Monday, December 24, 2012

What the NRA Should Have Said

I am an idealist. I believe that people typically have the best of intentions. Moreover, I usually fail to follow Oprah’s oft quoted advice that has almost become cliché: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” I'm a second chancer.

So when the NRA announced that they were delivering a press conference, breaking their weeklong silence, I saw a glass half full. I expected that twenty six coffins, particularly, the  twenty smaller ones, had inspired an epiphany. 

I should have listened to Oprah. 

The NRA’s call for armed officials in every school is simply shoddy arithmetic. Guns plus more guns doesn’t equal peace; furthermore, several teachers’ associations have expressed their opposition to the NRA's proposition. (You can read the entire transcript here.)

Regardless of how you feel about gun control, it’s important to acknowledge that the NRA's EVP, Wayne Lapierre, spoke words that can be described as nothing short of an insensitive train wreck, as PR experts everywhere have agreed. So while they alluded to some of the  points below, they should have driven them home and tossed the rest. 

What they should have said:

  • Our prayers and thoughts are with those affected by individuals who used weapons for evil versus good.
  • We realize that the violence in America is a serious problem that while complex, must be grappled with. This means that we have to work harder to ensure that the weapons we so love, are used exclusively for sport, leisure, and protection.
  • Based on our organization’s breadth of knowledge in relation to gun policy, we humbly offer our voice to be included among the task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to help create solutions that protect American citizens. 
  • This is not a time for stubbornness, anger, thoughtless action, or worse, inaction. It’s a time for reflection, serious thought, and a keen plan of action. We are prepared to step up to the plate. God bless Newtown, Aurora, Chicago, Oak Creek, Tucson, Portland, and the countless other cities who have been shaken by senseless gun violence. We’re on your side. 

But they didn’t.

Now I know better. I’m still optimistic. I just know that I should have believed the NRA when they first revealed who they were.

There is at least one thing I’m grateful for. The NRA is comfortable with being upfront about their ideas, no matter how ill received and horrendous those ideas may be. 

More Reading: 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Myth of "I Like You Prettiest Without Makeup"

The other day, one of my friend’s Facebook status proclaimed: “I appreciate a girl as real as her hair.” As a weaveless woman, my reflex was to toot my own horn. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the notion that someone’s “realness” has a correlation to whether her hair was homegrown or not was ridiculous.

My friend’s Facebook status is part of this pseudo-enlightened view that has become cool and hip in the past several years. A few variations of this theory you can expect to hear are:

 “I like girls natural… the less makeup, the better.”
“How can you trust a girl with fake nails, fake hair, fake boobs, etc?”
“Sweat pants, hair tied, chillin’ with no make-up on; that’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.” Philosopher Aubrey “Drake” Graham

That’s cute. Here’s the thing. I’m not buying it. Before you tell me, “How dare you tell me what men like, ain’t you a woman? Ya’ll always think you know what men want…” and blah blah blah, hear me out.

I’m not saying men are solely attracted to women with Nicki-Minaj inspired makeup, but I’m not buying the argument that men are most attracted to women who haven’t made any type of investments in her appearance. Most women do quite a bit to adjust what you may think is natural.  Eyebrows are plucked, waxed or threaded. Legs and armpits are shaved. Some women even bedazzle their hoo-ha. Our bodies smell faintly of lotion, our faces are washed with Proactiv, and our heels are scrubbed with pumice stones.  I could write a separate blog post about the deep conditioning, co-washing, trimming, coloring, curling then straightening, voluminizing then smoothing, twisting, and teasing we do to our hair to achieve something appropriate for both the workplace and the happy hour afterwards.

Interestingly enough, doing all of these things to enhance our appearance isn’t considered fake. It’s considered by most to be basic hygiene! Never mind that failing to shave your legs doesn’t increase the incidence of type II diabetes. Ashiness doesn’t lead to asthma, but God forbid you have a gray elbow. Massive manipulation of your own hair is perfectly ok, but if a woman adds extensions so that she can protect her hair from heat damage or she extends her nails by a couple centimeters then not only is her look fake, she is a woman who can’t be trusted! She might just possibly be a liar who goes out of her way to present a false persona so that men will fall into her icky trap. The true sign of an evil woman, to hear some men tell it, is an acrylic French manicure.

Let me tell you what I think men are REALLY asking for. Men want a woman who LOOKS like she’s not trying. They want a woman whose cheeks just happen to have a bit of glow, with lips that naturally produce a sweet tasting liquid that makes them shine, and women whose hair on their head grows like a unstoppable weed, while the hair on the rest of their body appears to have endured chemotherapy.

Here’s the thing; I don’t think it’s completely men’s fault. Photoshop, professional airbrushing, and most recently Instagram, have provided men with endless streams of false reality. Men drool over Zoe Saldana, Republican Stacey Dash, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry, and Gabrielle Union not realizing that they’re drooling over a piece of art, not an actual person. 

