I miss having girlfriends (clarification – platonic female friends) :-D

I haven’t had a close female friend in a very long time. I won’t spout out the usual stereotypical explanations as to why I don’t have one, the “I don’t trust women” or “women are just haters” or “women don’t like me” types of responses. They don’t really apply to me. I don’t have any innate mistrust of women as a species, nor do I think women just have a knee jerk reaction to me that is negative or prevents friendship. I have had girlfriends in the past, women I was very close to and who were like sisters to me. But in recent years, I haven’t had that. As a result, everyone who I am close to, who I discuss intimate details of my life with, everyone who is part of my emotional “inner circle”, is male. And I miss having girlfriends. I miss having a sisterhood, having girls to sing my uniquely woman blues with. As much as my dudes love me, they are completely lost when I want to complain about my cramps, about how I wish I could find cute bra and panty sets in my size in stores without always having to order them online, or about how sometimes as a woman I feel so much pressure to conform in certain ways that society expects of me. They get it, but they don’t get it.

I’ve had good relationships with girlfriends over the years, and bad ones too. I’ve had the girlfriend that always made me feel like I was the ugliest one in the crew when actually I was the best looking and she wanted to make sure I didn’t realize it. I’ve had the girlfriends who held my hair when I threw up after a night of too much liquor. I’ve had the girlfriend who always wanted to tell me how bad my boyfriends were, and then would flirt with them behind my back. I’ve had girlfriends who gave me money when I needed it and picked me up when I was stranded in the middle of nowhere. I once had a girlfriend who wouldn’t take me to a job interview when my car broke down on my way to the interview because “I want to make sure I’m free in case Kevin (the guy she liked at the time) wants to go to lunch.” (Guess you can tell I’m still tripping over that one.) I even once had a girlfriend who organized an “intervention” of sorts for me at my job because she couldn’t stand how disrespectfully my boyfriend at the time was treating me. And believe it or not, that intervention really helped open my eyes as to what a jerk he was. So at times in my life I have had the sister love. Just not now.

With a lot of my former close girlfriends, time and circumstances have just caused us to drift apart. I still think the world of them, and (I hope) they still think the world of me, but we’re in different spaces and places in our lives, and just aren’t in a position to be close like we used to be. (I think of a young lady named Chanel as I write this.) Doesn’t mean I don’t think of them with great warmth and fondness, this just isn’t our season. I don’t have the front row seat I once did in their lives, but I still think of myself as being in the arena, even if it’s up in the cheap seats. With others, a specific incident occurred to end our friendship, usually a man or money, and sometimes both. Some girlfriends moved away. I’ve met women that I thought would make great girlfriends, but often they’re very busy and just don’t have the time to take on a new close friendship, though if they ever did they’d be happy to have me as a friend. I have girlfriends that I see extremely sporadically, like once every 3-6 months or so, but when we do hang out we are close, confide in each other, and have a great time together. (I think of women like Felicia as I write that.)  I envy women like my sister who has several girlfriends that she has been close to for YEARS, since she was in high school and she is in her fifties now. Truth be told, she is closer to them than she is to me and we are sisters.  They know more about her and her life and her day to day struggles and triumphs than me. I wish I had that in my life, someone who had witnessed my life for years and years. I don’t have that kind of continuity with anyone over my lifetime, and it kind of makes me sad.

I know a lot of women don’t think girlfriends are important. They talk about the drama and issues that always seem to be a part of the sisterhood side of friendship, and are glad not to have girlfriends. They feel that having all male friends, is better, simpler and less troublesome. But I don’t think one should be proud of one’s inability to relate to your own gender intimately. That doesn’t mean you should have a ton of girlfriends, but I think every woman should have at least one girlfriend they are close to, can confide in openly and without judgment. I just don’t know why I don’t have this person now. I don’t have that girl to go hang out with, shop with, gab on the phone with. I don’t have that girlfriend to tell about my love life, to share my sadness, or my happiness. When I do my shows, I don’t have a girlfriend cheering for me in the audience. And worst of all, I don’t have that crazy girlfriend to ride shotgun with if I ever needed to do a drive by and slash some dudes car tires – not to say I would. LOL!

My last girlfriend has been out of my life for a good while. We haven’t spoken in nearly 2 years. I think of her often, and wonder how she is, but I cannot seem to bring myself to call her. I am not sure she’d want to hear from me, so I just don’t dial her number. And it hurts. I can’t even say she and I were still friends at the time we parted ways. We had been drifting apart for a while before our last get-together for a number of reasons. As my writing and my performing career grew, it seemed like she made herself more and more absent from my life. I would invite her to shows where I was performing, and she would never come, usually offering the excuse that her “boyfriend didn’t really like spoken word”, though she and I used to go to hear poets quite often before he entered her life. If I did managed to get her out for a girls night on the town, she spent the night texting and calling him, arguing about this and that, so much so that I just took her back home so she could argue with him in person. She never read anything I got published, though I would send her clips and links to my work. She never shared in my excitement about the things I was doing, never seemed to want to be a part of my happiness, though I tried to always make time for sharing her happiness. When she brought her first house I heartily congratulated her and brought her a housewarming gift. When she got promoted at work I made sure I sent her a long email congratulating her success and took her out for drinks to celebrate. But even then I felt the distance between us.

