My tonsils wouldn’t let me keep my date with Nas, and I’m still sad about it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to update the blog. Two weeks ago, I caught the plague. You may laugh, but it’s true. If it wasn’t the plague, it was something damn close.

Two Tuesdays ago, I had a meeting scheduled with one of my direct reports. He’d just returned from Buenos Aires and we needed to touch base about what was to be accomplished in the week ahead. He closed the door and immediately began to cough. I asked him if he was sick and he told me that he’d had a sore throat for the last nine days, which had evolved into a cough. If looks could kill, he would’ve been dead and buried after the side eye I threw his way.

I was ice grilling his germy ass.  Kinda like this ^^^^.

I was ice grilling his germy ass. Kinda like this ^^^^.

See, one thing I don’t mess around with is germs. I am a certified germaphobe (which I just discovered isn’t actually a legit word, but there is an entry in the Urban Dictionary, so humor me). I keep a can of Lysol on my desk (and a mini can in my purse), wash my hands constantly, and make use of hand sanitizer throughout the day. I’m a pretty gentle and non-confrontational person, but have been known to curse people all the way out for potentially exposing me to their germs. Hence, the dirty look I gave my colleague. Our meeting wasn’t important and if he was sick, he should’ve stayed at home and not come to work to infect everyone else!

Anyway, Tuesday, I was fine, but Wednesday morning, I woke up with a tickle in my throat that, by Wednesday night, was a full-on throbbing. Every swallow was painful. Wednesday night, I headed down to DC on Amtrak for an all-day conference on Thursday and grand plans of spending the weekend with my folks, my friends, and the love of my life, Nas. Yes, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, the rapper. Back in December, I caught wind of an epic opportunity to see Nas perform with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in honor of the 20th anniversary of his legendary album, Illmatic. I’ve loved Nas from way back. First, he’s adorable, so there’s that. But then, he’s got this New York swagger (which is all his own because I’ve met dudes from Queens and they don’t have swagger like that), and even though he’s so clearly… “urban”… his intellect is off the charts! (As is evidenced by the new Harvard fellowship created in his name.) Anyway, obviously, I was ecstatic about the concert and had jumped through all kinds of hoops to make sure that this particular weekend stayed clear of other events so I could be in DC to see this one-of-a-kind show.

I told my mom that I wasn’t feeling well and by the time I made it to my parents’ house in MD, she had a pot of chicken soup on the stove waiting for me. I ate that and went straight to bed in preparation of the conference on Thursday. I felt immediately better after eating the soup my mom no doubt made with much love, but when I woke up Thursday morning, my throat was ON FIRE. I went to the conference anyway (isn’t that ironic that now *I* would be the one infecting everyone else), but had to leave early because I felt so awful. Instead of going back to my parents’, I drove myself straight to urgent care.

If you haven’t been to urgent care, let me just tell you know: it is the most amazing concept ever invented.   You can walk into one of these places without an appointment, see an emergency room doctor almost immediately, and also get your meds right in the same building. When I saw the doctor, she took one look inside my mouth and put me on an antibiotic. She told me to take the pills and if I wasn’t better in two days, I should report back to her for further treatment options.

Two days later, not only was I not feeling better, I was 100 times worse! I might as well have been popping M&Ms instead of the amoxicillin the doctor prescribed. I returned to urgent care teary-eyed. Not because I was sick, but because I was sitting on the examination table with tonsils so swollen, I could barely breathe, and later that evening I had a date with Nas. The doctor took another look at my tonsils and gave me a look to suggest she was stumped. She prescribed a stronger antibiotic and also prescribed steroids to help with the swelling, which she had a nurse bring into the room so I could start them immediately. Before I left, I asked to borrow a writing pad and a pen, and I wrote (because I could not talk): “I have concert tickets tonight. Can I go?” And in response, she actually laughed. Laughed! Not the response I had been expecting. I swallowed (painfully), and began to cry (painfully). Not because of the pain I was in, or because I was scared, but because I was totally frustrated that my body could betray me on such an important day.

I had to text my cousin who was my date for the night and who, like me, had been waiting for this concert for months, to let her know that I wouldn’t be able to go with her and she began a last minute scramble to find someone to take my place. I sat at home on a couch in my parents’ living room while my cousin got to enjoy my date with Nas. Like the sweetheart that she is, she recorded video of the show and sent it to me, so it was almost like I was there (not really).

I also never got to do any of the other things I had planned that weekend like going to see my grandma or my 18-month old niece. I spent the entire weekend going from my bed, to the couch, to urgent care, and by the time I was packing my bags to head back to NY on Sunday, I was still sick. My mom didn’t feel comfortable letting me go back by myself, so she returned to the City with me. This was a huge sacrifice because my mother, who attended college in NYC back in the 60s (aka NYC’s “dark period”), absolutely abhors the City. I know this because she has asked me no less than 200 times “why anyone would want to live in that God-forsaken place”. But, she still packed her bag and bought a last-minute one-way ticket on my train back to NY. She stuck around for several days doing what mom’s do, cooking, cleaning, and babying me until she was satisfied that I could take care of myself on my own.

While it was fantastic to have her there, when she left that Thursday, I felt a sense of relief because I am turning into an introvert that values my alone time in my apartment, but I also felt a deep sense of loneliness. Had my mom not made the decision to come back to NY with me, who would’ve cared for me? I have friends here that are fabulous for happy hours and brunches and parties and shopping. But when I am faced with the plague and need some juice, or more garlic for the soup that *I’m* making for *myself* (because I can’t rely on anyone else to do it), could I count on them?

Maybe it’s because being sick made me feel extremely vulnerable, or maybe it’s because I’m turning 35 in two months and my impending birthdays always cause me to be introspective. But either way, I’m starting to realize that I need to work on building a support system. This was a situation where my illness was only temporary, but suppose – God forbid – it had been more serious? It’s been five years since I’ve been in the City, yet the only people on whom I can count live hundreds of miles away in another city. The glitz and glamour of the City are what brought me here, but I hadn’t recognized that I’d be leaving other comforts and assurances behind. What does that mean to me? Does it have to mean anything at all? Is a support system necessary? These are all questions I’m asking myself two weeks after I beat whatever it was I had.