There’s nothing wrong with having preferences. If you like women without weave, that’s cool. If you prefer women who keep makeup to a bare minimum, that’s cool too. Honestly, all the fake stuff is really expensive; we’d probably appreciate a relief from it all. But don’t pretend that you don’t appreciate any of the 20th and 21st century’s tools to tweak, remove, add, and enhance women’s natural beauty. That would be really fake of you. *Wink*

 P.S. I shared this post with a a guy friend  to ensure I wasn't completely off base, and he said that a better post would be about how society defines beauty and why we think plump lips or youthful skin is attractive. But I'm employed and in school and I don't have time to learn all that, much less teach it. One of you should write it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Choosing Your Boo Over Your Friends or a Career - a Bad Idea?

Recently, I was talking to a friend who told me about her plans to attend law school soon. Of COURSE, I suggested that she apply to USC here in Los Angeles. To paraphrase her response, she said, “I know it sounds bad, but I want to stay in DC, close to my boyfriend.” Even after I assured her that there was nothing wrong with that, she continued to explain her decision, as if anticipating pushback. People, particularly women, are often told from the time they can pick up a Ken Barbie to:

“Never make important decisions based on a man.”

A similar mantra taught to both men and women is:

“Never choose your man/woman over your friend. Relationships come and go; friends are for life.”

It sounds good. And it’s relatively true; for most people, our strongest friendships tend to be more static than our romantic relationships, particularly when we’re younger and unmarried. But lately, I’ve come to question these alleged nuggets of “wisdom.” And here’s why:

1. As we get older, it becomes more practical to consider our ambitions and long-term goals comprehensively versus in a linear fashion. This means that instead of tossing out a relationship for a promotion overseas, or choosing your long time homegirl over your potential life partner, consider how each decision fits into your overall plan for your life.

Let’s consider Rachel and Walter, a hypothetical case study. Rachel and Walter have been seriously dating for 2 years. Rachel is 28 and Walter is 32 and while they certainly agree that they eventually want to have a family and settle down, they haven’t made a formal commitment to each other just yet. Rachel is offered a promotion within her company that would require her to move across the country. It isn’t necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there will be probably be other promotion opportunities in the area, but it is a great one and it’s significantly closer to her family. Rachel and Walter both have had negative experiences with long-distance relationships and aren't interested in going down that road. I believe the decision to take a new career with relocation should be based on a variety of things including the proximity to her family, the impact of the salary/new role in her quality of life. Furthermore, I would argue that Rachel should also consider her desire to have a family. She should consider if she wants to continue developing a relationship with Walter that has promise to lead to the family they both want. It’s a fair consideration and she shouldn’t be judged harshly for including her plans with him in her decision.

Interestingly enough, a hard lesson many Type A’s and voracious planners grudgingly learn is: our lives don’t proceed steadily along in a straight line, like moving walkways in an airport. Sure, there are outliers. Beyoncé was able to achieve immense success, then love, and then the adorable Blue Ivy. Michelle Obama even did what many of us aspire to do; she completed her extensive education, landed a great job, and then found love as well, culminating with a not too shabby title as First Lady of the United States. While Beyoncé and Michelle are certainly admirable, for most people, life doesn’t occur in a Point A, then B, then C fashion. Many of us complete our education in parts, in between jobs and career changes, and many of us find love all throughout the process; the beginning, the middle, or the end. There’s nothing wrong with that. Instead of trying to create a divine order in which you focus primarily on one goal at a time, consider how each of the pieces can fit together. My friend sheepishly crossed schools in California off her list so she could be close to the man who makes her smile in Washington, DC. Is Georgetown such a bad alternative to USC? I don’t think so. 

2. When you are in a committed relationship with a sane person who legitimately has your best interest at heart, that person will only ask you to choose if he or she has good reason. One of my good friends used to lament that whenever her boyfriend was with one of his close female friends, he tended to drink more, smoke weed, and stay out later. When he’d stumble home, it wasn’t his homegirl that had to deal with his sour breath, the illegal army green flakes on his jacket, and the lingering hangover; it was his girlfriend. When she told him that she’d had enough and that he’d need to regulate his behavior around said homegirl or just not hang with her at all, her boyfriend blew up at her for making her “choose.” I won’t tell you what happened in the end, but to me, it seems as though that was good reason.

The caveat is that of course, there are people out there who are jealous, suspicious, and irrational. They don’t like you spending time with your friends; they don’t like that something or someone else is making you happy. These zany folks don’t represent everyone and should be avoided anyway. Your true friends know that your household is peaceful when you alternate the Thursday night pick-up basketball games with date night every other week. They understand.

In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that a relationship should take precedence over every other consideration in your life. I do however, think it is an important consideration and that there is absolutely nothing wrong in putting it on equal bearing, and in many cases, higher bearing than other considerations. In the end, it’s YOUR life. You decide what matters to you most, and if being close to your girlfriend is more important than attending a school miles away, then act on that! It's perfectly ok. 

