The Loss of Friendship

In light of recent events, which include me losing my most recent romantic relationship, I want to talk a bit about loss in general – more specifically, the loss of friendships.

I have never been one of those people who had a lot of friends. I guess I know a lot of people, and I have met a lot of people. I have a fair number of acquaintances, but only a tiny fraction of those people become my friends, and fewer still became close friends. It’s hard to find a person who gets you, who knows who you really are and still likes you anyway. It’s hard to find a person who can tell you how awful you are, but you won’t even get mad because you know its true and because you know they only tell you so you can be the best person you can be. It’s hard to find a person you can count on, rely on, depend on, someone who you know will be there when you need them; the kind of friend you don’t even have to call when you’re in trouble because chances are they were there when you got in trouble. It is hard to find a person who is broken in a way that suits the way you are broken, like a key fitting a lock. I’m not talking about loving a person in the romantic sense – that’s something totally different. I’m talking about the kind of love that comes from being the best of friends with a person. I’m talking about the totally safe, comfortable and comforting way you and your best friend fit each other. It is quite possible to fall in love with a best friend, and I have always believed that you should end up with/marry your best friend if at all possible. To me, friendship is the foundation real sustainable love is built on.

a lack of love

As I’ve mourned and cried over the loss of my most recent romantic/love relationship, it brought to my mind the loss of one of my very best and closest friends. It happened in February 2012, and it was truly one of the greatest losses in terms of a friendship I have ever experienced.

ME AND MAURICE

Me and my former best friend Maurice @ City Paper’s Best of Baltimore Party, 2010

While he and I were involved beyond friendship, right now I am only speaking about our friendship, though we were much more than friends for a good bit of time. Whatever else he was to me, he was my best friend. In fact he was one of the best friends I ever had, even to this day. He was someone who got me, (well, most of me), who understood my insanity and didn’t judge me. He was someone I confided in, and vice versa. He knew pretty much everything there was to know about me that was important. He was someone I respected, someone I leaned on, someone I could say anything to. Someone I could go to and be myself and it was okay – it was even welcomed and celebrated. This was someone who took care of me and looked out for me – physically at times, emotionally at times, even financially at times. And I did the same for him. I experienced a calmness with him, a kind of peace that soothed my psyche, a peace that was absent from my life at the time. There was a quiet, constant sense of serenity and security with him that was a very important resting place for me while we were friends, because at that time I was struggling with a lot of things. He was a constant in my life for a few years, during difficult times when I was very sick and very low. I appreciated tremendously how we could be silent together and it was all right. He was a friend. Once we parted company, even though I managed to get over every other aspect of our relationship, it still bothers me that our friendship did not survive. It never occurred to me that we would ever stop being friends, even if we stopped being all the other things we came to be together. I could easily have imagined him not being my lover anymore, but I thought our friendship was etched in stone, was going to exist forever like the pyramids or Stonehenge or the stars or the moon or something like that. Shakespeare said, “a friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” For me, that was what we had together. It hurt me more than I can say that once the emotional dust settled from our parting company, he had no interest in even trying to rebuilt, maintain or sustain our friendship. I made a few attempts at trying to initiate some cordialness, but he rebuffed me, and eventually I accepted that ignoring me was how he had to deal with me. But it still made me a bit sad, and still does make me a bit sad, though it has been over a year since we stopped being friends. It was our friendship I missed once it was all said and done, not all the other things that were part of our relationship. His friendship was what changed me and made me better in many respects, not anything else that we had. Losing that friendship was a significant loss for me, though over time I learned to accept it.

He came to my mind now as I end my current romantic relationship because I wish I had someone like him to talk to about it. I wish I could get a male perspective on what I just went through in my last relationship – a perspective from someone who knows me well, understands me well, and could help me process what I just went through in my last relationship. He could help me find the lessons and the blessings in all of it, and help me mourn the loss. Today I wish he and I were still friends so I could talk to him about what happened. I feel like he could give me some insight that I don’t have right now, I feel like he could help me put this whole thing in perspective. I do understand because of the nature of our past relationship he probably wouldn’t be the best person to talk to about this (I certainly wouldn’t want my exes coming to me to talk about their relationships if we hadn’t come to a place where that would be possible), but if I could somehow just isolate our friendship from all the other parts of our relationship, I would talk to him about this situation and see what he had to say.  I truly get what people mean when they say things about how you shouldn’t always get into a relationship with your best friend because it ruins the friendship. Our relationship definitely killed our friendship, and I really wish I could erase everything else that happened so I could have my friend back. Because now I realize what I loved most about us was that friendship, not all that other stuff.

friend quote aristotle

As I move away from my most recent failed relationship, I think about what I’m losing as I lose him. It’s been a few days since I’ve heard his voice – he has not reached out to me at all, though I had tried calling and texting him. He has unfriended me on Facebook, which I guess makes our breakup official. Now I’ve stopped trying to reach him, though it hurts tremendously and I wish he would call – I know he won’t and I’m accepting losing him. I’ve started detailing my losses now. I’ve lost a lover of course. I’ve lost someone who made me laugh constantly. I am losing the best kisser I’ve ever experienced, and someone who reminded me how much I really did love kissing at one time in my life, before I got jaded. (As a result, my next man will be required to kiss me A LOT.) I’ve lost someone I found very attractive physically. I’m losing someone who has made me more mindful of my diet, exercise, and taking care of myself in general. I’m losing someone who really took an interest in my physical well being, in my health, and because of him I am much healthier than I’ve been in recent years. I’m losing someone who was very tender, gentle, loving and affectionate with me. I’m losing someone whose hugs made me shiver, and someone who I loved talking to about food, and politics, and life and sex. I’m losing someone I grew to love as time passed. And I’m losing someone who made me angry. I’m losing someone who was selfish and self centered and insensitive at times. I’m losing someone who was emotionally childish in many respects and extremely stubborn, which is one of the reasons why we have broken up. I’m losing someone who had a bad temper and didn’t always understand that “tough love” isn’t the best course of action in all situations. I’m losing someone who was hyper-defensive, even when it wasn’t necessary. I’m losing someone who chose being away from me over being with me, chose being distant over being close, chose disconnection over intimacy. But I’m sorry that I lost all of it, because accepting those things I loved meant accepting those things I did not love. And I was prepared to accept it all to be with him, because that’s what real friendship is. It is the constant acceptance of all that your friend is, and all that your friend is NOT, and all that your friend chooses to become, and it is the willingness to elevate your friend at all times in all ways and in all things. But the thing I’m grieving most right now, again, is the loss of someone I thought was a friend. Do I miss the lovemaking? Sure. Do I miss the dating? Of course. Do I miss the burdens he would take off my shoulders? Definitely. Do I miss how he took care of me, made my life easier? Most definitely. But all of that is gone. Again I find myself in the odd place of wondering how someone could be so important to me, and could claim I was so important to them, yet they thought nothing of leaving my life. I miss having that soul closeness with someone that I had with him; I miss the way I felt safe with him and how even the way he said my name made my name sound like it was in a holy place when it was in his mouth. I miss having that person to confide in, to share with, to bump heads with and still know it would all be okay. I miss the friendship foundation I thought we had, that I thought we’d built before we decided to become more than friends. I hate that I’ve lost that again for a second time in less than a year. I’ve lost a close friend, a dear friend, and I miss having him to lean on. In a strange way it sort of compounds the loss I was grieving last year, as if its happening all over again and I’m being forced to relive that loss again somehow. Which reminds me of a poem:

