For You Songbird…..

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I’m down in Orangeburg and bumped into my college roommate and her husband. As we laughed and talked and made our trip down memory lane we went on to mix with the crowd. Every once in a while my eye would catch her and she would smile the same way she had many nights in our room many many years ago. She inspired me to write something that I haven’t posted yet—- and maybe never will. (It’s not my proudest moment. I made the right decision at the wrong time, but that’s another story for another someday.) But I watched her and her husband, saw the ease with which they interacted, the quiet intimacy between them, the self-assuredness that comes with having a partner who loves, supports and respects you. They didn’t do anything really—- just talked. But in a room full of people, they were lost in themselves. I thought to myself, if that is what love—real love—is, then this is what I hoped Mr. Conversation and I could maintain twelve years from now. I also realized that doesn’t come with force, or with labels, it just comes when it comes.

At the same event, a friend who reads my blogs pointed out that I was hard on the guys. “Damn, Cam” he began, “Do you ever encounter any decent motherfuckers out here?” (Excuse the cursing. Songbird had multiple gin and tonics.)

I do, I just don’t blog about them often. There’s usually no decent story with decent motherfuckers. And then I remembered that by far, dumb dudes doing dumb shit makes for juicy tales. But good men doing good things gets more blog hits. Go figure. So I’m going to try to focus on the good—at least for today.

Here’s a positive tale of my college roommate and her husband…This is their story.

He was The One. She knew because God told her the moment they shook hands. She was an assistant; he was the newly hired manager in another department. They’d just been introduced. She shook off God’s words, which were “He is your husband,” as nonsense. She was 22. She wasn’t thinking about nobody’s marriage.

When she got back to her desk, there was a message from her co-worker asking her if she’d met the new manager yet. And if she hadn’t, she should. He was perfect for her. She laughed and deleted the message. She would find out later that yet another co-worker had made a similar call to him.

The new manager made nice with his new employees. At company gatherings and post-work happy hours, the woman and the manager interacted. There was definitely chemistry. But it couldn’t go anywhere. Not so much because both of them had a I don’t shit where I eat philosophy about dating folks at the job, but because the guy had a fiancée back in the Midwest where he’d transferred from. They remained causal associates from a distance. She wasn’t the chick to play side-piece (not that he asked) and well, he needed to stay away from her if he wanted to continue to be a happily engaged man.

A year and a half later, the man flew to the Midwest and called off his engagement. Things weren’t working out. He returned to Charlotte called his casual associate from a distance and told her what he’d done. Then he said something along the lines of this: “I dig you, I want to see if we can build something together someday, but I just got out of a relationship and I’m not at a place to be with you now. Just let me get myself together.”

She reminded him that they were just associates—albeit associates with amazing chemistry—and she had never asked him for more. So while she appreciated his call, it was unnecessary. If she was available whenever he got himself figured out, then maybe she would agree to a date.

A week later, he called back. He was ready. No bullshit. He’d never met a woman like her and he didn’t see any point in wasting any more time when he felt like she was the only woman for him. He asked her out, she agreed to go.

A month later, he asked her to marry him. His proposal went something like this: “I don’t have much to offer. I have a studio apartment in a bad part of town. I’m paying off student loans, and I’m broke. But I work hard and I have a plan; and if you’ll stand with me and support me, I know I can be anything. I’ll do my best to make you happy if you’ll honor me by becoming my wife.”

They got on a plane to Vegas that weekend and got married—- TWELVE years ago.

She didn’t bullshit me about her marriage. “It’s hard and it’s work,” she said. “Don’t let anybody tell you different.” They argue and he gets on her last good nerve sometimes. When they have problems, she talks to her folks (married 40 years) or his (married 50 years.)She doesn’t bother mentioning her woes to her single friends. They also have rules. No matter what happens, they cannot embarrass each other- everything else is negotiable, including adultery. (“I’ll be damned if some chick’s gonna make me lose my lifestyle and my love,” she said. “We’ll stay in counseling forever until we work it out.) They also have God. When that last good nerve is worked, they pray– together.

When she talks about her husband, she gets that same look that my girls get now when they meet a great guy and we’re getting together to rehash that first date. That’s the kind of marriage that I want. There’s no sense in settling for anything less.

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.

