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

Recovering from amnesia with my lotus flower bomb…

So, I’m not as young as I used to be as many of you know. And one of the bad things about getting older is you often lose pleasure in certain things that at one time made you happy. Or you forget about those things completely, and about how much fun they used to be. But happily, I was reminded of one of those things Saturday night. That thing is (drum roll)…

NECKING!

Petting…making out…going to first base/second base/third base…and stopping! Whatever you want to call it. In fact I can’t even think of a current term for foreplay that isn’t necessarily intended to end with sex, and that is really my point.

Once you get to be an adult, especially a fairly sexually experienced adult, sex is intended to be the end result of foreplay. In fact, it is the primary reason foreplay exists. The kissing, licking, nibbling, sucking, touching, squeezing, etc., that is the predecessor to “it” is pleasurable of course, but ultimately it becomes an accessory of sex, like a cute purse or a great necklace or a fabulous pair of earrings. When we think of what sex is, we tend to think primarily of penetration, and these enjoyable pre-sex activities become somewhat secondary. Now don’t get me wrong…we all know that being an accessory is not a bad thing, and the right accessories are what MAKE AN OUTFIT AMAZING, but they’re still accessories, and without them you’d still be dressed. So it’s like they aren’t as necessary. So foreplay become a stop you make along the way to the destination of sex; in and of itself foreplay cannot be the destination – well, more often than not it isn’t. You forget that the journey should be as beautiful as the destination…or can even be the destination.

I had forgotten this before Saturday night.

Now when I was young, I was all about the journey when it came to sex because sex was not the destination then. I made out with my boyfriend, and we were both clear on the fact that I wasn’t ready to go “all the way”. We knew our making out was going to be the extent of our contact. We had discussed it and he was accepting of it, so there was no pressure to “give it up”. So we really got into our foreplay, because it was all we had. We would spend hours doing “everything else but” while his grandmother worked doubles at Sinai Hospital. We never had sex during this period…or more specifically, there was no penetration. There were orgasms, and we both had them. But they all came from our “everything else but” activities. And we both enjoyed them. Yes we did eventually “go all the way” after a year or so of this, but even then “making out” was as important as the sex.

But as I got older, that changed of course. As sex itself took center stage, the activities leading up to sex, the “pre-game show” became less important. Sometimes I didn’t even require a pre-game show from my partners; there were times when we’d get right into the game. I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m undermining the importance of that other stuff, because I’m not. But I’ve never been one of those “you gotta lick me before you stick me” girls. So when foreplay was minimized on occasion, I consented. But as it became easier to minimize foreplay’s role, I became willing to do it more often.

Until this past Saturday night, when for the first time in ages, I made out with a guy and that was it.

Now I had no intentions of having sex with said man. Not that I didn’t want to, because I did. At least my body did. My head wasn’t quite there yet, and I’ve always needed to be able to connect to a guy’s mental for intimacy to really please me. I need to be able to enjoy him past and beyond the physical to have sex with him – or at least good sex. We need to have good conversation, and we need to be able to join on at least a few other levels. But we were just sitting there, in the car, talking about something or other, and then he touched me, and then he kissed my neck and…then things kind of got blurry and my eyes closed and my breathing got heavy and fast.

For the next 45 minutes, periodically we’d make out, then stop and talk, then start again, then stop. And at first it confused me because I kept thinking “what is the point of doing this if I know I’m not going to fuck him tonight?” And the thing about it was that when he touched me, it didn’t have that insistent quality you get when a man is touching you in an effort to convince you to have sex with him when you haven’t consented. It wasn’t like that. His touching me wasn’t a plea, its SOLE PURPOSE wasn’t just to change my mind. He really wasn’t trying to get me to go along with him – well he was of course, but that wasn’t all of it. It was just that he wanted to, and he felt it would please me, so he did it.

And that’s when I realized we were making out. And I remembered what making out was like back when I was young. It was just touching for the same of touching, licking for the sake of licking. The acts were complete in and of themselves. They were no precursor to anything more, no gateway that was supposed to lead him to ramming his dick up in me. It was really just…cool. A lovely introduction to things. Best of all, I came. A small fleeting orgasm, but one nonetheless, appropriate for what was happening. He touched me and realized I was very wet, and he seemed a bit surprised. Happy, but surprised. And when I dropped him off and drove home, I was actually happy. I remembered the pleasures that you can get just from very little simple things like touches and caresses and nibbles on your shoulders and licks on your spine.

Now I remember some of the things I’d forgotten about sex, and I have him to thank. But it does make me wonder what actual sex with him will be like…and if/when I’ll ever find out.

Peace!

My strange Valentine’s Days these days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace!

Jump Offs: The Myths, The Realities

I cover a lot of different topics on this blog. But for the next few entries, I am going to be focusing on relationships, especially the more intimate and sexual aspect of relationships.

