Just One of Those Love Songs…. Written By: My Homie Ari

I have long established that I am generationally misplaced in a way that leaves me feeling like my old soul is being compromised by this modern age. I often wonder how I would have been “courted” if I dated men blessed enough to have the “oldies” as their generation’s music. Oldies. The Chi-Lites, Harold Melvin, Marvin Gaye. The kind of music that gave men a reference point on how to appreciate and treat women. (It’s like they bled on their records. They bleeeeed. They bled in a way that rappers who prematurely say “I’m going to bleed on this track” can’t even fathom.) I would even be willing to bet if this kind of emotionally charged music was blaring from men’s radios today their hearts would reflect it. Life would imitate art. They would be better men for it.

For several months I have contemplated the difference in the quality of emotion showcased in current R&B compared to the oldies. It doesn’t make sense that these male artists seemingly pour their hearts out, and the end result is still…flat. Hearing people liken Trey Songz to a modern-day Marvin Gaye is funny to me. I see him as an overgrown child. He sings about sex often but it reminds me of an inexperienced boy mimicking what his older brother said on the subject. His attempt at trying to sound passionate and sexy comes off hoaxy. To be sexy and passionate when you sing about sex, you need to intimately know the soul of the thing. “Trigga” obviously doesn’t know the soul of sex.

These men are trying to be cute with it. Soul is a combination of desperation, pain, and bliss. An emotion intensified is what it is. This kind of exaggeration is not pretty. It’s ugly. You don’t smile through soul. There is nothing pretty about soul. An attempt to make it cute is going to be a failure on its face. It’s like putting artificial sweetener in the tea. The aftertaste is bitter.

And this is the problem with male artists today. I don’t think they sing with any soul because they haven’t found it yet. Soul is created through hardships. It becomes visible through the evolution of that adversity. You don’t hear the soul in men’s voices when they sing about losing a woman because they don’t know the pain associated with losing one. In order to feel that kind of pain he would have had to place a lot of value in her in the first place. That goes to the deeper reason for the absence of soul—men’s decreased value in a sole woman.

A friend of mine, one of the best men I know, told me that songs are different now because women have made men different. He thinks that the value of women in general has diminished in men’s minds because there are so many bad quality ones that allow men to run amuck. The songs sound different because men feel differently about women.

I try to do at least one hour of cardio a day. What takes me to two hours or three is when Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “I Miss You” randomly pops up from my shuffled play-list. If the incredibly beautiful pitches and perfect harmonies are not enough, towards the end of the song Melvin stops singing to his woman and just talks to her. He talks for five minutes. At one point he begs, “If I could just/If I could just see you/Can’t really say what you mean or what you want over the phone/I swear I miss you/You’ve done heard it ten times or more but/I swear I done changed/I swear I done changed.”

Listen to those words. It’s not the validity in what he’s saying that is so on point. Has he changed? Probably not. This man is saying whatever he can to get back into his woman’s good graces. He goes from “I’ve changed”, to” I’ve got a gig” to “I won the lottery”, using every strength in his arsenal to get his ex to change her mind about him. Nothing in what he is saying logically flows. The point is, his words don’t have to necessarily be perfect. With perfection though, he completely humbles himself for her. He puts his pride aside. Can men still do that?

I swear on ON EVERYTHING I LOVE if a man that I remotely still had feelings for just played this song for me because he was unable to find words of his own, he’d be forgiven. I make this promise, so freely, because I know that men of my generation will never call my bluff. Men of my generation wouldn’t think to do this for a sole woman. Even if she is a soul woman.

Being Alone, and Being Lonely

Wilona’s always been my favorite Good Times‘ character. Now I know why.

You gotta watch this clip.

After my 10 hour “nap”, I click on the TV. I stumble across this Good Times‘ episode, “The Matchmaker” from 1974, where Florida, feeling bad for Wilona’s single, sad, husband-less life, tries to hook her up.

