So it’s the third date and you’re wondering, “What’s the next step?” I mean after all, you two lovebirds know each other so well. You both love sushi, foreign films, and Trader Joe’s! And let’s not forget about those hormones. He’s hot, she’s gorgeous and the tension is just building. But taking that next step would feel a little premature if you weren’t at least in a relationship first. So somewhere between Date 3 and Date 4, you two become an official item. You might sound it from the rooftops. You might celebrate in secret. But you are a couple, nonetheless, committed to each other, whatever that means.
Sure, a guy and a girl can split up any time they want to, but one doesn’t suffer too many heartbreaks before they promise to be finished with relationships forever. There’s a reason that parties of a newly failed relationship reject the idea of love ever again, even if the sentiment is temporary. Relationships are more than a title. With relationships come expectations that perhaps we aren’t ready for. Even though the commitment between bf/gf isn’t exactly a sealed covenant, it certainly mirrors one.
It’s learning to love selflessly, accepting those things about one another that we can’t stand, and bonding on deeper common grounds than a list of favorites. It’s about being compatible enough that when life brings changes, and when we ourselves change, our foundations for why we have respect for each other don’t crack. It’s knowing how to argue. Don’t we chase love with the hope of ultimately finding “the one,” settling down with him or her, and being content for life? Obviously this isn’t everyone’s objective but most of us look to have a wedding and a successful life-long partnership.
Well if this is what we’re after then it only makes sense that we should not be hasty to commit in relationships so flippantly. Ultimately, every experience, every relationship is either preparing us for “the one,” or unbeknownst to us is “the one.” So shouldn’t people spend more time getting to know the people they’re dating before being so quick to commit to them? The people we decide to commit to should be those with whom we’ve built something truly meaningful – people who have proven worthy of sharing our time, our families, our values, our bodies.
It takes more than 3 or 4 dates to realize this. While I personally believe that we should see lots of people, test the waters, and date around in order to gain knowledge about the things we like and dislike in others, I don’t think that means that people should become girlfriend and boyfriend immediately. Those giddy euphoric feelings wear off after a while and when they do, we often realize that we’ve shared our entire lives with someone who was never meant for us and we do it over and over again with every new relationship. It’s because we rarely take the time out to create friendships, witness each other’s responses in tough circumstances, etc. We just rush into “falling in love.”
We use these titles as if they grant us privileged access into the married life but we do it without sifting. When everything pretty is gone, what are we left with? A person that we can’t actually see ourselves with. And we have to break up with each other and dismantle everything we built together. It’s so official. Just as we’ve staked our claims in each other’s lives and pitched our tents, we’re now forced to disassemble.
No more cohabitation; return those keys. No more visiting with the family. No more of the special little things you used to do for each other. No more of the quirks that only the two of you shared, those intimate moments that you promised to keep between you forever, not just physical but emotional. You’re usually left with memories, a lesson, and baggage to carry into the next relationship. I know most people won’t agree with me and that’s okay. I just have a different outlook on how people do things.
I believe that true love can happen on sight. I don’t think every couple needs to have begun as best friends prior to dating in order to be successful. No, two people don’t have to know every last detail about each other prior to commitment and yes an ex-couple can move on as friends after the relationship fails. Personally, I’ve experienced the downfalls of moving too quickly into relationships and the complications that follow a break-up. I now say to give things time to become something truly fragrant, beautiful and rich.
Everyone has a different recipe. But I just think that chicken is always better when it marinates.
Along with the liberation that so many African American women and mixed chicks gain from ditching the relaxers and rocking our kinks, we sometimes face major issues with our hair, society, and other ladies who have gone natural.
Let’s talk about it!
- Lack of moisture. Because natural African American hair likes to coil around itself, natural oils from our scalp don’t travel all the way down the shaft, resulting in dry hair. This means that naturals have to find products and regimens that work specifically for our individual heads! It’s so tough sometimes. The LOC method (liquid, oil, cream) may help one girl out but another girl’s hair may not like oils at all. It’s trial and error and sometimes errors result in brittle hair that snaps and breaks while we try to retain length. I personally need real help in this area. My hair won’t stay moisturized for anything!
