Archive for ‘Tip Jar’

07/13/2017

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.

06/10/2013

Honesty When Setting A Precedence

Nikki B asks: “ah ole mi ole fashion so because mi cyan tek man when dem try play game and heng onto the ex pn di side when hime put a new gyal inna di #1 position?”

It’s not always about trying to “get the ex out of his system”, more so than being able to keep the ex around, with permission from the new partner. If that precedence gets set, why should he try to do anything different?

Setting precedence or making an exception is always tricky business in a relationship. Sometimes we make exceptions for people and can manage those situations carefully. Other times we make exceptions for one person, and then those exceptions get rolled over into how we handle relationships, much to our detriment. Love and or lust can cause us to make some very interesting and sometimes costly deals where our pride, reputation and hearts are the ones forced to cash the checks that our eyes, lips and loins have written.

Now I’m not rushing to judgment here. Still, I’ve seen people leave on partner for the next one under the most horrendous of circumstances – flat out public cheating – and things worked out for everyone involved. But more often than not, those endings are in more strife because the wanderer’s eye, well, keeps wondering. There is an old saying I was reminded of recently:

“A woman may marry a man hoping he changes but he doesn’t; while a man may marry a woman hoping she never changes but she does.”

Now combine two different viewpoints like that in a situation where passion and lust collide, people will say and do things to get what they want. Such a tug of war often leads to broken hearts and sometimes children caught in the middle. There are instances where the thought or feeling takes over that what we have can cure the wandering eye or once they get the other person out of their system they can now focus on us. Sadly that isn’t often the case – some may choose to find a way to have their cake and eat it too.

So where does the real honesty come in anyways? A dear friend of mine shared this nugget recently:

“We often clamor for honesty when in fact, we really don’t want it. Because if we did truly want it, we would be more comfortable in looking at the situation we are in more carefully.”

 I hit the deck when hearing this in surprise; because she was speaking more to the double standard some women use when talk about relationships. Sometimes we may jump into a situation and not wanting to own all of what comes with it – we just want the affection, sex, financial support without the price of the baby mamma drama, prison time, lack of employment, being on call only to scratch the itch. When one meets a partner who lays out things clearly for us to see and it is terms we don’t like, we may cringe at the thought of signing up because we have to be accountable for what we signed up for. Yet sometimes we end up doing a few waiver and sign up for some worse stuff by not taking a moment to really read the fine print in the situation.

So if you know your partner has someone they left to date you, but yet they are still hung up on that person, how does that help your relationship start on a solid foot? If they cheated on their ex with you, who is to say that they won’t cheat on you with someone new? And if the partner came and say all he wanted from you was an on call booty call, how can you really dog them for not changing their ways to offer you more of what you want – a relationship?

Nobody wants to be holding the baggage set by making a precedence we cannot manage. Sometimes if you smell a rat, it may just be that. If you’re comfortable with that, then go for it. But if not, maybe taking a moment to reconsider can save you the heartache of a precedence you cannot take back later. After all, the The Drifters can tell you first hand that it is no fun counting the tears.

06/04/2013

Looking For Love: An Ethnic Flair

Sister S. asks: “Bwoy, weh mek black man love go hitch up under some odda kinda woman when him go ah farin or get some people inna life so? Why him just can stick to him own kind?”

Sometimes people forget that there are many unhappy folks in their own ethnic group and said unhappiness doesn’t move the ethnic group forward. It’s about individual happiness and compatibility at the end of the day.

I’m kicking with one of my dear friends who I haven’t seen in 9 years last weekend during her first trip to NYC. We were strolling through Central Park 6 deep – 5 girls and me as the only male. While being around so much homegrown estrogen – I mean Jamaican born women – never really fazes me, there was a comment that was made during the stroll that just made me stop and reach for the “new post entry” tab on the blog.

I’m walking alongside my friend in the back of the group chatting and saw an ethnically mixed couple – white female and a black male, who was pushing a small child in a stroller go by the group. One other the others girls had this look of disgust and SMH vibe reaction after the couple had passed. So I looked to my friend who said, “oh…Sister S just thinks it is waste whenever she sees a black man with a woman of another race.”