In response, Wilona offers this great speach on being single that, sadly, is as relevant today as it was 36 years ago. Frankly, it scares me that Black, Single, and Female has been a conversation on the table this long. Kinda makes me wonder if my efforts to change the perspective will be as totally in vain as Wilona’s.

Anyway, in case you can’t watch the video, Wilona’s soliloqy is as follows:

You make it seem like the life I have is so bad. Florida, this may come as a shock to you, honey, but i got a good life and I’m enjoying myself. Where is it written that every woman has got to be married or she’s a nobody? It’s really funny. A man over 30 who’s unmarried, the world calls him a swinger. A woman over 30 who’s unmarried? They call her an old maid. Now, I’m not knocking families and kids, but that is just not my bag…. there are different strokes for different follks, that’s all.

Please don’t worry about me ’cause I am fine. I’m alone sometimes, but there’s a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

And the one thing I ain’t, is lonely.

Why Don’t You Love Me?

 

Why Don\’t You Love Me Video

 

I watched “Why Don’t You Love Me?”, Bey’s Solange-written addition to the I Am… Sasha Fierce re-release, and loved it.

For those of you who can’t view the Melina Matsoukas and Bee Z (aka Bey) directed video at work or on phones, a recap (via Billboard):

Beyoncé dresses up like a naughty ’50s housewife… Perhaps paying homage to her recent “Telephone” and “Videophone” collabos with Lady Gaga, Beyoncé cries, drinks and chain smokes her way through this one, sporting sexy, Bettie Page-inspired looks all throughout. The video begins with her character, the aptly-titled “B.B. Homemaker,” reading a car manual and performing a greasy tuneup while rocking Daisy Dukes and red stilettos.

“I got beauty, I got class/I got style and I got ass,” she later contends to her deadbeat lover, while sipping a cocktail and French-inhaling a cigarette. The fantasy-laden imagery hardly ends there, though, as it’s followed by shots of sequences of Beyoncé gardening, scrubbing floors, baking cookies, and and dusting her mantlepiece, which is covered with many, many Grammys.

Her dominatrix costume at the end admittedly screams “Rated R”-era Rihanna, but Beyoncé’s shamelessly campy performance — complete with boatloads of running mascara — is generously refreshing. In the end, she surmises, “There’s nothin’ not to love about me/Maybe you’re just not the one/Or maybe you’re just plain dumb.”

 

I like Bey best when she steps out of her cookie-cutter, Stepford-wife image and gets a little more edgy and real. But I learned a long time ago to love Bey I can’t look for depth. Just enjoy the shaking, glitter/ bedazzle/ rifting and hair swinging for what it is and move on. It’s candy.

 

I think this is way more of an artistic feminist statement than she has EVER made before. I like the way the housewife archetype is played out. It plays at the damned if you do, damned if you don’t struggle many women face. Why don’t you love me – I make it so easy to love me as Suzzie Homemaker and you still don’t love me? I’ve got Grammys up the wazoo (I love that she was dusting them) and work hard for mine… Why don’t you love me? I try to be your everything…why don’t you love me?

I think it’s a dope video. She’s still naked, but at least I can muster up a reason this time. I hope she doesn’t come out and try to explain the artistic merits of it though. Leave that to whoever came up with the concept.

 

For whatever Beyonce lacks in depth, she has an indisputable ability to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of what women are thinking/ feeling. We are bombarded constantly with expectations of what makes us a “good” woman or better, a marriageable woman— be educated, work and earn, look like a King model, lower expectations, raise standards, know how to nurture and support and cater to their man and cook, and be a good mother. Oh, and ‘fuck me like a porn star. On command.’ It’s a lot to live up to. And the women who actually try to live up to the hype and fail? Well, it’s easy to see how they could end up like Bey Bey here, messy and teary and spilling the drink all over the place.

Who knew Bey could go this deep?

Is the Church Keeping You Single? Uhh….

So last week, the buzz starts blowing up with this story from http://survivingdating.com/black-churches-how-black-churches-keep-african-american-women-single-and-alone. The title, “The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely.”

