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Why Anyone Wanting a Serious Relationship Needs to REALLY Listen to Kindred the Family Soul

I had the pleasure of watching “Kindred The Family Soul” do their thing at the Summer Spirit Music Festival this weekend in Maryland. And while they weren’t the headliners like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott who closed the two day festival respectively, Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler’s performance really stuck with me long after they took their bows and floated off the stage together.

I was introduced to Kindred in college (early 2000s) and they came out around the same time Jill Scott and India Aire did. These artists were a breath of fresh air as I was growing and learning how to be more mature. Listening to these kinds of artists was a gateway to shaping my evolving taste in music. There was something old school about them, yet fresh and relatable to me. You couldn’t ass shake all the time, and you couldn’t scream out loud aggressive raps either. At that time, me and my friends were falling in and out of love and even wondering if the relationships we were building were among the ones that would lead to marriage. It was college after all.

I was immediately drawn to Kindred’s first album, which I think hands down is their best and untouchable, “Surrender to Love.” The classics on that joint still stand the test of time, as evidenced by the reaction from the crowd when they sang a good amount of those songs in their set some 16 years later.

After to Surrender to Love, I kept my eye out for some other songs, only really connecting with a single or two here and there over the last few years. They announced they are releasing their 6th studio album, and I’m just so stuck on their first. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy with my steadfast devotion to only Surrender to Love and neglecting their other albums, because as artists they need to and have to grow.

I was standing still and my relationships weren’t really evolving to the level of the things they were talking about.

Which is why I’m revisiting Kindred now as a 30-something who has had a few relationships under her belt, including a broken engagement and six long years of being single and now entering something new and serious and very mature.

My ears are starting to perk up to some of the other songs on their other albums and I’m hearing them with completely new ears, because I’m eager to make this thing work, and I’m finding out that deciding to really open yourself up and join with someone else and not be long distance can reveal somethings about yourself in the process. How guarded you really are, and how it takes a lot of trust to undo those protective actions you’ve been crafting so carefully over the years to protect your feelings.

One of the things I appreciate about Aja and Fantin is the very obvious love, respect and genuine affection they have for one another. They are married with six children and that bond as artists, business partners, husband and wife and parents is strong and battle-tested, but their love is genuine and you can still feel them flirting with each other during songs, and even looking on with pride when the other person hits their solo part of the show.

Through their music they lay out the good, bad, ugly and mundane but always bring it back to not wanting to do the ups and downs of life with anyone else but each other.

There have been several times as a black woman, exasperated I’ve asked my friends over drinks and brunches and dinners and international vacations, “Where is black love? What happened to it?”

Aja and Fantin were holding up the banner last night and every night they perform. And their light attracts other couples who are holding on and holding on to each other, and I saw them last night in the audience dancing, singing along, or leading each other through the crowds and keeping each other cool in the heat.

Their lyrics are loving and honest. From day one in their classic hit “Far Away” they lamented working 9-5s and wanting to hold on to that loving feeling, but having to sneak in sexy time while their baby naps.

In other songs, they discuss doing the work to stay together and grow together and that deciding to stay with someone for decades and for the rest of your life is magical, but like a great magic trick– there’s a whole lot going on that the audience will never see, to create the illusion. They ask each other to hang in and to not give up, they remind each other that it’s worth it.

And boy do we need more music like that.
There is a validity that Aja and Fantin bring to their performances that only comes from having a front row seat to each other’s lives. I’m glad they share vulnerability in their songs and remind people of their own vulnerabilities and that loving another person is indeed a risk, but one worth taking each day. One that is necessary if we are to ever truly enjoy the sweetness of life.

It’s often impolite to ask probing questions of the couples we know in real life. Most couples won’t pull back the curtain on their relationship, because it’s not always what we are seeing when folks post those “couples’ challenge” social media posts. And while most couples would be afraid to be so transparent, at least we have Aja and Fantin giving us the real and sharing their journey with us so we can all grow. They are the type of couple who seem like they’d be at the BBQ giving the younger couples the truth about love, and reminding them that it’s worth fighting for and to above all choose wisely.

