Waiting in the foxhole of love

I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive

Y’all know Sade ain’t never lied about a broken heart, and she really nailed it with “Soldier of Love”.  All the sisters and some brothers too, understand what she’s talking about.  Love rolled over your ass like like a wooden pin over Granny’s biscuit dough and you feel just as squishy and shapeless.  Or you’ve been used and tossed aside repeatedly like an empty crack vial, thinking you’re just as dirty and useless.  Yep, I’ve been there a few times.  Sometimes it really hurt, sometimes it didn’t even register, and every time I wondered why I didn’t just let the errant hairs grow out of my chin and adopt a houseful of cats.  I must confess that I have gone a fair amount of time without using tweezers.  And, I have stared longingly at the “Crazy Cat Lady” action figure on my bookcase.  Eventually though, I give in, commence to plucking, put the Cat Lady face down on the shelf…and get hit by another grenade in the war of romance.

And now? Well I’m suited up, Lieutenant, put me on the front line.  Okay, I’m not so much ready for battle as sitting in the barracks inspecting my weapon and praying for safety.  I kinda met someone (!) and I could possibly be interested in maybe going on a date with him (!!).  Potentially.  I’ve hung out with this guy – who shall henceforth be known as “Friend Boy” –  exactly twice, and my rational mind has wisely declined to set expectations and engage in unrealistic fantasies.  But somewhere in the hazy recesses of the brain, my emotional mind is telling me to “make a move” on Friend Boy and and go for mine.  When I can’t equivocate her into shutting up, she concocts a scenario in which I tell Friend Boy that I like him, grab him by the ears, and plant one on him.  This dream won’t, will not, come to fruition, which freaks me out a little.

I’ve been torn up inside, I’ve been left behind…I have the will to survive

Since I started dating at 17, I’ve been trying to manipulate men into doing what I want them to do.  I blame my subterfuge on being a late bloomer who was never on the receiving end of the numerous crushes I had on male friends.  I lobbied my first boyfriend into initiating physical contact; I made the first gestures toward holding hands, kissing, making out and he followed willingly.  Those awkward teenage moves got me into relationships through my late 20’s, all of which ended at my bidding.  The boyfriends that pursued me willingly also broke up with me, and broke my heart in the process.  Not to be defeated, I set my sights on the “adult” sections of Craigslist for the kinds of relationships (read: sex only) I thought I could control.  It turns out that no matter how I tried to intellectualize my foray into commitment-free nookie, I couldn’t get into it and I decided to be celibate.  Following said decision came a few weeks in the psych hospital where I learned that the last 16 years of this love warfare have been against myself.  Doing battle with my heart to feel good at any cost.  Entering periodic skirmishes with my mind to escape the sadness, the uneasiness, because I didn’t want to pay attention.  I’ve been out for over a year, and through so much therapy that I catch my negative self-talk in process.  Dialectical behavior therapy is my friend, and I am doing my work to diffuse negative patterns and form alternatives.  Marsha Linehan would be proud.  But I’m still shell-shocked, suffering from mild relationship PTSD, and looking for my new love playbook without sex and manipulation.

I’m at the hinterland of my devotion, I’m in the frontline of this battle of mine but I’m still alive

So back to Friend Boy.  When I met him we engaged in some mild flirting as might transpire between two people who are digging each other.  The last time we saw each other was at a party, and I felt comfortable thinking, “Hey, I like this guy.”  I believe there is some level of interest on his part, though I don’t know for sure.  And when I don’t know something for sure, I get antsy and forget everything I know about being a normal human being.  So I waged an internal war with myself, and there was no clear winner.  I spent 1/3 of the time playfully ignoring Friend Boy and another 30% of the time touching him too much and looking at him (I believe) like I had stars in my eyes.  I spent the remainder of the evening mentally mounting a familiar offensive to corner him in the kitchen; then I’d catch myself and literally sit on my hands and/or turn away.  Crazy much?  Why yes I am, thank you for asking.  I’m kinda hoping that Friend Boy was so enamored with me that I didn’t seem that erratic, or that he was thinking about something else and didn’t notice.

I will see Friend Boy again in a few days, and I will behave in a manner befitting a celibate, late 30’s woman who has a handle on her own sanity regardless of the silly things she sometimes does.  For all I know, Friend Boy is a sane, late 30’s man trying desperately to step over the casualties in his own relationship past.  I’m pretty sure I could love with that.

Dating While Bipolar: I AM READY

The other night, I had a bizarre dream.  I should elucidate:  I had a series of dreams stringing together bizarre circumstances with seemingly real interactions and people that I know.  My dreams are usually similar, featuring my coworkers, friends and family at places they’ve never been, doing things they’d never do that seem average and ordinary at the time.  In “The Interpretation of Dreams“, Freud said that dreams were “wish fulfillment”, and represent our mind’s attempt to make sense of feelings we repress in waking hours.  Freud made most of it about sex though, as in, a dream about the fear of snakes isn’t really about fearing snakes but fear of penises and men.  Maybe, but if you had a bad experience with a snake, and then saw one on TV, you’d likely dream about it later because you still had “snakes on the brain”.  Still, the other night my sleeping brain put together a series of thoughts from my waking life and made them into a dream from which I can draw one conclusion:  I am definitely ready to be in a relationship.

Let me break it down for you.  In this dream, I was going to a family wedding, one of those multi-car caravan deals where you drive all night, pack into hotel rooms, attend the wedding the next day and then drive home when its over.  My family is good for the communal traveling thing, and I remembered that fact recently when I booked a cruise on the same line we used for my family reunion in 2009.  Perhaps my 3-to-a-stateroom flashbacks at the travel agent caused me to dream about a family vacation.  Whatever.  Anyway, in the dream I shared a room with one of the bridesmaids for the wedding, who had to wake up early the next morning for pictures, so I went to the hotel bar while she slept.  And in the bar I met a man.

