having to prioritize my time has made me kind of realize that I’m nearing the end of my season of single, so I need to make it count.

All of my resources, my time, my money, my energy, my fun time, vacations they belong to me!

This is going to be the only time in my life where that is the case. We all know that I’m still on the fence about children, but I’m very interested in being married someday. I’m going to be sharing resources with someone. Even if he makes more than me or equal or whatever, I’m going to be sharing my resources, I’m going to be accountable to someone else.

I was just talking to a friend about how hectic my schedule is and about to become. I’m going to the Art of Cool music festival in Durham, NC next weekend; I have my 10 year reunion at my university; I’m going to attend a wedding in a city and state I’ve never been to in June and oh yeah, I’m still doing school. A good friend of mine is itching to go to Greece in the fall, and honestly, I’m ready to pull the trigger and do it.

This stage in my life is for ME. Now all stages in your life should be about you, but no other stage than right now is about me or will ever allow me this much freedom, even though it feels like every moment is accounted for because of my school and work schedule. The strictness of my schedule has actually opened me up to LIVING in my free moments. Even making the decision to take out thousands in student loans to go back to school, that was a conscious decision I made for ME and no one else. There’s something special about saying, I’m worth this. It’s going to work out because this is a part of my purpose. This is necessary. I’m already appreciating the benefits and what being back in school is doing for my mind and my self-esteem. I keep telling people this was the time to do what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have appreciated it the way I do now, I wouldn’t have a razor-sharp focus on why this is so important and so worth it if I did it any sooner.

I’m taking deep breaths and in my spare moments when I’m relaxing, I’m truly doing so. I may actually go off to Spa World in Va. and veg out for a few hours over this weekend to recharge since I’ve given up my Massage Envy membership.

It’s about me now and I get it. I fully get and appreciate it and it doesn’t feel selfish or wrong. I don’t feel guilty about it and while thinking about love and a future with a great person does hang over my head from time to time, I can say I’m happy right now and I’m happy alone. DID YOU HEAR THAT UNIVERSE? IM HAPPY WITH WHERE I AM AND WHO I AM RIGHT NOW!! Everything belongs to me right now. My money, my time. It’s my world. I have full autonomy to do exactly what I please with it. I’m learning to value how liberating and powerful that is, because this too is a season. This won’t always be the case. And when my season does change, I want to know that I took full advantage of every resource and moment and spare time and extra dollar so I won’t walk into my new season with any regrets. I can accept the joys that come with the next.

 

Is Relationship Advice From Single People Valid?

Ha! I’ve just witnessed an argument on this very topic unfolding on social media.

One person said they will never take relationship advice from a single person. Another person said that to say that is ridiculous. And a third person, there’s always this person, recommended to ask the Lord for advice.

I’m not mad at any of these answers, I think to some degree all of these folks are on to something and I appreciate help from “anyone who has a heart.”

As with any topic, any time you get advice from someone you have to a) consider the source b) understand if they have any biases or conflicts of interest c) and take what they say with a grain of salt. What works for one doesn’t work for all, especially in matters of the heart.

There are some folks who swear married people will give the best advice. But who out of married people is qualified to give good advice? Folks who have been married for three months? A year? 20 years? Married folks with kids? Married folks who don’t have kids? Married folks who split up and got back together? Folks who have been divorced multiple times? Normally divorced folks are sent to the back of the line because from the outside, we straight up call them failures. “Failed marriages.”

Well damn. So because they failed they don’t have input?

I have mixed feelings about folks handing out relationship advice and folks either swear Steve Harvey is the oracle or his full of crap, but I agree with what he says when folks call him out for being married like three times. He says he knows what he’s done wrong. He’s well aware of his mistakes.

For me, married, single, divorced, widowed and even couples who are staying together but falling apart, I’ve learned from everything in the things they say, in the things they do, how they present themselves in public and if you get a glimpse of folks at home.

Plenty of single people have been in love, and have participated in relationships and have had their heart broken or broke a heart. So, in some way we are all qualified.