I had no intentions of reading it until one of my girlfriends  who had acquired a love of my blogs sent it to me….she  added a small note with her e-mail:

I am “characteristically” the woman the author speaks of in the article. Ministry consumes much of my free time often making it impossible to date even if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I do feel like “throwing caution to the wind” and just going for it, but more times than naught I have ended up in a bad situations when I did go out. I often feel there is just a comfort and safety in staying in the “good” girl’s place.

So I read it.

The author, dating expert and advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, directly blames the Black church for Black women’s singleness. She writes:

the true reason that there are so many single, never married Black women in the United States – Black churches. Black women should abandon Black churches and focus more on themselves, their needs and those of their children than those of Black men or a religion, which Black men use to castigate and control an entire race of women.

Her bottomline:

Going to church for single Black women is a waste of time.

Cooper’s biggest gripe with the Black Church:

structured around traditional gender roles which makes women submissive to and inferior to men, greatly limits females. Single Black women sitting in church every Sunday are being subtly brainwashed, soothed and placated into waiting without demand for what they want to magically come to them.

No doubt this type of church doctrine is out there. But there are churches aplenty where it doesn’t. But maybe Cooper is speaking of the Black Church outlook in general which even if you’ve never stepped inside, if you are Black and live in America, you are most likely influenced by in some fashion.

Cooper goes on to acknowledge that there are single men in the church. Then dismisses them just as quickly with, “you can bet if a young, handsome, strapping man is in church every Sunday, there is something wrong with him.” She asses that “98%” of men to be found in church are a part of 12 –step program, gay, players, or “elderly reformed players.” If she wasn’t so serious, this would be hysterical. (I implore you to go to her site to read the full breakdown on this.)

Cooper also points out that time spent in church— where there are no men you’d want to date anyway, according to her— is taking up time from a woman’s social agenda (cue Bernie Mac).

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

I want to argue on principle. But I acknowledge a good point. Interchange “work” with church and it’s the argument that every dating/relationship expert worth their ranting makes: you want a man? You have to make time for a man. Logically, Cooper’s argument makes sense, but it still doesn’t feel right telling women to back off of the Bible to pursue a date.

As a parting thought, Cooper notes:

Single Black women trying to live a sanctified lifestyle won’t be caught dead in the places where men are likely to be found. These church women refuse to go to parties, sports bars or sporting events, or clubs where there is drinking, card playing, domino throwing, shit talking and cussing – you know, the things that most men who enjoy life like to do.

There are millions of really great guys out here that would love you to the depths of your soul and stand by you. There are many single men that will happily honor your spirit and desire to leave your mark on the world. However, he may not EVER set foot in a church, read the Bible or even pray.

The implication is church women go to where the men are— even if they find it morally compromising— in order to increase their odds of finding a man. Will they find men? Yes. But men they are compatible with? Uh… not likely. I have nothing against card playing and domino throwing, but isn’t a holy roller dating a “shit talking and cussing” man like the very definition of being unequally yoked? I mean if I’m into the church, and he’s into the club, what exactly is our common ground? Pre-marital sex?

I also don’t like the idea of encouraging church women into “backsliding” just to have a man. Skipping a Bible Study or two? Fine. But throwing deuces to church altogether? No.

Women have a special power— keeping the flame— that too many of us, especially the believing ladies, don’t often recognize or acknowledge the importance or necessity of. Yes, holding the moral/religious compass in our community is a burden. It would be great if men at large could be relied upon not to habitually line-step, but most like to test the limits. It’s kinda on us to hold it together, even if that means praying on it or praising His name. I mean if we don’t, who will?

I wonder if Black women were to take Cooper’s advice and put the pursuit of a man over praising God, then what happens to us a pairs or even The People. Someone’s got to the stay “Nearer, my God, to Thee’’ or we all further fast-forward our dissent into hell in a hand basket. (See decline of church and current state of Black America.) Black relationships at large are already for shite, you really think they’re getting any better with less time spent in pews and more time partying, card playing and shit talking?

