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Oh Baby– On Office Shade for Unmarried Folks With Babies

I’ve been on a work-related post kick lately.

But something came up that was fascinating to me that I really want to delve into an examine. But first I want to share with you this very moving clip from a poet during the Arsenio Hall show recently. He is discussing what black male co-parenthood is. And when his voice cracks, I nearly started crying for this man. There’s a reason I’m including this clip. http://www.arseniohall.com/video/show-highlights/4127_Prentice_Powell_Performs_Good_Father/index.html

I hope you watched it.

There is one black young male that works at my job. There are a total of four black women. He’s a nice guy. He’s quiet and he’s knowledgeable about his work. There have been times that people who are uncomfortable with his presence have said they’d wait for another person to help with their problems, even though he was available and more than qualified to get done what they needed quickly.

It made me sad to hear that. It made me mad to hear that, because he worked a miracle for me while I was working from home. I know he’s smart.

I’d noticed it seemed he’d been out of the office for awhile, but I’m only in the office three days a week now, and with all the snow, sometimes I’m there barely two days.

But I didn’t think anything of it.

Today an email pops up, and he’s announced the birth of his beautiful son. And attached is a great picture of the new father holding his baby boy swaddled in a blanket in his arms.

Amid the replies of Congratulations via email… there were quiet, yet still audible whispers.


“We didn’t know? Did you know?”

Then there were uncomfortable silences, where you could practically see other questions running through people’s minds.

“Wait, he’s never mentioned a wife or girlfriend.”

It ran through my mind too. I don’t recall seeing a ring on his finger. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t married either. I haven’t gotten to talk to him much about his personal life.

Which leads me to something else in my predominately female and married office.

I have a feeling my co-worker did want to keep it to the vest that he was a new father, because he may very well not be married. And in truth, that isn’t anyone’s business. It has nothing to do with his job.

And keep it to the vest he did.

Even his supervisor didn’t know.

Which means, this brotha just asked for some time off and didn’t give much detail. And according to HR, he doesn’t have to unless he wants bonding time off through FMLA. (Family medical leave act). And men on my job have totally used their three months or broken it up to help their wives. So he should take it.

When his supervisor was asked, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know either and that he guessed the guy was just really private. While the folks on my job are well-meaning, they are nosey and they gossip. I really don’t blame my co-worker for his CIA-like steathness.

The very few men we have on the job, there were showers held for their wives who were asked to come into the office and baby gifts were collectively purchased. My job loves babies and weddings and they never mind ponying up to buy an expensive stroller.

But I think my co-worker knew his situation was different.

Since I don’t have any facts, I can’t confirm any possible scenarios. But I think if his situation involves a woman he really doesn’t want to marry or isn’t in a committed relationship with, but wanted to still keep the child, it’s very hard to go around prior to the birth without dealing with those kinds of questions around the relationship with the mother. It’s also hard to be completely excited about the birth, knowing he is going to have to deal with a woman he may not have wanted to for the rest of his life. There can be all kinds of sticky details.

But I honestly hope that is not the case. But even if it is, I want him to be the best father he can be to his child and have a positive relationship with the mother/girlfriend/wife/surrogate whatever she is.

Two, he knows the stereotypes placed on him as the ONLY black guy in the office. He knows even if he wasn’t married, people would already lump him into a category- which no doubt is probably happening right now and people still have no facts. Here goes the young black guy. Having babies. That’s what they do. Child support.

The email simply stated the child’s name and that he is a welcome addition to the family. There was no mention of the mother or a reference to my girlfriend or wife. His silence and the careful wording of the email kind of suggests, that he will be in a co-parenting situation. I wish him the best of luck.

There is a double standard when it comes to children out-of-wedlock for other races and for black people. Not taking into account the large numbers of women from a number of backgrounds who are mothers without husbands, especially lower-income women.

Precious is a tragic drain on society doomed to continue procreation. She had AIDS, was illiterate and morbidly obese. Well damn.

Juno was just a misguided girl who made a mistake. Her only afflictions were witty sarcasm and crushing on a married man.

So I watch my co-workers carefully as they try to dissect his situation, and politely ask for details, that they weren’t bold enough to ask him, themselves.

I had a wiry grin on my face during that discussion. Because I one time wondered if I showed up pregnant, unapologetic, and with no husband how supportive would people genuinely be? Would I be dropped down from my pedestal as the black girl who isn’t like the others (stereotypes)? Would I still be harshly judged for making a choice to keep my child as a 32-year-old woman with an education and a home and a career? Or would they look at me with the same lens as precious simply because of my color?