My Dream Man was actually someone I know, a red-haired college classmate named Nathan.  I don’t remember the real Nathan’s last name, but it’s something Irish like Reilly or Shannon, and I recognized him in my dream.  Now that I think about it, I’m not really sure his name is Nathan at all, as I don’t keep in touch with him and probably saw him and his wife at our 10th class reunion in 2005.  The only reason I’m thinking so much about the guy now is because he popped up unexpectedly in my dreams, even though I haven’t given him a passing thought in years.  Maybe seeing red-haired, befreckled Blake Griffin win the NBA Slam Dunk contest shook loose the memory of another ginger.  Mind you, “Nathan Reilly” bears very little resemblance to a half-Haitian basketball player, but the brain mixes things up and sorts things out when we sleep.  I don’t take this dream to mean that I’ve got a crush on Blake Griffin, or on the real Nathan Reilly,  because that would be too literal. I’d just watched Griffin on TV, read about him on Twitter, and he got mixed up in my mental detritus and turned into someone I actually know.  Guess I prefer Jung to Freud.

Anyway, back to the dream.  Nathan Reilly and I recognized each other at the hotel bar, and we chatted a little but we could never finish our conversation because I kept getting distracted by my family, or by ordering a drink, or by the music playing in the background.  Growing tired of my lagging attentions, Nathan Reilly asked me to step onto the bar’s terrace for a chat.  During my conversation with Nathan, I had the sense that someone was really paying attention to me, not sexual attention, but a kind of scrutiny that was oddly intimate.   I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced someone’s undivided attention, but I have in both real life and dream life, and it can be very disconcerting.  If you’re not ready for it, if you’re afraid of having someone look at you and really see you, you’ll have an anxiety attack.  But if you sit on your edges and accept that really getting to know someone means really letting them in, its an incredible feeling.  So I opened myself up to Nathan’s intense gaze and let myself look back at him with complete honesty.  Then I let him touch my chin, my least favorite body part because it shows the effects of my age, my fluctuating weight, and errant hair removal.    But instead of bracing for him to insult of my incipient turkey waddle,  I accepted his touch.  And in my dream I experienced the exhilaration, the warmth and joy of falling in love.

Dream Deltra called a bunch of people from college – roommates, best girlfriends in New York – to tell them about falling in love with Dream Nathan:  “remember that guy?” “yeah, I can’t believe it”.  I was giddy and silly, and in the dream I was up all night talking to and kissing Nathan and telling all of my friends about it and got no sleep before the dream wedding.  Real Deltra awoke to an onslaught of sensations that I haven’t experienced in years.  My dreaming brain had made emotional connections that I’ve been denying from myself, and denying that I wanted, for a long time.  I didn’t wake up feeling confused, trying to figure out what my convoluted dreams really mean.  Instead I woke up feeling hopeful that my forty winks fantasies revealed in me an openness to love I thought had been ruined by self-doubt, rejection and relationship baggage.

You’ve got to realize what a big deal this is.  My dreams are always “real”, as in, I see and experience things as they’re happening instead of watching a movie of myself doing things.  In the past I’ve had dreams of boyfriends and husbands, but I never actually see who they are: faces are out of focus and they never have names, even though I know they exist in the dream world.  Maybe I knew their names and actually saw them in my dream, but I never consciously retained the information.  It was like my sub-conscious didn’t believe in my conscious desire for a mate, so it never made manifest a man for me to dream about.  Or if I dreamed about a relationship with a man, it was rooted in the logic of knowing about him rather than the emotion of feeling any way about him.

So today, my fully-conscious mind is holding onto the promise of falling in love and recapturing the emotional tumble I felt in slumber.  No, I’m not trying to contact that guy Nathan from college, or looking for some lanky carrot-top or even a man with the first initial “N” in the misguided belief that I’m psychic.  Rather, I’m going to do what I did in the dream – pay attention, open my heart and perhaps meet someone at a wedding!

NBA All Star Weekend: More like Christmas than Thanksgiving

Black Twitter  – and various other social media contingents – are up in arms about David Aldridge‘s opinion piece for CNN in which he calls NBA All-Star WeekendBlack Thanksgiving.”  I’m never one to say people are too sensitive about race, but in this case I’m going to go ahead and say it.  Stop being so sensitive, actually read the piece, and think about all you know about American basketball culture.  The man likens the beauty and grace of basketball to the intricacies of jazz music, which is a beautiful thing in concept and in writing.  After you read Aldridge’s piece, you must come back to this blog and agree with my contention that ASW is less like Black Thanksgiving and more like Black Christmas.

Check it: he biggest NBA stars are Black, which supports the (perhaps fallacious) belief that most fans of the sport and the league are African-American.  The NBA League Pass commercial on my cable system has nary a White or Brown face in it, all Black players telling you to pay to watch them play, wherever they play.  All the players on the Eastern Conference All Star Team – and the coach tooare Black, and most of the White guys on the West Coast team aren’t American.  I’m just saying.  It’s true that plenty of non-Black Americans love basketball.  However, since advertisers started using hip-hop to sell Sprite and Michael Jordan sneakers, Black culture and basketball became irrevocably linked.  No matter how many Black people there are saying “well, I’m Black and I don’t like the sport,” and no matter how many Asians say, “Basketball isn’t Black; I like it.  And what about Yao Ming?”, you can’t deny that the fame of Black basketball stars has been used to promote various products – including the NBA itself – using the markers of Black culture:  our music, our cities, our style, our swag…they’re all fair game in the NBA.  To wit, a T-Mobile commercial featuring Barkley, Wade, Drake, YouTube, texting and some hip-hop remixing…if that’s not derivative of Black culture, then show me what is.  Meanwhile the NFL has become synonymous with patriotism, apple pie and “American values” that denigrate nipple-slips and seemingly promote pro-life values.

Basketball is also egalitarian – no complicated equipment needed, just a ball and some sneakers and you can play.  Remember the movie “Hoop Dreams“?  You CAN be a Black kid from the ghetto and make it into fame and fortune if you’re talented and know how to manage your money.  Pistons Rafer Alston – from my hometown AND my high school alma mater – was a big streetball star before he made it to the pros.  Granted he’s not a superstar, but he’s still on somebody’s roster at 34, and millions of young men would want and so few get.  So more than tennis or golf (with their high-priced lessons and country club fees) and football (with expensive equipment and high insurance rates),  basketball can be played by the poor and the wealthy equally, so African-Americans have, historically, gravitated to the game.  And even though we’ve got the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods (kinda), the biggest sports heroes for “Black America” will always be basketball players – Russell, Dr J., Magic, Jordan, Abdul Jabbar, Kobe, Shaq, Allen. (Yeah, I’m a Celtics fan!)