- Heat tools. If you’ve been natural for a long time, you may miss those days of straight, silky hair that just blows in the wind – ugh – I’m having flashbacks. You may get tempted to pick up heat tools, after all, it’s better than a chemical right? Not really. It may be okay for some natural women but not for all. Some ladies spend years growing out beautiful curls, straighten their hair for a special occasion, wash it two weeks later, and it doesn’t revert. This is so painful because generally, heat damaged hair has to be grown out. Oh what a set-back. Thank God for heat-protection sprays and such. Even with use of the most meticulous straightening practices, some naturals are never the same even after one tiny little pass of the flat iron. One day, I’ll talk about my issues with heat and what I do when I want straight hair.
- Being a product junkie. Some of us get excited every time a new hair product for naturals makes its debut. We buy it, try it, love it, then leave it, and it rarely becomes a staple in our hair care arsenal. Personally,
being a product junkie isn’t in my budget but some ladies try a bunch of different things that claim to add softness and definition without checking the ingredients first. Sometimes, new hair cremes, butters, milks, puddings, and other varieties have additives that dry out natural hair over time or cause build-up at the scalp. Ladies, you may even have a skin allergy without knowing it! Then a month will go by and you’ll wonder what’s happening to your hair! What’s with the thinning, breaking, and shedding. Perhaps it’s a new product that’s behind your hair set-back.
Laziness. I’m guilty. Natural hair is work. We have to make sure that our hair stays moist, create protective styles, babysit our ends, and be on the look out for those tiny single-strand monsters. I don’t know one person who actually has time for this but we do it. Some nights, however, I just go to sleep without a satin scarf or pillow. I’ve gone days without moisturizing.
I have used my finger nails to tear at single-strand knots instead of going to get scissors and my hair pays for it. Being lazy about hair care is definitely another set-back once you notice those frayed, dead ends.
Then we have to deal with society…
Just recently, a 7 year old girl was pulled out of school by her parents because of
the prejudiced school policy that targeted her natural hair. The child was told that her dread locks were unacceptable for school and do not meet the dress code. Afros are also banned in this institution of ignorance as it is classified as a distracting, faddish hairstyle. Right, so now the hair that God Almighty created for us is unacceptable and faddish? Oh but it’s perfectly alright to throw some dangerous chemicals into our hair and burn our skin with irons in order to meet a societal standard.
Pardon my sarcasm but society had better get a grip and whomever is making these rules can take them elsewhere. We wear our hair according to how it grows and according to the practices that we feel are healthy. Society will just have to get used to seeing more twists, braids, fros, locks, and kinks because we aren’t subjecting ourselves to the ideology that there’s just one path to pretty.
Perhaps the most annoying natural hair issue, or hair issue in general is facing the ridicule and criticism of a natural hair zealot. These are people who preach at other people who don’t embrace natural hair in the same exact way that they do. They bark at you: If you tex-lax, you’re not natural. If you straighten your hair with heat, you’re not natural. If you style your hair or use defining products, you’re not natural. If your hair products aren’t found in the earth or made from kitchen ingredients…not natural! And blah, blah, blah.
So you mean to tell me that black women and biracial women have found a way to free themselves from societal aesthetic pressures and other women of the same movement are trying to put those shackles back on again? The whole point is to be free from hair norms and discover the versatility of African-American hair. We have all agreed that no two hair textures or curl patterns are quite the same. Why are women slamming others for the way they do things?
Let me tell you this. If you want to straighten your hair with heat and it doesn’t hurt your curls, do it. If you get your protein from coating your strands in egg whites or if you use a store-bought treatment, who cares? If you want to define and stretch your curls rather than wear them tight and undefined, that’s your business. I’ve actually heard of women who have a problem with ladies who seek to define their curl pattern. They classify this as a form of self-hate and they tell people that they’re not truly embracing their natural hair if they aren’t happy with it in its fresh-from-the-scalp state. This is ridiculous. To each his own. Wear the hair that makes you feel comfortable.
Oh yeah, and if you wear a weave as your protective style, or just because you like it, do that too! It’s your head!
