Read Smoke!

Read Smoke!
My latest book, "Smoke: poems of love, longing and ecstasy" is available for purchase on Amazon in e-book and paperback. Click book for link.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm a WEAK Black Woman

"I am a weak Black Woman!" I joked in the parking lot. I had just performed my dramatic interpretation of the Tyler Perry tragic heroine; scorned, mad and consequently strong. Actually, I'll be glad when someone breaks the monopoly that Tyler Perry has on Black culture. Spike Lee? John Singleton? Can another director please stand up.

Mr. Right Now laughed at me.

"No really" I said positioning myself to slide into his car. "I'm going to start telling people I'm weak before they assume that I'm strong and therefore a bitch."

Mr. Right Now smiled at my sarcasm before closing the door. We were wrapping an enjoyable evening at a popular new restaurant on the Southside of Medium-City, South. He and I have been innocently dating for several months now and I'm rather enjoying the ambiguity of our romantic aims.

On this night, we fell on the subject of how men date. My ears perked up.

"Basically there are three types of men in your dating pool. There's that cool guy with like a professional job and he's most likely dating multiple girls at once."

I nod, chewing my salmon.

"Then there's like the awkward guy, and he probably doesn't mess with Black women because they never paid him any attention. He's the type of guy you'd find in a place like this," he said referring to our waspy environment, "at the bar trying to pick up girl."

Another nod.

"And then there are gay guys."

I drink my 'diva martini', creating a noticeable pause in our dinner conversation. I am letting the shock settle.

"What?!" he says laughing.

I set my drink down and look him in the eyes. "So there's men who don't want anything serious, geeks and gays."


"So no eligible Black men want to date for real?"


I giggled realizing his analysis probably wasn't that far off at face value. It certainly suited his situation. "I got you." My 'diva martini' tasted so good.

That was the pleasure of Mr. Right Now. I enjoy having him around, but he is pretty much free to leave. Mr. Right Now meets all of my Betty qualifications. He has learned how to court me and over the past few months my feelings for him have grown. But at the end of the day, my socks (and panties) are still on. I believe his greatest asset is his timing. He came around a few weeks after Miles.

"So what about the woman you do consider getting serious about? You know, if there's multiple women in your life, how do you determine where they stand?"

I know that men, just like many women, have levels of endearment.

"You talking about the type of girl I'd make my old lady?"

"Something like that."

And he had a laundry list, including nice teeth and a woman that "wouldn't embarrass him in front of his co-workers".

Then he added this. "And a woman has to let a man be a man."

It wasn't the first time I'd heard a successful Black man way this. Ironically, Miles had made the same observation... on our last date.

I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad....*

Now I'm as feminine as they come. I cross my legs when I sit. I cook dinner on Sundays. And I never leave the house without perfume. But even I, in my two years of post-collegiate dating, have had to learn how be a lady-- all over again.

I have learned to let the man signal the waiter for me and lead us in grace. I've learned to give him a chance to talk about him self and to pepper conversations with questions that require his expertise. I've learned to compliment him on the restaurant choice (if it is indeed a good choice). I've realized that every polemical statement does not require a rebuttal and that sometimes it is wiser to speak with my eyes rather than my lips.

I've discovered the old saying is true. You catch more flies with honey.

And unfortunately I did not learn these things from my mother.

My son noah built new/ark and I stood proudly at the helm as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
Men intone my loving name

All praises
All praises
I am the one who would save*

My mother is a wonderfully supportive wife. In fact I believe my parents are very much soul mates, still happy after 25 years. But mommy is an alpha female. She runs a huge medical practice and she pretty much runs the household as well. Growing up, it was dad who chauffeured me to dance class and to the beauty parlor for my Saturday morning press-and-curls. He made sure I'd eaten dinner and helped me with my homework. He took me to school in the morning and picked me up if it was raining. His law office was conveniently a mile away from home. Mommy worked. A lot.

Dad provided and kept us safe by any means necessary, but in many ways my mother was the de facto leader. That situation works for my parents but I have feeling it would not work for most of the accomplished men I date. While they admire my intelligence and independence, they are looking for a queen, not a co-ruler.

