back in february, there was the letter...now the Oprah interview

i'm going to try to keep this under 10-page-term-paper length.

first, i think many folks are forgetting how young these two were and still are.  i'm about 10 years older than Rihanna, which means she's younger than my baby brother.

i also wonder how many folks are looking at the situation far removed from the dubious relationships of their 20s.  'cause you know what they say about hindsight.  and many of those lessons--horrifically painful or just a little heartbreaking--are necessary for us to grow into our full selves at 30something and beyond.   i want to save them from that as much as anyone. but the reality is that sometimes you just can't.

secondly, i'll repeat what i always say when we hear about the latest celebrity divorce, infidelity scandal or whatever: no one knows what's gone on behind closed doors.  intimate relationships are complex, nuanced, messy things. in love, we forgive what we'd kill someone else for thinking.  we don't know what conversations they've had, who went to what therapist, what late night conversations were had--on the phone or otherwise.

we also don't know--with the exception of Chris' admission to growing up seeing the "too much" too many black boys do--what they come from. who their examples were.

yes, kids always look up to the "cool".  i loved my teen idols as much as anyone else.  but you know who kept me from imitating every move, hairstyle, and wardrobe choice?  my parents.

i'm aware of and sensitive to the fact that not everyone has the same guidance.  but that doesn't make Rihanna an automatic role model any more than Madonna was in her day, or Etta James in hers.  we could debate the pros and cons of that...but i think too many folks forget to ask why familial and community-based relationships are so lacking.

kids who have to create fantasies to escape their realities are indicative of much bigger fish that need frying.  girls who don't have someone to protect them from dating an around-the-way-Chris are not going to stop dating men who beat them because Rihanna takes a stand.  they'll continue to blame her (and other victims), ask what she did to provoke it, and keep trying to be perfect to avoid their own assault...until they heal.  Rihanna talks about this sort of revelation in her time with Oprah.

on the flip side, every girl with a daddy worth the name knows that if they come home with a face looking like Rih-Rih's did, somebody's gonna die. full stop.    

we also seem to forget that because we have more access to celebrities than ever before, we're seeing more unfiltered versions of their lives.  the machines that surrounded many of our old school artists now only work for the biggest of the big (see: Beyonce).

and even then: we know what happened when Marvin met Janis. Ray Charles' heroin issues were all over the news.  and the Beatles damn near shot themselves out of the sky for being arrogant enough to proclaim themselves bigger than Jesus.

celebrity is celebrity.

life is life.

before judging someone in Rihanna's shoes, we'd do well to remember that. 


love, lust, and the in-between: thoughts on street harassment

{trigger warning: discussion of street harassment, sexual coercion}

in the spirit of some of my other musings (see: the slutty posts and the "what's natural" piece), i'd like to share something that's been on my mind, even though it might get me yelled at.

well...maybe not.  every time i've thought that was going to happen, it hasn't.  instead i get yelled at for things i think are pretty straightforward.  go figure.

each year as spring and summer take their sweet time getting here approach, sistas in my internet circles start speaking out about what's commonly known as street harassment.

i understand the concerns, particularly when there is actual physical intrusion involved.  and, as always, age, class, sexuality and certain physical characteristics can serve as buffers and offer privilege.  

i know the game has changed.  case in point: my ex was stabbed 'cause a woman wouldn't give a dude her number, and he intervened when the dude got outta hand. 

i know there are intersections with domestic violence, rape, coercion and other forms of sexual violence. i stand with women who feel uncomfortable being approached in an overt and/or crude manner--for whatever reason(s)--and i defend their right to defend themselves, if necessary. 

i also agree that some men are too quick to presume all women are comfortable with the same level(s) of approach, touch, and closeness.  i am not better, more special, nicer or "easier" than my friend because i'll let you hug me or rub my shoulders after knowing you for an hour (if you're cute.  maybe. ask me tomorrow.) and she won't.

we are not all the same woman in different skin.  stop that.

no, we should not be called outta our names.
no, a stranger should never fondle his genitals at the sight of you.
no, men shouldn't hiss, click, whistle or snap when they can otherwise speak.

our anger at those things is justified, a righteous, powerful tool that propels us towards gaining our just due.

yes, men should know better.
yes, male egos shouldn't be so fragile.

but...i also see complexity in this. 

as a daddy's girl and a woman who deeply loves men, i sometimes regret the ways we have this conversation.  it's a shame we've come to a reality where a woman has to consider all this when receiving an appreciative--albeit lusty--glance* or a good-intentioned request for a smile.**

i wonder what's been lost because many women have difficult, non existent, or deeply damaged relationships with their fathers and other men in their lives.  how does it hurt us when we've never lived with a man who was genuinely invested in our unique gifts and general awesomeness?

what would happen if we could hear a brotha say, "wow...you're beautiful" and genuinely reply, "thank you"--whether we wanted to exchange information or not?

i ask because i have a tendency to dig until i get to the root.  and in this situation, the root doesn't always feel like sexism or street harassment. it feels like broken hearts and shattered trusts.

as we fight against patriarchy, kyriarchy, and an encyclopedia's worth of -isms, it's important to understand the layers of interpersonal healing woven into these structures.

intellectualizing and analysis is very necessary, but we must avoid using it as a heart-shield.  remember to fight the real enemies, heal the real wounds, mourn the real losses. 

it is essential that we find time to love, to enjoy one another, fall into bliss.

i believe there are moments when we can afford that.

let's not lose that in the struggle.

*which they ALL do. even the sweet, artsy, wonderfully enlightened ones. hell, especially them. often, it's what they do AFTER the glance that matters.

**which might actually be genuine, if corny or ill-timed.  


the singlehood chronicles #10: 2 years later

i fit "the demographic": never married, over-30 Black woman.

the kicker: no kids.

trust me, i am not about to delve into the sickening, desperate/despondent, wedded-to-an-endangered-species trope which, in my opinion, is a distorted, hastily drawn conclusion about a complex issue.

still, my reality puts me in a distinct position even in my closest circles. i am slowly becoming The Only One, especially when it comes to motherhood. 

for now, i don't have the cold hard cash to ball my way through my blues.  the velvet glove on that iron fist would be much thicker if i did.  and although i'm still rather ambivalent about mothering and do not long for a child, several dynamics shift when the worlds of others revolve around babies and yours still revolves around...well, you.  

what's frightening is that love and loving has never felt as difficult or elusive as it does now.  i cannot remember a time when i've been this deeply, absolutely single.  for most of my life i've been involved in some kind of love relationship--not because someone told me i "had" to, or even because i sought them out.  they felt right for their time and were easy to find.  i took breaks at will, and it was easy to pick it back up.     

true, i've been focused on several other things over the last 3-4 years, and  i definitely consider myself blessed.  i'm enormously proud of what i've achieved, and i love my friends and the people in my life.  i'm grateful to have the support of my birth and chosen families.

but the clouds creep in more often now, and they're a little more articulate than usual.

i'm human.
i'm a woman.
a woman who has loved and been loved deeply and well.

i can't unlearn that love, or forget it.  no matter how many days i "wish" i could, i know i wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.

but for now, it makes sense to commit to living for myself, and living well.  my hope is to create a life that will allow me to care for myself and realize my dreams--whether there's someone to share it with or not.

i remain open to love, family and the rest, but i've gotten beyond mourning the lack of it.

clearly i'm meant for something outside the "usual" configuration.

time to go out and discover what that something is.

{for the other "singlehood" posts, click here.}