She would talk about her nine to five job and its headaches, and in return I would go on and on about where I was performing next, what concert I had gone to, who I had interviewed for what publication, etc. It felt weird to me, because our lives had become so different. Yes it was my job, but I still felt uncomfortable. Sometimes I would listen to myself and think I sounded like I was bragging. I would try to sound matter-of-fact when she’d ask what I was doing, but no matter what she would usually say things like “well ain’t you just a big old star now. Surprised you got time fot the little people like me.” And she’d laugh, and I would think about how many times I had asked her out to see me and I would feel bad. Sometimes I wouldn’t even tell her what I was doing because I worried that it might sound like I was trying to show off. I continued to invite her to events I was participating in, and she continued to not show up. I felt rejected by her, and it hurt. It hurt to put aside tickets for her at the box office or to save seats for her where I was performing, and to never see her in the audience after over 20 years of friendship.  It hurt to hear her weak explanations for why she never came to see me, never read any of my work, never told me she was happy for me. (She did manage to buy my CD after it had been out for a year.) But most of all, what hurt was our last conversation.

She had just reconciled with an ex of hers that I didn’t like very much. She had reconciled with him because he had started seeing another woman and she found out about it. So she went after him and took him back from the to other chick. Now I didn’t like this guy for her for a lot of reasons, but I have sense enough to know that you can’t tell people too much when they think they’re in love. But on one rare evening out, she informed us that they were back together and planning to marry very soon. When I didn’t comment, she asked me what I thought. I told her I didn’t think he was ready to be a husband and take on the responsibilities of being a dad to her sons. He had been out of jail about 3 years at the time after spending 8 years in jail, and he was still struggling to adjust to life on the outside. He was struggling to educate himself, to get a steady job, to make up for the development that would have occurred in him emotionally and mentally that didn’t happen because he was in jail. I told her I thought she should allow him the opportunity to accomplish some things on his own before he became a husband. I thought she should give him some space to establish himself, to at least get working. I told her it was very important for a man to be A MAN in a relationship, especially in a marriage, and that she shouldn’t set him up for failure by rushing him into marriage. I told her she should give him time to feel the sense of accomplishment that men get from achieving goals; I said that she should give him time to become a better man so he could be a good husband.

So she told me that if I didn’t have anything good to say about her man, not to say anything. Now I pointed out to her that I hadn’t offered my opinion until she asked, and that I would certainly keep my opinion to myself, but if she asked what I thought I wasn’t going to lie.

She then told me if I couldn’t be supportive of the marriage I couldn’t be her friend. I told her that I always supported her and would continue to, but I really didn’t think the marriage was a good idea. Would I try to talk her out of it? No. I told her that I felt like she was trying to dictate to me how I should feel about her marriage, and that wasn’t right. I told her I wished her only the best and I sincerely hoped that I was wrong about him. But in my heart, I just wasn’t feeling it. She then said, “I don’t expect you don’t understand, you’ve always had a man in your life who worshipped the ground you walked on and just adored you and idolized you. Some of us have to work with what we get.”

And that was the last time we talked.

And so here I am today, with my “man-tourage”, as one of my male friends jokingly calls my circle. Like I said, I love them all for different reasons. Collectively they are my rock; they support me and hold me down and even protect me sometimes, at times even when I don’t want to. I truly believe they have a great deal of love for me in their way, though it isn’t romantic love. They’ll even tolerate a bit of my woman blues, patiently listening as I bitch and moan about my cramps. I have even managed to “train” one or two of them to not flinch when I stop in shoe stores when we’re in the mall. They’ll go in the store, unafraid, and patiently watch as I examine the shoes, offering their opinion. They’ll hold my purse if need be, carry bags, etc. But still, I miss the meeting of estrogen; I wish I could find that woman to see eye-to-eye with.

I think I’ll go email Felicia…

Peace!

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My dad wanted me to “pass” for White…

When my dad was alive, (March 3, 1916-July 18, 2002), he tried to encourage me to “pass” for white. Now before you jump down my dad’s dead throat, a bit about my dad’s history.

My father grew up in a small coal mining town called Jenkinjones, West Virginia, not too far from Kentucky. His mother was a very light skinned red haired woman named Lucy, and his father was (rumored) to be White. In fact, the census records for my Grandma Lucy actually list her as a “quadroon” (which was a person who was at least ¼ White) and not as “colored”, as Blacks were called then.  As a result, my dad was a very light skinned Black man with wavy jet black hair and light brown eyes. He managed to survive in Jenkinjones in part because the White men in the town knew who his dad was, though they didn’t openly acknowledge it. A result he was given a job running the local post office and general store in town instead of going to the coal mines to work – the coal mines did offer the local Black men employment at wages far superior to work they might have found in other places, but it was still extremely dangerous, even deadly, work. If a Black man could manage to avoid the coal mines and still work in Jenkinjones, it was quite an accomplishment.

My dad was very intelligent. Everyone recognized this early on, and even the reddest redneck in the town had to admit my dad was a “smart nigger”. In fact my dad often told me the story of how he once heard two White men in the town talking about how smart my dad was, and one said to the other “you know that nigger missed out on a whole lot when he wasn’t born White”. My dad seemed to consider that a compliment, and took consolation in the fact that White men considered him smart.

