Monthly Archives: February 2010

My Polar Opposite presents: a social media relationships primer

Apparently y’all are a bunch of punk-ass bitches.  Yeah, I said it.  According to a study released this week MoCoSpace and published by TechCrunch, 48% of you idiots have actually broken up with someone via text message.  Shame on you!  And shame on the set of doofises (is that even a word?) that went out with you in the first place.  They had to see it coming with your social detachment and reliance on communication via technology. Lord knows I did.

Many people know that I’m a fan of Geeky Boys because they’re smart and I think that smart is sexy.  And you know that I’ve dated my share of geeks because sometimes you can hardly tell them from the regular men.  A few years ago I dated the King of the Geeks, as he will henceforth be known.  KOTG is brilliant.  He left U Penn early to found an internet start-up in 1986, made good money in the business for about 20 years, sold a few patents to start another company and is probably writing code in his home office as we speak.  If I’d taken his advice while we were dating, I’d be a successful entrepreneur now instead of an unemployed wanna-be writer.  I’m beating a dead horse but I want you to realize how heavy this guy is.  He is also very tall, pretty funny and pretty good in bed – someone taught him well, really well.

But over the course of our relationship I noticed KOTG’s not-so-social tendencies:  he wasn’t good at socializing with my friends & family; he rarely spoke to people unless it was business-related; he’d spend days in front of the computer without human contact.  I’m not really sure he has any friends in the emotional sense of the word, just associates.  My tip off should’ve been when I cried in front of him (that was the best friend suicide moment) and he kind of shuffled away looking like a deer in the headlights.  I would’ve taken a “there, there” or a pat on the shoulder over his awkward escape.  And speaking of awkward and escaping, he also had the gall to break up with me over email.

You know when you decide a relationship is over and you’re just looking for the right moment to break it off?  KOTG and I were there for over a month.  I could never be with someone who rejected my company to commune with code.  Programming is fun, but Imma still need to get with the humans from time to time.  And his asocial behavior brought out my worst passive-aggressive, so I don’t blame his not wanting to date that chick.  We kept trying to get together, played phone tag, then I went on vacation with my girls fully committed to having the break-up meeting when I got back.  Instead, I return home to an email talking about how it was somehow easier to break up via email.  No kidding its easier, you jackass!  I believe my response went something like, “I was gonna break up with you too but I was waiting to do it in person like a grown up, now send me my shit that’s in your apartment.”  I should also mention that we’d dated for over a year.  Yeah, I know.

Some of you are probably thinking that there’s a time period in which it is acceptable to end a relationship via electronic communication.  If you haven’t had sex, its okay.  If you’ve been out on less than 5 dates, sure.  A text is certainly better than ignoring someone you’d rather not see.  But then again, if you’re an adult you should be able to pick up the phone and tell someone who it’s really not working for you.  What did people do before texting and email?  The acted like human beings, that’s what.  In case you don’t remember what that’s like, let me give you a few tips for social-networking relationship etiquette:

  • DO NOT have any kind of relationship conversation via Twitter.  It’s public. You can Google it. ‘Nuff said.
  • DO NOT break up with anyone via Twitter or Facebook.  People have done it, and it looks like girls fighting with each other on the playground: there’s pushing and shoving, punches that don’t quite land, nobody wins, everyone is embarrassed.  Besides, your friggin’ boss is on Facebook so if you wouldn’t cuss out your man in the middle of the office, don’t do it in the middle of your social network.
  • For casual “social” relationships, DO NOT wink at anyone on Twitter if you just met them.  Getting a DM that says “thanks for following me ;-) ” is like having someone wink at you when you shake their hand: it makes you feel creepy, like some stranger licking the back of your neck.  Please respect in-person relationship rules on Twitter, because there are real people behind those accounts and one of them could be your momma!
  • DO send cute love notes via email and text because its gross to have sexy-talk when the person in the adjoining cube can hear you.
  • DO NOT access text, email, Twitter for romantic communication while in a public bathroom.  Your reactions will make someone call the cops on you.
  • DO NOT access any of the above technologies while on a date unless you are a doctor, police officer, the Lamaze coach of a woman who is 9-months-pregnant (hopefully not your wife), or a parent is on their death-bed.  If you feel the need to grab your smartphone of choice during a date, you’re just not into him/her and you should probably go home.  Good thing there’s internet porn.