As someone who fell madly in love and almost got married, I have an opinion on things. People can agree or disagree and my experiences don’t make me an expert on everything, but it gives me a certain level of insight. We all have this. So why don’t we trust ourselves?

Folks say all the time single people offering one another is like the blind leading the blind. Sometimes, that is the case, but I don’t necessarily believe my friends who are booed up and or married have ALL the answers either. They are still navigating their own ever-changing and evolving relationships too and it ain’t always pretty. They are in the trenches too. Relationships are hard work. If you are lazy, don’t even bother.

What do you lifers think? Who gives the best relationship advice? Who should be giving out relationship advice and who shouldn’t be?

The Ikea Game I Like to Play: Bae or Brawn?

I was in Ikea today. Yall know how I feel about Ikea. A long time ago I devoted an entire post to the wonder of the cheap chic home furnishing mecca.

Today was one of my comp days after working eight grueling days straight. So after getting a restful sleep, I hightailed it over to Ikea, because among all of the other things I have going on right now like graduate school and a full-time job that seems to want me to do more as of late, I’m redecorating my bedroom.

Looking for the perfect dressers and nightstands to go with my new bed arriving on Friday, I wound up at Ikea on a weekday before lunch.

First of all, my ovaries thanked me for abstaining and safe sexing it about 94 percent of the time over my entire life. Because I’m not about that mom life. During the weekday, it appears stay-at-home moms and even day care providers throw their hands up and say screw it, and take the munchkins to Ikea to burn off energy.

Then when I got in the cafeteria line to cop some Swedish meatballs, that ended up being crab cakes (yes, Ikea has crab cakes now, not bad either) I noticed a woman ahead of me who ordered three kids meals and a little sumthin for herself and her total came to $5. My eyes bugged out of my head.

Then I saw the specials for each day of the week. Those little jokers eat free on Tuesdays! No wonder the moms and the day care folks were literally having a field day.

So while I found the furthest spot away from everyone to eat my lunch, I reflected on how happy I was not to have the responsibility of parenthood in my life right now. I know it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t knock that choice, but it’s not right for me at this stage in my life. Yes, I’m 32. Yes, I’m supposed to have some kind of clock, but I don’t get all excited around other people’s kids. I don’t want to cuddle them, I don’t want to smell them. I’m just not envious of that lifestyle. I’m good. I’m great.

But the one thing that did interest me were the couples or couplings of people.

I’ve decided when it comes to Ikea, the man you bring to Ikea is bae (as the kids call the main man, your steady Freddy) or your brawn.
So, I like to play a game called “Bae or Brawn?” I basically look at how a couple interacts and I decide if guy Ikea escorts are boyfriends/husbands or dudes brought along simply to schlep, haul and assemble.

Let me break it down for you.
Your bae is your man. That fool is contractually obligated to go with you to Ikea, even if you don’t plan on buying a damn thing and you just want to go for “inspiration.” This means you are nesting, and you want him to agree with all of the stuff you like. Women just wandering with dudes, are either boyfriends/husbands/ are dudes who are on that track. Men who simply want to smash, they aren’t going to even go through the charade of walking around Ikea with you because you always have to walk through the entire store. Unless you are a chick with a Brawn YOU WILL WALK THROUGH THE ENTIRE STORE, ALWAYS. EVERY INCH, THE WAREHOUSE AND IT’S JUST BOXES. BUT YOU’LL STARE AT THE BOXES AND SAY YOU’LL COME BACK. You’ll look at the rugs, the lamps, the art. You’ll think of reasons to buy a 40-piece dish set because it’s $29.99. You’ll get hangers for your skirts and hangers for your pants. You’ll lust after the fancy kitchens and paw the granite counter tops, you’ll rest on a bed, you’ll open and close closet doors to see if they squeak.

If you are buying something with bae, he’s going to be the one to schlep it to the car, tie it down securely and help you get it into the house and set it up.

You are contractually obligated to fix him a cool glass of water, lemonade or iced tea whilst he’s building that Swedish instrument of torture (because someone always gets hurt in the process), later fix or order him a good meal and then put it on him something fierce and hope you don’t break the cheap ass furniture he spent all day assembling. You’ll wake up in the morning together admiring his hard work and your great taste. A house is now a home.

