White Privilege — THE REMIX

In light of all the insanity that has been going on in our world lately, I’ve been trying to find some common denominator in everything. Guess what one element I found to be present in all of these recent events?

PAULA DEEN george zimmerman RACHEL dark girls header

The common denominator is that to some extent they all touch on the topic of race in American society. More specifically, they all speak to the concept of “White privilege”. This is the concept that because one is “White” — whether by ethnicity or because one seems to be what American society considers White as measured by things like demeanor, patterns of speech, attitudes, etc., one has at least a marginally better time of things.

I wrote a piece about White privilege last year when Trevon Martin was first killed. You can read the whole thing here. As I attempted to write about all these things swirling in my mind tonight, it suddenly occurred to me that I had written about many of them in that blog. So I’m pulling from it to present to you today.

***

Most White American people will say that they don’t benefit by being White. A few others might concede that even if they do in small ways, it is certainly not to the extent Black people think. When I attempt to talk to them about the topic, I am almost always immediately and totally shut down. They explain to me that they aren’t rich, that they must work as hard as any slave ever did to get and keep what they have, not that they ever personally owned slaves mind you. (Well gee…thanks?) Some will even tell me their families never owned slaves. Some tell me they grew up as poor as any Black family. Some tell me how they had very little or nothing growing up. Some tell me how they struggled and that by the sheer force of their wills, much hard work, a bit of luck, and an opportunity or two that they managed to create for themselves, they made a damn decent life for themselves, that even includes a Black friend or two. (And again, thanks?) They grew up in Black neighborhoods, or near them in some cases. They eat at Popeye’s and love collard greens. They don’t “see color” (my personal favorite.) Their open hearts, minds and experiences make them feel they have earned an all access platinum ghetto pass. This also automatically proves that being Black cannot possibly an automatic detriment in these days and times. If Black people would just get up off their collective asses, stop listening to Li’l Wayne and selling drugs, maybe they would get somewhere, individually and collectively. White privilege is not a factor at all.

BALTIMOIRE POLICE

Black people’s involvement with the destruction of our communities is always cited as one of the reasons why we aren’t in better shape as a people.

Bullshit. White privilege is so prevalent and powerful in this country, you don’t actually have to be White to benefit from it. You can make it work for you if you’re “like White” – more specifically, if you are like what White people perceive “White” to be. How do I know? Because I’ve benefitted from White Privilege in my life and I’m NOT White. But I’m light-skinned…VERY light skinned. And even as a light skinned person who has in some circumstances appeared White, I got the benefit of White privilege.

ME AT MY 34TH BIRTHDAY PARTY

I was born to a very light skinned straight haired Black man. He could “pass” for White, as they used to say in those days. But his skin color was invaluable to him. He knew it was an advantage. In fact, to make sure his skin color would be as advantageous as possible, he made a point of learning to be as well-spoken and articulate as he could possibly be. Now please understand me; I’m not saying that he should not have been as well-spoken and as articulate as he wanted to be, BUT he made sure he was because he knew that with light skin, straight hair, and a “White” demeanor, he would get farther in life. He didn’t have to be White, and couldn’t be, but if he could take on as White of an appearance as possible, he could accomplish more. And he did. He never had to work in the coal mines growing up, which was the fate of nearly all the men who grew up in his community. He got better jobs in his community, because the White men that ran it were more comfortable with him. One of them even commented (within his hearing) that my dad “really missed out” when he wasn’t born White. And every time my dad told that story to me, though it had happened decades ago when he told it, you could still hear the pain in his voice. And all throughout his life, the White men he came in contact with gave him better opportunities than the more “obviously” Black men around him. And they made no bones about it, about the fact that they chose him because he “blended in more”, and wasn’t just a “regular nigger”. In fact, at one time my dad was trying to get a home in a nicer neighborhood than the one we lived in at the time. He knew a White man who was renting a home in the area he had his eye on, and he inquired about renting the home. My dad’s income was more than adequate to afford the home, but the White man said to my dad “Walt, I don’t have a problem with you or your family at all. You all seem very nice. I wouldn’t mind. But what about your friends, or the rest of your family? What would happen when they started coming around?”

DAD IN HAWAIIMy dad in Hawaii.  (Now you know where I get it from.)

But that was “back in the day” you say, when racial prejudice was blatantly alive and well. Let’s fast forward to say, late 20th century, when me, a very light skinned girl was born to this very light skinned Black man. With a bit of care my parents kept my hair straight, and of course they brought me up to be as knowledgeable and well-spoken and articulate as they were. So by the time I was 18, I was rather racially ambiguous as far as my appearance went. I might have been any number of ethnicities, but I didn’t appear Black to the untrained eye. (What does that mean? Black people ALWAYS knew I was Black. Other races were often unsure, or thought I was “mixed”.)

ME SENIOR PORTRAIT

Me, senior portrait.

And I went to a White university, and moved into a dorm room with a young White girl who never knew I was Black until my Black boyfriend came to campus and she inquired about how my parents felt about me dating a Black guy, and how her parents would “totally freak out”. Once she discovered I was Black, our friendship ended. Up until then we had been thick as thieves, sharing clothing, makeup, secrets, everything. But because I was Black and had “lied” to her about it, I was persona non grata. And she told all of our mutual White friends and acquaintances on campus, and they ostracized me as well. I went home for Thanksgiving and never went back. I did not tell my parents why.

TULA 1990 CROPPEDMe, age 22.

When I went into the job market as an adult, I noticed that I was often the first or only person of color in the places where I worked. The other Black people employed there tended to be in positions below mine, and they always expressed surprise and shock to see me there at first. Once they got to know me a bit, they’d say something to the effect of “well I guess you fit in around here”. And once I got comfortable enough in my position to ask my co-workers and bosses about my hiring and how it came about, I was always told the same thing…that I “fit in”. In some cases I stayed with the employer long enough to be involved in the hiring process of other employees, and when discussions about Black applicants came up, there was always conversation about whether the Black applicant would “fit in”, or “be comfortable” or if they would “create diversity”. There was discussion about how the Black applicant might impact the “culture of the institution”, both positively and negatively. None of these discussions ever took place regarding the White applicants. Ever. Not even once. And this was the case even when the Black applicant had impeccable qualifications and stellar references that were at least equal to mine, and the White applicant did not. Once I even asked if this kind of discussion took place when I was hired, and was basically told “well, no. We didn’t need to do that with you. We could tell you were going to fit right in.” My point is that my light skin and “White” demeanor was easier for my co-workers and supervisors to deal with. I am clearly the “house knee-grow”, the massa’s bastard daughter, the quadroon, octoroon, mulatto. And bastard I may be, I still can be afforded some of the privileges that come with the massa’s house. And this isn’t just something light skinned Black people do. Pretty much every Black person who has ever had a “good” job has had to learn to speak extreme “White” in their workplaces. And this isn’t even because necessarily how we speak when not in the workplace is totally intelligible gibberish or would automatically be unacceptable. But realistically, we know that any mistakes in our speech, any slang or vernacular that we might employ in our communication (no matter how appropriate or socially acceptable), anything other than “the King’s English” will be looked upon more harshly than if we were not Black, so we are extra careful with our workplace grammar. Hell, I used to even wear a wig over my huge Afro to keep a part-time temporary assignment I desperately needed. I knew my natural hair would be a problem in this place, and me being broke was more important than me being nappy. The point is that Black people understand the value of White privilege, and we all do what we can, to the extent that we can, to find ways to make it work for us. It so happens that because of my skin complexion, it is easier for me than it is for darker skinned Blacks.

me jerri jada working at eoutletsMe and some of my co-workers at an old job. There were 5 black employees — four women, one man. Three of the women worked in Marketing, one other woman worked as an Account Manager.  The young man who worked in IT. There were a total of about 80 employees (including those onsite and who worked remotely from other locations.)

As far as dealing with Black men goes, there is always a group of Black men who preferred light skinned Black women for various reasons. They were more “exotic” looking, or “interesting”, or…well, all kinds of stupid stuff like that. Needless to say a number of these men always found me attractive because of these preferences, so I always got to hear the ignorance first hand, about how “redbones” (light skinned Black women) are this and other shades of women of color are that. I’ve heard everything from “redbones are freakier” to “dark sistas got bad attitudes” and every type of insanity in between.  I hear I’m more likely to be selected to be a video hoe because I’m light skinned (yay me?), that Black men will prefer me because of my complexion, and I’ve even heard that they will treat me better as well. And the grief I get from other women who have color complexion issues is almost as bad.

love redbones

Really??

And this is not just an issue in this country – almost anywhere in the world that you travel to where you have people of color in varying shades, inevitably the hierarchy of light skin being the preference, of being at the top of the hierarchy occurs. Hell, even dark skinned Italians catch hell in their group sometimes.

This is how powerful White privilege is.

White privilege is in part why Trayvon Martin died. Though many have pointed out that George Zimmerman isn’t “White” in the “purest” sense of the word, (he is at least partly of Hispanic or Latino descent,) the fact is that he was operating out of the White privilege mindset. He felt he had every right, because Trayvon Martin had the audacity to be Black and in “his” neighborhood to accost him (regardless of what the authorities instructed him to do), interrogate him, and take the law into his own hands to whatever extent he wished. Zimmerman was “White”, this young man was Black, which meant he was trouble and meant that Zimmerman had no need to act rationally, humanely, or even within the limits of the law. This is okay because people of color are less than human; if they were, they would be able to work hard enough on their own to somehow create “Black privilege” for themselves. Right?

I’m gonna go pick out my ‘fro. Peace!

TULA BLACK AND WHITE HEAD SHOT

Me, today (more or less. I really need to get more sleep.)

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S**T I DON’T LIKE — Part Two

Let’s get right into it today!

