Date the Artists, Please.

I was at an amazing craft fair with a few friends recently, and I stopped by a booth that was looking for women who make things.

This confused me, since as a writer, a lot of what I make consists of images and concepts on paper. The first image that popped in my mind (which I did not share) was Demi Moore with Patrick Swayze in Ghost “Making Clay Pots.”

“We include writers,” she said. “We are especially look for screenwriters.”

Oh. Well. I gave her my email address anyway.

But then I saw this list on How About We, (which I’ve never used or visited before, but that I’ve heard about) and it reinvigorated my artistic spirit: 10 Reasons to Date Someone in the Arts.

I like the whole list. Especially this one:

Artists lead exciting, passionate lives.

And when you date them, you get to be a part of it for a while.

Yes! Just make sure you date a real artist. Writers are definitely on that list. Because I said so.

Wall Street Journal: Wait, you don’t have all this free time as a single person?

One thing that troubles me more than any other about the single life is the assumption that you just have all the free time in the world to do whatever you want. It’s supposed to be a kind way of saying, “I have to leave the office right this second because I have a family waiting on me, but since you don’t have a real life, I’ll just leave this work here for you to handle.”

I was happy to see this Wall Street Journal story about how much more time it seems to take being single than being in a committed partnership:

Much of the research on work-life conflict focuses on harried working mothers trying to juggle everything, desperate for more time, with lots of reasons to leave work early. But an even higher proportion of single women yearn for more free time; 68% of childless women say they would prefer having more time over more money, compared with 62% of women with children, according to a 2011 More magazine survey of 500 college-educated professional women over 34.
“People talk about, how do working mothers do it? But how do singles do it?” says Sherri Langburt, founder of SingleEditionMedia.com, a New York agency that advises brands on marketing to singles and runs a network for bloggers on singles topics.

Without a partner to help, singles must “get the laundry done, get to the gym, buy groceries and get to the job,” plus plan social activities or volunteer work and sometimes care for aging relatives, too.
“No one is focusing attention on those women or men, who are achieving such great levels in their careers, all alone,” Ms. Langburt says.

Many employers have added “work-life benefits,” such as flexible scheduling and personal time off, in an effort to keep all kinds of employees happy, with and without kids and spouses.
But the benefits only go so far. Heavy workloads keep many employees from using them. And for men and women alike, some managers still assume singles don’t have anything to do but work and pile on extra duties and projects, according to research by Wendy Casper, an associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington.

It was a relief to read this. I have never worked as hard in my life as I did when I worked for someone else, in offices where other people had a better excuse to leave their desk at 5 p.m. than, “I need a nap because if I’m going to work on the myth of work-life balance, I won’t be able to go have my ‘Sex in the City’ networking happy hour speed-dating love fest after this AND make a healthy dinner for myself that isn’t from a box in the freezer.”

I thought I was the only one who loved this song, but I found out when Donna Summer died last week at age 63 that it was the song of choice for so many. The Internet Movie Database called it “the abiding feminist anthem…(and) one of the most-played songs of all-time.”

Every now and then, when I’m tired and whiny and ready to complain about too much work, I hear the hook on this song.

What a life, Donna Summer. Rest in peace, darling.

Single Lady Books: The Best Advice I Ever Got

Goodreads Cover Photo

Kate Couric is one of my virtual mentors, even though initially her perkiness got on my nerves, I have always appreciated her hustle.

And I admire the way she has continued to work and write about her very personal experience of losing a husband and raising two girls by herself while also commanding respect for herself in the broadcast journalism industry, which can’t be an easy feat.

I wrote about graduation/career advice at Bitch Magazine last week and it made me think about The Best Advice I Ever Got, which is essentially a compilation of advice from commencement speeches that has so much good stuff in it was a good thing I read it online, or I would have highlighted every passage.

Here were some of my favorite quotes:

Anna Quindlen
Acts of bravery don’t always take place on battlefields. They can take place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations, and yes, your soul, by listening to its clean, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world. So carry your courage in an easily accessible place, the way you do your cellphone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail, but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high. Take a leap of faith. Fear not. Courage is the ultimate career move.

