Archive for the ‘All ABout Love’ Category

A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Story

The Good Times versus The Cosby Show is an excellent illustration of the debate over representations of authentic Black life. Black people diverge on their opinions of how authentic each representation is. No one can argue that Good Times presented an obvious reality that Black people experience; however, there are a surprisingly large number of Black people who are skeptical about The Cosby Show‘s representation.

I have been in debates over these shows, I have heard people criticize and critique both shows in the positive and the negative. The only solid conclusion that I have surmised from these conversations is that there is a general misunderstanding about representations and reality.

When Black people are portrayed in films and television, the Black community is usually very vocal about their ideas about these images. Most times it comes down to authenticity and keeping it real. The Black community tends to resist those images that we view as misconstruing Black life. However, we often neglect the fact that Black life is just as multifaceted as that of any other culture. Black lives, like everyone else’s, is affected by socioeconomic status, regional geography, ascribed ideologies, and subjective family upbringing. For instance, I have friends from Black families that always sat down for dinner; I have those who will say that their family ate dinner in front of the television; and I have those who say that everyone in their family ate at different times and places. So which would be the authentic reality to be used to represent Black family life on television or in the movies? Both.

The Backdrop

Good Times is about a poor Black family living in the projects. The subject matter of the show included gangs, venereal diseases, Black Jesus, and school integration. The Cosby Show is about a Black family living in the suburbs. The subject matter of the show included learning disabilities, HBCUs, and Black history topics. One of the most interesting things about both of these shows is how socioeconomic status is used as a backdrop for the true substance of the show which is the Black family being portrayed.

james-floridaGood Times aired in 1974 which was just after the creation of Section 8 programs for subsidized housing. The Evans family lived in a housing project (implied through the visuals of the shows opening as Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago). Therefore, it is clear that the socioeconomic backdrop for the Evans family in Good Times that of a lower economic status. Much of the humor of the shows makes fun of the commonalities of being poor. However, both Florida and James Evans are hard working, loving partners and parents to their children. Despite their economic status they demand respect, hard work, and responsibility from their children. This family dynamic is the heart of Good Times; poverty is simply the backdrop.

The Cosby Show‘s backdrop is at the other end of the spectrum from Good Times. The Huxtables live in Brooklyn Heights, New York, a noted upper middle class area.cliff-claire Cliff is a physician and Claire is an attorney. While their upper middle class lifestyle takes away the struggle of just trying to make ends meet, the most humorous episodes surround the struggles of parenting. Cliff and Claire are loving partners and parents to their children. They demand respect, hard work, and responsibility from their children. This family dynamic is the heart of The Cosby Show; being upper middle class is simply the backdrop.

Most of the debates I have heard regarding Good Times and The Cosby Show neglect to mention that the most substantive part of both shows (which makes them more in common than not) is the struggles and triumphs of two Black people raising children and maintaining a family and that is deeper and more important than socioeconomics on any day.

The Forefront

At the forefront of these shows is that the most important representations that they set forth are exactly the same and have become almost obsolete in many television representations of Black people: loving sustained commitment.

The heart of both of these shows was the loving relationship between the parents and how they together conspired to raise a family. The evidence of this is scene in the quick decline of Good Times when the show’s producers decided to kill James off and sent Florida away with a new lover. Contrary to the producers believing J.J. as the ratings draw, without the parents as the center of the show’s storyline the ratings plummeted. That is because the show that had appealed to so many wasn’t just about the laughs and the poverty, it was about a loving Black couple raising a family. I would also guess this to be the reason why The Cosby Show lasted so long despite the children growing up and leaving home. So what we, in the Black community, often miss is that reality is not rooted in our financial circumstances but in our relationships.

The Problem

Good Times was the first show featuring a Black family to become popular in the mainstream while The Cosby Show was the first show featuring a Black family that was not entrenched in poverty to become popular in the mainstream. The two shows have little relevance for a comparison as they both are equally as important in the history of Black media. It is what takes place after the advent of these two shows that is what is the chief concern because after these shows and others proved that Black people could be the stars of a show and gain the interest of the entire American populace, something began to consciously happen to the images of Black people in the media.

Because of our obsession with authenticity and the fact that our reality is almost always depicted in our struggles, the media gave us what we wanted. However, the issue is not whether the representations are authentic or illustrate some objective fact about Black life. The issue comes down to the answers to specific questions about each representation: why certain representations are chosen?; why certain representations are shown more than others?; and who chose the images being represented? We have to acknowledge that representations are constructed consciously due to the fact that media images are meant to cause certain reactions in the viewers.