This is all I can do to help you folks learn to be regular people, the kind that talk to other people, instead of turning into pods.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go post this on Twitter.

Sometimes a suicide needs a tribute

This may be one of the hardest things I’ve ever written in my life, aside from all those cover letters.  No, I’m not going to let the sarcasm block me from saying something that I think is very, very important.

Today is my mother’s birthday and I’m in mourning.  Not for Mommy, though she did pass over 15 years ago and I still miss her every single day.  No, I’m missing another very cool woman who taught me a lot, and taught other people as well.  That woman is Valerie Burgher, one of my best friends who committed suicide in June 2006.  She would have been 38 years old last Tuesday and she was funny and smart and talented and beautiful.  To be perfectly honest, I was a little bit jealous of her when we were young and I’ll bet she was a little bit jealous of me in that pre-teen girl way.  But we became best friends when we met in 7th Grade in Queens, NY.  We were the only 2 Black girls in our class, and empirically the 2 smartest, so of course we bonded.  It turns out that we had a lot more in common than that, things I wouldn’t realize until much later.

Anyway, in school Valerie was always #1 and I was the perennial #2, but I didn’t mind.  Her self-deprecating joke was that I was naturally smarter, but she worked harder.  At the time I believed it a little, since I never studied a lick.  But that’s not important; what’s important is that she was my bestest friend, like the kind of friend that you talk on the phone with for hours and hours and don’t say anything at all.  We used to tape ourselves talking – the first podcasts!  We used to watch movies together over the phone.  My parents got me a separate phone number because they could never get a call, as Valerie and I NEVER got off the phone with each other unless we were at each other’s houses or at school.  Good times.

Somewhere in 9th Grade, Val started acting a little strange.  We were still girls but something was different.  One morning she came to school for math team (I mentioned before that I was a nerd) and I noticed some scars on the side of her wrist.  I asked about them, we fought, and Valerie stormed off.  In retrospect, she was cutting – not trying to kill herself – and it freaked me the hell out.  I thought I was going to die or my heart was going to explode.  Our group of friends had a quorum and I learned that Valerie’s mom had been hospitalized years ago after a suicide attempt, and a second time after going off her medication.  So young were we, and so without the internet for research that we didn’t know a lot about mental illness or family history or anything like that.  I never told my parents about it because I didn’t want them to say I couldn’t see Valerie any more, or that I wasn’t allowed to go to her house. My parents are Black, we’re like that sometimes.  It’s not monumentally important, but Valerie was biracial.  Maybe that added to her pain, but I’ll never know.

After the cutting incident, things went back to normal.  Valerie and I decided, as a unit, that we wouldn’t be attending private school at Fieldston or Hotchkiss (we’d been recruited simultaneously by the Prep for Prep program) and went to public school instead.  Time went on, we broadened our circle of friends and she began dating a guy that a few of our other friends crushed on.  Our other friends hated on Valerie a little bit after that.  It was high school and girls get catty no matter how close they are.  I’d made my peace with the fact that she was always the pretty one AND the smart one, but I never held that against her.  She was my best friend, after all.  Besides, there was just something so attractive about her, not just her looks, that it either sucked you in or made you jealous.  You know that girl who all your guy friends are kind of in love with, even the gay ones, and you can’t fault them because you totally get it?  Some people are just like that, I guess.  She never knew it, though.  It was like not ever thinking she was smarter than me or better than anyone at anything.  She wasn’t modest exactly just, I don’t know, afraid of standing out, more so than the average teenager.