Perhaps the solution to helping church-going Black women find the love they seek isn’t telling them to abandon church altogether, but to find a more progressive place to worship, then discover ways to get more Black men to enter the building.

Shifty Negro Syndrome….

He called.  The next day.

For a month, we’ve talked on the phone, multiple times a day.  Sometimes he would schedule his lunch break with me, and I would meet him at a variety of restaurants around the city and talk to him.  I do the same thing after work before I head to the gym.  I’m like a teenager.  I’ve nicknamed him my Teenage Love Affair.

But now, I haven’t heard from DH in two days.  I texted him last night, called this morning.  No response.  He usually calls me right back, even if it’s just to say he’s busy and can’t talk.

I check my phone compulsively all day.  Nothing.  By the end of the day, I’m so wound up I’m debating not calling him ever again.  I mean, if he wanted to speak to me, he’d call, right?  I’m not trying to be that chick whom dudes laugh about like “Son, shorty’s a stalker!”  I read He’s Just Not That Into You.  A text and a call are enough.  If he cared one way or another, he’d call.

After work, I skip an US Weekly party to go to the gym.  I have to get some of my aggression out.  I listen to Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged as I run.  Her lyrics make sense.  I replay “Mr. Intentional.”  Bad, bad sign.

I go over my last conversation with DH in my head.  He called me before I ran my Saturday errands.  We talked for thirty minutes.  And as soon as we hung up, he called right back to say he was really feeling me.  Then he didn’t call again?

I do an extra fifteen minutes of cardio because I’ve still got energy to think.  At least I didn’t do him.  I’d be devastated.  I run the last mile – hard and uphill – to get my frustration out.

On the way home, I wonder what happened.  Did he get back with his ex?  Did he meet someone else?

I debate calling him again.  I think of the possible outcomes.  He could send me straight to voicemail.  He could not answer and let it ring.  He could not answer and I could leave a message.  He could answer, act as if “I have to call you back,” i.e., if I’d known it was you, I wouldn’t have answered.  I only have a one-in-six chance of getting the response I want.

I realize I’m driving myself crazy.

The next morning, I check my BlackBerry – I sleep with it under my pillow-before I get out of bed.  No call.  It’s officially been three days.  I rationalize why this whole “affair” ending is for the best.  From great suffering comes great art.  Maybe this heartache will inspire a great story or poem.  And I’ve been off my game ever since DH and I started talking, daydreaming, talking on the phone all hours of the night, showing up to work exhausted.  This is for the best, Cam, I tell myself.

I’m brooding as I get dressed.  I miss him no matter how much I try not to, but that quickly turns to fury by the time I walk out the door.  I step into the brick-cold weather and just get madder because despite giving into Charlotte culture and buying a North Face bubble coat, I’m still cold.  Why did I let myself get so caught up so quickly?  And what kind of games is this man playing?

Eff it.  I’m calling.  If for no other reason than to get the closure that will come when I curse out DH.  I don’t care if he doesn’t care.  I care, and I want to know why!  He owes me an explanation.

His phone rings.

And rings.

And rings.

He answers.

He doesn’t talk so much as words just rumble in a drawl from his throat.  I melt.

“Hello?”  Even I’m baffled by how sweet my voice comes out.

“There it is!  I’ve been waiting for you to call.”  He’s smiling into the phone.  I hear it, then I picture it.  It’s a beautiful sight.

“Uh, so why didn’t you call me instead of waiting?”  Ooh, I sound a little belligerent.

“I lost my phone.  I didn’t have your number written down,”  he half-explains, half-pleads.  He must have heard my angst.  “You didn’t leave your number when you left a message , baby.”

I feel like an idiot.  I’ve wound myself into a frenzy over nothing.  Nothing!

“But, uh, Cam, can I call you right back?”

Uh oh.  I don’t say that out loud.