As for the controversial tex-lax process…
If you want to add chemicals to your hair to loosen up the curl pattern, do it. In my opinion, this isn’t “natural” but I believe that the natural hair movement is not only about rocking your God-given texture. It’s about the fact that we don’t have to do things according to social norms anymore. All hair is beautiful. So my over-the-top hair preachers must have a seat. Letting our hair grow the way it was always intended to is not another avenue for setting rules and shoving people into a new box.
So these are the most common issues that I see in the natural hair world. If you notice any others, feel free to comment. I plan to do some self-examinations to 1) Ensure that I’m not a radical naturalista and 2) Take better care of my hair. I also want to hear about other women’s hair resolutions, natural or not!
When a man wants to impress a woman, he automatically creates this mental list of do’s and don’ts. Sometimes he’s totally on point about what works and other times, he’s clueless. Guys often have misconceptions about a female’s likes and dislikes. I can’t generalize all women and assume that they think like me but I will gladly impart the three things that guys usually get wrong with me.
1. He thinks being masculine means that he’s not allowed to cry. Ever. No, I obviously don’t want to date a crybaby. But if something touches a man deeply and he’s moved to tears, or if he’s hurting emotionally, I think it’s very masculine to be able to show that vulnerability. There’s always that small group of people who will misinterpret my statement to mean that waterworks are welcome daily. Honestly, if you’re crying about everything – I don’t think I need to make a list of specific situations – then you may really want to get your hormonal levels evaluated. I’m being very serious. Please, don’t be an emotional sap that can’t handle an argument, or the Titanic after the 20th viewing. On the other hand, a man who cries once in a while certainly doesn’t get booted from my circle. In fact, one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen is when a guy friend of mine cried in front of a large group of people. He was simply overcome by emotion at the time and he expressed himself, cleaned up, and admonished his audience not to get accustomed to that. It was manly yet raw.
2. He thinks I want a movie romance. The perfect line at the perfect moment. The 10,000 compliments per night – it’s all really sweet but it can be a bit much sometimes. I’ve been out on enough dates and received enough texts to know that this is a typical move when a guy really likes a girl. I’ll give you some examples here.
Scenario: We’re texting
Me: Man it’s chilly today.
Him: Wish I were there to keep you warm.
Scenario: We’re on a date
Me: Look! The moon is beautiful tonight.
Him: It’s not as beautiful as your eyes.
Scenario: 8.5 months into the relationship
He sends me a million-page monologue via text about the depths of his love for me…
Ahhh! This stuff drives me crazy and not in a good way. Maybe it’s because I’m awkward as Kuthrapali and I really don’t know how to take a compliment. But I guess what I’m trying to convey is that cliches don’t work for me and I really don’t care for too much mushiness. I appreciate gestures of romance and chivalry and kindness. I even love poems and creative gifts with lots of thought that show he cares. But that manufactured, movie-like, scripted-timing, must-insert-perfect-one-liner-here thing must die. I like conversations that don’t always lead back to one’s fascination with me. If I’m admiring the moon, let’s admire the moon.
3. He tries way too hard to be sexy.
A naturally smooth guy is sexy. Yes! I love a dude with some swag. But if “suave” isn’t something that a guy is gifted with, that’s okay! If I’m dating you, or even talking to you, it’s not because you ooze coolness. If you’re a dork, I like you because you’re a dork. If you’re quiet, I like you because you’re quiet.
Let me add my disclaimer: If you’re a creep…no one wants a creep. What I’m saying is, I’m trying to get to know the real you. So don’t cheat me out of learning who you are and don’t cheat yourself out of meaningful relationships and friendships by putting on facades.
In the event that you’ve shed all of your layers and a girl doesn’t feel like she’s compatible with you, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean that you should change. Just move on to someone who likes your quirks. It seems obvious, but there have been too many times where I’m talking to someone and he’s trying to add all of this unnatural swag to the conversation when he knows he wasn’t gifted with it. I already told you, I’m awkward! This just makes things more awkward. I have no idea what to say in these situations.
There have even been times when we’d be in the middle of a kiss that’s getting a little bit steamy and he just has to go and ruin it by talking in this deep, slow voice with a line that I’m sure he heard on a film somewhere but it was perfect in the movies so it’s obviously perfect here. Then he’ll start getting overly theatrical with the kiss as if there’s a camera crew behind us. No! Stop! Cut!