The gems in Kindred’s body of work aren’t hidden. They lay it all bare. But like love, it’s all about an individual’s willingness and readiness to accept all that comes with it.

And that BBQ advice session was exactly the vibe I felt with my larger “family” of music lovers all day yesterday. Aja and Fantin held court, while I hung on to every note, listening carefully to every word.

Yup, I’m going to take a closer listen to the subsequent albums after “Surrender to Love.” Because you can’t stay in one place. You have to grow, you have to be open, you have to listen and you have to learn.

And growth certainly looks good on Aja and Fantin, and that’s worth emulating.

 

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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.

Why Long-Term Relationship Weddings are So Sweet

I don’t take being invited to a wedding lightly. Especially ones that are small, intimate or even outside of the country.

Weddings, large or small, courthouse to cathedral are special.

It’s two people deciding to choose each other everyday, and while it seems like relationships are always under attack, its honestly refreshing to see people who truly love each other and have gone through the fire, unite.

Recently, my latest rash of friends who have been tying the knot and are about to tie the knot have something in common.

They were together at a minimum of 5 or 6 years and a maximum of 15, and each had an engagement that was probably less than a year before their wedding.

While many folks started the marriage talk once these couples passed the two or three-year mark (except the high school sweethearts clocking in at 15 years), these couples blocked out the noise and ran their own race at their own pace.

Hence, these weddings felt the most emotional, because as friends looking on over the years, you truly got a feel for their ups and downs, their patience with each other, the acceptance of flaws and the universal understanding that these folks weren’t going to leave each other. They were going to stick together, no matter what.

And while the length of their relationship and delay in “making it official” is often the source of jokes and even criticism, these couples played by their own rules. Isn’t that what marriage is? Learning what works for you and your partner and doing just that? Maybe these friends in very long-term relationships decided they wanted to master that.

And let’s face it. The more time you invest in someone, the more you don’t want to let them down or vice versa. It realistically takes time to work through that. Experts say, we come down off of the high of love at the 2 year mark. That’s when the decision to love someone really kicks in after your endorphins and hormones have slowed down and you’ve gotten used to the person. So for the folks who stick and stay, after the fuzzies have subsided, you’ve got something.

I’m not knocking any people who found love in 6 months and locked it down, and are making it work. But it seems like society gives folks taking it slow a much harder time. So this is why I do want to take the time to shout out people who took their time and got hitched at their own time table, even if within the couple, there was disagreement about the pace at which they were getting to the altar.

Or there’s fear. There’s money and feeling established, which seems to be harder and harder to do these days. The economy, student loan debt, high rent and mortgages are impeding the progress of our generation, it’s slowing our ability to get ahead and stabilize. It hinders our confidence in taking on another person.

We live in a society of instant gratification, and we often try to place that on relationships because, we like love, we like weddings and hey, if people like each other or get along in a year or two years, we believe it’s a miracle and folks should snap that person up right away.

But the prospect of marriage is a sobering experience, when you take away the fantasy of the big celebration and finding the love of your life. It’s one of the biggest choices a person can make, and most of us hope to only make it once.

It makes you take a hard look at yourself. It humbles you that someone has seen you for who you are and wants you anyway. They want to tell the world that you are theirs, they want to wake up with you everyday.

So cheers to my friends who took their sweet time. Their ceremonies were filled with so much love and it felt like a victory lap and a fresh beginning all at once. It’s a true celebration of an honest love that took so much time to nurture and build and is admittedly still a work in progress, with room to grow and improve.

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.

 

What’s In a (Last) Name?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***TANGENT DONE

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

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

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

What do you think?

Cheating, Open Relationships, Polygamy and Double Standards Oh MY

Disappointment is an understatement.

The past few weeks I was nearly smitten by a tall, handsome, smart guy. We were clicking. It was awesome. So awesome that I didn’t and would not blog about him for fear I’d jinx the whole thing. Let’s be honest. I haven’t written about anyone yet, who successfully became my man and stuck around for like more than two months.

So I had high hopes and I wasn’t going to let anything–even this blog– spoil my chances.

Well, as a good friend said years ago, “A N***a will always cancel himself out.”