1. Old women who chastise young ones for “acting sexy”.

There is a scene in Tyler Perry’s “Family Reunion” where a group of the family’s elderly matriarch’s stumble across the “young people” dancing rather dirtily during the reunion cookout. In a rather long, over-the-top speech, one of these matriarchs chastises these women for their whorish behavior.

THAT SHIT GETS ON MY NERVES!

Why? Because I’ll BET you any amount of money (hypothetically – because I’m broke) that these old broads were at least as scandalous as these young women they criticize, if not more so.

Now that I’ve been harsh, let me bring it back and say exactly what I mean.

old woman young woman

Do you see the young girl or the old woman?

As a woman who is definitely “older” by society’s standards, I do often see younger women displaying their sexuality in ways that I know aren’t appropriate, or in their best interests. I often see younger women who are making mistakes in how they present themselves in relation to their sexuality. But – and I’m going to be brutally honest here – as we older women lose the sex appeal we had as younger women (in society’s view) and it becomes something very different from what society says is sexy, we do have a tendency to be bitter and/or jealous about it. This is especially true if “back in our day” we were considered hot commodities. As men start to look at us less and less and at our daughters more and more, we don’t always graciously make room for the newer younger women coming onto the playing field of life. Women who are accustomed to getting men’s attention do gain a sense of power from that attention, power that they feel they are losing as they lose the looks they had as a young girl. And when that is the case, when we feel we are losing our attractiveness as women and the power that comes from that, our chastising doesn’t come from the place of wanting to be helpful and offering guidance. It comes from a very judgmental place, a place of wanting to squelch in these young women what we as older women feel we no longer possess.

mother daughter feet

While I do think older women should definitely guide younger ones, we must put our own feminine egos aside as we do, and many of us don’t do that. We don’t want to give up the spotlight to the younger ones. We older women want to continue to be sexy – which is fine, and is often true – but we want to be sexy in exactly the same way younger women are – which is not fine, because we aren’t anymore. So as older women find themselves going into another place with their sexuality, they often don’t go gracefully and graciously. They go screaming at the young hoochie who doesn’t necessarily know any better, speaking from a very judgmental, superior, I-know-better-than-you-because-I’m-older-and-wiser-and-you’re-just-young-and-dumb, and the older woman’s words aren’t really meant to guide the young girl – they are her expression about being angry that time is marching on. Like this poem says: 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

–Dylan Thomas

On the flip side of this, sometimes when I go out and I see younger women, I find they eye me with a certain amount of trepidation. They aren’t necessarily friendly when they are introduced to me. This used to bother me until I finally understood. While I am clearly not their age, I am still I guess not what they think a woman my age should be. I should be at home, cooking my husband’s dinner and rocking my grandbabies or something like that. They get particularly offended if men their age notice me or pay me any attention. Now men will look at any women they find attractive regardless of her age, but some women still have an issue with a man admiring what a woman looks like. This also would happen when I was dating the man who was much younger than me. Maybe they felt some kind of way because for the most part I was holding my own in their territory. The point is that we all should make an effort to make sure we operate from a place of genuine kindness and respect, and not just let our insecurities determine our actions, or reactions, when dealing with people.

2.  Old men who check out young girls excessively (or worse yet, approach them).

In this same Tyler Perry movie, there was a scene where a bunch of old men were sitting around drinking beer and talking about the young women at the reunion. One of these young women walks by, dressed in a tight mid-drift tee shirt and very short shorts, and one of the old men asks her to reach down into a nearby barrel containing beer and get him a can. He also tells her that he wants it cold, so she should reach wayyy down into the bottom of the barrel. She does, and of course the old men ogle her spread ass cheeks as she reaches deep deep down into the bottom of the barrel to get the coldest beer she possibly can.

I HATE THAT SHIT!

I remember being a young girl, on the cusp of womanhood – breasts newly budding at a rapid pace, and my body quickly becoming curvy and womanly. Of all the confusion I experienced within myself about what was happening to me, what was worse was the shift in how the neighborhood men treated me.

me in high school swimsuit

Me, age 16. This was about the time the trouble started.

Many of the men who very pleasantly would speak to me when I was on my way to school as a child did a total 180 degree turn on me. Once I became more womanly, I found they would actually stare and leer and me very openly. When they would greet me there was a different tone in their voices. It really bothered me, made me uncomfortable. As an older woman, I really wish these men would exercise some discretion about their admiration of the beauty young women possess. Especially in cases when it is clearly unwanted, or makes the woman uncomfortable, and even more especially when the woman is clearly young, perhaps not even of consensual age.

old man young woman

There are lots of things in our society that seemed designed to encourage us to act immaturely. No one wants to be a wise adult anymore – 40 is the new 30 and 30 is the new 20 and on and on and on. Between Botox and Viagra, no one has to acknowledge the fact that they are whatever age they are. But this creates a problem because then no one wants to behave responsibly, or with the discretion that comes with age and experience. I can appreciate that young woman can be very visually tempting to the old man who remembers better brighter days from his youth, who remembers the taste and smell of firm young flesh, who remembers soft supple skin. But because many of these young women are conflicted about themselves sexually, it would really be very manly and mature of you to not impose your lustful intentions on these blossoming flowers. Be a grown man and let the flowers grow without trampling on them with your issues. If nothing else, think of your own daughters, nieces, stepdaughters, granddaughters, or any young woman you care for as your eye wanders, and please be respectful. And before you tell me about how some of these young girls are clearly interested in you and want you and clearly “know what they’re doing” when it comes to their sexuality or that they make advances to you, you are still the adult, you still know and understand things they cannot know or understand because of where you are in life and where they are in life. So please don’t use that as an excuse to not be respectful.

Courtney Stodden and husband Doug Hutchison shop at Target in West HollywoodI think I’ve made my point. But in case I haven’t…

lolitaGot it? Good!

3.  Bad perms

Though I gave up the creamy crack years and years ago, I’m not mad at those who use it. If it works for, handle your business. What I don’t like is the many Black women it doesn’t work for who continue to relax their hair, hoping at some point to get their hair to look like the chick in the television commercial or on the box of relaxer. No matter how often they end with a head of awful looking hair, they keep relaxing and relaxing, keeping hope alive.

perm 3 perm 1 perm 2

The shit I don’t like is the unhealthy hair so many Black women have.

Too many women with relaxed hair have damaged hair, either because whoever is relaxing their hair doesn’t know what they’re doing, or they’re doing it themselves and they don’t know what they’re doing. They leave the relaxer on too long and get those awful burns in their scalps (I remember them to this day and that was years ago), they have destroyed their hairlines with gel and the stress of constantly trying to “lay their edges down”, they have dry hair and scalps due to lack of proper moisture and the natural drying properties of the ingredients in the relaxer, or their hair simply doesn’t grow as well because of the damage done to the follicles. Sometimes in pursuit of long hair they hang onto their damaged split ends and don’t get them properly trimmed, which just causes the split to make its way up the hair shaft and cause more damage. Let’s be honest, a lot of these women who become hair stylists have no interest in helping you maintain a healthy head of hair and a healthy scalp. They are interested in straightening and styling your hair and that’s it. They will relax your hair at the slightest bit of new growth, even if you just got a “touch up” a couple of weeks before. They’ll leave the crème on “just a minute longer” to get you that bone straight look and leave you with a scarred scalp. And I do think a person should have some concern about how using such strong chemicals on your scalp could impact you over time, but good luck getting an answer if you ask your stylist about it. Many do not have the knowledge or aren’t interested in providing it to you so you can make an informed decision about whether to relax long term or not. Now I’m not saying everyone needs to go do the big chop and leave relaxers alone. But I do wish Black women would be more honest about whether relaxers are really doing what they want done to their hair, or if their hairdresser really knows what he/she is doing as far as creating and maintaining a healthy head of hair and a healthy scalp goes. Black people tend not to expect their hairdressers to keep their hair healthy, we just want them to keep our hair styled and looking a certain way, which is not good and gets on my nerves! I know for me one of the biggest reasons I stopping relaxing my hair was that my hair never really looked like I wanted it to for any length of time. It looked good for maybe three days if I was really, really careful. But after that my hair started looking crazy again. It didn’t make sense for me to continue to spend money and time on my hair when it didn’t look like I wanted it to look for long. And I also got tired of my hair running my life – couldn’t swim, had to be careful showering, no sweating really hard, it was crazy.  To me it wasn’t worth it, so I chopped it off and went from there. My hair still doesn’t look exactly like I want everyday, BUT my hair and scalp are healthy, and I’m not going broke in the process.

4.  Bad weaves.

I am not opposed to weaves in and of themselves. I don’t wear them personally right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try it one day. I don’t object to fake hair just because it’s fake. It’s ornamentation. I get that. Women since the beginning of time have been doing all kinds of things to decorate themselves, to make their appearance different, more appealing, more interesting. Women have worn wigs and other types of hair pieces for thousands of years.

The shit I don’t like is the “long straight weave is automatically better than my hair” mentality. Even bad weave is better than my hair.

BAD WEAVES 1

Too many women are out here putting tons of long straight hair in their heads and thinking that alone makes them more attractive. They think weaves are preferable to their own hair, instead of seeing them as a temporary alternative to their own hair to achieve a temporary look. In many cases they get the very cheap (relatively), poor quality lace fronts, tape it on, and the next thing you know their flipping their heads to and fro like they’re trying to shake ants out of their tresses. And once they get these weaves, suddenly they feel all is right with their looks. They actually can’t imagine wearing their own hair under any circumstances. They become totally weave-dependent. It becomes such a part of them that it cannot be removed under any circumstances or conditions. And since most women really can’t afford to the do the proper weave maintenance to keep their weaves fresh and to keep the damage to their own hair and scalp to a minimum, their weaves end up looking as awful as they think their own hair does. And they destroy their own hair and scalp in the process.

