Archive for July, 2017


Too Hot For Teacher: Student Impluses

During the golden years in these parts, I wrote the above commentary on the uptick in reporting of teachers (especially females) caught sleeping with students. Since then, legal and career and social implications for the teachers accused have been ramped up due to the glaring spotlight. Sex offender registration has become one common consequence if the accused teacher is convicted.

Today’s commentary focuses one of the base issues with this topic: vulnerability/risk factors. It may be the first in a short series on the topic.

Make no mistake, teachers or people in similar authority figures to children and adolescents who have sex with said children and youth are committing an egregious and damaging misuse of power with those acts. The consequence of those actions are more far-reaching in some cases than folks may choose to acknowledge or recognize. Still, it comes back on one level to a favorite pet peeves of mine: how sex is handled culturally in current contemporary society.

As youth go through puberty, the social, biological, psychological and emotional changes are profound and far-reaching. While many of us are aware of the vast literature on these changes, we don’t always choose to connect the dots easily for our own personal reasons. So let’s try to examine things from a perspective.

So you have a cisgender boy who is going through puberty. He is trying to figure out what it means to start to have this feelings of attraction to other genders. Prepubescence, when he saw a woman in a summer dress walking down the street, it was a merely a woman in a summer dress walking down the street. Now, he can see that on one level, but he can also see more closely how she walks, the swaying (or lack thereof) of the dress, how the dress fits (or doesn’t) to actuate her figure, how much skin is visible, etc. All these stimuli have the capacity to illicit physiological arsousal. Then he has to decide (whether to, and if so, how) to act on this arsousal. Ideally, social norms would kick in here to govern appropriateness, how to make approaches, etc. Because this sort of processing is happening more frequently, it is a huge adjustment to make during puberty.

Now, what does this have to do with teachers? Well, if we stick with our current example, one of the settings in which the young man has to learn to nagivate those tensions is at school. So through trial and error (whether directly or vicariously), he is learning how to manage the physiological arsousal and developing appropriate coping strategies and outlets (WE HOPE). He may be seeking out different sources of information as he develops coping strategies.

One of the first people his gaze may view differently now is teachers. Remember, teachers have intimate relationships based on mentorship and guidance to students. Let’s say the young man may have a math teacher with a look that he finds taps into those physiological arsousal states. Is he to act on it? Socially it is not acceptable, and for a myriad of good reasons. Still, he may choose to test boundaries and may learn that this isn’t socially desirable or appropriate.

Now, with the advent of social media, older children and younger adolescents have been exposed more to the mixed messages that our culture has about sex. For me, this is where one part of the danger lies, as not everyone is able to sift through the cruft easily and to discern the subtleties of how to process what sex means on all its levels easily as a teen. If some adults still struggle to do so, we know teens have difficulty as older children (ages 10-12), younger adolescents (ages 13-16) and older adolescents (ages 17-20) are in very different places developmentally.

I’m not absolving teachers who sleep with students at all. I’m merely saying that there is often a lot happening on both sides and it’s important to address the issue by not just punishing the teachers. Our overall cultural (and some specific subculture) views on sex doesn’t always allow for the necessary safe space to access support in effectively decipher messages around sex.


An Exercise in Patience

One of the many things that I’ve learned over the years is the following: no one likes being in that “in-between” position.

Say what?

Yup, that “in-between” position. For example, the gap of time between jobs (more specifically going through the hiring process); the cooling off period during a serious run between the sheets; that final stretch in closing on purchasing a house or car; the week before moving; the waiting period for the good news that a loved one will be OK while in the hospital. These are all pretty vulnerable times and we cannot wait to just blast through them to get to our desired outcome.

What’s so significant about working through these moments? It’s all about managing those feelings that get kicked up. The fear, the anxiety, the nervousness are big ones, but not the only feelings we experience. We constantly cycle through these feelings: “what could I have done differently?” “Am I doing the right thing?” “Does my partner like what’s going on?” “What if the offer falls through?”

All of those are legitimate questions. If we step back and examine the grand scheme of things, human beings have come a far way to be able to exert some solid semblance of control over an environment that is planet Earth which is quite dangerous and unforgiving. But it’s when that sense of uncertainty…the loss of control…that tugs on our primal instincts in moments like these were we often can freak the F out and feel very helpless.

So what do we do? How do we reset and trust the process?

Well, it’s easier said than done. I’d argue that the first thing to do is acknowledge the emotion you’re experiencing. You’re feeling what you’re feeling because the situation matters to you greatly. Even if it makes seem trivial to someone else, it matters to you. Sometimes, we can get too caught up in justifying an entire approach. While there are certain elements of a situation that are up for discussion, people’s feelings shouldn’t be. You feel what you feel and those feelings should be acknowledged and respected.