There is a lot of discord going on between men and women these days, and much of it is because of a lack of honesty — a lack of honesty with each other, and even worse, a lack of honesty with ourselves. I want to stimulate TRUTHFUL, open, mature discussion about these matters. I want to generate discussion that doesn’t seek to make one gender feel superior to the other. I want to generate discussion that isn’t focused on proving who is right and who is wrong, which is one of my pet peeves about these types of conversations — they are often divisive and more about finger pointing that helping us identify our issues and resolve them so we can treat each other better.

I want all of us to stop making ourselves feel better by looking down our noses at how other people behave in their personal relationships. But that’s not easy. We don’t like to face our own internal ugliness head on. It is much easier to observe others, criticize others, talk about what others have done that we never have done or would do, berate others for tolerating things we say we would never tolerate and so on. But more often than not, most of us have, in some form or fashion, have engaged in most of the behaviors we criticize others for. So it is my hope that those who read this won’t have the politically correct knee jerk response. That’s too easy. After you read what I have to say, Just think about it, ponder it, and don’t judge.

Having said all that…let’s begin!

The topic of today is “the jump off”. I want to get into so real talk about jump offs, the myths and realities of the jump off scenario, people’s attitudes about jump offs, and even jump off etiquette.

Now for some reason many people feel that being a jump off is demeaning, degrading, etc. Women and men speak in a condescending, even a disrespectful manner about this arrangement. But let us be honest and clear about exactly what a jump off is in an attempt to understand that negative attitude.

A jump off is situation in which one has a relationship that is solely sexual in nature. It is an entirely physical interaction. The exchange in and of itself doesn’t have to be cold and unfriendly, but it does have to have a certain amount to detachment to work. People should always be courteous, hospitable, and pleasant in these circumstances; what is absent in these scenarios is a connection between the two participants beyond the temporary merging of genitalia.

Now, I don’t know why this arrangement is met with such derision by so many. So often I hear women say with much scorn and disdain, “well, she’s just a jump off” or “I ain’t trying to be just a jump off”, or men will say “she ain’t nobody, she’s just a jump off”. Why the negativity people? Is it really necessary? If two consenting adults mutually agree to engage in such an arrangement and are honest with themselves and each other about it, what’s the harm? Why the attitude? Why is it so bad?
Why do men feel compelled to accompany the jump off arrangement with a level of contempt, though they still willingly participate in it? Why is that necessary? Do men find it impossible to respect a woman who enters into this situation; are they only capable of having jump offs that they don’t respect on some level? Why the verbal harshness in referring to them? Why is the jump off role in one’s life minimized and trivialized instead of being looked at objectively and honestly? And ladies, some of you seem to equate participation in this kind of thing as something unladylike, that its an indication that something is wrong with the woman that does this, that it means she has low self esteem and doesn’t want more for herself besides jump off status, because of course she MUST want more. Why can’t it be that the woman made a clear decision about what she wanted and is getting exactly that — no more, no less? And why does this mean the man is some kind of man-whore with no respect for women, or no ability to deal with a “real woman” in a “real relationship”? What if he really only wants the sex, and isn’t misleading, hurting, harming or disrespecting the woman? Why the snobbery when it comes to jump off scenarios, especially when a large majority of us, if you reach age 25 and are still single, have either had a jump off, been someone’s jump off, or both, at least once — whether you knew it or not or are willing to admit it or not?

Having said all this, I’ll let you in on an important truth. For the most part, jump offs are myths. They don’t genuinely exist to the extent that rumor would have you to believe they do. True, actual jump offs, where the two parties are just sexual and nothing else are rare. That level of detachment where one shares their body without sharing themselves isn’t easily accomplished by men or women. It is a genderless condition. Very few people can honestly manage it for any extended period of time, and there is a very simple reason why.

Human beings are wired to seek out connections to others. Now please read that correctly — that doesn’t mean they are always seeking romantic love. BUT being human is about the connections we make to other humans — our family, our friends, etc. Those connections are how we know we are alive, they validate our existence, they allow us to find meaning in the time we spend here on Earth. The inability to successfully make those connections is a sign of a greater psychological disorder that we don’t have time to get into here. Now we may get hurt in our relationships, or find ourselves in abusive circumstances that injure our spirits and souls in a way that make it hard for us to reach out to others. In some cases we are so damaged we actively avoid involvements with other people beyond the superficial and necessary. But no matter what we say or do, we still usually stumble upon someone who attracts us, who stimulates our interest, our curiosity, and we attempt to make a connection, even if the connection is just sexual. We may do it badly, awkwardly, or subconsciously. We may do it in a thousand tiny little ways that no one understands but us. But no matter how successful we are at it, we do find ourselves reaching out to connect when we come across people that ignite an undefinable spark in us in the hope of lighting up our cold dark lives, even if we fuck it up because of our own issues.

Because of that, jump offs work like this:

You and said person become sexually involved, and agree that will be the limit of your involvement. Cool. Jump off etiquette requires that you and this person have minimal contact that is not sexual. So you meet, perhaps politely converse while undressing, fuck, and part company.