BAD WEAVES 2

Fake long hair does not equal beautiful hair. Tossing that 28” Mongolian Super Silky or whatever the hell it is around isn’t necessarily making you more attractive. I’m not saying a weave doesn’t accentuate some women’s looks. But the idea that universally long straight hair transforms every woman from ugly duckling to swan irritates the shit outta me. It’s just not true.

5.  Men who are “intimidated” by me.

I don’t really think men are intimated by me, or by most women for that matter. I just don’t. Even when men tell me that they are, which they do quite a bit, I think they’re lying, trying to gas my head up and make me feel…I don’t know…like I’m so amazing. Now to be clear, yes I am totally amazing, BUT I don’t think I’m so amazing that it needs to make others uncomfortable. Ideally I’d like to be the kind of amazing that inspires others to be amazing too.

awesome

I think this whole intimidation myth was originally created by women. I say this because women were the first ones I ever heard say it. And I never heard about this massive male intimidation of women until recently. Nearly every woman I know who is single and finds difficulty finding a relationship at some point says “men are intimidated by me”. Or a well-meaning girlfriend says it to her, and she immediately co-signs. She quickly does a self-inventory of her looks, her accomplishments, her possessions and such, and in her head begins to imagine the scores of men who watch her pass each day, feeling intimated and thereby unable to express an interest in this woman. This happens because this intimidating woman is so smart, funny, beautiful, successful in her career, rich, etc. etc. that men simply cower at the prospect of offering themselves up to her. The men know they don’t measure up, so they don’t even try.

THE WOMAN HAS THE MONEY

In fact women have spouted off this “intimidation explanation” thing to each other, and have come to believe it, I genuinely believe that men have just started going along with it. It is much easier to go along with the “intimidation explanation” women so freely offer rather than actually explaining why they find it so difficult to make an overture to a woman they’re interested in. And since men typically avoid explaining why they tend to do or not do things, I have concluded men just throw back to women what women already believe to be true – “I can’t/won’t approach you because I’m intimidated by you.” Since the woman already believes the “intimidation explanation” in her head anyway, and this is what all her girlfriends have told her is the problem, the man simply mirrors her expectations – in fact he fulfills them. Confrontation avoided and problem solved as far as men are concerned.

THIS SHIT I DON’T LIKE!

First of all, much as I love you ladies, all of you can’t possibly be as impressive as you think. I mean, it’s just statistically impossible. I will say that I’m aware that the male ego is highly fragile, that he doesn’t like rejection and typically goes after achievable goals when it comes to women, so in certain cases he may take some time to decide if he really wants to approach a woman, and may at some point decide not to. But as I hear the “I’m intimidating” thing over and over and over again, I can’t help but sense the hyper inflation of certain women’s egos. And we’re not talking about women who have necessarily accomplished things that one might rightly be intimidated by. We’re not talking about women with PhDs in rocket science, or women who own a lot of high end real estate, or who are doing biochemical research, or who speak 18 languages fluently (these are examples of accomplishments that I personally would find intimidating). We’re talking about women who have decided they are intimidating for things that, truth be told, are rather ordinary and to be expected. They feel they are intimidating to men because they are single with no children (which is typically what most single adult women prefer to be), or they are intimidating because they “have jobs” (not particularly challenging jobs, just jobs) or “pay their own bills” or “take care of their own kids” or “got their education”– all things that are on the normal spectrum to me. Now that’s not to say that perhaps in the circle in which these women operate, these things are “intimidating”. I don’t know.

women intimidating men

But the point I’m trying to make is that it is so easy for women to satisfy their egos and place themselves up on this amazing, accomplished pedestal and say “I am unattainable and intimidate men” instead of perhaps letting some of the air out of that bubble and saying “maybe there is something about how I’m presenting myself that isn’t really reflecting my wonderfulness and isn’t making men want to get to know me better.” The inability of some women to consider the idea that it could be them is THE SHIT I DON’T LIKE.

And of course if you suggest that they aren’t actually intimidating, you’re A HATER!!

6. People who aren’t introspective

I LOVE BEING INTROSPECTIVE

Take a look at yourself. Really look. Not just the nice things. Look at the not so nice things. Think about the criticisms people have made about your over the years – especially people you don’t like. Was there any truth in any thing they said? Was there anything you might really need to consider in what they offered you? Do you tend to hear the same things about you over and over from friends and even strangers, but you have decided somehow that it can’t possibly be so? Why? Have you looked at the situations in which you tend to act horribly and have you tried to figure out what triggers your bad behavior?

SHIT I DON’T LIKE – people who have absolutely no idea of who they are, how they act, and how their behavior impacts other people, especially those they care about. You can never be the best person you can be in all circumstances if you don’t take the time to identify where you are falling short. Doing that requires honest, and usually painful reflection and introspection – things that for some reason many people find difficult to do. Most people love to admire their personal fabulousness (myself included), but don’t really do much digging to get to the root of their less-than-fabulous parts. And while these people tend to think very highly of themselves, they often are lacking in many respects because they simply refuse to recognize patterns in their own behavior that mark the places in their character where they really need improvement and work. Finding the common denominator in all the challenges we have ever faced is crucial if we want to do better as life presents us with new challenges. We spend so much time evaluating others, we rarely put that focus on ourselves without making excuses, offering up explanations/reasons/justifications for whatever it is we don’t want to face head on about ourselves.  And that willingness to deny our weak spots makes us even weaker. And weakness when it comes to our character is never good. We should always be fighting to be as excellent as we possibly can be, even if we must fight ourselves, our ideas about who we think we are, our deeply held beliefs that we are good, kind, unselfish, or what ever “good” things we may think ourselves to be that we probably aren’t to the extent we think.

So don’t be so quick to think of yourself as positive, friendly, nice, or whatever. There are people out there who don’t like you. And while popular thinking would suggest you dismiss them as “haters”, chances are there is at least one thing in their negative critique of you that is accurate and is something you should look at.

That’s all I got today.

Next up – S**T I DO LIKE!

Peace!

Tula

Here’s something I like…HOUSE MUSIC!

Secret Slutty Behavior (SSB) Part Two: Avoiding BDDs

A few months back I wrote Part One of this “Secret Slutty Behavior Series.” In case this is the first time you’ve read one of my SSB pieces, I’ll summarize very quickly what the “SSB Series” is – it is a few blog entries I write from time to time that expose the things many women typically do that they are ashamed of, because they feel the behavior in question makes them slutty – not that it should matter, because adults should be able to accept all aspects of who they are. My first SSB entry was called “Transitional D**k”. For those of you who want to check it out, you can click here. This one is called “Avoiding BDDs”. (I’m finding a lot of acronyms are involved in this thing, so you may need to take notes.)

First of all, what are BDDs?

BDDs are “bad dick decisions”.

BDD tshirt

I sooo need this t-shirt in my life right now as a reminder.

BDDs are a normal, natural part of a single woman’s life. They are unavoidable. There are no guarantees in life, especially a single woman’s life. But even though that’s true, you still don’t want to make a BDD if it can possibly be prevented. An occasional BDD is a permissible slip, but there is a fine line between occasional BDDs and just plain old you-don’t-know-what-the-hell-you’re-doing bad judgment. Bad judgment is what you want to avoid. Avoiding excessive BDDs are crucial to a single woman’s ability to operate successfully in her single life. Too many BDDs can cause a woman to doubt her ability to choose men, and that makes a woman unconfident, which is the most unattractive thing a woman could possibly be. (They can also lead to unwanted pregnancy and STDs, which should also be avoided, but I’m not a medical professional, so I’m just going to stick to the stuff I definitely know about.)

bad date

There are times when a woman tends to be more susceptible to BDDs than other times. For me, the period immediately after breakups are definitely BDD high alert periods. I feel really unattractive after a break-up, like I am the ugliest woman out there. Because of this, I am more susceptible to flattery than I am normally, especially from men I already know but who I have not ever been involved in for whatever reason. This is one of the reasons why I don’t go out much after breakups; I honestly do not trust my judgment at all until the initial sting of the breakup wears off. When I was younger I would do this from time to time; I’d go flailing away from a breakup right into the bed of some male friend who seemed comforting and nice and sweet and a good soft place for my hurt ego to fall. And the next morning…

crap

BDDs are even WORSE when you make a BDD with an ex.

Exes can seem like a high dose Percocet when the awful pain of a love affair gone bad is consuming you.

percocet

If the sex was good and you can temporarily forget why you made them an ex in the first place, it seems like a good idea. Ex sex becomes a viable option. Of course there is always the possibility of being rejected by the ex when you reach out for your shot of “medication”. A woman can never be sure how an ex will receive you when you offer them sex. While the whole “no man is going to turn down pussy” sounds good in theory, in the real world there are situations where an ex may not be inclined to have sex with you again if offered an opportunity, even a “no strings” opportunity. Sometimes they may still be angry at you about the breakup. Sometimes they may be afraid having sex with you will lead them back to a relationship with you that they don’t want or are afraid to have. Sometimes they are legitimately happily involved with someone else and aren’t interested. Sometimes they are unhappily involved with someone else and they’re afraid that you might tell on them. But no matter why the rejection takes place, it stings when it does, because rejection is the last thing you want in these circumstances. But oftentimes rejection is the best thing that could happen to you – rejection can sometimes save you from a potential BDD. A lot of my exes still have issues with me, so I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have sex with me if their lives depended on it. When this happens, I remind myself that their unwillingness to have sex with me is saving me from a BDD. Truth be told, more often than not ex sex is a guaranteed BDD. In the heat of the moment you may forget why you “exed” them in the first place, and that will more than likely lead to additional contact. That additional contact will definitely, at some point, bring back everything that caused you to “ex” the person in the first place. And when it happens, you’ll feel stupid about having slept with them – and there you have your BDD.

