Monthly Archives: October 2009

And Now for ‘Something New’???

An excerpt of this blog appeared yesterday on Alphanista.com.  View it here: http://tinyurl.com/yg7r7lp

I used to think I was different than everyone else, a true individual with very unique experiences.  Apparently, I’m just a statistic.

According to a Yale University study among women with advanced degrees, Black women are twice as likely never to have been married by age 45 than White women.  Tell me something I don’t know.  Most of my friends are single, educated sisters who can’t get a date…a date with anyone we like, anyway.  On the other hand, well damn!  My singlehood has been documented and confirmed by sociologists, which makes it some kind of fact.  Grrrr!

But wait, there’s more!  More than any other group studied, Black women are we’re less likely than even our men to have college-grad spouses.  Think about that for a minute, and realize that it’s because Black men are more likely to marry White women, while Black women would rather find a Brotha with a GED than cross over into “something new” territory.  Yep, that information is in the study too.  I’m not really liking these options: someone hand me a cocktail or a pint of Haagen-Dazs!

Like every woman in America, I guess I have a fantasy about my potential mate.  He’s tall, dark and handsome…to be clear, he’s taller than me, darker than me, and I find him handsome but that doesn’t mean he has to look like Blair Underwood.  Actually, I did date a guy who looked like Blair Underwood, but that’s a story for another time.  My Fantasy Brotha – and he is a brotha – has a background like mine, which is to say he went to college, was raised by both parents, and is really smart and kinda geeky.  Hey, I dated that guy too.  A few times.  And when it didn’t work out I veered away from my fantasy and towards the reality of dating different kinds of men.

I’ve gone out with guys who aren’t as educated as me, who don’t have professional jobs, and it wasn’t for me.  Look, I have nothing against a high-school graduate; neither of my parents went to college.   And, degree or not, my Dad is one of the smartest men I know.  If I could find someone like him I’d have a browser window open right now for Blue Nile, ready to propose.  But the non-diploma’d men I’ve dated were intimidated by my friends from college and business school.  And they were intimidated by my family, which happens to be full of college people.  But my family is the loving/caring/sharing kind of family, not the snobby kind who one-ups each other at dinner.  I’m gonna need to be with someone that will do the Electric Slide at the family reunion, because fun and bonding doesn’t come with a certificate on the wall.  And its not like my friends walk around saying, “Let us gather and wax sentimental about the alma mater.  Boola Boola!” or start sentences with “When I got my MBA…” But occasionally I’ll want my guy to come to the Yale-Harvard game and get drunk at the parking lot tailgate.  And when he’s standing in the chug line-up next to me, I want him to feel comfortable with the guys tapping the keg.  I really don’t think that’s a lot to ask for.

Similarly, I don’t really want to marry a White man.  When I was in high school, I kind of assumed that I’d marry a White guy because I didn’t really socialize with Black guys.  This wasn’t intentional, but rather a by-product of bussing and gifted programs where I was the only Black student in my class for years.  When there were other Blacks, they were female.  Right now, I won’t go into what I think is wrong with that situation, or the institutionalized racism inherent in the educational system…again, a story for another time.  Suffice it to say that I had crushes on White classmates and had them over to my house, and did some serious hanging with White guys in college, but I never dated any of them.  I never dated anyone at all until I graduated from college and met some Black men that didn’t think I was corny.  I’m sure my dad was thrilled.  And so was I, not only because I actually had dates, but because I dated dudes I really connected with.   Black men feel like home to me and at the end of the day, I want to come home.  Now don’t call me a racist ‘cuz I still have plenty of White friends.  Yet some things about them remain strange to me.  Like, where are the washcloths?  Don’t y’all use them when you take a shower?  When I’m staying at your house, I expect you to give me a towel and washcloth, not a towel and a bar of soap, know what I mean?  My Black husband would get it, and we’d pack some extra terrycloth when we visit.  Then there’s the hair thing.  The mother of a Caucasian friend actually put her hand in my Afro before we were even introduced!  Imagine if that came from my man’s mother? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s a bad idea to bitch-slap potential family members, even if they do dumb stuff.

So you see, I’ve explored the options and I’m gonna have to stick with my original “tall, dark & educated” plan or suck it up and be single.  Actually, there could be hope with one of the nice Pakistani cab drivers that always tell me I’m beautiful.  Some of them are doctors in their country.  And we’d have nice brown babies.  It’s something to consider, but the jury’s still out.

The Complaint Box is Empty

I have a complaint: people complain too much.

Have you ever noticed that when we complain, its usually something that we can control. Okay, okay, I’m the first person to kvetch, so much so that the New York Times printed one of my rants. But I do it for the sake of humor, not because I’m a curmudgeon.

The aunt that I live with is a frequent complainer, being at set-in-your-ways age when you complain about what’s not to your liking. Last weekend, she decided to wash windows and proceeded to complain about how tired she was after working all week and going to an 8:30AM meeting that day. However, she proceeded to sweep and clean…and complain.