But back to my original point, which is that everyone needs to calm the fuck down about likening ASW to “Black Thanksgiving.”  It’s actually more like Christmas, or a trip to Oprah, with a gift for everyone involved in basketball culture and the energy of the weekend.  I lived in LA for 2 years, and went back to visit during All-Star Weekend another year, so I know from whence I speak.  I’ve seen ballers and former ballers in the airport, getting whisked into restaurants and past velvet ropes at places all around the city.  Not for nothing, but the sight of 5 or 6 well-dressed Black men in impeccably tailored suits is a sight to behold, and if you want to behold that vision in concentrated form, go to All-Star Weekend.  Merry Christmas to me, and every other woman (and man) who likes a tall, dark drink of water!

Now, if you’re the kind of woman who follows the tall, dark and handsome around the country just to get a whiff, then All-Star Weekend is THE place for you to act out your wildest groupie dreams.  Everyone in the League is at AWS, whether they’re playing or not, and former players are covering the festivities for the media.  And Los Angeles is sunny and warm and better than any big football town for strutting your scantily clad goodies all around town. If you’re auditioning for the role of NBA Jumpoff or NBA Side-Piece, you can shoot your fish in a barrel this weekend.  Happy Birthday Baby Jesus, in the name of skanky hos and wanna-be Basketball Wives everywhere!

All-Star Weekend is about star players, but also about the stars who follow the game.  Common (my future ex-husband and wanna be baby daddy) played in the celebrity tourney last night, along with Trey Songz and Nick Cannon, while Michael Bivens of New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe fame covered the game for NBA.com.  Master P (hip-hop and basketball impresario) has played in the past, and the celeb shoot-out is attended by former ballers and Black superstars from all walks of life.  I’m sure that Jay and Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Spike Lee – possibly even POTUS if the Middle East doesn’t implode – could be sitting courtside before Monday comes.  If you’re a star fucker, celebrity blogger, gossip columnist or wanna-be-glitterati, get thee near the Staples Center during All-Star Weekend and bask in the glow of stardom.  Happy Holidays!

For the men, if you’re not a baller, but make good money and clock in at over 6′ 3″, you can get some good runoff at All-Star Weekend.  I’m not saying that every woman in town is all about jocking some NBA player, but a bunch of them are.  If you play your cards right, buy enough drinks, and embellish the truth about how bad knees dashed your pro-ball dreams, you, my tall brother, will pull in significant tail around the All-Star festivities.  Seasons Greetings to the not-too-picky men that just want to touch a weave and get laid.

Then there are the non-sexual benefits to All-Star Weekend.  If you’re a fan of the game, you can watch great basketball games and feats of athletic prowess for a few days straight.  Actually, there are no other games this weekend, but even if there were, you can see the best in the league play on the court at the same time, and that is indeed a beautiful thing.  Plus, the NBA has a great philanthropy arm – NBA Cares – that promotes community service all year but also concentrates their activity through the All-Star Day of Service every year.  In 2011, ASW players and coaches will give financial support and elbow grease to three organizations in the Los Angeles community. Indeed this weekend, as well as throughout the year, the NBA will be doing it for the kids, supporting education, health and youth development in under-served communities where their fans live.  Whether you believe in Kwanzaa or not, that work is Ujima through and through.

Christmas or Thanksgiving, you have to agree that the game of basketball is linked with Black culture, or what we’ve accepted or co-opted as Black popular culture in America.  So pardon me as I switch on NBA TV and figure out where in Harlem I can find the largest concentration of my people watching tonight’s game so I can talk smack and pick up a brother or two.

Dating While Bipolar: Is it deceptive not to disclose your disease?

So, I’ve been doing a fair amount of complaining about the men I’m dating, or trying to date, or seeking out for the express purpose of dating.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about being healthy and rational and looking for a companion.  Yet a part of me is a little afraid about embarking on a relationship while carrying the baggage of bipolar.  It was OK when I thought I was just a little depressed and the behavior I now know as mania could be shrugged off as “free-spirited behavior.”  Now, with multiple rounds of medication and weeks in the mental hospital under my belt, I wonder how to work my mental health background into the dating picture.

If you’ve been reading the “Dating While Bipolar” series, you know that I went in on a date that behaved as though he had Aspergers syndrome – basically, I thought it would be a good idea for him to prepare dates for his (apparent) clinical lack of social skills.  You see, my theory was this:  in dating, you have to manage expectations, prepare people for what they’re gonna get, especially when you meet them online and have limited information at best.  And when you plan a date online, sight unseen, you’re managing expectations for the DATE, not for a RELATIONSHIP, so you should mention stuff that will become obvious when you meet someone for the first time.  Like your inability to look someone in the eye when you talk to them,  if you actually talk to them during the date.  In my head – and on this blog – I’ve likened the brain disorder to having a physical disability, or having a third arm growing out of your chest, in that Asperger’s is going to make itself known even if you don’t mention it.  But what about my brain disorder?  Isn’t that what bipolar is?  We mental illness advocates talk a very big game about emotional disorders being physical in nature, diseases that you live with even though there’s no cure. Isn’t that the same as Asperger’s?  Honestly my disease reveals itself whenever I meet new people, but that revelation is inside my head rather than on my sleeve. It’s like if I had diabetes:  it would come up, or make manifest on the outside, if it came up.  If it didn’t, why mention the disease if nobody can tell?