The Point

Authenticity is not the central issue of Black representations. The central issue is consciousness behind the representations and the affects that those representations will have on the Black community. Both Good Times and The Cosby Show depict conscious efforts to portray Black life through different backdrops with the same motive: to display love between Black people in contrast to the “reality” that is fed to us by the news and the media images that use these depictions as a definition of our reality. Poverty is a part of many Black people’s realities just as education and material success is a part of many Black people’s realities. The fact that we had the opportunity to portray these images to the world while maintaining a context of love, respect, encouragement, and hope (which are a part of every Black person’s lives) is what matters most and it also what we need most. We have entered a loveless age that is hellbent on depicting Black people as incapable of love, but the reality is that we have always been and will always be a people who have survived because of love. That is a reality that needs to always be represented.

I’m not sayin: I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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The Story

I mostly wanted to see this movie because it was so talked about and a number of friends had really enjoyed the film. A female friend of mine called me one day and asked if I had seen the film and I told her that I hadn’t and wasn’t planning to and she went off on this rant about how she really wanted me to see it so that we could dialogue about it and that she wanted “to be loved like that.” I knew I would have to eventually see it if for no other reason than for the two of us to have an intelligent discussion about it. I also was extremely curious about this Black love story.

Where’s The Love Story

I kept waiting for the love story and never found it. I saw a Black man looking for his wife and, for me,

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that was not at all mind-blowing. I’m not sure if that is because I am a Black male or if that is because I have grown up with images and models of Black men who loved women and were dedicated to the women they married.

I don’t know.

My friend and I discussed this the other night. After a few minutes of us ping ponging points because she stated that this was the best depiction of a Black romance in the last decade and I argued that I thought even Tyler Perry movies displayed more romantic and loving Black relationships than this movie did. But then she said something that I think went to the heart of what she saw in Django and Broohilda’s story. She said that there was a desperation in his desire to get to her that caused him to day dream about her and do whatever he had to do to get to her. I listened and I said that I understood her point but who aspires for desperation? For me, there wasn’t enough expression of tenderness in his desire for her to make me believe it was absolutely about love.

Intention is Important

She was not the only person to say that they were impacted by all Django went through to get his wife back and the fact that she was in his thoughts constantly. However, I do not believe that this is always about love. People are complex and contradictory. Simply because we each have our own opinions and perspective that shape our reality. Therefore, what a person may appear to do for one reason may mean something entirely to them internally. Why is the most important question and it is a question only that person can answer.

People can have a number of motivations for the things that they do which may contradict the actions that they do. For example a person may feel that stealing is wrong, but there may come a time that they will steal (to feed their children or for their own survival). In the movie Django becomes something of a slave hero because he takes down some cruel slave owners. However, the question is: why does he do that? It’s obvious he isn’t doing because slavery is wrong and he is trying to take down any and all slave masters. He is doing because these people get in the way of his quest to find Broomhilda and/or because they enslaved or tried to enslave him. Therefore, I question whether or not his quest for Broomhilda is because he loves her or if it is because it is his wife and no one had the right to separate them. I think this nuance makes a difference.

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The Representation of Black Love

Representation is an important thing for Black people in America. We have to be very critical of the images that are portrayed in regards to us in any context. These images impact not just non-Black people’s perceptions, but our own as well.

For example, the archetype of the Black Mammy: the full figured, big breasted, fat cheeked Black woman who is an expert at domestic duties and motherwit was developed during the antebellum era despite the fact that historical data show that most of the Black women who worked in these roles were young, under-developed Black girls. However, because this archetype persisted in film and television, by the 1900’s reality had followed suit.

The representation of Black love and marriage presented in Django is problematic on an intellectual level. While it is always wonderful to see a Black woman and Black man in a positive loving context, it is still deserving of some critical analysis. That said, Django and Broomhilda’s relationship has an extremely patriarchal undertone.

Django is the angry, arrogant, emotionally distant, reckless, and violent tough guy out to take back what belongs to him: his wife. He is too determined to give up and he is too strong to show any mercy or kindness.

The majority of Broomhilda’s appearances on screen are silent and submissive. She is the silent fantasy that drives Django on his journey. She is the fragile feminine creature who is held hostage as a ransom against Django’s fury. She is the prize that awaits him on horseback as he kills the last of the bad guys inside the house.