My dad spent a great deal of his life making absolutely sure no one ever thought he was the “average nigger”, as he would say scornfully. “We are not average,” he would say to me, speaking about himself and me. “We are unrecognized geniuses.” He always made sure he was well spoken and memorized dictionaries full of words. He was never loud or disorderly. Though he couldn’t finish high school because he had to support his mom and his brothers and sisters, he educated himself as much as he could. My dad aspired to be an artist, and he ordered art books by the ton. He drew and sketched and painted whenever he could. He never left Jenkinjones to pursue his dreams though; he always stayed behind to take care of his mother. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if he had left to pursue his art. My dad didn’t leave West Virginia until his mom died in the very early nineteen sixties, and then went to Paterson, New Jersey, where he managed to get a job as a commercial artist (what you would call a graphic designer today). He married my mother (finally, after many years!), and they gave birth to me. My dad was 50 when I was born. My dad didn’t like the “revolutionaries” that were coming along at that time, the Black Panthers and Malcolm X’s and such. He felt like they were just causing trouble and making the White man angry. My house was full of “White” things – paintings by White artists, classical and orchestral music, etc. As a small child I studied ballet, and when I wanted to join the African Dance group because “they seemed to be having more fun and I like the drumming” as I explained it, he refused to let me. “You don’t need to be taught to shake your tail,” he intoned. He would never let me participate in sports, saying “the last thing you need is to be worrying about running faster and jumping higher. That’s what’s wrong with us now, because that’s all we care about doing. Do something with your brain instead.” My parents taught me all about “White” things great and small. For example, they taught me all the proper place settings for a formal meal — I knew the difference between a dinner fork, a salad fork, a soup spoon and a dessert spoon before I was ten. I learned about Norman Rockwell, whom my dad thought was the greatest artist who ever lived. We read “Reader’s Digest” in my house, my mom had to beg dad to let us get a subscription to “Jet” and “Ebony”. And of course, my hair was relaxed as soon as it was determined I wasn’t going to inherit my dad’s straight hair.

But my dad had a plan for my hair…

When I was about 15 my dad brought home a long curly red wig one day. Don’t ask me where he got it because I don’t know. But he gave it to me, and with a sly wink he said, “you know Petula, you are growing up to be a pretty young lady. With your complexion, you could have any color hair you want. Or any texture.” At the time I had relaxed hair cut into a style called a “snatchback”. I didn’t quite understand what he meant so I didn’t say anything, and he continued. “Well, I mean, there is no reason to just limit yourself to the hair you have. You could have any kind of hair. So maybe you want to try this one day. I mean, it might be fun, especially around people you didn’t know. It would almost be like a game, like pretending to be someone else.”

So I took the wig with a “thank you”, still not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. It was around Halloween though, so I thought maybe he was suggesting that I dress up and go to one of the local Halloween parties that the recreation centers held. At any rate I never used the wig. Then he brought home a shoulder-length blonde wig, and gave me the same speech. I took the wig again, still not really understanding. So I mentioned it to my boyfriend at the time, and he said with a chuckle “your dad wants you to pretend to be White.” Now I thought that was the silliest thing I’d ever heard. Why would I want to pretend to be anything I wasn’t…especially another race? My boyfriend went on to say, “well, maybe he thinks your life would be easier that way. And I mean, you could pass for white to be honest. You’re light enough.”

After a while my dad began to ask occasionally if I had tried on the wigs, or if I planned to wear them. I told him that I had tried them on, but I never said whether or not I planned to wear them. When he’d ask I’d say that I’d forgotten, or that I was busy with schoolwork. Once he had me try on the blonde wig for him, and he nodded proudly when I did. I quickly took it off, feeling ashamed and not knowing why. Finally one day I overheard my dad and mom talking. She was telling him that she knew what he was trying to do to me with the wigs, and she didn’t like it. He told her he was just trying to make my life easier. He told her that they had raised me to be refined, gentle, kind-natured and good-hearted, and that all of that would be ruined by associating with Black people extensively. He pointed out how I was often teased in school for my smarts, my eloquence, the way I carried myself. He said Black men would ruin me because they would treat me roughly, and he didn’t want that for me. So why shouldn’t I “pass”, since I was already so light skinned and raised the way I had been? But in spite of my dad, my racial identity was never an issue for me, even with my dad’s influence. I never was confused about what I was and who I was. I don’t know why, because I certainly should have been. I certainly got teased for being so light skinned, and “talking White” and “acting White” and all that, but I knew I was Black. I knew about my history from my own reading; I had been reading history books like “Before The Mayflower” from the time I was a child. I also knew enough about how the period in history in which he grew up and what he went through to understand why he felt the way he did, and to understand why he was concerned. I knew he just wanted the best for me, and to him the best meant White. But I never believed that to be true. I knew I had to just humor him and it would be okay. One day he’d be proud of me, even as an openly light skinned Black woman.

When I first went away to college, I went to a “White” school. My roommate thought I was White up until Thanksgiving, when she met my boyfriend. When she found out, she stopped speaking to me, and we stopped sharing clothing and makeup at her request. My dad said “see, I told you. She didn’t have to know you were Black.” That hurt coming from him, but again I remembered his past and let it go. When I stopped relaxing my hair he almost had a heart attack, but I ignored his pointed staring at my kinky tresses and his comments under his breath about how “someone my complexion wasn’t supposed to have knotty hair”. As time went on, he was always proudest of my “Whitest” achievements – if I got something published in a “White” publication he praised me, if I got something published in a “Black” publication he cared significantly less. But I never said anything out of respect for him as my dad, so years went by with me saying nothing…until my daughter was born.