Yeah, yeah, that last statement made me feel a little icky too.  Another thing the mentally ill do is say, “it would be so much easier if people could see my disease on the outside, then they’d know I had a disease instead of some personality shortcoming.”  So why am I talking out of both sides of my mouth?  Well, I am bipolar. . .Seriously, though, I’m not manic or depressed most of the time, because I’m healthy and I know how to live a (mostly) happy, average life.  But if I had another disease like, say the Asperger’s that I think afflicts Eggbert, it would be evident more of the time, perhaps less manageable to “average” and, therefore, more prone to disclosure.  What I mean to say is this:  if someone has a personality disorder that’s pretty evident upon meeting them, mentioning it before you met someone for the first time would stop them from thinking that you’re an asshole for ignoring them.  If I was in the throes of mania, I’d date you, drink too much, laugh too loud, suggest we go to a sex club and…wait, I’ve done that.  And I actually wasn’t dating (as in, looking for a potential long-term mate); I was responding to “Casual Encounters” on Craigslist, not exploring the dimensions of long-term compatibility (or some such shit) on eHarmony.  The guys I met during my full-blown nuttiness probably didn’t care about relating to me emotionally as long as they could stick their tongues down my throat, or anywhere else they wanted to stick it.  In that instance, a sexually-transmitted disease or inability to orgasm would’ve been appropriate to disclose.  She what I’m getting at here?

Right, so I should wait until after I get to know someone before disclosing my bipolar disorder.  Riiight.  So when is “get to know someone” over?  10 dates?  After sex?  Before you meet the parents?  When it comes up?  What if it never comes up?  Actually, I can see marrying someone before mental illness just “comes up”:

My 2012 Husband:  “Baby, can you pass the beer nuts?”

2012 Me:  “Speaking of nuts, let me tell you about those 2 weeks I spent in the psych ward back in ’09…”

Bad example, but if I manage my disease well, behave like a regular person and keep myself out of inpatient, my bipolar would be virtually undetectable.  OK, there will be questions about the medications on my bedside table, but only if you get to my bedside.  Basically I’m prepared to hold onto this nugget of information until it becomes necessary, like when I start dating someone exclusively, after “I Love You” but before “I think this relationship is going to be really serious.”  Not that I’ve ever made it to that last milestone, but I’m thinking that it comes at some point when people start sharing everything, start asking about family histories, and start going to the bathroom with the door open.  You know, intimacy and stuff.

Or I could just use my real name for this blog and tell people to Google me…would take a lot less effort.

Dating While Bipolar: Mr. Right could be inside this blog post!

Control, alt, humiliate…

Internet dating is all about the over-promise.  If all the online matchmaking companies told the truth, they’d broadcast all of the social rejects, losers, undesirables and just-plain-weirdos that show up on their sites, and they’d say “Here’s your last for mating, you desperate cow.”  By showing photo montages of happy couples, and promising first encounters, the Eharmony’s and the Match.com’s of the world are telling you, “Dating is just as easy a pressing a button..see how these people did it?”

Hogwash.

Meeting people online is hard work, or rather sifting through the people you don’t want to meet, and the ones that should be meeting with a shrink once a week, is hard work.  Then why do it?  For someone like me, who has been out of the game for a number of years, dating is like a muscle that needs to be flexed.  In the same way that you can’t run a 10K without training, or at least stretching out a bit, you can’t jump headlong into a relationship without warming up the witty banter, emotional tolerance and sharing.  Also, internet dating is great fodder for this blog!

“Don’t just leave them hanging!”

Anyway, I’ve learned  a lot about men, and a lot about myself, “meeting” all kinds of men online.  Trust me when I say that there are thousands of people that you need to leave behind.  However, I think I can give you ladies (and a few of you gentlemen) the benefit of my ridiculous experiences in case you find yourself about to meet someone for the first time in 3-D.  First,  be prepared for a lot of dumbassness, no matter how un-dumbass you portray yourself.  I tend to lead off my dating profile with my multiple degrees, global travel, and my salary if I can.  It’s not my intention to be snobbish, just to weed out the people who’d be intimidated by certain facts of my life.  However, although I portray the image of a wealthy, well-traveled snob, I get responses of the vein below which have been lifted directly from my inbox.

“You have as much juice in your lips as Nicki Minaj has in her ass.”

Uh, thanks for the “compliment”, which I suppose juicy lips is supposed to be.  I’m utterly flattered, grossed out and turned off, all at the same time.  Here’s another one.

“Your to pretty to be boring.”

I know men think this way, that they could never be bored with a woman they found really attractive.  But I have way more going for me than the way I look and my lips, like knowing the correct uses for “your” and “to”.  I’m gonna need a man who’s all about loving the grammar AND loving my looks.  Is that a lot to ask?

Then there are pictures.  Men who take photos of their cars, their motorcycles or (yes I’ve seen it), their speedometer need not apply.  What in the

Yes, I took this picture from an actual person’s internet dating profile. No, I’m not going out with him.

world can I learn about you by knowing that your car goes up to 140 MPH? (By the way, dude, all cars these days are marked to go that fast, so you’re nothing special.)  And, by the way, the speedometer reading in the picture is 80 MPH, so let’s hope you weren’t driving while playing shutterbug.  Actually, keep on driving and snapping pics:  natural selection is a motherfucka.

Pictures worth a thousand words, all of them no.

Right, so to get to the dumb shit that men say when meeting you online, you have to get past their picture.  Here are a few types of photos that you’re bound to run into.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Mr I Might Shank Your Mama:  This dude is mean-mugging all up in his main profile picture.  Actually, he’s posted from 5 to 10 photos that look like they were taken while staring down an inmate in the prison yard.  I know, some women like thugs and roughnecks and all manner of ‘hood masculine posturings.  But the number of females attracted by some dumb-looking scowl is probably the same number caught by a man sucking his teeth and yelling “hey gal” from a moving car.  If any single men are reading this, or any women who care about single men, please remember this:  smiling is good.  It conveys happiness, joy, mirth.  It shows that you are capable of experiencing a positive emotion and, on at least one occasion, have actually enjoyed something.  Potential enjoyment, my friends, is the desired outcome of dating and relationships.  Otherwise, we’d just be alone.  Anyway, look for the guy who’s smiling, or at least not frowning.