Thoughts? Have you ever felt compelled to choose between a career or a significant other? Have your friends ever accused you of unfairly choosing the significant other over them? Do you think these old adages have more value than I’m giving them credit for? Let me know!

Friday, August 3, 2012

What is Traditional Marriage?

A few months ago I was kicking it with my friend and her mom called. She grabbed the phone and started yapping, then she said, "OK go ahead and put Dad on before you hang up."  I felt an unidentifiable pang in my chest and later came to realize what it was. Envy. Her parents are married, live in the same house, and she can handle her parental duties in one phone call. Sadly, most of my peers and I cannot say the same.

My friends are for the most part, well-adjusted, intelligent adults and while they come from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, most come from "mixed" families. For many, their parents were married and some portion of their childhood was colored by their parents' divorce. For some, they can't even remember their parents ever being together.  In 2012, this is the reality of the family unit in America. The idea of a man and woman marrying, having children and living happily ever after often seems to be more fantasy than reality

This shifting cultural norm is what I was thinking about when a few months ago, I heard an advocate for "traditional marriage" on NPR state that President Obama was attempting to "overturn 3000 years of recorded history by supporting same-sex marriage." I thought it was quite a statement, considering that I don't even think we have the same traditions we had 40 years ago as it pertains to marriage. With all the recent controversy surrounding Chic-Fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy's vocal, moral and financial support of traditional marriage, I wonder as a Christian, what it means to support traditional marriage.

Advocates for same sex marriage call it the equal marriage debate or a human rights and civil rights issue. Opponents to marriage rights for gays consider it a "traditional marriage" debate. These word choices are not small nuances to be ignored; they define the argument and help frame people's opinion on the issue. This post is not meant to illustrate why marriage between two men or two women is right or wrong; it's simply meant to point out the problem of the blanket term "traditional marriage."

What is Tradition?
the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice; something that is handed down; a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting; a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices. a customary or characteristic method or manner. -

So knowing that, what is traditional marriage?

The majority of the American crowd speaking out against same sex marriage happens to also be Christian, so I presume they are referring to Christian traditions. What makes something a Christian tradition? Something found throughout the Bible? Consider this:

These are not men that play minority roles in the Christian faith; Christ was a direct descendant of Abraham, David & Solomon. They are revered in Christianity, Judaism, and other religious faiths. If anyone represents Christian tradition, it is certainly these men.

  • Teenage girls married adult men in the Bible. It was common practice around Jesus' time and certainly before, for pre-adolescent girls around 9 to be betrothed to a man and to be married around 12 to 14 years old. The virgin Mary was thought to be around 12 to 14 years old when she married a very adult Joseph. Mary is revered by Christian women, particularly in the Catholic faith as the ultimate example of motherhood.
Some folks base their argument for traditional marriage in American history. In other words, "Marriage between one man and one woman is an American value." Considering America's youth -we're only 236 years old- I struggle to really think American traditions can trump any religious traditions, but I'll allow it for the sake of this argument. I won't outline all the varying policies, laws, and practices in America that were considered "tradition" that have since been abolished, (cough 3/5 a citizen cough) but as it relates to marriage, we'd have to include the following values as well:

  • Banning of Interracial Marriages. Anti-miscegenation laws or laws banning people of different races from marrying each other have been around for the majority of America's existence. They weren't struck down by the Supreme Court until 1967
  • Wives as Property. American wives were considered culturally and in many ways, legally, their husband's property. When America and her values were born, wives had to cede all of their property to their husbands upon marriage. In many cases, they had to secure written permission from their husbands to handle any major financial or business transactions. 

It seems that the definition of Christian or American traditional marriage is a transient one consistent with a society's current cultural traditions. There's no denying that same sex marriages would represent a shift in how marriage has been legally practiced. While homosexuality is certainly not a novel concept or new phenomenon, same sex marriage is still opposed by 44% of Americans

And as always, I support the freedom of speech and the right to have a word or three. I believe Dan Cathy and others on both sides of this debate certainly have the right to voice their opinions and make donations as they see fit. I simply have difficulty with the idea that the appropriate phrase is traditional marriage. Tradition it seems is in the eye of the beholder. 

What are your thoughts? Is heterosexual marriage appropriately called traditional marriage? Is tradition immovable or can it change over time?

The floor is yours.