Coarse words, but true indeed unfortunately.

I made my banging gumbo the other day and promised to bring some by before he left out of town on business. As on other occasions we sat by the fire talking and hanging out.

To get the convo going I asked him about what I discussed with you guys in my last post about TI and Tiny and was it appropriate to “call her out.” So he shared his feelings about respect between a man and a woman in the confines of marriage and that was straight.

Then we were looking at a gossip site online and started talking about celebrity relationships and the Kardashian women came up. I said, yeah black men can’t seem to resist them.

So, he, being a black man said it’s not for obvious reasons one would assume. He said black, celebrity men love Kardashians because 1. “They have their own money. They don’t need his. So he doesn’t have to worry about them having their hands out always wanting something. Black women are stingy, they aren’t giving.”

Oh. That felt like a gut punch to my stomach.

“You really don’t believe that do you?”

“It’s true.”

So yall know me. Yall know I’m mad. Clearly this man came from black cootchie and can attest to his mother raising him single-handedly. If that’s not giving, I don’t know what the hell it is. He has a sister!

So I’m confused. He has a straight face, he never says he’s playing.

2. Kardashian women are desirable because of their ability to adjust to the “lifestyle” ie. turn a blind eye to cheating and still roll with it. Now I’m not a Kardashian, and maybe they are cool with open relationships, but I feel like that’s quite a limb to go on. So I ask. “A woman’s ability to turn a blind eye to cheating is a desirable trait?”

He says, with a straight face, yes. Especially for celebrities and wealthy men. They can cheat.

So I say, “Monogamy is for broke folks? Is that what you are saying?”

“Basically.”

My jaw has dropped again.

3. Kardashians are down for anything in the sack. He said, “Well do you do threesomes or do anal? So if you man likes that, he can’t get that from someplace else if he can’t get it from you? Monogamy is a fantasy. Something created by Americans and Christianity.”

He goes on this whole dissertation about how in African culture polygamy is the way, and just as America allows religious freedom, why are people against polygamy if that is someone’s culture in Africa.

I said, “If you want multiple wives, then live in Africa. I said that’s not peachy either, you have to first be able to afford all of your wives and their kids. And the women will say there is rampant jealousy and worry about favoritism of wives or children. It’s drama. Men really want to sign up for that because they can have multiple vaginas to hit?”

So he said the women agree to it. They sign up for it. I said, most women regardless of culture want to feel loved and feel like a man’s one and only. He said well men are in control and the dominant ones so it’s set up that way. And I said exactly… these women don’t have any political or economic power. In a lot of cases there would often be shortages of men, and this is what villages would resort to, to keep the village going. They have to be involved in this system in order to survive and to live, but they aren’t necessarily saying this is the best situation ever. There are some exceptions, but I don’t think that’s what people want.

So I said, ok, if we allow polygamy in America, it has to be equal. Women should have multiple husbands.

This fool says no, it wouldn’t work. Men won’t sign up for it and women have babies.

Huh? Sure women have babies, oh but men don’t want to live in a communal environment where they know other men have children with them and they are all taking care of other men’s kids and sharing a woman.

So I said in relationships, can the woman also step out and have multiple partners? He paused and said yes, if that’s what’s agreed upon. I said what if she only wants that man, so it’s still okay for him to step out because she agreed? He said yes.

I said, so why is it so hard to believe women aren’t too keen on this arrangement either? He said, “It’s just different.”

I said, “It’s just bullshit and a double standard.”

“I know it’s a double standard, we all know it’s a double standard, but that’s just the way it is.”

This dude was basically more in favor of polygamy than gay marriage.

I was stunned.

Heart broken. I’d been dreaming of this man, fantasizing about him it work, remembering what his kisses felt like and cuddling with him watching T.V. All of this stuff got shot straight to hell, thanks to Media Take Out.

My friends say it’s good I learned this early. I can agree, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I’m highly disappointed. I really liked this one. I really did. One of my girls suggested that I clarify with him if he was joking or playing devils advocate. But I told her, no, he looked serious and not once did he use the term “Let’s play devil’s advocate here.”

