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13 Reasons I Love Black Men

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I’m feeling a little Angie Stone-esque with this post. I concluded a few months ago that I really don’t show enough outward appreciation to my black brothas. In fact, I flirted with the line of hate and disdain. Why? Mostly because I held onto the negative advertised image of black men these days. I believed and perpetuated the lazy, violent, non-kid-raising, womanizing stereotypes that I’d seen and heard from the black men around me. But that’s not who the black man is at his core. And that’s not the only story I saw once I opened my eyes a bit wider. To all the black men I know who have touched my life positively, I want to say truthfully from the deepest depths of my soul, I Love You. I need you. I respect you. And I appreciate you. But that’s just the problem isn’t it fellas? I’m keeping it locked up and tucked away. Well, it’s time to let the world–and you–know how I feel and why. Because Love locked away and unexpressed might as well be hate. So consider this post a proverbial embrace–a kiss on the cheek just for being you.

I Love black men…

13. … for their cool

I’m going to tell you guys the real reason I voted for Barack Obama. Although I read up on them, it wasn’t completely because of his policies. It wasn’t because he reignited a belief in Hope or Change. And it wasn’t because he is an attractive guy. No. I voted for Barack Obama because he’s just so damn cool. There is something in the walk and talk of a black man that the world finds definable only by the word swagger. And even that word doesn’t quite do you justice. It is an indelible and endearing quality that’s got the world wanting what you’ve got in your back pocket. From politics, to sports, to entertainment, to business, to the pulpit–when a black man leads, people follow. He is the ultimate trendsetter. And it’s this cool that will continue to change the world.

12. …for staying good men even when we don’t believe you exist

You know how they say good guys finish last? That goes for brothas too. If black women are honest with ourselves, we laugh at the ones that are too broke, too short, too unendowed (or unblessed. Hmmm?), too ugly, too emotional, too nice, too Christian, too etc. Even if they are good men! As the black woman increases her education, gets a bit of money in her pocket, and navigates her dreams and goals, we find ourselves looking over the good ones while complaining about how lonely we are and how we’re the least unmarried. Because a lot of us women don’t know what we want. And I know a few good men out there who fight through the slew of black women who think they’re ready for commitment but always date the same kind of black man and then complain about black men as a collective group. I can only imagine how frustrating that has to be. Thank you for hanging in there with us and for putting up with our ignorance and misinformation.

11. …for your persistence in the face of an unjust system

I would like to propose a toast to the ones of you who know firsthand being black on a Tuesday is grounds for police harassment, having a car that’s a little too nice will get you in trouble even if you worked hard and honest to get it, and simply walking into an elevator can cause the old woman next to you to clutch at her purse with every bit of force in her feeble existence. There are parts of this so-called “black experience” that are uniquely yours. And I want to thank you for dealing with the facts of black American life with poise, grace, and a whole lot of comedy. And I give even more kudos to the ones of you who have managed to avoid jail time in spite of a system bent on giving you some.

10. …for your humor

Speaking of comedy, black men are hilarious! From listening to Steve Harvey in the morning to watching old comedy specials of Richard Pryor, I’ve watched and laughed with the black men who choose to fight injustice and racism with politically relevant jokes. Comedians have the right to do and say anything under the guise of humor. And some of them use those opportunities to talk about taboo subject matters. But as we laugh, bonds are broken, stigmas are torn down, prejudices are made light. The best part about it is, when everything’s all said and done, the only thing that hurts are our cheeks from laughing so hard. Thank you for lengthening my life with a much-needed laugh.

9. …for your enlightenment and spirituality

Black folk Love them some G-O-D. And at the head of nearly every church congregation or mosque meeting in our community stands a strong black man. Not every religious leader gets it right. Some are clearly called while others are made. But every once in a while, you get a truly blessed black man using religion as an opportunity to do some things in his community. One such man heads Zion Church in Glenarden, Md–Pastor Keith Battle. Keith Battle gives away offering money to the people in need in his church, makes services accessible and applicable for young people, and talks about topics that other people in the church don’t want to talk about. He is truly an inspiration to me so thank you.

8. …for your Fatherhood

You always hear about the good for nothing brothers who have as many kids as Samuel L. has movies. But you know what? That’s not always the case. Some black men know the truth–parenthood isn’t a choice but an obligation. I work alongside two very dedicated black fathers. Both of them have sacrificed time at work to be nearer to their households and help their wives out with their kids. They truly speak the language of the new black man, the 21st century black man, who does more than bring home the bread and butter. They are ACTIVE and ENGAGED fathers, involved in every bit of the child-rearing process. And I must say, I respect it–so thank you for showing me that.