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 …

Just a Friend

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“O’ baby you, you got what I need…but you say he’s just a friend”

Just a Friend – Biz-Markie

 

I opened an e-mail earlier today from one of my followers asking if I would write a blog to help him out with a situation that he was having with his girlfriend. 

I agreed.  I hope my response helps you shed some light on a very tough situation. 

CamronZoe,

“My best friend is a girl I have known for almost seven years.  We are former co-workers, and she now lives in a nearby state with her boyfriend.  We’re both busy with work and other relationships and don’t speak very often, maybe once every other week.  Mostly we text and send e-mails sporadically to keep in touch.  Our friendship is strictly platonic, but my girlfriend of almost three years has suddenly become irrational and insecure, saying that she is uncomfortable with me have a female best friend, and she has asked me to end that relationship.  I cherish my relationship and my friendship and can’t imagine giving up either.  What do I do?” – Follower

Despite the opinion of other relationship experts, I’m of the opinion that yes, men and women actually can be friends. I’ve had a male “best” friend, “Tariq,” since 1998 and counting. We have a similar dynamic to the one you describe, in that our relationship is strictly platonic; he lives in my hometown (G-Ville.), and like you, we are both in relationships (he’s married); and although we don’t speak to or see each other often, I cherish his friendship and couldn’t imagine not having him around.

So I completely understand your dilemma — and yes, it can likely be solved in a way that allows you to keep your romantic relationship with your girlfriend and your platonic relationship with your “bestie” — but it won’t happen if you dismiss your girlfriend’s real concerns as “irrational.”

I keep putting “best” in quotes for a reason. As much as I do believe that men and women can be friends, I’m also of the belief that your significant other — especially your spouse or a partner of multiple years — should be your best friend. If you’re heterosexual and closer to a member of the opposite sex than you are to your spouse, it raises the question, “Why aren’t you with that person instead?”

It’s interesting that your girlfriend has become insecure about your relationship after three years. Unless she just found out about this long-standing friendship –which would give her reason to be “uncomfortable” — she’s been OK with it all this time.

A girl who believes that “her” man should have only male friends would usually reveal that while dating or very early on in the relationship. This new conflict leads me to believe that there’s been a recent occurrence that has made your girlfriend ill at ease.

There have been a few times when a guy I’ve been in a relationship with has been “uncomfortable” with me having a close male friend. Those situations have mostly happened because I put my best friend before my relationship. For instance, I received exciting news once; called my then-boyfriend, who didn’t answer; then called Tariq and shared the details. When downloading to my boyfriend, I made the mistake of saying, “Well, Tariq thought … “

In another instance, my boyfriend and I were dealing with an ongoing issue in our relationship and I spoke with Tariq about it. He usually takes my side, but on this issue he told me I was dead wrong. When my boyfriend discovered that my change of heart had come because Tariq said so, he said he was “uncomfortable” that another man’s outlook held more weight than his own.

At the time I thought that my clearly threatened boyfriend was being irrational, but really, he was responding to the perception that another person — especially a man — outside the relationship seemed to have more clout or influence than he did. It made him feel less important in the relationship. And that’s a very valid concern.

Perhaps you’ve given your own version of “Well, Tariq said … ” one too many times and your girlfriend has had enough of it — hence his request that you give up this particular friendship. Instead or axing your friendship, which you clearly don’t want to do, discuss with your girlfriend about what the underlying problem is here. It may be that you’re giving your friend more “weight” than your woman.

Since your communication with your friend is already pretty minimal, you’ll need to make some adjustments to make your girlfriend feel more secure. That could include giving her the first heads-up about new information and communicating more with your woman to solve any issues in your relationship. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a trusted friend about issues you’re having, but your girlfriend doesn’t need to hear, “Well, so-and-so said … ,” even if the person you consulted was another man.

In the unfortunate case that your friendship has habitually line-stepped on your woman’s ego, your girlfriend may be unwilling to rethink her stance regarding your female friend. You will then have to make a tough decision about who matters more to you. After three years in a relationship with your partner, choosing her over your friend should be the obvious answer. And if it isn’t, you will need to re-explore what your real feelings are for your female friend.

Dating Isn’t Dead – (I don’t think….)

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I just read an article in the New York Times called “The End of Courtship?” over the weekend.  So ya’ll know I had to blog on this topic right……

I don’t think dating is dead, but based on that article, I do think common sense, basic standards and self-esteem might be on life support.