My daughter was light skinned like me, and kinky haired like me. But her hair was black, like my dad’s. I remembered his pleasure at his first grandbaby’s birth, how he would admire her when she was a baby and toddler, beaming proudly. I was pleased that he was so pleased with her. One Sunday morning when I was visiting, she ran up to “Pop Pop” as she called him, and hugged him tightly around his knees. He picked her up carefully, and he sat down at the kitchen table gingerly balancing her on his knee, smiling. She smiled up at him, and I looked upon the scene tenderly, feeling proud and pleased. And then my dad said, “Petula, you have a beautiful little girl here. You should be proud. But it is a shame about her hair.”

And it all came back to me. And worst of all, my daughter grabbed at her hair with both her little hands, pulling at it, saying in a plaintive tone in her sweet little voice, “Pop Pop, Mommy, what’s wrong with my hair?”

I rushed over to her, tearing her from his lap. I was seething, absolutely livid. My daughter saw the dark anger in my eyes and said again louder, “mommy, what’s wrong? Is it my hair?” I managed to cap my rage long enough to smile at her, bounce her on my hip and say sweetly, “no baby, your hair is beautiful. But go talk to Grandma while I have a few words with Pop Pop.” She clung to me with one chubby hand, the other still clutching her hair. I hurt and ached for her, but knew how I handled her in this moment could set the stage for a future of confusion and self hatred. “Your hair is just fine baby. Go ask Grandma. She’ll tell you.” My daughter continued to seem unsure. “Go ahead,” I said, still smiling. Finally she seemed to feel at ease, because she smiled back and I put her down. Before she ran out of the kitchen she said to her grandfather, “I like your hair Pop Pop. It’s so shiny.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said to my dad in those next few minutes. But I made no effort to be respectful, to be mindful that he was my dad, to remember his past. At that moment, he was just someone who had hurt my baby. I remember yelling at him,  at the top of my lungs. I remember cursing at him. I remember crying. I remember saying things about self-hatred, about love of self, about White not being right. I remember letting my rage fly at him, unfettered and full throttle for at least 3 minutes. When I “came to”, all I saw was the shocked, remorseful look on his face.

“Petula,” he said. “I did the best I could.”

I knew that was true. So I just nodded and said, “yes, I know.”

And with that, we finally understood each other.

A New Poem…

The clouds remind me of him.
Thick, full, and
slightly foreboding.
Rolling in over me.
Hanging just above my head.
Darkening my sky.
I close my eyes
and await
his final decision.
With a loud shout
he chooses rain.
The droplets
splash upon my face,
upon my body;
cooling my skin
and washing away
all my unanswered
questions.

Now
I eagerly anticipate
the return of his thunder;
His heavens tightly
and stingily holding
the power to soothe me
when the heat
starts to consume
my core once again.

One of the worst dates I ever had…

This is about one of the worst dates I’ve ever had.

DISCLAIMER: Before we begin…I feel a bit weird because the person I am writing about in this blog entry will probably read this. The events that took place on this night happened about nine years ago. He and I have discussed it a few times over the years since, and we both know why this date went so badly. We’ve even laughed and joked about it so I feel its okay to write this. And if you are reading this – please don’t get mad, because really, you have turned out to be a good friend.

And now…the story.

I used to be part of an online community called “Black Singles Incorporated” (BSI). It was basically a big chat room where single black men and women could meet and talk and so on. I thought it might be a good way to make friends, so I signed up and began chatting in the room regularly. Eventually I got to know the people in the chat room pretty well, both online and in person, because we’d occasionally have get-togethers and such. I met a guy who lived in my area. We struck up conversation, just casually. He seemed nice, and I knew several of the ladies in the room were interested in him. He was single, no kids, intelligent, gainfully employed, home, car, etc. He was a catch in the chat room, where sometimes the guys weren’t always really nice, or working, or even single.

But one thing this guy was adamant about – he would not seriously date a woman who had children.

Now I had children. Two in fact. I made no secret about it to anyone. So I ruled him out for any kind of serious dating. And as I talked to him in the chat room, I did feel a bit bad about that initially. This man seemed to have some qualities that I admired and would have enjoyed in a man, in my man. He was intelligent and articulate, things I have always found attractive in men. But kids were a deal breaker for him. Now some other ladies in the chat room who had kids still tried their luck with him, perhaps hoping they could sway him with their charming personalities, or other qualities, skills or talents they might possess. I have never been one to try to change someone’s mind once they made it absolutely clear that they don’t want their minds changed, so I didn’t even bother trying. And in spite of the other things I liked and respected about him, a part of me was a bit troubled by how ADAMANT he was about “no kids”.

I’d never met a man who was totally against kids from a previous relationship. Most men I’d met would at least consider kids, depending on the circumstances and conditions surrounding them, and how the woman was dealing with the situation. Most men just didn’t want the kids to be badly behaved, or didn’t want the mom to have drama with the children’s dad, that kind of thing. Most men I’d met, while they might prefer childless women, wouldn’t totally rule out women with kids if there was not major drama attached. Plus most men I knew had kids themselves. But not this one. He had no kids, and wanted no part of a woman who did, and had no interest in evaluating women with kids on a case by case basis. When we would talk in the chat room I told him I felt it was a bit unrealistic of him to expect a woman in the age range in which he dated (thirty and up primarily, he was approaching his late thirties at the time) to not have children; I didn’t say it to sway him, but I just didn’t get his line of thinking since I had never encountered that attitude before. But he stuck to his guns, and spoke a lot about not wanting to shoulder another man’s responsibilities and such. And while I understood that intellectually, a part of my heart still felt it was just a kind of cold, unfeeling way to be. It struck me as kind of judgmental, sort of harsh. It seemed to indicate a kind of rigidness in mindset and opinions that I didn’t care for. And it seemed like he didn’t care to consider that he could perhaps be a great blessing to some woman’s child who might really need a positive male role model in their lives. So he did lose cool points in my book for that; not that it really mattered, because I wasn’t dating him.