I guess it goes without saying that being out of commission for over a week put me behind in a lot of areas in my life, including blogging, and that’s the reasoning behind my long hiatus. And even though two weeks have passed, the prick who passed me his germs is still getting stabbed with my sharp glares.

Is it Possible to Escape The Friend Zone?

Whenever I’m chatting with one of my best friends and tell her about some new guy I’m dealing with, she chuckles and says, “Girl, I swear you’ve got a lot of men in your atmosphere.” That’s a good way to describe my current situation. There are several guys in the mix, but they’re just floating about with no particular purpose or destination. Sure, it’s entertaining but also quite frustrating.

I recently read an article that was a summary of a book called “Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others” that depressed me. It was a summary of a book that was written about “the kind of women men marry”. In it, the author makes some interesting arguments. One of the most depressing takeaways of the article is that women who are overweight are less likely to get wifed. So are women who are over 35. And women are both over 35 and over weight are just destined to be spinsters. Well, I’m about to be 35 (this fact shocks even me, and I’ve known this birthday was coming for 35 years), and I could stand to lose a few pounds (okay, more like 50+), so this conclusion doesn’t bode well for me. But believe it or not, that sad tidbit of info isn’t the point of this post, and I digress, so…

The article also said that women who make an effort to seek out the company of single men are more likely to marry. If that’s truly the case, then the odd are in my favor because I spend almost ALL my free time with single men. Most of those interactions are platonic and I know so many women, most of them married, who are baffled by the fact that I have so many male friends. I’ve got a solid group of males that would do just about anything for me… except date me.

It’s confusing for me because our interactions look like dates and feel like dates, but… They’re not dates. I go to nice dinners, all-expenses paid, movies, shows, and let’s not forget the Netflix and pizza nights. But these are not my boyfriends. And we’re not sleeping together. They’re JUST friends. I know it sounds like I’m working overtime to prove that point, but it’s true, and I’m just not sure why that’s so hard to believe, lol.

Anyway, my point is that I’m never wanting for male companionship. Theoretically, according to the article, this should make me more likely to get married, but as the years go by, in spite of the many hours spent in the company of boyFRIENDS, I am perpetually single. I’ve been puzzled by this, but my mom thinks the answer is simple. Many of my boyFRIENDS are guys I wouldn’t be opposed to dating. But I’ve placed myself squarely in the center of that hellish place called The  Friend Zone. Usually, men are the ones that spend the most time in The Zone, but there I sit. So while I’m never without a man I can call for dinner or a movie, I’m without a man. MY man.

Most people that hear these stories always say that no man would spend time or money on a woman he isn’t attracted to.  I don’t doubt that these men are attracted to me.  And I certainly don’t think any of these men would turn down sex if I offered it.  But I want more than sex, and that’s what they’re not willing to give.

My boyFRIENDS are never short on compliments either.  They’re always telling me about what a “great catch” I am.  And how I’m so cool and fun and they wish they could find a woman like me.  And I’m all like… but you don’t need to find a woman like me, you’ve already found ME!   Helloooo!  It’s a little crazy to watch these boyFRIENDS of mine pair off with other women while I remain the eternal bachelorette.  This whole pattern is for the birds, and frankly I’m sick of it.

The (dreaded) Friend Zone

The (dreaded) Friend Zone

 

Look, I have a very rich life outside of the dating game. Finding a (good) man and then maintaining that relationship isn’t my sole purpose for living, but I have to be real — amidst all the other fun I’m having in life, finding a partner is a legitimate priority. As such, I’ve invested a great deal of money (dating site subscriptions, date outfits, hair appointments, etc.) and time (searching profiles, making small talk, dating) into this process. And, in spite of that investment, AND in spite of all the time I spend in the company of single men, I have had little to no luck. Clearly I’m doing something wrong and I would love it if someone… anyone… could point me in the direction of a solution.

So here’s a real-life example of my situation.  I told a female friend about one male friend who requests the pleasure of my company quite often. Recently, he bought groceries and came to my apartment to make dinner. He cooked a feast, we ate the food on my couch, and watched a few episodes some of our (my) favorite shows on Bravo.  After I recap this night for my friend, she had some questions:

“Soooo, nothing exciting happened?” my friend asked me, stunned.

“Nope, it was a low-key evening,” I said.

“How does it feel when he’s there?” she asked, puzzled.

“Um, it feels very… platonic,” I said.

“I bet it wouldn’t feel platonic it you took off all your clothes and sat on his lap.”

Um… right. I’m SURE that literally throwing my ass at him would change things, but I’m seeking a subtler way to turn the tides. You know… one that doesn’t involve me being naked, lol.

So just how does one meet men of quality and substance if other single men aren’t the key? And how do we break the stronghold of The Friend Zone? Once we’re in there, how to we get escape? Or can we? I’m on the hunt for some answers…

From My Kitchen: Kale with Bacon and White Beans (via WeightWatchers.com)

We quaintrelles spend the majority of our time enjoying life’s pleasures. For me, most often, that comes in the form of food, and, while I love to eat out… like, LOVE it… sometimes, those pleasures even come from my own kitchen.

On a regular evening, I won’t get fancy with my dinners. After work and the gym (or, more often, work and then happy hour), I am too tired to come up with creative dishes. But on Sundays, I usually go all-in. This past Sunday, I made a meatloaf that was to die-for and was seeking a side dish to accompany my main course.