Frankly, all but one of the anecdotes in Alex Williams’ piece read like a series of case studies for He’s Just Not That Into You. The women interviewed seemed to conclude that “proper” dating is dead based on their interactions with men who were clearly and obviously not into them — hence why they got offers to hang out, hook up and stop by at wee hours for “whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese.”

There has definitely been a shift in how people date and a rise in the casualness of it all, but even in this constantly evolving and confusing-for-most dating culture, I’d argue that there is no such thing as a man — one who is genuinely interested — not figuring out how to put his best foot forward when it comes to getting to know a woman. He may fumble and stumble, but an interested man will make some effort. If he’s not making any effort, he’s not all that interested. You shouldn’t be dating him anyway.

The only person included in the article who seemed to get that was Cheryl Yeoh, 29, who figured out that the way to go on proper dates was to accept only proper offers. Yeoh goes to plays and fancy restaurants and receives red roses from suitors, all the stuff that the other women in the article would like to experience. Yeoh insists that guys schedule a date with her a week in advance, which is a little extreme, but clearly not unreasonable — and, more important, it’s working. Don’t ever underestimate the power of having standards, and don’t engage people who won’t or can’t or just have no desire to meet them.

For all the dating and relationship articles about women needing to compromise more or lower their standards, I find that one of the biggest problems among my clients is that standards aren’t high enough. Somehow, many women have been “okey-doked” into thinking that they should just accept any ole man and any ole treatment and just be happy to have someone kinda, sorta interested.

That is rubbish. It’s better to be alone than to be treated like an afterthought.

Women have more power than they know, and I wish they wouldn’t be afraid to exert it. There isn’t any obligation to engage in text-only communication or accept offers to hang out after the club or have sex with no commitment. “No” is a powerful word. Use it.

Women should also not be afraid to ask for what they want. Not every guy is a mind reader, and even the well-intentioned and actually interested ones won’t always get it right up front (or down the line). Speak up.

He’s always texting? Tell him that you prefer he call or that you two talk in person. He doesn’t call enough for your liking? Tell him what you prefer. If he suggests that you “come by to chill,” hit him with a counteroffer: “Actually, I’d prefer if we went out. How about _______?” will work just fine.

If he’s genuinely interested in seeing you and not just bored or trying to have sex, he’ll agree (or counter with a place or activity that is within his budget). It’s not as if you’re asking him to create an Eighth Wonder of the World. If he’s remotely interested, he will try to meet your reasonable requests.

This was the case with my current significant other. He called one evening asking to see me and wanted to know if he could come over. I flatly told him no. (I don’t invite strangers into my home.)

He then asked if I could visit him at his home. Again, no. (I also don’t go to strangers’ homes.)

“Well, can you meet me somewhere?” he asked.

I was interested in seeing him, and glad to know that he shared my spontaneous streak and that his primary interest was to see me. But … I didn’t want to get back on the subway. “Could we do something tomorrow?” I suggested. “I can’t do the train right now.”

He offered to send a car to pick me up. When a guy is interested, it’s really that simple.

Go Hard or Go Home!

Last weekend before the weekend of all the rain I had the greatest weekend ever. Saturday was like a worldwide vacation. New York (shopping at South-park Mall Charlotte), Miami (mojitos at Rum Bar and Grill), Cuba ( Taste of Havana ) & The French Quarters (dinner at Cajun Queen) all in one day. I love my life!! And my friends.

Whenever anything really great happens to anyone in our set, Kewon says, “I’m convinced God loves us more than anyone else.” LOL! I won’t go that far, but I think there’s a special place in God’s heart for a certain batch of Charlatans and their closest friends. It’s the only way to explain the constant level of joy and laughter that is our lives.

Anyway, like 15 of us gather at the great sangria spot on Thursday to celebrate Ariel’s up and coming trip to California. Somewhere between pitcher one and pitcher ten, Kewon mentions this new Grown Folks line dance/ dance craze I’ve never heard of called the Go Hard or Go Home. He insists it tops the Electric Slide, which we all denounce as impossible. The Electric Slide is a Black folks institution like church. Can it be “topped?”

Uh, maybe.

Kewon sent me the clip of the dance. I can’t wait to get on the hardwood at a real grown folks event so I can strut through this one.

Check out the chick in the blue dress. Mama is in stilettos and not playin’ with her Mary!:

Is this better than the Electric Slide?