When I got engaged, I was the most popular person in the office. My office is big on marriage and family. They live for it, and they love throwing showers. I felt like I was finally in the in crowd. The women finally had some commonality on which they could finally reach out to me and have conversations. They seemed more relieved than I was. And when the news finally got around that my engagement ended, I may have gotten a few pity glances, but no one rallied around me or asked me how I was doing. Now that, that was my business.

I wouldn’t have wanted to go into details, but simply showing concern would have gone a long way.

There is another young lady around my age who went through a difficult divorce, and well, folks really rallied around her. One of my co-workers suggested that it wasn’t necessarily about race, but a level of openness. And I tend to be very private, meanwhile my divorced counterpart was quite vocal about the breakup. So I decided not to think of it in terms of race. But sometimes I do.

Sometimes I feel as a black person in the workplace any sign of emotion will cause people to equate that with being incapable and unable to handle stress… meanwhile black women have hypertension and diabetes and all sorts of ulcers and fibroids because they are putting on the strong woman front, and bosses continue to pile on the work, bragging about how so and so can handle it. She’s unshakeable. (I was described that way once by a very proud manager. And inside, it made me think of how proud Patsy’s master from “12 Years A Slave” bragged about her picking 50 pounds of cotton every day, out picking the men. And Patsy was being raped and beaten on a daily basis, but still outshone her male counterparts. This is historical yall. Same ish, different master.)

I started off this blog talking about black men and I got sidetracked bringing it back to me and black women. My bad.

Either way, I do think whether you want to deal with the facts or not, the brother at my job was very cognizant of the potential reactions and judgements if he mentioned his new son prior to his birth. And it’s not fair.

But it never is. Is it?



Dating Diversity: I’m Not As Tolerant As I Probably Should Be

This is a race post. I’m warning you now. These are my observations and opinions.

So, I came to a very interesting revelation last night.

After going out with a co-worker last night, I realized how fun it is to flirt with men outside of my race as long as all parties are interested in the flirting and don’t have any real expectations.

Maybe Olivia Pope and President Fitz of the hit T.V. show “Scandal” are changing hearts and minds and finally making interracial voyeurs finally come out and be open. Maybe I’m one of them.

I am a black woman. I love black men. I prefer dating black men. I haven’t really ever gone out on dates with men of other races. Either guys I’ve dated may be mixed with black or they may have been Latino. All of my serious relationships have been with men who identify as black.

I often tend to feel that way because usually black men are the majority of men who approach me or try to ask me out. There have been a few occasions where I was in a conversation with a white man and I was completely oblivious to the fact that he may have been flirting or interested, because I honestly assume I’m not their type and I assume that there’s no way they’d be interested.

And even if I sense it, I have a tendency to also unfairly assume that white men see me as some exotic fruit. Remnants of American history and the relationship between white slave masters and black women upset me. A sign goes off in my head that says they see me and think, “good for freaky crazy, fetish sex only.” It makes me nervous and uncomfortable. There are some white women who may be afraid of a group of black men and that they’ll rape them. I get nervous if I’m in a room filled with really drunk, white men. Will they feel like they have the right to rape or disrespect me? I’ve had male friends who would say, “Let’s leave before they all want to start hanging us.” Or “Let’s leave when they start talking about Obama. It can only go downhill from here.” And we’d laugh, but it’s a real thought. It was not that long ago, that things like that happened in this country and on a regular basis.

Inhumanity, wrapped in revelry was a serious American pastime for a long time. Lynchings were celebratory events. People took photos, had smiling children and took pieces of the corpses home as souvenirs. So yeah, I don’t want to lump people in with folks a few generations ago, but the history does not completely elude me. It guides how I feel I am viewed by white men.

We are all more alike than we know. I think we are all curious about each other. They want to know if black women are really freaky, are our butts really that big? What do our private parts look like? And hell, behind closed doors me and my friends have wondered how big are they, are they pink? Like piglet pink? Do they perform oral sex better and like it way more than black men?

I just really believe that for whatever reason, they just aren’t attracted to me. So if someone else points it out, I’ll be like, for real? Wow. Cool, I’m crossing demographics.

Well in addition to chatting up some white guys who were interested, I want to include a caveat in this story.