Extreme horniness, especially the kind that goes on for a long period of time and seems to have no end in sight can make BDDs much more easily occurring events. Fueled by your hormones and such, a man who is a bad idea at any other time seems like a possibility. Suddenly you find yourself entertaining men that you know damn well you shouldn’t, especially if you have no other options. You find your brain having these internal arguments with your pussy about standards and such, while all your pussy wants to know is if he has a penis and condoms, and if you can possibly afford the therapy that’ll be required to erase the memory of sleeping with this highly inappropriate man. This could even include the random attractive stranger who seems acceptable in your horny haze who looks like this once the haze is gone…

MEMORY ERASER GADGET

Horniness has definitely caused me to make some BDDs. While I’ve never been one to go out and pick up a stranger in a bar, I have been known to do the ex sex thing I mentioned earlier with willing participants. It seemed so easy – I already knew them and have some idea of what I was getting. When horniness was fueling some of my past BDDs, my exes were my first targets, based on which ones I had the best sex with. Additionally, extreme horniness is one of the only times I can actually have sex “like a man” – or without forming attachments. When I get to that place where I find myself waking up with every pillow that was on my bed between my legs, I find it very easy to do “no strings” sex. In the past I have called exes while in this state, gotten relief and gone on with my life. BUT that does not mean it’s a good idea.  What may not seem like a BDD initially can turn into one down the road. While it may not have dire or immediate consequences, if nothing else those constant little maintenance fucks can desensitize you to what sex really should be. Those kinds of BDDs over and over again over time make it difficult to experience real intimacy when the time and the right person. Then you become one of those women who have no problem getting naked physically to have sex with a man but have lots of problems getting naked emotionally to get intimate with a man.

BDDs can also happen because of mind-altering substances.

Perhaps you’d had a lot to drink, too much weed, too much ecstasy or whatever mind-altering substance you prefer and the guy you’d never give the time of day seems like an amazing combination of everything you could want in a man for a 24-48 hour period. So you sleep with him, and you’re sorry later. Clearly BDDs are likely to happen if you’re selecting sex partners when you’re high, drunk, or both – SO DON’T.

i say no to drugs

Then say it LOUDER!!

Sometimes BDDs sneak up on you. For example, there you are, going along with your life, and some guy suddenly makes you an offer you feel you simply cannot refuse. I call this particular approach “the admission and the submission”, and it happens to lots of women – especially me. This seems to be the approach of choice when it comes to men trying to get my goodies, and I’m sure other women can attest to this.

“Admission and submission” works like this — a guy in question will express how he’s wanted me for a really long time, has always been unable/unwilling/afraid to make a move in my direction, but NOW, at this particular moment, the stars have aligned in such a way so that he can finally let me know he’s always found me attractive, sexy, appealing, etc. He may say he’s had dirty dreams about me, or gone through all my pics on Facebook. Sometimes they’ll tell me about the fantasies they’ve had about me, or a particular time when they saw me with someone and felt jealous. Sometimes they’ll tell me they’ve dropped subtle hints here and there in my direction that I’ve never acknowledged. (Sidebar – Subtle hints don’t work with me. State your case clearly, plainly and openly.) At any rate, all of this is done in a kind of “I can’t believe I’m telling you this but I gotta get this off my chest” kind of fashion. It is also done in a way that makes it clear that they feel somewhat foolish about embarrassing their “secret”, even now.

man whispering in woman's ear

After making this admission regarding their desire for me, assuming I don’t immediately shoot them down, they continue to make inroads along that breach, until (if they’re lucky) I submit to what they want, and they make it to my bed. I get this “admission” approach at least a couple of times a month from various men. To hear them tell it, secretly lusting after me is a widespread hobby. Of course I’m smart enough to know its just a tactic to lower my guard, but it still cracks me up whenever it happens, and truth be told, it has worked on me a time or two. And those times did ultimately turn out to be BDDs. Voila! Admission and submission, or more accurately admission equals submission. These types of guys can be extremely persistent, because when it comes to the admission/submission technique, persistence defeats resistance every time. In fact my last few involvements happened just this way – a man who was not on my radar at all “confessed” his interest in me, continued to do so for an extended period of time (months and in some cases years), and eventually then got me.

Admission/submission scenarios can quickly become BDDs any number of ways. Some guys are strictly about the chase and the capture, and once they’ve gotten into your precious honeypot they don’t always extricate themselves with much grace or good manners. I’m not saying every sexual encounter needs to lead to a long term relationships, but even casual recreational encounters should have a level of courtesy and kind-spiritedness about them. They may need to be cut off, but with firm gentleness and pleasantness. And unless you’re dealing with a crazy stalker or have been unclear/dishonest in your approach, more often than not this can be achieved. But when those chaser types overtake their conquest, their interest goes away immediately, and their ability to be courteous is right behind it. Once they’ve had sex with you they become almost rude and dismissive in a very disrespectful way, and when this happens, you’re stuck cleaning up the aftermath of a BDD.

Admission/submission can also go badly when the guy becomes unclear about his intentions. A/S situations are often just sexual curiosity, period. No more, no less. But if a man is successful with his A/S campaign, and the sex is REALLY AMAZING, he can often become confused about what his goal was. A lot of men can’t quite make the distinction between liking a woman’s pussy and liking a woman’s person. So if he really enjoys the sex, he may start to think he really likes her, and what was originally intended to be recreational starts to take on the characteristics of a more serious involvement. And if he’s not ready for that, or she’s not ready, or they genuinely are only compatible physically and nothing more, things can quickly spiral out of control, people get mad, feelings get hurt, and next thing you know a woman is unhappily marking down yet another BDD on her mental scorecard. I’ve had this experience also, where a man who admitted his interest let his enjoyment of the sex with me cause him to move down a path with me he wasn’t really ready for. And I cannot put all the blame on him because I was a definitely a willing participant. But once all the smoke cleared , there I was with my scorecard, adding a new BDD to the record.

why did i sleep with him

“Shit! Not again!”

The best way to avoid future BDDs is to carefully examine your past BDDs and figure out what happened. This is what I had to do to finally do effective damage control in my life. I had to figure out how the decision was made, what led the decision to become a bad one in my mind, why did it seem like a good decision initially, and so on. I had to figure out my “triggers”, or what things typically worked on me when men approached me. I had be prepared to be accountable for everything that happened that led up to the BDD, and to be okay with the consequences of it. Most importantly, I had to forgive myself for the BDDs. I had to accept that my judgment isn’t perfect when it comes to people. I had to accept that people change, situations change, people aren’t always honest about their motivations, and that when you like someone, you CAN’T see anything clearly. And when you LOVE someone, you are as blind as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder on a dark night in a locked coffin buried deep underground. In fact the biggest BDDs for me were always the ones that occurred with men I thought I loved, only to discover I was in love with their representative.

So unless you want to fully embrace abstinence (and I’m not trying to be funny, if that’s what works for you please do it), BDDs are going to occur. As quiet as it’s often kept, there is no such thing as “safe sex”, from a physical or psychological standpoint. Sex always has the potential to hurt you in a lot of ways. But the pain is often the gateway to pleasure. So find the pleasure you seek in ways that don’t do permanent damage. Know who you are, what you want, what you don’t want, and always be honest about it, even if what you want changes. Armed with that knowledge, a bunch of condoms and a little good fortune, chances are you’ll survive all your BDDs.

Much love,

Tula

S**t I Don’t Like (And You Probably Don’t Like Either) PART ONE

Let’s jump right into it shall we? And these are in no particular order…

NUMBER ONE: PREPACKAGED FROZEN MEATS

Those packages of chicken wings or chicken tenders or frozen beef patties you find in stores like Murry’s Foods? Yeah those. I hate those.

MURRY'S FOOD STORE

I hate that I can’t see the meat. I hate that it’s already frozen. I hate all the shit that’s in it to preserve it that makes it bad for you. And I hate how much cheaper it is than fresh meat, which encourages people to buy it. Now don’t get me wrong – I have bought stuff from Murry’s and eaten stuff from Murry’s. I’ve been to plenty of cookouts that featured every pre-packed frozen meat product Murray’s sold – and with the right collection of seasonings and with a skilled and experienced person at the grill, that stuff can taste kind of good. BUT it’s never as good as fresh meat, and it is beyond bad for you. The ton of sodium in it is especially bad for you, particularly if you have hypertension or high cholesterol. I understand the necessary evil that it is, especially when you need to make your money stretch and have several mouths to feed and you’re in a hurry, but I still hate it. I hate it so much now that I don’t buy it at all. And when I do occasionally bemoan the additional cost fresh meats adds to my grocery bill, I remind myself that it costs much, much more to be sick. And truthfully, with the plethora of Save-A-Lots and Aldi’s that are popping up, which do offer more and better (if not the best) fresh meat options, there really is no excuse. So many health issues can be addressed and even corrected by being more mindful of our diets, and consuming fresh stuff as often as possible is a great way to start. It’s not always convenient, but it is always good for you.