Now if the sex is not particularly outstanding, it is possible that the jump off status can remain intact for a time. The lack of mind blowing sex makes it easy to keep the contact sporadic and inconsistent, two other key elements to a genuine jump off. A jump off is never someone you fuck regularly, consistently or frequently. As soon as a jump off consumes that much of your time, they are taking up space in your head as well, because if you fuck someone a lot, you think about fucking them a lot. Anyone who takes up that much space in your head isn’t a jump off anymore. They may be a lot less than a boyfriend or girlfriend, but the detachment that is part of being a jump off is gone.

But if the sex was just okay, its not going to hold your interest or attention for long. At some point, whether it takes days, weeks, months or years, you’ll find someone else you like fucking more, or someone else you just like (or someone else you came to like because of fucking them, which we’ll get into in a minute). No matter how it happens, waning interest will usually cause the jump off to die a quiet death.

Now let’s say you like the sex. Let’s even say you love it. The earth moved and the angels wept, etc. If that was the case, you are not going to be willing to make hooking up an occasional occurance. Something in you was touched; you have been moved. A connection was made somewhere inside you, even if it was made in your sex organs…those connections count too. So now you want to spend more time fucking this person. Spending more time with a person, even if its spent fucking, invariably leads to more opportunity to get to know a person. And getting to know a person can often lead to getting to like a person. Liking a person has a way of leading to finding ways to spend time with a person. And when that happens, its clearly no longer a jump off. Again, it may be less than a spouse, but its no longer a jump off.

The space between jump off and committed relationship is a huge one. It is the largest gray area in all of human existence, and truthfully, it is the area a lot of our personal relationships operate in. Many of us have that person we are intimate with, who has clearly stopped being jump off status a while ago, (even if this hasn’t been verbally acknowlewdged by either party), who has yet to fully, openly, and willingly shoulder all the burdens of a committed relationship. They might appear to in their actions at times, but the “out” is always there — the “out” being that the person never agreed to a change in their status, and you can’t change a person’s relationship status without their consent. That “out” is the single most frustrating thing about this vast gray area in which most relationships exist. So these gray area living/extended and remixed jump off situations become like giant relationship waiting rooms…the places where people pass the time hoping their conditions improve.

The other big myth surrounding the jump off scenario is that it can’t change. That isn’t true at all. In my experience and observation, a situation like this has just as much of a chance of surviving as any other kind of relationship. But if it is going to change into a more “official” relationship, one of the parties involved is going to have to request a change in relationship status. And making that kind of request is a huge risk; you must be prepared to forfeit everything you already have with this person. It is truly an “all or nothing” proposition. Because if the other party doesn’t agree to the status change, the relationship is over, or will be over soon. Why? Because one party has made it known they aren’t satisfied with the current state of affairs, and the other party isn’t going to wait for the dissatisfaction to make itself felt in other ways. Most people are cowards, and just ride along, sorta kinda mostly cool with how things are but still secretly hoping that one day they are offered all the keys to the kingdom.

My finals words on the topic are simple: never let anyone make you feel bad about FEELING something for someone else, even if it is the wrong person. As long as you have it in you to care about someone else, all you need to adjust is your selection process. That is a much easier task than the alternative; it is much harder to teach someone to feel once they have lost their ability to do it. And while jump offs may not really exist like you thought they did, what does exist is a world full of people looking for shelter from the unforgiving harsh world…people who want to care who have lost their way…people who carry heavy loads, manage deep searing pain and hide ugly scars the best way they know how. Sometime they may seek temporary shelter from their most personal storms in your most personal space if you allow it. They may decide to stay. They may not. But no matter what the case, don’t lose sight of who you are in the midst of it all. Because at the end of the day, you are the only you you’ve got.

I think I have commitment issues…but I am a woman? What da hell??

I think I have commitment issues. If that’s true, that is a problem. But I may have a greater one. I am a woman with commitment issues!

In case you didn’t know, only men have commitment issues. Women are just sitting around waiting for love, romance, relationships, marriage, boyfriends and husbands. They’re just dying to be all “booed up” with some dude. They’re just waiting for an opportunity to love a good, strong, honest man to take them off the market and away from the cruel cold world of singleness. The only thing keeping them away from “happily ever after” is men’s unwillingness to commit.

To hear them tell it, men don’t want to commit. Men don’t want monogamy, and the monotony that is often a part of it. Men want as many women as they think they can handle, they have no interest in maintaining faithfulness to one. Men are dogs running the street, unwilling and unable to settle down. And because men are unwilling to commit, and women are just beside themselves with excitement waiting for commitment to happen, there is always this great sense of unbalance in the universe. Because men won’t commit, thousands of lovely women will never have their “happily ever after”.

But what am I to do when I think I am on the opposite side of the fence as most of my gender?