For those of us who are Christians, we are in the midst of Lenten season and, in observance, I always make some sort of sacrifice. This year, I decided to give up the carbs I eat most often, specifically rice (white AND brown), bread, pasta, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. As a self-proclaimed foodie, this was a HUGE sacrifice for me. I’m two weeks into this plan and I still feel like something is missing when I sit down to a plate of food that doesn’t feature a starchy side. Meat and vegetables make a balanced meal, but they do not keep me full. So now that my tummy rumbles regularly, I’ve been searching for ways to fill my belly without resorting to my old starchy standbys. In that effort, I’ve discovered that beans, while high in protein, are also pretty starchy and, so, they keep my belly full. I’m now on the hunt for ways to incorporate beans into my diet in creative ways.

On this quest for bean-laden meal plans, I discovered this gem of a recipe on WeightWatchers.com. That’s right, this recipe for Kale with Bacon and White Beans is not only delicious, but also low-cal and low-fat (but definitely NOT low on tastiness)! I made it more scrumptious by adding four slices of regular bacon instead of the three slices of reduced fat bacon the original recipe calls for (reduced fat bacon doesn’t even sound right… I’m not messing around with that. As we already know, bacon makes EVERYTHING better.) Other than that modification, I stayed true to the recipe and it turned out amazing!

No, I’m not on WeightWatchers, but who couldn’t stand to eat a little healthier?  I also find the Points designation to be helpful so I know just how “bad” (or “good”) something is before I partake in it, so I like using WW recipes when they seem like they might be palatable.  Well, this one here is a winner and is great for girls like me who are watching their figures.  And not only is this an awesome side dish, it could also be an entrée on days I plan to eat lightly. I will definitely be making this again. If you decide to try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Kale with Bacon and Cannellini Beans

I've got my kale, bacon, and beans ready to go!

I’ve got my kale, bacon, and beans ready to go!

Ingredients
4 slice(s) uncooked bacon
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup uncooked onions, diced
1 pound uncooked kale, roughly chopped (Make sure you wash your kale very, VERY well… things live in there!  You’ve been warned!)
1 cup chicken or beef broth
15 oz can cannellini (white beans), rinsed and drained
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar (try Sugar in the Raw)

All done!

All done!

Instructions

Set a large, heavy pot or skillet over medium heat; add bacon and cook to desired crispness. Remove bacon from pot and set aside; leave bacon drippings in pot.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes to bacon drippings; cook, stirring, until garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale; cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to wilt, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth; cover and simmer over low heat until kale is just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add beans; simmer, uncovered, until liquid is almost evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in salt, vinegar and sugar; sprinkle with crumbled bacon and serve immediately.

Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.  Bon apetit!

Stuck (Part II)

I sat and stared at that piece of paper for hours before I finally worked up the nerve to use the telephone number written on it.  Even though I give guys a lot of lip about relying heavily on text messages, it seemed like a text would be less awkward than a phone call.  And, so… I sent a text.  Just told him my name and that the doorman gave him my number and because I didn’t know what else to say, I wrote: “Um… I’m not sure what else to say, lol… :-)”

Then I waited.  But I didn’t have to wait long.  He wrote back almost immediately.   His response: “Lol, well, there’s nothing much to say obviously I’m interested here a start my name [his name]”

Hmm…

See anything wrong with that message?!  Mega typos or… just poor grammar?  Either way, my nerves were completely grated.  In the first message.

Most of you don’t know me personally, so you wouldn’t understand why this was such a major disappointment.

Allow me to reintroduce myself.  “Hello, my name is [Me]… and I am a grammar snob.”

Here’s the thing about texting and email communication and even Facebook status updates and tweets… all these media that require writing uncover the closet illiterates very early on in your relationship. I assume that before the days of the Internet, it was conceivable that you might meet someone and never discover that they couldn’t write until after you’d already fallen for them and by then their writing challenges would be secondary to the love you might be feeling. But these days, particularly when you are dating online, these issues present themselves a lot sooner, resulting in interesting questions.

Questions like what job/career could you possibly have if you can’t even string a few words together to construct a simple sentence? Most jobs (except maybe those that involve manual labor?) require some sort of facility with email, which means you’d have to be able to at least write in a way that sort of makes sense. But maybe some employers have lower standards than I have for my employees… Maybe?

I didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak. (That’s a “Daddyism” a.k.a. Shit My Dad Says.  I’ll frequently share Daddyisms as we go along.) Because I’m in a place where I’m trying new approaches to dating, I figured that perhaps I should try to give this guy another shot. Maybe he was just distracted and that’s why his message made no sense.

But… No.

I continued to exchange messages with him and they were progressively worse than the first (if that’s possible!). It got to the point where I had to read messages a few times before I could even get the gist of what he was saying. It was awful. And I was embarrassed for him. Illiteracy — even functional illiteracy — is one of my deal breakers. And, so, despite My Buddy’s (the doorman) effort, there can be no love connection between me and the cute guy from the building.

Eventually, we moved from text to telephone and the conversation wasn’t forced. He is much more article verbally than he is in writing (thanks be to God!), so we were able to make small talk and that was cool. He asked if I’d like to go for happy hour one day, which is one of my most favorite activities, so I agreed. There’s no date set in stone, but I’m always down for a drink with a guy who seems cool. That said, that’s as far as it will go.

My friends will roll their eyes when they hear this story. Sure, the guy was cute and made decent small talk, and maybe to others (perhaps even to YOU), grammar, punctuation (or lack thereof), improper word usage, and typos are minor. To me, they’re quite major. Even when I see my Facebook and Instagram friends botch there/they’re/their and to/too/two or here/hear, I’m driven to the point of distraction. I don’t know if I could accept it in my mate.

And there’s a life lesson here, too. Everyone… And I do mean EVERYONE… Including me, including YOU (yes, I know we’re perfect, but humor me here) has shortcomings. The man of your dreams WILL have shortcomings. There will be things he can’t/won’t do at all or things that he can’t/won’t do very well. Some of those things will be no big deal. Other things will totally set you off and jump all over that one nerve you have left.