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

As for girlfriends, I’ve not had much luck with them in my life. I have a sister, but for a lot of reasons she and I are not close at all. I don’t particularly like her, primarily because she seems completely unwilling/unable to address the issues I have with her. She prefers to just gloss over them, to act as if they never happened, to act as if she has never done anything to warrant how I feel about her today, which angers me to no end. (She gets that bad habit from our mother.) As a result, the first female I might have had a close friendship with in my life didn’t model how to do that for me. Throughout my life I’ve been close to a couple of women at different times in my life, but none of them have really stuck as constants in my life through the long term. In some cases, life changes caused us to drift apart, as they got married and had children and found their lives taking a different focus. In some cases some of my girlfriends exited my life because they didn’t like the direction my life was taking. In recent years pretty much all of my girlfriends beat a hasty retreat from my life when I started writing and performing full-time. To them the life of a full-time artist didn’t make sense. The fact that I always had been miserable at my nine-to-five job didn’t seem to matter to them. The fact that I was talented enough and determined enough to make it work, the fact that I did actually manage to start having success at my creative stuff didn’t seem reason enough to support me. They never came to my shows when I invited them. They never read any of my articles when they were published in newspapers and magazines. They never bought my CD, never supported me in any way once I left the traditional workplace. And they became downright dismissive once I actually starting doing well. I wanted to go out to celebrate my first byline in Baltimore’s City Paper with these girlfriends (which was a big deal for me), but none of them had time. I wanted to celebrate one of my first major performance opportunities, (my first Punany Poets show), but none of them came to the shows, even though they said they would and I left their names at the box office). Whenever we would get together for happy hour, they would talk about what was going on with their nine-to-five gigs and when it came my turn to talk about what I had been up to work-wise, and I talked about interviewing Bilal and Dwele and my latest freelance assignment from Baltimore Magazine or about my upcoming show someplace. I could always sense the shifting in their attitudes as I spoke – not so much that they were jealous, but that I was now so very different from them, so far removed from the “real world” where they lived and worked and existed. Suddenly my world wasn’t a “real” one, and because it wasn’t real, it was less valid, not to be taken seriously. Their lives were serious, mine was frivolous. Mine was silly. Mine had no meaning or purpose. They eventually started to interrupt me when I would be talking about this or that, as if I had nothing to contribute to conversation. As time went on and I continued to have a bit more success, they would make jokes about going out with the “superstar” (me). It honestly hurt, and in time I drifted away from these girlfriends who simply could not find it within themselves to support who I was becoming. It was just too weird for them I guess.

DENISE LAUREN ME

Me and a couple girlfriends from wayyyyy back in the day preparing to go out New Year’s Eve. Denise is on my left and Lauren is on my right. (They’re not the ones I’m referring to in the previous paragraph though…)

Fortunately just as friends go from one’s life, friends come into one’s life too. I’ve been lucky to continue to have people come into my life to remind me that friendship does exist, and is important and special. Whether thery close friends that I talk to all day every day or people who stop by my life intermittently, they are all special and important to me. And they remind me of the importance of those connections that we make to others because of how they touch our hearts. Luckily for me, because of the shift in my life, I have been fortunate enough to find a few people who have hung around. The crazy thing is that I would know none of these people had I not decided to let my life shift into the creative realm. I met and got to know all of them because of my writing essentially. Had I not decided to write, and had I not welcomed everything that came to me after I started writing, they would all be strangers to me.

VALENTINE'S SHOW 2011 DC ME AND AMA

Me and my sister-friend Ama Chandra performing in D.C. She saves my life literally at least twice a week.

ME AND FEMI 1 FINAL

Me and Femi The DriFish . He’ll just show up, shift my perspective, then disappear. He’s kinda like Yoda, but not.

DJ SOULGIVER

DJ Soulgiver – The closest thing to a brother I’ll ever have. His ability to tolerate my incoherent senseless ranting has yet to be topped. Plus I can call him when I’m drunk and depressed and he’ll make me laugh and buy me iBar wings.

So as I experience loss (again), reflect back on past losses, and look at the people who are still in my life in spite of it all, I still feel really lucky, really blessed and really happy. One thing that I noticed about my most recent ex was that he really didn’t have any friends. There was no one in his life that he felt compelled to keep connected with. There was no person he had to make sure he spoke to on a regular, or check on, or go see. He seemed content with knowing in his head that he was thinking of these people, was concerned about their well being, was hoping they were okay. But he was never much motivated to put actions behind those thoughts – he didn’t pick up the phone, or send a text or an email unless they reached out first. At times I felt sorry for him, because I know that kind of lonely, self-imposed solitude is not a good, healthy way to live. We all really do need each other – we don’t necessarily need every single person we meet but we definitely need a few key people to reflect ourselves back to us, to love us and to remind us how to love, to force us to keep our best selves present in our lives. Our friends keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. They cushion life’s blows, they help us laugh so we don’t always cry, and they let us cry when crying is necessary.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. In many ways even more than our lovers.

Until next time,

–Tula

i will lick you

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HEARTLESS BASTARDS STRIKE AGAIN! (Yes, its over…)

I am finally sick of men.

I am sick of their excuses. Their explanations for being emotionally absent after digging deep into your chest to touch your heart, despite your warning that they don’t do it if they can’t handle what comes after. I am sick of their justifications for why, no matter how straightforward, honest, up-front and truthful you are (which is what men say they want), they are determined to keep key parts of their hearts away from you. This also means that I am sick of my cub, and it also means my “cougarness” has ended. He has departed from my life.

the cub

My former “cub”. (I know its not a great pic but its the only one I have…and no he’s not 12.)

I am so hurt that he, along with many of my male friends, insist on continuing to find ways to avoid real, genuine connections with women. And they refuse to honestly deal with the hurt that comes from them sometimes. I am hurt by their unwillingness to continue to love when faced with pain. I hate their unwillingness to love past the pain, through the pain with a woman who is doing the same thing, so they can both come out on the other side together as a couple and better as individuals. I am hurt by their willingness to service their egos, pride and fear by tossing my heart aside. I am hurt by their lack of love when the road is rough and the times are hard.

love is caring for each other even when you're angry

They avoid the kind of connections that require taking a risk on finding out whether or not another person really cares for you. The kind of connections get through not just the days and weeks and months with a person, but the years and years, and eventually, if you are lucky and blessed, a lifetime. The kind of connection that requires you to open your heart every day and pull out the best you have to offer to another person, even when you just don’t feel up to it, even when you’re angry at that person, or that person has hurt you, or it seems that person has turned their back on you. The kind of connection that demands you nourish it with affection, kind words, emotions openly expressed in a deeply heartfelt way. The kind of connection that allows a woman to see a man, flaws, faults and all, and still see that man as perfect for her, causing her to offer her most imperfect love to him as a reason for him to continue to be his best imperfect self instead of his worst one. More specifically, why is it that time and time again I attract men who, the minute they have the highly intimate personal relationship they claim to want from me, a relationship they pursue with great passion, find reasons to starve it to death and leave it to rot?

the person i thought u were

Why pursue intimacy when it isn’t what you truly want? Why so many excuses for the simple fact that by and large Black men do not want real intimacy with Black women? What they want is to be as connected as they wish to be when it suits them, (which is usually when their dicks are hard, their egos are bruised and their spirits are low), and then to disconnect as it suits them. And they will use anything and everything to explain why they simply cannot be attentive to your emotional needs as a woman in spite of the fact that tapping into your emotional self was how they got you in the first place.

i wish your heart would break

My “cub” got a job opportunity that was going to take him out of town until the end of the year. The offer came suddenly, literally out of nowhere. He was working at the time, but he felt the opportunity was one he could not/did not want to ignore. So he took it. I was not involved in the decision making process at all. As best as I can tell, our relationship was not a consideration, though based on the level of interaction we were having and the way the relationship was moving, I felt that I should have. He informed me on a Thursday evening that he had accepted the job, and was flying out Sunday afternoon. His desire was that we continue in a long distance relationship until he returned. I was beyond hurt, and I was livid too. I did not want to be involved in a long-distance relationship. I was hurt that he had not considered me in his decision-making process. He did not have any plans for how our relationship could operate long-distance – he had nothing to offer me from a practical standpoint on how we could make this work. All he kept saying was “its not like I’m going to be out there cheating” and “just let me go do this and I’ll be right back” and “you’ll be fine”. I explained to him that I simply could not operate well in a long distance relationship at this time in my life, nor did I want to. When I asked more questions about how he got the job, I was shocked and angry to find out he had been applying for jobs that had the possibility of taking him away from me for extended periods of time without ever asking me if that would be something I would be okay with or could handle. The crazy thing for me was that he genuinely didn’t want us to break up. He really wanted us to continue to be together, but never considered if I would be okay with it. I didn’t know he was so dissatisfied with his current life with me that he thought nothing of turning it upside down on a moment’s notice by leaving me and leaving us. But he insisted he had to do it, and it was work after all, and my first thought was “far be it from me to stop a man from getting his hustle on”. So while I cried like a lost baby at BWI when he left, I eventually dried my eyes and tried to carry on. Hours later he was 1,500 miles away, and a few short days after that he was 3,000+ miles away from me. And there was no sunshine for me once he was gone.

