Archive | July, 2011

“Lovers and Friends”

24 Jul

One of my favorite books is Friends and Lovers which I read when I was 19, ironically with the man who would serve in those dual roles for me (although I had no idea at the time). I’ve gone through the hills and valleys of relationships over the years since him, and I realize one imperative factor in successful relationships is friendship. It’s the necessary ingredient for true love, selflessness-the foundation of respect.

It took me living, “loving” and discarding or being discarded while carelessly casting aside their feelings or wallowing in mine, to realize that friendship is what was missing-the contributor to the demise of another “love” gone by.

Love and friendship are not mutually exclusive (except, perhaps by links of DNA). One cannot exist without the other, especially in romantic relationships.

Friendship is what inspires the giving that drives the reciprocity which starts the fire that makes love grow. It makes you second guess your words and actions as to not intentionally cause harm. It aids you in loving who the person is and appreciating your differences, instead of trying to change them. It enables you to open up when you are broken and cling to the reasons you love them as opposed to searching for and giving attention to why you don’t. Friendship reinforces the fight to save the relationship when everything (and sometimes, everyone) is telling you to throw in the towel.

In my missteps, I realize I forgot the importance of friendship between me and the men I called myself “loving”. I was living in fast forward mode attempting to achieve greatness without the greatest component. I was attempting to paint a canvas without paint, create a song without music, write a love story without paper-I was setting myself up to fail. I know that now, and while developing a friendship takes time and patience, which at times seem to be in limited supply, I want the masterpiece. If friendship is essential for me to live out my love story, I am willing to put in the effort in order to gain the greatest reward.

Friends with Benefits

23 Jul

In light of the two movies released this year, “No Strings Attached” and “Friends With Benefits”, everyone has been forced, if not already entertaining, the possibility of whether engaging in such a relationship is plausible, for them.
Is it possible?
Sure for the noncommittal types who shy away from relationships due to fear, because who wants to willingly be hurt?
What are the risks?
You could possibly cheapen some interactions that have the potential to be deeper and of more value, while promoting others to a level of credibility that they don’t deserve.
Also the heart often ends up tangled in a mess that you couldn’t have prepared for even if you tried. Even if you claim no emotional attachment, you still remember their face, what they may have felt, smelled, sounded, or even tasted like. We can’t erase memories. You could potentially be filling up your memory bank with meaningless memories of people that aren’t even an active part of your life. This may not appear to be an issue at first, until you need or want the companionship and cannot reach out to the individuals who you’ve shared some of the most intimate parts of yourself with.
Okay, so are there any benefits?
Perhaps. Depending on you and the state of your “maturity”. I say this because I believe that monogamous, committed relationships between two actually require a level of maturity that most can only imagine possessing. So, if you’re not ready to be faithful and in some ways responsible and accountable for another person’s feelings, then maybe friends with benefits is the way to go.
Also as I’ve heard it phrased, maybe you just need a thorough cobweb dusting and don’t want to have to commit in order to indulge in the luxury of such.
Here’s the real deal though: the operative word in the arrangement is “FRIENDS” with said benefits. It seems like by even the way people discuss entertaining the idea, people are getting it twisted with a one night stand or “booty call”, and subsequently discard an imperative dynamic in the “arrangement”.
Friendship is rooted in mutual respect and love for a person. Think about who you call your friends. You wouldn’t knowingly hurt them or disregard their feelings to maintain your own. Would you use your friend for momentary satisfaction and then put them on the shelf until the need arose again? Probably not. So the definition of the relationship itself isn’t really set up to meet what your expectations of such a relationship can turn out to be.
So therein lies the rub (simply put, the catch 22). Friends with benefits is not the same as a one night stand. The potential risk and subsequent loss is in fact greater. You can cheapen a friendship by reducing them to means for physical gratification and risk losing a relationship of actual value. You must ask yourself: why would I pursue something cheap and of limited value when I deserve and may (even if it’s truly deep down) desire a relationship that is so much more?

Birthday Wisdom

15 Jul

So today I am 32. At times this past year has seemed to fly by while some days it crept along, but overall I feel wiser, more confident in who I am as a woman. I am comfortable asserting my opinion and share my observations readily. As I enter into this new year of life, I am pleased with where I am. I wouldn’t have expected to be where I am and actually feel satisfaction, but I do. Today I was asked about what I’ve learned so far in my 32 years, so here it is: 