Anyway, around the time of the boys and the hating Valerie started to change a little.  She was a little more broody, maybe a little bit erratic. We blamed it on the boyfriend.  She spent 3 months in the Philippines with the Peace Corps our junior year after which we went to work at the same summer job and proceeded to apply to – and attend – the same college.  Just like high school, I think it was a joint decision.  My parents drove us up to New Haven for tours, then to Middletown for interviews, and on the ride back we decided that we’d be going to Yale, never mind that we hadn’t applied yet.  We were going!  Make it so!  And we did, same major and everything.  It’s amazing how much easier life was in high school, even when it was really hard. But college leads to adulthood and real issues.  Somewhere in freshman year, Valerie and her boyfriend broke up.  It was him, not her, which I’ll always believe was motivated by jealousy.  And as happens with these things, my best friend was pretty broken up by the break up.  I only know that because she looked terrible, not because we talked about it like we would’ve in high school.  Somewhere in there she disappeared into her dorm and I into mine.  We did hang out occasionally, but I stopped understanding her.  Rumors in small colleges spread like brush fires and I’d been told about her public drunkenness, rampant promiscuity and generally crazy behavior.  At the time I was very confused and very embarrassed about hearing bad things about My Valerie, the innocent virgin (yeah, that’s right, ask around) in me shook her head and figured that this was where we parted ways.  She went on to hang with the artsy coffee-house musician crowd and I hung with the gay feminist dance-party crowd.  Then graduation.

You can’t shake some people, and I met up with Valerie in Los Angeles in 1996, where she had a journalism fellowship with the LA Times.  We chatted, I met some of her co-workers and felt vastly overmatched in intellect.  I also felt like a child, like Valerie and her friends had become adults with real jobs while I was playing at it in advertising in NY.  She still had that edge, that sad something I saw in college but she never talked to me about it.  In lots of ways, I was a child then, and I wouldn’t have been able to handle her real truths.  We met again at our 5th college reunion where I was struggling with depression (and didn’t know it) and she was manic (and perhaps knew it).  When you don’t understand mania it just looks scary, especially if its wearing the face of the childhood best friend who always got you more than you got yourself.  Anyway, we caught up with me nearly unable to follow her rambling conversation or pacing around the dorm room that was our hotel for the weekend.  She revealed her plan to hook up with one of our classmates, as one often does at reunions.  I know now that one often mounts a sexual offensive in the midst of a manic episode, but that’s from personal experience.  In 1999, I knew enough not to criticize Valerie’s actions because I didn’t want to hurt her, but I’m sure my disapproval registered in some way.  By that point we’d traded geographies with me leaving for California just as she was settling into Brooklyn and writing for New York Newsday. And that was that.

Years later I returned to New York and I might have seen Valerie in the Columbus Circle subway station.  From behind I sized up a woman who could have been her but probably wasn’t. The age was right, but this girl was pretty chubby and had short hair, not like My Valerie at all.  For a moment I thought, “people change” since at the time I was skinny and running 5K races, not at all the person I was even a few years before.  But I didn’t approach the woman I saw underground because if it was her, I just wasn’t in the mood since I’d just come from therapy and didn’t feel like being drained by someone else.  Probably wasn’t her anyway.  I put that day out of my mind until months later, when I opened an innocent-looking e-mail offering me condolences at Valerie’s passing.  I believe I said, out loud, “What the hell are you talking about?” as I responded to the note.  By the time I pulled up Google I’d already been sent Valerie’s obituary from The Village Voice, for which she had written later in her life.  She jumped in front of a train and died in the hospital the next day, ruled a suicide, not an accident. Valerie Burgher was 34 and suffered openly from bipolar disorder; her one-time best friend was 33, utterly shocked and bawling uncontrollably while she donated to NAMI.   In those moments, years of memories came careening back to me, the good ones and the bad ones alike.  I put everything together right then, sitting on the couch in my boyfriend’s living room, spilling tears onto his laptop.  The erratic behavior, the mood swings, EVERYTHING.  Even the guilt that I’d possibly seen her and was too selfish at the time to talk to her.  In the next few hours I Googled everything I could to fill in the missing years and found that Valerie was still the same girl who I fell in love with in junior high.  Funny, silly, creative, dedicated, smarter than me no matter what she’d say.  She sang, played guitar, could bake a mean apple pie and grow plants.  Bad dancer, brilliant writer and talented photographer, never really smiled in pictures because she thought she was ugly.  Yeah, we never know what’s really going on inside someone’s head.