Long story short, I like real guys. No facades, no artificial sexiness, no monologues. You can even cry now and then! But I need real conversations, true personalities, not Hollywood put-ons and perfectly timed compliments. I don’t think I’m the only woman who feels this way but I’d love to know what others think. Maybe I am the only one. Still, I think it’s safe to say – Guys, just be real and most of us will find that sexy enough.
The Ridiculous Nature Of It All
It’s a shame that this conversation continues to be had in the black community. But one only has to skim through a few forums and social media outlets to discover that black people are still concerned with the amount of melanin found in each other’s skin. To people who aren’t black this probably sounds utterly insane and it is. Perhaps it’s not so strange to those who come from an Asian background or an Indian background where lighter skin is favored and is a symbol of high status. Still, you would think that African Americans who fought and slaved (literally) to gain respect and equality in the US would unify themselves rather than find more fault lines that nurture separation.
Sadly, however, we have found more ways to sever ourselves. There’s this movement, or competition rather, of superiority based on darkness and fairness. Obviously, it stems from slavery where black people with lighter complexions stayed indoors to be pampered by “Massa” who was also most likely, “Daddy.” Meanwhile, those with dark complexions remained outside, laboring, being whipped, and scorched by the sun. Thus, we have the light skin, dark skin complex. Upon further analysis it seems as though even the slave owners didn’t seem to care about who was dark and who was light. They slept with whomever and it was their children who were born fair skinned with lighter eyes and straighter hair. Then the favored slave and her child would become “house niggers.” At least that’s my understanding of it.
This archaic idiocy has transcended time and landed in our century, buried itself in our minds and poisoned us. I include myself among those affected by this mindset but I also consider myself enlightened. I am dark skinned. I have been told I was ugly and made to feel inferior for this. I have observed the special treatment of fair black children. The comparison pictures of dark skinned black people and apes have not escaped my notice. Even I had to be trained by my mother to know and believe that I am beautiful and that my skin is perfect because God gave it to me. Yes, I used to wonder if I could lighten my tone by several shades with ingredients in my kitchen. Would guys ever like me? Would I ever be attractive by a “good-looking” man’s standards? These were my concerns before I even lost all of my baby teeth.
So now, I’m older and I know better. But I’ll scroll around online and see ignorance in places like Instagram where black women young and old are still taking selfies and captioning “Team Light Skin” or “Team Dark Skin” underneath! Aged women pass this nonsense onto children, insecure brown girls face discrimination from OTHER BLACK GIRLS in school, brown girls turn their backs on fair girls and start acting mean, and then this whole stereotype war breaks out like acne on picture day!
I’ve even noticed men doing it to other men. They’ll be playing ball outside or something and I’ll hear, “Nigga, you dark as s***. Take your black a** inside.” It’s all in jest and everyone’s laughing. But the one at the brunt of the joke doesn’t see the humor, though he’s laughing too.
I can only relate to the struggles of a dark complexioned girl because I don’t know what it’s like to appear any other way. However, I want to see the whole “Team Light Skin/ Dark Skin” thing die all together. Some feel that now it’s time to turn the tables and oppress fair skinned black people just like we were oppressed. How does that make sense? That only perpetuates the situation! You have black people, who all have roots in Africa and now live in America, sitting in separate corners scowling at each other because they’ve developed inaccurate general opinions based on melanin. Readers, are you understanding my fury?
Never again do I want to hear these stereotypes:
Dark skinned: “I hate light skinned people. They think they’re better than us. They’re so high maintenance; they think they deserve the world.” This is classifying all fair skinned black people into one way of thinking and being. How grossly misinformed.
Light skinned: “Um. Team light skin all the way! Dark skinned girls are just jealous. They look like greasy monkeys.” This is just rude and ignorant. Many dark skinned girls are very comfortable in their skin.
Dark skinned: “Guys who date light girls hate dark skin and hate themselves.” So untrue. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences. A person who dates someone lighter than themselves is not necessarily engaging in self-hatred.
Light skinned: “Yeah she’s pretty for a dark skinned chick.” A common phrase that needs to die. This implies that most dark skinned people are ugly but there are exceptions to the rule. The truth is every complexion is beautiful.