Broomhilda is the docile damsel in distress who (aside from the mentioned run away attempt that she makes from Candie Land before she realizes that Django is alive and is there) waits for the man to come and rescue her.

It is understood that this movie is not about slavery but simply a nostalgic western tale set in the antebellum era. So, ofcourse, some of this guy saves girl thing is to be expected. I am not knocking the fantasy of such a relationship, I am speaking more to that fact that so many Black people were smitten with the depiction and made real life connections with what is clearly a very fictional and somewhat stereotypical relationship.

The Point

Django and Broomhilda’s love story is entertaining at best. It wasn’t unconventional or interesting. It was a standard western romance with brown faces. I would rather have seen a brown faced version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

That was an interesting and insightful love story. Both the husband and wife are strong, independent, capable characters who, judging from their fight scenes, are equals in terms of skill and intelligence. At the end they join forces and stand back to back shooting down the people that opposed their marriage because they’d rather die fighting together than for one of them to escape while the other sacrifices themselves as a distraction. Nice.

I would not say that the story is not about Django and Broomhilda; I think it is. I would say that it is not inteded to be a love story; I think it is. I just don’t think it was a beautiful, moving love story worth raving about. I do not think that it offered anything for anyone to pattern their desired romance after. If anything it is simply a camp western romance that can be enjoyable, but must be accepted with an understanding that it is not meant to be realistic and offers no realistic insight into the nature of relationships.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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A series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.

The Story

Time and time again I have seen Black people maintain lifelong friendships but fail to accomplish this is their romantic connections. Friendships are a type of relationship. Friendships, like any relationship, require honesty, autonomy, and love to flourish. If friendships are so similar to romantic relationships, then why does this happen? The sustained commitment that we exercise in our friendships is lacking in our romantic relationships.

Friendships

Friendships are approached differently than the way we approach romantic relationships. I have often likened our approach to romantic relationships to a job interview. We engage romantic opportunities with a hidden agenda to impress, convince, and get the most for having given the least. When we approach friendships, however, we come with less of an agenda and more of a willingness to explore a connection and take it or leave it. We don’t expect to get more than we give nor do we allow ourselves to give more than we get. It is off of this mutual respect and understanding that friends begin to develop their connection.

When our friends first disappoint us, we often do not immediately think that they should be disposed of. We may distance ourselves or spend some time apart to allow heightened emotions to subside but we are usually more willing to come back from those offenses or hurts. We also are more candid about how we feel and do not feel guilty saying, without ultimatum, ‘that wasn’t cool.’ It is this honesty that draws us closed to one another.

Something special happens in a connection between two people when there is an understanding that every mistake will not be held over their head and every offense will not spell the end of the relationship. The removal of that bondage liberates a person to be who they are, with whatever attributes and flaws they possess at the time, and learn and grow in a space of love — knowing that their loved one is not looking for reasons to deny them love.

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My godmother and my mother had one of the best relationships. In one moment they could be cursing at each and telling each other “shut the hell up” and “I’ll do what the fuck I wanna do.” And the next minute they would be agreeing to see each other for a cup of coffee. One conversation with either of then will reveal how well they know each other (flaws and all) and how they have never had a better friend. That’s love.

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I often think of my sister’s relationship with her best friend. The two found each other during their turbulent teens. My sister having growing up in the suburbs that my mother had left the Bronx to offer her and her friend from the grit of the projects that her mother was unable to save her from. What seemed an unlikely pair developed a bond so strong that years later after love gained and lost they would witness the birth of each other’s children (with and without the fathers present).

What stands out most to me about their relationship is the honesty (sometimes brutal) that they have with each other. Neither coddles the other with superficial evaluations of their actions. When one thinks that the other us wrong, she will look her friend in the eye unflinching and without any sugar coating lay her thoughts before her friend. I have seen these conversations become yelling and cursing matched ending in one going one way and the other going another way. Within days or hours you can find them laughing and talking as if nothing had changed. The truth, nothing had changed. They’d simply disagreed. And that’s bound to happen between any two individuals.

Homeboys

My father had several close friends. I’m not sure which one if any or all were my godfather but I considered them all to be. It always fascinated me that although he and my godfathers were just as candid with each other as my mother was with my godmother, they disagreed differently. As men they didn’t have the same banter, when they disagreed it was often with a sense of humor and kept a light note which one would end the conversation saying “Aw man get the fuck outta here.” Usually the banter would stop then unless the argument was serious at which point it escalated and both made gestures and used tones that let it be known that the argument had gone to the next level. As friends they usually parted physical presence and may not speak for a day it so but with the certainty of a sunrise, one would eventually show up and start a general conversation and the return of their normal jovial interaction would signal that all was okay.