I did ask him you are talking about celebrities and athletes but what about you?

His answer was political and in my opinion telling. “I think people need to do what works for them.”

Welp, sir. Monogamy ‘WORKS’ for me. I need that. I need to trust my partner.

He pointed out divorce statistics and how marriage isn’t working in America anyway.

So when he kissed me good night, I felt dejected. I already felt the impending doom set in. Things were forever changed. He wasn’t the man I hoped he was.

Back out to the darkness, yall.

 

 

 

 

Should Your Man Have a Say In What You Wear?

This blog is called 29 to life. So when I write about certain things, I write from the perspective of a grown woman who understands compromise in relationships and values it.

Recently, I saw a bunch of bloggers or people on Twitter with various opinions about Rapper/Actor T.I.’s reaction to his WIFE’S let me emphasize WIFE’s sexy Instagram photos.

And he said the following on social media:

“You have so much more going for u other than you a**. Although it is magnificent, I think u should spend just as much time showcasing those other things as u do ya #booty…Awesome pic tho. Luv.” – See more at: http://madamenoire.com/346855/t-checks-wife-tiny-showing-much-skin-instagram/#sthash.S5n4IXYA.dpuf
A lot of the websites are saying he “checked” her or put her in her place.
So of course all of the “independent women” chimed in about Tiny flaunting her assets.
I see it from two sides of the coin. I see it from Tip’s point.
That’s his wife. The mother of his children and most men want you to be appealing and attractive and they feel good about having a good-looking woman, but they don’t want your goodies all over the net. And they don’t want you to pose in ways that are suggestive in your photos.
I agree with this.
On the flip side, as a woman who is now into her 30s, I can see why Tiny is posting the photos. Tiny has like five kids.
It looks like she’s lost some weight and she’s probably very proud of herself and her body and is feeling really sexy.
I’ve already told folks, even if I lose 15 pounds, you can’t tell me nothing. I’m going to be feeling myself. And when you get older and have kids, you have to work extremely hard for your body.
But the best thing about getting older is if you are lucky and you’ve learned something, you really start knowing who you are in the inside and feeling good about that person. So when your outside is looking right, grown women can’t be stopped. So, I also understand where Tiny may be coming from too, wanting to show off a little bit.
I’m more on the modest side and I do think with age you can keep it sexy, but the more simple and subtle you keep it the more appealing you are. Times have changed. Women in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s (hey Michelle Obama!) are looking fabulous, taking care of themselves and wearing great flattering clothes.
We aren’t going off into that dark night with a whimper. And I love this.
But within the confines of a committed relationship, does the husband/boyfriend have a right to express his dislike for how a woman dresses or conducts herself on social media? I do like the fact that he didn’t tear her down, he did say it was an “awesome” pic. So he wasn’t out there just being a hater.
Some people have argued that should have been a private discussion. But I’m glad T. I. did it, because it opens up dialogue about how far should people in relationships go with semi racy photos online.
But there’s also a third leg to this chair. Women like Beyonce and Gabrielle Union are in committed relationships. But they have a different body type than Tiny. I think Tiny looks great, for the record. She would be considered thick in my opinion (and my scale of thickness is a sliding scale, I also think Jill Scott and Marsha Ambrosius are thick. I consider myself thick too). There’s a part of me that wonders if when women like Bey or Gabrielle wear bikinis or revealing outfits, their bodies are more accepted? I wonder if T.I. would be less critical if Tiny looked more like the chicks in the Blurred Lines video, or if his reaction would be the same…
What say you lifers?

My Facebook Newsfeed Is Nothing But Babies and Weddings

I can’t tell you how many of my friends–all from different circles– have dubbed themselves relationship retarded, relationship challenged… etc. over the last few weeks.

After how I’ve acted a fool over the weekend, I can ride the relationship short bus too. Actually, I can be the short bus monitor.

It’s been happening gradually, but as of late, my Facebook newsfeed is overflowing with folks getting married and having babies.

A few years ago, it was a lot of people going to parties, going on vacations and celebrating the completion of graduate programs.

Now.