Don’t let anyone else convince you that you have to deal with some stuff that you know you can’t stand. Get to know yourself well enough to identify your deal breakers and do not be shamed into lowering your standards for the sake of a full dating calendar. It’s okay to be discriminating and it’s also okay for you to discriminate based on things that other people find trivial. Those people won’t have to live with your partner, but you will. Keep that in mind…

Back to the cute neighbor. Even if he had been everything I wanted him to be, I’m not sure that dating someone in the building would’ve been the best move. I am ultimately looking for a partner but until then I am dating in the purest sense of the word, which means there are a number of guys in the mix. I’m not sure how homeboy would feel if he saw me getting dropped off by some other guy or even how I would feel if I saw him bringing another girl back to his place. It seems like that could go all the way south under the wrong circumstances, so I think things worked out for the best.

On to the next one…

Why I’m Dating Online

In a city of 12 million souls, I find it difficult to meet men. That seems somewhat ironic to me. How can my life intersect with hundreds of people in a day, from the subway, to the sidewalk, to the supermarket, and yet I never CONNECT with any of them? But NYC is like that. People aren’t friendly and, in fact, are rather surly and suspicious of one another. When I first arrived in town, my semi-Southern sensibilities had me smiling at and saying hello to strangers on the street and even thanking bus drivers as they dropped me off at my stop. These pleasantries were met with blank stares of confusion. And so, those habits stopped (although I still thank bus drivers… and cabbies, too).

It seems to me that many people in this city build their social circles around three things: work, school, and church/temple/place of worship. Well, I work in a industry rife with women and gay men, which makes for fun times but, since I’m a straight woman, doesn’t leave me with many dating options. Also, I went to school in a different city. There are people from my undergrad who live in NYC, but I wouldn’t consider them “friends” and they wouldn’t call me a friend either, and so there goes that option. I haven’t found a church in NYC (although I fully admit that I haven’t really looked very hard for one either). That said, I do have friends from my church back home who are living in the City. They are also women and also experiencing the same dating struggles I’m facing, so when we do get together, we just commiserate and validate each other’s time spent in the dating trenches.

You may be asking why I’m giving you a rundown of my situation; some of this you already know and some of it you may have assumed.  But I guess I’m telling you all this to justify the fact that I have resorted to online dating.  I shouldn’t use the word “resorted” because it gives off the (false) impression that I was somehow resistant to the idea.  I wasn’t.  To me, online dating makes perfect sense.  Recently, I was talking to a guy I met online and I asked him the standard set of conversation-starter questions (I’ll get to that later), which includes a version of “why are you doing this?”  He gave the best answer yet.  He explained that online dating allows him “to filter through the crazy, the stupid, the gold-diggers” et al.  He also said that for him, online dating allows him to focus more on quality than quantity.  This makes sense to me, and if you look at it this way, it makes online dating seem like less of a less resort and more a savvy strategy for finding worthy candidates.

I opened an account on eHarmony the first week I moved to NYC.  I was single and ready to mingle and open to meeting and connecting with new people.   In the last four and a half years, I’ve tried nearly all of the online dating sites from eHarmony, to OkCupid, to Match.com, to BlackPeopleMeet, to ChristianMingle.  I’ve had different experiences with them all, and clearly haven’t made a love connection (or else I would be writing about a completely different topic).  But along the way, I have been highly entertained, challenged, stimulated, and ultimately have learned so much about myself, my deal breakers, my must-haves, etc.  And I have stories for days.  One day I’ll write a book about this stuff.  But for now, I’ll attempt to capture some of my triumphs and disappointments in a few blog posts here for your reading pleasure.  Hopefully, they’ll culminate in a happy ending… *fingers crossed*

Stuck.

I am sitting here staring at a piece of paper.  On it, is a name I’ve never uttered before… and a telephone number.

There are a lot of guys that live in my building, but there’s one in particular that intrigued me.  He’s always friendly, always pleasant.  And he’s cute.  Well, I’m not sure that by traditional standards he would be considered especially handsome, but to me, he’s adorable.  Although we live a few floors away from one another, I’ve only run into him about six or seven times in the four years I’ve lived here, but each time we smiled, exchanged small talk… and then, ultimately, went our separate ways.  I never asked his name, he never asked mine, and our conversations never went past pleasantries, yet every time I walked away from him, I’d kick myself for not digging a little deeper.

A few weeks ago, I was walking down the street to a friend’s house that lives nearby.   I was texting another friend at the same time, so was looking down at my phone when I sensed someone standing near me, and heard a voice say “Hello!”  I looked up, and it was him, smiling brightly.  “Hello,” I called over my shoulder because, by the time I reacted, he had already passed me.  As I turned slightly, I could see that he also turned slightly.  We smiled at each other again, but I kept walking.  Five minutes later when I reached the stoop of my friend’s house, I began to regret that I didn’t stop to chat.  I vowed that if/when I ran into him again, I would say something – anything – to prolong the conversation and get to know him better.

Last night as I was walking from the subway to my apartment, I ran into him again.  It’s not often that our paths cross, so I thought I’d better take advantage of the opportunity.  This time, he’s walking toward me, and he’s the one looking down at his phone.  I spot him and, as he walks by, I raise my voice and say, “Hey!”  He looks up, startled, but when he sees that it’s me, he breaks into a smile and says hey back, and as he passes me, he reaches out for my hand and holds it a bit, but all the while he keeps walking.  As he lets go of my hand, I turn, he turns, and we again lock eyes and smile, but neither of us stops long enough to say anything although he looks like he wants to.  When I reach the door to our building, I am again regretting that I’d let the moment pass.  I promised myself that I’d say something, but I let my nerves get the best of me.  Ugh.