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One of my best friends and I often have silent arguments. We might disagree verbally and at a certain point in the disagreement we would walk away from each other. Depending on how angry we were we might not speak besides exchanging cordial greetings. Then one day one of us would call the other and begin a conversation and the other would respond and before we knew it we would be back to normal. Rarely have these disagreements needed any further discussion. When they did we approached them fairly diplomatically beginning with “Yo, that shit wasn’t cool man…” From there we would have a less heated version of the conversation that we both could approach objectively. If nothing else we could always commit to coming back to one another and being willing to continue the friendship.

The Problem

Romantic relationships have more levels of intimacy. We also bring more baggage and insecurities into romantic relationships which often make disagreements feel heightened. We take what our romantic partners say and do much more personally (which is understandable); however, we are also quick to dismiss and push those people out of their place in our lives. Unlike our friendships we are less forgiving and willing to maintain the relationship when we are offended.

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I would argue that it is both revolutionary and courageous for any two Black people to engage in a romantic relationship. Black folks have layers of insecurities that range from complexion complexes to class concerns as well as general romantic fears of abandonment and cheating. It is a task to allow another person so close to you without attacking them at every turn when you are existing in a society that makes defense you best method of survival (and the best defense is, ofcourse, an offense). It is no menial task to merge with another individual when you’re own identity and self esteem has been made fragile from living in a world that constantly defines itself but why you’re not.

This is why I shake my head when I hear amateur lovers say “it shouldn’t be this hard,” “love isn’t supposed to hurt,” or “I’m not going through all that.” Because essentially they have condemned themselves to a life without beauty of a sustained committed romantic relationship. In a truly loving relationship both parties values the others’ esteem and perspective as much as their own. Together merge with a measure of give and take and develop a standard for their relationship that may be different from their individual standards but is mutually adhered to and works for the dynamic of the two personalities working together. This is how most friendships work. We often will take a fair amount of crap from our friends that we cherish that we wouldn’t dare accept from anyone else; however, this is a loved one and the value of that connection makes them not anyone else.

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Part of the reason we have developed these false superficial ideas about love is because of the self-esteem overdose of popular opinion that seeks to empower our internal value through an excessive emphasis on individualism and selfishness. Instead of being assertive and confident we become demanding, dominating, argumentative and judgmental. Anything our romantic partner brings to the relationship that challenges out self-esteem or pushes against our insecurities, we find offensive and defend ourselves to the extreme.

So instead of having healthy, confident self-esteem, these individuals become emotional tyrants that dominate relationships with their overbearing insistence upon themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving ones self and having standards for ones self; however, relationships aren’t about one individual. Therefore, it’s no longer just one person’s standards and one person’s self-esteem. When we should let some things go, we hold onto that painful moment. When we should allow them to come back and make amends, we belittle and demean them for their mistake. We are ruthless in our defenses and merciless in our reconciliation.

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The Point

Commitment isn’t about right and wrong; it isn’t about fair; it isn’t about our self worth; and isn’t about what we deserve. Commitment is about the willingness to sustain a relationship. Sometimes that means swallowing our pride and asking forgiveness (in any manner) and sometimes it’s about keeping our arms open to those we love despite the lack of guarantee that they won’t hurt us again. Commitment is about “stick and stay” as my grandmother called it. It’s about valuing a connection beyond our insecurities, pain, and fears.

Sustaining that commitment takes understanding, forgiveness, and, most of all, genuine care. When are committed to sustaining a commitment we make sacrifices, we let things go, we forgive, and we move forward. The willingness to sustain a commitment does not come from love. The willingness to sustain a commitment comes from a personal value of the trust in the relationship that tells us that this person has never intended to hurt us and that given the chance they would not hurt us (this way) again. That is all that one can ask of person: to understand that we are all spirits on a physical journey of learning and loving and that they give us the chance to learn and never stop loving us.

I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.

The Story

After watching the latest episode of Scandal, I was sent into thought by Mellie’s plight.

When Mellie says, “You don’t have to love me. But we are in this hell together and the flames are burning both of us with equal intensity, baby, so the least you could do is be my friend — just a little bit. The least you could do is show up, show up for me.” That moment hit home for me. There are times in relationships when things get so dysfunctional that you start to feel that you almost forget how you ever came to love that person. And, as emotions begin to wane, we make excuses to justify why we refuse to do all the things we used to do (you know the ones that make the relationship work). But then if we stop doing those things aren’t we as much to blame for the failure of the relationship. A dysfunctional/bad/dying relationship is still a relationship and as long as we’re in it, we should continue to do what we have committed ourselves to doing when we started the relationship because what does love/affection actually have to do with commitment?

