Being a “good woman” doesn’t guarantee you a “good man”

I find it interesting the things I notice when I pay attention to what women say about other women and their dealings with men. The thing I find most interesting is the rather free and loose use of the word “whore” – or in this case, “ho”. It seems that any parameters, rules, definitions or regulations that ever existed for the word have disappeared. Basically now a “ho” is a woman who conducts some aspect of her sex life in a manner that some other woman does not approve of, or presents her sexuality in a way that another woman finds offensive. So, if a woman is involved with a man other women deem to be unworthy, unattractive, trifling, etc., she is a “ho”. If she is involved with several of these men she is a “ho”. If she is dressed provocatively and men notice she is a “ho”. If she dances sexily in a club she is a “ho”. “Ho’s” are horrible women in most every respect – but their most egregious violation is that they go around allegedly sabotaging happy healthy relationships with a combination of sex, sex, and more sex – that dirty nasty plentiful slutty sex that no “real woman” would engage in. “Ho’s” also supposedly make it difficult for “good men” to maintain their “goodness”, in great part because of the aforementioned dirty nasty plentiful slutty sex.  But quite honestly, if a woman doesn’t like another woman for whatever inexplicable reason that makes sense to her she is a “ho”. So, if we apply this “logic” fairly and evenly, every woman is considered to be a “ho” by somebody. There are no exceptions.

But of course if you scratch the surface of this kind of knee jerk name calling, you’ll come up with a wealth of insecurity. It is truly unfortunate, because the word “ho” is so inflammatory, it makes it difficult to get past it to see what the real issue is. The word is such a red flag, no one is able to take their eyes off it long enough to see anything else. But I am a very calm, rational type of chick, and very little upsets me. As such, I have this to offer to the discussion:

More than anything, women want there to be a map to a successful relationship. They want to know that if they “do” the “right things”, they will be rewarded with a “good man”. But it doesn’t stop there. Additionally, they want the satisfaction of knowing that women who do “wrong things” – ho’s — will be punished, left sad, alone and lonely for their behavior by karma, dharma, or whatever method the universe may employ. So it is a two pronged process – they want to be rewarded for being “good women” and they want to see “bad women” punished.

For example, in the name of being a “good woman”, women will often go to great lengths to make sure they don’t sleep with a guy they are dating for some arbitrary predetermined period of time in the hopes that this will ensure his respect. After all, this is what “good women” do, and women who get busy early on in their dealings with a man or (clutch the pearls) on a first date are “bad women” and will not get a “good man”. These “good women” may go to great lengths to not dress provocatively in an attempt to ensure they aren’t pursued by men just based on physical attractiveness alone, because only “bad women” let some man talk to them just because he thought she had a phat ass. “Good women” may often make a very big deal about the fact that they don’t “mess with” men that are spoken for in some form or fashion, while “bad women” don’t care if a man has a girl or a wife or whatever – they just go for theirs and consequences be damned. “Good women” do the things they do because they know at the end of this “good” rainbow is a pot of man-gold. “Good women” are inordinately proud of their accomplishments — not to say they shouldn’t be, but they seem to feel their accomplishments should be rewarded with a man. Some women seem to feel their education, good credit, nice cars, fine homes, cute faces, cute bodies, or whatever combination of these things they possess should lead to a good man. That makes sense after all — since they are so good, they should find good men relatively easily…right?

What women often forget is that it is hardly ever that simple.

The truth of the matter is that there really is no guarantee that any particular kind of behavior will give you a guaranteed result every single time, and this is especially true of people, of human nature, of relationships. Waiting 3 months or 6 months or 6 years even to become intimate with a man doesn’t guarantee that he’s a decent man. Treating a man well doesn’t guarantee he’ll treat you well in return. Hell, even dating a married man isn’t a guaranteed ticket to a lifetime of misery and loneliness anymore; the phenomenon of men marrying their former mistresses seems to be becoming quite common these days.

But this flies in the face of everything “good women” do. They carry their virtue around like a badge of honor, like a membership card into the “good man looking for a good woman” society. So when they see a woman, who to their mind is “bad”, or is in a situation that to them is “bad”, but she seems to be content in it, they get mad and then out comes the “ho” card. “Good women” don’t want to hear that there are women in relationships with men that are pretty good – and these are men they slept with on the first date. Some of these women even marry these men. “Good women” don’t want to hear that sometimes the man does leave his wife and marry the other women. And please don’t misunderstand – I’m not encouraging or suggesting any women behave any particular way. What I’m saying is that if you’re behaving in a certain way because you think it’s the only way to get what you want, and you haven’t gotten it by now…you may want to consider that it doesn’t work.