I just left it as is, but when my mind allowed me to truly reflection on it during the train ride back to NJ, this was the question that kept popping up in my mind:

What’s really more important here: it being “a waste” that you or another “sista” didn’t get him? Or was it “a gain” for him to find the happiness he was looking for outside his ethnic group?

If we value the whole human race as much as we do our own ethnic sub group, then it should really be about people finding happiness. People are more likely to make productive contributions when they are happy, especially to their own ethnic groups. Let’s not romanticize the whole “sticking to your kind” notion here: there just may be worse intra-ethnic relationships as there are inter-ethnic ones. Yes, sometimes as “minorities” we may romanticize the notion of uplifting our own for economic and cultural improvement, but at the end of the day it is the impact of the collective choices of the individuals within the ethnic that determines the group’s future.

The more I think about this, I have seen more mixed couples with kids recently in my daily travels. While it doesn’t faze me at all, when I initially started dating outside my ethnic group – the current lady friend is a mix of African and Dominican decent – I was forced to sit down and examine what my priorities are and tradeoffs  I’m willing to make in my own relationships. At the end of the day I can comfortably say that as long as the lady in question shares common ground on the things that I deem important, her ethnicity isn’t an issue in my eyes. I guess maturity has me a lot more understanding of some of the challenges that both intra and inter ethnic dating have these days – I do both freely.

The world can still be cruel to children from mixed ethnic groups. What I have found anecdotally is that is boils down to the things such as the strength of the parental relationship and the support of family – like it always does – as some of the linchpins to successful development. I can equate it to the feeling that an immigrant can have living in another country – “you’re not quite from there” in the eyes of your new countrymen because you weren’t “born there” and “you’re not quite from home” in the eyes of the home folks because “you aren’t there anymore”. We place such emphasis on “fitting in” that sometimes these kids have to fit in by carving out their own space within the existing fabric.

As long as one is aware of these considerations, accepts what comes with them appropriately and their feelings for their partner are in the place they need to be then it really doesn’t matter. It’s always better to know where you stand and what you’re getting into, so you can focus more clearly on getting what you want.

MixedRaceFamily

05/24/2013

Carpetbaggers – Hide The Welcome Mat

Sonja asks: “weh mek it so hard fi get rid of crasses people? Man, dem wid tek set pon yuh like flea inna dog backside!”

The best cure for an unwanted guest is to spot them from a distance and keep them away in the first place.


 “See mi and come live wid mi ah two different sinting.”

That was one of the most profound Jamaican proverbs I was ever exposed to as a child – something that applies to many types of relationship, not just intimate ones as well. One of my most found memories about this was a situation my sister dealt with last fall by having one of her friends as host guests during a spot of trouble.

She basically offered one of her friends, her husband and young son her extra room to rent to for the interim because they recently lost their apartment. So my sister’s friend moved in temporarily, and was pretty much the guest from hell – even to the post where she owed money for rent. The situation got so intolerable that my sister had to kick her out and basically forgo the owed money. Naturally, the friendship dissolved because there was too much embarrassment and keeping up appearances, as they were business partners on quite a few local community projects.

I give my sister credit. She didn’t take it personally, nor was she hounding her guest for the cash that was owed Most folks would bust skulls to collect that coin so she is a saint in that regard. The strangest thing though, was that my sister wasn’t the first victim of this heinous “terrible house guest” drama. Apparently, this woman had done the same thing to two other folks within my sister’s circle of friends. I guess out of sheer embarrassment, they allowed my sister to experience the storm for herself in silence. Yikes!

Well, that’s why old folks where I’d from would say: “Don’t buy nuh puss inna bag! Cuz yuh don’t know how sharp de claw dem be!”

Wise words, but this is life though, and we are all bound to make missteps. Kinda like the adoring partner you marry or get involved with after a whirlwind romance who ends up being an abusive monster once the romance wears off and he feels you’re fully in his “clutches”. Or that sweet caring friend who gets very vindictive once you aren’t able to ALWAYS her get her get way. Or that deadbeat cousin who can charm you into lending you cash, even though they have never repaid any of those loans in the past 15 years.