Commitment

 Commitment is like trust: it’s a choice. It’s a purely individual choice that should not be built on a pretense of some specific response. You commit because it’s what you choose to do and you uphold that commitment because that is what you choose to do (the honorable thing to do, I might add). The commitment isn’t about controlled responses or specific actions. Hell, it isn’t even about love. Commitment is about us doing our part. And if we are focused on doing our part, we should have so much to keep us busy we cannot possibly police our partners efforts to do their part. If they are committed then they will show up and if they do not then address their lack of commitment and decide if the two of you should be in a relationship at all.

We often confuse commitment with control. We say we want someone who is committed and/or consistent but we are really saying is that we want someone who will act the way we want them to act and do the things we want them to do when we want them to do it. We think that means something. We think that means that the other person is worth our time and our efforts to build a relationship. We are trying to quantify emotions and justify our participation in the relationship. And God help the individual who cannot figure out and chooses not to give us what we want, because we will leave so quickly (and usually so viciously) that one would have to wonder if we ever loved them.

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But I submit to you that a relationship is a commitment and not a trade off. We cannot go into relationships looking to emotionally barter for the things we want. We should go into the relationship because we want to share a life with that person and are committed to doing so. And if for some reason we decide that we no longer want that relationship, it is better to leave than to try to punish or manipulate that person into doing the things that make the commitment desirable for us. That is a perversion of commitment that results in romantic possession.

Possession

We live in an imperialistic society. America is all about aggression, competition, and domination. As individuals, we allow that mindset to saturate our thoughts about how to approach everything in life. Therefore, we go into relationship with a battle mentality — which wouldn’t be so bad if we chose the right enemy. The problem is instead of battling public opinion and social norms, we fight each other. We go into relationships determined to to create this ideal relationship that we have in mind and to get this person (who we may love and genuinely want to be with) to be what we think they should be — ofcourse this is dictated by our ideal relationship. And every now and then we will listen to the other person’s ideas about relationships and if they do not match ours we endeavor to convince, persuade, debate, and/0r force them to think about like we do or at least submit to doing it our way.

So, then, the commitment becomes not only about control but a battle for possession. We begin to use the relationship to possess the other person. We manufacture arguments and issues to shame and guilt our romantic partners into seeing things our way. We twist and reshape perceptions of events to prove the point that we were right all along and our romantic partner should have seen that long ago and we wouldn’t have the problems we have. In relationships no one owes us anything. What we do for our romantic partners and our relationships should be done because it pleases us to do it. Not because of something  our partners do or something we expect them to do. That is a corruption of the relationship that commodifies the relationship and makes it a good to be disposed of when it stops working.

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The Problem

The problem is that we won’t accept that building a relationship is a process that is altogether different than anything else we might do in life. The relationship is at least 80% about commitment. It’s probably 10% about love and 10% about timing. As Americans we have grown to be some of the most spoiled, irresponsible, and lazy people on the planet. We, with our privilege and superiority complexes, think that nothing should be exceptionally hard and that we deserve the best of everything just because we do. Actually most everything really good is really hard. And that which we deserve is relative to something that we have done to earn it.

As great as we think we are (and sometimes we can be), someone else is great, too. If we could find a way to connect with one another in a way that isn’t about competing, dominating, and manipulating to get what we want, we might find ourselves able to develop meaningful relationships that hold a lifetime of value. It is no great secret why past generations had more successful marriages and partnerships — even the ones that weren’t love at first sight (i.e. arranged marriages). Those people honored commitment and they understood relationships.

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The Point

Anyone who watches the show Scandal knows that President Grant is not at all in love with his wife (as he is in love with Olivia Pope) and it is questionable whether his wife is in love with him or simply using him for political gain; however, what she said in that scene was more poignant because of the lack of love/romance in their relationship. What she saying in other words is ‘we’re married/in a commitment and with or without the love, you should show up and be present in this relationship.’ That’s heavy because, she’s right. And by the end of the episode President Grant does show up for her and it is tender moment that speaks volumes. It shows us that love shouldn’t be the only inspiration to “do the right thing” or to show up and give effort to a relationship. So, then, I would imagine if we could get to that point of honor the commitment of our relationships unselfishly, without pretense, and regardless of love, then imagine what two people who are in love might accomplish.