Remembering that those feelings are based in our inherent nature to see if what we are doing is the “best fit”, the next step may be to figure out what those feelings are speaking towards. Sometimes that sinking feeling of a mistake is in fact accurate…sometimes the mistake is how that sinking feeling is interpreted. We make mistakes thinking we’re fixing problems that ultimately we’re never there before we decided to “intervene” with our “solutions”.

The rest of it is a matter of follow through on one’s own process…checking in with the other person or reviewing the plan and making adjustments wherever appropriate. The hardest thing is riding the emotional wave in those moments. My guess is contemporary society has been emphasizing the need to only respond in certain situations using a more limited set of emotions.

I’d never claim that doing this in the moment is easy…I’ve not trusted my own process and paid the price for it. But, therr have been times i did step back and that was the correct call to  do. Patience isn’t always about sitting passively. Sometimes, stepping back and working one’s own process is the most patient play to make, especially when in any of life’s most turbulent situations.


Wasting Taxpayers Money and Attention Span

So as a part of my graduate study, I took a social welfare policy course to discuss the context in which various political climates impact the provision of social services (and vice versa). One of the common themes that is being debated since the Puritans first landed in the US is the following question:

Who qualifies to be designated as the “deserving poor”?

Clear statistics show that the US is the most generous country when it comes to charitable donations (both internally and externally). There are always countless stories of people rallying to aid their fellow man in times of need. There are also statistics that shows there’s a lot of waste in the US in terms of charitable donations, much of it lost to either ineffective management and scams.

Well, the issue of the deserving poor always comes up whenever there are elections because the provision of welare relief to certain members of society is common point of contention amongst both the voting public and politicians. One of the rights of a US citizen is the ability to vote in elections. Especially in presidential elections, getting out the vote can have serious consequences what political leaders get to shape policy that affects how the deserving poor get identified and services are rendered.

Within the past twelve months there have been questions about the impact of voter fraud and collusion with external forces impacting the last presidential election. Typically, the winning candidate does so by taking BOTH the popular vote and the over 270 votes needed in the electoral college. The current president found himself being in that small exclusive club of Presidents to lose the popular vote and win the electoral college. With the current president being who he is, ANY sort of losing is unacceptable.

So what does this have to do with anything? What’s your point?

Exactly. Huh?

As I learned in my social welfare policy class, the issue of voter fraud is one of the more comparatively minor political issues to consider. Yet, there always seems to be someone giving this topic new life. The latest person to do so is the current President in the form of a commission, referenced in the article above. Personally, if he’s going to breath life into this issue, there should be a focus on restricting voter registration and polling access within certain parts of the country (a similar sort of concern some Democrats have raised in the face of this voter fraud commission).

Why focus on that?

Well, that falls under the concept of restricting those who currently fit one criteria of the term deserving poor – often working class minorities – from being able to exercise their right to vote. The claim has been made is that illegals and dead people made up the numbers who caused the current president to win the electoral college (this getting elected) but lose the popular vote (number of voters who voted for the candidate directly).

C’mon man. The highest office in the US government isn’t a akin to student class president – AKA a true popularity contest. What makes this even more disppointing is the current president has actually put lawmakers who share this similar viewpoint about voter fraud concerns in positions to go investigate – all on the taxpayers dime.

You would think that healthcare, national security, creating sustainable employment were more pressing issues…and yet we are wasting time on voter fraud. Seems like this is one of those dogs that no matter the political climate, gets to hunt and waste the taxpayers money and attention span.


“I’m Not into You; I prefer the friend zone.”

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men
I was casually skimming WordPress recently between working on other entries and I saw this post above about the idea of some men not controlling their sexual impulses because they’re seeing how some women are dressed in their summer wear. As I read through the post, it got me thinking about the concept of being in the friend zone and platonic relationships across gender.

Ironically, most of my acquaintances and dear friends are female. So I’m used to being around women a lot of the time professionally and personally. Because of that, I’m usually stuck in the “friend zone” a ton of the time. Honestly, that’s never bothered me as there are very few women I’ve met during my dating life that I was mad about being in the friend zone about. In fact, one of my exes I had her initially in the friend zone and she was the one who pushed for us to have a relationship. My approach is clear: if I’m attracted to someone, i’m approaching it from that lens. If I’m interested in the person in a platonic way, that’s the approach I use. I try really hard not to mix the two, especially doing the latter as a means to get to the former.

The interesting interactions I’ve observed is encountering new women for the first time. The level of skepticism and wariness I’ll encounter (even in group settings) is just amazing at times. Initially, it used to bother me but now it doesn’t because I’ve tended to look at things from the other perspective. Women are still victims of interpersonal violence and abuse, sexual harassment, stigmas and all sorts of other unhealthy things perpetuated by men. Plus the whole lying cheating scoundrel thing is still there too. So it makes total sense for that cautious approach to be present from a woman’s perspective.