Four doormen staff our front lobby round-the-clock and at this time of night, the “good” one was on duty – my buddy, the one I can trust.  I stop and ask him if he saw my guy just leave the building and give him a rundown of his appearance, including what he was wearing.  He tells me he knows who I’m referring to.  I ask if he knows his name and he says that he doesn’t, but he’ll find out for me.  I kind of laugh it off, but appreciate his willingness to dig for info.

Fast forward to this evening.  I come home from work, dead tired, having completely forgotten the events of the previous night.  When I walk through the front door, My Buddy (the doorman) says “I have some information for you.”  He shuffles through some things on his desk, finds what he’s looking for, and approaches me, extending his hand.  In it, is a slip of paper.  On it, is a name, and a telephone number.  My Buddy tells me that he told my guy that I had asked about him and, in response, my guy gives him this piece of paper and tells him to share it with me.

With a wink and a nod, My Buddy says, “I think you should call him or text him or whatever.  Share your information.  He seems like good people.”

I appreciate the ringing endorsement, and I’m happy to know that he’s been vetted by My Buddy.  I take the paper and thank him profusely while giggling about what has transpired.  Look at My Buddy making love connections!

But now that I have the name and number, what do I do with it?  Should I actually use it?

I call my mother.  I always consult with her whenever I’m feeling unsure about how to proceed.  I tell her the story, and she loves every second.  I tell her that I feel weird about reaching out to a guy who may not even be clear about who exactly he gave his number to.  She says, “Call him.  It can’t be any weirder or more awkward than reaching out to someone you meet online, right?”  She has a point.  Given my luck, or lack thereof, with online dating, this really couldn’t be any worse than that.  Well… I hope not, anyway.

Then, five minutes later as we continue to hash out the “what-ifs”, my mom says, “What if he’s, like, 19?”

I hadn’t thought of this.  The what-ifs are numerous.  What if he is 19?  What if he is married?  What if he is gay?  What if he is an asshole?  What if, what if?

So, here I sit.  I hung up with my mother about an hour ago, and I’m still debating about what to do.  I could reach out to him and my life might change.  Or, I could reach out and absolutely nothing will change.  Honestly, I’m not sure which scenario scares me most…

For now, I’m sitting here with a slip of paper.  And as long as I don’t do anything with the information on it, this slip of paper represents endless possibilities… The situation could go any number of ways.  But as soon as I make a move, that all changes…

Will I pull the trigger?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Pilates was not the “cake walk” I expected

I called up my friend, who is a very talented dancer, for a bit of advice. I wanted to know what kind of dance class would best limber up my very stiff and puffy body. “No doubt about it,” she said. “Pilates is the way to go. But, start off slow because – though it doesn’t feel like it at the time – your whole body is getting a workout. If you don’t feel it that night, you’ll feel it for sure the next day.” She spent about 15 minutes singing the praises of Pilates, and ultimately convinced me to give it a go. I hung up the phone and signed-up for a six-week class at a cute little yoga studio in my neighborhood.

The class started on a Tuesday at 7pm. I arrived at the studio with about five minutes to spare. I changed quickly in the sparsely decorated dressing room and ducked into the back of the class. I looked around. All types of people were in the room. There were a few women in their 50s, a pregnant woman, and several other women from mid-20s to mid-30s. When our instructor walked in, I was genuinely surprised. Her name was Julia and she was squarely in her 50s. I’m thinking to myself, if this old bag can do pilates, then I can certainly handle anything she can throw at me. I run, I sweat it out in Zumba … this Pilates thing is just a bunch of stretching.  It will be a piece of cake! To start the class, Julia explained her experience with Pilates. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” she says. I look at her hard… I’m thinking that after 25 years of doing this, her body should look A LOT better than it does. Maybe pilates won’t give me the kind of results I need to see…

Pie and lattes?! Sign me up!

“We’ll start with ‘The 100’,” she says.  “Turn onto your back and lie flat. Put your feet up into the air and your arms straight back. Now, with your feet in the air and arms straight back, lift your head up off the floor and flap your arms vigorously for a count of 100.” No sweat, I think. But, I don’t even get to her count of five before my head falls back to the ground with a thud. I see stars. I’m panting already. WTF?! This is not a good sign! “This is one of the basic warm-up moves in Pilates,” she is saying. Warm up?! If this is the warm-up, what’s the workout gonna be like?!

At this point, my arms are lying flat by my side and my head is lolling to the side like a ragdoll. I look up and Julia is standing over me. Her pink legwarmer is right by my mouth. From here it looks like cotton candy. I want to bite it off of her. “Are we having trouble here?” she asks. Um, I’m half dead, lady, so yeah… I’d say we’re having trouble! I want to scream. Instead, I say, “No, just taking a break,” and immediately raise my head (with strength that I get from where?) and start pumping my arms like a fiend. “It’s a little early for a break,” she says, shaking her head with a “tsk-tsk” look. “After you get rid of some of the… ‘bulk’… that you’re carrying and strengthen some of those muscles, you’ll be able to do this exercise without stopping,” she quips with a syrupy sweet (super-fake) smile. Man, eff you, too, I think. Just when I think that I can’t take another minute of “The 100”, Julia screams out “Two more!” with a glee that sounds slightly psychotic.

By the time the class ended and I made my beeline for the door, Julia had asked us to roll like a ball, suck in our stomachs so that our navels touched our spines, and to throw our legs over our heads. After I slipped out of my (very sweaty) Lycra and back into my street clothes, I headed for the reception desk. The young crunchy kid behind the desk was eating hummus and pita and chitty-chatting on the telephone. “Um, excuse me,” I say. She puts up one finger to tell me to hold on for a minute. I twirl my hair while I wait for her to wrap up her trite conversation. “Yes?” she says. Whatever happened to “how can I help you”? Kids these days, man! Anyway, I say, “What’s your refund policy?” She smiles a knowing smile and says, “After the first class, you are able to recover 90% of your tuition. Each additional class that you attend diminishes your refund by an additional 10%.” Hmmm… “I’d like a refund please,” I say quickly. We complete the transaction and I am out of the door. So much for this grand plan. That sh*t was HARD! I’m going back to Zumba! And, in the meantime, Miss Julia can kiss my “bulky”, fat, jiggly, arse.