But shortly after the physical distance happened, the emotional distance began to set in. He began to become less diligent about calling and texting me and generally keeping in touch, though I explained to him keeping in touch with me was crucial to me getting through this. He never said he missed me unless I said it first. He never expressed any sentiments about his absence at any time. He never said anything about any difficulties he was having being away from me – at times he complained about his supervisors being unorganized and such, but that was it. When I would mention coming to visit him, he insisted he didn’t know when that would happen, and was unwilling to make even the most tentative plans for me to come see him. There was no longing in his voice, no hint of sadness or anything resembling a desire to have me with him. When occasionally we would talk for fairly long periods the calls were pretty matter-of-fact. It hurt me – it was as if because he was gone, he now did not have to tend to my emotional needs in any way, as if now he didn’t have to do anything to keep my heart in his. I was dying inside, missing him more terribly than words can say, but for him it was if since he wasn’t with me, he was no longer responsible for keeping my heart full of love and hope.

miss you asshole

Finally I told him I really could not continue this. I explained to him that for now, his phone calls and his verbal expression during those calls was all I had of his love with me. He wasn’t here to take me out, or kiss me, or hold my hand, or cook me dinner, or rub my feet, or do the things he might have done to show his caring and love for me. Now all I had were these calls, so I really needed him to express those things in these calls. But all he managed to do was to angrily spit out at me “so what…you want me to cry? That’s what you want me to do? I’m not gonna do it…you’re just asking me to do this to see if I’ll do it and I’m not.” It was more than my heart could take…so I ended it.

It truly hurts me to my soul that he, and that so many men continue to place so little value on a woman’s emotional state. To him, the fact that he was working, earning an honest living, maintaining fidelity, trying to do the right thing should have been enough for me. To him the sweet nothings I longed to hear in my ear as my tears fell to the pillow late at night were not important. It seems to be a grand tradition with men that as long as their intentions are right and true, their actions should not matter. I should have KNOWN how he felt…although truthfully if I were to judge how he felt by his actions, I would conclude he hated me because he found a reason to leave me the first chance he got – and it’s not the first time he’s done this in a relationship. I should have KNOWN he missed me terribly though he never said it and never acted that way. And when we argued as we broke up, from time to time he would say “what about my feelings?” and I would respond with “what about your feelings? How would I know how you feel? You don’t show me, and you won’t tell me, and then get mad when I haven’t taken how you feel into consideration! You aren’t letting me know how you feel, even when I’ve asked you directly how do you feel and what do you need from me?”  This man, who decided to flip my world upside down one day without taking a minute to ask me if it was okay, listened to me cry on the phone at his hardheartedness and said to me, “why don’t you just stop all that shit?” Yes he said that.

rudeness

My particular man’s excuse for not being willing to explore real intimacy with me was one of the ones that is difficult to argue with…work. He used work to put distance between us, then did not want to put in the extra effort required to make our relationship viable while he was gone. His job, and his good intentions to be with me and do right by me meant he didn’t have to do the work emotionally to sustain what we had. Work is a great way to avoid intimacy, because what woman is going to argue with a man whose motivation for doing what he’s doing seems to be earning a comfortable living? But it seems like men will use any excuse at their disposal to justify their emotional distance. Everything from “I had a bad marriage”, “My divorce was really rough”, (my ex before this one’s personal favorites), “My baby’s momma is a real bitch and gives me a hard time about our child”, to “My mother wasn’t around for me”, “My ex cheated on me”. For my working man, (now ex-man), he decided because he needed to take a job that took him away from me, he no longer had to take care of my heart the way he had before he left. It was really odd to me. It was as if because he felt his reasons for going were good, that meant it was okay to put little effort into maintaining his emotional connection to me. And when I complained, he grew upset that I complained, because I should have been okay with what he was doing because I knew he didn’t mean any harm. And of course he was able to throw in there “well I’m working, it’s not like I’m out here just having a good time” for good measure. But how would I know…there was NOTHING in his demeanor or anything he said or did to indicate he wasn’t having a ball. His Facebook page was full of posts about his adventures and his travel, and he seemed to be having a great time. Why would I think he still wanted me when he left like he did, so easily and without a care in the world, and he seemed to have no regrets after he left?

betty white

I am so exhausted with the utter lack of resiliency men exhibit once they think they have been wronged or hurt. In spite of all the fatal wounds women are forced to recover from and live with, most men, with all their alleged strength that comes from never fully investing their hearts into the women they love, are absolutely useless emotionally once they think a woman has hurt them. Whether it’s a girlfriend, mom, grandmom, sister, wife, ex-wife, baby’s momma, most men seem unwilling or incapable of putting in the painful but necessary work to heal from emotional trauma in a healthy way that would allow them to operate in successful, happy, whole relationships. One clean shot to the heart is all it takes to take a man down for good. But women never have that luxury…the luxury of letting one blow to the heart take us down. We have to care for and raise the babies, love our mommas, support our sisters and sister-friends. We cannot disconnect from those around us because we take seriously our responsibility to them. Nature does not allow us to disconnect after one blow because if we did so, we would have no desire to be with men at all and no desire to perpetuate the human species. Men, on the other hand, have absolutely no problem with being taken out with a single strike – whoever needs them, wants them be damned. And they will more than likely find another woman who will happily deal with their brokenness until she is poisoned by it.

They should be ashamed of themselves. But typically they are not. And even the few men who DARE to read this, even those who know me well will chalk up all I’ve said to be the rantings of just another bitter woman who is mad that her man got tired of her ass and decided to leave her. Chances are they will not see themselves in any of what I’ve said.

men don't read instructions

AND TO WRAP UP, I GIVE YOU THIS ANECDOTE:

After putting up some rather sad Facebook status messages post-breakup (because I truly am hurt that my man and I have parted company and I am really going through a whole lot of sadness and tears behind all that happened – yes I admit I wish we could find a way to reconcile and really make this work), today a man sent me an Inbox message. He said he had some things to share with me that he thought would help me and my currently melancholy state. In the message he opened up by saying while he was aware that we did not know each other well, he continued on, saying “… I feel compelled to reach out to you…I recently went through what you are going through…I’d like to share with you what truly helped me. If you feel compelled to do so, please call me and if you don’t, I understand.” Now where I come from, a man only reaches out to a woman when he wants something, and chances are what he wants will require at least partial nudity. Okay, let me be fair…what I will say is that typically men are looking to initiate some kind of involvement when they reach out to you this way, no matter how brief or long lasting. I really wasn’t prepared for some admirer to try his hand at me after having read about my breakup on my page, but I will admit I was curious as to what he wanted to say to me. I thought about it a good bit, and then decided to call.

He pretty much dove right in. He said he’d been right where I was now some six weeks ago with his ex. He told me he too had been crying at night because he missed this woman, and was feeling absolutely awful after breaking up with her. He’d tried to reconcile with this woman unsuccessfully. He truly was distraught, right up until he went to God and prayed on it. Now before I go any further let me say I do believe in God and the power of prayer and would not ever cast any aspersions on what others believe or what works for them. Having said that, I will also say this was really not what I wanted to hear at this time. I was actually quite speechless, dumbfounded. I quickly decided that I would just listen and not say a word as this relative stranger offered me his testimony.

He said he’d tried going to God a few times in his life and always “backslid”. But after this particular breakup, and initially praying that God return the woman to his life (which he called “the wrong prayer to pray”), he then began listening to what God was telling him about this woman, and it was revealed to him that she was not the one for him. Thanks to this revelation, in 3 days time he found himself thinking of her less and less, and now he is fine…he no longer feels bad, feels hurt, feels the pain. He feels so fine in fact he is dating a new woman and is happy with her. He credits God for this rapid recovery from his broken heartedness. He also said that if God took this man from me, he must not be the man for me. He said I was a child of God and God would never hurt his kids. He said that God wanted this man out of my life and I had to accept that, though it was hard and it hurt. He urged me to check out his Facebook page and to see some of the postings he had there, saying that there was probably something there that could help, or at least make me think. He encouraged me several times to feel free to reach out with him anytime I needed him, day or night, if I wanted to talk. He even called me “sweetheart” as he offered. I was totally speechless, and my most viciously sarcastic self listened intently, making harsh comments in my head as he spoke. The best way for me to describe my reaction to this would be to tell you what was going on in my head as he made various comments. These are not direct quotes from him, but I am very accurately paraphrasing:

Him:    You know once God started revealing to me why she wasn’t the one for me, I found her less attractive. In fact I have been working out and lost 50 pounds recently, and she’s gained weight!