By way of explanation, he offers, “I have a client on the other line.”

I know what that means:  If I’d known it was you, I wouldn’t have answered.

I put on a chipper voice.  I won’t let him know who disappointed I am.  “Sure!  Talk to you later!”  Oops!  I didn’t mean to be that happy.

I hang up and plan never to hear from him again.  Now I’m mad that I called.  I should have just let it be.  I’m sure I’ll bump into him soon.  I’ll see DH in the club, give a pleasant but brief hello, act like we’re virtual strangers.  I throw my phone in to my bag and zone out for the ride to work.

When I got home from work, there’s a voicemail.  From DH?  I immediately check my phone.  “Hey,” he    says in his Barry White bass.  “Just wanted you to have a wonderful day.  Call me back, Cam.  I miss your voice.”

He wasn’t ducking me.  I’m crazy, I realize.  I’m really crazy.  I’ve mistaken life’s ish happening for Shifty Man Syndrome.  What if I hadn’t called?  What if I had really been on some hard pride, “eff that”?  I would have totally lost someone I like over nothing.

I’m dancing around my house, contemplating the exact level of my excessive crazy, when my BlackBerry vibrates.  Two buzzes.  Three? A Call?  I reach into my bag.

It’s DH again.

“Hello?”  I answer.

“Hey…..I know you’re just getting home from work – ”

“I always have time for you,” I say, cutting him off.

“Cam, I just wanted to talk to you for a sec.  I wanted to tell you….”

Afterwards he makes me promise not to tell anyone.

I lean against the side of my door, a big doofy smile on my face, biting my bottom lip as he says what needs saying.  If my nieces weren’t with me I would have screamed, doubled in half, jumped all over the sidewalk, and given Charlotte a morning show of just how crazy I am over DH.

It feels like a teenage love…

Nothing really matters.  I don’t really care, what nobody tells me. I’m gonna be here.  It’s a matter of EXTREME importance, my first teenage love affair…”

– Alicia Keys

The night I met CK, I met another man.  He was my physical type, o he was my every type.  This man was gorgeous in every sense of the word.  I was immediately attracted to him.  We chatted, and I found there was a catch.

He had a girl…but he said they were on the rocks.  I told him I don’t deal with taken men.  He told me I should take his number and call every so often to check up on his status.  Eh….too much work.  And does that not sound a little bird-ish?

I took the number, but I never called.  The logic was, would I want some chick calling to check in on my man’s departure from me?  “Karma, karma, karma comes back to you hard,” we learned from Lauryn Hill.  Plus, there are certain people you just want to d things the RIGHT way with.

Well time continued to pass, and so did a few months.  By this time, it’s mid-summer, and I was in D.C. visiting family members.  I ran into him again one Saturday night at Josephine, a D.C. lounge catering to tastemakers and those who pretend to be such.  I walked in with my girl Javon, who casually reintroduced us, and we-the stranger and me- had a drawing of recognition at the same time.

“Hey,” I said.  Blush.  Giggle.

“Hey,” he said.  Grin, grin, grin.

I played it cool as we remembered out loud that there was a very mutual interest.

Finally, he said, “But you never called.”  “This has to be fate us meeting up in the same town, and in the same place.”

I shook my head.  “You had a girlfriend.”  I gave a what-could-I-do-shrug for emphasis.

He nodded, then smiled.  “We were broken up.  And she’s moved out.”

Word?

He made me promise to give him my number before I left.  I don’t know why I didn’t give it to him right then.  Maybe I didn’t want to appear too eager?  Silly me.

I left before I could pass him my digits.  I looked for him, please believe it, but he was nowhere to be found.  So I text Javon and told her to make sure they guy got my number.  Over brunch the following afternoon at Lauriol Plaza, a Spanish resty in Adams Morgan better known for its sangria pitchers than its food, Javon assured me the she did.

I hope he calls.  I really hope he calls (and is as amazing on the inside as he is on the outside).