Honestly, I don’t know any single successful relationship that didn’t start out with bumps and rocky roads and behaviors that most “good women” would turn their noses up at. Most of the happily married people I know (not a whole lot of folks, but a few) had relationships full of the types of things “good women” don’t do – infidelity, lying, deceit, etc. I know one girl who started dating a guy who was still sharing an apartment with his baby’s momma – he told the new girl that he couldn’t afford to break the lease because he wanted to buy a house and refused to have that on his credit report. He promised the new girl he wasn’t sleeping with baby’s momma, and would move out immediately after the lease ended.  Are you “good women” shaking your heads? Guess what? He moved out when his lease ended, got his own place, continued to date the new girl, and now they have been married almost 10 years and have a daughter. His son with the baby’s momma is a part of their family. And they’re reasonably happy as couples go.

So, at the end of the day, none of us can throw stones. You never know what life has in store for you. But what I will say is that there is no thick rule book for relationships with all kinds of statutes and laws and ordinances. It is very general and simple – honesty, openness, kindness, caring and…the most important thing…discernment. Being able to discern between people who mean you well and can act accordingly and those who can’t is crucial in the dating world.  It is more important that how you act, because if you can discern a person’s character accurately, you know how you should treat them. If you do the right thing with the wrong person, you’ll get pretty much the same result as you get when you do the wrong thing. At the end of the day, its not so much what you do, but who you do it with.

Your “good behavior” in and of itself doesn’t impact who a person is unless they want it to – and usually they don’t. So please, to paraphrase a famous quote: “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

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My strange Valentine’s Days these days…

This time of year is my busy season as far as my performing goes (in case you don’t know, I do erotic performance poetry with a band). What I do is very popular around Valentine’s Day. Since 2005, every Valentine’s Day I was on stage someplace performing; in some cases I wasn’t even in Baltimore. The fact that I’m usually so busy this time of year helps distract me from the things that bother most single people during the Valentine’s Day period. I don’t really have time to think about whether I’ll get flowers or candy or asked out on a date because I’m rehearsing, or picking out performance outfits, or finalizing travel arrangements. And this year won’t be any different – I’ll have several shows this year around V-Day, including performing at a popular local radio station’s speed dating event. While I do appreciate the distraction, I do see the irony in the fact that for the past 5 years, though my own love life has been strangely stagnated, I provide entertainment for lovers or potential lovers. They look to me to add spark to their celebration of their intimate and personal feelings for each other. They expect me to help them see each other through new eyes, to generate heat and passion between them for at least that night, and I try to do that. My Valentine’s Day sets are a combination of sensual and sexual pieces. I do a relationship piece here and there.

I try to have at least some new material each year, so I don’t bring the same show back to places where I am appearing for a second or third time. That means I’m writing and memorizing at least 2-3 new pieces in preparation for my shows throughout January up until the events. Now that I’ve started doing covers (which means I perform work by artists), that does help me create new shows because now I put at least one cover in every show I do. But that means my band is constantly learning new music. A new show also means new outfits to wear onstage. At some shows I do acapella sets, and at some shows I perform with a full band, so I have to rehearse different versions of my show to accommodate different venues. If I’m traveling, I have to pack, get to the airport/bus station/train station, get to my destination, check into my hotel, try to get to the venue a little before my show so I can get a feel for it and watch the crowd come in (that’s how I make a final determination on what I do in a set – by watching the crowd). By the time February 15th rolls around, I’m exhausted.

In many respects I am thankful for my new Valentine’s Day rituals. Granted they are not at all what I thought they would be at this stage of my life – I find myself in the strange position of putting on some of my sexiest and most revealing lingerie and attire for a room full of applauding strangers instead of that one special someone. But it does help take the focus off myself; I am focused on other people, which is a good thing. Instead of wearing myself out worrying about love, I worry about performing. I don’t have time to wallow in self pity or self doubt, to wonder why I’m alone or visit my mental cemetery of dead relationships. I don’t make random phone calls to any of my exes, trying to get closure where there is none (something I’ve done in the past). I don’t have time to wonder about unrequited loves from my past, present or future. I have to work, and that’s what I do. Work. I throw all my energy into my work.

But I do wonder if I would be depressed if I weren’t so busy. If I really had to feel the sharp little needles of loneliness so many unattached people feel this time of year, how would I handle it? Though I’ve never been one to be big on holidays and expressions of affection dictated by the calendar, it is still difficult to totally ignore a world draped in red and pick, smelling of roses and chocolates with words of love dripping from its lips. No matter how much reason and logic you apply to the whole Valentine’s Day thing, you still can’t help but feel an occasional pinch of sadness – and I think that’s especially true of women, who often put so much more obvious emphasis on relationships and being with someone. Or I would feel bad that is, if I weren’t so busy. Performing is the anesthetic I pour on my heart during this Valentine’s Day season, but what would I be like without it?