NUMBER TWO:  MEN WHO HAVE SLIDING SCALES FOR THE “TYPE” OF WOMAN THEY’LL RESPECT

Lately I’ve seen a meme making the rounds on the Internet that says…

give him something to respect

That shit gets on my nerves to no end.

that's some sexist bullshit

Why? Because there is a very fundamental kind of respect people should give to each other simply because they are people. There is a basic, almost instinctive recognition we all need to have of each other as beings sharing this planet, and that recognition should always translate into a core level of deference that does not require anyone to do anything but exist. Things like “don’t touch other people without their consent” and “if they’re in no condition to give consent, don’t touch them” and “don’t assume a woman is dressed sexily so you can yell obscenities at her” shouldn’t require a lot of contemplation on a man’s part – or anyone’s part for that matter. Why would a man need a “reason” to give respect? I mean, why isn’t he just doing it? Why does he need motivation, prodding or convincing that he should give respect – why does he need a woman’s appropriate behavior to make that determination, to draw that behavior out of him? Now let me be clear – I’m not saying a man has an obligation to like a woman, or love a woman, or date a woman, or bring a woman into his life in any capacity if he does not want to, or if he does not like who she is as a person. But a man’s willingness to be respectful of a woman – just respectful mind you – should not work on a sliding scale. A man should not assess a woman’s behavior, style of dress, level of education, employment, manner of carrying herself, etc. etc., and then decide if she is worthy of respect. None of that has anything to do with respect. A man’s ability to respect a woman should exist outside of what he prefers in women. A man may prefer women (his woman in particular) to be a certain way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But those preferences have nothing to do with a woman being “worthy” of respect. So if a woman is carrying herself in a way that is not pleasing to that particular man, or in a way that might indicate she is not particularly respectful of herself, that is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for a man to just fall off his square and treat that woman any old kind of way – EVEN IF SHE WOULD ALLOW IT. He still should respect her, even if for some reason at that moment in time she isn’t respecting herself. To my mind, a man sets his own standards regarding how he interacts with people, and those standards aren’t swayed by how other people behave, or how they misbehave. Respect does not require conditions, and anything that does is not respect. Period.

NO RESPECT

NUMBER THREE: MEN WHO CLAIM NOT TO BE READY TO HAVE RELATIONSHIPS, BUT STILL HAVE THEM

Those weak motherfuckers who act like they’re the only ones who ever got their hearts broken, or shed a tear, or wanted to kill some woman who hurt them until they saw an episode of “CSI” and realized they’d never get away with it get on my LAST NERVES!

You only need to watch the first 58 seconds to get my point

All day long I listen to men talk about not being ready for relationships. They have so many sad stories to tell about their ex-lovers, ex-jump offs, ex-wives, ex-mistresses, ex-girlfriends, babymommas and such – stories of pain and loss and torment and torture, you wonder if they should be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and want to offer some medication.

prozac

And because of all this pain, loss, torment and torture heaped upon their helpless asses by this cruel, hard-hearted women, they now have decided that for the rest of their lives (yes, they actually say this), they will never fall in love again, never allow themselves to be vulnerable like that again, never be open to being intimate again – yada yada ya, you know the drill I’m sure.

First of all, I WISH I WOULD GIVE THAT KIND OF POWER to some motherfucker who hurt me! There is no way in any kind of hell that exists anywhere in the universe that I would let what someone else did to me affect me to the point that I could not direct my life towards happiness with someone else if that’s what I wanted. And even if I didn’t want a relationship initially, if I came across someone with whom I saw the potential for something wonderful, I be damned if I let what’s in my rear-view mirror fuck with what I see in front of me through the windshield. I would at least be open to the possibility if my heart was ready. And yes, I understand that once a relationship fails, wounds need time to heal. The shit I don’t like is the PERMANENCE they attach to their broken hearts. And when you suggest to them that time heals all wounds, and they are giving the former relationship power over their entire future, they never quite seem to get it. They get in “woe is me” mode real heavy – deep sigh – and they mope along. And perhaps this wouldn’t bother me, except for two reasons: one, its almost always MEN who do this weak-ass ‘I can’t ever be with anyone else ‘cause I’ve been hurt bullshit’ (while women on the other hand will more than likely pull herself back together at some point – you just don’t hear women saying with any real conviction ‘I’m never going to be with anyone else ever again’); and two, these wounded men, in spite of all their hurt and pain, still take their emotionally drained asses out here and get involved with other relationships! Instead of being true to their word and staying way from humankind, going off to some island someplace or atop a tall mountain and keeping themselves secluded from those of us who don’t have these issues, more often than not they still emotionally/romantically entangle themselves with a woman. Sure, they give the disclaimer “I’m not really trying to be involved with anyone, I’m too hurt”, all while talking to you constantly, confiding in you endlessly, taking you out on dates, buying you things, having sex with you, and basically behaving like they’re involved with you. Once you apply the ‘actions speak louder than words’ rule, and you quickly surmise you’re in a relationship – right up until you either ASK for clarification or do/say something that makes him uncomfortable or causes him to have accountability in his dealings with you. Then you will quickly find “but I told you I’m not interested in a relationship” tossed in your face. And even if you detail the endless things the two of you have done that are clearly relationship things, including going out on dates every week, staying in constant contact all day every day, confiding in each other extensively, etc., he’ll still look at you like you’re nuts. ARRRGGHHH!

What these men don’t seem to understand is this — humans seek out connections to other humans. It’s what we do. Biology hardwires it into us. Even though we say we want to be alone, our actions say otherwise.

PEOPLE MAKING CONNECTIONS

No matter how much our hearts hurt, we will still encounter people who spark our curiosity, our interest, our desire, and we will go to them, one way or another, eventually, like a moth to a flame. We reach out to them, even when we don’t want to. We can’t help it. Humans really aren’t meant to be alone. We find ourselves, rightly or wrongly, wanting connections to other people to help us feel alive, to feel a sense of purpose, of belonging, of family, of comfort, of home. And no matter how much these men may claim to want to be hermits, they always eventually find someone they’re interested in, but because they are so “hurt”, their mouths say “no involvements” while their actions say “you are mine and I am yours”. I HATE THAT SHIT.

NUMBER FOUR:  WOMEN WHO ARE “TOO READY” FOR RELATIONSHIPS

I hate the idea that while men seek to avoid relationships, women are perpetually ready, willing and able to do the commitment thing. I don’t like the position of weakness it forces women to operate from – because we are supposedly perpetually ready we now must wait for some man to decide he is ready too – and I don’t like the way it enforces the myth that many/most/almost all women are ready for serious committed relationships. Most women really aren’t ready at all. Why? Primarily because their idea of “ready” often revolves around the achievement of certain goals, like achieving a certain level of education, or a certain level of status/success in their career, or acquiring certain material things, things that don’t necessarily prepare them for relationships/marriage.

WOMAN CHASING MAN

It also typically revolves around a man fitting into her preconceived idea of what her life should look like. It seems to have very little with who he is and who she is and if those two entities can share a life together. It seems to be more about what he has acquired and what she has acquired. Our mothers and grandmothers did very little/none of these things, but many still managed to have much more success in their relationships than we have, in spite of all our education, money, achievements and status.

COUPLE LOOKING AT EACH OTHER SUSPICIOUSLY

In my observation, women often seem to think their state of mind is not at all relevant to their ability to really be in relationship with a man. Women tend to focus on the outward appearances – on their “resume” as it were. When you ask what they bring to the table in terms of a relationship, they run down a list of their accomplishments, and sometimes their physical attractiveness, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything about their character on the list. They will quickly tell you what they expect from this man – everything ranging from good looks to excellent career to solid bank account, and on and on and on without stopping for a moment to consider that they should bring anything to the table other than their appetite for how a serious relationship, especially marriage makes them look. To these women, a husband is like a fabulous expensive accessory they wear with an already fabulous outfit – not necessary, but it makes them feel good to have it on. A husband is a status symbol, and they view him from a very selfish place of what it will do for them without ever considering what they should do for him. These women seem to not take into consideration the need for extensive reciprocity in relationships; there has to be constant concern for the other party in the relationship. But many women view relationships in such selfish terms, thinking only of what they want, what they’ll get, what they’ll have, they don’t consider what the other party wants, what they must give, and what the other party wants to have – and if they’re even capable of giving it.

Additionally, there are lots of women out there who simply will not tolerate being alone, no matter how necessary it may be after a failed relationship or marriage.

afraid to be alone

They immediately immerse themselves in the next situation without taking any time to breathe, assess, evaluate, or simply enjoying the kind of quiet that enters your life when a relationship leaves. They find no joy in that quietness at all; it offers them no peace or solace. They simply want to drag their war-wounded selves onward, never considering for a minute that perhaps they aren’t ready yet – it simply isn’t possible to be ready, because women are always ready when that good man shows up. The possibility that a good man could show up at a time when they simply aren’t able to be a good partner does not exist. As a result, they inflict their unaddressed issues upon the next men they meet, often turning them bitter and hurt. (And we know the chances of a man recovering from severe heartbreak are slim to none, so he’s pretty much out of the love game – for details see number three above.) To make matters worse, men tend to believe the myth that women are always ready for relationships. Very few of them can even conceive of the idea that a woman simply may not be prepared for partnering with him, or may not make a good partner. Most men figure in relationships that they’re going to be the ones who mess up, so they think as long as they are fully committed to not messing up, everything will be fine. They are never prepared when the woman messes up, and usually don’t check to see what her messing up potential might be. Or even if they see her messing up potential, they quickly don their “Captain Save A Hoe” costumes and swoop her up, up and away!

we dont save them

The point it some women are as ill-equipped as men to be seriously involved with someone. THE FACT THAT SO MANY MEN JUST THINK WE’RE SITTING AROUND WAITING FOR THEM TO MAKE UP THEIR MINDS GETS ON MY DAMN NERVES!

NUMBER FIVE: WOMEN WHO SAY ALL MEN CHEAT

I HATE THIS SHIT! STOP IT NOW! YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING ALL MEN CHEAT.

Let me calm down and be more clear.