Me in my head:  So God made your ex fat and ugly so you wouldn’t want her anymore and you could know she wasn’t for you.  That was nice of Him.

Him:    You are a child of God. God loves you. He would never hu his kids, but he will take things from you that aren’t good for you.

Me in my head:   How can you be so sure that he just wasn’t an asshole being an asshole?

Him:    I’m not trying to be vain, but I really have lost weight. You should take a look on my page.

Me in my head:    So God made you better looking because you left this woman. Yeah okay.

And this man genuinely believes that he is over his ex, completely and totally, thanks to the Lord’s intervention, and he is happily involved in his current relationship. They both have my sympathy. He may think he knows how God works, but I definitely know how humans work, and that’s not it. When you feel so deeply about someone that you cry when it ends, that’s not going away any time soon. Period. God doesn’t let you take emotional shortcuts to feel better just because that’s what you want. Not to mention the fact I still have to question the motives of a man attempting to befriend me that way, offering me up all this moral support, help, and kind words along with “feel free to give me a call anytime” (that’s a direct quote). But that’s perfectly innocent too, right? Just a good Godly man sharing his good Godly word with me in my sad and lonely moments. It is wrong of me to look askance at that, isn’t it? And his girlfriend should be glad that she has such a man who randomly reaches out to attractive women on Facebook who conveniently have just broken up with their boyfriends to offer his Godly, loving support, right? Isn’t that how you’d feel if it were you ladies?

denial

Now I must go find an artist to interview for my next “MIC LIFE MONDAYS” piece!

Y’all take care!

–Tula

MIC LIFE MONDAYS presents — Up Close and Personal with JONATHAN GILMORE

A few years back I used to work on a little local publication called “Mic Life Magazine”. It covered what we called at that time the “urban microphone culture scene”, spotlighting anyone doing cool, interesting, entertaining things with a microphone. I got to do a lot of interviews, talking to local artists and national acts like Dwele, Raheem DeVaughn, and Kindred The Family Soul. It was a cool magazine to work for, and I was sorry to see it go.

mic life magazine logo

“Mic Life” gave me an opportunity to interview local artists and give them some shine alongside the national performers, which I always enjoyed doing. Since I have a decent number of blog readers now, I decided to bring it back in a small way by doing an interview in my blog once a week and calling it “Mic Life Mondays”. So…here is the first “Mic Life Mondays”, with my first feature – JONATHAN GILMORE!

JONATHAN 2

I first heard Jonathan Gilmore’s voice at the now defunct Organic Soul Tuesdays when it was at Eden’s Lounge. I was there to meet up with various artist colleagues and friends to discuss some projects we were working on, and truthfully I wasn’t paying much mind to the open mic performers. As I scrolled through my phone to check my messages, suddenly an amazing soulful voice giving life to Porgy and Bess’s classic “Summertime” broke though my work-fueled haze, causing me to look up onstage to see a brown skinned, stockily-built young man, mouth open wide, eyes closed tightly. My jaw dropped, and as he completed the song and left the stage, I found myself shocked. I got up to find the young man, but he was gone. Asking around did finally give me his name, and a bit about his esteemed lineage – he was the son of Lea Gilmore, who was a creative force of nature as a singer, actress and activist. I went home and began my research, finding myself falling deeply in love with his talent as I watched You Tube clips one after another. And as fate would have it, a few days later I got a call from my good friend/singer/songwriter Ama Chandra, inviting me over to dinner. She mentioned that Jonathan was going to join us and we were going to cook up a big ole’ dinner, sit around, drink and talk. I was down, and a few hours later I was at her door, pot of shrimp gumbo in hand as my contribution. Shortly after Jonathan appeared, and he quickly commandeered Ama’s kitchen. And he clearly was familiar with moving around the stove. Pots and pans created magic at his touch, and a couple of hours later I was eating some of the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life, laughing hysterically at his hilariously vulgar mouth and admiring his thoughtful nature and his depth of talent. I booked him for a show I was producing on the spot, and I have been totally hooked on him ever since. And not only is he ferociously talented, he is equally humble, and his humility continues to be one of the things I most admire about him. In spite of all that he has accomplished, including numerous local performances at all kinds of venues, including performances at Creative Alliance with Navasha Daya, formerly of Fertile Ground, he truly values every person who has done anything, great or small to support him.

So when I decided to add “Mic Life Mondays” to my blog, I immediately thought of him. The original “Mic Life Magazine” was intended to highlight performance artists who utilized the microphone in innovative and skillful ways, and he definitely fits the bill. Mic Life also always sought to spotlight artists who typically didn’t get the shine they deserved, and again, Jonathan Gilmore fits that bill as well. So it was a no-brainer to ask him to be my first artist spotlight on “Mic Life Mondays”.

But first things first…let me let you get familiar with Mr. Gilmore’s music:

 

Now, I’ll let you get familiar with HIM!

Tula:    Let’s get this out the way first: your full name, DOB/zodiac sign, age.

JG:       Jonathan David Gilmore, June 20 1984, Gemini, 28.

Tula:    Do you have brothers/sisters/wife/ex wife/baby momma/kids/dogs/cats/fish? Who is your family?

JG:       I have one brother, two parents. (It sounds like pets, right?). I have a huuuuuuge family. I am very lucky that I got to know just about all my great grandparents. I have a lot of close fam that I’m still meeting. It’s a beautiful thing. I hope one day to have a house big enough so we can get together all the time.

JONATHAN GILMORE PROM PIC

Jonathan, Senior Prom – 2002

Tula:    Were you born in Baltimore? Tell me a bit about where/how you were raised.

JG:       I was born in Baltimore at Maryland General Hospital. I was raised in a two parent home…young parents. My mother was 18 and my father was 22 when I was born. They were a trip! They were very much parents — there was no blurry line with that. Me and my brother are six years apart and its like he was had to different parents. He had the older calmer set, but I had the young and tripped out version. It was cool though. I was raised around a lot of music, spontaneity, and a lot of love. I grew up in northeast Baltimore off Old York and 43rd Street. It was like many Baltimore areas — that mix of quiet and hood. My street was kinda of old school because everybody knew everybody and people’s parents were quick to pull you up if they caught acting up. My street looked like the movie “Crooklyn”; kids were everywhere!!! I don’t have a biological sister, but on this street God gave me one. I met Jada when I was 3 years old, and she has been my sister every since. We fought, ran the streets, she is/was a godsend for me because I was shy and she made me open up, fight back, do some crazy shit…

THE YOUNG JONATHAN GILMORE

Tula:    Tell me about your mom (for those who don’t know), and her role in how you got into music.

JG:       My momma! She is Lea Gilmore, an activist, singer, actress, mother, wife, etc. When I was little sometimes babysitters were hard to find and I would have to go to work and school (she was going to Morgan at the time) with her. I was immersed in the Baltimore art world!!! She was heavily doing musical theater and waiting tables. My mother made sure I was busy and was nuts about how I spoke, walked, carried myself. (Her son was not going to be a thug!) I was enrolled in every arts program in Baltimore! Brighter Starts knew me very well and clear through high school I was busy working on either fine arts, music, or writing. My mother introduced to me some great very eclectic music. She introduced me to A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang, Fugees, Public Enemy, Brand New Heavies, Prince, (she is an uber fan), Tracy Chapman, Terrence Trent D’Arby — she was a young mother late eighties nineties you know. She taught me that I don’t have to be just one thing. I can do many things. I know I have made many decisions she would like to either undo or would have made for me, but my journey has been a crazy one and she has never left my side…great mother!!!

LEA GILMORELea Gilmore

Tula:    When did you first know you could sing well?

JG:       I knew when I was 4 that I loved music and singing. My mother did musical theater and I had to go with her a lot of times, so I knew the songs and script before she did. I knew I could sing when I was 9 years old and I was singing along to a Whitney Houston song. Then I was at camp and they wanted me to sing “Tomorrow” by Tevin Campbell. I did and it scared the shit out of me!!! It was weird! I knew I wanted sing when I first heard Jerrita Davis at Mount Hope Baptist Church (my church home) sing! Wow! I had never heard any one in my age group sing like that! To this day she still kills (she is more of that extended fam that Black people take on). My parents did not know I could sing for a long time. I just did not tell them I wanted to do it. I regret it now because of my shyness (fear) I missed a lot of great opportunities. I thought that I was supposed to pick a career that made everyone else happy and lived up to the potential everyone saw in me. Wrong move! My grandmother two days before she passed (rather suddenly) told me to be comfortable being me. (I did not think of that moment ‘til right now.) It’s like she knew that I was struggling inside at that time. The first time people really heard me sing was at her funeral…

JONATHAN 9

Tula:    What’s your day job? How did you get into that kind of work?