Mr. NO-lympus:   Shirt off, flexing like he’s some kind of athlete or body builder, though he’s not cut or ripped, and the only curls he does involve bottles of beer.  This is the kind of guy who’s 40 lbs overweight but wears Under Armour to the club, as though all the spandex would somehow carve his flabby upper arms into a pair of guns.  As someone who could also stand to lose some weight, I have nothing against the pleasingly plump, though I’m not posting bikini pictures of myself all over the internet, thinking I look like Halle Berry.  All I’m saying is that people should know their strengths, play their position, and not try to be something they aren’t.  (For more on this kind of internet dater, see also “I’m shirtless at the computer and I have a webcam”)

Objects in this Bathroom Mirror are More Attached than they Appear:  So, you have to close your bathroom door to get a photo of yourself?  Or, better yet, a picture of you in the bathroom at some public place (the black and white checkered tile and wall-mounted foaming anti-bacterial soap dispenser are pretty obvious).  I’m looking a the man in the mirror and I’m asking him to change his stupid-ass ways and come clean.  If you’re taking a photo on your bathroom mirror you must be hiding from someone.  Either it’s your mother, your kids, or your woman.  Even if you’re not, you look a little janky with the flash from your phone camera reflecting against the glass.  Get a friend to take a picture with THEIR camera phone and use that.  Or go to a photo booth.  If you don’t, I’m not even going to give you a second glance.

AWOL – these are the dudes with no pic, who I simply don’t trust.  OK, so everyone isn’t as open as I am about the whole dating scene, but in 2011 there’s really nothing to be ashamed of, so the only folks without pictures are prohibitively ugly, or cheating.  I have a friend who thought guys she met on Yahoo personals were just being private by withholding their photos.  I wonder why all the men she met on the site were married…  Lookit, if someone you know finds you on a dating site, there’s no reason to be embarrassed.  Hell, they’re on it too, so you can commiserate and swear each other to secrecy.

Seriously, though, I’m gonna keep on with this internet thing.   There are some honest people out there.  Actually, someone confessed to being shorter than me because I said in my profile that I wanted total honesty.  Not a bad start, I thought.  Then he canceled our date, confessing that by “I’m divorced” he really meant “I’m going through a divorce”, which is code for “I have no idea which way is up, I’m sleeping in a place where my kids don’t live, and I’m barely holding it together enough to leave the house, let alone go on a date.”  Guess that means I’m back to the virtual trolling.  If you see me out there, just give me a shout and promise never, ever to speak of it again.

Dating While Bipolar: ALWAYS judge a book by its cover

First the lesson:  We all must trust our instincts and stop giving people the benefit of the doubt all the time, at least when it comes to internet dating.  With an internet dating profile, people choose the photos and the words they use, and there are no family members or people from high school to call them on any lies.  Anyway,  they way someone seems in a dating profile is either (1) who they really are, or (2) a carefully crafted image of who they wish they were.  Either way, if you see something that you don’t like or think is fishy, trust that the thing will show itself eventually when you meet your suitor in person.

Now for the story of how I learned my lesson the hard way:  I signed up for an activity-based internet dating service.  Before you berate me for trying AGAIN to meet quality men online, I’m looking for volume to kick my dating muscles back into gear, but also my internet dating methods have changed, hence I’m looking for casual dates over mutually enjoyable activities instead of endless coffee and cocktail meetings.  So, one day I come across a guy who wants to go dancing at LPR,  one of my favorite spots, and I check him out.  He has a master’s degree, he’s tall, answered the little dating questions with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, and also professed to love dancing.  I think, cool, someone to dance with is great since you can tell a lot about a man by the way he moves on the dancefloor.  Also, I like his taste in locations and music, so I figure the venue will save the date from being dreadful.  Oh, how wrong I was…

My date – let’s call him Eggbert, though his real name is equally dorky – corresponded with me in appropriate fashion as we made plans to meet up at 10PM on a Saturday night.  I though it was going to be cool, except for the fact that dude’s photo was a little weird.  It’s not as if he was funny-looking, but he was looking away from the camera and kinda dazing into space in the picture.  Later, my friend Lainie would ask, “maybe he was staring into space searching for his personality?”  But I’m getting ahead of myself. . .  Anyway, Eggbert’s pic looked like a candid, and not everyone has a pile of headshots to put on www.datemeplease.com, so I let it go.  On the Saturday morning, I decided that I didn’t want to go through with the date.  Everyone I know talked me out of it, and I let them because I thought it was fear, nervousness about meeting new men and the prospect of starting a relationship.  Regretfully, I threaded my eyebrows, put on makeup and washed my hair to prepare for meeting Eggbert.

Now, I’m gonna say that I had less-than-no expectations for this date, other than a bit of conversation and some dancing.  However, as my high school math teacher used to say, “I expect so little of you, and I get so little in return.”  I’m going to start raising my expectations.  When Eggbert arrived, 15 minutes after I started shivering on a NYC sidewalk, I was grateful that he didn’t stand me up.  I left the gratitude in the street.  He stood next to me and shook my hand, never once making eye contact or turning towards me.  I was completely thrown off and couldn’t figure out what to say, so I tried talking about the weather.  No response.  The bouncer then came out and announced that admission was open for our event.  Eggbert bounded past me – wordlessly – and walked to the door.  I shook my head and followed, where I gave my name for the reservations and walked downstairs for the coat check.  In a crowded club with loud music, I’m not expecting a long dissertation on Chaucer, but I at least expect my date to verbally acknowledge that I’m actually there.  Apparently he hadn’t gotten that memo, because he left me at the coat check and turned to go to the bar.  He didn’t even say, “hey Dog, want a drink?”  At that point in the evening I began writing this blog post, or my stand-up comedy routine, in my head and wondering how I’d ended up in such an odd situation.

The first place my brain went, while my body followed Eggbert to the dance floor (after he unceremoniously chugged a glass of wine like it was post-game Gatorade), was rejection and negativity:  Why doesn’t he like me?  Am I too fat?  Doesn’t he think I’m pretty?  Why isn’t he talking to me?  Then my self-hate went abysmal:  If this dorky misfit who can’t dance doesn’t like me, who else is going to?  What if I tell men that I have bipolar, who will like me then? Am I going to be alone, or going on bad dates for the rest of my life?  When I yanked myself away from unnecessary panic, I had a realization:  I should worry less about why Eggbert doesn’t like me and think about whether I like him and want to stick around for the rest of the crappy date.  I’m infinitely lovable:  even if I could stand to lose 40 lbs, I’m funny and smart and witty and successful, and anyone who’d take the time to know me would like me, plenty of people do.  I looked at the Herman Munster-like, arrhythmic movements of a date who claimed to love dancing and music yet didn’t look like he was capable of having a good time anywhere.  Then I looked at the intense enjoyment radiating from everyone else in the room and resolved, “Bump this, I’m so out of here!”