The white men who make it known they are interested in me tend to be working class, not usually college-educated guys who are exceptional at various specialized, blue-collar trades. They tend to have grown up in diverse areas, they may have a child or two and are conversant in slang. I’ve yet to date, what I call a regular 100 percent white guy. The kind of white guy who shops at Hollister, knows how to make his own beer, was in a fraternity, who did not grow up around black people or tries to imitate hip hop culture. (I already know there is no such thing as my idea of the 100 percent stereotypical white guy, but it’s what I tend to imagine.) Those white guys never seem to approach me and I feel like I’d have more in common or share the same values with them than the ones who go out of their way to quote rap lyrics, or wear gold chains or drive tricked-out impalas. I don’t even mesh with a majority of black men who fit that description.

I’m amused, because these men shatter stereotypes across cultures and remind me, people are indeed people and that black people do not have a monopoly on trifling behavior.

More on trifling behavior in a moment. This story is going to get good.

These two men convinced me and my friend to join them at a Mexican bar and restaurant because one of them wanted to prove that he could do a mean Bachata for “a white guy.”

So fine, we didn’t pass this up.

One guy is very interested in my friend. My friend is Latina. He didn’t have any cash and managed to sweet talk one of the waitresses into giving him $5 so he can hit up the jukebox and find the proper tune. The other friend, who was the “self-proclaimed” wing man, mentioned this restaurant wasn’t his scene, but he was taking the L for his boy. After trying to get my number earlier and it not working out, we simply chatted about stuff and the more he drank, the more sad and frustrated he was.

He basically said, he’s been through a lot and I’m a classy lady. It’s not that he wasn’t interested in me,  or that I wasn’t attractive, but he’s going through a lot and, well I’m a classy lady. He emphasized that I was classy. I rubbed his arm and I told him, “It’s really ok. Really.”

But on the other side of me at the bar was a latino man speaking to me in Spanish. I guess he noticed things weren’t going so hot with the guy I was originally talking to and that he’d go for it. I stumbled through the conversation, apologizing for messing up the language, while others at the bar chimed in to fill in words for me. Everyone was amused. Everyone wanted to help me communicate or tell me which word was missing. They seemed pleased that I knew what I did, and that I actually tried. When I answered one of their questions by saying, “Yo no se, estoy baracha” (I don’t know, I’m drunk) the bar erupted in laughter. Two men asked me to dance about two different times and I obliged.

My earlier male companion egged me on to dance, since I was not interested and he got the hint, and so I danced, twirled and laughed and spoke mangled Spanish.

In Spanish, I thanked my dance partners for their patience with me and for being such good teachers.

They were tickled by this and their appreciation and approval showed prominently in their pants. Men.

I was mildly grossed out, but not really, because I was tipsy, but at the same time, I felt like I was an ambassador for Black women. I was getting my Susan Rice on.

We all aren’t always angry, or mad or loud like most of the black women on t.v. Sometimes we want to branch out and try new things and test our Spanish if someone is willing to listen. We want to laugh and flirt, and have someone lead us off our bar stool, by the hand and be spun awhile. We want to listen to other kinds of music. We want men of all backgrounds to find us genuinely beautiful and attractive and interesting.

I was glad to swap stories with two white guys who I would never normally talk to. Maybe they got to see something different from what they are used to, and to me that’s cool.

So in some convoluted way, I’ve talked about a lot of things here, I want to shout out the men I talked to in English and Spanish last night who helped me have a fun night, but didn’t act all pissy because I didn’t want to hang out with them again. Everyone just appreciated the moment, a dance was a dance. A conversation was a conversation.

But back to trifling behavior. The guys we originally showed up with, well the one I was talking to showed me a ridiculous switch blade he carried in case someone tried to steal his diamond chain (he likes the bling) I was suddenly chillin with Paul Wall. And I nodded and kept cool and said, hey, “I guess you got to do what you got to do sometimes.” He smiled proudly and took a sip of his drink.

I cashed out with the bartender and made sure he knew in English and Spanish that I was only paying for my drinks. Frick and Frack had a couple of beers and a shot of patron each.

At the previous bar, those two offered us a drink, but we said we were good and they said, well at least stay longer and have half a drink (they bought one drink, had the waitress put it in two glasses).

After hearing one of them talk about how he hadn’t paid a gas bill and that he still had one more notice before it was cut off, I had a feeling these guys were shady and I didn’t think either one of them was going to spring for my $8 tab.

So, me and my home girl headed to the bathroom at the Mexican bar, and when we returned, Frick and Frack were gone. They kept making jokes about skipping out on the bill, before they left and it appears that’s what they did. The bartender looked confused, and a bit annoyed as my friend settled her tab, only paying for her drinks and explaining she was only paying for her drinks.

Frick and Frack rode off into the night in their tricked-out Lincoln.

We were hysterical in laughter.

People are people. Gente son gente.

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