Now the other category dudes fall in when going to Ikea with a female is the Brawn. Actually, there’s one more. Your gayfriend. He’s helping you get your decorative life and making sure you don’t make a horrible decision. He’s telling you when to pass on the cheap stuff and invest in a quality piece or fabric from someplace else and cracking jokes about other patrons to your delight. He’ll be down for that 75 cent frozen yogurt on the way out.

But back to the Brawn.
If you are a single gal and you don’t have a bae, but you still need to get some Ikea furniture transported to your place and assembled, you may have to look to Mr. Brawn.

Brawn is a guy you are cool with. You’ve probably let him hit a couple of times, and you put it down good enough but don’t harass him about much else, that you can call in such a favor without him being worried you are trying to be in a serious relationship with him and he won’t actually flake.

When men hear about Ikea, they get nervous. So when it comes to Brawn, you have to be direct, have a plan and a time to use him and his large truck.

With Brawn, you don’t need him to walk around and pick out stuff or get inspiration. That is going to frighten him and annoy him. He’s not your man. You know this, he knows this.

With Brawn, you better had already walked around and figured out which area of the self-service warehouse your stuff is in and what aisle and bin your non-descript large brown box of pieces are located.

With Brawn, you take him directly there, have him load the crap on the cart and go directly to the check out line.

Brawn will load his vehicle and take your stuff to the house.
This might seem messed up, but I suggest you also fix brawn a cold glass of water, and change into some boy shorts and order that man a pizza.

***The alternate plan is to let him bring the stuff in the house and you assemble it yourself, semi-independent woman. You can send him home and not even worry about the rest…

You may also want to get it in on the newly assembled furniture with Brawn as you would with bae. The same risk hazards are involved in the assembly of Ikea furniture, so Brawn needs to get broke off proper too. Face it, you’ve done it with him for much less.

If you are totally single with no bae or brawn, you can always pay extra, have it delivered and assembled, tip the dudes and still order pizza and eat it in your boyshorts on your new furniture and pour yourself a glass of wine because you got the job done!

Either way, get you some new furniture girl!

Professional Poor Shaming

When we think of the phrase “poor shaming” you may think of someone posting an angry Facebook post about being a hardworking person standing in the checkout line behind a person buying, shrimp and lobster and ceremoniously whipping out a public assistance card.

They are disgusted this person is flaunting what is apparent mooching off the system, because they didn’t dare fill their carts with, oh I don’t know Spam or government cheese or whatever good respectable folks on assistance are supposed to eat, because they don’t deserve hummus or omega 3 fatty acids. Or soy milk. Nope.

But there’s another kind that isn’t so easy to see, that you probably won’t read about or hear about, because the victims of what I call “professional poor shaming” would never want to be outed. It would destroy the persona they’ve built at work or in their social circles. But as sneaky as professional poor shaming is, it’s managed to work its way into workplace culture and it has a lot of people who are financially in the margins, living in fear during every business trip, or business lunch.

One of the best illustrations of this is reflected in a scene from a movie called “The Pursuit of Happiness” you know the feel good, keep dreaming working story starring Will Smith and his son Jaden (when he was little and super cute).

Will Smith has killed himself to earn an internship with a major company, he hides the fact that he is homeless and sleeping in public bathrooms at night and fighting for beds at shelters and emerges as one of the rising stars. He is in a cab with one of his very wealthy bosses. The cab ride is but a mere $10, and his boss says, “Hey, I don’t have any cash, can you take it?” Will’s character is mortified because basically that is the only $10 he had which would be a meal for he and his son, but the shame and the desire for this man to see him as an equal steps in, and you can feel the pain as Will has to hand over that money to the cabbie.

This scene plays out at lunches, where if you are a young professional, single and paying most of your bills and paying back large student loans or repairing your credit, surrounded by people who make more money than you and live in dual income homes you are overwhelmed with the feeling of being able to keep up, pay your share, or even take the tab for the entire group, because the last person who opted to pay for everyone reminded the whole table it’s your turn.