Now I know there are some folks that don’t believe in that “Law of Attraction” thing and that we draw to ourselves what we are and what we put out there, so I won’t go there. But I will say this. If you believe all men cheat, even if you met one who did not cheat, you would not recognize him, because you don’t think he can exist. It would be like seeing Santa Claus or The Easter Bunny. The part of your brain that would normally recognize fidelity is shut down, so when it comes around, your brain won’t notice. The actions of a man being honest will go right over your head; you won’t even detect it. You’ll assume everything he says is a lie, you’ll assume everything he does is deceitful. And if he’s smart in addition to being honest, he’ll stay as far away from you as possible. It’s kind of like if you were eating the most delicious thing in the world, but you had no taste buds on your tongue. You’d never know how good it was because you didn’t have what you needed to know how good it was – taste buds. You can’t taste how good that man is because you have disabled your taste buds with your lack of trust.

wanted good woman

If you don’t have the ability to recognize good qualities in men, even if those good qualities are there, you will be blind to them. So it really won’t matter. So women who say “all men cheat” may be right when it comes to their own personal and limited experiences with men. Maybe all the men they’ve known cheated. So if they met a man who didn’t, they’d likely accuse him anyway, based on what their experiences have taught them. Women who say this seem to have a hard time considering that they simply can’t possibly know what every man’s behavior is when in a relationship. Even if many men are cheaters, many isn’t all. And we won’t even get into the fact that women cheat as much as men do – that’s a whole other blog entry for another day.

NUMBER SIX: MY DAUGHTER’S FATHER

This is my daughter’s father.

TORRE CLOUD

I hate this man. My relationship with the man was my ONE thugged-out moment in my romantic history. He is the only person in the world I hate. I hate him with a passion. I would not spit on him if he were on fire. I hate him with everything I have in me. I hate him because he did nothing to raise his daughter. Nothing. He wasn’t around – he was out “doing him”…getting high, trying to sell a little something something here and there, getting locked up periodically for all kinds of bullshit – in fact I would respect him more if he got locked up for some serious shit, like robbing a bank or something – he basically has done life in jail in 9 month installments). I hate how he neglected her. This man is the ONLY man I’ve ever begged for ANYTHING – I begged him to be in his daughter’s life. He would not. Now she has all kinds of daddy issues and difficulties dealing with the opposite sex and this motherfucker had the nerve to say to me, “well yeah I know I wasn’t around but didn’t you have any positive male role models in her life?”

REALLY DUDE???? REALLY????!!!

Let me stop here before I get even more upset. On the other hand, me and my son’s father are pretty cool…he was kinda messed up in the early years of his son’s life, but he managed to get it together.

james pierce

TO BE CONTINUED…

PEACE!

Forgiveness

for·give: [fer-giv]  verb (used with object)

1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.

2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).

3. to grant pardon to (a person).

4. to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.

5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.

 

verb (used without object)

6. to pardon an offense or an offender.

Origins: The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.” (That “perdonare” is also the source of our English “pardon.”) When the Latin “perdonare” was adopted into the Germanic ancestor of English, it was translated piece-by-piece, making the result what linguists call a “calque” (from the French “calquer,” to trace or copy) a literal transliteration. “Per” was replaced by “for,” a prefix that in this case means “thoroughly,” and “donare” with “giefan” (“to give”). The result, “forgiefan,” appeared in Old English meaning “to give up, allow” as well as “to give in marriage.” In modern English, “forgive” has also taken on the meanings of “to pardon for an offense,” “renounce anger at” (“I forgive you for feeding bean tacos to my dog “) and “to abandon a claim on” (as in “forgive a debt”).

arabic Rumi poem

TRANSLATION:

Forgive me, that I cannot sleep; forgive

The thirsty ones that they have no water.

Forgive: if you never know forgiveness,

You’ll never know the blessings that God gives.

– Rumi

I’m not a very forgiving person.

It’s funny for me to type that, because there is a huge part of me that thinks I am extremely forgiving. I think of myself as a person always willing to be the bigger person, to pardon for an offense as described above. But as I step back and look at myself as objectively as I can, and as I look at some of my actions in the past with people I’ve cared for I have to be honest…I’m not. Not really and truly. I am definitely understanding, but not really forgiving.

FORGIVENESS DOVE

As I try to face this particular thing about myself, my justifications quickly come to my defense. I think of how patient I am with people – or how patient I think I am. I think about how much time I spend trying to understand other people’s perspectives and points of view and motivations for whatever they say or do.  I think of how much I have often tolerated out of a sense of fairness, loyalty or devotion to someone or something, without complaint or consideration. How can I say I don’t forgive in light of all that? And while all of these things are true, these things are exactly why forgiveness is so hard for me – I feel that after having extended myself to such lengths with a person, if they still can’t get it right, they don’t deserve my forgiveness. I turn my back on them and everything to do with them, totally and completely. To make matters worse, I typically do this by writing a very stinging “fuck you” letter or email.

Why does this make matters worse? It makes matters worse because evidently I write extremely memorable, harsh, “fuck you” letters. My “fuck you” letters strike the heart and draw blood like a sharp blade. Don’t believe that old adage that says words can never hurt you; I got words that can top any damage sticks and stones could ever do. It only stands to reason I have this gift, because I am a writer. But because I am a writer, and I’m surrounded by other writers, I don’t think of my gift as a particularly unusual or lethal one. So when I unleash it, to me its just average, run of the mill stuff. Not so much to others. Everyone I have ever known who I’ve written a fuck you letter/email to has kept that letter for years after I wrote it. Even after I reconciled with the person they were still able to pull out that letter, show it to me, and tell me in great detail how much it hurt them literally years after the letter/email was sent. In the cases where I didn’t reconcile with the person, I often found that other mutual friends/acquaintances we had would often tell me about the “fuck you” letter/email I’d written; the person I’d written it to had told them about it or even showed it to them in many cases. I even had one friend claim they went into therapy a week after receiving one of my “fuck you” letters. It is always amazing to me to see the power of my words – even when I factored in that this was a person I was close to, so of course my words would naturally hurt more than someone else’s words. But I have had this happen with casual acquaintances as well. In fact once a snarky response I made to a co-worker via email that was particularly acerbic and sarcastic got me free lunch for a week from several of my other co-workers who didn’t like the colleague I had responded to. As this happened to me over and over, as I am finding people remember my harsh commentary in particular with a great deal of emphasis, I have tried to be mindful of the power my words possess – unfortunately without much success.

in other news

I was reminded of all this when talking to one of my best friends. He was asking me how I had been doing since my most recent breakup, and I hold him I was doing okay all things considered. He was never in favor of me ending the relationship; he felt I had acted much too hastily in dealing with the young man and told me to leave some space in my heart for him in case an opportunity to reconcile presented itself at some point in the future.  He asked me if I was open to reconciliation and I said “well he’d have to approach me with a serious apology and some serious plans for us, but I’d hear him out, sure.” He then asked if I would approach him if I wanted to reconcile. I said, “well I’ve tried. When we first argued and broke up I tried calling, emailing, texting. He didn’t respond. At all. He hasn’t responded. At all.” My friend suggested that perhaps my ex was still just very angry and upset, and he asked if I would consider re-approaching the situation down the road. I said, “truthfully, I don’t think so. I already feel so rejected by him. He’s never been very forgiving. To him it’s a sign of weakness; it means you’ve let someone get away with something. I don’t know if I could bear that. I don’t think I would have the nerve.” And then my friend said, “well Tula, you may have to forgive him of not being open to you initially. You know how harsh you can be when ending something; some of the things you say really cut deep.”

not as great as I thought

I really couldn’t refute that, because he knows firsthand about that harshness. While he is one of my best friends, and has been for a few years now, we only reconciled in the last year or so.  Yes, he is my rock and I talk to him at least 3-4 times a week, but at one time he and I went years without speaking because of something I was angry with him about. I don’t even remember what it was now. But at the time it was serious to me, and I remember sending him a “fuck you” email. While I don’t remember what I said, whatever it was kept him far away from me for a very long time – and he was one of my closest friends. It took him over 2 years to very tentatively reach out to me, and even then I rebuffed him very harshly. It took me going through a huge emotional downward spiral to bring us back together. I was in a horribly dark, awful place at the time, feeling like I was drowning but knowing I did not want to drown. So I began reaching out for anyone and everyone who could save me, who could help me save myself. So one evening, tears flooding my eyes, I sent him an email saying “I know I’ve been awful to you. But I need you. I need your help. I’m drowning. If you ever cared for me, please reach back.” He called me within the hour, and he let me cry in his ear for hours that night (and for many days afterwards), while he was at work, driving home from work, driving to work, running errands, or whatever he was doing. He was so forgiving in fact he didn’t even insist that we address our issues before he would help me. He immediately let me rant about the breakup, and we didn’t discuss our issues until several phone calls later. Even when we did, he was nothing but kind to me, and he said “Tula, I know you’re a good person. If anyone is a good person, you are. But even good people fuck up.”

FORGIVE BALL JOINTED DOLLS

That was the first time I fully realized I wasn’t really a forgiving person. I am not sure if I could do what he did; I don’t know if I could just freely and openly reach out to a drowning friend who I was in the midst of not speaking to, especially if we didn’t resolve the issues between us first. But he saw I needed a friend and he rushed right in, no questions asked, no judgments, requiring nothing of me. That is a real friend. Sometimes I’ll listen to him talking about this or that and wonder why he’s still around. But one good thing that came out of it was I really got to hear from someone about my verbal harshness when I’m feeling pushed, and he let me know how awful it is, which has led me to really, REALLY look at why I’m so unforgiving. I think about all the relationships I have ended because at some point the other person did something I simply could not/would not forgive them for. When I made those decisions, I felt that person had not lived up to the standard I had set for our relationship – a standard I always felt I had upheld, no matter what challenges faced the relationship. I especially thought about the relationships I thought had the potential to be become marriage at some point.

wedding bands

One thing I know about marriage (thanks to my parent’s example) is that part of maintaining reasonably successful marriage depends on both partners’ willingness to forgive each other of all things. ALL THINGS. Of course, part of that success also rests on each partner being committed to NOT DOING unforgivable things – but if it happens, no let me rephrase, when it happens, when something you would typically consider unforgivable occurs, can you forgive and move on? That kind of forgiveness is what must happen, often over and over again, in successful long-term marriages. If you aren’t capable of that, you aren’t going to be capable of successful marriage. I’m not in any way condoning accepting abuse at all. But what I am saying is that if you’re really trying to be with someone for the long haul, chances are you’re going to have to be A LOT more forgiving than you are right now, NO MATTER how forgiving you are right now – at least once (if you’re lucky) you’re gonna have to get past something that in a pre-marriage lifetime you would have considered unthinkable. It may be a big thing, or a small thing, but it will be something that will challenge your boundaries. The people closest to you are the ones that can hurt you the most because of their proximity to you. It’s the difference between being shot at point-blank range and being shot from a distance, and you have to figure out how to recover.