  1. Take time to get to know yourself
  2. Compromise is a part of life, but always be true to yourself
  3. Some friends are only meant to last for a season
  4. Be careful who you call your friend
  5. Friends are the family that you can choose
  6. Passion is more valuable than money
  7. Don’t be afraid to love
  8. It’s never to late to try something new
  9. It’s never to late to lose weight
  10. Parents are just adults with children, they are not superheroes, they do not know everything
  11. Labels place limits on people
  12. When a person shows you who they are, believe them
  13. Don’t let others define who you are
  14. You are not defined by your profession
  15. Listen to your instincts, they’ll never lie to you
  16. Love does not lie, hurt, or attempt to change you
  17. Most things of value, do not have a price tag attached.
  18. Just because people describe themselves as nice, doesn’t mean they are.
  19. Sexy isn’t something you try to be, you just are.
  20. Mutual committment equals relationship, not titles.
  21. Confidence comes from being honest and accepting of who you are (flaws and all)
  22. Don’t cry victim, take accountability for your actions
  23. Meeting a man’s family doesn’t imply he has plans for a serious relationship with you
  24. There is no beauty product better than water, sleep, and exercise
  25. There is a such thing as second chances, if they are deserving.
  26. Love is an ongoing action, not just a phrase
  27.  Don’t be afraid to say no, but also, don’t be afraid to say yes
  28. When something sucks, don’t hang around hoping things will just get better
  29. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind but never sacrifice tact.
  30. Practice being a good listener, if you want to be heard.
  31. Championing your health is your responsibility. Start early and don’t let fear get in the way.
  32. The measurement of success is personal.

The Problem With Christians…

13 Jul

Knowing that you’re part of a group that is demonized daily is hard, but pointing a finger at the very group you belong to is even harder.

I belong to an online forum for free-thinking which encourages people to share ideas regardless of your lifestyle preferences, choices, ethnicity, religious beliefs etc. Despite the random posting of some, it does provide the opportunity to network with others and actually dissect some pressing issues within generational peer groups. This week I was really disappointed when a verbal war of words culminated in a (outspoken) Christian referring to an (equally outspoken) Atheist as one of “satan’s warriors”.

Christians like this make it challenging for Christians like me. I automatically get thrown into a group including judgmental sensationalists whenever I proudly proclaim my faith in a group of mixed religious groups. What it seems that a lot of Christians are missing is that the God we believe in, teaches love above all else. Some of us either missed that commandment (which is virtually impossible) or we have a twisted way of showing we love others. The requirement to love others was not intended to be one in which we decide if the other is worthy first. It is something that we are supposed to just give

Now I could be wrong, but last I checked calling someone “satan’s warrior” was not a loving phrase at all. And while it may be tempting to lash out when defending your beliefs, those who fall victim to such are just further validating why people dislike and shy away from Christians in the first place: We are an exclusionary group of judgemental scripture quoters, set on condemning people to hell. That is not who I am. And ironically enough many of my peers who also proudly proclaim to be Christian don’t base their faith in such ludicrous principles.

As Christians we have to do better. Love first. You’d be surprised with how far that alone can get you in your spiritual relationship with God and your relationship with others.

“Let’s Not Play the Game”

9 Jul

Men, You need to start talking. In person. To us. Women.

Not just when you want some one on one action in between the sheets either. Or when you need help hashing out an issue at work or with a family member. Why? Because we are interested in what is going on in your heart. Not your mind. Your heart. We’re growing weary of this game playing of trying to read your nonverbal gestures as a means to figure it out. Sure, you have a lot to say. At times. Like when you feel like it. But what if that is not enough? What if you are not receiving what you want from us because you never really ask? What if the attitude and cold shoulder you are on the receiving end of is because you choose silence when the situation requires spoken sentiment?

We want to know how you feel, and while crying is not for the faint of heart, we crave the verbal expression of the emotion being stirred behind your ribs.

I’m speaking for generations and legions of women when I say that we don’t want to read your pursed lips and over-emphasized mandibles, implying clenched teeth that we see through the flesh right at your jaw line; as a method of understanding you, nor your hunched shoulders while you stare past us into space. While we do profess to be powerful, mind-reading is not one of our abilities. We really want to know how you feel about us even if it isn’t favorable and to leave all that to the imagination of a woman is actually creating an even bigger issue for you.

We speak because it is important to us that you hear the content of our hearts directly from us. It may surprise you, even vex you, but in the end, you know. There is no mystery; No veil of secrecy that shrouds our true desires. It is our gift to you. Because we love you that much. Because we feel you deserve the truth. Because we would love for you to return the favor.