This scene plays out in an institutional way if your company sends you on a business trip, but turns around and says you have to use your credit card to pay for the trip and once you file expenses you’ll get the money back later. But what if you don’t have the money or the credit now?

The panic sets in. You may ask your boss a whole lot of details about the cost of things, and they will wonder why you are so uncomfortable. “Just charge it, you’ll get reimbursed. It’s no big deal.” Will be the response.

They don’t realize, nor the people who put together these reimbursement protocols that everyone doesn’t take home the same check they do, or face certain financial difficulties. Just like the boss in the movie, they think about money, but they don’t really think about money. And if you are in the world of the powerful or wealthy, everyone in the circle kind of assumes everyone else’s financial status and no one is going to be crazy enough to admit, I just can’t do it.

Especially in business, it would seem you are weak or irresponsible if you just can’t quickly muster up $300. In some people’s mind it may pull into question your judgement. But for people trying to make it everyday, you best believe that $300 they had to use on a trip or the additional $30 to make up for Frank’s tab at the restaurant since he treated last time, can put people in a financial tail spin. It will cause people to hold their breath when the card swipes, it will cause people to go without other necessary things at home, to keep up a good face at work.

I feel like professional institutionalized poor shaming is like an invisible electric fence to people who come from lower incomes who are making strides to enter another professional and economic level. You want to feel your talents are what get you in the door, and it is. But a “little” thing like paying for your own hotel room at the conference so you can show your talents and show people why you belong there are an added and in my opinion unnecessary pressure that management can easily resolve. But those in management at a number of companies that don’t send socioeconomically diverse people anywhere do not see or understand, because they are not quite in touch with being an educated, professional person still living in the margins.

Educational professionals don’t want to admit to it because they are ashamed, and it is taboo to discuss salary, when most folks know a lot of people, especially women and minorities are statistically underpaid. It seems that if you are able to boldly pick up the tab or have no questions when the company says you have to come out of pocket for a company sponsored event, you are implicitly saying, “Yes, I belong here. I am better than, those people.”

If you raise a question, in order to brace yourself for the costs and how it will affect you and your money and your life, which you are responsible for, you may get clarification, but now people are questioning you. And your professional currency is losing value.

It’s a form of poor shaming, and these practices are exclusionary to really bright people who can contribute something valuable, but because they may not have enough credit, or any credit or they are repairing their credit, they are being discriminated against or missing out on other opportunities that can really boost their career and in turn their earning potential. It further frightens me that this is a very real barrier to some people getting ahead. It is something to think about and if you are in a position of power within your organization, you should take a look at company-sponsored events, group lunches and proactively think of ways to even the playing field for your lower paid workers so they can participate without fear and not just lower paid workers, but employees who are struggling regardless of income.

Do Our Money Fears Hold Us Back From Our Happiness?

Last week, I asked the question if professional women could make great wives. And of course I said they can. I got a glance at the other side in the most unlikely of places.

Some folks from my job were holding a send off for a young woman who is about my age who quit to be not only a stay at home mom, but also watch other children she knew needed child care. Being an artist and one who loves to cook, she happily makes meals for the kids and gives them plenty of fun projects to do throughout the day.

She has the support of her loving husband, and she basically as a three-year old and a five month old to keep her busy.

It made me think of feminism and choices and women and work and family.

I don’t consider myself a kid person, so just the thought of having five or six small children running around and needing my attention all day gives me the heebie jeebies. But there are some women who really love kids and are great with them. And the world needs more of these people for sure.

Anytime someone walks away from a full-time gig for whatever reason, I count them as brave.

I guess I think about my family and how they think of money and work.

The attitude was/is you have to work and work very hard to survive. Not working isn’t an option.

Even the concept of me going back to school, leaving my job was not an option. I had so much fear surrounding the level of comfort I’ve built up with my steady paycheck, I couldn’t dream of being a full-time student. And why?