Today I have my own bipolar diagnosis and I can’t stop thinking about Valerie.  First, I don’t know how she felt every day, but I get it all.  Sitting in a psych ward I could see her volatile college years in my own Craigslist-bolstered promiscuity.  I know why she sometimes drank too much and acted like an asshole, or why some of my other college friends didn’t like her or why she completely obliterated her ex-boyfriends, or why going to the Philippines and Cambodia with the Peace Corps could be interesting, but would never be far enough away for her to outrun her demons.  I may not have done EXACTLY what she did, but trust that I’ve had my moments.  And that they’ll be in the book.

Anyway, after I got out of the hospital I decided that Valerie’s voice had been silenced but mine didn’t have to be.  She was open about her disease, and her struggles became more powerful in light of her talents and success.  I never got a chance to talk to my friend about living with a diagnosis, or taking medications, or any number of things that I’m sure we both have done every day to make through until morning.  Sure, I feel a little bit guilty for ignoring her on the subway that day, and my emotional mind says that I could have helped her if we’d been able to talk so she didn’t have to take her own life.  But my rational mind, as they call it in DBT therapy, knows that I can’t beat myself up about something over which I had absolutely no control.  I do, however, have control over what I do now, whom I can help now, and what I can say now.  And right now is about eliminating the stigma of mental illness so that we’ll know what it looks like when we see it, know how to tell people to get help.

Go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website now and do some reading on depression, bipolar and suicide prevention.  Then do some talking and some donating.

What John Mayer taught me about race and sex

OK, so I used to be a huge John Mayer fan. I was all over the first album, the second one, even his short-lived show on MTV. For the record, I’m one of those Black girls that likes guitar players. And Guns N’ Roses. Don’t ask me why, but I grew up in the suburbs.  That was a reference to a hilarious skit from Chappelle’s Show where Dave and Mayer dispelled the myth that White people can’t dance. It KILLED, and perhaps gave a bunch of Black people a new impression of Mayer, the races united through music and comedy, and the world was a beautiful place.  It was also beautiful because we started listening to Mayer’s lyrics, which were very good in that “why can’t I meet a guy this sweet” kinda way.  Like “Come Back to Bed” and “Wonderland” weren’t on those mix CDs you made while you fantasized about some guy (maybe John Mayer himself) singing those words to you.  Never let your head hit the bed/Without my hand behind it….damn, that’s a good one.

Somewhere along the way, John Mayer became a douche, but mostly to White women.  He started dating famous Blonde chicks, like Jessica Simpson, and talking about it like he was King of the World.  Last time I checked, Simpson was dumb as a post and screwing her would be no big feat.  (White) Women lost respect for Mayer behind that relationship, because how could you write so sensitively and just pork some dumb chick just because she’s hot (allegedly) and famous (for being hot and stupid)? Nerdy, plain-looking girls everywhere refused to listen to John Mayer’s music realizing he was too shallow to ever want to be with someone like them.  Black girls laughed, decided he wasn’t that cute anyway, and moved along.  Men of all races didn’t care because they’d wanted to fuck Jessica Simpson since seeing her in Dukes of Hazzard.  Me, I lost a little respect and stopped listening to the first CD, but it wasn’t a big deal.