P.S. There's one more group of folks I envy: Folks who can still enjoy Chic-Fil-A's yummy chicken nuggets and lemonade. It just doesn't sit right in my stomach anymore. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day 2012

From age 11 to my departure for college, I lived with my younger siblings, Vanessa and John, and with my mother, Kim. My mom is many things, but cooker of large dinners, she is not. Our usual dinner routine was a phone call from Mom around 6 PM as she was on her way home from work, asking: What do you all feel like eating tonight?" One night, we'd opted for Popeye's. When she arrived home with the fragrant fried chicken, biscuits drizzled in honey, and greasy potato wedges, we were more than ready to dig in. Just as my mother was setting the table, there was a knock at the door. At the time, we lived in a community called "Little Africa" which is made up of primarily Black families, many related to each other, and many who had known each other for so many generations, we called them cousin anyway. So when my mother opened the door to reveal a middle aged man, who was more than a little dusty, I mildly recognized the face but couldn't quite place him. 

She greeted him and said, "How you doing? You here to pay your water bill?" (My mother worked at the water company where she was known to extend credit so folks' water wouldn't be turned off. Some people who lived in our neighborhood preferred to stop by the house and pay her directly versus traveling to the office.)

He mumbled "Naw. Ma'am, I was wondering if you had something I could eat." 

I told my sister to scoot over, anticipating that my mom was going to invite him to share our dinner. My mother did no such thing. Instead, she boxed up all the chicken, biscuits, assorted sides, grabbed some canned items, put it in a bundle and handed it over to him. She said, "Here you go, hun. This should hold you for a while." I don't know that I've ever seen such a grateful face. He accepted the food and headed on out the door.

I was livid. There were 3 hungry children in the house, and here she was just volunteering our dinner to some man that we didn't really know! How dare she?! She didn't even consult with us! Now before you start thinking I'm evil... I should share that I ran track and had the appetite of a linebacker. Furthermore, I knew my mom was struggling to make ends meet so I correctly guessed that PBandJ was in our immediate future. Also, I was a bratty, mouthy brace-faced teenager who was upset that puberty hadn't quite knocked on my door. Judge me if you must. I lashed out and said, "How could you just give away our dinner?! Now what are WE gonna eat? You're just going to let us starve?!?" (Did I mention that I was dramatic?)

The look of compassion left my mother's face just that quickly and she sharply said, "Crystal Marie have I ever let any of you all go hungry? Don't you dare say that again." And that was that. 

At the time I didn't recognize it, but my mother was teaching us a lesson in compassion. Yes, you should work hard to get what you need and want from life, but extending a helping hand is what we as humans are called to do. Many people talk about how great their mothers are to them, and I can certainly attest to that. But my mother is kind to complete strangers, a character trait that I don't see too often.

  • My mother's church attendance is sporadic; but I've never met someone more Christ-like than her.
  • My mother never graduated from college, but she's more intelligent and keen than most. (Every piece of advice or admonition she's given me has always proven true. Every. Single. Time. It's scary, really)
But most importantly, my mother is a living example of who I want to be. I find myself doing little things that she always does, many of them the very habits that annoyed me most as a kid. As I get older, I'm increasingly more attentive to her perspective on my major decisions. When I get good news, she is the first one I want to share it with. When I get upsetting news, she's the first person I call for solace.

Thank you Mom for being a friend; for checking me when I'm wrong; for reminding me of my value when I feel worthless; and for being a role model that I can call at any hour of the day for a free master class. 

I love you. Happy Mother's Day 2012. 

Your CrysCross 

P.S. She's also super bad. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

You Give Jesus A Bad Name (More than just a Bon Jovi Parody)

North Carolina is pretty awesome, specifically Charlotte. It’s pretty. They have several Cook-Out locations. Gas is only priced at half past ridiculous. My mom lives there, and my niece is only an hour or so away. But it seems like someone sneaked a couple bigotry roofies in everyone's sweet tea.

North Carolina is often viewed as a “purple state” because it is home to a fair share of both Democrats and Republicans. In 2008, North Carolinians voted for President Barack Obama and went Blue for the first time since Jimmy Carter’s administration. But yesterday, the country was reminded of just how red North Carolina can be.

North Carolina residents were offered a referendum on same sex marriage, and on May 8, 2012, they voted to add “Amendment 1” to their constitution. To give you some background, North Carolina state law already defines marriages as “between a man and a woman.” But Amendment 1 goes a step further and states:

"Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

This means that civil unions are not recognized; it also means that “common law” and other heterosexual domestic partnerships are not “recognized or valid.” For gay rights advocates, this was a presumably expected yet still disappointing blow. As interesting as this news was, the general public had no idea that we were in for a historic surprise the following day.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, in an ABC News interview, President Barack Obama, following Vice President Biden’s lead a few days prior, stated matter of factly, that he supported same sex marriages. In an email to his supporters, he affirmed his thoughts with the following:

“I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry… What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.”

*in my Presidential voice* Let me be clear: 

I’m a Christian. I’m a liberal. I believe in the separation of church and state. I don’t think using “the good book” as a reference point for any type of legislation is a good idea. 

However, I recognize that marriage is indeed a religious institution that should be honored and respected (marriage by the way is present in more than just the Christian faith). So I believe that the best solution is that we begin the tedious but fair process of removing the divisive, controversial term “marriage” from the law books.