JG:       I work with kids on the autism spectrum. It is a great job. I love working with kids and it also helps while I’m in school. This job found me and I’m glad it did!

Tula:    Tell me something most people don’t know about you that they would be shocked to know.

JG:       I am a walking contradiction. I’m shy, but loud. I cuss a lot…like a lot. I am who I am! I am much more content sitting around a kitchen table than being in a club.

Tula:    What other talents do you have?

JG:       Your boy can throw down in a kitchen!!! I’m a pretty good writer, great kisser (wink, wink). Hopefully the next talent you will see is my Martin Luther King

Tula:    Tell me about your first performance.

JG:       My first professional solo performance was in 2007. Before that I had done a lot of musical theater but it was a blues show, and it was something else.

Tula:    Tell me about your best performance, and your worst performance.

JG:       My best performance? I am still reaching for that moment I can say that was the shit….my worst performance was at Terra Cafe! Oh my God it was bad and it’s recorded for the world to see on You Tube! I used a friend’s brother and his college friends as a band…the drummer was good but the guitarist got lost and my back up was so off it sound like two cats fighting. All you could do was have fun after a while

Tula:    Do you have a ritual before you go onstage?

JG:       No. I’m really quiet before I go up. I’m conserving energy, talking to God you know, working out the nerves!

JONATHAN BEHIND THE MIC

Tula:    What do you love about the Baltimore performing arts scene? What do you hate about it?

JG:       The Baltimore art scene is like Baltimore itself. It’s just a small town. It’s amazing getting to know everyone and feeling a part [of it]. I knew I was official was one, when James Collins (formerly of Fertile Ground) asked me to be an Organic Soul All-Star at Afram and two, when OOH (of Brown F.I.S.H.) was like “we see you”….great moments! What I dislike is the lack of performance space and the sometime cliquish vibe you can get. I think we need to all work together put B-more on the map. Reciprocity and helping each other!!!

Tula:    Name a few of your favorite local artists and why you like them.

JG:       Ama Chandra: what a spirit! J Soul: the brotha is baaaaaad (good bad)! Marc Evans: great spirit and can siiiing! Femi The DriFish and Native Son: gets no better; Chris Featherstone: probably one of my favorites hands down. Therron Fowler, Kissi B. (woooooooooo), Brown F.I.S.H., E the Poet Emcee, you, Kane Mayfield, Ab-Rock, Sean, Jamma One, Navasha, April Sampe, Mocha! Good Lord there are so many I wish we could do a big Wattstax like concert in Baltimore — our own block party to save our streets…lets talk about how my city is trying to incarcerate and displace my people – let’s sing about that!

JONATHAN AND KANEJonathan with Kane Mayfield

JONATHAN AND NAVASHA

Jonathan with Navasha Daya

Tula:    Who and/or what inspires you?

JG:       Love and creation inspire me. Sounds cliché but we are called to love and reflect the light of the creator who has given us power to create

Tula:    What projects are you working on? Are you recording a CD/working on your own live show…?

JG:       Always working on my live shows. I want to record badly, but I want the songs and everything to be perfect! I don’t want a half ass project. I’m talking with a wonderful producer from Baltimore who everybody is using and he does great work hopefully we can work together…I know the type of artist I want to be and I’m not gonna bend. If I want to original I will, if I want to sing Gershwin I will, if I want to folk/bluegrass so shall it be.

Tula:    Who do you want to work with locally AND nationally?

JG:       I want to work with everybody in B-more!!! Nationally I would love to work with John Legend. He has a great musicality that just speaks to my ears. There are so many I just want to be a part of.

Tula:    What do you want to accomplish in the next 6 weeks, 6 months, and 3 years?

JG:       CD, school, relationship, tours, move, kids

Tula:    Ya wanna make any comments about your love life? (smile)

JG:       That I’m tired of crazy. Real tired. I am looking for a real cool woman.

Tula:    You wanna elaborate on that cool woman thing?

JG:       Over this past year I have seen dudes and myself have to deal with girls. By girls I mean that emotional manipulative, constantly need to be fed into, crazed energy. I want a woman that at least knows what she doesn’t want…a woman that rolls with bad days and is fully secure. If I say it, I mean it, and you should believe it. I am not that dude to call and check in text good morning beautiful and all that other lame shit. I want you to be able to stand on your own. I want her to already be a complete person. I want her to smell good. I want her to be quirky and a revolutionary. I want her to love kids. I want her to have her own life and friends. I have been with some wild women, and they have all been a learning lesson. I recently broke up with a young lady and we had many, many things happen to us but I learned a lot (I’m rambling!)

BUT if I was to have a perfect woman and tag her with a song def it would be Prince “She Loves Me For Me!” Listen to the words! That’s what i want! I promise when I meet her i will sing this song to her:

http://www.vbox7.com/play:246774a4

Tula:    What happens next for you?

JG:       I’m working on a documentary about trying to make the next step. I’m working with Kevin Salter on that. I’m teaching a class this summer on Black Culture at McDaniel College. I hope to really get a CD going before the year is out…and dream big!

Thanks for checking out this first edition of MIC LIFE MONDAYS!

Much love,

Tula

The Cougar Chronicles: Tales From The Front Lines (Part 2) – The Loss of Sensibility

The biggest challenge I have faced in my circumstantial cougar dating (my man says the fact that I don’t pursue younger men makes me a cougar purely by circumstance and on a technicality, so I’m going to call myself a circumstantial cougar, or a situational cougar. I think he just says that so I won’t call him my cub!) is the whole impracticality of it all. That has been a huge obstacle for me, and I’ll explain why here.

VIVICA FOX AND CUB BOYFRIEND

Cougar prowling…

I am a practical person at my core. I am naturally always thinking of what makes the most sense, what would be most effective or efficient no matter what I’m doing. I’m always planning for the realities of situations. Lots of things that have happened in my life have forced me to embrace my practical nature, from having to raise two kids on my own (including one with special needs) to having to support all of us on a freelance writer/professional artist’s salary (And trust me, I am the first to laugh out loud as I call what I earn for my art a “salary”!) I’ve always had to make choices that didn’t allow much room for hoping, wishing, and dreaming. That is not to say I don’t have hopes, wishes, and dreams, but those things always seemed indulgent to me, like luxuries I simply could not afford. How could I take time away from my very demanding, very intense real life, and all the people in it who truly needed me to be reliable and dependable to fantasize about things that couldn’t positively impact my current situation?

STELLA SHOWER SCENE 2

This is fun. May not be practical though…

So, as a practical woman, as far as my serious dating life goes, I know I should attempt to select men who could be potential husbands and positive role models for my kids. Since my children are adults they really don’t need the kind of hands-on, day-to-day care that smaller children do, he still would need to be a man who could develop and foster good, solid, positive adult relationships with them. This would be especially challenging with my son, who struggles with socializing due to his autism AND is very territorial and possessive of me. I need a man who can appreciate where I am in life as an older woman. I need him to be able to handle the level of independence I have because of how I’ve had to live my life, but still will realize his important role in my life – he knows I still need him. I need a man who will appreciate my very secret highly domesticated behavior from being a great cook (I even make soups and bake cakes entirely from scratch including the icing) to constantly organizing and placing things where they should be. I need a man who can appreciate my life’s journey. I need him to be able to discuss the things I love with me – music, literature, art, etc. All of these things would tend to point to a man in my age range, practically speaking. Additionally, I am no longer a young woman. Again, being practical, at the bare minimum half of my life has passed. I don’t have all the time in the world here. If I truly am seeking to experience marriage before I leave this Earth, I don’t have time to date frivolously. I have to take my serious dating life seriously. I don’t have time for jump offs and friends with benefits and things that tend to have the added complication of not being unclear and not intended for anything resembling permanence. When I was in my 20s, I could go out to dinner or drinks or to a party with a guy and just have a good time and enjoy his company without always thinking he was a potential candidate for something long term. I could date for fun. At this point the fun is clearly over because I’m up against the clock. (Luckily I’ve already had kids so it’s not a biological one.) I’m a fully grown ass woman, so game time is over. It’s been over for a while. At this point if I’m going to spend time with him he has to be someone I could marry in the foreseeable future.