It’s weddings, showers and babies. Weddings, showers and engagement photos and on and on.

I’ve mentioned in blogs past that there have been disproportionate weddings among my white high school classmates in comparison to black.

And disproportionate non-married births among my black high school classmates.

Some of my college educated black female friends are making slow gains in the marriage department, but it looks like they are getting married later, and most of them have had really, really long-term relationships prior to getting down the aisle.

I really could do a sociology project on marriage patterns among various racial, educational and socioeconomic groups because my Facebook friends run the gambit.

There are Facebook friends of mine who may have already been married for five or six years working on a third or fourth child.

I’m happy for all of these people taking these big major life steps. But it makes me want to celebrate something soon. Anything.

I may create an album called “My super single 30ish life” and start taking and posting more pics. My life is worth celebrating at every stage. Including this one, where I’m going to have the most flexibility EVER.

While me and my friends to yearn for companionship and a beautiful family to create and call our own, I’m trying to appreciate this season in my life for what it is. It belongs to me and only me and I can do with it whatever I please with no other pressures from anyone else who will have to depend on me. That is also worth celebrating.

Are we happy yet?

 

It’s Important to Me

So what’s really important?

Whatever the hell it is you are focusing on right now.

And then it will be the next thing.

If it’s work. It’s work.

If it’s loosing weight, it’s that.

Finding a date? It’s that too.

Your spirituality, your money or lack thereof. The list is infinite. You know what yours is.

Whatever it is that is nagging/propelling you to action in the morning, and laying down with you at night, that is what is most important to you at the moment. And frankly, all we have is today, tomorrow isn’t promised, so yes, whatever it is that is predominating your thoughts is what’s most important to you right now.

It could be anything. And don’t beat yourself up. Whatever it is, it’s not too shallow, or silly, or ridiculous, because it’s taking up way too much mental and emotional real estate for you to ignore, and you shouldn’t ignore it.

Like me, you may be juggling a number of pressing matters of importance. I like to give myself a break, work on one thing, then go back to something else.

For people in their late 20s and into their 30s- particularly single people, and especially single women- there is a mental battle raging between family and career and the guilt that comes with choosing one over the other, and the regret associated with whatever emptiness comes with the one you chose instead of the other. How can you win that? Either road is going to have wonderful advantages and difficult disadvantages. Have the choose your own adventure books as a kid taught us nothing?

It’s a battle I’m choosing not to fight.

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure I would have been married with a family and running my own magazine right now.

Not quite. But you know what? That’s really just fine until it won’t be fine anymore. Those thoughts float around, but they don’t dominate my mind right now.

These days, professional satisfaction, money, my spirituality, my creativity and getting myself to a place where I’m ready to and can comfortably accept the role of a wife and mom, are the things are front and center.

Over the last decade, I’ve seen three types of tracks unfold among the women I know personally and the ones I went to high school with as seen on Facebook.

The married moms, the unmarried moms, and the single, childless career women.

The married moms seem to have what we all thought we wanted. The loving husband and the family, but they seem tired all of the time and seem to not have very many other interests, let alone time for themselves. Their identities have been taken over. A lot of their wants and desires put on the back burner. Their kids and their man come first.

The unmarried moms seem to be struggling all of the time. They juggle work, their children and the voluntary and sometimes inconsistent or non-existent contributions from the men they had their child[ren] with. These women love their children and don’t regret them, but they know they would be at more of an advantage if they made different choices.

The single, childless career women kept their heads high, and killed em with the no, and kept climbing that ladder.

They have closets full of great clothes, shoes and bags, they travel when they please, but over bottles of pino, lament that they can’t find Mr. Right.

Each kind of woman wonders what life would be life if they chose the other two paths instead of the one they are on.

For me, I can poke holes in all three lifestyles. Maybe that kind of insight is helpful to me.

If there’s one thing I keep learning and relearning, is timing truly is everything.

Some would say I should panic because I’m turning 30 and there’s no man, no kids and I don’t own my own home.

I’ve learned that before I have those things, maybe there are more lessons for me to learn so that when I get them, I’ll be ready for them and it will be the best thing for me at that time.