But then he asked me out on a date.

Now I didn’t get why he was asking me. I had kids. He knew this. I never asked him to consider dating me in spite of my kids. Yes I had discussed his views on the subject in an attempt to understand his point of view, but I finally accepted that I’d never get it and let it go. And here he was, asking me out. I thought about it. I mean, clearly he couldn’t be trying to date me because he knew I had kids. But we had become friends in the chat room by this time, and so I figured there was no harm in engaging in a bit of social recreation as friends. It would probably be fun. So I agreed to the date.

We met at a restaurant in Columbia, near the lake. I had just gotten this beautiful lavender and burgundy silk dress with 4 ½ inch stiletto suede sling back pumps that matched the dress perfectly. I looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. Now the shoes were new, so I was still “breaking them in”, so I was tipping around after I parked my car, hoping he wouldn’t be hard to find. When I got to the restaurant he was already there. We’d never met in person, but we had exchanged pictures. He was a tall guy with glasses, with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache. There was a bit of grey in the beard. He had a very deep booming voice. So there were no major complaints about how he looked.

The first thing I learned about him was that he smoked, which I really didn’t like at all. Smoking is a deal breaker for me. I didn’t know people still smoked; I hadn’t met a smoker in ages. It was like seeing a dinosaur. But it wasn’t really my concern since I wasn’t trying to get serious with him, so I didn’t give it too much of my energy. After we ordered our drinks and began looking over the menus, I figured I’d get to know him a bit better. So I began asking him a bit more about himself; things I didn’t know about him from our previous conversations. I asked about his job and what he did there to open up the conversation. He had what sounded like a very interesting job to me, and I did genuinely want to know more about it. But as I did, he stopped me. “That’s now how we’re going to do this,” his said in his booming voice.

“Do what?” I asked.

“We’re not going to do this question and answer thing, like some kind of job interview.”

I was a bit stunned. I paused, first trying to grasp the idea that he had interrupted me mid-sentence, and then not quite sure how to continue. He went on to say that he didn’t like those “question and answer” types of conversations because that wasn’t really the best way to get to know a person, etc. The only way to really get to know a person was to be around them, spend time with them, etc. He shook his head and said “so, none of that interrogation stuff.” Now while I did agree that spending time with a person was a way to get to know them, you had to get to know things about a person in the beginning to determine if you even wanted to spend additional time getting to know even more things about a person. And I have always felt you could tell a lot about a person by the things they did not say in their responses to questions as what they did say. And I mean, a first date is in part about exchanging information. So I asked, “well, asking questions is a part of getting to know a person, right?” He said, “no, we’re not doing this.” I paused again, not wanting to debate the point and trying to get what he meant by this. “So, you’re saying if I want to ask you a question, I can’t?” “Yup,” he said. Then he added, “trust me, it will go much better that way.”

Now I felt this was extremely rude, for him to attempt to dictate how I should interact with him on this date. I really wanted to leave then, but I didn’t because I was really hungry, and our food came to the table.

The rest of the evening was spent listening to him talk about his beliefs, his ideals, his convictions, and so on. I said very little. I did learn he was a strongly conservative Republican (another close to deal breaker in my book at that time in my life – I am more open minded and tolerant these days), but I did cut him some slack on that because he joined the Navy during the time when Ronald Reagan was President, and Reagan took very good care of military staff during his terms in office, so I could almost understand why he was a Republican.  During dinner he asked very little about me, which at least gave me the opportunity to really enjoy my food, which was wonderful. But I didn’t feel like I was participating in the date; I was just an audience.

I was really confused as I sat at the table. I felt bad too, because I had really liked this man, and I don’t like a whole lot of men, and now my opinion of him was changing right before my eyes. I kept trying to explain and excuse and understand his behavior in my head as he talked. I couldn’t believe he had become such a jerk so quickly. It was disappointing, and a part of me just couldn’t believe it and kept trying to rationalize it. So I made plans in my head to tell him later how much I had disliked the date, how I felt he was extremely self centered and dull, and how I found his politics as offensive as his smoking. There was an arrogance about him during the date that I really found unappealing.  I did decide while sitting there that I wasn’t ever going to see him again socially, though I figured we would still talk in the chat room. We just wouldn’t hang out anymore. And maybe I was being unreasonable in some way. I figured I’d let the date play itself out. It might get better as the night went on.

As the check came, he said to me, “let’s take a walk around the lake.” Now first of all it was a chilly, slightly breezy night. I had not worn a coat or jacket, so I was already a bit cold, and the date had done nothing to warm me. Plus I had on new 4 and a half inch sling back pumps that weren’t really conducive to a walk. So I said “no, thank you.”