It occurred to me, as I tried to leave the house, that she didn’t have to do the housecleaning at that particular second. She could have sat down for some lunch and a cup of coffee, made a phone call, even taken a nap.  There was no company coming, no plans for the evening, and no concrete reason – other than personal choice – that my aunt had to do the housekeeping right then.  If I hadn’t been rushing to catch the library and the post office before closing time, I’d have stayed to help. Within the hour, I’d have been back home and I suggested that auntie wait for my assistance.  She’d have none of it and as I walked out the door, I heard a now-familiar tirade about “you young people” and our shortcomings.

I love my aunt but I just wanted to say “If you’re tired, sit down and SHUT UP about it!”  In my opinion, you can’t choose to do something and then complain about doing it.  Further, you can’t reject someone’s help and then complain about having to do it alone.  Am I wrong, people?

My aunt is not alone, though, in her tendency to whine.  People with lots of kids complain that they have lots of kids.  I’ve got some news for them:  you made the kids, so you know where they came from and how not to get any more. At 37, I’ve managed to avoid conceiving children because I know how hard it is to care for them; I don’t want to hear you bitch and moan about yours.  Here’s a dollar, by a condom.

Movie stars complain about the paparazzi, the gossip mags, and fans wanting to know about their personal lives.  If nobody cared about you, you wouldn’t be a star, and you wouldn’t be able to afford the mansion you live in, or even the security cameras around it.  If you didn’t want anyone to know your name, you should have been a bus driver.  But the trade off for the admiration and the pretty clothes and a percentage of the box office is people taking pictures of you and speculating about your love life.  Once they stop caring, you stop working, just like what’s-her-name.  Yes I’m talking about you, Julia Roberts!  Make like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, sell your photos for some cold, hard cash and smile for the cameras.

I’ll bet you a million dollars that the president doesn’t complain.  Not just Obama, but all of them.  Talk about a crappy job!  Every decision you make could affect millions of people, and you’re never really sure where you stand.  Scary-looking guys with sunglasses and earpieces follow you everywhere because one of the other guys with your job got shot. And lawyers and stock brokers make a butt-load more money than you for all the stress you have.  But he’s POTUS, the most powerful person in the world. And he wouldn’t have run for office if he didn’t want the job, so stop complaining about how you hate your job and be thankful that your performance reviews aren’t a topic for the Sunday news shows!

You know who doesn’t complain?  People with cancer .  You never hear a cancer patient say, “Oh my goodness, my hair is falling out, and it makes my face look so fat” or “Don’t mind me I’m just vomiting.  I can’t stand this chemo, what do those doctors think they’re doing?.”  Actually, they suffer and suck it up, because the alternative is more sickness, more pain.  They have no choice but to accept what is and thank God or Allah or their surgeon that they’re living another day.  Then they get back on the bike, or go back to work, or start a charity walk, or go home and kiss their kids goodnight.

And I’m gonna guess there’s no complaining about how many toys are on the floor.

The Little Hater = My Polar Opposite

I am my own little hater.  I’m stealing the terminology from Jay Smooth, hip-hop DJ and video blogger who have a shout-out to his little hater, the little voice inside your head that makes you doubt yourself and gets in the way of you doing stuff.  Let’s just say that I’m totally feeling him right now since I haven’t blogged yet this month and I’m generally being unproductive in the rest of my life as well.

Not to be hard on myself, but its my own fault.  I’m scared, frightened, worried about a bunch of things which, as Jay correctly identified, leads to procrastination.  But I’ve had a lifetime nurturing my own neuroses so my procrastination takes on a different shade than most.  Naps always work: if I’m having strange dreams about running into an ex-boyfriend at my high school (really happened), then I don’t know I’m avoiding anything.  Sure I spend lots of time on Facebook, as do cubicle-dwellers everywhere when they’re pretending to work.  I even procrastinate by doing useful things, like exercising or cleaning, so I’m not just sitting around like a bump on a log.  In actuality, though, the housework and bodywork can usually wait; what I need is to find a paying job, or continue to entertain thoughts of writing for a living, and both those things require attention and focus and effort. . .hold on a minute, be right back. . .

Sorry folks, just got a new e-mail and thought it was maybe job-related, but it was just a comment on my Facebook status.  I should probably change those settings.  Anyway, like I was saying, I’m a champion procrastinator, or multitasker depending on your perspective.  My chosen career in corporate America taught me to believe that you could only be doing a good job if you were juggling lots of things at once while managing to get them all done.  Of course it doesn’t always work that way and people either burn themselves out from the intensity or the duration of corporate multitasking.  Since I’ve been there, done that, I should have learned that I do better when I can focus.  But here I am, in self-imposed limbo between pursuing a job I’m good at that I enjoy (writing), a job I’m good at that’s no good for me (corporate marketing), and a job that I have no idea about (non-profit marketing).

Hold on, another e-mail. . .darn, its just from Gilt Groupe.  They have a new offshoot, Gilt Fuse with the cutest stuff.  I love those lotus flower earrings, only $30.  They’ve been expanded, wonder if they need any marketing people?   A-ha!  “Director, Relationship Marketing”, I’ll have to bookmark that.  Maybe Sandra can get me the inside track since she works there.  And the earrings too…3 more e-mails.  Tanya may be in labor and she’s posting on Facebook?  That means she’s at home, so where’s my phone?  Ok, left a voicemail.  Maybe I’ll go see her soon. . .