All my life every woman I have ever known wanted to get married. That didn’t mean they didn’t want to get their educations, or pursue their careers, or accomplish other things. But marriage was always in there, always an integral part of their plan for themselves. When I was a young girl, my girlfriends would dreamily plan their weddings, taking their Barbie dolls down imaginary aisles in their rooms with their older brother’s GI Joe’s. Even if their mother’s told them “girl, men ain’t s**t”, (because some mothers did do that), the girls still held onto their dreams in a little corner of their heads. I never planned my wedding as a child like my friends, and my dolls never got married. They were single I guess, dating the Ken dolls and whatever other toy male representatives I could find amongst my toys (I didn’t have a brother.) I never imagined marriage really. When I did think about my wedding, my main concern was always how much fun the party/reception would be — what music would the deejay and bands play and what kind of delicious food and fabulous drinks would be there – you can see where my priorities were, even then.

As an adult, most women I’ve known really wanted to get married. Sometimes they were in a relationship with their boyfriend that had gone on for years and they wanted to “make it official”. Sometimes they had kids by this guy, which was all the more reason to “make it official”.  Sometimes they were under pressure from their family (“girl, you ain’t married yet??). Sometimes they wanted financial assistance (“somebody needs to come help me with these bills, plus I need more income to get this mortgage!”) But whatever they reason, they wanted marriage. It was important to them. It was a burning desire they would not turn away from. It just had to happen, it just had to be.

I am still waiting for my burning yearning to begin. Even in the cases of my children’s fathers, I never felt like the children we shared was a good reason to get married, much to the chagrin of my family, which has a long illustrious history of “shotgun” weddings – more women in my family have gotten married pregnant than not. But I didn’t do it.

I have never experienced that burning desire to get married. Even when I have been involved with men that I wanted to marry, that I thought I would marry, it never burned inside me. It was never the most important thing to me. It never kept me up nights. I never ached to be wed. I ached to be with them, yes, but not as a wife necessarily. Being with them was my primary focus, not the marriage part. Now don’t get me wrong…I did want marriage yes, and I wanted it very much, but…it just never seemed to inflame me like it inflamed other women. And in every case where I was involved with a man I thought I would marry, at some point I ended the relationship.

In some cases, I sabotaged the relationship with unrealistic demands, and when the mere mortal of a man failed to meet them, I ended the relationship. Sometimes I was unfaithful, and when I started doing that I knew I had to go, so I ended the relationship. Sometimes I knew the man would never be happy and satisfied with who I really was at the core of me, and I ended the relationship. Sometimes I felt like he just thought it was time (“well I’m getting older, I don’t wanna be the old dude at the club so…let’s do this!), and to me that was never enough reason to get married, so I didn’t do it. I have returned engagement rings, cancelled appointments to look at dresses and the whole nine. All this leads me to wonder if my fear is commitment.

I have had good men in my life – gainfully employed, college educated, smart, good looking men who wanted to marry me, and I didn’t do it. Men with homes, men with cars, men with ambition and dreams, men with substance mentally, emotionally and spiritually, men who treated me well. As I write this I can think of four men with those qualities who I could call right now who would be more than happy to seriously date me, and if I put my mind to it I could be Mrs. Somebody in six months – maybe less, with a bad ass ring to seal the deal. But I don’t make any of those calls.  Even on the days I complain about being single, how I wish I could find love, and more importantly, acceptance in the arms of a man who would cherish and honor me, I can’t help but taste the hypocrisy in my mouth as I think about the men I keep at arms length for whatever reason.

Sometimes I think my biggest fear is being forced to be something I don’t want to be. In a lot of my past, I have dated men who really thought I was perfect, except for one or two things they wanted me to adjust. Unfortunately, the things they wanted me to “adjust” were things that were too much of a part of my essence. It always seemed like there was something wrong with me when it came to these men, and I always left rather than cut off pieces of me to fit. And right now, I can’t imagine it would be easy for a man to want me for a wife. I just don’t look like, sound like, act like, anyone’s idea of a wife I guess. When men picture their wives, a woman like me doesn’t pop into their heads. Men always seem to want their wives to have these very obvious “good girl” traits, even if they discover later it wasn’t as “good” as they thought it was going to be. My “good girl” traits aren’t obvious. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I have them, but from the outside looking in it isn’t the first thing you’ll notice about me. I don’t have a problem with that; I enjoy my many layers and facets, but many men do have a problem with it.

Sometimes I think I fear getting into something I can’t get out of easily. Marriage is hella hard to get out of, and the longer you’re in it, the harder it is to get out. I know you shouldn’t enter into something immediately looking for the exit and trying to plan your departure strategy, but this is what I do. I am a planner. So to me it makes sense that you plan how a relationship would end if it ended, because it’s better to plan that now while you like the person than later when you hate them and are gonna be all about cutting his balls off. But I know if I get married, there will be no divorce UNDER ANY CONDITIONS. We may part and go our separate ways but there will be no divorce. And I always worry that I might choose a man that I’d have to separate from, and that would hurt.