The Aniston incident put John in some interesting company, and he cleaned up rather well on the Red Carpet.  Team Aniston (i.e. White women and the men who love them) thought they’d give Mayer another chance; since Jen is so great, John must be great to be with her, so they bought some music and started waiting for the world to change.  Team Jolie (i.e. Black women and the men who love them) thought John Mayer was just making his rounds through Hollywood tabloid pussy; Jen is bland and annoying, not as hot as all that, and no kind of MAN would want her anyway which is why Brad Pitt left her for Angie. Wait, John Mayer?  Huh.  Then came Twitter, complete with public douchebaggery from @johncmayer, and some CDs went back into the trash.  Or out of the iTunes library.  Whatever.  But “Johnifer” ended eventually, Mayer stopped talking so damn much, and people started talking about his music and not him.  One of my coworkers started playing Continuum in her cubicle and I was back, getting someone to burn me the John Mayer catalog.  The man really is a great guitarist, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.  And he has a nice mouth, in that “White guy that Black girls want to kiss” kinda way.  You know what I’m talking about.

But today I’m mad at John Mayer, and I told him so on Twitter where everyone could see it.  In case you were shoveling snow or doing something productive with your day until this point, let me fill you in on Mayer’s interview in the March issue of Playboy.  Young John’s mistake was talking about Black people like he was one:

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’”

What?  Um, I mean…?  Really?  *blinks repeatedly* Dave Chappelle is not your friend any more, so don’t think you’re getting any invitations to the “Fuck You Hollywood” farm out in Yellow Springs.  Here’s “Whitey with a Nigger Pass, Part 2″:

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

Wow, exactly what I needed was some famous White guy to so clearly articulate in 2 sentences what it means to be Black.  Apparently in the midst of my struggle for equality and dealing with racists incidents every day, I’m just a useful darky puttin’ pig feet in a pot of greens, but singing a song because I’m so damn happy.  Its called survival, you dumbass.  But wait, there’s more:

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to [dating Black women]. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.

People think Black women are pissed off about John Mayer not wanting to date us, though he does go on to say that White men dig women like Holly Robinson Peete, Karyn Parsons, or Kerry Washington (actually not her, but the crazy-ass characters she plays…its called acting, butt hole).  Honestly, Black women get riled when Black men say they won’t date us, and even then only if we think they’re cool; if it’s some piece-of-Black man (like Tiger Woods or Clarence Thomas) we say “y’all can have him” and keep it moving.  Now if Michael Weatherly, the guy who plays DiNozzo on NCIS, said he wouldn’t date Black women, I’d be pretty crushed as it would mean the end of my fantasy that involves licking his dimples and the cleft in his chin…sorry, what were we talking about?  Right, racism.  Its okay, almost encouraged, to date exclusively within your own race.  But when you try to make a KKK joke with it?  The Klan is not a joke, nor is white supremacy, using the “N” word or belittling the Black experience, especially at the hands of a wealthy, White male.

Guess John Mayer should have read the back of his “hood pass“.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Legal Services

You’ve already read my first anti-Valentine’s Day rant, but here’s where I tell you why the entire “holiday” just leaves me cold.  Everyone who’s selling something is trying to get us to buy their wares to symbolize our feelings for a loved one.  Jewelry makes sense, the diamond industry being what it is.  After all, De Beers has convinced us that a lifetime of love, companionship, smelling your flatulence and doing your laundry is worth 3-months’ salary.  Chocolate is a gift I can always support, plus there’s a chemical in cocoa which induces the euphoric, falling-in-love feeling that you may want from a romantic interlude.  If you’re kinda dumb and not creative, Hallmark and American Greetings has you all the pre-fab sentiment you’ll need to convince your girlfriend that you’re at least good at choosing sappy cards.  And the marketer in me will even support rosy-hued electronics and durable goods as tokens of emotion.  But legal services?

“Treat Yourself This Valentine’s Day”

This week I got an outbound, direct-to-consumer electronic communication (what you civilians call “SPAM”) from LegalZoom.  I’ve done some research with them on setting up my LLC, so I get and e-mail about once a week about their services.  The latest message was different, though.  It had a Valentine’s Day theme.  And pictures of conversation hearts.  And a call to action that I  show my love this month with a last will and testament.  Boy is that the antithesis of romance.  I guess I should be glad that LegalZoom didn’t offer to work on a pre-nup.