All couples, heterosexual or homosexual, who would like their union to be recognized, should be entitled to a strong, legal civil union. Rights currently extended to domestic partnerships and married couples should be extended to all committed couples who enter into a civil union. For those couples who would like to be “married” in the traditional sense, they can be... in a traditional ceremony by their house of worship. In this manner, “marriage” is given its rightful place… outside of government and in the places where people believe it is defined, but we also maintain that all couples have equal rights.

But this will never happen, because people are selfish. I expect hate from groups who have never been discriminated against. Sometimes, if you don’t get it… you don’t get it. But, I’m most disturbed by marginalized groups who have spoken out against gay rights. Do you not realize how hypocritical that is?! I’m sad to report that Black Americans, particularly self-righteous ones, are egregious offenders in this regard. Blacks will pick up a hoodie and march but when someone else needs something, many are often nowhere to be found.

Do people not realize that prejudice is prejudice? Do they not recognize that when we fail to speak up on behalf of undocumented citizens, gays, and other persecuted groups that our silence is just as damning as the persecution itself? And when your cause is on the chopping block, wouldn't it be nice to have some supporters outside of the ones who have a clear personal vested interest?

Is the Bible really a fair go-to source for denying gays the right to be married?? You're basically saying “I don’t support your lifestyle because MY religion doesn’t agree.” Think about that. How would we feel if Muslims invoked their holy book in suggestions for a law? Not so great, I imagine. How dare you invoke the name of Christ to satisfy your self-serving, prejudiced ideas on how other people should live their lives!

Furthermore, what’s the gain?!? What do we get out of telling people what to do in their households? What do we get out of telling gay couples that they can’t welcome a child who needs a home into their loving home? What do we get out of telling gay people that they can’t visit each other in hospitals because “Jesus [allegedly] said so.” Does your heterosexual marriage suffer because gays can be married? Who really wins here?? Consider this; Georgia bans same-sex marriages. And yet, let's just be real; Atlanta is a clear example that anti-gay legislation does nothing to affect the incidence of homosexuality.

While you think on that, why don’t you chew on this nugget my pal shared with me. Was Gandhi talking about you when he said, 
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

When considering issues that affect someone who doesn’t look like you, love the way you do, or worship the way you worship (or at all), here’s a philosophy that may help: 
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Must have read this in a fortune cookie or something)

That's my word or three. What's yours?

P.S. Sometimes I write in other places. Check me out!
 Also, my pal Panama wrote about Obama’s stance on Same-Sex Marriage over at Read it here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The WingWoman is Really Not Your Friend

I write this post, regrettably out of personal experience. The silver lining is that because I’ve been there, I can easily recognize this syndrome and help fight it. (Note: I was this person a LONG time ago, so for those of you that know me and my friends, there’s no need to speculate about those friendships. Lol)

Have you ever heard the phrase “waiting in the wings?” As an idiom it refers to any person who is waiting, often in anxious anticipation, for their turn at some task or opportunity. 

The heart of this post, however, focuses on:
women who are waiting on a man who is currently in a relationship to become single so that they can be the next girlfriend or spouse

I call them WingWomen. (I realize that men do this too, but I can only write one blog post at a time. I also realize that the original definition of wingwomen/wingmen are people who accompany you on your romantic pursuits so that your friends can meet my friends and yada yada yada... let me live, k?)

Most WingWomen (WWs) don't intend to become WWs; it happens over time. A single woman meets a guy, learns that he has a significant other and (hopefully) places him in the friends-only/hands-off category. She may have met him at work, through a mutual friend, church, or some other innocuous way. As time passes and the woman and man spend significant time working on a project together, shooting the breeze at happy hours, in Bible Study or whatever it is, the two really get to know each other and become more than just associates, they become friends. People that don’t know them may see them out together and speculate that something’s going on, but there really isn’t. 

As the woman gets to know the man and realizes that they share similar interests, have complementary humor and vote the same way, she starts thinking, “Man… too bad he’s not single. We’d be perfect together.” (I haven’t decided yet if men are oblivious to when women start thinking this way or not, but I’d like to believe that in their minds, it is a completely platonic relationship.)

This natural attraction is all fine and dandy until women start doing what we’re always doing (subconsciously or consciously); we start planning. 

The WingWoman starts thinking, “He really enjoys spending time with me; sooner or later, he’ll realize that I’m the one he should be with!” The woman may even meet the guy’s spouse under the guise of wanting to get to know the woman that makes him happy, but in reality, she’s sizing her up. She’s wondering what she has that the girlfriend or wife doesn’t have and how can she subliminally hint that to him. So she’ll say, “It’s so cute that you’re supportive of your wife even after all the weight she gained. It’s crazy how that works huh? I couldn’t gain weight if I tried.” 