“Oh come on let’s walk,” he repeated. “It’s a nice night. Let’s walk around the lake.” As we left the restaurant and went outside toward the parking garage, I pointed out to him that I had no coat and I was a bit cold. I also pointed out my heels, and explained they were new and not ready for that kind of activity. I was a bit surprised he hadn’t noticed how I was dressed in relation to being outside and strolling, but I just chalked that up to his arrogance again.

“Oh come on,” he said with a chuckle. Then he smiled, continuing with “you Black women never want to take walks. Tonight you’re gonna walk.” And with that, he grabbed me by the arm, pulled at it, and pulled me over to the pathway that circled the lake. “But…I don’t want to walk…” I said. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I wasn’t used to being treated this way. But he ignored me. And so, with his arm encircled in mine, he pulled me onto the path and began marching along the path, pulling me alongside him the whole time. I stumbled, shivering cold, totally angry and embarrassed as people passed by us. We walked around the lake for a bit, looking totally ridiculous. He pulled me along and I was clearly an unwilling participant. But he seemed not to care. He was looking straight ahead, stepping quickly, holding me tightly, and I did my best to keep up, angry because I had to lean on him for support to keep from falling, praying I wouldn’t fall and ruin my new dress, and hoping it would be over soon. Fortunately it was, and he offered to walk me to my car, which I let him do. Hell, it was the least he could do. As I got into my car, he said, “I reserved a room at the Marriott.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “What did you say?”

“The Marriott down the street. I thought maybe we could stop over there, spend some time, you know.”

“Ummm…no,” I said. I peeled out of the garage, hoping I had run over his toes with my car.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Peace!

How I failed my daughter…because I chose him…

My oldest child is 18 years old. She will be 19 in a few months. She has a job and attends school, majoring in multimedia arts at a local community college. She wants to transfer to Cal Arts in San Francisco once she finishes there. In addition to her art she also writes. She is a very shy, thoughtful young lady still trying to cross the bridge between childhood and womanhood. Some days her footsteps on the path are sure and steady; some days not so much. Of course I worry about her, but even more importantly, I am tremendously proud of her. She is a beautiful girl with a gentle and beautiful spirit.

I raised my daughter alone, though I was not expecting to. Her dad was in her life very sporadically up until she was about 8 or 9, then he cut out completely, making “guest appearances” every few years or so. I never did anything to alienate him from her or to hinder any relationship he wanted to try to have with her. I didn’t drag him “downtown” at every turn, trying to take money from him I knew he didn’t have. I always told my daughter that he loved her, that he wanted to be with her and wanted to be her father, but he had demons on his back stemming from drug addiction. I never said anything bad about him to her. I encouraged her to pray for him, keep a little space open in her heart for him while keeping in mind the difficulties he was facing. I worked hard at swallowing my own rage, resentments and bitterness towards him day after day, year after year so that she could be free of my emotional baggage where he was concerned, so she could be open to loving him if the time ever came for it. I never wanted her to feel compelled to take up my cross where he was concerned, so I guarded my tongue faithfully, night and day. This was one of the few times in my life when my tendency to be sarcastic was totally under control. I could not risk one slip up, and never made one in this area. On the rare occasions when I spoke to him, I tried to impress upon him how much his presence was needed in her life – not his money, but his presence. I told him that I was doing all I could to keep some faith in him burning in her, but I didn’t know how long I could do that in good conscience. I am a realistic person at my core, and as time went by I didn’t like continuing the “keep hope alive” song and dance where he was concerned when, year after year, birthday after birthday, school play after awards assembly after graduation was passing by without him.  He always told me about how one day soon he would get a job and get himself together and he would come to see his daughter with a pocketful of money so he could “take her shopping and buy her anything she wants”. I always resented that taking her shopping was always the first thing he offered when he talked about what he was going to do for her. But at any rate, my pleas fell on deaf ears, and he never showed up for her.

I did everything I possibly could to navigate her through life successfully on my own. I guess “on my own” isn’t a totally fair statement, because I had a great deal of help from family, especially my mom. I did all I could to build her self-esteem and self confidence. I loved her, told her I loved her, that I was proud of her, that she was beautiful and glorious and could do anything she set her mind too. I praised her talents, and gave discipline and guidance as needed. I put “positive male role models” in her life, and allowed her to interact with them and learn from them. I kept the less-than-fatherly types of men that I dealt with on occasion far, far away from her. I watched carefully for signs that she might be seeking out “daddy figures” in random boys or men to her own detriment, and talked openly with her about her dad’s absence in her life, his time in and out of jail, etc. once she was old enough to understand. Her dad’s family, though they would occasionally contact her to make sure she was still alive, did little to reach out to her and bring her into their family. My daughter felt that she was the “black sheep” to them, that her dad’s side of the family ostracized her, though she has made efforts to reach out to them over the years. To this day she feels like she only has “half a family” because she knows little about her aunts, uncles, and cousins that she has that are her age on her dad’s side. “It’s like they all rejected me,” she says when I ask her about her thoughts on it.

When my daughter first turned 18 she got a letter from her dad. He was in jail of course. When I gave it to her she handed it back to me, saying “I don’t want it”. She hesitantly looked into my eyes for a sign that I didn’t agree with her, and saw none. I took the letter from her and said “okay.” “You’re not going to make me read it,” she asked. “You are an adult,” I responded. “I’ve always told you that you would have to decide how you felt about your dad and how you were going to deal with him when you became an adult. And you are. So if this is how you feel right now, I’m not going to tell you not to feel that way.”