Balotelli, Smart, and Me: Racial Slurs Hurt (and they can also GET you hurt!)

I’m Black.  I haven’t shared my photo, but in case you had any doubts, I am a Black American woman.  Now I am very comfortable in my skin and I celebrate my identity.  I love being Black.  But my feelings about my identity have evolved over time.

I grew up in Washington, D.C., which is also known as Chocolate City.  But in the Maryland suburbs situated just outside of the city, which is where I grew up, there wasn’t much diversity in the 80s.  Often, I was the only black kid in my class.  It was never really an issue for me.  I always loved school and I thrived.  But I was also somewhat of a “mascot” at school.  I remember my mom commenting about how popular I was.  “When I walk into the school, everyone knows who I’m there to see.  They all know who you are,” she bragged.  Even as a child, I knew that I wasn’t popular because of my glowing personality (’cause it DID glow, even back then!).  When you’re the only black kid in the class and one of only a few in the entire school, you’re difficult to miss.  Of course everyone knew my name – I stuck out like a sore thumb.

It’s hard being the token black kid.  You wear the weight of the world on your shoulders.  You field ignorant questions, asked “innocently” and you’re not supposed to show anger or aggression in response; you’re just supposed to shrug it off and forgive the ignorance, pretending to be grateful that people want to learn more about what makes you different.  I’m sure some of the dumb sht*t people said was well intended, but as the old folk say: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions, so… there’s that.

I was in the second grade when I was called a nigger for the first time.  I was involved in a fierce game of kickball during recess.  I wanted to pitch, and this little boy with white blonde hair who had designated himself the “captain” of our team looked me in the face and said, “We don’t let niggers pitch.”

I was floored.

The boy, Vernon, was popular.  My best friend, also white, was his “girlfriend”.  When Vernon spit the slur at me, I ran to tell his grandmother, who volunteered at our school, and she let him have it.  I felt somewhat vindicated, but then I told my best friend how embarrassed I was that he’d said it.  I expected her to side with me, but she didn’t.  My world was rocked.  In addition to my embarrassment, I felt betrayed.  It was a sad day.

My parents were fitful when I reported the incident to them.  My father was unsurprised, but nevertheless wanted to kill the kid; my mother was shocked and devastated that I was dealing with such a heavy incident at such a young age.  She had hoped I would be protected from that ugly word for a little while longer.  It came before she was ready.  My feelings were hurt.  I cried.  But, surprisingly, I didn’t hate Vernon.  I was just confused as to why someone would dislike me because I looked different from them.

It’s been almost 30 years since that incident happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I vividly see Vernon’s round face, his pale skin, colorless hair, and ice blue eyes staring at me with contempt when he called me the n-word.  I’m not hurt by it now, but then… then, I was devastated.  I recall quite clearly the feeling I had when he said the word.  It was as though I’d been punched in the gut.  I couldn’t breathe, then I felt hot, and finally I, literally, saw red. I’ve been called a nigger a few times since then, unfortunately, but none of the other incidents hurt quite like the first time.  Vernon popped my n-word cherry, so to speak. Thanks, kid.  Hooray.

So, that’s why I immediately felt like a knife had been driven deep into my chest, opening an old wound, when I saw the story about soccer player Mario Balotelli yesterday.  Balotelli, a striker for AC Milan whose parents are Ghanaian, was taunted with racial slurs by the opposing team’s fans.  Apparently, the slurs were so hurtful, this man broke down and sobbed on the sidelines.

Balotelli, reduced to tears after being reminded, in the worst way, that he is black. (via SportingNews)

Balotelli, reduced to tears after being reminded, in the worst way, that he is black, and that black is somehow a “bad” thing. (via SportingNews)

Now, who knows whether this incident was Balotelli’s first experience with racial slurs (although I doubt that he’s managed to escape other incidents during 20+ years on this Earth), but what we do know is that he was hurt enough to be reduced to tears on the field, which is MAJOR for an athlete since sportsmen are typically known for their bravado and masculinity, making such an emotional spectacle extremely rare.  Sure, he’s European and maybe they’re more in touch with their feelings than American athletes (I’m aware that this is a stereotype and major generalization, but just go with it), but this is obviously a big deal since it’s reached us across the pond.

Also this week, Marcus Smart, who plays basketball for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, was criticized for pushing a fan who called him – surprise, surprise – a nigger.  I’ve got to say, I’m never one to encourage physical altercations, but “nigger” is a fighting word, plain and simple.  If you are Black, if and when you hear it, you WILL be taken to another level and all bets will be off.   So, I freely admit that I do not fault Marcus Smart for reacting the way that he did.  He will now have to face consequences and criticism for his actions, but at the time, he did what he felt needed to be done. *tsk tsk* me if you want, but I can respect that and I can relate to it, too.  Had I been strong enough to fight Vernon back in the day, we’d have tussled.  Trust and believe.

Hours after the Balotelli incident occurred, there is now some question about whether the taunts were really the driving force behind his emotional outburst.  But regardless of whether the whole situation really brought a grown man to tears, why would the Napoli fans think it was okay to hurl racial epithets at someone anyway?  People deriding your differences instead of celebrating them are hurtful, especially when your differences center on your identity.  One cannot change being black, nor hide it (in most cases), and it’s particularly frustrating when people hate you for things beyond your control.  As such, racial epithets can cut like a knife.  They can break you down, and frustrate you enough to make you cry… or fight.  I get it, and 7-year-old me gets it, and I need for you to get it, too.

Dear White People (and others):

If you don’t want to face any potential repercussions, physical or otherwise, that you may experience as a result of using then n-word, then simply remove it from your vocabulary.  It’s never okay to use it.  Not even as a “joke”, not even in the heat of the moment, not even amongst friends, not even ever.  The “why” is irrelevant, please just don’t use it because we said so.