The whole time, the guy is thinking, “Wow, she’s such a great friend! She’s randomly dropping off homemade macaroni and cheese, volunteering to pick me up from the airport at 4 AM, and so supportive of my plans to quit my job and pursue a professional foosball career!” 

Wrong. Is someone really your friend if their motivation is to eventually get you to be more than friends? I know how this story ends. Believe me. 

Ending 1:
The WingWoman continues to be a “great friend” until she hits her breaking point. Maybe the guy gets engaged to his girlfriend or he asks her to help him plan the surprise birthday party for his wife. She snaps. And she gets mad at him for “leading her on.” Everything he does pisses her off and she tells him he’s a bad person/a horrible friend/whatever. 

The guy is usually either completely confused or sheepishly wondering why it took so long for her to realize what her role in his life was. This typically doesn’t end amicably for anyone and the friendship is ruined.

Ending 2: 
The WingWoman realizes what she’s doing and that her cause is hopeless, and falls back. She continues to be his friend but minimizes her role, which is probably best anyway. Let the girlfriend/wife do all the heavy lifting. 

Ending 3:
The guy and his girl have just had an argument/fight and guy calls the WingWoman to vent. The WingWoman suggests they go out for drinks so he can calm down and take the edge off. The WingWoman takes advantage of guy’s drunkenness, makes a move and either the guy gives in to it and immediately regrets it or he’s like “Whoa! What are you doing!?!? You’re like my sister! Eew!" Again, either way it doesn’t end amicably and the friendship is ruined.

So what’s the take away from all this? Well it depends on who you are:

You Might be a WW IF...
1. …one of your close male friends were to take a serious step with his significant other, you’d be upset or angry or hurt. 
2. … you think that your close male friend is “too good” for his girlfriend.
3. … you find yourself comparing guys who are actually interested in dating you and SINGLE to your male friend who is not. 

What can you do about it? Some people are able to transition their crush to friend category relatively seamlessly. Some people cannot. If you can’t, then tell your friend that you simply are unable to be a friend to them at the time, and move on until you’re ready. 

Men, You Might Have a WingWoman If:
1. Your female friend is consistently offering to do really nice things for you and only you. She’s not even the Mother Theresa type; she’s just really nice to YOU.
2. Your female friend doesn’t seem too concerned with your relationship or speaks about it as if it’s just the current trend. “How’s, um... what’s her name Cyndi? Cynthia? I can never remember.”
3. Your female friend believes you are her go-to person for all emergencies no matter what time of day it is. If it’s 2 AM and she catches a flat, she thinks it’s your job to go get her, not one of her girlfriends or other single male friends. 

What can men do about it? I don't really know to be honest. All I can really suggest is that you repeatedly but kindly make it clear how serious your relationship is, establish boundaries, and don't rely on the WW as the person to vent to about your girlfriend or wife. You're only fueling the fire.

Moral of the story: Be a friend. Don’t be a WW. And don’t allow your friends to be WWs. No one wins. 

The floor is yours.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Men or Women: Who Decides to Define the Relationship?

Several months ago I was talking to my dad about a guy I’d gone on a few dates with. A few days later, our follow-up conversation went a little something like this:

Dad: So how’s your boyfriend?
Me: What boyfriend?
Dad: The guy you were talking about the other night.
Me: Oh, um. He’s not my boyfriend. We’re just hanging out, getting to know each other. I’ve only known him for like a month.
Dad: A month?? And you two haven’t at least discussed dating each other exclusively? Are you dating other people? Is he dating other people? What’s wrong with your generation?

I teased him about his old age and told him my generation has options; we weigh them and we get married later in life. He replied that after his second date, he initiated the infamous “Defining the Relationship” conversation with the woman who is now his wife and that was that.  I said two dates was way too early. “Dad he could be a serial killer!!” He said that a few months was way too late. “Being in limbo is never good! Make a commitment and work through it!”

I’m inclined to believe that we’re both right in some ways. There isn't a hard and fast rule because everyone’s situations are different; some people need time to develop trust and others feel in their gut within days or weeks when they’ve met The One. (This could also be indigestion, but I digress…) The timing has to fit the (prospective) couple's goals and pace, and that's too subjective to define.

I’m still left with one very important question on defining the relationship though:

Speaking to heterosexual relationships, whose responsibility is it to initiate this conversation? The man or the woman? Or is it up to the person who thinks of it first?

Proverbs 18:22 says “whoever finds a wife finds a good thing”, which to me implies that it’s a man job to do the proposing, but that doesn’t necessarily provide clarity on what to do about a commitment prior to marriage.