Sometimes I think my biggest fear is failure. I don’t like not succeeding at things, not being good at things. I work hard to do everything I do well, exceptionally well. And in most cases, I manage to accomplish that. Everything I have ever failed at haunts me endlessly; I revisit the grave of that failure, pondering over what I did wrong, trying to never do it again. If I failed at something as important as marriage, I don’t think I could deal with it. I think I would never forgive myself. I would blame myself, feel ashamed and hurt and sad and defeated. And knowing me, I would marry someone who was my best friend, because I genuinely believe you have to have that kind of love that exists in close friendships as part of marital love. (You know how when you get totally fed up with your best friend, they’ve made you totally sick and you’re disgusted with them, but you know good and damn well they will always be your best friend no matter what? That kind of thing is what I want in my marriage.) So if the marriage failed, I would lose my best friend too. That would tear me up more than anything. I don’t know how I would handle that.

Sometimes I tell myself I am too honest to get married. I hate to say this, but some marriages seem to involve some degree of coercion on the part of the woman. She had to threaten to break up with him, or nag him into it, or get her family to nag him into it, or get pregnant, or pretend to get pregnant, or something like that. It has always been my dream that a real man would get to know me, love me, carefully consider all his options, and decide that having me as his wife was what he wanted more than he wanted to be alone or with some other woman/women. I want him to volunteer, completely and totally, heart and soul, ten thousand percent. I don’t want it any other way. If I have to employ trickery, or use my womanly wiles, or get him drunk or drugged, I will not do it. But very few men seem sure enough in their choices to pursue them actively once they make them. Oftentimes they just don’t make them at all, and wait for some woman to drag them into it. And the women never seem to much care, as long as they have their husband.  That I cannot do.

Sometimes I think I am selfish. I mean, every time I have ended a relationship I have said to myself in consolation,“well, I guess I just love me more”. And as much as pop culture talks about self-love, to really make marriage work both parties have to, on many/most levels, care more about the other party than themselves. And this has to happen all the time. For marriage to work everybody has to be serving the needs of the other person and the union 24/7, and not their own needs. Ideally, if everyone is always serving everyone else and the needs of the union, everyone will get most of what they need and want.  And hardest of all, you still have to do this even when the other person isn’t. But in the relationships I ended, at some point I decided he was not serving my interests; he was only serving his own. And I decided I didn’t wish to serve his interests anymore. That kind of selfishness has no place in a marriage, so I guess it’s good that I ended those relationships.

Sometimes I think I just haven’t met Mr. Right.  I do so want to find someone and create a place and space for us where we can be our most genuine authentic selves, and improve on ourselves individually and as a couple. I sometimes worry that my man will hate me once he finds out about the real me. I don’t want a man to fall in love with “my representative” when we are dating, only to discover me and she have NOTHING in common. I want him to love me, all of me, me as I am today and me as I will come to be as I improve and grown in the sunshine of his care. And often I tell myself I haven’t found that evolved man who can appreciate my domestic side and my workaholic side and my imagination and my creativity and my sexuality and my tendency to be overly analytical and critical and nitpicky and sometimes self-deprecating  and all the other vastly contradictory things I am.

But mostly I think I’m just afraid of commitment.

My parents were reasonably happily married for over 40 years, so I had a good example of a solid marriage before me. Many of my family members are married, and have been for many years also – ten or twenty plus years in some cases. I am the oddball in that I have been single so long, just raising my kids on my own, and pursing my own interests without even a regular guy in place to bring to family functions. They kind of see me as this slightly off-center, artsy type that they don’t quite get, but they love me because I am family. They have stopped trying to fix me up, because it never works.

So I write this now, as a single woman who may be afraid of commitment. Occasionally I attempt to talk to other women about it, but they all look at me like I’m crazy. That lets me know how messed up I am, because I am supposed to want this like a man in the desert wants water, and I just don’t feel that way about it. I am not prepared to give up all of me for it. I don’t want to pick the wrong man. I don’t want to be hurt, or taken advantage of, or live a life of misery with some man because I chose out of desperation. I don’t want my sex life to dwindle away into nothingness (I hear that’s what happens in marriage, and sex is wayyy too important to me to have that happen). I say I want a man of my own, and I have options if I were to attempt to exercise them. I’m not sure if they are the options I would choose if I did the choosing, but I have them. I could at least explore them, find out what they have to offer. What is my problem?

Am I afraid of commitment?

So…today’s blog…

is a poem I wrote that I am posting cuz I felt like it…

PEACE!

When loves’ slave catchers

throw their chains and traps

around me

I will chew off

pieces of my heart

to free myself.


During these sex-filled struggles

I lustfully bite

my pursuer

as I fight the ties

that seek to forever bind

me to him.


I sensuously swallow

pieces of him

during the battle of wills.