I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct*

A lot of Black women grew up surrounded by 'strong' matriarchs . Our culture celebrates them. She is the woman who if need be, could do it all on her own. She is provider, chef, lover, accountant, therapist, counsel, handy-(wo)man--- willing to play any role at any given time. Her instinct is not to defer to a man, though she may appreciate and respect the one that is there. She is strong.

My mother was an excellent mother and she raised me in the image of her. She raised me to be God-fearing, independent, and emotionally resilient. She wanted me to treat my body like a temple and to be a lady-- and yet, I feel her lessons were incomplete.

In truth, I am not a weak woman. I am quite strong. Really, there is no way I could not be strong. I live thousands of miles away from my family. I work in an industry where my Ivy-League degree does not protect me from racism. And every time my heart is broken, I have to present a stiff upper lip to the world. For me, and women like me, being vulnerable is really not an option. It's just a selective tool.

The modern woman on the quest for the pervasive 'all' faces a mighty dilemma. In our post-liberation world we have earned the right to eat, drink, and work like any man. We fight wars with men. Many of us even date like men. But we want to have our careers and marry well too. Herein lies the problem. Some men find us too independent, too fast, and too liberated for our own good.

And what about Black women? Let's face it, from slavery onward, many of foremothers were placed in situations where they had to be 'strong'. They didn't have the luxury of succumbing to emotion. They had to keep it together for the family. Us modern women, even if we did grow up as princesses, are descendants of that legacy. And how do we survive dating the rounds of men who will break our hearts, and not develop a thick skin in the process?

And then what about our culture which has made the term 'strong' synonymous with a slew of negative words--- mad, angry, bitter, un-nurturing, loud, quarrelsome, un-supportive, combative, picky, feisty, scorned.... bitch.

I don't know. Clair Huxtable made having it all look so easy.

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

In this day and age, a man appreciates a woman who does her own thing and has her own interests. Accordingly a fly woman should want to be appreciated, and respected, for who she is. I sure do. But as I grow up, I am also learning to straddle that murky line between old-fashioned and liberated. Vulnerable and strong.

Perhaps like all things in love, it really comes down to compromise. I've come to realize men don't only need sex. They need attention, loyalty and subtle strokes to the ego too. And while our needs as women have evolved since liberation, for the most part, there's have not.

We moved our discussion from Tyler Perry to locating my car as Mr. Right Now drove around the crowded parking lot. I had a good idea where it was, but I thanked him for finding it. How could I have forgotten? I smiled sweetly and bid him good night.

Tyler Perry, what do you say to that?

Flyness and funk,


*Nicki Giovanni's 'Ego Tripping'. A poem written in honor of the strong Black woman.

Smoking With Cigarettes, A Fine Boondocks Parody

"Then I stole it and had my friend come in and he smokes with cigawettes."

So... I didn't know who 7 year old Latarian Milton was until I watched Sunday's episode of the Boondocks 'Smoking With Cigarettes' (Season 3, Episode 6) . In 2008 Latarian Milton stole his grandmothers car and took it for a joy-ride, damaging four other cars and nearly killing several innocent people. Then a few months later, he struck again, hitting his grandmother in a Wal-Mart during a temper-tantrum he was having over some fried chicken.

Here are the news stories from the two events... and yes they tried it assigning this story to their resident Black male reporter!

"... But did you know you could perhaps have killed somebody?....Yes. But I wanted to do hoodrat stuff with my friends."

In the Boondocks episode 8 year LaMilton Taeshawn picks up Riley in his grandmothers car and they go on a joy ride. The episode takes on a sociopathic turn when LaMilton forces Riley to accompany him on his violent rampages at gun-point. "It's fun to do bad things," he says to the Black reporter. All through out his grandmother apologizes for his violent behavior, blaming it on society and the fact that LaMilton "really likes chicken wings".

I think McGruder's parody is also a biting commentary on raising Black boys , and the propensity for many Black single mothers and grandmothers to spoil their sons. What do you think? Feel free to respond in the comments section.

After watching this cartoon, when I discovered the real news story about Latarian I fell out laughing. But trust-- my soul was weeping at the same time.