By the “believe as I do, not as I say” rule of internet dating, I could have realized from the socially-awkward looking pose in Eggbert’s profile picture that he was, in fact, socially awkward in person.  If he wasn’t, he would have added another photo taken from a different angle, one that showed some emotion or at least a direct look at the camera.  Nope, Eggbert showcased his true self in that profile, and his true, non-emotional, barely talking, staring-into-space self showed up on our date.

Upon sharing the story of “The Date Who Stared Into Space,” my roommate opined that he might suffer from Aspberger’s syndrome.  In case you don’t click through, Aspberger’s is a developmental disorder characterized by awkward social interaction and inability to process or exhibit social cues and emotions.  Sounds like Eggbert.  If that’s the case, I realize how hard it must be to endure a date when you don’t really understand what’s happening.  Then again, maybe people with Aspberger’s don’t register “bad date” because they can’t process that the other person is having a bad time.  Either way, I’d like to give Eggbert a little piece of advice:  if you’re a touch autistic, it’s probably better to tell people so they know what to expect.

I can already hear you calling me a hypocrite because I don’t tell people I just met that I have bipolar, and thinking I’m a hypocrite because I want other people to dash their hopes of dating because of a disease they can’t control.  Let me ask this:  if you were blind, would you suggest seeing a movie on a first date?  If you couldn’t, would you make plans to Rollerblade with someone?  If you were celibate, would you suggest meeting at a sex club?  No, because the content of the date would reasonably set up the expectation of taking part in an activity that you couldn’t do.  You’d have to say, “look, I can’t get up the stairs of that restaurant in my wheelchair, let’s pick another place.”   So if you can’t socialize in a way that some people might find acceptable, you should prepare a date for that so they don’t think you’re an asshole, or they don’t think they’ve done something wrong.

Also, you can’t see bipolar in the same way that you can see Aspberger’s, or at least it’s not readily evident when you first meet someone, so there’s no big surprise when I see a man in person that I’ve “met” on the internet:  what you’ve seen is what you’ll get.  Even my Twitter followers who meet me in person say, you’re the same in person as you are online, and that’s all I’m asking for the internet lurkers out there, trying to take us out for a date.  Be yourself, present yourself as you are, and someone who wants to be with the person that you really are will find you eventually.  In the meantime, just prepare me for what I’m gonna get.

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Stay tuned to this blog for the next installment of Dating While Bipolar: reading between the 1′s and 0′s.

Dating While Bipolar: the wonderful world of idiocy and serial rejection

Happy 2011, kids!  It has been a veeerrrry long time since I graced my darling followers with a blog post, so your reward will be a series.  That’s right, I’m dating again, if by dating you mean engaging in various embarrassing activities in the hopes of meeting a man I might like to take on vacation.  I’ve been cool and single for years, and voluntarily celibate to boot, but I’ve realized that I’d like to find a mate, a man that I enjoy being with as much as I enjoy being with myself. A tall order for anyone, I know.  But add to that the discomfort I feel about letting someone into my life, telling them “Hey, I have bipolar and, by the way, I’m not gonna have kids so don’t worry about heredity.”  Yeah.

The good news is, I’ve engaged in all manner of therapy and self-scrutiny over the past few years so I know what I want when I see it, and I’m getting pretty good at identifying and ditching losers.  The bad news is, I still don’t know where to meet men.  Basically, in 2011, I’m up for anything.  I vowed to “get out more” in 2011, so maybe “out” includes places where men may congregate.  If not, I’m still not gonna be sitting on the sofa every Saturday night watching bad movies with my roommate who hasn’t had sex since Clinton was in office.

As I embark on yon romantic journey, I shall also chronicle the humor and humiliation involved in the pursuit of love and romance in latter-day New York City.  Expect self-pity, intense analysis, and the sarcastic wit for which you’ve pledged me your undying fandom.  If any Twitter or blog followers want to throw a hat into the ring as a potential suitor, I’ll entertain all comers.  And I mean that in the most G-Rated way possible.

Armchair Therapist: Black women are voluntary victims

“So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. . . . He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” – Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937

When Zora Neale Hurston wrote those words, I think she meant to raise awareness of Black women’s plight in society, not to be prophetic.  Still, here we are almost 75 years later, still picking up the emotional parcels left for us by others.  The difference between 1937 and today is that now, perhaps, we’re volunteering to shoulder the burden.

I am (Black) Woman Hear Me Roar

I can’t imagine a better time to be a Black woman.  We have high earning potential, we can live and work wherever we want and change our hairstyle to suit our mood.  We can marry whomever we want (if only we could find them, but that’s another story.)  I’ve said before that my life is the polar opposite of that lived my by grandmother, and even my mother, and they’d both be proud of me.  Besides, we have a great public role model showing up for Black womanhood every day in the First Lady of the United States.  Michelle Obama is the bomb:  she’s smart, beautiful, a mother, a wife, a business person, an attorney, and she has killer arms.  Still we don’t like to look at her, and the millions of other Black women just like her (minus the husband who’s the leader of the free world and fine as hell…that’s completely unrealistic!) as inspiration for our art. We’d rather use media to wallow in freakish misery at the “mistakes” of our people.  Maybe Mrs. O makes us embarrassed for our shortcomings rather than proud because she looks like us.  How else would you explain our willingness to consume entertainment which continually represents the most negative parts of the Black female experience?

If you believe what you watch on TV, hear on the radio, see at the movies, you might actually believe that Black women ain’t shit.  Wait I got confused:  Black MEN ain’t shit (or at least the ones you’d want to date); Black WOMEN don’t DESERVE shit.  How else do you explain that we persistently consume entertainment that continually presents us a personal failures at the hands of our men?  What else but lack of self-worth would make Black women flock to see movies and read books that take away all our agency in the creation of our problems as well as our solutions?