But I am always the victor,

and I greedily devour the spoils.


As for the love warriors

who rise up

attempting to rule my

personal internal  queendom

and who always fail,

they now will spend

the rest of their lives

trying to get back

the pieces they lost to me

in the battle.


The pieces

become part of

the fiber of my being

and the marrow of my bones.


These leftover spirits

invade me and

teach me how

to be the hunter

and still seem like

the prey.


Now I chase others

by allowing others

to chase me.


To attract them

I strip my brain bare

in their presence

and

mentally masturbate

before them.


A psychological exhibitionist.


They watch me

and want me

while I wonder why

the presence of love

has always meant

the loss of my freedom.


And I must fly

until I die.

So, catch me if you can.

But know

that even I

haven’t caught me yet.

..

Because I felt like starting some s**t today, I bring you — The Black Church: Why it’s not always a good place for a single woman in her right mind

Thanks to Kenda Bell, a lovely, fabulous and talented author who I had the pleasure of meeting on Facebook and then becoming acquainted with in real life, I discovered an article from relationship advisor Deborrah Cooper. It was rather inflammatorily titled “The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African-American Women Single and Lonely”. The link to the article is at the bottom of this blog entry.

As a Black woman with a long, somewhat acrimonious relationship with Black churches of all kinds, I was drawn to the title, and began to read. That is how this blog entry was born. I would welcome anyone sharing their experiences with church regarding their marital status. I am especially interested in single women. I want to know if what happened to me ever happened to you.

And now…to the article and my two cents.

Ms. Cooper puts it like this: “…Going to church makes you malleable and predictable, and narrows your thinking and thus limits your options. Going to church for single Black women is a waste of time…” Harsh words, right? But as I cite some of her points, I’ll tell you about my experiences with them.

Ms. Cooper says “many single women are in church for women’s group, Bible study twice per week, some special committee meetings, singles ministry, fellowshipping through the community, and attending service all day on Sunday. When exactly is it that this single Black woman would have time for a man in her life?”

When I would join churches, it always shocked me how the ministries would try to recruit the new members without knowing much about their skills, abilities or talents. They clearly wanted to capitalize on the “new Christian” enthusiasm and energy that people who join churches feel initially. I always felt like that wasn’t wise, that it might be wiser for a new Christian to get at least a little more solid footing in their “Christian walk” as it is often called before they go ministering. Most times I limited myself to Sunday praise and worship services, Sunday School and occasional Bible study. But often the new Christians would greedily and excitedly sign up for everything they could; the new female members in particular seemed to want to engulf themselves with things “not of the world”. They had a vision of themselves in their mind’s eye as this devoutly virtuous God fearing, God serving woman, and that evidently required being at church every day of the week. It is almost as if these women don’t trust themselves to behave in a Christian manner outside of church with the unwashed, unsaved folk. (And don’t you dare remind them of the company Jesus kept on a regular basis, prostitutes and the like.) I often wondered what these women’s men did while these women were in church all the time. Over the years I’ve had platonic male friends with highly devout good Christian wives or girlfriends, and I could always count being able to hang out with these guys on Wednesday or Thursdays nights – the nights most often devoted to Bible study at Black churches. We could grab a bite to eat, catch a movie, watch a game, or get a drink. And it never occurred to these women that it might not kill them to skip one of these church events to tend to their men, especially if they were wives – doing that is just as much service to the Lord as anything they were doing in church. I would think a responsible pastor would send some of these women home sometimes, since they are so fond of encouraging women to be submissive to their men. But that rarely happens.

Ms. Cooper also says, “…In most Black churches marriage is held up as the ideal state of existence; women that remain single are deemed to have some major flaw in attitude or ability. Thus, no single woman in the church wants to remain single because women are expected to marry and to bear children. For sistahs in the church, the pressure from family and fellow church members to marry can be so intense it may motivate her to make a fear-based decision to marry someone totally inappropriate.”

For that statement I have three words — “Single Women’s Ministry”.

At some point I always visit the Single Women’s Ministry in churches. In some churches it is just the Singles Ministry with the men and women together, but more often than not there is a single women’s ministry and a single men’s ministry, but even in the most populated churches the men’s version is always smaller than the women’s, which is why in many churches it doesn’t exist for both genders.

I initially thought the single women’s ministry was meant to help single women learn to function healthily and happily as singles, and in keeping with God’s instructions for unmarried people. I didn’t join this ministry to be “hooked up”. I wanted to find peace within myself and with God as a single woman. I never felt ashamed of being single at all, it never occurred to me to feel shame. But it always seemed the Single Women’s Ministry was all about creating and feeding into shame about being single, about not being “found” by the man who is supposed to “findeth a wife”, to “findeth a good thing”. It makes these single women so unsure about existing by themselves that they would do damn near anything to get married. And decisions made in desperation are always horrible ones.