Of course I have to appreciate Valentine’s Day, because it is the month when I earn the most money as a performer. I sell more CDs and downloads between January 25th and February 15th than almost any other time of the year. I can count on a bunch of performances that pay pretty well, and are a lot of fun to do. The shows I do during this period always lead to other bookings and expose me to people that help me in other ways. And I sell a lot of merchandise during my Valentine’s Day shows. Love and sex is thriving business for me the first 2 weeks of February, and I take full advantage of it. I start looking for Valentine’s Day bookings in mid-December, and by late January I’m all set. I plan out my wardrobe, load up on product to sell, make arrangements for someone to keep an eye on my kids – between rehearsals and shows I’m not home a lot this time of year. During these two weeks alone, if I’m careful, even after expenses, I earn a very decent amount of money. But if I slowed down – would the pain catch me? Would I be lonely? Would I notice that there is no “special someone” who comes to my shows to support me, to admire me, to care about me and what I do? If I stood still, didn’t write the poem, put on the makeup, lace up the corset, pull on the stockings, would I look up and notice there isn’t anyone wishing I didn’t have to work on Valentine’s Day so I could spend it with him? Over the past five years no man has said to me “can’t you take off this year” or “do you have to work so hard”? Would I really notice the couples in the audiences I entertain, would I see them and wonder why I am not part of a couple someplace? Would I envy the couples that come up to me after shows who buy a CD, get it autographed by me and quickly take a picture before running home (or wherever) to make love, while I go back to an empty hotel room, or go home alone to my kids and kiss them goodnight?

For the moment, I don’t have the answers to those questions. Between today and February 15th, I have six definite performances and two possible ones. I start rehearsals next week. I have two new pieces I need to get to two different groups of musicians I’m working with. I have a new piece I’m committing to memory, and while I’m not doing any major traveling this year, I will be in D.C. with the band for a few shows. Again I’m too busy to really notice the celebration I so actively participate in and profit from. And it’s probably better that way.

Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t always like this. I have had extremely romantic Valentine’s Days in my past. I remember gifts. I remember perfume. I remember flowers, candy, jewelry, shopping sprees, and romantic dinners in beautiful restaurants. I remember getaways to quiet sexy places, satin sheets, and massage oil. I remember bubblebaths for two, bottles of champagne. I remember lingerie worn for only one set of eyes. I remember love letters and love poems written for me, instead of by me for others. I remember hands, a man’s hands, moving across every part of me with tender and sensual dedication. I remember scented candles, rose petals on my skin and passion in my heart. If I strain really hard I think I can even remember love, which made the lust much more potently powerful. Men in my past have showered me with love in its most luxurious, decadent, generous fashion in my past.

But these are my memories, not my realities. And the ocean between the two is dark with pain, regret, and probably even fear that the tide has turned away from my shores for good, and these things will never return to me.

So perhaps my present is a blessing. From where I stand onstage, I can at least acknowledge that these things do still exist, though they aren’t in my world. I can look out onto the sea of love, though I may never dive in again and ride those waves to wherever my lover and I end up. It perhaps is enough that for now love welcomes me on its sandy beach, offers me a special place to sit, tickling and teasing my feet with splashes now and then. It may be just as well, because I probably have forgotten how to swim in that powerful current anyway.

Having said all this, I must go now. I have a poem to memorize!

Peace!

Happy New Year, and why Ted Williams (the homeless guy with the golden voice) reminds me of my daughter’s dad…

First and foremost, happy new year to everyone. And I must apologize, I was doing so well with blogging on a regular basis, then I lost the Internet on my desktop, and blogging on my Blackberry was just more than I was up for, then I got a laptop, and then I was out of the habit, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of it, starting with this blog.

This blog is going to be a tad bit random, but stay with me and you’ll get it.

Most of you I’m sure (unless you’ve been under a rock the past week and a half) have heard about Ted Williams, the homeless guy with the golden voice who was recently literally lifted out of the streets of Columbus, Ohio to fame and fortune in a matter of day. After having been homeless for over a decade, a local news reporter stumbled upon Williams, video recorded him speaking with his golden voice, and within days Williams was on national television, fielding all kinds of offers paying tens of thousands of dollars to do announcing and voiceover work, and was a media darling. But the honeymoon didn’t last long, because within days Williams’ ex-wife and nine children were discovered – all had been abandoned by Williams years before due to his drug and alcohol abuse, his involvement with other women, and his general downward spiral into self destruction, jail, and homelessness.