Tyler Perry feels about Black women as George W. Bush feels about Black people

I swore I wasn’t gonna go in on Tyler Perry, but I’m mad at all of y’all where he’s concerned and my body is not big enough to contain my outrage.  I’ve already made a conscious decision not to see For Colored Girls. . ., not because I don’t support Black film, actors, or Ntozake Shange’s seminal work.  No, I won’t be seeing FCG because I’m not giving that woman-hating coward ONE RED CENT of my money.   I know, FCG isn’t Perry’s text, but he’s written so many other texts in which the story goes down pretty much like this:  a woman (or a series of women) are done wrong by their man (or The Man) or whomever;  said women wallow in their victimhood for the majority of the film while over-dramatic music plays in the background and copious tears are shed; a man, or Madea (a man in drag), or God comes in to “save” said women and they all live happily ever after.  Electric Slides for everybody!

In every movie/play Perry does, he takes away women’s agency in solving their own problems, makes them weak victims or, in the case of Madea (which I believe is his representation of the mother he wishes had defended herself and him in an abusive home), a gun-toting shrew.  Apparently Perry’s world does not allow for women to get support without a penis involved.  In Why Did I Get Married, all 4 women have crap relationships and when they get together for what should be “sister get yours” time, all they can do is complain then figure out how to crawl back to their cheating, angry, jealous husbands.  Then the fat girl finds a man to love her, everyone cries and all the couples get back together?  Nukka, please…The women I know would not have suggested any of the reconciliation that I saw in that film.  They would’ve said, “girl, if your man put his hands on your throat (which happened in the movie) and verbally abused you and his baby mama (which also happened), I’ll stand by you in the divorce proceedings…I got your back.”  Y’all remember the scene in Jungle Fever when Flipper’s wife gathers her sister-friends together for a good old hen party?  Or in Guess Who…? when the female lead gets support, laughter and cocktails when she finds out her fiancé is an unemployed liar?  You’ll never see that kind of group female solidarity in in a Tyler Perry film because I don’t think he actually believes we can do it on our own.   From what I understand, even with Ntozake’s text, Tyler Perry still manages to make another Madea movie out of For Colored Girls. . ., so I’ll wait for it to come on HBO and content myself with re-reading the original text.

The saddest part is, though, that Black women line up around the corner to get us a piece of that Tyler Perry nonsense because he’s a successful entrepreneur.  Apparently wealth gained through negative portrayals of Black women is still more important than holding him accountable for said images.  I think the brother needs to get some therapy and stop using mass media to take out his anger towards his mother.  But I can’t fault him as much as I can my sisters  – and, unfortunately, some of them are in my family  – who keep insisting I watch the bullshit, or read yet another poorly-written ghetto victim novel, because its “so real”  and “we have to support Black people”.  Um, OK, I’m supposed to “support” people who don’t think I’m worth much, who with their fame and influence could build battered women’s shelters instead of making movies portraying abused and/or unhappy women who get “saved”.  How can we do better with our lives if we can’t ever SEE better, even in our entertainment?

Black women need to do better with ourselves, for ourselves, to ourselves.

If Black women continue to support garbage, watch garbage, read garbage and listen to garbage that paints us with such passivity, we’re stuck in the “mules of the world” cycle, being put UPON instead of being active participants in our own lives.  Dammit, it’s 2010 and all we can think of to write a song about is some cheating man?  And then millions of us roll down the window, sing it at the top of our lungs, and say “that’s my SONG!” when it comes on the radio.  I can think back to a time when R&B was littered with relatively romantic songs about adultery.  If you recall, “Secret Lovers” by Atlantic Star was about the separation between a couple when they couldn’t be together.  At least both people in the relationship were cheating, and both were honest about it, which put them on equal footing.  Then there were the “woman stepping out” songs of the 8o’s:  “Somebody Else’s Guy” by Jocelyn Brown, and the adultery song of the decade, Shirley Murdoch’s “As We Lay”…at least the music was good, and the women singing were the subjects of the cheating and not the objects.  Which brings me to today and Sunshine Anderson’s new song, “Lie to Kick It”?  Check out these ridiculous lyrics:

I coulda sworn you said you live by yourself
But ya live-in girl exposed your world
(I bet you wonder) how the hell she got my number
(You called from the home phone) and forgot to block my number
Why do you lie when you expect me to trust in you?

To quote Sunshine herself in another one of her oh-so-positive R&B hits, I’ve heard it all before.  My man’s a liar, woe is me.  His side-piece (or his main dish) told me the truth, that heifer!  Men cheat, I got that.  Women cheat too, are active participants in the breaking of fidelity which, in my opinion, means you actually DID something for yourself instead of waiting to react to someone else’s behavior.  On the surface, these baby-daddy cheater songs seem like anti-man anthems, and in some ways they are.  But supporting this kind of music is detrimental to our mental health, and death to our art.  For real, if all you can rhyme with “number” is “number”, you shouldn’t be getting paid to write anybody’s lyrics.  We need to bust out with the modern day version of “I’m Every Woman” because, quite frankly, it is ALL in me, and I does it naturally. *snaps*  What happened to songs like that?  Where’s Queen Latifah singing about “Ladies First”, and “you gotta let ‘em know/you ain’t a bitch or a ho”?  Oh right, I forgot, she’s a lesbian (or everyone thinks she is) so we’re not supposed to listen to her, and only heterosexuals need apply to our collective uplift.  My mistake.

When we’re not putting our ownselves down, we’re getting the smackdown from mainstream art.  Hey, it’s cool to hate on Black women, haven’t you heard?  Last night on Glee, Mercedes (the token black girl) was ridiculed for her weight and her color, all for laughs.  I’m angry that they made Precious references, especially since the Mercedes character is happy, and wealthy, and talented and kinda full of herself.  But because she’s black and fat, she gets compared to a character full of dysfunction and self-hate.  Hey, they look a little bit alike, they must be the same and feel the same way about themselves.  Um, no.  Don’t even get me started on how folks call Gabourey Sidibe “Precious” even though she bears little resemblance to the girl she played in the movie…it would be like calling Charlize Theron “Monster” because she played an ugly, horrible person in a movie of the same name…but I’m supposed to be talking about black women, not fat issues, so I’ll reel it in.