So I did what I always do when my curiosity gets to me; I asked my favorite focus group, Twitter and the results weren't at all what I expected. The overwhelming majority responded by saying some form of the following:

@symfonikz: whoever thinks to… learn to be proactive
@ESSENCEinme: the person who wants a relationship title should be the initiator to avoid hurt feelings and wasted time
@Kenya_Inc: the person who has any confusion about their status in the first place. If you have to ask questions, ASK!!
@msrasberryinc: I’d say whoever thinks to talk about it. Shouldn’t depend on gender.
@GNAHHANG: I say whoever feels the need to discuss the status of the relationship should initiate the discussion.

Well, that caught me off guard! In my own relationships, I just waited for the conversation to happen or dropped hints to head it off if I wasn’t interested. My mom taught me the following:

1. When a man is interested in dating you, he’ll let you know.
2. When he wants you to be his girl, he’ll tell you.
3. When he wants you to be his wife, he’ll ask.

On the one hand, it sounds archaic, but on the other it seems practical. I mean what woman really wants to be in a relationship with a man that you strong-armed into one? Women are pretty good at saying, “No thanks, let’s just be friends. You can still change my oil/give me back rubs/escort me to events so I don’t have to go alone but I don’t want you to actually be my boyfriend. Cool?” Guys… not so much. Sometimes, they’ll go along just to get along and say "alright let's do this" just to keep things smooth and then later admit “I wasn’t really sure about this anyway but you pressured me so I just went with it.”

So where do I stand now?

I believe every individual brings into each (potential) relationship 3 things:

a. their personality, (gregarious or quiet, brave or hesitant)
b. their assumed “role”, which is often influenced by traditional gender roles, and
c. their own timeline for long-term plans.

As you get to know someone, you organically share these things over Chinese takeout and episodes of The Office. But there are some things you should make a point to be clear on. If you know that you don’t want to have kids at all, it’s pretty important to get that out there. And at two months in, if you’ve learned that she is the outspoken one who is comfortable having those potentially awkward conversations, it probably makes sense for her to start that conversation. “So babe, where is this going? Are you and I a ‘we’? Wait… can I even call you babe?” But if she’s like me, a little more traditional and unsure in these types of situations, he should put on his big boy pants and kick it off.

My thinking represents the ideal; the Twitter focus group responded with a more realistic point of view. I do believe there is a legitimate concern about wasted time and misconceptions. In some cases, you may have to step out of our comfort zone and bite the bullet to avoid a big confusing mess where the guy thinks the couple is headed down the aisle and the woman is just trying to have fun.

So here’s my question for you: In your current and past relationships, who popped the exclusivity question? How exactly does that conversation go? Should it be casual or serious? Over dinner? Over the phone? Via text or email? I wanna know!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wisdom from Whitney

A friend of mine and I secretly joke about people’s dramatic, gushing proclamations after a celebrity death. We often wondered how can someone honestly be “devastated” by the passing of an individual whose music/voice/personality we’ve only digested through a middle man such as the radio, a Letterman interview, or a blockbuster film.

I wondered this until Saturday, February 12, 2012. I was in Baltimore doing community service when MSNBC released a breaking news text that Whitney Houston had passed in her hotel room. My immediate reaction was disbelief. And then the calls came in from my family and friends, checking to see if I knew yet and asking if I was ok. Every call seemed like a damning confirmation and I thought, “Maybe if people stop saying it, it won’t have really happened.” So I got into my car for the long drive home, too numb to really display any emotion. I started the engine and before I could stop it, I heard the pure, clear voice often called “America’s Voice” lean into the gospel classic, I Love the Lord.

Then it hit me.

This was the voice of a woman who was no longer with us.

I could tell you how the tollbooth guy seemed genuinely concerned by my tear-streaked face during our transaction, but I’d rather share something more valuable. Whitney's life and music taught me a few things:

1. Sexy doesn’t have to mean blond and blue eyed or skimpy and short. Whitney burst on the scene in the 80’s with big hair, leg warmers and off the shoulder tanks. With her mother Cissy Houston’s guidance and her cousin Dionne Warwick’s backing, Whitney Houston became the face of the All-American Girl, and she didn’t even have to writhe around the stage or downplay her “Blackness.” The world hasn’t been the same since and it isn’t a good karaoke night until someone sings “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

2. Love is a contact sport. As the child of a minister, there were few secular artists whose music made it into our house, but there was no avoiding the big, powerful and family friendly sound of Whitney Houston. Furthermore, my military elementary school in Texas followed the National Anthem with “One Moment In Time” as a form of inspiration, every single morning. Before I got to find out for myself, I learned that sometimes love hurts so bad, love is timeless (I Will Always Love You), and that anxious, nervous, feeling I got whenever I saw that boy from my class was normal (How Will I Know). She even taught us a little self help with The Greatest Love of All.