Love and affection and all those right and wonderful things our romantic partners do make our efforts worthwhile and they give us a sense of satisfaction about the relationship, but, at the end of the day, they can’t be the motivation to do those things. We have to choose to do them and to choose to do them even when there is not immediate gratification. Love and relationships aren’t destinations at which we arrive, they’re evolving journeys that constantly require our attention and our commitment in order to get the rewards we desire. Perhaps the next time, we should, for the hell of it, commit without pretense and without judgment. I’d be willing to bet that even if the relationship doesn’t last forever, we would walk away much more enriched and with a lot less emotional baggage.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.

If only real life love stories began and ended the way we think they do or should. But alas, they hardly ever do.

The Story

I have heard my share and had my share of love gained and love lost and I can say that it has never happened the way I thought it would not has it ended in the way I thought it would. However, what I have learned is that I’m not alone in my experiences.

I have recently spoken with quite a few friends about relationships. More than a few have what they call “a fear of abandonment.” I, myself, once thought I had such a fear. But then I had a series of romantic experiences that changed my view. But in listening to my friends I found it strange that, however different the scenarios and relationships were, they all seemed to confess this fear of abandonment and the eccentricities that trying to defend against it causes.

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Fear of Abandonment

I have said more times than a few that we are living in a graceless and loveless age in society. We have lost touch with what’s really important and as a result we have forgotten how to relate to, empathize with, and connect with one another.

When I hear people speak of abandonment now what I see is not really the traditional fear of abandonment…what we are really afraid if is loving and not being loved in return. We fear having our affections being taken advantage of. We fear needing someone who doesn’t need us. We fear wanting someone who doesn’t want us. And while those fears are not unnatural, our responses are.

There was a time when romantic fears did not cause us to discredit love and blame it for our woes. There was a time when things were broken we fixed them — in ourselves and in others. There was a time when love was enough to justify holding on, trying harder, and not giving up. Now…well now our egos won’t let us keep trying because we’re more concerned with our image and pride. We wouldn’t dare take a chance on someone or something that cannot be tangibly quantified. And that is why we lose out on love. Love isn’t tangible; love isn’t quantifiable; love isn’t logical; love isn’t rational; and love needs no justification.

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When we put love on trial, we lose. Because love has done nothing wrong. Love is always honest and pure. It is us who twist, corrupt, pollute, and pervert love. And it’s really quite silly. How does one challenge or demand if a force of nature. That’s like standing in a hurricane and demanding it not tear asunder the ground beneath it; you can try it but you’ll probably kill yourself and the hurricane will move on.

The Problem

The truth about the fear of abandonment is that we are not truly scared if being left alone. By a certain age in life we have been alone often enough and have been left and have left often enough to know exactly what to do when it happens. What we are really looking for is that person with whom we can build and share a life with. But instead of approaching love and romance in the humble reverence of the force that it is, we come with aggression, manipulation, defensiveness, and demands. We want love and our potential romantic partners to give us guarantees. But there are no guarantees in love. We want love and our potential romantic partners to prove themselves worthy of our love. Well everyone is deserving of love, whether or not you choose to give them yours is completely up to you. That is about you deciding that however this ends I believe it will have been worth it to atleast try.

So that fear of abandonment is actually out a fear of ourselves. Something has happened to make us distrust our own judgment and because we can’t trust ourselves to choose the right partner or to recover from having chosen the wrong one, we take it out on love and our romantic partners. That behavior is sure to run anyone away but for us it serves as proof that we were right: nobody can be trusted and nobody stays.

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The Point

If we do not confront the truth of our fears through brutally honest thought and introspection, we will never find the love or romance we long for. We will forever be in and out of superficial flings that never last and always feed our insecurity. Until we grow up and start taking responsibility for the life and love we want and acknowledging that it is created out of our perception and will, we will limp along as lost hearts propped up on a crutch of abandonment fears. That is the truth about love and the fear of abandonment. So many times we cannot see the forest for the trees. That’s because popular opinions about love are at odds with the truth…and something inside us always knows and longs for the truth.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.