Again I saw the uncertainty in her eyes, with the sadness that was always there when she spoke about him. She nodded and walked away.

And this is why I hate myself…and hate him.

How could I have chosen this poor excuse for a “man” to be her father? I wasn’t some young, inexperienced, lovesick girl when I met her dad. I was 25 years old, and I had Jasmine when I was almost 27. How could I have not seen that he wouldn’t be a good father to her, hell, no father at all to her? I see the fear in her eyes that his absence caused and I cry inside because my choice put that fear there. I see her lack of confidence, a certain general fear of men, a certain bit of self loathing and bitterness in her, and my heart wells up with tears. Because I picked him. It was crucial for me to have made a good choice at that time, but I did not. I failed her, my baby girl, because of this loser, and some foolish desire I had to be with him a lifetime ago.

It never occurred to me to consider what kind of dad he would be back then. I mean…that was so unfathomable to me. I didn’t know men could do that; could just go away and not be around for their kids in any capacity. I didn’t know such callousness existed. I didn’t know what it looked like. My dad was always there. The dads of everyone I knew were always there. I mean, seriously, how could any man just not take care of his child? Even if he wasn’t with the mother? The few people I knew who only lived with their moms still saw their dads often. I never looked for the signs that he wasn’t going to be much of a dad, though now in perfect hindsight now I see they were all there. Though I was always prepared to raise my daughter without his day-to-day input as a single mom, I never ever thought he would just abandon her like he has. And this is who I chose, and it hurts me to my soul. Because now, in spite of my best efforts, in spite of all off the wonderful and glorious qualities my daughter possesses, there is still that lack of a strong sense of self that I know marks the place where his fatherly love was supposed to be, and isn’t.

I hate him for it. And I hate myself even worse. I was always the smart one. The talented one. The one with so much promise and drive and ambition. How could I have picked this man to have a child with…a man who, to this day, still just doesn’t get that now my daughter hates him and resents him? I take small comfort that she has come to feel that way on her own, not because of any influencing on my part, though he would like to think she hates him because of me, which angers me to no end, as if she somehow didn’t notice that he’s seen her a handful of times since she was ten even though he resides in the same city as her. For the time being, my daughter has decided to hate him, and I am not inclined to try to encourage her not to. I think that she probably needs to hate him for the moment, for a little while at least, to validate her own feelings. She has a right for feel angry and hurt and deeply wounded, and she spent more than enough time swallowing that so he could be in her world. I think for now she needs to know she has a right to her anger, to express her anger, even to him if the time ever comes, and it is my hope that in allowing those emotions free range for a time, she will eventually find a place of acceptance of the circumstances. But for me, as her mother, all I feel in the pain and bitterness of my foolish decision to have a child with him. And the blaring rage at him, at how his…his….his…utter disrespect for everything that is a part of fatherhood kept him from her, from instilling something good in her, anything. All he has sown in her are seeds of doubt, of unworthiness, and now day by day I try to help her throw away the bitter fruits from the bad harvest that has come from those seeds. She wonders aloud “why would any man love me when my own daddy didn’t care?” And I cry inside, and rip my own heart into shreds at the magnitude of my failure. How could I have ruined this beautiful creature God saw fit to bless me with? What if everything I have done to save her from his massive gross failure as a dad does nothing, and she goes on in the world unsure and uncertain, unable to accomplish much because she is tangled up in her own confusion about herself? And how will I feel if some man comes along to take advantage of her emptiness in this place?

So I sit here now, older and wiser. I can hear my daughter walking through the hallway. She is the spitting image of me, eerily and uncannily resembling a younger me. Sometimes I look at photographs of her when she was younger and mistake them for pictures of me in my childhood. She’ll knock on my bedroom door soon to say good morning and to kiss me, like she does every morning. I’ll search her eyes to see how she feels, and hope that they are clear and shining and free from anything that will hinder her from the good life she deserves. We’ll talk for a bit and then she’ll go to the kitchen to make her breakfast. She will ask if she can get me anything, and I’ll say “no honey, I’m fine.”

And I will sit here at my desk, continuing to ask God to give me strength.

Peace!

A blog about my hair…

Today’s blog is a rant/question more than anything that came from a few random conversations I’ve had with folks the past few days, and a blog I read through one of my Facebook friends’, DeWayne Alston’s page (the link to the blog I read is at the end of this entry). It’s nothing deep, meaningful, life-altering or soul-saving. In fact a lot of the time I make a point of avoiding that crap because as a writer (especially a Black one) every little bit of your creative energy is supposed to be about uplifting folks, and honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like it. (Most of the time to be totally honest…but that is in a blog that is coming soon.)

In the meantime…here is my question.

I have “natural” hair. For those of you who don’t know what I mean by that (and yes I do have some readers that wouldn’t know…), Black women often take their hair through a process called “relaxing”. The end result after this process is hair whose original natural texture has been altered to more closely resemble the hair of Caucasians. Most Black people’s hair, without this (or some similar) process, would have a texture that would be kinky, curly, wavy, or  a combination or these; the hair would have a “S” or even a “Z” pattern to it. It certainly wouldn’t be straight, which is what the “relaxing” process does. Sometimes it is called a “perm”; I refuse to call it that because the process is not permanent, it is temporary. I do not process my hair in this manner, so my hair is called “natural” hair. Nor to I have a weave in my hair.