“But if I get off my knees, I might recall, I’m 20 feet tall” – Erykah Badu

I don’t really know if what we see in Black culture – and American culture in general – is a backlash against the advances Black women have made in society.  It might be that sociological and emotional dysfunction is bubbling to the surface because in the modern political climate, we’re not plotting a lunch-counter sit-in so we have time to complain.  What I DO know is this:  psychologically speaking, people imitate the behavior and attitudes they see around them, and changing usually requires the introduction of a new, positive model and some repetition.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, neurolinguistic programming, and other therapeutic tools have been proven to reinforce positive behavior in adults, and the converse is also true – that continual negative stimuli reinforce our negative patterns.  Black women especially need to get out from under the negative reinforcement presented in our entertainment, stop thinking that victimization is normal because it really isn’t for so many of us.

What do you think — why are Black women so willing to believe we’re victims?

My Open Letter to Self-Esteem

Dear Self-Esteem,

Thank you so much for being my friend, and for generally sticking around through rough times.  We’ve been together since I got teased in grade school for talking like a white girl, or for being mostly chubby and geeky through junior high school, and even still through college when I flunked out after freshman year but then came back to graduate.  Since we’ve been together for a while, I think I can tell you that you’re missing some great opportunities with today’s women, and you need to do better with that.  I feel like since we have such a close, intimate relationship, I can point out your shortcomings.

People often invoke your name when they see, as I did, a woman walking down the street at 4:30 PM wearing hot pants and over-the-knee boots.  A bunch of folks will think that the outfit is an expression of high self-esteem.  After all, Ms. Hot Pants had a great body and she was just showing it off in the balmy late-fall weather.  Or they’ll say that she’s comfortable in her skin, and in her clothes, no matter what anyone thinks.  Maybe.  But I contend that someone who’s really happy with themselves, and that thinks highly of themselves, doesn’t need to dress like a streetwalker on Sunday afternoon.  Someone who knows you very well might say, “I don’t need to stick out in order to be remarkable” then put down the pootie-cutters in favor of a nice pair of pants. Indeed, Self-Esteem, you’ve taught me that everyone has the capacity to be special, to feel special in the absence of attracting attention.  So, please pay a visit to Ms. Hot Pants.  Tell her she kinda looks like an idiot, and that she should introduce you to some other women I’ve seen around.

Mostly, you could stand to pal around with women who think even negative attention is good because at least SOMEONE is looking.  There are men who think this way too, but they usually don’t parade around half-naked so they’re hard to see.  You should also look for people from both genders who stay in bad relationships because they’d rather have someone than be single.  They probably always look for the distraction of relationships (or work, or other people’s drama) so they don’t have to think about how much they hate themselves.

You also need to look for people who say things like “I have high self-esteem”, because, like sex, I think that people who talk about it a lot don’t have a lot of it.  If you actually HAVE high self-esteem, you don’t need to say it because it just is.  People will know by the way you act, the way you speak, the way you look.  If you have to point it out, it probably means that you’ve done or said something that generally connotes low self-esteem.  Then again, I don’t have to tell you who your friends are.

Anyway, you’ve done a pretty good job with me, since the world like to put upon Black women, people with bipolar, and any other of the labels that could be used to describe me.  Still, I’m thinking that we’re in it for the long haul.  I love you, Self-Esteem, and I love me too!  See you tomorrow.

Peace.

Suicide is NOT Entertainment

UPDATED: November 14, 2010:

Just realized that I didn’t include the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in this post.   If you’re thinking about doing harm to or killing yourself, please call 1-800-273-TALK to speak with one of their counselors.  You are not alone.

Good #MHSM (Mental Health Social Media) – like all good social media – is about uniting people around common goals and building connections through the internets in the same ways that we build them in “real” life.  The Mental Health Social Media community is about giving people help and support that they may be afraid or unable to ask for in person.  Watching someone’s cry for help, then watching them not get it, is the antithesis of good social media and being a good human being.  Don’t blame the medium for creating the problem, blame yourselves.  Now get to reading and get to helping. – Deltra

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By now, you may have already heard about the Japanese man who broadcast his own suicide via UStream. If not, here’s some coverage of the story from Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/11/japanese-man-broadcasts-h_n_782140.html

Can someone please tell me what is going on in the world that we’re watching people off themselves online like it’s a music video?

Here’s a little bit of education, for people who have no experience with depression, despair, suicide, or suicidal people.  If someone comes out of their mouth talking about killing themselves, wanting to die, or mentions having attempted suicide in the past, THEY’RE NOT KIDDING. Don’t wait around, watching to see if they change their minds. GET HELP. I don’t know what drove that Japanese man to end his life, or to stream it live on the internet. But, according to reports, he tried to do it a few times during the broadcast before he succeeded in hanging himself.  If nothing more, his confession to wanting to die, and his previous attempt are actually enough to get him admitted to a mental hospital for observation.  Watching his limp body hang from the rafters is not the kind of “observation” a mental health professional would’ve envisioned for this man.  I’m not trying to be funny, but I’m trying to impress upon you that plenty of people are well trained to recognize the signs of suicide.  If you see them yourself, I’d feel better if you ignored the person than egged them on, or just watched the imminent demise.

Let me let you in on a little secret:  I have been, pun intended, at the end of my rope a few times in my life.  But even at my worst I’ve never even though about, let alone threatened out loud about, killing myself. Know why? Not because I’m better than anyone, but because I didn’t want to die.  The DESIRE to end your life, to shuffle off this mortal coil, and the belief that killing yourself is the solution to all your problems, is what separates the depressed and suicidal from the merely depressed yet hopeful.  Think, for a moment, about all the secrets and lies you tell yourself.  Now think about what it would take for you to confess them aloud.  Wanting to kill yourself is like the biggest, scariest secret in the world, one that lots of people hold onto for a long time before it sees the light of day because nothing is real until you say it out loud.  So you best believe that if someone says out loud, even once, “I want to kill myself”, don’t take it lightly.

My regular readers know that my best friend from high school killed herself by jumping onto the subway tracks.  Apparently she lived a short time before she succumbed to her injuries, but she still picked a pretty public and fairly fool-proof way to exit the world.  She didn’t announce to her fellow MTA passengers, “hey, I’m ’bout to jump off this platform, so you can watch or try to stop me”.  Still, I hope that if she did make that grand a gesture, someone would have snatched her back and called the police, or at least her mama.  I’m thinking that the friends and family of this Japanese man wish someone had actually listened to his repeated announcements.