But just as the author talked about how her husband was able to exercise control over his sexual impulses and could view other women as women first, I wonder if our ladies are in a situation where they really know how to cultivate a platonic relationship with someone from another gender. And no, I’m not talking about the “gay best friend” stereotypes either. Maybe it’s having worked with female clients who’ve only seen the ills that men can commit, or having exes or friends who were survivors of abuse or even when I did outreach to youth I got the sense that people weren’t experiencing as much healthy cross gender relationships.

I’ve been in the situation before where colleagues at work and I were hanging out and I was taísked to escort the colleague’s close friend to a different dispersal point. I remember getting the “these are my good friends so take good care of them” speech once too. I’ve laughed in my head because these weren’t people I was attracted to and I knew where my relationship with the colleague stood on on her totem pole (lower than her connection with her friend), so I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do anything to jeopardize that. But the fact that such a conversation was necessary is telling in its own way.

I’ve even had a good friend who viewed me with great skepticism initially stated she appreciates our friendship being so platonic because many of her other male interactions (including dating relationships) have always had undertones of ulterior motives. It just begs to ask the question: if we sell the message of men by any means necessary conning their way into getting over on a woman for whatever reason, how can we really improve better gender relations?

In no way am I claiming sainthood here. It is also not an opportunity to seek sympathy for my own experiences. It’s just that for me whenever people dogging out an opposite gender I cannot help but wonder how many positive experiences they’ve had. Perhaps there is something I’m doing in these social circles that induces that wariness that I’m not aware of. Or maybe it’s just contemporary society is in a place where we get sold the expectations of genuine platonic relationships across gender lines are the exception and not the rule.

Still, the question I ask: if we teach each gender to readily identify unhealthy and not unhealthy situations where interacting with other genders, what do healthy interactions look like?


Wife Material vs Material Wives

Libra_89 asks: “Why is in 2017 we as women are still fighting through all the scrutiny of what constitutes marriage material? From our bodies to our manners to our minds and to our careers, why is it still necessary to be on a perpetual audition?”

Because we’re still stuck in the “pay to play paradigm” and feminine conformity can lead to wide ranging powers that are unspoken yet still respected within patriarchal society.

We all know the institution of marriage isn’t just two people making a public declaration of affection for each other. If it were merely that, the wedding industry would be and afterthought and the pomp that begets matrimony an equally trivial occurrence. Even in 2017, however, marriage still has far reaching social, economic, cultural, and religious implications. In its many layers it is the fusion of families, ideas and ways of life. So while it is easier to pick a mate (and divorce them) in some cultures, it’s still a matter of determining worthiness on both sides. The roles men and women play in marriage are different and have lots of weight and significance, something that cannot be understated.

For today’s commentary, the focus will be on heterosexual marriage simply as while there are some themes that may be applicable for LBGT unions, there are likely parts that just don’t apply. These are observations from a cisgender lens…not meant to be a disclaimer, but a necessary acknowledgement on how various members of society may view !arriage in different, yet equal ways.

So I dated a woman a while back who was a divorceé with kids. What struck me about our time together was how well she navigated certain social situations. Now, being married twice in her case had given her lots of experience; still, it was something too see where you just didn’t have to explain certain things. This heightened social awareness extended to !any areas in our relationship at the time…it had this very “mature” sort of feel to it.

Now, she was capable of displaying many desirable traits in a life partner. Her previous situations accentuated those things and made what she had to offer a more “known” commodity. It was nice easier to tell compatibility with lives and views. We both knew what we had to offer each other was compatible temporarily and it ran its course for as long as it did.

Flipping to a woman who is currently being courted by a man and perhaps not been married (and previously arrived folks do this too)…she is evaluating him based on what she projects his potential to be as he is doing the same of her. We often are evaluating the other person based on our own individual and cultural lens because we inherently have some idea as to what the magnitude of the entry into the institution of marriage means. “Can I make it with this person?” “Am I willing to try to make it with this person?” are some of questions were trying to answer throughout the courtship process.

That ex cracked me up when she said once, “I’m not really materialistic, but -“. Well, she had a taste for certain things that were developed during her life course. Frankly, to have traveled in the circles she did, a level of material affinity WAS necessary. Some men still hold onto this idea of having a woman “who is a lady in the streets, but a freaking between the sheets”. I’ve always wondered where and how she should be able to get experience for both roles and how she should be able to defly manage them while being chaste. Sounds a bit unrealistic, right? I’m sure women have their own expectations of men that can be similarly unrealistic as well.

Perhaps it’s still that unwillingness to become in tune with, effectively communicate and negotiate those expectations that persist in 2017. Those same ones that ostrachize all flaws in a potential mate while blindly hiding away ours from our own gaze. There’s nothing wrong in wanting a material wife or wofe material; it’s more important to know what you want and not demean others for their choices.