Oh they gonna hate me for this one…

The Story

Recently the conversation about infidelity has come a few times. I entered a Facebook debate about the lead character of Scandal, Olivia Pope, and whether or not she represented a “sidechick.” Naturally, I first wanted to define the term sidechick and what it means to be with one (because its a colloquial term and its subject to different meanings). However, for me, what the conversation came down to was whether or not Olivia and Fitz’s relationship could be considered cheating. The show’s plot is more complex than just making the two characters the participants of an illicit affair. The two characters are in love as well as in the public eye and because of the public nature of their lives, they cannot be together at the moment. Fitz’s wife knows about the relationship and Fitz himself has told his wife that he is in love with Olivia and, if not for the threat to his position as President, he would leave his wife and be with Olivia.Olivia_Fitz_Scandal

On the reality side there has been a lot of recent conversation about Dwayne Wade and his girlfriend of 4 years, Gabrielle Union. It was publicly announced that Wade had recently become a father again with a woman that was not Union. Wade’s original statement that the child was conceived during a break in the relationship has been refuted and the media has generally accepted the position that Wade cheated on Union. Neither Union or her ‘people’ have made any statements regarding the news. However, Union made a very obvious statement in her acceptance of Wade’s proposal this December. So, ofcourse, the buzz has become a flurry of questions about whether or not Union should marry her cheating (alleged) boyfriend.

In both instances, with the fictional Olivia Pope as well as with Gabrielle Union, I have reserved the opinion that neither is foolish, or dumb, or wrong for continuing their relationships with the men they love. My point is that relationships are complex and almost never black-and-white and infidelity is no different.

The Problem

Infidelity, is about loyalty and a failure to fulfill one’s obligations to another. I do not argue with this notion. However, who can say that they have never failed at meeting an obligation, for whatever reason? So, what makes it different when we talk about relationships? The major difference that comes when we use the term in reference to relationships is based on the way that we view relationships.gabrielle-union-dwayne-wade

In our imperialistic capitalistic society, everything tends to become a possession to be commodified, including relationships. We only befriend those that we will feel will advance our causes or help us to attain some goal — whether that is financial, emotional, or social. We only choose the jobs that are prestigious and add to our career advancement. We only participate in those activities that allow us to present a grand lifestyle to the world. In short, everything comes with a purpose. We rarely do anything for passion or the sake of someone else. When we approach people and relationships like this, we are destined to lose. No one wants to be a slave. And that is what we will make them if we can only view them for their value to us or our lives.

In short, we are selfish. And what’s worse is that this idea is fostered by society. We are told to do so. we are told that if we don’t look for ourselves no one else will — a lie. We are told that our every act of selfishness is about self preservation, which is natural — a lie. Certainly there must be a level of concern for one’s well being, but when it comes to emotions, we often don’t know what is best or most healthy. We’re all just guessing. And we neglect the fact that no 2 situations are ever the same; what might a healthy act of self preservation in one situation is just a willful selfishness in another. There is nothing black-and-white about matters of the heart.

Infidelity

We do not always find our great loves the first time around; however, when we find them, we know it. That emotion we feel for that person will inspire a level of commitment and connection to that individual. This connection cannot always be demonstrated or dictated by holding a certain title or position in that person’s life. That wouldn’t make the two people any less connected just as getting married doesn’t make to be fall in love with one another (or stay there). Olivia and Fitz on Scandal are the star-crossed lovers who are always missing one another. When one is ready to throw caution to the wind and pursue their love at all costs, the other is usually not in that same frame of mind. The one constant is that they remains supportive of one another and their love for one another endures. At the heart of any relationship, that is all that really matters.fitzolivia

When love is seen as a commodity, we feel we have to consume that person. They are our property and we don’t want to share. It’s because we love them and want them and value the connection with them, but often it gets expressed in a possessing of that person. Therefore, infidelity is  viewed as a theft of what belongs to us. Honestly, anyone who could possibly objectively say that infidelity is an automatic reason for ending a relationship is looking at the relationships as a commodity: something they own. The details of Union and Wade’s situation is largely unknown; yet, the public has stood as judge and jury sentencing not only Wade but the relationship to death. There are so many negative emotions and issues surrounding infidelity, but if we see it as a poor choice a person has made or their failure to live up to their obligations, a story unfolds. this story considers that this person is a person and at all times has the choices. The reason they have made the choice they did is where the true problem lies. In Union and Wade’s case, the true problem was obviously something that could be surmounted — and that is what they intend to do. And how anyone can not see the beauty in two people overcoming their own demons and struggles together, I’ll never understand.