3. Women can do it all. These days, filmmakers anxious to sell tickets give acting gigs to anyone with a recognizable face, making the “singer slash actress” role almost assumed. Whitney though... she did it right. Whitney not only headlined the soundtracks for The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife... but she acted in them. Let me say that again, she ACTED in them. Whitney was more than a pretty face who could sing; she was a mother, a wife, a philanthropist, an actress, and a producer. She truly epitomized “I’m Every Woman” and taught me from an early age that I could be too.
4. Everyone makes mistakes. For four years straight, I was Whitney Houston for Halloween and not just because it was a relatively cheap costume, but because she was gorgeous, well-spoken, had an amazing talent and seemed like such fun to be around. She wasn’t human to me; she was larger than life. But while Whitney’s voice inspired and brought joy to millions, her life was often spotted with rough times. Unlike you and me, Whitney didn’t have the luxury of enduring these trials with a finite spotlight cast by her family and friends; Whitney went through it all publicly. While her pain may have been exponentially increased by this glaring spotlight, it served to remind me and much of America that everyone has problems and everyone stumbles. The woman that I most wanted to be like growing up has died at 48 leaving her 19 year old daughter motherless. I won’t speculate about the cause of her death, because big picture wise, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we recognize the very human quality of the entertainers that enrich our lives.

Whitney’s voice made her unique. But Whitney’s troubles made her one of us. And for that, I am grateful.

I haven’t stopped missing Whitney since I got the news. But while I’m sorry she’s left us, I’m thankful that her music itself provides the salve to the wound in our hearts.

Rest in Peace, Whitney.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

War on Success or Common Sense?

Editor’s Note: Tax rates have become a partisan issue, but I believe it’s just a difference of opinion on what steps should be taken to be a fiscally responsible country. I’m asking liberal and conservative readers to be patient and open-minded enough to consider this topic in a depoliticized way. Thank ya kindly.

Last week, I hosted a State of the Union Watch Party, per’s request via several emails. (Unless Will Smith runs for office, the Prez has got my vote, but seriously… the emails have got to chillllll.) Most of President Obama’s statements were pretty safe and garnered him moderate applause in the chambers and my living room. Pretty vanilla stuff.

And then he made the following statement:

Right now, we're poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans… Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else - like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we're serious about paying down our debt, we can't do both. The American people know what the right choice is. So do I… we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires... Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.

The way the crowd at my house hollered and shouted, you’d think we were in church with Pastor Wesley at Alfred Street Baptist (#shoutout!).  Well, except for one person. A good friend of mine commented via Twitter, “#waronsuccess.”

Thinking about it at a basic level, I can understand that. Why should you pay a higher percentage of taxes just because you made more (legally at that!)? Sounds unfair. Everyone should pull their own load. But when you think beyond the surface, it’s a little more complex than that. Many of us have heard the adage, “It takes money to make money.” This is generally true. Let me provide you with an example:

Let’s consider Janet. Janet was born and raised in a suburb of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Boiling Springs. Janet’s parents are middle class folks; her mom is an engineer and her father is a tax accountant. I'll tell Janet’s story on the left and track the government’s role on the right:

Janet can’t seem to fathom why it is her patriotic duty to pay a higher tax rate than poor and middle class Americans.  After all, her American-owned business is fueling the economy, providing jobs for thousands (who are now tax payers), and she worked hard to get there!

I agree. Janet did work. But so did America. America worked hard to ensure that Janet had the opportunities she had. I touched on just a few of the tangible hard costs, but one can’t even begin to quantify some things (like providing a relatively safe, clean country for Janet to work in.) Janet has consumers and can conduct her business here because people like living in an America where you can practice your religion, where you can earn a free education, where 18 year old citizens can vote (even the women!!), where folks can tweet whatever they want, and where teenagers can color their hair 4 different shades. Janet can do all this because Americans invested in America. That investment was often made with rifles and protests, but more often and frequently, it was made with tax dollars. If you think about it this way, one could argue that Janet has benefited more from than the government than a family living on government assistance. They’re getting enough to get by. However, Janet’s business is doing more than getting by; she's receiving support from a complex array of systems to run a multi million dollar business.

I understand the argument. On the face of it, a higher tax on wealthy Americans could be perceived by some as a “war on success”; I simply call it America asking for a fair return on its’ investment so that others can have that same opportunity in a fiscally healthy country.

It's not a war on success; it's a campaign for future success.

(By the way, higher taxation for the wealthy who disproportionately benefit from governmental support isn’t a novel idea; America is currently at a historically low level of taxation. Our current levels aren’t normal!)
The President closed the discussion of taxes for the top 2% this way,

We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference - like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That's not right. Americans know it's not right. They know that this generation's success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country's future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America built to last.

I'll just drop the mic there.

If you’d like to read more (well-informed) thoughts on this topic, I highly recommend:

2. A Conservative Opinion: Wealthy Americans Deserve TaxRelief, (Written in Oct 1999)
3. The Buffett Rule in History’s Grand Sweep
4. Only Little People Pay Taxes
5. Elizabeth Warren on Debt Crisis, Fair Taxation  (LOVE THIS VIDEO!!!)

Your thoughts?