Wait a minute, I was getting to something really important before I got interrupted again.  Oh, yeah.  I’m getting in my own way, accidentally on purpose.  Years of therapy have taught me that I’m the queen of self-sabotage, a master of self-fulfilling prophecy.  You’re probably thinking that I wouldn’t get interrupted by e-mail if I just closed the browser, right?  But the last time I was off e-mail for a day, the New York Times sent me something, so I’m not risking that again.  And since my iPhone was dead all day yesterday, I need some contact with the outside world.  The average person rationalizes in very much the same way, maintaining intermittent distractions – like e-mail – under the guise of importance.  But I’ve always been above-average, even at the bad stuff.  Therefore my proficiency with denial is, like that with most other things, quite high and vastly superior.  To that end, I’ve apparently created a fool-proof manner of wrecking my life that even I couldn’t feel guilty about.  I stopped taking my meds.

No, that’s not new and they even made a House episode about it.  I never said I was unique for going off meds, but I’ve got to give myself credit for all the work it took to pull it off without actual culpability.  You see, I take two kind of medication.  One is new-fangled, hence very expensive and has wicked physical withdrawal symptoms, the likes of which I’d never wish on my worst enemy.  I’ve been on it for about 4 years and no matter what, and I always take it, even if it means buying one pill at a time.   If I’m late with a dose it I get weird, nauseous headaches where my eyes hurt and my brain feels like its short-circuiting.  Horrible stuff to be avoided at all costs.  The other medication is old-school, generic, very inexpensive, and I’ve only been on it since February.  It is my miracle drug, if there can be such a thing.  The medication whose success diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, which has made the biggest difference in my recovery.  And that’s the one I’ve been without for almost two months.

It started because of a mistake.  When I went to get a refill, I couldn’t find my scrips (not really my fault).  I must’ve changed purses, so I went through my stuff for a while and finally thought I’d located the missing documents.  At that point, I realized that my doctor accidentally wrote me 2 scrips for the other med and none for my miracle pills (again, I’m blameless).   Fortuitously, this occurred at the same time I was haggling with COBRA over my recently-canceled health insurance (a little bit my fault, I was late with the payment) They’d neglected to approve $500 worth of visits to the very same doctor I needed for a new scrip, rightly so, he wouldn’t see me with an outstanding balance (his policy).  With no insurance, I couldn’t afford to pay the doctor and COBRA and out-of-pocket for the sick-withdrawal meds at the same time (okay maybe I could if I cashed in my 401(k), the only savings I have).  So I my not-so-little hater started running things and convinced me that I’d be able to handle it without the meds.

Turns out that my little hater, LH, is as smart as me.  She knows that even though I’ll have some really days, I’ll fall into old patterns and stop asking for help.  She also knows that I’m smart enough to do things that lots of people can’t do on their best days, like get a random byline in the Times or write 1200 words to submit to The New Yorker, or crank out enough cover letters to get two job interviews in one week.  And those things will make me feel good, simultaneously bolstering my confidence and my ignorance.  But LH is not just smart, she’s sneaky: she knows that I’ll eventually feel like crap and give up.  Sometimes my body gives up for me and I get physically ill, fever, sore throat, the whole works.  Then I have to reschedule an interview because I’m too sick to leave the house.  Or if she’s really having her way with me, she makes me apathetic to everyone and everything.  It is then that I blow off an interview with no phone call, no e-mail, because I didn’t really want the job anyway.

How can I feel guilty?  I think, “I’ve got swollen glands, and I’ve cried just about every day this week.  Also I can’t focus, and I feel as I did right before I checked myself into the hospital.  Maybe I need to go back again.  Obviously I’m in no condition to interview, or anything else for that matter, so its not my fault.”  But it is my fault, because even though I’d rather be well than sick, prefer employment to the dole line, what I most want is to do nothing and have someone else take care of me.  Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m spoiled.  And I’m not just spoiled but a coddled only child – except for my illness, everything in my life has been pretty easy.  And comparatively, my illness has been easy because I still managed to go to school and feed myself and keep a roof over my head while handling it.  And I’m blessed with the intellectual capacity to work through my problems in therapy, or in print, without mortally wounding anyone else.  But my big brain, a.k.a. “LH”, a.k.a. my very own little hater, uses all those smarts to rationalize my immaturity into behavior that hurts only me, like making me stop meds so I literally can’t work.  The truth is that no matter how smart my little hater is, she’s an infant who just doesn’t want to work.  See?  She just threw down her sippy cup and is working on a good pout and tantrum.

So what do I do now?  The real me, the one who is the polar opposite of that bratty little hater inside me, saw a little video while she was procrastinating on Facebook.  Then she made a doctors appointment for tomorrow, worked it all out on this blog, and is just gonna suck it up today.

Oh, and here’s the link to Jay Smooth’s You Tube video that called me on my inner hater.  Sometimes good things can come from a little avoidance, and a little social networking.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TpmJgSfZ_8