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It is easy to stand outside a situation and criticize those who are living the life that we voyeuristically watching. It is easy to use any and every publicly acceptable excuse to resign from the hard work of building a relationship with someone. It is easy to give up as soon as we find out our potential romantic partner is as flawed as we are. It’s easy to be selfish and to think only of ourselves, but that is the complete opposite of what a relationship is. Relationships are about connections of sustained commitment to other people and in that it requires a commitment to the consideration of both parties by both parties.

There is nothing more tragic than a person with a big heart and a small mind. our potential for love s limited by our ability to conceive of it n its truest form. Until we can see love beyond labels, titles, and ownership, we will continue to experience romance superficially. There is no tangible value through act or word that can measure the infinite potential and power of true love. A selfish person rarely realizes that no one wants to be with someone who will at every turn always choose themselves over the other person and the relationship. That in every moment of failure their partner will abandon them emotionally and/or physically. No one is signing up for that. To expect someone to always live up to our idealized fantasies about relationships places a superficial value on something that is priceless. I do not propose that anyone should allow themselves to be degraded or become someone’s doormat; I’m proposing that every poor choice; every bad decision; every failure is not black-and-white. It’s all actually some shade of gray. If we are truly seeking a loving connection and romantic partnership that defies the odds, then we will have to defy the opposition. When giving up stops becoming an option, succeeding does.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20130726-084410.jpgA series named in tribute to Bell Hooks. Love is a subject that is often discussed in the most trivial and superficial terms. Love, as a subject matter, especially from a Black perspective, hardly ever includes discussions regarding the nature of love, the function of love, the purpose of love, or the relevance of love. All we ever talk about is how we want it, have it, never had it, or keep losing it. We are right to see lack of love as a concern; we just have to choose the right angle for exploring solutions. Here is where that happens.

The Story

No one can argue that communication is essential to the success of a relationship; however, how we define communication is often where the problem with communication lies.

In order for communication to be effective a message has to be effectively given from one end and received and understood from another end. All too often we feel that if communicate our thoughts we have been effective in communication. But if the message is never received or understood by the person with whom we are trying to communicate, then we have not communicated: we’ve only expressed ourselves. There is nothing wrong with expressing one’s self, but cannot be assumed that everyone understands what we are expressing. Communication is a dynamic that requires that both the sender and a receiver understand the message.

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Communication

It has been proven that there are many ways to communicate. Any communication research will support this fact. However, there are a number of theories about how to define those various modes of communication. I once read an insightful book that was written by Gary Chapman in the ’90’s called Love Languages. The author asserts that everyone has their own romantic language. In order for an individual to feel loved, it has to be communicated in a language that they can understand. The book offers several suggestions on love languages. The author stated that there are 5 love languages: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman has since extended his theory to include the language of apology and the language of appreciation that he angles towards workplace communication.

I don’t endeavor here to evaluate or analyze the details of the love languages (maybe in another post if the readers want it). What I am affirming is that we all communicate differently. We all experience the feeling of love differently and these messages are communicated and received differently. There is no right way to communicate.

The Problem

Most communication issues arise from a reluctance to accept that our perspective is not the only perspective. We forget that our perspective is built upon out own subjective experiences and that without those specific experiences we might have a totally different perspective.

To enter into a romantic relationship clinging only to out own perspectives is to sentence the relationship to death. Two completely different people cannot exist under the consideration of only one person’s perspective. Both parties have to be willing to learn, understand, and accept a perspective outside their own no matter how preposterous it may seem individually.

Emotions are varied and personal and they must be validated in order to allow each person in the relationship to blossom and feel safe exposing their personal feelings. When either person does not feel this freedom, they are emotionally backed into a corner and pressured to commit emotional suicide. It denies them their right to think for themselves and feel whatever they feel. It tells them that the feelings that are very real to them are wrong. And that will force them to choose their own emotional survival over the relationship. There isn’t a creature alive that doesn’t choose to fight with all their might to save themselves from death.

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The Point

If we could get over ourselves long enough to stop looking for reasons to not give and receive, we would find that communication, like love, takes effort and willingness. No two interactions will work the same and there is no universal right way to love or communicate. The goal for communication must be mutual understanding and until that goal is reached both parties have work to do. That work must be accomplished by any means necessary.

We have often said that communication is a two street. That is slightly true. Communication is two streets; however those two streets are not always parallel. Communication is more like an intersection of streets. There is the possibility of a parallel but it is just as possible that the other street is coming from an entirely opposite origin heading in a completely different direction from the one that we travel. Love is the stoplight that brings us to a halt in the midst of others and we have consider where the other car is coming from and where it is going before we can understand how we might go in the same direction towards the same destination.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man