Some folks will always cover their tracks and hide those very ugly warts until it is too late. I think in the South they’re often called “carpetbaggers” by trade. Maybe they do it out of embarrassment, fear, shame or just plain exploitative intent. Either way, it is never a good look to be one or a pleasant experience to cross paths with one.

At the end of the day, people must take responsibility for their actions. While you cannot always be responsible for a carpetbagger’s actions, you can ensure that they are always kept out of sight or at minimum at a distance.

 

carpetbagger

 

04/27/2013

Playing With Fire…

Jeni. S. asks: “Why people like to play with fire so? Dem nuh realize seh Dem hand can get bun up anytime?”

People always think the reward justifies the risk, no matter how high the risks are and how small the rewards may be.

We live in a contemporary society that places a special emphasis on successful risk taking. Everyone has seen the stereotype of the river boast gambler or that crazy risk taker that was rolling in the fame and cash after beating the odds. While that looks cool and all, people forget about the simple fact that for all those people who were successful like that, many flamed out and failed.

It is always the same…whether having unprotected sex and not thinking about pregnancy, std or broken hearts if cheating on a partner/spouse; skimming cash and or pilfing supplies from the job; fudging resumes to get employed; cheating on tests; robbing people or banks…its all the same. People take risks and often do so with the mentality that they wouldn’t get caught or will get what they want every time.

Sometime pursuits have more immediate consequences than others. I was watching an episode of Locked Up Abroad with an Englishman who was locked up in Arizona for running a drug ring for 10 years. The amazing part about it was that he walked away from the trade for a few years after being threatened by a rival gang. He thought he was in the clear…then the cops kicked in his front door and he went to one of the toughest American jails for six years.

Sounds to me like you never really get away with anything in life, especially the serious offences.

But who really thinks about risks in situations where they feel they need to roll the dice? I guess we all should but sometimes our situation and how we feel about what we want forces us to take some chances we may not ordinarily do. I can’t say I agree with such choices but I can empathize with such an approach. Some of us are risk takers by nature, and that won’t change. But the thought is I guess it is still about being clever as, opposed to playing smart. I try to do that as best as I can, since I like to sleep at nights with a clear conscience based on my own actions for the day.

After all, who really wants to deal with burns if you’re playing with literal fire in the first place?

04/09/2013

Age Markers and Milestones

Nikki B. says “turning 30 scares and confuses me. Is the glass of my life really half empty or half full?

It depends on what you’re putting in the glass and how you feel about it.

Contemporary culture currently places a premium on milestone markers based on age. 16 is the memorable 1st blowout party. 18 is when you go off to college and be on your own. 21 is when you can buy liquor freely. 30 means you’re starting to get older. 40 is when you’re rounding into maturity. 50 is when you become a statesman. 65 is when you retire.

So what do all those things mean? Firstly, the hidden marker here is the US is age 25 as a true adult. Insurance eligibility from ones parents up to recently (26 is now the cut off age for students who can prove they are still in school) was 25; lower car insurance rates started at 25. 25 is also the age viewed where you’re really starting to be perceived more as an adult anyways.

Secondly, society is changing to the point where some of these age markers don’t have the same meanings as they did for our grandparents or parents. With the pursuit of age, 50 is the new 25, 40 is the new 20, and in the words of someone “you’re still a baby @ 30.” The irony there was that she was merely 33, but speaking more from her own history and expectations.

I have a friend that’s born the same month as me, but a year apart. She was living very vicariously through me while I was going through the whole “turning 30” bit. She was like: “you only turn 30 once! Enjoy the responsibility free-living!” I laughed at her and said “you better remember it’s my turn to ham you up when you hit that 3-0”. She rolled her eyes, cringing at the thought. She’s happily married with 2 kids. Again, 30 for her means some of her own other dreams aren’t realized yet…again, looking at the number from a lens of expectations. I look and remind her that many out there would want the marriage to an adoring husband and two kids.

Different strokes for different folks indeed.