7. …for your appreciation of us

Although not all black men appreciate black women, the ones who do appreciate us REALLY appreciate us. While mainstream society shuns our hairstyles, our butts, our lips, our walk, and our attitude–the black man has cherished those very same things. The black woman finds herself the object of admiration in many a hip-hop song, R&B album, and neo-soul croon. As Drake profoundly puts it, “…a little attitude problem? It’s all good, it’ll make sh*t last”. The “angry black woman” who might pose a problem for some is a prize for you. I Love it when a black man declares that there’s no other kind of woman that he’d rather have by his side but one of us. And not because there’s anything wrong with any other group of women but just because he prefers the kind of woman who raised him. Because he knows her strength, he knows her glory, he knows her pain, and he shares her story. There’s nothing on Earth like a black man’s Love. Thank you for hollerin’.

6. …for your leadership

From Malcolm and Martin to Medgar and Huey, the revolution has been televised and the Best Supporting Male Lead goes to you. Many of the fallen soldiers on the frontline of this war on racism, have been you. And you’ve lead us with peace, with God, with guns, with words, with art, with Love, with silent protest, with athletic excellence, with academic perfection. Thank you to the black men of the past that sacrificed their lives, their Loves, their dreams, their hopes, so that I could have opportunities not afforded to them. Thank you for always being Kings.

5. …for their entrepreneurial (aka “hustlin”) spirit

As Cassidy raved, a black man could “sell Raid to a bug”. Many a cover of Black Enterprise magazine features the black men who have finessed the world with their business knowledge and innovation. Some of them know how to make money and make it honestly. Although I’m no huge fan of Tyler Perry, the idea behind his monumental success is a brilliant one. Perry found it important to own his movie making studio so that people could never keep him from making movies by refusing him funding. And I respect the hustle.

5. …for your creativity

Andre 3000. Kanye West. Spike Lee. Will Smith. John Legend. Musiq Soulchild. Tupac Shakur. Louis Armstrong. Marvin Gaye. James Baldwin. James Van Der Zee. Aaron Mcgruder. Some say art is more real than life. And the black man has consistently and abundantly contributed to art for life’s sake. Our art forms have transformed the world one canvas at a time. I am inspired and humbled by the beauty in the things the black man creates with his hands. Thank you for your art.

4. …for our shared history

When black women stood up on those auction blocks, it was black men chained next to them. When black women were tired from a long day’s bus boycott, black men were at home to rub tired feet. When black women complained about the itchiness of weave, black men stepped in to take out our sew-ins. We have stood and fought alongside each other since as long as we’ve been on this Earth. I can’t say that about any other kind of man.

3. …for your intelligence

Everyone likes to talk about the brothas that don’t go to college. And I know and Love those black men. But this particular section is for the ones of you that pursued higher education in spite of all the obstacles. This is for the brothas who enjoy reading books and learning about their history, their culture, their contribution to this country. This is for the men who took the things they learned in school with a grain of salt because they understood that education doesn’t always come from a curriculum. I applaud you for educating yourself and for adding to my stimulating conversations–intelligently. Thank you for not being too cool for school.

2. …for your excellence

A person shows true excellence when they succeed in spite of setbacks. Few men in America know setbacks like black men. And yet our people have excelled in all aspects in this country with great help from you. As astronauts and engineers, as professional athletes and hip-hop moguls, as real-estate tycoons and entertainment powerhouses, as men. You have set a standard of excellence that I can only hope to follow. I love you for setting the bar so high.

1. …for being the other half of Black Love

This needs no true explanation. You are apart of me and I, you. To Love you is to Love me. And that’s why I do.

How to Catch a “Catch” in 7 Steps

Mommies warned us about them, Aunties wiped the tears they caused, and friends helped us burn all the things that reminded us of them over a small, contained fire in the backyard. Growing up among women, jerks have gotten just as much notoriety as the Boogie Man. And even though rumor has it they both like to hangout in girl’s closets from time to time,  the difference is jerks actually exist. By now I know all about the jerk’s  natural habitat, native language, and here-today-gone-tomorrow mating ritual. I earned my Master’s degree in who NOT to date long before I even graduated high school. But looking back on it, I can’t say that I’d accumulated the same wealth of information on Mr. Right. I’d only heard of Prince Charming in fairy tales that ended ubiquitously and ambiguously in happily ever after. And considering I never met a real-live Cinderella outside of Disneyland, I figured–like her–he must be fantasy. In other words, if the right guy fell out of the sky with wings, a halo, and a white robe with black lettering that read boldly “PASSION’S SOULMATE”, I’d still ask God for a sign. Mostly because nobody ever told me what to look for in a good man, only what NOT to look for. And maybe nobody taught you either. So I’ve compiled a list of what I consider the 7 habits of highly effective daters when it comes to spotting a catch. So I surveyed 100 people. Okay no I didn’t. I polled my friends in relationships and backed it up with info from experts. But I’d like to think its useful information all the same:

1) Obey the Laws of Attraction

Put simply, attraction IS  important. To some of you, this might sound like a no-brainer. But to others, like me, you might have wondered if turning down good prospects that weren’t too easy on the eyes makes you shallow. According to Aaron Ben-Zeev of Psychology Today, in his article “When Do We Fall in Love?,” he argues invoking romantic love requires the presence of both physical attraction to outward appearance and attraction to a person’s personality traits. So don’t feel bad about turning down the weirdo that sits behind you in Statistics drooling just because he’s probably a nice guy. If the sight of someone’s face makes you want to hurl, there’s little chance for compatibility.

2) Trust Basic Instincts

According to Dr. Sian Beilock , author of Choke a book that looks at the brain and performance, “even when our mind doesn’t realize we made a mistake, our body does.” So why not extrapolate this to the dating game? Well the good daters do! The people who meet their mates listen to that bad feeling, that anxious feeling, or that nauseated feeling (See “Safety vs. Passion“). And they run away from the drama. How many times have you heard someone say “I always knew in the back of my mind, it wasn’t going to work out.” So start bringing what’s in the back to the forefront! Dr. Beilock goes on to talk about how focusing on the outcome (in our case, a good match-up) is more important than analyzing the particulars of the method. Trust that at the end of the day, your body knows what it wants and knows whats best for it.

3) Remember: It Ain’t No Fun if Ya Friends Can’t Have None”

Although this phrase historically sings the praises of sharing sex partners as a means of camaraderie, I’m here to revamp it. For those of us who have made bad decisions in Love, it can sometimes be hard to follow through with step 2. So if you’re a little skeptic of your own opinion, why not look to those you Love and who Love you the most? Share your “catch” with the people in your world. Whether it came from Will Smith or some other notable, many of us are familiar with the saying “you are who you associate with.” In theory then,  you’re closest friends and family members would also get along with and like your most significant other. And it makes for a more drama-free, easy-going  relationship, when you don’t always have to decide between your family and your girlfriend or your friends and your boyfriend.

4) Everyone Loves a Comple[te]ment

In geometry, there’s  a concept called complementary angles (yeah, I know I didn’t do well in that class either). It involves 2 angles that always add up to a Right Angle (90°). That means if one angle equals 60° the other angle will equal 30°. And the amount of one angle always changes to complement the other. They work together. When looking for a mate, a good dater looks for their complement. Where you’re weak, the other person is strong & vice versa. This assures that you + them always = RIGHT! So even though you should come into a relationship already complete, a good complement gives a sense of wholeness that’s not accomplished on your own.

5) R-E-S-P-E-C-T

That’s all Aretha asked for–just a little bit. And I definitely think her head was in the right place. A loving relationship without mutual respect is like apple pie without the a la mode–not quite good enough. Sweet but not satiating. You’re always going to want more. Dr. David W. Edgerly says, “Often, in relationship counseling, I find that one or both partners believe themselves to be truly better than (maybe even superior to) their partner. Not just better at certain tasks or skills but better as a whole person. This is what leads to the idea that if only one’s partner could be ‘fixed’ then the partnership would be happy and successful.” But he goes on to say that true respect means earnestly seeing your partner as a more than capable human being.  And if he or she isn’t capable in your opinion,  than maybe he or she isn’t for you.

6) Delay Gratification

A study featured in October’s issue of The Washington Post from researchers at the University of Iowa suggests that couple’s who prolong the sexual part of their relationship tend to be happier than those who have sex early. Why? Well delaying sex tends to help a proficient dater weed out the mate who’s serious about taking things further and the one just interested in a one hit her quit her. So the next time you’re tempted to an undercover session, opt to wait a while and see what the person says. If the potential boo has problems following  your intimacy time line, this could be a sign of much more serious issues. Besides, good things come to those who go to bed horny wait.