PICTURE FROM UNFAITHFUL MOVIE

Fun. Not practical so much…

With all this in mind, dating a younger man seems to be one of the biggest wastes of time I could indulge in at this time. He can’t understand the roads I’ve travelled because he’s just starting to journey down those roads. He’s not looking to settle down, because he’s a young man after all, and if he is, it certainly wouldn’t be with me. And there is so much in our social lexicon that clearly sees the older woman/younger man dynamic as a rite of passage that helps a male fully transition into manly adulthood – and much of that transitioning is about sexual prowess. Movies like “The Graduate” “Bull Durham”, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “The Inkwell” depict this interaction. An older woman for a young man is meant to season his abilities sexually, to broaden and widen his vision and scope in that area in particular. She may also to bring him an air of sophistication – as a woman who has seen life and can offer her gracefully seasoned wisdom. She knows about wine and nice restaurants and beautiful vacations spots and such. All my male friends have fond memories of at least one older woman they were involved with, and truth be told a lot of those memories surround sexual experiences they had with him. In all fairness, they genuinely cared for these women, and a few even sought to make those relationships permanent. But generally speaking the older woman/younger man scenario is meant to develop the young man and re-awaken the older woman. It definitely isn’t meant to lead to marriage. That is what age appropriate men are for.

                                                          THE INKWELLBULL DURHAMTHE GRADUATE

Dating this younger man flies in the face of all my practicality. He’s not someone from a practical standpoint that I can marry. He’s too young and too inexperienced at life. He is yet to be fully established in his career, and not quite as financially stable as he’d like to be. My proper role in this is to offer sexual/lifestyle seasoning, and his is to give me a few kicks, some good times, and a hot young thing to look at. And, if I’m the type of woman who enjoys making other women jealous, my boy toy is supposed to make me look like some kind of amazing-in-the-bed kind of Wonder Woman who can pull and keep the interest of a younger man. I am supposed to modestly refer to our amazing sex life and be inwardly tickled at the envious fury that rages inside them.

AFRO WONDER WOMAN

But as I originally stated, I don’t do IMPRACTICAL. Maybe it’s the Virgo in me, but its hard for me to totally cut loose in many aspects of my life. But strangely enough I am also a bit impulsive, so if I do make a decision to be impractical, I go HARD and I am fully committed to the impractically. I work as hard at it as I do everything I commit to. But being this situational cougar that I am, dating this younger man has at times made me feel bad, like I was shirking my responsibility (to whom or what I’m not sure) to be reasonable and date like I got some sense.

DARING ADVENTURE

Luckily for me, I really do feel like life is intended to be adventurous to a great degree. But my adventurousness had primarily been my creative self. Now I’ve had to apply my adventurous spirit to my dating life, at a stage in my life when there is still a part of me begging me to stop being as wild as I can be. And my man has made it clear that he is prepared to take us as far as we can go, wherever that may be and however long that may last. And he really does get me – who I am and what I am and why I am – good, bad and everything in between. And that is such a difficult thing for me to come by in any man of any age. Best of all, he knows when to just get out of my way and just let me be, still staying just close enough to be to be there when I need him.

CARRIE BRADSHAW QUOTE

With that, I find that, in spite of my middle age, in spite of the fact that I am a mom, that I should be someone’s role model I guess, in spite of everything I know about where I am in my life and what makes sense as far as me marrying one day goes – in spite of all these things, all of my sensible nature and rational thought is gone, gone with the wind as I lie in the embrace of a younger man, very happy and content and glad to be there. So for now, I will continue being irrational, impractical, unreasonable, silly, ridiculous, insane – and happy.

KEEP CALM AND COUGAR ON

Until next time, this is your cougar correspondent…

–Tula

The Cougar Chronicles: Tales From The Front Lines

cougars-1

I probably should open this with a disclaimer: according to some folks I’ve talked to, I am not actually a cougar because I do not intentionally seek out the company of younger men as my exclusive preference because of their youth or because of things related to their youth. Actual cougars, from what I am told, want and very openly pursue significantly younger men, and put their time and energy into doing so. They gear their appearance, their social activities, their speech, their actions, etc., to attract youth. I never have done that. But on the other hand, more age-appropriate men have never taken an interest in me for whatever reason. I have never been one to be so hell bent on doing what seems appropriate in terms of my romantic life, so when this particular young man expressed a serious and genuine interest in me, I found I could not really find a reason not to date him. His date of birth just didn’t seem like a good reason to exclude him from my life socially or romantically, so I didn’t. That was nine months ago and we are still seeing each other, and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am now willingly a cougar, at least in the sense that I’m dating a significantly younger man.

cougars on the prowl

Let me start by saying dating someone significantly younger (I will loosely define significantly younger as more than a ten year age difference) has not meant “dating down” in terms of activities. He is not immature in that respect at all. Our dates have been comparable to, and in many cases better than dates I’ve been taken on by men my age. For some reason I guess dating younger men for many women means giving up nice restaurants, good concerts, etc. for the Dollar Menu at McDonalds.  That hasn’t been my experience at all. He has always been exceptionally on point in planning dates for us, right down to picking great venues for our outings. Additionally, he clearly did not just start doing these things or going to these places to impress me or make me happy. They were clearly already things he enjoyed doing and places he enjoyed going. In fact he has taken me to many places and events I have thoroughly enjoyed that I knew nothing about like certain restaurants and shows. So there has been no shift in that area. Our dating has been appropriate, comfortable, and very enjoyable. We are a clearly happy, into each other couple when we are out on our frequent “date nights”.

nick and mariah

There also hasn’t been an absence of stimulating conversation. I haven’t had to hide my love of all things related to contemplative thought, discussion and debate. He has willingly and happily joined in, and we have been happily nerdy together. One thing we have in common is a great love of music, and I have always been amazed at how vast his musical catalog is, ranging from classical music to traditional jazz to Afrobeat to house to classic rock to hip hop. He has particularly impressed me with his knowledge of ‘80s music, which I really wouldn’t have expected him to have a frame of reference for based on when he was born. That has been really cool. Because he is a musician (percussion) he’s really helped expand my understanding of music in terms of its creation and construction, which has also been really cool. He enjoys my writing and performing and has been amazingly supportive. He has offered me invaluable constructive criticism that is really helping me expand how I view my artistic endeavors.

I’ve also been fortunate in that he has a very mature, adult sense of style and fashion, which I appreciate and value in the men I’m dating. I’ve observed a lot of young men simply don’t have much style in terms of how they dress beyond ill-fitting jeans, graphic tee-shirts and ugly expensive sneakers. He definitely has a great sense of style with very classic tastes in his attire. I appreciate dating someone that I don’t have to dress when we’re going out – in fact he actually has more pairs of shoes than me.

One adjustment I’ve had to make has been to his energy level. Now before your mind sinks totally into the gutter, let me explain. When I speak of energy, I’m speaking about energy emotionally. He has the energy to emotionally connect to things, whether its happiness or anger or some other emotion that I simply brush off because I’m just too tired or drained in other aspects of my life to deal with it. Or I may make a decision that I just can’t expend my emotional resources on certain things because I have limited resources. He on the other hand has boundless energy emotionally. He actually will take the time to get angry about or upset at all kinds of things. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong, and feels those things very deeply and with a great deal of passion, whether its big things or small things. Now sometimes he does get upset about things that I genuinely feel it would be better to brush off. BUT on the other hand, his appropriate righteous indignation about so many things reminds me of why revolutions are led by the young. Sometimes my unwillingness to give my emotional energy to a thing is really me being jaded, me feeling like there is nothing I can do to help or that my feelings don’t matter. His willingness to expend his emotional energy more freely keeps me from becoming stagnant in my emotions. I find myself more willing to be moved by things, to be touched by things, and more willing to involve my emotions in things that on the surface may seem silly, unimportant or insurmountable. He keeps me from becoming insensitive to life. He on the other hand is learning from me to let some things roll off his back. It is definitely a balancing act for both of us, but we definitely enjoy it and like balancing each other. He reminds me that it’s okay to get mad sometimes, and I remind him that it’s okay to let things go sometimes. Adjusting my energy level has also meant being more willing to be expressive more often. I’m typically the person sitting off to the side in a group setting, listening and observing and taking everything in, not saying much but intently seeing and hearing everything without much comment. His energy leads him to almost always express what he’s thinking, even if it’s not always politically correct or doesn’t sound “proper” to others. He also expresses how he feels with a great deal of passion, and seeing him do that reminds me of when I had that passion. I have rediscovered that passion with him to put energy behind my opinions.