People ultimately see what they want to see in these supposedly significance milestone markers. I remember a coworker who in her college years who traveled a lot complained about a quarter life crisis when she became 25. Of course, she left the job and ended up on Columbia a few months later, pursuing her passion for grass-roots organizing and women’s health. She decided she didn’t like what was in her glass and is off doing something about it.

At the end of the day, it boils down to where you are in life and what you’re working on, no matter the age marker. For some, life really begins at 25, 30, 40, 50 or 65, based on their reference point. For others, life beings tomorrow or today at the age they’re at. You honestly shouldn’t beat yourself up for what you don’t have. If you’re working towards it, then the trick is managing expectations in terms of being realistic with time and patience. If you’re not working on anything, then the trick is managing expectations in terms of effort and realistic goal setting. The downside of our culture is that people can be easily swayed by images on the media of filled glasses with glitzy things…bit we don’t see the price paid for such glitz.

An Elder once told me: “celebrate life itself no matter what the age….because having life itself still means possibility exists for you to achieve and still reach for your dreams”.

04/01/2013

Looking For Love: Catching Is Easy, Keeping is Hard

Granny says: “Bwoy, sometimes mi cyan undastand dem people yah. Some ooman and man mi see love model inna tight clothes and expensive car. Why dem cyaan learn seh it tek more dan dat fi keep people happy inna one relationship?”

“Because we are so focused on the chase, many people don’t know how to manage the prize after the race is one. The hardest parts are either when we find out that the person we were after doesn’t match up with what we saw during the chase, or we don’t know how to keep the person once we’re with them because we expect the relationship to always be like a chase.”

 So I was at a young lady’s house a few weeks ago enjoying her company on a chill Saturday evening. As we hung out I flipped the TV on and saw something very interesting that caught my eye.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network – for a long list of reasons that I don’t want to bore folks with here. But, what caught my eye was a special program by relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant. It was called: Iyanla, Fix MY Life – Recharged.

What was so riveting about this episode was that she got about 300 single women in the audience and was talking about things that would hold them back in finding happiness in a meaningful relationship. Eventually, she brought out 50 single men and gave some of the women opportunities to both ask questions to the men that they don’t usually get a chance to, and in a few cases, for people to get together for a date after the show.

I was glued to my seat that whole hour, because she hit upon some really heavy points, many of which can apply to both genders. The first thing that struck me about the audience was that all the women were physically attractive. Yes, it was a TV show and I am sure people primped themselves JUST IN CASE they got caught on camera, but they all looked really good. Many were very successful in their careers – there was even a TV anchor that was in the audience.

It was amazing to watch Iyanla work. She brought two things that struck me the most:  vulnerability and the laundry list of expectations. There was one woman she worked with in the audience who had what felt like was a job opening to be her partner and she was the manager screening candidates. So what Iyanla did was to get her on stage and pair her with a guy from the group of men she eventually brought out. She had them standing face to face – at arm’s length – then she asked the woman to mention what her fears – NOT HER REQUIREMENTS – were. With each fear mentioned, she asked the woman to step back one pace from the guy. Iyanla did this until the woman was about 25 feet away from the guy.

That stood out to me on so many levels. The unfortunate thing that our society currently teaches us that our fears are the ones in control, and that admitting any fear to someone else means that along with the fear, that other person now has power over us. This often ties into the vulnerability that Iyanla brought up as well. It is tough out there – no question – as we all have to fight to make a life for ourselves. But having been drilled independence, self-sufficiency in our heads all this time, we were never shown in a healthy way how two self-sufficient people are to get along. Guess the current model is still dominance and submission instead of compromise. How is that working out so far?

What I took away from  that TV episode was the importance how to be vulnerable with a partner to build trust and love, not fear and disrespect and inequality in a relationship.

Many people are good at the chase – either laying themselves out as the objects of affection or the great chasers.

I’ll never forget being at one of my ex’s godmother’s wedding a few years back. My ex had one of the “hot aunts” in the family – great looking woman, good job, nice personality, yet constantly single. So it was the dancing part in the reception, my ex and I were on the dance floor, acting all stupid with our combined 4 left feet. So we started switching dance partners for a while (so my ex could go dance with other family members she was cool with) and I ended up dancing with the “hot aunt”. She was in this silver dress that fit her really nice and we were chatting and smiling while we danced. In that moment I noticed SO many things that just made me sad.