Here's the link to the Boondocks episode Smoking With Cigarettes on youtube.

-Flyness and funk(y but whoopins)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spotlight: Corinne Bailey Rae "Closer"

I can't get enough of this song and that smooth seventies vibe. Or maybe it's that the lyrics are on point. Who hasn't felt this way?

I don't want to give you up
But I don't want to hold you up
I don't want ambiguous
I just know that I've had enough

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Whoomp! There's the President...

According to reports, President Obama ALLEGEDLY appeared in the music video for the 1993 'quick classic' "Whoomp There It is". He also made a cameo appearance in Boyz In the Hood, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, and a lost episode of Soul Train.

Flyness and funky look-a-likes,

Update: After further investigation, it turns out this was Al B. Sure. Another case of light-skinned mistaken identity.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Fly Girl's Tale Of Unrequited Love

This weekend I found myself reunited with my old home, an old acquaintance and old fears.

I was in the Garden State discretely auditioning for 15 minutes of fame. I had been waiting my turn, camped on a beach chair in the parking lot of a low-end department store in my fabulous silk dress that I so desperately wanted to avoid ruining with under-arm sweat. That's when mom, then playing the role of personal assistant, brought up a sore subject. She asked about the last man I'd dated. Let's call him Miles, because he reminds me so much of a character first introduced in Benilde Little's novel, Good Hair.

When I met Miles right after Mount Holyoke, I was one of those people. I had been living in Manhattan for five years, hanging out with a bunch of women who, in addition to sharing an alma mater, shared a "1950-ish" goal of marrying well.

Miles, the fictional character, has all the the swag and circumstance deserving of a wildly successful, handsome, and charming Black man. He is a workaholic. Success is his wife, but he takes many concubines. And while Miles initially surrounds his paramour in magnificent romantic splendor, his attention span is painfully short. Painfully.

I had a Miles. He moved on. I'm still trying to.

"He's not the one," mom said. At least I think that's what she said. At that point I was reading her lips. The chatter of reality tv hopefuls and this conversation was bleeding into one another. I was in a wind tunnel, wondering how the hell we landed on this subject anyway. Mom was angry with me. I'd confessed to her that I wanted to know what it was I did. How did I manage to lose the man with whom most women didn't stand a chance? The man I felt I deserved. The man of my Betty Dreams.

"You really need to see someone about this. You don't know how to lose. You've never been able to accept failure. It's because we spoiled you. We gave you everything you wanted."

How mom was comparing my love life to my childhood wants was beyond me. This was not a car or a Dooney and Burke bag or a Tiffany's bracelet. This was a potential husband. Grown woman business.

I had been channeling positive energy prior to the audition, but I felt myself deflating. Mom's words were so final. "He's not the one. You're barking up the wrong tree."

At that moment I was quietly reliving every past romantic failure. From high school. To college. To adulthood. They had all merged into a single sorrowful composite experience that somehow rendered all of my victories up to that point insignificant.

I was remembering how Scorpio loved me and hurt me. How Prince Charming disappointed me. How Mr. X vanished. I was building yet another emotional monument to yet another man.

The angst clenched my throat and tears filled my eyes until finally I began to sob in the middle of that low-budget parking lot, in my a fabulous silk dress, while a lady dressed up as Tinkerbell looked on.

I was convinced that I was in love with Miles, and I made a deal with myself at that moment to do whatever I had to do, which turned out to be pretending to be someone else, to close the deal. I'd anointed him the perfect man: Ward doing the levels-- eatin' ribs with the brothers who work for transit and drinking Vueve Clicquot with CEO's.

At the open of Benilde Little's book, Alice, the main character, is still quietly suffering in Miles' absence after two years. She's a newspaper reporter, living the Manhattan life: climbing social ladders in the appropriate pair of pumps. For Alice, love is the conclusion of a long and dizzying fairytale.

"You want a fairytale," my mother said.

Alice and I aren't completely different. Of course, in the end she stumbles upon a blue- blooded doctor of Boston stock. They live happily ever after with one minor hiccup-- an illegitimate child. And then two books later, Miles, at the age of 40, finally marries a flighty and fabulous twenty-five year old, of my namesake. Aisha. Go figure.