Another adjustment I’ve made is how I see myself. This man truly thinks I am a wonderful person…AND he even finds me physically attractive. That was very hard for me to take seriously at first, because he’s a very good looking, tall, well-built guy. My body and face have definitely seen better days. When I look in the mirror I see my older woman self, no longer as youthful and pretty and innocent as I once was. I see everything that I’ve lost over the years, things I am losing every day as life speeds by me. I see my past, all the roads I’ve travelled to get to today. All he sees is me today. When I joke with him about how he’s going to have to pay for my mommy makeover he laughs and says he will but doesn’t think I need it. He thinks I am beautiful. He doesn’t see all my burdens and baggage. He sees me as fresh and new, in spite of the fact that I clearly am not. And while I’m not prepared to delude myself into thinking I’m a young girl, he does remind me that I do still have a significant amount of living to do, and that I haven’t gone totally to pot like I feel I have sometimes. He has helped me be less hard on myself, less harshly critical of how life has beat me up and left me battered and bruised. He truly sees me as nothing more than a woman he loves, respects, admires and trusts, and it is very important for me to have someone in my life to balance me out, to balance my tendency to be very hard on myself all the time and call it being realistic.

the fairest of them all

I’ve definitely had to adjust to how we look to others. Truthfully, I am closer in age to his parents that I am to him. There have been times when I’ve been mistaken for his mother – while I look fairly young for my age so does he, so the “black don’t crack” thing takes its toll on both of us. He fully embraces public displays of affection, so he has no qualms about kissing me in public or holding my hand, and he genuinely seems oblivious to the looks we get sometimes.  I’ve had to get used to how me dating him makes me seem “immature” – I even jokingly started writing a poem called “My Mid Life Crisis” which goes:

He is my mid life crisis.

He’s my red sports car.

He’s the huge loud Harley Davidson

that I can’t ride too far

because I don’t quite know how to drive it.

So I ride him instead.

Ride him so I won’t feel dead.

My mid life crisis.

The reflection of youth I no longer see in the mirror.

The reflection of truth I no longer want to be clearer.

I want it blurry and out of focus.

And since I’m running out of time

I’ve decide I’ll live what I have left way out of line

by living out my mid life crisis.

He’s the mommy makeover I can’t afford.

The ultimate ego stroking at a time when

I’m lucky to have the strength to stroke anything.

He’s the temporary anecdote to my life

that has become way too full of experiences

for my liking…

Experiences that are starting to show on my face

and every other place.

But my DNA and gene pool is not a game,

and since even pale black don’t crack

I “look good for my age” and

“still could get it though”

I had a mid life crisis.

And it is him.

Let me now get to what you probably really want to know about – the sex.

sex matters osho

I was a bit uncomfortable the first time we were intimate, primarily because I didn’t see it coming. That meant I wasn’t as prepared as I would have like to have been. I didn’t wear my “cute” underwear that night. I hadn’t thought I’d be out all night long. When he invited me into his apartment, I was a bit surprised but I still didn’t think anything sexual was going to take place. I was wrong. He definitely has a tremendous amount of stamina (there I said it…you happy?) I am also happy to report that, unlike many younger man, he actually has…ummm…very sophisticated…techniques that one typically find in older, more experienced men. He definitely was attentive to what I wanted and needed, and had a deep generosity and unselfishness in bed that impressed me tremendously. As a younger man he does bring an enthusiasm to sex that is refreshing and makes things I’ve done many times in my past seem new and different. I’ve had to get used to the increased energy levels there, but I have done that willingly. I do appreciate that he doesn’t need quite as much sleep as some of my older previous lovers (particularly my most recent one), and he has no problem with staying up all night and going to work the next day without complaint, tired, yawning and happy. He says that when it comes to sexual things as far as he’s concerned I’m 25 years old, which I do appreciate him saying, though I’m not entirely sure it is true. (But another adjustment I’ve had to learn to make is not second guessing his opinions.) But the sex definitely has a more energetic quality to it – maybe it’s just because I’m glad to have survived the previous time. (Hey, he’s a big dude – I really have to pack a lunch when I’m handling my business with him because I’m going to be gone for a while.)

 cougar xing

Slowly I am coming to terms with my cougar-ness. Its kind of strange, but like most of the titles I’ve ended up with in my life, it has its grains of truth in it so I can’t be mad. I don’t really feel like attracting a much younger man is an accomplishment like many women my age seem to feel it is. It wasn’t something I set out to do, and its not like I got a prize for doing it. He was just the man that I was interested in at this time, and he was interested in me, so we went ahead with it. I’m not foolish enough to say age is nothing but a number, because age is definitely more than that in my opinion. And while some folks may feel 40 is the new 30 and 30 is the new 20, I ain’t buying that bull crap. 40 is 40, but 40 can be whatever the person wants it to be. Same thing for 30, and 20. We all have choices we can make that affect who we are and how we are at any age, from maintaining healthy diets to exercising to going out and being social and staying active to being open to whoever comes into our lives willing to love us and be with us. That’s what I have done, and while I don’t think it makes me younger chronologically, I do think it keeps me alive and full of life, heart and spirit. And that’s important, no matter where you are in life.

Until next time, this is your cougar correspondent,

–Tula

Creative me…

For those of you that pay attention to what I do, you may have noticed that I’ve been doing more burlesque stuff lately. In fact my last few performances have been at burlesque shows, including a performance at a Tilted Torch showcase in DC and performing in The Newcomer’s Showcase/The Sideshow Ball at The Great Burlesque Exposition in Massachusetts. Both shows were a lot of fun. The ladies and gents I’ve met have more creativity and energy than many other artists I’ve come across in my travels, and I have tremendous respect for all their creative energy. Being around them has really challenged me to step out of the box in many respects, especially my writing and my conceptualizing pieces. Many of the burlesque performers I’ve met have incredible wit and sarcasm, which I greatly appreciate, and they’ve all been very welcoming of me and what I do with my erotic poetry. In fact it is because they have been so welcoming that I’m going to continue to pursue performance opportunities in burlesque.

BACKSTAGE IN BOSTON(Me getting ready backstage @ The Great Burlesque Expo – The Newcomers Ball in Massachusetts)

Finding a place for what I do as a performance poet has always been challenging. I have never considered myself a spoken word poet for various reasons, primarily because my writing style and my performance style don’t quite fit what spoken word seems to look like. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do, for the most part, is not what a lot of spoken word audiences are interested in from female poets, and I’m cool with that. In marketing terms, my brand is different from the things most spoken word poetry shows seek to embody. Additionally, my style doesn’t offer a lot of smoke and mirrors. By that I mean I tend to be rather plain spoken in my poetry as in my other types of writing. Spoken word tends to thrive on a lot of wordplay of all kinds (at times to excess in my opinion). That’s just not my style. I believe the power of spoken word exists in simplicity and clarity, and my approach to poetry is what I call “deep thoughts in plain brown wrappers”. Plus you must factor in that I cuss and occasionally use what some would consider vulgar language in my performing, which seems to be something that spoken word tends to shy away from, especially from female poets, unless the artist is extremely well established. Additionally, I have kind of travelled on my own path in this thing, and that’s how I’ve conducted a lot of my artistic pursuits. I never really followed any of the “rules” that seem to exist about spoken word poetry regarding the venues you need to attend and the people you need to admire and the poets you needed to sound like and/or befriend. I don’t do that to slight anyone or to be arrogant, but that’s how I’ve always approached everything I’ve done – on my own terms and in my own way, however the spirit moves me. My getting up onstage initially was because I was tired of not hearing my voice there amongst any of the voices I heard, and not seeing someone like me there – someone kind of ordinary, very plain spoken, a bit wild, a bit odd, a bit crazy, someone who is down to earth but not so caught up in her own “earthiness”. When I’m onstage I’m telling stories about myself, my life, my experiences, and people, especially women, see themselves in my stories. What I do onstage is just different, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Again, that’s cool.