Age is a number. Not a set deadline to accomplish some very important things that affect you and other people for a lifetime.

Maybe I’ll get married (I’d like to). Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have children (Still not sure about that one), maybe I won’t.

So what’s important? I’m a writer. I’ve been working on a book for probably four years now. I’d like to see it complete.

I have a business I’d like to launch. I want to see it happen.

I wrote a short, one woman play, I’d love to see it produced on a small local stage.

I want to make more money. I want to feel great about work three out of five days a week, if possible.

I want to always have enough money for emergencies and to travel when I need to get away.

I don’t want to lose what is important to me in exchange for a family right now. I have a certain degree of selfishness still in me. I know my priorities are going to have to change when I do have a family, but I’d like to achieve some happy medium. I have a grand fear of losing myself, my creativity in exchange for long days at the office and coming home to a house of ungrateful people eating up my food and my paycheck in health benefits. I’m afraid of coming home to a man who doesn’t find me sexy anymore and won’t wash a dish when I’m about to lose my mind.

Having it all is unrealistic, but my fears are very real and maybe that is why I am currently single and childless. But I think that’s ok.

I’ve revamped and reworded my prayers in terms of wanting a husband and family.

“Lord, prepare me properly to be ready for a family someday. I want to be mature enough and selfless enough to do it right and feel satisfaction in my service to them. No regret, no resentment. Give me the wisdom to pick the right man qualified to assist me in this and who will nurture my heart and my spirit.”

You have to grow and evolve into certain phases of life and everyone grows at different rates. Some folks are ready in their 20s, or have to be forced to be ready for their own good at early ages. I prefer not being forced to find out, and I’m thankful I haven’t been.

Nina Simone has a funny take on marriage and references some of my fears… Love this song.

Breakthrough: I’m Relieved I’m Not Married Right Now

Ok, so this is huge.

Because if things had gone to plan, I would be living in Chicago right now and um, married. Not sure how happy I would be, but I would have certainly been married and living even further away from my family and friends.

I had a moment the other night.

I was sitting on my couch, eating a yummy meal I cooked.

Save for the television blathering on in the background, it was quiet. I was wearing old sweats sitting on my couch.

I had what psychiatric professionals would call a “breakthrough”.

Without any provocation, this thought just entered my head: “I’m happy I don’t have to take care of a man, protect him, stroke his ego and turn over and give him sex when I don’t feel like it.”

After I said it, it hit me like a ton of bricks that healing has been taking place. It felt good. I had to smile.Then I broke out in laughter.

I lost who I thought was the love of my life (maybe he is), but I gained a few things between the tears and private nervous breakdowns.

I was listening to God more.

I was more creative than I had been in years. I started this blog and I’m attempting to start a business that makes me feel so good. I’ve been taking classes and plan to take more. I’ve taken more action in my professional life.

I began to be more interested in me and what I wanted and what was important to me and what made me happy. I won’t lie. I got wrapped up and I immersed myself in the preparation for being a top-notch wife. Being a wife and moving was a cop out for something else that was changing my personality and increasing my stress, probably making me seem like a completely different woman who in the beginning of the relationship was very vibrant, engaged and satisfied professionally.

I was changing. Because I was so active in my relationship, I put other things on hold for “once I got settled in Chicago.”

It’s a year later, but I can thank God now for what I went through. I can be thankful for the quiet moments in my own home, where I do what I want when I want.

It’s not to say I don’t want a great man to share my life with down the line, but I want him to fit in seamlessly. I don’t want to have to force him in with a hammer, or drastically change my life to fit into his.

I want my future husband to find me eventually, but I want him to find me happy, healthy, at my best and at a stage of my life where there is growth and abundance and all he has to do is jump in and add to it. I don’t want to offend my future husband by saying this, but I want him to know he is highly valued in my life, but not my life completely.

In church Sunday, the pastor talked about trusting God. He also said we need to stop asking God for the details about how He’s going to do what you want Him to do. Reason being, if we knew all the hardships we will have to endure to get there, we’d just change our minds and say forget it.

I haven’t been this hopeful in a long time.

It feels miraculous. It feels Golden.

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