Dark & Light skinned: “Ew I don’t date dark guys.” Why? Do they have cooties?
Dark skinned: “Light skinned people are uppity and snobbish.” Please. Stop with these generalizations and biases. Some of the most down-to-earth people I know have fair skin.
Light skinned: “Every guy really wants a light skinned girl deep down.” False. When a person is involved with someone of a dark complexion it doesn’t mean that their “settling” till someone “light skinned” comes along. Once again, some people are more attracted to deeper skin tones and some aren’t.
Everyone else: Light skinned and dark skinned…They’re all black to me!
Truth! We’re the only ones really obsessing over this foolishness. The rest of the world doesn’t care about what shade of brown we are. They either love us as a whole or hate us as a whole.
Stop this. There’s a fool in every group, sect, ethnicity, nationality and it’s not because of skin complexion it’s because of attitude and knowledge. The wrong attitude and lack of knowledge births anger, hatred and ignorance.
In case you’re wondering, I’m Team Skin. I’m Team Universe. The amount of pigmentation in one person’s skin does not determine their worth, their status, or their beauty.
Black men and women need to wake up. We are continuing the same threads of injustice that we escaped from years ago. We’re teaching our sons and daughters not to love themselves but to hate others for things that they can’t control and things that God specifically designed as artwork.
We’re training them to think inferior thoughts about themselves and planting the same reminiscent poisons in their minds when we should be standing together. Whether you have deep, dark skin, porcelain skin, or one of the shades in between, you are art. Remember to measure each other by the content of character.
In the months leading up to my high school graduation in 2009, I felt like a loser to put it bluntly. It seemed like every day, in every class, someone was getting an acceptance letter to one of their top picked universities. But I, regardless of excelling in school and earning a high GPA, was in a different head space. College just wasn’t part of my future. Yes, my grades were great, my parents were proud, but the daily guessing game of “Who’s Gonna Be Our Valedictorian” didn’t interest me. People were solidifying their post-grad plans but I couldn’t care less. By senior year, I didn’t look to partake in the constant, boring banter:
Teacher: So where are you going?
Kid: I was accepted to blah blah blah, I’m moving to yada, yada.
Teacher: Ohhhhh congratulations! That’s such a great school; my daughter went there.
Teacher: Yeah! She majored in so and so. What are you going for?
Kid: I’m going to do a dual major in yada and blah.
Teacher: Wow! Impressive…
Boring. Now even though I didn’t actually care to engage in that, let me clarify why I felt like a loser. I felt lumped with the underachievers and slackers who had made no plans for their lives. No teachers were congratulating me, advising me. And why? Because I hadn’t bothered to apply to any schools! I didn’t actually want to go, no matter how intelligent…Though I’d spent the entire year before trying to make myself look like an asset to universities, it wasn’t something that I felt strongly about.
You know the college preparatory commotion that all 16-17 year old students put themselves through. If not, allow me to paint a picture.
It all starts in junior year – the home stretch. Kids are informed that this is, without a doubt, the most crucial year of their lives. This is the year of college applications, campus visitations, and the dreaded SAT. Oh wait! Don’t forget the ACT! For the duration of 11th grade, students flood the guidance counselor’s office and the classrooms of former teachers, looking for letters of recommendation, transcripts, scholarships, community service hours, emotional and psychological help! People are stressing themselves out to ensure that they look appetizing and delectable on their college apps. I’m talking brownies a la mode.
Students begin saturating their class schedules with courses like Trig, Calc, and Stats, skipping lunch and packing in Physics so that they place in the top percentile which will reflect in that ever-important GPA. Everyone is feeling that same pressure. Then the guidance counselors start calling kids into their offices one by one for a “plan your future” meeting. They invoke this fear in you that if you don’t have a plan for your life by now, you never will.
And that’s the basic picture. The details aren’t necessary because every school operates differently but I think you get it. In junior year, I bought into the hype. I hustled and bustled, searching for universities and scholarships, getting letters of recommendation, trying to take on way too many classes, and obsessing over who had the highest GPA. The following year, I just didn’t care anymore but I couldn’t help feeling undervalued. It was like success was a guarantee only for those who had their lives mapped out by 17 years old and senior year was the time to celebrate those kids who put in the hard work to get to this crucial point.