7) Accept What You See & Not What You Hope to See

When dating jerks, I had a habit of looking past their jerkiness. I saw what Mr. Wrong could be and overlooked the red flags waving incessantly in front of me. If he possessed some traits I considered less than honorable, I wanted to help him or fix him. And eventually I fell in love–not with the individual but with his potential. This practice worked against us both. I kept falling for men that only existed in my mind and he missed out on someone who genuinely accepted him for him. It’s like going to a restaurant. If the menu says no substitutions, no alternatives, no changes, would you still order that dish? Your catch is someone you accept and that accepts you without hassle.

Safety vs. Passion & the “Would-You-Rather” Approach to Relationships

I have a friend. And for the sake of his privacy (or dignity), we’ll call him Steve. Steve sometimes likes to entertain himself with his never-ending stash of what I like to call “would-you-rathers”. A “would-you-rather” is a question that juxtaposes two equally undesirable scenarios and asks just that, would you rather? And these questions can range anywhere from the comical–“Would you rather have a husband that’s a good cook or good in bed?”–to the slightly more serious, in light of Montana Fishburne–“Would you rather have a daughter that’s a porn star or a son who’s always in and out of jail?“.And whether serious or funny, all his questions seem to indulge us in the most extreme of plots. But his most recent loaded question triggered this post.

Would you rather have a guy that treated you well but was boring as hell or a guy that treated you like shit but you had a lot of passion with?”

This isn’t something you haven’t heard before. Alas, Steve had simply revived the grandest battle in dating history: Mr. Nice Guy vs. Mr. Not-So-Nice. Even when Mr. Nice Guy holds the key to a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence while the only key Mr. Not-So-Nice holds opens room 226 at the Holiday Inn, it’s no secret that this battle usually ends in the treacherous demise of Mr. Nice Guy.

(Are you that nice guy? Check out “Why Nice Guys Finish Last With Women?”

This “would-you-rather” situation didn’t have the same hyperbolic character of the others. Recently in my dating life, I had actually made the choice between these two men. I was still seeing the guy from my last post who pretty much played the role of my Mr. Nice Guy. Smart. Funny. Cute. Ambitious. He seemed so–safe, the kind of man you could count on coming home to you every night without fail. I feared he might actually be a little too nice. On the other hand, I had the Mr. Not-So-Nice. And he had his own set of good qualities. Nevertheless, he dealt with me only when he deemed necessary. He would be here today and South of the border tomorrow. So if you’re wondering why I even considered this Mr. Not-So-Nice, admittedly, it boiled down to the way he made me feel. When he came around, my brain reduced to marshmallow fluff. I liked him–A LOT. And Mr. Nice Guy just didn’t have the same brain fluffing effect on me. But why?

The Drama Theory
Immediately I thought of the scene from the movie He’s Just Not that Into You* where Alex confesses to a clueless Gigi, “guys invented the ‘spark’ so that they could not call, and treat you kind of bad, and keep you guessing, and they convince you that that anxiety and that fear that they’re throwing at you is actually, just a ‘spark’ “. This sounded remarkably similar to my Mr. Not-So-Nice. Alex goes on to explain to Gigi that this method works because women are addicted to the drama of a relationship. And why wouldn’t we be? We’ve all overdosed on romantic comedies since leaving the womb. And somewhere between chick flick fixes, we made drama synonymous with passion. So now, we actually prefer drama. It consumes us. And we allow this because putting up with the drama dished out by Mr. Not-So-Nice distracts us from dealing with any relationship or emotional issues we might have (like commitment, for example!). It’s kind of like that friend that busies herself with everyone else’s problems so she never has to deal with her own. Somebody has to play the bad guy role. And if it’s always him, it can never be her.

My friend Steve’s “would-you-rather” extreme approach doesn’t work particularly well for dating. If I had to choose between only those two men, I’d have to find a new way to procreate. In essence,  a clingy, insecure Mr. Nice Guy will usually lose a woman to a more confident Mr. Not-So-Nice. But when you dig a little deeper, real people usually do not live on either end of an extreme. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. So there doesn’t always have to be a trade-off of safety for passion or vice-versa. The special person you’re looking for should come offering the best of both worlds. In the end, I chose my Mr. Nice Guy because I found out he has a lot more to offer than just being nice. He also makes me laugh and I thoroughly enjoy his company. And although he could be the safe choice in one sense of the word, I haven’t sacrificed any passion at all–just drama.

*This video entitled “10 Chick Flick clichés you will NOT see in He’s Just Not That Into You” is pretty funny, whether you’ve seen the movie or not!

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