I also was looking for some women to talk to in this ministry. I thought the Single Women’s Ministry might help me develop some friendships with women. Women I could maybe hang out with, have a glass of wine with, commiserate with, and yeah, perhaps even come across some men to have interesting, intelligent conversation with. I wasn’t necessarily looking to be married at that moment, but I did want to socialize with men. But women in the Singles Ministry have no interest in socializing just for the sake of social interaction, pleasant discourse, etc. They’re all about finding husbands, AND NOTHING ELSE. To them the time you waste socializing could be better spent planning the wedding. Every exchange with men must be clearly and definitively designed to get them one step to the altar. It is a 24/7 quest for these women, the search for that God fearing, God loving spouse. Their dissatisfaction with their single states is unbelievable, and it troubled me to think that people so clearly unhappy with themselves were actively trying to focus on bringing someone else into their lives to make it right. These women treated singleness like a disease they needed to find a cure for. Being unmarried was an affliction, and a husband was the remedy. No one wanted to be single. To be single was to be the Devil’s handmaiden, an agent for the forces of darkness and evil. And because I was not desperately seeking to heal myself from the sickness of singlehood, I was delusional and sinful almost beyond repair. The women didn’t understand my desire to grow, flourish and blossom as a sole entity at least a little bit before I introduced another party into it . I never ever once said I didn’t hope to be married one day, but that wasn’t my primary objective at that time, and it certainly wasn’t something I was attempting to address through attending church. Evidently, this meant I was a whore. A slut. This also meant I was after all the married women’s husbands – which I guess I could have easily been since I wasn’t always up in church and had more time to spend with their husbands than they did. But I honestly wasn’t. And the pressure to marry was everywhere! I was constantly being “introduced” to men whom were possible candidates for me because they were male and single and…well, that was pretty much all they offered. Evidently that was all that was required. I guess it should have been enough for a single woman like me. It bothered me that the church didn’t feel I was not enough, just me, that God didn’t want me or care about me if I was single, and I inevitably always left these groups.

Ms. Cooper also states “…Single Black women trying to live a sanctified lifestyle won’t be caught dead in the places where men are likely to be found. These church women refuse to go to parties, sports bars or sporting events, or clubs where there is drinking, card playing, domino throwing, shit talking and cussing – you know, the things that most men who enjoy life like to do. Instead these single Black women sit at home alone, or get together with their friends and read the Bible, then pray that God will bring them a husband…”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I suggested to my Single Women’s Ministry colleagues that we go out to some event or activity that might allow us to have a good time, expand our social circle, let us to enjoy common interests and to meet people…yes, even men too. I never suggested we go out and get totally wasted, or that we hit the nightclubs and grind on strange men deep into the night, or that we throw ourselves at random strangers at art galleries or restaurants. But I did suggest that we collectively pursue our interests, and in the course of doing that, see who we came in contact with. But oh no. These ladies never wanted to do anything that wasn’t church affiliated or that put them on an express train to matrimony.

And now we’ll get to the part I always found most disturbing about my experiences in church – the horniness of these single women. Ms. Cooper explains it like this. “…If you are a single Black woman attending a traditional Black church, you will be surrounded by sexually frustrated single women who feel guilty and confused about their physical desires and emotional hungers….You will be told that your sexuality and sensuality must be contained or you lose value as a woman…”

If you ever want to see a group of adults subtly dry-humping each other and feeling each other up in public, drive past any large Black church when Sunday services are letting out. The madness begins while the services are going on. I tell you I would SMELL the sexual frustration in the air, it would leave me with a slightly nauseated feeling, like sitting next to a person wearing loud cheap perfume and being forced to inhale the scent. You see the women crossing, uncrossing, re-crossing, uncrossed, and re-crossing their legs, gently rubbing their upper thighs together under their skirts and dresses, a definite sign of sexual frustration. You see them, eyes glazed, lips slightly parted, admiring the deacons, the musicians, the assistant pastors, and so on. And then the sermon comes, and – a lot of church going women don’t want to admit this but I’m gonna tell it because I’ve heard it said quite a bit – well delivered sermons can often arouse and inflame a lot more than a woman’s…well…desire to serve the Lord. Especially if she’s already abstaining, or trying to . Passion is passion, and when one’s spirit is highly charged and moved, often other parts of the anatomy follow. So now you have all these worked up women, the doors of the church fly open when service is done, and the “fellowship love” commences.