–          I could feel her charm. She has this thing that was kinda subtlety getting me to be really interested in her. I don’t think she was hitting on me per se, but it started to feel really nice dancing with her. It was this “damn, she interested in me and is interesting at the same time” type deal which I KNEW in my head was artificial, but in that moment felt plausible.

–          I looked in her eyes once and past the alluring nature, I saw an empty space and more importantly, a longing for what she was seen between me and her niece (my ex).

What I saw for that night made sense to me – I heard stories about how good the “hot aunt” was in ensnaring a man but never really could keep one…including rumors of affairs she had with one or two spouses of other family members present that night. I never took much stock into it until I danced with her, and then noticed how she was all over some of my ex’s godmother’s coworkers at the end of the night.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. I won’t speak for others, but I do know for me the chasing someone new all the time can get tiring. Do I have all the answers? Of course not, as I am still making my own way through the battleground that is dating in the NYC. While there is no set way to keep a partner once you’ve “caught them”, I’m certain things like respect, honesty, valuing the other person, being able to love yourself, being in touch with your own expectations and compromise are things that will go a long way to help.

After all, these are some of the ingredients the folks I talk to who have been in happy relationships for many years keep mentioning.

03/24/2012

Do I Walk Away or Work On It?

Alex the Great asks: “How come people lazy suh sometime? The minute dem nuh get weh dem want,and how dem want it, dem bawl and cry fowl. Dem nuh know seh nutting come easy inna life?”

It’s always easier to walk away than put in the work – or so it seems.

Recently, I was watching a few episodes from a series aired on Discovery Fit and Health called Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal (aired originally on TLC, I believe). There were a few things that stood out from seeing those stories of betrayal that caused me to reflect on who we view relationships with a very quick hook at times.

Firstly, the producers were fair – this wasn’t a series of cheating guys leaving destroyed wives and kids in their philandering wake. They really made an effort to show that both men and women are capable of infidelity and often do so for different reasons across many social and ethnic groups. As much as we know better, sometimes we get caught up in playing into the stereotypes of the roles both gender play in a relationship. They also didn’t show the kids at all – it focuses on the people in the relationship and that’s where it should be.

Secondly how strong the partners who were wronged were for trying to save their marriages. From cheating with friends, strangers, coworkers, hanging out in strip clubs, it really takes a lot to forgive and to use an incident of infidelity as a point to be closer than before to a partner. The stats aren’t usually in favor of a relationship – about 30% survive after the occurrence of an infidelity that is revealed. Maybe that’s why people try as hard as they do to cheat and keep it hidden.

But the stat that stood out the most for me though was that about 80% of those that walked away regretted their decision. That’s a pretty high number! Sometimes people want to cling to a relationship for selfish reasons. We all know how tough it is to take someone back under those conditions to make it work. But maybe the reason why that number is so high is that people haven’t really taken the time out to process what happened. The good times can look really good if the person isn’t around – after all it is easy to romanticize the highest of highs and ignore the lows. Perhaps what was need was a moment to really talk things out to see if it is worth salvageable – but that can be hard to do when the cheater is just trying to get things back how they were and aren’t willing to really deal with the consequences of their actions.

It’s not only intimate relationships that it’s seemingly easier to walk away from. There are jobs that we are at and don’t like, friendships that may not be going our way, family members who don’t agree with our current point of view. There are times that the pressures of life can be so great that letting go might be the best option. While there are times that this is indeed true, when we get into a habit of always pull the car off the side of the road whenever there we hit a pothole it becomes harder to grow and get anywhere in life.

It’s hard to know what’s worth putting in the work for, and what’s worth walking away from. Some of the lack of that skill comes from a Western way of life that makes many things disposable, people and stress filled situations especially. One thing is clear: if you walk away classy or work hard in a classy manner, people are able to respect you – no matter how they feel about you in the moment.