This is not heart break. This is a dream deferred.

I confess that I am in love with the idea that I can have it all. Fabulous degree. Fabulous career. Fabulous wardrobe. Fabulous man. When I met my Miles, I was reeling with the excitement. Praise God, literally I thanked God, that I would not have to be another successful 'strong' Black women without a husband or a date. Amen! I was flyer than that. Above being a victim. Alas, I had done it. I was on my way to being one of the impeccable women in the society pages of Uptown Magazine.

And when our romance dismantled I blamed myself. I wasn't on-point enough. I wasn't accommodating enough. I didn't say the right things. Maybe I said too much. In fact, I'm still haunted by the possibility that when I meet another him, I'll let him get away as well. I still feel that because I am fly and I am a Black woman , I do not have the luxury of making mistakes.

A few hours after my unsuccessful reality-show audition, my grandad called with good news. Pop-Pop was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of years ago but today it's completely in remission. He said the doctors had told him he was in excellent health for his age. He said, "People who get old stay in the house and they dwell on things they have no control over."

Pop-Pop may not have realized it, but at that moment he taught me one of the most powerful lessons I've learned to date. You have to move on. Living things adapt or they die.

I had to move on.

I ended my phone call with Pop-Pop chewing on that nugget of wisdom. I pulled up Facebook on my blackberry and read a post written by an old friend. Actually, he was my first crush, but we don't need to assign him an alias. I adored this guy in middle school and high school but I was too shy to make any good on it. On his end, what started out as mutual interest turned into repulsion. To him, I wasn't the goody-two-shoe Black girl with stars in her eyes. I was just awkward. Yehp. In my first concupiscent experience, I fell flat on my face.

This old crush had just posted about a basketball tournament in memory of a mutual classmate who'd passed away. It was already in progress at the local middle school. I though, how convenient? I could maybe see some old friends. I didn't think twice about seeing my former interest.

So I went over there, dressed casually in snug denim, a silk blouse, and peep toe heels. I ducked my head in and quickly realized I didn't recognize anyone, except for him. I stepped back outside. Suddenly my heart was beating through my chest. I could easily turn around and go back home. He'd never even know I was there if I just quietly slipped out.

"Hey!" I greeted him with my mega-watt smile.

He returned it with a hug. "Aren't you like a star now! " He smiled back. I relaxed. As he peppered me with questions about my new life in Medium-City, South I couldn't help but realize how much tastes change, and so do circumstances.

Over a decade had passed since I was infatuated by his puerile good looks. I had since moved on, found new men to become infatuated with, to seduce, and new men to mourn.

As I turned to leave, he asked to exchange information. Cool.

That night, during a casual text conversation, he invited me to his place.

I mean... really?

As I politely declined his invitation, I accepted that time changes things. This weekend was supposed to be nothing more than a quick trip home for an audition. It turned out to be an abrupt confrontation with the past; The old neighborhood, the childhood crush, and the not so distant feelings of hurt and regret. And while I realized I was completely over my teenage crush, I had to face the fact that I was still completely devastated by losing Miles. Hell, by losing. And thoughts of Miles still unleash all of my insecurities. Will I find success? Will I meet 'the one'?

Am I good enough for the life of my dreams?
I had met Miles Browning at a party. He smelled my hollowness and zoned in on me like a coyote at a camp fire.

The truth: I am probably part to blame for Mile's abrupt loss of interest. And so is he. In retrospect, there were a lot of external factors that made our relationship unfavorable at the moment. But I am a lot like Alice was at the beginning of that book--- heart broken, hungry for the inexplicable, and looking for fulfillment. Whatever it is I'm wanting, I saw in him.

It's not all that easy dating as a fly Black woman. You have these standards... they complicate things. But it's even harder when you want the world and you lack the patience it takes to wait for it.

Time in and of itself takes care of a lot of things. If we work toward being our best selves, life only gets better, even if there is a misstep, or several, along the way. The best thing we can do is learn, quickly, from experience and take some wisdom for the road.

As Pop-Pop might say, no use dwelling on things you can't change.

Flyness and funk,