PREDICTORS OF FORGIVENESS

As I started thinking about my unforgiving nature, one thing I considered was that in my dealings with people, I tend to not mention things as soon as they start to bother me. I overlook a lot of “small” things, things that I don’t necessarily feel require discussion, even though they may be bothering me. This is the “patience” that I mentioned earlier, the unwillingness to make an issue of every single thing. I’m a firm believer in picking one’s battles, yes. Unfortunately, a lot of times I don’t pick any battles at all. That’s not good either. As a result, those little things can pile up and fester, and once the breaking point is reached, all of these little issues come together to create a big issue that has so much weight and force, it just causes the relationship to cave in under the weight of it all. If I had perhaps sought to address some of the smaller things when they were small and manageable instead of sweeping them under the rug, they might not have had the opportunity to become big and powerful. My easy-going nature could perhaps lead someone to believe that nothing bothers me, which is untrue. Lots of things bother me. But if I don’t let that other person know what bothers me, how can they possibly address it? And if I’d really “let it go” when it was a small thing, how did it manage to stick around to become something bigger by joining forces with other “small things”? There is a great deal to be said for nipping certain things in the bud, and that is a lesson that I am just starting to really appreciate. I’m discovering being so laid-back isn’t always a good thing, and finding the balance between bud-nipping and nitpicking is crucial for me.

I consider the idea that I may use an unwillingness to forgive as a defense mechanism. Is it something I do so I don’t have to deal with challenges to the way I see things? Do I feel that I am a weak person because at times I have considered forgiving people of things I considered abhorrent offenses, and rather than feel I’d been taken advantage of, I dismissed them from my life? Have I just been unwilling to accept that there could be someone in my life that I would take shit off of just to have them there? But truth be told, if you don’t forgive at least one person every time you are put in a position to take shit off them, you’re always going to find reasons to let people go, and then you’ll always end up alone eventually. So how do you determine which person’s shit you should put up with for a lifetime? How difficult is it to admit that there is one person whom you love so much, even if you disagree, argue, fight, ultimately it will not matter because you will always forgive them and move on? And more importantly…they will always forgive you? That leads me to my next question for myself – am I able to let others forgive me, truly forgive me without continuing to beat myself up about it?

getting defensive

I sometimes wonder if my inability to forgive others is because I cannot forgive myself for the many things I feel I’ve done wrong. I am an extremely harsh critic of everything, but most especially myself. Being a harsh critic is good in many aspects of my life – as an editor it’s a good thing, and as I try to advise my artistic friends regarding their creative endeavors, it’s a good thing definitely. But I’m learning being endlessly hard on myself isn’t good for me at times, even if I do chose to call it “honesty” or “being realistic”. I am always examining everything I’m saying or doing, wondering if it was my best effort. It’s the Virgo in me – the constant analysis of things in the endless pursuit of some semblance of perfection. And my harsh critique extends even to how I view my life. I sometimes feel like such a failure in my life – I feel like I was capable of so much more, and while I know my life isn’t over yet, I feel like so much time has passed, I wonder if a change is ever really going to come…a real change in my life, changes that would allow me to make my loved ones comfortable, that would allow me to finally, at least for one shining moment, feel like I had truly succeeded in something I desperately wanted to be successful at in a big, significant, shining way.

In my family, I was always the smart one. The talented one. The gifted one. The intelligent one. Not  just intelligent mind you – like a super genius or something. I was always the one with so much promise, so much potential.  I was my family’s “Neo”, like in “The Matrix”. I was “The One”. I was the one who was going to save the family – I never was quite sure from who, whom, or what – but whatever it was, I was going to be the one to do it. When I was younger I would always try to figure out what I was supposed to be saving everyone from, and I would even wonder why they couldn’t at least help me save them from…whatever, but I never asked those questions. Was it the forces of darkness and evil? Was it crime? What was my family in the clutches of, and why was I the only one who could save them? And why would they wait until I was born to decide they had to be saved? I mean – the people in my family had been around years before I was born; why hadn’t anyone done this before me? Or at least tried? To this day I don’t like superheroes in comics in part for this very reason – I was groomed to be one and failed. Miserably.

failed superhero

You know what the “F” is for…”failure”.

I was always led to believe that my saving the family had a lot to do with money, and that somehow my combination of smarts, skill and talent had to earn financial security not only for my immediate family, but my extended family as well. It would also lead to the other kinds of freedom that money can buy – freedom to do what you want, pursue all kinds of wishes and dreams and so on. So with me leading the way, I would release them from the matrix of their financial burdens. I would do great things with my life, become extremely accomplished, a beacon of bright shining success that everyone could use to navigate their way to shore. From the time I was small I remember the whispers among my family about how I was “The One”…and although I didn’t totally understand and it didn’t make much sense to me, I could sense the urgency behind their whispers, and that urgency alone caused me to embrace the superhero task. They needed me to be “The One”. I was meant to be “The One”. I was Neo. Neo Caesar.

THE ONE

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I was not successful at saving the family. I did not transform all my skills, gifts and talents into anything particularly remarkable by my standards. To me, I had everything I needed to make my life wonderful and glorious and great. But I didn’t. I plodded along, mediocre at best in all the things that mattered. No amazing jobs, no wonderful husband, no beautiful home or beautiful cars. No acclaim for any particular thing I’ve done. Yeah, by some people standards I’ve done okay, but not by mine. My family has struggled in many ways, especially financially because of choices I’ve made, or did not make. As a result, my life is as ordinary as everyone else’s, and it didn’t have to be to me. I was The One, and I turned out to be The Less Than One, The Zero, even the Less Than Zero. This is the biggest thing for which I will not forgive myself.

less than zero

As I think about forgiveness all the way around, I mentally make a list of improvements I need to make to be better at this. I need to let myself off the hook first of all. I am not this huge failure that I make myself out to be. I’m really not. I forgive myself for not being what I imagined myself to be, what I imagined that I was supposed to become. And I work towards accepting that it’s okay to let others forgive me, and even in that I must be okay in the time frame it takes them to forgive me – forgiveness does not work on my schedule, or how/when I think it should. I must continue to truly take to heart what my friend said to me – “Good people fuck up.” I cannot continue to remove people from my life for everything they do wrong, real or imagined. I must truly determine the value of my loved ones. Are they really disposable to me? Every single time something goes wrong, I just toss them out like smelly garbage? I must more carefully consider who is necessary in my life, because for those I consider necessary, I must be willing to be forgiving. If you truly think everyone is disposable under the right set of conditions, you will dispose of everyone. That will certainly leave a very tiny circle of people in my life, and rightfully so, because forgiveness is hard. Even as we do it, we find ourselves fighting our hurts, our insecurities, our unwillingness to bend. We fight our need to feel validated, we fight our feeling that forgiveness means our hurt behind whatever the situation is does not matter. We fight the idea that forgiveness clears space in our head, space full of hurt and pain that could be used much more effectively. We can’t be sure if we want or need the space, so we cling to the devil we know because we fear the potential devil we don’t know. We feel we’re letting the other person off the hook for their wrongdoing in a situation; that they are getting off scot-free without punishment. We fight forgiveness for all these things, completely understandable human things, but things that ultimately weigh our spirits down. Things that make our spirits bloated, obese, unable to fly and move about freely. And my spirits certainly need to lose a few pounds so – I think I need to consider who I need to forgive – even if they never know I did it.

Maybe that “F” on my chest is for “forgiveness” – or better yet, “freedom”.

“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain,
I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
And speak my point of view but it’s not sane…”

No Rain – Blind Melon

Until next time,

Tula

The Cemetery

Yesterday I conducted the last rites/funeral for my most recent breakup. This ritual differs from breakup to breakup – I do different things each time to make the loss official and to help process my grief and hurt. This time, I removed his belongings from my bedroom. He had a couple of drawers in my bureau where he kept his things. I had also made space for him on my desk to do his paperwork, and a few of his things were hanging in my closet. Initially I hadn’t had the heart to remove those things from my bedroom – I think I was hoping against hope that he’d call and we’d somehow put things back together. But he hasn’t called, hasn’t returned my calls, and my coming to terms with the way he has dismissed me continues. (It’s funny – that’s something he and my ex before him have in common, and something my most recent ex used to make fun of my former ex about. My most recent ex thought it was very silly that my former ex wouldn’t speak to me; he thought it was crazy and even said as much. But now he’s doing the same thing.)  Part of accepting his absence from my life meant removing these things from my bedroom; I had to get rid of his things I was looking at everyday, reminding me of how I’d lost him for good. So I packed up the two drawers of his belongings, took his custom-made suit and carefully packed it into the box it came in, and gathered up the stack of papers he left on my desk. I put these things into boxes and took them down to the basement, where the rest of his belongings were stored. I left them there. I briefly thought back to my younger days when I might have taken a blowtorch to his stuff. But I’m not that chick anymore, and I haven’t been for years. As I put his things in the basement I briefly wondered if he’d even come back to retrieve his things – truthfully at this point he has no reason to come back to Baltimore, and everything he has stored in my basement can be replaced. I also wonder what it will be like for me if he does return to claim his things. Will I cry when I see him? Will I be angry? Will he try to reconcile with me? Will I even want to see him – will I just direct him to come pick his stuff up while I’m not there? But that’s a long time down the road I reminded myself as I put the boxes away with a sigh, looking at the huge pile of boxes and bags and steamer trunks full of kitchen supplies and clothes and military paperwork and such. It looked like a huge tombstone to me – a big headstone marking the death of what we had, or what I thought we had. His stuff is stored right next to my washer and dryer, so I still see it occasionally. In a way it makes me mad, because he still has a presence in a way in my personal space because his stuff is in my house, but he has nothing with him to painfully remind him of me – no drawers of my clothes, no closet of my belongings. He has nothing to prick his memory where I am concerned, whereas I am faced with pieces of him every time I wash clothes. He has nothing of me; nothing to remind him of anything about me or us. He has erased me from his memory. But its okay; it is a reminder not to allow this to happen again with him. Now my memories of him are transported to a place in my mind that I call “The Cemetery”.