Regards,

Black Folk

People: Black folk, White folk, and other folk, please remember that words hurt.  Use your mouth to speak LIFE to each other, not to kill, steal, or destroy the self-worth of another human being.  Know that a word – ONE WORD – can reduce a grown man to tears.  And also know that if you use a (certain) word with the wrong person, it can also get your ass beat.  Take heed and govern yourselves accordingly.  Please.  Life is just too short.  Let’s be nice to each other while we’re here.

HAIR: 5 Tips for New (or Frustrated!) Naturals

I have been natural for almost five years.  In January of 2010 I decided to stop relaxing my hair. The last time I’d seen my natural hair was when I was 12. A full 19 years had passed since my hair had been allowed to just be. I had never considered that I could wear my hair natural.  I always thought it would be too kinky, dry, unruly, unprofessional to wear in public, and never thought I’d be able to swing it at work.  But in 2009, when I relocated to New York, I made two close friends and they both had natural hair that they completely ROCKED! Going natural was a HUGE decision for me. I was one of those women who had a standing appointment with my hairstylist for a relaxer touch-up every six weeks – without fail. But one day, inspired by my natural friends and the other fly naturals I’d encountered in NYC, at my standing appointment, I made the decision to just get a deep conditioning treatment in place of my relaxer.  My stylist was stunned, but she did what I asked.  Seven months later, after struggling with two textures for too long, I went in to the salon for a deep conditioner and chopped my hair off instead.  I’ve been natural ever since.  Looking back on it, I only have one regret: that I didn’t do it sooner.  I LOVE my kinks, curls, and coils (I have about a million textures going on in my hair)!

The natural hair thing is definitely a “journey” and I’ve learned so much along the way.  I have gone from a TWA (teeny-weeny afro) to a huge head of fluffy hair, and people often ask me how I did it.  I have so much to say about this aspect of my life that I could, literally, write a book about it, but – to start – here are a few tips aspiring naturals (or frustrated naturals) might find helpful:

1.    Develop a regimen that works for YOU.

A hair “regimen” is your own personal hair care procedure. The bad news is: when your hair is natural, it requires quite a bit of attention and care.  The good news is: simple is always better than complicated.  When I first went natural, I watched about 200 YouTube videos – tutorials, product reviews, regimen recaps, etc.  I’ll admit that the tutorials were helpful, but in the end, those vids turned me into a product junky.  If I could get back all the money I’ve spent on hair products over the years, I would be a rich woman.  Maybe there are some people who’ve got the discretionary income to drop a couple bills per month on hair products, but I don’t.  And if I’d been paid for all the time I’ve spent on my hair care, I could retire about 30 years early.  There could be some folks who have nothing better to do than sit around and play in their hair, but I do.  So, after A LOT of trial and error, I found a regimen that works for me.  It’s quick, and the products are simple and – best of all – cheap!  You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money on your hair for it to look good. Following someone else’s regimen won’t necessarily solve your problems. You’ve just got to figure out your priorities, budget, and hair type and work around it until you find the thing that works for you.

2.    Be gentle.

On the natural hair journey, it’s important to be gentle to both your HAIR and YOURSELF.  If you want healthy hair, you should treat your hair as carefully as you’d treat your favorite silk blouse or most expensive cashmere sweater. Hair is a delicate fiber. If you don’t care for it properly, hair is prone to break, snag, etc., and you’ll have to be extremely careful with it if you want a healthy full head of hair. My advice is to be gentle with it.  Never brush or comb your hair when it’s completely dry. Cover it with something silky or satiny when you sleep.  Protect it when it’s cold outside. These are just a few things to consider when it comes to being gentle with your hair.  If you simply keep your hair protected, you’d be stunned at how much length you will retain and how quickly it will grow.  But the most important thing to remember on this journey is to be gentle with YOURSELF.  Patience is indeed, a virtue.  Your hair WILL grow, but don’t compare your growth to others.  Don’t get frustrated with yourself or your hair.  Your hair is an extension of yourself.  Embrace your hair and, in turn, embrace who YOU are.

3.    Remember that curls don’t come in a jar or bottle.

Once I finally nailed the regimen that works for me, I was stunned by the attention my hair got.  A day didn’t pass without me receiving a compliment from someone about my hair.  When my hair was relaxed and freshly done, I often received compliments on it.  It was so thick, people thought it was a wig!  But those compliments did not compare to what I heard from people about my natural hair.  Once, a woman on the subway turns to me  “I want my hair to look just like THAT,” she says while pointing at my wash and go.  “What did you do to get your hair that way?” she asked me.  I started to explain and she says, “Wait!” and pulls out a notebook.  She wrote down every word I said.  She wanted to know products and techniques.  I started off with this disclaimer: “I will tell you what I did, but I can’t promise your hair will look like this if you do it.”  My wash and go is mostly the result of my natural curls.  The products I use only enhance the curls and coils that I already have.  If you don’t have the same curls and coils, the products I used on my hair will not help you to get them. It took me awhile to understand this, but curls and coils don’t come in a bottle or a jar.  I mentioned before that I watched a TON of YouTube videos when I first went natural.  The reason I became a product junky is because every time I saw a video that made me envious of someone else’s hair texture, I went out and bought those products hoping my hair would turn out similarly.  But it didn’t.  My hair can only do what it was made to do and no potion in a bottle is going to change that.  The sooner you learn your hair’s texture and learn to love it instead of fighting against it, you’ll become a lot less frustrated with your natural hair.