Now I have learned over the years that all women of all races and nationalities do things to their hair cosmetically to alter its color, texture, length, style, or whatever. Unfortunately, oftentimes Black women alter their hair’s texture for reasons that go beyond the cosmetic. I don’t want to get into a long diatribe here about the self-hate that goes into some Black women’s desire to relax their hair, or wear weaves, etc. Because why women do it is not my question.

My question is – how can you possibly have a decent sex life with a relaxer or weave in your hair? Or one of those lace front wigs that is “supposed” to stay in a few weeks?

No….seriously…that’s my question. That’s it. That’s what I want to know.

Now Black men joke about how when their Black women have just returned from the salon with a freshly styled head of hair, sex is pretty much off the table for the next few days (or longer). Trips to the salon can get to be rather expensive if they are frequent. And even if you get a girlfriend or relative or someone like that to fix your hair, chances are he or she not going to always be at your beck and call to do it whenever you need it done. So in the interest of practicality, most women get as much mileage as they can out of their hair once they leave the salon. And for their men, that means either no sex (in most cases), or in some “alternative” sexual pleasuring that will not dishevel the hair too much — whatever the alternative sexual pleasuring is, the man must always mindful of the hair style must leave it intact. Most importantly, the hair must never be touched or get wet, either with water or sweat.

(SIDEBAR: Now I do know the high-end strand-by-strand weaves do allow you more freedom in these areas, but chances are if you can afford a weave that starts in the low-to-mid four figure range, you can afford to keep it up…)

So my question is ladies, does it not bother you at all to have your sex lives dictated to you by your hair style? What you do, when you do it, how you do it are all controlled by your hair – I mean, well, let me continue before I get to sounding judgmental, which is not what I want to do here. I really do want to understand. I’ll be the first to say I don’t know a lot about what goes on with relaxed hair maintenance these days, so someone school me.

Many of the things I enjoy about sex are gone the minute I put a weave or a relaxer in my hair. He can’t pull my hair. He can’t run his hands through it all the way to the scalp. He can’t wash my hair. If he touches my face, he has to make sure he doesn’t touch my hair. He can’t hold my head during oral sex. He can’t play in my hair. He can’t twirl his fingers around and through it in a random kind of way when we’re just chilling afterwards. In fact, a lot of the touching that promotes intimacy and closeness goes out the window. We can’t have sex in the shower, or the Jacuzzi, or the bath, or the swimming pool, or the ocean, or in the rain. I can’t sweat, nor can he. For me, that’s too much stuff to worry about. It kills spontaneity. It kills a lot of things for me. At that point I don’t see the need in doing it if all these “rules” are in place.

When I first cut out my relaxer, this was one of my primary reasons why I did. I remember certain people praising me for letting go of the chemicals, for not “lye-ing” anymore, for being proud of my true born hair, and yes, a tiny bit of that went into the decision. But at my core I am a practical person, and “going natural” was just as much a practical decision as anything. My hair was falling out first of all, and secondly, I could never keep my relaxed hair looking decent, because I like to screw and relaxers aren’t conducive to that. So after hours in a salon and a ton of money spent, I might look good two or three days if I kept my man away from me, and most of the time I didn’t want to do that — and just as importantly, he didn’t want me to keep him away. And while in most cases the guy would offer to significantly contribute to my hair maintenance, there then became the time issue. Even if I had the money, who has the time to spend 2-18 hours in a hair salon (depending on where you go), two or three times a week so my hair can look good for a day before my man tears it all up again? When I decided to cut my relaxer out, one of thoughts at the forefront of my mind was “now I can have sex anytime I want and not worry about whether or not I have the money to get my hair fixed!”

And that is how it’s been since 2002. I’ve had natural hair, and I have f***ed whenever I damn well pleased, wherever I’ve damn well pleased, including in blinding rainstorms, in steaming hot showers, and in blazingly hot non-air conditioned bedrooms that would make a woman with a relaxer turn away in disgust, no matter how horny she might be.

Now I’m not saying my way is the best way. It certainly isn’t the only way. It is what works for me. I’ve always been a person who didn’t like to be told what to do, especially in my personal life. So the idea that my hair was playing a significant role in my intimacy became absurd to me, and I took steps to ensure that it no longer did.

Peace!

The original blog that inspired this is called “Why Men Hate Weaves”:

http://armondwakeup.blogspot.com/2010/07/mans-perspective-why-men-hate-weaves.html#links

“Sweet Submission” — by ME

When it comes to you

sweet submission

is my religion.

And you are my deity.

And you and me

worship faithfully

at the altars of our naked selves.

We call out “oh my god”

over and over again

to renew our bond

as lovers

and friends.


When it comes to you,

sweet submission

is my religion.

I part my legs to show my faith.

My trust.

My lust.

I must.

I can’t stop.

Won’t stop.

Reaching for bliss

with a touch and a kiss,

as we spin into

forever.

Together.


When it comes to you,

sweet submission

is my religion.

I sigh.

Deeply.

I let go.

Sweetly.

You take me.

Completely.

Now all of me

lives in all of you.

Lives in all you do.

Lives to make it through

to the other side of

our personal paradise.


When it comes to you,

sweet submission

is my religion.

Now I am forgiven

for the mistakes I made

before you.

Feel me inside

the core of you.

Feel me inside

restoring you.

Feel me in your heart

adoring you.

I’ll pour in you

every bit of my

my most devoted

self.

All my soul’s wealth.


With you

Sweet submission

is my religion.


Amen.

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