Don’t get me wrong. I admire those who slaved for straight A’s, developed killer applications, aced interviews and all that jazz. But what about the ones who were unconventional and different? What about people like me? There are lots of high school students that know they’re just as intelligent as the class Valedictorian but 4 more years of school isn’t the right path. Although teachers and guidance counselors are just doing their jobs, it’s unwise to scare kids into thinking that they’ll never make it if they don’t follow the formula:
Junior year (extracurricular activities) + high test scores and GPA’s = college acceptance. College acceptance + senior year = ultimate accomplishment. College degree + working for the man = American dream.
These things are absolutely noble accomplishments but not everyone fits that mold. To me, the formula goes like this:
Junior year + too much on my plate = stress. Stress = – hair. College acceptance = (-$120,000 or more). College degree + working for the man = ultimate waste of 40 hours a week. I’m getting to a point here. Eventually, I gave in and went to college, ignoring my own beliefs. On the positive side, I did it on my own terms:
- My parents never pressured me. They believe that an education is important and can take you far in life but they also know me and way back then, they understood that college may not be my thing.
- I enrolled online and took classes at my own pace. This gave me the freedom to do the things that I valued. I didn’t move away so I could still attend my home church. Because all I needed was a computer, I could do my work on the go, enabling me to travel and stay flexible with a full-time work schedule that came later.
But even with all of this convenience, I don’t feel as though my college education equipped me with any real skills or preparation to go out there and take on the world of business. Now I have to admit that I have learned many things in college. There have been some amazing, eye-opening lessons and wonderful professors. However, those things came with a hefty price tag and lack of fulfillment.
My educational background looks impressive on paper and puts an impressive hole in my bank account. Sure, I’ve obtained work in the last few years. Entry-level office work that I detested, though I was grateful for the paycheck. Perhaps I should have gone to school for some type of writing career because writing is what I really love. Maybe I should’ve attended a university with an excellent performing arts program since acting is another talent of mine.
Maybe I’m wrong about that too…I mean would that ensure a career (not just a job) in the industry I want to be in?
The way I see it is like this: Your talents make room for you. College is great but it guarantees us nothing. In fact, what I’m doing now to make a living has nothing to do with my background in business. Had I gone to school for acting or writing, would a $120,000 investment have put me any closer to my dreams of being a best-selling author who retires in a cozy secluded home or an A-list actress who buys an island?
So many of the ones who graduated high school with me and seemed to have their futures all figured out have borrowed loans, obtained degrees, and have no idea what they want to do now. In fact, lots of my old classmates aren’t hired in their field. And silly me – I followed suit out of fear. I was afraid that if I didn’t go to school as a Plan B that I’d fall on my behind. As it turns out, I spent so much time on Plan B that I never really devoted myself to Plan A, which was to go with my heart.
Some people aren’t meant to go to college. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, if you have a gift or if there’s something you love to do, then go for it. Most of the time, it’s the crafty, the innovative, the unconventional ones who start out on a rocky road, alone without a lot of people believing in them. They begin businesses in their garages, not in classrooms. Often, it’s that one quirky kid who finds a way to use their natural talents to earn a living. Sometimes, that living is just enough to buy an island.
I’m not knocking the school-goers, the doctors and lawyers, the biologists, the physicists, the ones who work behind desks from 9 to 5. Those people are needed and loved and appreciated! They’re not boring or dumb and they’ve done nothing wrong. But that life isn’t for everyone. Some people truly want to own their lives and not be responsible for punching a time clock. There are people like me who see college as the fast track to stagnation, step one on the path to a corporate choke hold.
High school students should be encouraged to find the thing that makes them unique and use it. Why don’t we spend more time cultivating kids’ talents instead of forcing them into one idea of success and achievement. Again, working hard, going to school, landing a dream career in a specific field is wonderful and commendable. It’s just not for everyone and unconventional people like me, people who find themselves on the less traveled roads, need to know from day one that there are many definitions of success and many ways to get it.
My advice: Don’t be pressured. Don’t rush into college because you’re supposed to. If you go, do it because you want to. But if you’re that one fly-away hair in an otherwise perfectly polished mane, then do the thing you’re in love with.