JONATHAN TOMBSTONE

“The Cemetery” is the place in my head where I keep the key memories of my exes, and where I put those  memories and relationships when they end. There are certain things I associate with each ex, and when those things are mentioned it brings to mind that person. I keep these things in The Cemetery, representing the things associated with each person and the death of each relationship. For example, in the case of my most recent ex, one of the things in the cemetery is a heavy woolen sweater. He loved sweaters and had lots of them – beautiful supremely warm sweaters. He even gave me a couple of them, and they were some of the warmest garments I ever owned. They were my salvation during the winter months, and wearing them made me feel close to him. There are all kinds of odds and ends in The Cemetery – digital cameras, microphones, American flags, keyboards, Jeep Wranglers, police uniforms, football jerseys, etc. Certain places remind me of certain people – South Beach, New York, Texas. Whenever I find I have visit The Cemetery, I visit the other relationship graves while I’m there. I’ll look at the things I’ve left at each grave to commemorate that particular relationship’s passing. Sometimes I’ll feel sad and melancholy. Sometimes I’ll laugh. Sometimes I’ll feel uncomfortable. And since I was putting this last relationship to rest (In my head I placed a bunch of carrots and kale at the grave along with one of my corsets instead of flowers – he loved carrots and kale), I decided to visit some the other graves, reminisce a bit, and revisit some of the lessons I learned from each relationship. In fact even the kind of grave that the relationship has in my head says something about the relationship.

Cemetery

This is sort of like what my ex cemetery looks like in my head. But without the bird.

The remains from my relationship before this last one is in a mausoleum – a huge granite building adorned with shiny brass doors and marble pillars. It is very grand looking and fancy on the outside, which is a huge contrast to the coldness and loneliness inside.

masoleum

I put this relationship in a mausoleum in part because the over-the-top grandeur of it suits that particular man’s his tastes in things.  It is fancy outside, just like he was, and still is. I also put this relationship here because it taught me A LOT, so there are a lot of things that need to be stored in memoriam – and in my head these things are all over the room inside where the remains of this relationship are kept. Things like microphones and keyboards and pointed shoes. But also stored there is a copy of my first CD. It is there because more than anything this represents the most important thing I got from this relationship – the formulation of my artistic/creative voice. My first CD represents that more than almost any of the things I’ve done before it because it was the first time I really gave a lot of thought to who I wanted to be creatively, artistically – what did I want to say, and how did I want to say it? I got a chance to incorporate many of the things I love into my voice – like music, like sensuality, like love, like lust, like beauty and just everything that is in me – all of those things found their way into my first CD more than any of the work I’d done previously. And because of that CD, I allowed myself to blossom as an artist and I fully began to step into my power. And I would have not created that project had it not been for this relationship – more importantly I wouldn’t have allowed that project to carry me as far as it did. It is not my best work, but the point at which it occurred in my development was crucial for me. So it rests here, with this relationship.

I have been engaged a couple of times in my life, and one of those failed engagements resides in a lonely grave on top of a mountain.

mountaintop grave use this one

I placed him there to represent several things that our relationship was. It definitely was a high point in my life outwardly. I was doing very well from outward appearances – living in a very nice townhouse in White Marsh, driving my minivan, both of my kids in good schools doing well, and I was dating a wonderful man who loved me, and we were planning our future together. He lived in New York, so we had been doing a long distance relationship for quite a while. But now, finally, we had decided he would move to Baltimore, and we’d make plans to be together. I loved him very much, and even my children cared for him. I could see my life coming together beautifully and perfectly. But notice the mountaintop is far away from everything. That was one thing that was part of our relationship too – when I was dating him I was very isolated from my extended family and friends. I was also very isolated from my creative self. During this period I rarely wrote and had not started performing yet, and whenever I would mention writing he would gently discourage me, telling me I needed to focus on my career and things that would build our future together as a couple; he didn’t want me to take time away from that with things that would be a “waste of my time”. I went along with that for a long time. I was working a lot to maintain my life, and at first it was easy to lose connection to people, and to that creative part of me. This grave is far away from the others in the cemetery, representing the physical distance that existed between us during our long distance relationship. But one thing about something that is up high – there is a very real chance it will come tumbling down. And that’s exactly what happened with this relationship. It was very exalted in my eyes; I put it up high on a pedestal and tried to be Miss Perfect Girlfriend/Wife To Be. But that didn’t leave any room to be me, and when I finally started becoming who I really was, he wasn’t too happy about it – the real me had some real problems about how he handled certain issues in our relationship, including his infidelity. In memoriam of this relationship near the grave I put books of matches and lighter fluid (long story), pizzas, a beautiful lacy nightgown, and a miniature sailboat. The most important thing I learned from this relationship was to stand my ground and know my heart, and I started to know who I really was really was enough. This man taught me the importance of knowing myself, knowing my limitations, knowing what I needed in a relationship and demanding it, no matter what.

My very first serious boyfriend has two markers in The Cemetery, each representing a distinct part of our relationship. The first marker is a large, beautiful black granite stone surrounded by tons of colorful flowers underneath lush, gorgeous trees.

grave with fresh flowers use this one

This grave is here because it was in this relationship that I bloomed and began becoming a beautiful woman, a lush, sensually alive woman. This was the man to whom I lost my virginity, when we were both teens. This was the relationship that opened my budding heart to love, because he was my first love and I was truly devoted to him as a teenage girl, and he was equally devoted to me. And even though it died, it died a very natural, organic death that I can genuinely mourn.  It deserves a special resting place that represents natural beginnings and endings – a place that honors a relationship that, while it was not perfect, was beautiful. It was full of genuine love, genuine devotion, and genuine affection that was pure and unadulterated because we were both so innocent and inexperienced at the time. We were young and full of hope and joy for our future. It was the first time for both of us in every way. In my head at The Cemetery, there is a little granite bench near this grave where I can sit and think about this relationship, and all the good that came from it. Yes we had issues and it was rocky at times, but I still feel blessed and happy that this relationship was how I learned about sex and love.

The other grave for this relationship looks more like this:

LONELY GRAVE

It is in a barren dry place by itself, isolated from everything else. Some twenty years after our first breakup, my first love came back into my life. He sought me out and found me at my job, saying he was divorced and had moved back to Baltimore. I agreed to meet him for dinner one evening, and quicker than it takes to tell, we were fully involved in a relationship again. It felt so wonderfully sweet to me, like a long-overdue homecoming. He was the first man I ever wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but we hadn’t been able to. And now, somehow, fate was allowing us another chance to be together! It was so wonderfully romantic, and we spent hours getting reacquainted, telling each other all the things that had happened in the past twenty years to bring us to where we were. I let my most foolishly romantic fantasies run wild during this period, and I was very happy – right up until the time I discovered he was still married, had only recently left his wife, and was involved with at least three other women in addition to me (I still wonder how he found the time!) When I confronted him about this, he physically assaulted me and broke my left hand, and I had to have surgery and physical therapy to repair it. It hurt more than I can say, especially coming from him. My beautiful memories of our young love affair were forever tainted with the awful revisiting. I wished with all my heart that I had not allowed things to get so far. I hated that I had allowed my romanticism to run the show. I hated how unrealistic I’d been, how foolish, how full of fantasies that I really expected to come true. And it was not the first time a man in my life who I was seeing was violent with me. The redux has a separate grave – it was very hard for me to separate the sweet memories of the wonderful boy I loved in high school from the dishonest, hateful man I allowed into my life. But I did by separating them in The Cemetery. So our youthful first romance gets a beautiful grave, and that last painful episode – well, gets something that reflects its ugliness.

My cemetery has graves of all kinds. Some have simple markers. Some have more elaborate ones. Some I don’t visit much. Some I stop by pretty often, maybe because I’m still looking for answers regarding those relationships. In my head I change the things I place at each grave, as I recall different things about those relationships. I guess all of this sounds rather morbid, but to me it really isn’t. This is just how I deal with the loss of these people in my life, and it helps me eventually remember the good things and let go of any pain or bad feelings I may try to cling to about the person.

Today as I put my latest relationship in the cemetery, I made a few stops at a few graves. I laughed a bit, and I cried a bit too. But as I left, I was glad to say that in spite of all the deaths and all the loss all around my heart, my heart is still alive, pumping loud and hard and strong, giving me the will to continue to live and love fearlessly. The deaths make me appreciate the life my heart has. I appreciate the miracle that I have somehow continued onward, and will continue onward. And these deaths, while tragic, were all necessary to make my heart the strong vessel it is.

And I hope your heart is too.

Until next time,

Tula

“I think it is lost…but nothing is ever lost nor can be lost. The body sluggish, aged, cold, the ember left from earlier fires shall duly flame again.”  –Walt Whitman