“I’ve Outgrown You…”

Ever look back at a situation and go”man, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore?”

I was talking to a lady friend about her recent changes and it caused me to reflect on my own whirlwind situations over the past year. She talked about how she switched gym instructors and she feels that much more comfortable in her new space. She stressed how supportive the new gym was in that other members were focused on working out; how more interactive with her workouts the instructors were with monitoring her workout and being more constructive and consistent with their feedback. She mentioned her experience of having to go back to her old instructor during crazy holiday scheduling at the new gym. Her takeaway: while she was able to get a good workout in at the old gym, she was glad she stopped going there now.

It made me reflect on how I walked back through my childhood home and the first neighborhood in the Bronx I lived. It was great to do the trip down memory lane in each case but at the end I was struck with that same refrain: “I don’t miss this at all”. Now, there were parts of those experiences I cherished, but in its entirety, I don’t miss a lot of the experiences I’ve had in those spaces.

The same can be said for people as well. There are some people I really care about that I’ve met in my life course that currently aren’t in my orbit. While I do treasure the experiences I had with them, I don’t always miss them – not strongly enough to force them back into my orbit. Does it make me a villian with such an approach? As usual, it depends on who you ask. But I have no problem doing it that way either due to my perspective after reflecting on these relationships.

Some of us fake outgrowing a situation/someone/something. People have all sorts of reasons for this sort of approach. Ever seen that person who left a job and came back to shove their newfound “success” in people’s faces? How about that person who takes their new partner and parades them in front of an ex? How about that person who could never do anything right in the eyes of others who somehow pulled it together and now have a fabulous life? There is something to be said about outgrowing a situation in this way that reeks of “I did it and you cannot do a damn thing about where I am now” that feels quite vindicated.

Still, sometimes people talk about going back and doing things differently or trying to recreate lost magic. Maybe that’s appropriate and there are times the best core of action is to treasure the experience and si ply move upward and onward. To me at least, to truly have outgrown something/someone/an experience doesn’t denigrate it; it simply means you may have come to terms with its significance for you.


Being Inspired by Reality

One of the thing I’ve always like with the American dream is the way in which many people have packaged it in such a way to make the successes that much more palatable.

Say what?

Maybe it’s the QHP training in me kicking in (medical and mental health professionals use as many acronyms as Mr. Trump has observed scantily clad beauty pageant contestants), but I have always been wary of the sales pitch of the American dream. As regulars here know I moonlight in the social services field for my 9-5 and recently procured my MSW (more acronyms again). Having gone through that process, I’m always wary whenever people paint a rosy picture of success.

Now, whenever professionally you are used to seeing people at their most vulnerable, it can skew your perception slightly of messages you hear. I do feel it is an advantage because it facilitates the need to see the whole individual and the growth they have experienced. There is still much power to be had in hearing when someone speaks and feeling the emotions connected to the realities they experienced to achieve their successes. It just makes the whole conversation more authentic.

I was watching some crime shows recently, the ones where you see how some sweet-talking entrepreneur swoops in and sells parts of the Statue of Liberty to investors who ultimately get bilked. It got me thinking how difficult it is to be able to trust the things that you see.  Make no mistake – people work hard here in the US. Even the folks who are con artists and vulture like opportunists work hard; nothing is truly handed to anyone here easily. Still, it is often important to look at all opportunities presented to us from a reality based lens. There are no constantly in bloom and thorn-free rose gardens in life.

I’ve gone to a few MLM (multilevel marketing) sessions in my time: companies selling financial products, insurance, high speed internet, etc. The atmosphere is usually very infectious and the speakers are often quite dynamic. People are very vested and you get this feeling of “come on in, try it out”. But, like with anything else, there is the underside of the level of work needed to put in; the cost of trying to build these independent businesses are very similar to other small business building ventures. Also, because they are network marketing based, the recruitment investment is often one of the hardest things to manage.

I was watching something recently where this solid YouTuber (with over 60,000 subscribers and climbing) was having connection difficulties with his internet. He was still running his channel which much acclaim with his target audience. He recently got his connection issues fixed, and you could see the weight lifted off his shoulders. He shared some details of his frustration of how his situation impacted his content creation and a few of his workarounds. Why this was so noteworthy was that he also shared both the support he received during the issue and his elation once this issue was resolved. It was a pretty good lesson in honesty and perseverance.

What does today’s commentary mean? Lots of things in life are flashy and inciting, but costlier than we may first imagine from the outside in. Also, a dose of real inspiration is necessary at times. People are never merely just the images they project or the stories they tell; but are a complex combination which includes how they choose to handle adversity and success.

To me, those are the lessons worth hearing about from other that I truly find inspiring.