I know other people who have done it. They’ve had to scale back and with the scaling back they actually had a lot of freedom. But for some reason, doing that frightens me. I worry I don’t have the kind of financial support to do that.

I do think our parents do plant seeds of how we react to money and I realize that I do treat money the same way my parents do. My folks weren’t necessarily the worst with money, but they weren’t the best. My dad often tells me to be wise and smart and save. And it’s like I hear him, but there are times I feel like I’m waiting for someone else to help me or make me do it, when I should be doing it myself. That is the ultimate sign of independence.

When you know better, you do better. This actually makes me want to talk to my sister about how she sees money and if how we were raised impacts her decisions. We always had everything we needed and even a lot of things we wanted and we were good. And it seems like that’s the way I live my life now.

But I do have friends who I admire who are great savers and when they do run into major financial emergencies, they aren’t happy, but they sigh and dig into their savings and they get the job done.

I tend to sweat it out a bit and get horribly stressed. Things manage to get done, but I struggle.

Over the years, I’ve read books about financial literacy and in my last relationship the one thing I could appreciate was seeing how being accountable to our joint savings account made me feel good when I saw our balance grow and that we always had what we needed.

A wise person asked me, “How on earth could you do that for someone else, but you can’t do the same for yourself? Why do you feel like you can’t do it alone?” And the answer to that is I don’t know, or I’m scared. Money scares me.

Not having it. Not having enough. When I was a kid I didn’t see the sacrifices my parents often made to give us everything. But once I got to college and as an adult, sometimes I felt like my father let me in on too much. Which led to me feeling guilty when I do spend money. But there are also times, when I say screw it, I deserve a treat a break and I splurge. So where’s the happy medium?

I won’t lie, I have always associated the freedom to choose to stay home or work with wealthy women or upper middle class white women. It’s something my mind can’t fathom. But as I think about it, I do actually know other black women who have businesses out of their home and are great moms. Or working black women who walked away from paying gigs, sometimes with no real back up plan to save their sanity. And those choices were always the right choice. It was just about having the courage to ignore the voice saying you’ll fail or you’ll end up on the street.

The point is we all have choices. We shouldn’t let fear tether us to jobs we don’t like, but if we can make our lives work for us in a way that makes sense, we shouldn’t be afraid to change things up.

All of the people I’ve known who’ve taken these kinds of leaps have actually been alright and happier and will say, they may not have a whole lot of money but they enjoy not punching in everyday, but they do have their own set of challenges and problems that do come with their choices.

I know people who have gotten divorced and are trying to rebuild their lives alone as a single woman for the very first time in their lives. How scary is that? But we have to keep moving. We have to push beyond our fears and live.

Do your money fears hold you back from the things you really want?

My Ideal “Regular White Man”

**I don’t think this post is as controversial as the title suggests. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Jimmy-Fallon-Roots-Tonight-Show

Awww. I love Jimmy. (Photographed with The Roots) Photo credit: Okayplayer.com

I was having brunch with friends Sunday and we were swapping stories about our bad luck with men.

I got real specific and complained about black men over the age of 30.

So one of our friends, who is in a relationship with a black man, but who has dated white men came back to the “Well, why don’t you date white men?” point.

My other homegirl quickly answered before I could open my mouth.

“Because, the kinds of white men we’d want don’t want us either,” she said flatly.

My friend looked at us puzzled.

“What???? What in the world do you mean?”

That’s when I had to elaborate.

“Let’s put it this way. The few white men who have approached me were almost always blue-collar (nothing wrong with that) and had grown up in predominately black, or impoverished areas, or have mostly black, blue-collar or underemployed friends (nothing wrong with any of that either). They aren’t what I’d call, ‘the regular white guy’.”

My home girl had to jump in and further flesh it out.

“Exactly. We’d still have nothing in common with them and would be more educated even though those types of white men are more willing to date black women.”

So then my other friend ran off the quick list of über successful white men who have ridiculously intelligent and successful and beautiful black women. (Mellody Hobson and George Lucas; David Bowie and Iman; Tina Turner…)

We countered that we didn’t have access to that.