4.    Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

The key to healthy and beautiful natural hair is moisture.  When my hair was relaxed, I was terrified of water because I didn’t want my hair to revert.  What I’ve discovered since going natural is that my hair absolutely LOVES water.  I mean, it gets happy when the first drop hits it. So what do I do?  I use water-based products every day.  I also mist my hair everyday with a water/coconut oil spritz that I make myself.  My hair soaks it up!  Maybe your hair doesn’t need or want water everyday, but I would strongly suggest at least applying a water-based product to your hair at least a few times per week to quench those thirsty curls.  The more moisturized your hair is, the less likely it is to tangle and break, resulting in optimal length retention.  Moisture also makes your hair look healthier and feel healthier.  Bottom line, dry natural hair is simply no bueno.

5.    Werk it… with confidence!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, figuring out your natural hair takes a lot of trial and error.  You will try things and they won’t work.  You will try some other things and they’ll be a success.  I promise you will have some bad hair days along the way.  But be gentle with yourself when this happens.  The wonderful thing about natural hair is that it’s a lot easier to play off a bad hair day.  Many times the public will be totally in the dark about your hair “fails”.  Your hair might not turn out the way you pictured it, but nobody else knows that… so just go with it!  You can try wraps, hair jewels, hats, headbands, scarves, chandelier earrings, makeup, etc., and they can all add that extra flair to your hair.  But the most important accessory of all is confidence!  No matter what your hair looks like on any given day, remember you are beautiful… and you better WERK!

DATING: I’m dating myself, and it’s the Best… Relationship… EVER! (Well, sorta.)

I am currently involved in the best relationship I’ve had in years. Why? Because I’m dating myself.

Well… I don’t actually take myself out on dates (much), but the person that I do the most for, take the best care of, spend the most time with, and get the most googly-eyed about happens to be yours truly.

Being single sucks. After being involved in several unhealthy relationships that went absolutely nowhere, I took some time off from dating to assess why all my relationships went from sugar to shit in 60 seconds or less. The guys were all very different from one another, and the circumstances behind the dissolution of each relationship were varied. This brought me to the sad realization that the only common denominator in these less than stellar relationships was me. So, I decided to get to know me better, to figure out what I did and did not want from a relationship, and what I could do to improve myself so that even if I was never involved in another romantic relationship with someone of the opposite sex, I’d still be happy with the woman I am.

Better than the next

Since I didn’t exactly have dudes busting down my door to wine and dine me, I had a lot of free time on my hands. So, I started reestablishing and strengthening relationships with family and friends. I read more books and articles, began watching TV shows my friends had been hyping, took up knitting, tried new recipes that I’d been holding onto for months, took myself out to some of the best restaurants in NYC, went to numerous happy hours and dinners with girlfriends (and a few guy friends), and even decided to hit the gym on a regular basis – something I had dreaded before. I started doing all the things I’d always TALKED about, but never got around to doing because I was so wrapped up in a man. After a few months, I discovered that my life was really enriched by all the new things I’d taken on. I really liked the woman that I had become and had picked up some new skills and a slimmer body along the way.

I’d love to tell you that this all change my perspective about dating. But you know what? Being single still sucked.

I live in New York City, the center of everything – fashion, publishing, music, theater, food, etc. – and, believe me, it’s as great as people make it out to be. Right before I left my hometown of DC to escape to Harlem in 2009, I felt I had completely exhausted the DC dating scene. Don’t get me wrong, DC is cosmopolitan, cultural, and cute, but when it comes to dating, DC is a small country town. In the months leading up to my relocation, three of my girlfriends started dating guys only to find out that I had already dated them! That might not seem like a big deal to you, but when you take into account that I haven’t dated many guys at all, the odds that I’d have overlapped with three of my girlfriends just seemed more pathetic than coincidental. I was excited to get to NYC and take up residence in Manhattan. Millions of people are crammed on this island. That means that I should just be able to basically walk outside and bump right into a good dating candidate, right?

Wrong.

There are several fundamental issues with dating in NYC. Here are a few (be mindful that this is not an comprehensive list):

1) When I moved here, I considered myself young, hip, fun, single and ready to mingle, and couldn’t wait to be moving and shaking among other young, hip, fun, single and ready to mingle people. The problem is that the NYC dating market is saturated with young, hip, fun singles, so it takes A LOT to stand out. And, let’s face it, I’m more “Girl Next Door” than I am “Cover Girl”, so I was at a disadvantage from jump. Because if there’s one thing that NYC has a lot of, it’s cover girls. Like real Cover Girls (after all, it is the Model Capital of the world). Hmph.

2) NYC is expensive. This makes dating hard for numerous reasons. First, people work really hard here just to make ends meet. Second, men come here to grind and stack a lot of paper, and that’s their singular focus. I can’t blame them, but that makes it harder for them to concentrate on dating. Plus, since – as we’ve established – NYC is expensive, some guys are reluctant to make the financial commitment dating requires. To have a decent night in NYC, you’re going to drop at least a Benjamin. To have a good night, you’d need twin Benjies. Who’s tryna do all that?!

3) It’s hard to meet people here. In smaller cities, if you’d like to hang out among a certain demographic, you know exactly where to go to find them. For instance, in DC, there are let’s say five hot places where you know people will be on a Friday or Saturday night. So, if you wanna hang out and meet people, then you know you need to go to one of those places. In NYC, there are so many freakin’ spots to hang, there’s never a critical mass of quality people in any one place. That makes it difficult to get access to the datable dudes unless you’re planning to meet someone at school, work, church, etc. And since I am oh so done with school, every man I work with is gay, and I am a trifling backslider that has barely set foot in a church in the last year, those places won’t work for me.

I wish I could say that being single doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that I want to get married. And even more importantly, I want to have babies (preferably after I get married – ain’t no babymamas over here). I need a partner who’s willing to live that dream with me and, unfortunately, he hasn’t come along yet. But, I’m still hopeful. Until then, I’ll keep picking up new hobbies, taking advantage of cultural opportunities, refining my cooking skills, and hitting the gym in an attempt to stand out among the Cover Girls. That way whenever HE comes along, he’ll just be a cherry on top of the already amazing life I have created for myself.