Fellowship love is my personal term for the kissing, hugging, groping and grabbing that good Christian folk do to each other after church. The hugs are especially funny – some women do the “butt-out hug” where they make sure no part of their lower body comes in contact with his. Generally that means they’re trying not to let men touch them because they are so hungry for a man’s touch they fear they’ll have an orgasm on the spot. Plus it allows other men to check out their asses. (SIDEBAR – I was asked to point out that butt-out hugs also occur when men are trying to avoid contact with women’s bodies so they won’t get erections, which is particularly difficult to hide in dress slacks.) Then you get the full body hugs from women who always squeeze just a little too tight, too hard, too close or too long. You get the people who kiss the cheek while touching your face softly, rub their cheeks against your face, and generally treat you like a lover they are tenderly saying goodbye to in the morning light after a night of lovemaking. Some women grab the arms, backs, necks and shoulders of men as they hug them, squeezing and rubbing all the while. Some go around giving little massages to the male members. If you are just a casual observer, you may not see it or get it at first. But get close to it and you can’t miss it. And just so you don’t think I’m blaming the women, the men ain’t any better. I got to the point where I would never hang out outside the sanctuary after services because I didn’t want to be molested.

The real problem with all of this for me? The church does little to help single women handle their “physical desires and emotional hungers” as Ms. Cooper calls them, other than offering matrimony. I understand that sex outside of marriage is a sin in the eyes of God. But even so, God does know that human frailty is going to cause us to fall short, and He lovingly forgives us if we ask forgiveness of Him. But God’s love of us and His infinite understanding of human nature and His infinite ability to forgive all things is something these women never embrace. The church doesn’t always seem to see the value of  teaching women to leave shame behind as they learn to trust God, including shame about their sexuality. That means women need to be given the tools, space and time to figure these things out, free from the pressure to wed. But the church doesn’t give the lesson that sexuality is not the problem. Context is. As long as they don’t give that lesson women will be ashamed on some level of their sexual selves, and shame keeps women under control.  And the level of shame that these women feel about something that is a natural part of who they are is a problem. God does not frown on sexuality in and of itself, He just wants it put in its proper place. Worst of all, horniness and everything that comes with it – loneliness, sadness, etc., are rarely openly addressed in church either, and made worse by the constant marital push. And often women aren’t given any real tools to maintain abstinence if that’s what a woman strives to do. You just have to wait until you meet this man that marries you (because then you can have sex – and honestly, I think a lot of these women who end up succumbing to the pressure to marry were just tired of not getting laid!), and in the meantime you press your thighs together as tightly as possible and hold on until he shows up. And of course it is always the woman’s fault if a man “falls from grace”. It is always her wantonly displayed seductiveness that caused him to fall, so church women often must be on guard so that they don’t entice some horny old deacon.

Ms. Cooper comments rather simply and powerfully towards the end of her article, “…if you’ve been participating in your church for 10, 12, 18 years looking for love and a husband to make your life complete, and you haven’t found him yet, it’s time to try something new…” While trying something new might not mean leaving your church home, it at the very least means a serious change in attitude for these women. I think where some of these types of women make their mistake is they think of their relationships with God as a quid pro quo arrangements – quid pro quo is Latin and it means “something for something”. Some women take the idea of a spouse being a gift from God quite literally – they truly see him as a reward for a job well done in service of the Lord. Its as if they expect God to go around handing out husbands to His good and faithful single female servants. They believe that a combination of submission, service and supplication will make a groom appear. They take very literally that verse that declares God will give them the “desires of their hearts”. A husband is their personal little pot of gold at the end of their spiritual rainbow.

Once I asked a girlfriend of mine who was attending church seeking a husband about this, and she mentioned this whole “desires of your heart” thing to me. I then asked her if she would ever want anything outside of God’s will or God’s plan for her. She said “of course not”. I then asked her if God, for whatever reason, didn’t want her to have a husband at this time, or perhaps ever, would she, as a good Christian, submit to His will graciously? She was stumped. She just kept going back to the “desires of your heart” thing over and over. She ran down a laundry list of things that she did for the church, all of the choirs she sang on, all the ministries that she had served on, all the bake sales, car washes, and clothing drives she had organized. She cited her faithful attendance of praise and worship services, Sunday School, and Bible  study When she was done, she looked and me and nodded, convinced that she had proved her point. Why wouldn’t God give her the desires of her heart after so much hard work?

I didn’t bother pointing out that doing things for the church and doing things to serve God are not always one and the same because it seemed like I was already blowing her mind. I then pointed out that “His ways are not our ways, and His thought are not our thoughts…” and, in keeping with that, would she be prepared to consider the idea that God, in His infinitely mysterious wisdom, intended her to be on this road? She finally got exasperated with me, and cut me off with “I just don’t believe that’s what God intends for me.”

Well ummm…okay

I have struggled with all the things Ms. Cooper sites in her article in Black churches. It makes me feel bad because I really do want to have a church home, but it seems almost impossible. I don’t subject myself to a lot of nonsense in most aspects of my life, and church is no different   In spite of it all, including not having a church home, I still have a relationship with God – a combination of faith, works, prayer, love, humor and endless patience for this growing and learning process that is my life that puzzles me more than anything. And now that I have exposed myself and my struggles so publicly, we’ll see what you have to say!

Comments would be GREATLY appreciated…PEACE!

You can read Ms. Cooper’s article in its entirely at http://survivingdating.com/?p=1229.