For some reason, “regular white guys” who may match our education, our socioeconomic status are not checking for us, because we don’t normally run in the same social circles and they just may not be interested in black women or open to it.

Educated black people hang with other educated black people and they will also hang out with family and old friends who may not have the same status out of solidarity, out of genuine relationships and also not to be accused of forgetting where we came from.

And let’s face it, most of the “regular white guys” whose education and economic status that may mirror ours may only have one black friend who fits into their circle or probably none at all. That guy isn’t going to go to the places me and my girlfriends like to go. We would have to assimilate and go to their watering holes, activities and etc. But even if we did this, my homegirl pointed out we have to contend with competing with the traditional European standard of beauty, which by default became everyone’s standard.

“Girl, they don’t want to bring us home with weaves or natural hair,” she quipped.

The social anthropology roundtable continued as we pointed out how complicated it is for the “regular” “mainstream” white dude to openly date black women. They may even have more negative implications (passive racism from family, friends and co-workers) for it than their really rich or blue-collar counterpart.

The über rich successful white men my friend mentioned have the luxury of money and power to shut up any detractors.

The blue-collar, not-as-educated white man has the luxury to date black women without much ruffling of feathers because he seems to be more accepted by black people of the same status, and white people of higher status really don’t deal with him anyway. It doesn’t matter.

I feel the black women I do know who did end up with or married what we dubbed as the “regular” white guy, usually met that man through work, a grad school program, the military– opportunities that are tied to their status but that also forced both sides to really see the person’s intellect and talents and work ethic– very important things that people find attractive anyway. Those situations help break down exterior barriers and just let people be people, working collectively together where chemistry can build.

I think socially and in terms of dating, we still live in a segregated world. We do tend to cling to what we know and hang with friends we seem most comfortable with. I have friends of various races, but the majority of friends that I spend the most of my free time with are going to be black. We are going to want to go to clubs and bars and events where there are a lot of black people and things black people like. Being the black friend, I’ve felt that I’ve been more willing to go into predominately white bars with white friends to have a good time, than maybe a white person going into a club or party where they know they will be the only white person. And regardless of who you are, being the “only” can be uncomfortable, even if you are comfortable in your own skin and surrounded by friends, all of a different color, you- if no one is is acutely aware of the situation. Me and an ex boyfriend were the only two black people at a wedding of a good friend of his. We had a fabulous time, but yup. We knew that out of about 200 people, we were the only black people associated with the bride and groom. Doesn’t make them racist, but it once again proves that in our social circles the people we choose to have in our lives will more than likely look like us, have a similar set of religious beliefs or values or live in the same neighborhood.

Being the “only” and learning the art of “code switching” and knowing how that added to our success at predominately white schools and companies, people of color do it. White people will never need to know the movie School Daze or the television show “Living Single.” But to move in this world, to make our co-workers comfortable, to show them we are like them and we are safe, we wax poetic over “Grease” “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” They won’t know who Frankie Beverly and Maze is, but we’ll know who Paul McCartney and the Beatles are. We have to know.

But all of that aside, I was trying during brunch to come up with my ideal white guy. Someone who can appreciate my culture and acknowledge my differences, someone who does understand the concept of white privilege and not be offended by it, but recognize it exists and does not feel awkward, or start to mimic black people if he’s around a bunch of them.

I present to you Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon does not pretend to “act black” or talk differently with a whole lot of slang (unless it is an obvious joke). I don’t think I’ve ever heard him try to use or justify using the N word. He has a good grasp of the boundaries and potential faux pas. And that is a great benefit of having genuine friendships and honest conversations with people of other races.  He genuinely loves hip hop, and his professional and off the clock relationship with his in-house band The Roots seems to be based on respect, mutual admiration and just straight up friendship. I like that.  You don’t see him sagging his pants. You don’t see him putting down other types of music he likes just because he likes hip hop too. He won’t just strictly hang out with black men to prove he is cool. He’s just himself, but with an awareness he took the time to cultivate and felt it was important enough to cultivate.

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