Put A Title On It….

I’ll probably tick off a lot of people and upset a lot of “relationships” by saying this, but yes, it means something more. It changes the way you are treated and perceived; a title or lack thereof is one indicator about the seriousness of the relationship.

Over the weekend, I attended a birthday celebration with Mr. Conversation and a few of his friends. It was a grand event with lots of people they didn’t know. We all had the honoree in common, so it made it easy to mingle. Without fail, everyone we met introduced themselves and whoever they were with as, “my wife, Gina,” “my husband, Martin” or “my daughter Ashley.”There’s a reason for that. Not only does it establish the relationship, but it also gives a cue as to how you should respectfully proceed in engaging each of the parties.

“This is Gina” tells the person that you’re being introduced by nothing but your name. Gina could be a co-worker or a random woman he just met, and she could be fair game to approach about a date. It’s unclear and can make for awkward situations.

“My wife, so-and-so, or “my girlfriend” — that is, claiming someone — lets the person you’re speaking to know that there is a relationship in place and what kind. The title used denotes the importance of the relationship. Titles are also subtle signals that say, “Hands off. She’s taken. Do not approach.”

I’ll give you another example. Earlier this year I was at another birthday party, a grand celebration for a friend who was turning 40. We’ve been friends for years and, thus, have lots of people in common. One of them is single, as in not committed, but changes companions the same way proper folks change bed sheets (for clarity, that’s supposed to be weekly). It’s been a running joke within our circle for ages.

Our group has been introduced to various women over the years — so many that we’ve lost count. He introduces them as “This is Gina” or even, like the guy you referred to, not at all, which, frankly, is just poor manners, likely combined with a lack of any real interest. We all note when there is no title or no introduction, so we engage in minimal small talk to be polite. The unspoken assumption, however, is that he’s not serious about this one and she’ll be replaced soon enough, so there’s no sense in getting to know her too well or making a big to-do. She’s a date for the evening. Maybe we’ll see her again, but likely not.

At this very swank affair, my friend arrived with a woman I’d never seen before, which was expected. Usually my interactions with him include some sort of teasing about him soon running out of women in the Charlotte area to date. He knows this and I know this. And that is why promptly, upon spotting me, he came over with his lady beside him and said, “Cam, this is my girlfriend, Gina.”

This required a new approach. “Gina! It’s so nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you,” I lied (about the last part) while going in for a hug. I was headed to the bar and invited “Gina” to go with me to keep her company while her man took her coat to be checked. I bothered to get to know her and her details. The title said that she was special, so she was treated as such.

And not just by me. Everyone made a fuss to make sure she felt welcome. Her title as “girlfriend” meant that she was an extension of our friend and not another random woman he was bringing around, like all of the others.

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Random Moment at Walgreens

I hate this one Walgreens in Charlotte. It’s near the district office where I work, so I used to end up there a lot to pick up, you know, things and stuff. The aisles always had boxes in them, the line was always long, and at the the register there was always, you know, things and stuff all over the counter so that I had to place my items on top or next to other stuff in a too little space that already had too much stuff on it. Oh, and it was open from like 10-7 on weekdays. Totally inconvenient.  And worse, it’s never like this in “other” neighborhoods.

But that wasn’t the thing that drove me crazy. This was: when I’d get to the counter, the transaction would go like this…

Hear that? Nothing.

The person at the counter would ring up my items and bag them, then my total would appear. I’d swipe my card, the receipt would print, the person at the register would hand me my receipt, and I’d go on my way. There was no, “did you find everything you need?” No, “hello, how are you?” Nothing.

I realize I didn’t say anything either. So one day I was there, up at the counter, and I’d plopped my things and stuff on and next to all the other things and stuff and I said, “hello, how are you?”

And the woman said, “fine.” And that was it.

So I just stopped going there. I like decent customer service and clean stores. It’s not asking for a lot. And I don’t encounter these issues when I go to the same store in other neighborhoods. I started going all the way to the Target in South Park  (10 minute drive) from work to get my things and stuff instead of going two minutes down the block.

So now this Walgreens has either got a new manager or someone came in and got them to clean up their act. I discovered this last week when I needed things and stuff and didn’t feel like going thru the hassle of now driving to Target. Turns out, the  layout in the store is better, the lights are brighter and there’s no more stuff in the aisles. Great.

I get my stuff – two boxes of lady items, the big bag of toilet paper that’s on sale, and some baby wipes. Both hands are full.

I get to the front and there’s one person at the register. I’m next. This is going surprisingly well.

The lady at the register and the manager are joking around like there’s not a man at the register and I’m not standing there with two hands full of things and stuff.

I watch them banter long enough to be annoyed, and finally interrupt to ask the manager, “excuse me, is your register open?”