Next thing you knew they were all on Dr. Phil trying to get “help”. First Williams himself, who had an episode of the show to himself, and the next day he sat down with 7 of his kids and his ex wife with Dr. Phil in an attempt to begin to acknowledge and “make right”, as Dr. Phil put it several times, all of the wrongs.

I peeked at the Dr. Phil show a bit (I couldn’t bear to watch the whole thing for some reason.) But I happened to watch during a segment when Williams was speaking to his oldest daughter, a 29 year old woman named Janay. She was sitting before her father, crying, sobbing, voice shaking, holding his hands, talking about how much she had missed having a dad over the years to help her with her homework, to take her to the park, etc. He looked at her, hurt and pain etched over his weathered face, and he said to her in a broken and more emotional version of his golden voice, “…I’m going to by you a Louis Vuitton bag.”

That’s when I paused. I turned off the television and began to think about my daughter and her dad.

My daughter’s dad does have some similarities with Mr. Williams, minus the golden voice. Though my daughter’s dad and I were never married, he abandoned his daughter many years ago, and was not around for her. Like Williams, he was often homeless (he probably is now if he isn’t in jail), and spent time in jail at various intervals from a few months to a couple of years here and there for non-violent crimes similar to those Williams committed (theft, robbery, etc.), oftentimes done to support his drug and alcohol addictions. He has been in his daughter’s life only sporadically, on an occasion here and there – you could count the times on your hands and have fingers left.

I always tried to encourage my daughter’s father to spend time with her over the years. He would occasionally call when she was much younger to inquire about her, and I would ask him, even at times beg him to come see her. I would offer to come pick him up, wherever he was, and bring him to my home to see her. I offered to take them out to the mall, to the movies, anywhere they wanted to go. But he would always say he couldn’t come see her because he didn’t have any money. I told him it didn’t matter, that she didn’t need money as much as she needed to see him and spend time with him and to know that he loved her and to have those memories of time spent with dad. But he always said he would come see her and when he did he would “…take her shopping…I mean anything she wants…everything she wants…clothes, shoes, take her out to dinner. I promise. Soon as I get myself together.”

I never could convince him that his presence was enough.

I did everything I could to convince him that she needed him, not things. Of all the wonderful memories I have of my dad, none of them are centered around major purchases of any kind. I tried to express this to her dad. I never demanded money from him. Never took him “downtown”.  I knew he didn’t have it, so what was the point? He was fighting his own demons, and I felt badly for him. But I still begged him to come see her. I offered to get his hair cut, to get him cleaned up before he saw her so she wouldn’t see him looking ragged. I even offered to give him money to “pay” for their outings, never telling her that the money came from me. But it didn’t matter. Whenever we talked about him spending time with her, he always talked about that great getting’ up morning when he would take her on that shopping spree and buy her anything she wanted.

I never could convince him that he was enough.

I kind of understood why he felt the way he did. His mom had divorced his dad for not being the best of providers (among other things), and when she remarried it was a much older man who was extremely financially secure and helped her achieve financial security also. And so often you hear women talk about how important money is when it comes to men, so important that it seems that nothing else matters. And while I’m not foolish enough to think money is not important, and I understand that providing for your child is vital, and that any decent man will move heaven, earth and everything in between to provide for their child, I still have to wonder if men feel that is the ONLY value they have – their financial contributions.

I know there were many reason why my daughter’s dad didn’t want to see her, didn’t feel he could or should see her. But no matter what the reasons were, string them together for over 18 years and you have a lifetime of neglect in the eyes of a young woman who now must shoulder the burden of the “daddy complex”.  There were so many things he could have done for her that had nothing to do with money. That what I wanted for her. He had nothing in his wallets, so I wanted him to give her everything he had in his heart. But for him it was all about the wallet, it was the only contribution worth making, the only one that mattered. And with so many women so pressed to place price tags on everything from an hour of their time in a restaurant or at a concert to a night in bed with them (“girl, he could at least pay my cell phone bill if he’s gonna spend the night, right?” I had one grown ass woman say to me in complete seriousness), why should a man feel he has any worth beyond his wallet, and maybe his penis – and even that is dependent on his wallet.

So Ted Williams, in the face of his daughter’s wishing out loud for time spent with her dad offered up a Louis Vuitton bag. I understand why, I do. I’ve experienced it. But it still hurts me and reminds me of how important it is to value ourselves and others beyond dollars and cents.  To paraphrase a very famous quote…what good is it for any of us to know the price of everything, and the value of nothing?

Until next time,

Tula