To book shows you have to be out and about, to be seen and to network. My schedule and my money really don’t allow me to get out to a lot of events to be seen and network. I really have to pick and choose what I can get to. First I have to find the time to go to an event, which can be really challenging sometimes. Then I have to select the events I genuinely want to see depending on the event and who is performing. I make a point to try to go to the events where my artistic friends and colleagues are performing whom I want to support…and that in and of itself is A LOT because most of my friends are artists. After all that there isn’t much time left. I can’t get to as many things as I’d like to get to. Right now I cannot say when I last went to an open mic; at this point I just don’t have the time to get out to them, and I tend to save up for events instead of actively attending a weekly venue. Occasionally I’ll have a free night and a few dollars and I’ll pop up somewhere, but that isn’t often. The downside of this is that I know being seen on the scene is part of people being aware of you as a performer, and lots of people simply aren’t aware of me as a performer because they don’t see me out much. As a result they don’t think to ask me to perform. In other cases their awareness of me is that I do this hypersexual (dirty) performance that they don’t think will suit their audiences. And I freely admit I swear and make sexual references and present mature topics in my work. I know some people are opposed to that, and again, that’s cool. They’ll eventually end up where I am, trust me. In fact I’ve seen lots of poets who gave me the side eye the first time they heard me do “Sex Shoes” end up in erotic poetry shows or doing their versions of erotica. It’s just a matter of time before they come out onstage in a corset.

white corset(The next corset I want to get. Ladies, please TREAT YOURSELF to a nice corset when you get a chance…just trust me! Hit me up if you want recommendations on where to get one!)

What all this means for me is that as a performance poet I get invited to perform at shows for audiences who don’t particularly love spoken word and have never heard of any of the spoken word poets I’ve listened to for years, but who like my approach to my chosen subject matter, sex and sexuality and relationship-focused subjects, and they find me entertaining. I actually am very flattered by that, and I love the challenge these shows present. I have to sell them on what I do AND my way of doing it. I have never had the luxury of performing for audiences full of unilateral co-signors (not to my knowledge anyway), which means I always have to be exceptionally on point when onstage. Even in seeking performance opportunities, I’ve almost always had to prove myself and my ability as a performer. I’ve gone to promoters and bookers and people offering performance opportunities COLD, presenting myself to people who have never heard of me, and I’ve always had to win over whoever I wanted to give me a shot because of the nature of what I do. When I get onstage I’ve often had to convince the audience to feel me and what I do — and I’m always successful. In fact as I’ve done this I’ve discovered how many people really don’t care for spoken word – they find it preachy and boring and a bunch of other things. I don’t object to their opinions of course, but as a person who enjoys spoken word it has been good for me to get outside that bubble and face people who don’t like it, and hear their reasons why they don’t like it.

TULA TATU PIC 2(Me performing @ Tatu at the “RAW Artists Showcase” — Clearly not your momma’s spoken word poetry.)

Marching to my own drummer is the hallmark of my writing and performing. I’ve tried a lot of different things just for the sake of trying them. I’ve never felt the need to be any particular kind of writer or performer. Yes there are the things I enjoy most, that I’m especially good at or that I’ve gained the most notoriety for, but that has never stopped me from doing other things. As a result I’ve performed everywhere from Winter Music Conference parties (performing to performance tracks while people dance)

Me @ Winter Music Conference, 2009

to poetry events (UrbanerotiKa at NYC’s Bowery Poetry Club, Punany Poets shows at the DC Arts Center and similar shows) to musical/variety shows (shows I’ve done locally at The Creative Alliance or shows I’ve been in with other artists friends  around Baltimore).PUNANY POETS DECEMBER 2007 DCThe Punany Poets — December 2007 @ The DC Arts Center

BOWERY POETRY CLUB PIC

Me at UrbanErotiKa @ The Bowery Poetry Club, NYC 

me and ama

Me and Ama Chandra @ The Baltimore Crown Awards, November 2012

While variety is good in many respects, the downside is that I haven’t really focused my energy on one thing artistically. I’ve done everything from recording to writing to performing, and had some measure of success in all those things, but I’ve never been super focused on one, which I really think is part of the reason why I’ve only been marginally successful (by my standards). The focus on a single thing just hasn’t been there, and I know that’s vital to accomplishing something in a significant way. I think I’m talented enough and smart enough and knowledgeable enough and a hard enough worker. BUT the laser focus on one thing hasn’t been there for me. I’ve always been pulled a lot of different directions because I’m good at a lot of different things. I’ve done everything from marketing to booking gigs to writing to performing. While my original plan was to write, I ended up recording instead. The first CD I recorded was originally meant to be a promotional CD meant to accompany a book of poetry I was planning to publish, but a producer read my work and said I could probably record my poetry and sell it. So we recorded 12 poems, and one of them, “Sex Shoes”, ended up getting released as a single and had some success. That lead to performing and other things, but I never got back to the writing, which is where I was originally trying to go when I got sidetracked. I know I really need to get laser focused on one particular artistic pursuit and really get into it to the exclusion of everything else. But picking one thing is going to be difficult because I enjoy a lot of different things and I’m good at a lot of different things. But scattering my energies will continue to scatter my success. So I need to focus so I can have greater success.

focus

I don’t know if burlesque is going to be that laser focus thing for me. But it is definitely something I’m interested in. I love the things modern burlesque – neo burlesque as it is called – brings together. In burlesque audiences I have found the greatest appreciation for my quirky sense of humor, the weird combination of smarts and sex that I bring to my stage work. I’m even considering taking up a stage name for my burlesque performing. Though there is a part of me that is opposed to a stage name, the more I get into performing the more I understand the purpose a stage name serves. I am starting to understand the idea that the woman I am onstage, while she is a turned up exaggerated extension of me, is still very far removed from who I am in my day to day. She deserves her own name. Plus, as I continue my dogged determination to try to express EVERY aspect of who I am, no matter how contradictory those aspects are (example: while performing in burlesque shows my next recorded release will be an inspirational house music track called “Hear My Prayer”. Let me quote Walt Whitman here by saying “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.”), it would be easier for me to identify those aspects if I give them different names. It seems like self-induced schizophrenia I know, but giving my stage persona a different name I think will help me push her further along, will help me become better at taking chances in my performance because I won’t feel like its me doing it. I understand how confusing this is to my audiences, though it makes sense to me. It even makes sense to other people when I explain that I don’t want to be limited to my sensual side, or my intellectual side, or my raunchy side, or my spiritual side in any aspect of my work, but I also get that people need to put labels on things and put things in boxes. If I write a piece called “Sex Shoes”, I can’t write a piece called “Hear My Prayer”, because those two topics are so diametrically opposed, although both of those things truly and genuinely live in me side by side, and in most people. I embrace my contradictions, and even question if they are actually contradictions. But that’s a lot for the general public to grasp. I have to trick the public into really thinking and really contemplating something – you have to draw them in by making things seem simple and purely enjoyable on the surface. Once you get them in, you hit them with deeper meaning and cause them to think. Giving myself a separate stage name for my more sensual work and using my government name for my other work is what I’m probably going to do. From a public relations/promotional perspective I know a NAME CHANGE is one of the worst things an artist can do, and extremely difficult to accomplish. It is very confusing and difficult. But since my government name is difficult to remember anyway, and I’m not particularly well known enough (yet) for people to have attached my image to my name, if I’m going to take on a stage name this is the best time to do it – while I’m still relatively unknown except in some local circles. What that stage name is going to be I’m not sure – but it will definitely be the name I’m taking into burlesque. I’d like it to in some way include my government name because I’ve used it so long I don’t want to deviate too far from it. But it does need to be simple and catchy and memorable. I’ve got something in mind…so we’ll see what happens.

All in all, my journey through my creative self goes on. I continue to push myself, to push against my insecurities, my weaknesses, my fears until they dissipate. I continue to push against anything that seeks to define me without my consent. I continue to push past the vision of what I should be that others have put in place without consulting me. I push against my biggest issues and insecurities – my abandonment issues and my body image issues and my fear of death. I continue to push against the qualities I have that keep me from being successful. I continue to push against what the world says my life should be like, what my home should be like, what my man should be like, what my love should be like. I continue to push on…not necessarily towards bigger greater success (though I would love that), but bigger greater peace of mind.

Until next time…

TULA1 2013 cropped