Yeah, I know I haven’t been keen on building up Valentine’s Day as the last bastion of storybook love but stay with me for a minute.  No matter how much I kvetch about it, the fantasy of romance is quite beautiful.  You know what I’m talking about:  the perfect atmosphere, the perfect music; he talks openly about his feelings for you and how smart and pretty you are; she has nothing on under her dress, then she does that thing in bed she’s promised to do for months…heaven!  The presentation of probate papers or signing 8×14″ documents figures nowhere in that illusion.  Romance is about dreaming and emotions and getting swept away, and legal services are about reality and thinking and careful planning.  Very rarely do I get sprung on a guy then engage in extensive fantasies about going with him to the notary public.  Similarly, some guy whipping out his corporate seal doesn’t get me hot or give me the warm fuzzies, no matter how much of a geek I am.

Give Me a Gift I Wouldn’t Get for Myself

LegalZoom took all the fun out of romance – or feigning romance – by peddling some pedestrian, everyday stuff in the middle of the February and pretending that its cute and cuddly.  If I form my LLC now, does the official filing come on pink, rose-scented paper with a free heart-shaped box of chocolates?  Because that’s what I expect when you pitch it to me in a Valentine’s Day wrapper.  Besides, a gift is something that someone gives to or does for you.  If you give someone a trademark application as a V-Day gift you’re basically giving them a bunch of work to do.  Even if the process is online and fairly straightforward, your beloved is clearly going to think of you – and perhaps not so kindly – as they’re reading fine print, checking their e-mail for confirmations, and generally worrying that they’ve done something wrong.  How sweet of you!

I did think of a legal activity that does connote love and romance: filing for divorce.  It might not mean lovey-dovies for everyone, but I’m sure that some affected parties would consider it cause for champagne, flowers, and celebration.

#BoycottSexism #BoycottGoDaddy

After watching last night’s Super Bowl advertising, I’m totally sick of sexism in advertising.  Specifically, I’m sick of Go Daddy’s 5-year naked girl campaign.

This morning’s reports tout the “success” of Go Daddy commercials at driving website traffic and converting sales.  Apparently that the ads were  called “lowest of the low” by business experts makes CEO Bob Parsons happy.  He makes me want to throw up.

Perhaps I understood using sex to sell brand awareness when Go Daddy wasn’t a household name and folks went to the website to see hot women, certainly, but also to figure out what in the world the company was about.  Now that Go Daddy has #1 market share in domain registration, why is their strategy still about acquisition by titillation (Hey, that’s a nice phrase; I’ll have to use it again)?   From a business perspective, I’ll bet that the new customers Go Daddy got during the Super Bowl are not long-term, high-volume accounts that could pay for the yearly sexist sporting-event crap-vertising.

In 2010, plenty of women buy domain names, run websites, and pay good money for hosting services.  Thankfully plenty of non-neanderthal men do the same, shown by the comments in my Twitterfeed, and all of us should proclaim “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  At least I am.   This website is hosted by Go Daddy, and my account expires in 10 days:  I will not be renewing it, but rather taking my business to another host that doesn’t test my gag reflex.  I’ll also be transferring my domain names to another company, incurring the fees it takes to do so.

In 2010 I just can’t abide by a company that ignores my existence, and blatantly demeans women for sport.  If you agree, you can take your business to one of the myriad  ICANN-accredited domain name registrars.

For the other WordPress aficionados, many companies offer WordPress hosting that is easier to use than Go Daddy.  Page.ly hosts my other blog- they only offer WordPress hosting – where the customer service is spectacular for an individual like me.  WordPress.org also offers a list of hosts with good services; one of them is Go Daddy, but WP provides other recommendations as well.

Come on, everyone.  There’s no reason to support the ridiculous assumption that “computer geeks” are motivated by the need to see boobies on the internet.  There’s also no reason for evolved, cognizant men to make business decisions motivated by Mr. Happypants.  And just for the record, I get my soft-core porn from Cinemax, not from my website host.