Love’s Greatest Killer

8 Jul
love pencil

Image by yanni via Flickr

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”— Anaïs Nin
 
Anais Nin was right. For some time fear has affected my ability to love, the way I love, who I love, sometimes even how long I love them (if the “love” was ever really there to begin with). I’ve been able to acknowledge this personal truth for some time and have analyzed the concept to death with some resolve. I have been able to attribute it (to some degree) to my discomfort with the societal paradigms that dictate how my life should be lived, rarely taking into account who I truly am. I don’t think I am alone in this place, but I do find myself isolated at times when I ask the questions that challenge the status quo.
What I have chosen to do in order to address this issue is to take time and understand myself, what I need and value. What does love look and feel like to me? This is imperative because sometimes the world seems like it is working overtime to cheapen what love truly is and reduce it to a symbol that was recovered from a mine, or roses that were plucked to die, or sex which can be a manifestation of love, but in modern times rarely is discussed as such. They reduce love to a stream of actions and words and less of a way of being which has succeeded in confusing people (sometimes I am one of them).
 Women are running around believing that a man will buy them a house if they love them or a ring resembling a small ice-cube, while men are convincing themselves that because she doesn’t offer to give massages or cook for him or give him sex on a regular, she doesn’t love him. To me, love is very personal. So much so that it cannot be defined by some global standard of tokens, talismans, and superficial expressions. Love is a body of emotions that shapes and defines me, so who I open myself up to is important. Not just what they represent or the lifestyle they can afford me, but who they are inside. Hence the anxiety. We are anxious because we have challenges being true to our own personal definitions of love. Perhaps we don’t know ourselves enough to uncover this personal definition, or maybe we know, and are too afraid of judgement to personify that truth because it is in opposition to what we have been socialized to believe.
What I know is that I am on the one who has to walk the steps of this woman I have become, and I have to live out the repercussions of the decisions that I make, so it seem only wise to be truly responsible and accountable for the life that I live as well as the love I give and receive. Doing so, will enable me to be true to myself which in many cases will diminish the fear overtime because true fear should come in living a life based on other’s wishes, and not my own.  
 

The Curious Case of Compliments

6 Jul

Here’s the scenario: You walk into a room or establishment, minding your business then you lock eyes with a woman who gives you the head to toe once over, you smile, she looks away or even better rolls her eyes before averting them. Do you immediately think, what is up with that? Or perhaps, you’re the evil eye-rolling girl. Better yet what about the false compliments: Ooh, I love your hair (when you really don’t) or those pants are so cute (as you walk away laughing because you really think the pants are hideous)?

Here’s the deal: at some point we must all reach a maturity and security level where we can acknowledge the beauty in others and appreciate it. Instead of comparing your looks to another woman’s as a means of seeing how you measure up, be proud of what you look like and practice complimenting other women. The sneering scans and critical commentary just reveal a certain level of insecurity which is definitely not attractive. I love style and fashion and realize the work women put into their image, so I force myself to speak up when I notice an element of style in another woman who I admire because it’s the mature, healthy, and honest thing to do when I really do think she has beautiful hair or skin, or think she is really rocking a pair of shoes or piece of jewelry. It doesn’t take anything away from me to compliment another woman. And what if that’s the only compliment she received that day? It may very well encourage the confidence we all desire to possess.

In the July 2011 Ebony Magazine, in the Editor’s Letter simply titled “I Hate Haters”, Amy DuBois Barnett (Editor in Chief) described a similar observation when attending a party in Chicago,where an associate of hers provided unsolicited, scathing critiques of women at the event. She summed it up best, “the more negativity you spew, the worse you look. Not only is meanness an unattractive and unsexy trait, but it’s an obvious sign of insecurity. If you feel good about yourself, there’s just no need to tear anyone else down.”

Independent Woman

3 Jul

I’ve often been accused of being “too independent”.   I find that the term often gets hurled if a woman doesn’t fulfill a man’s expectations or asserts her preference, or expertise. That implication is never said in a positive way and most often is followed by some qualifier/explanation as to why “women” are single, or deemed un-loveable. It is viewed as an inhibitor to male/female relationships as opposed to a contributor to our success. I find myself wondering: Can someone really be “too” independent? I mean is independence really something that can exist in excess?

According to the Oxford Dictionary/Thesaurus: The definition (and synonyms) of independent is: Not ruled or controlled by another. Not relying on another; not connected (syn: autonomy, self-determination, freedom, self-sufficiency).

The true definition of independence in and of itself is not corrupt. However, the use of the term as an insult is. I’m proud to be independent because being so enables me to make decisions for myself that are necessary for my development and survival. I appreciate my ability to be a free-thinker and not base my choices on those of others, making me uneasily influenced. Being independent can at times set you apart from a crowd of followers. What intrigues me is the irony of being labeled an independent woman.

Why would a man want a woman who can be controlled? Wouldn’t that make her easy to be controlled by others outside of him?

I find that those who are attracted (not just in the physical sense) to me, are, because I defy expectations and labels in a myriad of ways. I don’t believe that I have to be any one way or do any specific things because of who people think I am and what they believe I should do. 

 The truth is, being independent got me to and through college. I valued my intellect when others believed I should value (and therefore focus on) my beauty. I am not afraid to assert my opinion which in many cases can be educational and sometimes even show you a shortcut to avoid traffic. Being independent has contributed to this music loving, travel channel and basketball watching (sometimes even shooting), stiletto and Nike wearing, self-proclaimed nerd who is an artist that also reads and cooks, all while balancing beauty and intellect. I am all those things because they are important to me. I don’t think any of these elements are in excess.

Being that independent woman does not mean that I do not want or need a man in my life. I believe that women and men need each other regardless of how independent we are because we will never truly understand what it means to be in each other’s skin (just based on science alone), and we need to guide each other through the differences as a means to better understanding and appreciation.

If we look at the true meaning of independence and its value, I ask, who wouldn’t want to possess that? If independence is a means to sustain and is imperative for survival, why should being so be viewed as an obstruction to healthy relationships?