This is when they seem to notice they have customers. The lady rings up the customer’s stuff and realizes he could get a discount… but he doesn’t have a Walgreens card.

“Do you have a Walgreens card?” she asks.

Is she talking to me? I don’t know. There was no “Miss” or “Ma’am” or “Excuse me” or anything to let me know I was being addressed.

I look at her blankly trying to decide who she’s asking.

“Miss, do you have a Walgreens card?” she asks.

Oh, she’s talking to me. “Yes.”

She waits a beat like I’m supposed to be doing something. “Can he use it?” she finally asks.

“I don’t have my card. Just my number.”

“Can you punch it in?”  she asks.

She doesn’t seem to see me standing here with two arms full of stuff. “My hands are kind of full.”

She looks at me blankly.

“You want me to yell it out and you type it?”

She huffs and flips the machine around for her convenience.

I’m already annoyed with her, and I don’t want to yell out my phone number. I do it anyway because enough times I have been at a counter without a card, wanting a discount, and someone has been gracious enough to offer theirs. This isn’t about her, it’s about the man in front of me who was standing there patiently while the woman at the register and the manager ignored him too.

I yell out my number, she punches it in.

Nothing. No thank you from her, or the man I just hooked up.

I stare at the back of the man’s head. Finally, he turns around and mumbles “thank you” like a civilized human who just received a courtesy from a random stranger who was under no obligation to assist.

I say, “you’re welcome”, which I was planning to say whether he said “thank you” or not.

He goes on his way. I walk up to the register and plunk down my things and stuff. No, “thank you for waiting”. No, “good evening, how are you?”  Just a transaction in total silence. Just great.

So she rings up my things and stuff, stuffs them into plastic bags and the total pops up on the screen. “Do you have a Walgreens card?” she asks me.

This can’t be life. Am I on Candid Camera? Did someone resurrect that MTV show “Boiler Point?” Do I get money for not losing it?

I look up at her slowly, and cock my head.

She looks at me blankly.

“Yes,” I say evenly. “I need to type my number in.”

She punches a button. “Do it now.” It’s like she has no memory of what transpired less than a minute prior. Is she like the guy from Memento?

She prints my receipt. I pick up my bags. I walk out the store, thinking, this is my fault. I should have just gone to Target.

Do Better – By: Sean Black

Let me start off by saying maturity is a muthafukka. Like for real! The greys are popping up around my temple so maybe the wisdom is increasing with it. I look at the Black community with much disappointment. My sister jokes that they should have a new category on applications that says, “Black (Non-nigga).” That’s one of the harshest words in the English language, but it often times is a very necessary word. To paraphrase Chris Rock I love my Black people, but I hate niggas!

You see niggas come in every race, but we always think of Black people when we use that word. Somewhere in our progression as a people we became LOST. We lost our values. We lost our morals and we lost respect for one another. I saw myself referring to women as bitches and men as niggas. I had to catch myself and re-evaluate my thinking. If you use that terminology enough that’s how we’ll view one another and it seems all too common. Not every woman is a good woman and not every man is a good man, but why do we speak of each other with such disgust? I don’t know the answer, but when you reduce someone to such low forms of existence it’s easy to hate. It’s easy to harm. It’s easy to dismiss them.

I’m sick of excuses. When I was a kid I never believed I’d see a Black president. When Obama was elected that showed me EVERYTHING is possible. We need to stop making excuses about how hard we had it. We have it better than 90% of the world. If you grew up without running water, daily meals and electricity THEN you have room to complain. I don’t know too many people from those circumstances. Opportunity is all around us. It’s what we choose to do with it. Stop making excuses and make it happen. Stop making kids all over the place. That shit is reckless. Ideally a child should be raised in a 2 parent home and see both parents everyday. That’s called family structure. We’re too accepting of the bullshit. How many guys say, “my kids know who I am.” Sorry! That’s not good enough. Paying child support and hanging out with your kids isn’t good enough. Making babies with multiple women or men out of wedlock is NOT acceptable. You’re supposed to mold your children. You’re supposed to provide guidance and build them into self-respecting, successful members of society. Do you know your child’s teacher’s name? Do you know your child’s friends? Do you talk to your child daily? If you can’t answer yes to all of those questions you’re fucking up! That’s real. I see the bi-product of poor parenting all the time and it’s sad. The moment you become a parent your focus should be on your child. You now come second. I thought that was common knowledge, but that seems to be a formula niggas can’t grasp. Our direction seems lost to me. Maybe I’m too engrossed in the club world, but I see females blatantly chasing ballas. Who raised you? Like for real! Any real man respects a woman who can provide for herself. You’re chasing celebrity and wealth that you didn’t create. I have more respect for a prostitute than a groupie. That’s real! These same women are quick to put hard working men who earn an honest living down. Somewhere we became lost. If WE DO BETTER maybe we’ll find our way back …