Katie Couric

I realized that whatever your path, whatever your calling, the most damaging thing you can do is let other voices define you and drown out your own. You’ve got to block them out and find that place deep inside you, shaken but still intact, and hold on to it.

Maya Angelou

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for sixty-five years. She said, “If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to your place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a brand-new path.”

Rihanna on being single: “There’s a major drought out there.”

Elle Magazine Photo

I am fascinated by Rihanna, probably because it’s been amazing to see her career move from Pon de Replay (Ugh) to Cake, which I would love to stop singing.

You’ve probably seen a few opinions about Rihanna on the interwebs in recent days. Here’s my two cents: She is grown. And she can do what she wants. Know how I know? She mentioned it in this Elle Magazine piece.

On the backlash over their reconciliation:
“The bottom line is that everyone thinks differently. It’s very hard for me to accept, but I get it. People end up wasting their time on the blogs or whatever, ranting away, and that’s all right. Because tomorrow I’m still going to be the same person. I’m still going to do what I want to do.”

On having kids: “It could be tomorrow. It could be 20 years from now. I just feel like when the time is right, God will send me a little angel. But first, of course, I have to find a man. I mean, there’s a very important missing piece to the puzzle here!”

On finding that man:
“I feel like it’s hard for everybody! I don’t think it has anything to do with being famous. There’s just a major drought out there. […] But I just need to find the person who balances me out, because then things like my schedule won’t matter. I’ve done it before, so I know I can do it again.”

This whole drought thing, and the idea that there’s a shortage,  is a really annoying part of being single. The concept has plagued me since I was a teenager, when I was told there were a shortage of black men who’d want to date me because I dreamed of being a college professor.

It happened again when I found myself at a liberal arts college where the male to female ratio was 40/60 – and the ratio of men of color to women of color was far more severe.

The idea that there is a man shortage is a pervasive and problematic one. It rarely leads to women’s happiness, I’ve noticed. Anyone who tells you there’s a man shortage or a woman shortage or any kind of shortage of anything typically is missing a lot of potential options either close to home or further away.

I say this from experience. Back when I believed the hype about a shortage of black men or available men to date, I made really lousy choices that reinforced that I believed I would be happier as part of a toxic couple than as a content single woman. I continue to work to expand my sense of what’s possible in my life and in my work, and as I’ve done that, it’s helped me to diminish the idea that I need to latch on to anything — relationships, ideas, possessions — in order to keep from going without.

I work really hard not to judge people – you never know what happens when the cameras are off. Rihanna and Chris Brown are no exception to the rule. But I do wonder if Rihanna didn’t think there was such a shortage of men out there if she wouldn’t make a different, healthier choice.

Life and Business Advice for the New Graduate

Another guest post at Bitch Magazine:

I haven’t donned a cap and gown of my own for a little while, but as a self-help and business book nerd, all the great career advice dispensed around this year keeps my Instapaper account busy.

There’s business advice hidden in funny books like Tina Fey’s Bossypants (paraphrase: If there’s someone you dislike at your office and they don’t have the power to change your fate, ignore them and move on) or even in general life advice books like Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Couric: “I realized that whatever your path, whatever your calling, the most damaging thing you can do is let other voices define you and drown out your own. You’ve got to block them out and find that place deep inside you, shaken but still intact, and hold on to it.”

What’s the most useful career advice anyone ever gave you? Here’s my best shot at dispensing words of wisdom that I wish someone had told me when I entered the workforce but I didn’t know until later. Feel free to add some to the comments. I’m sure me and my imaginary boo, Ryan Gosling, are missing something.

I know. I had to add Ryan Gosling in there somewhere.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

6. Don’t date in the office. What? I know. Hot. Right there. Where you spend all your waking hours. Down GIRL! (And by date, I mean whatever it is you think I mean by date.) Certainly, there are all kinds of excuses you can make to say why this is wrongheaded. I know a lot of couples who met at the office. Don’t crap where you sleep. It rarely ends well.

7. Ask for what you want. Like my imaginary honey Ryan suggests above, asking for a raise or a promotion is something that you should totally do. Lois Frankel gives great advice about this, as does Austin-based career coach Ann Daly. It’s scary, but scared money don’t make none. In other words, the worst that could happen is that your boss will say no to whatever you’re asking for.

8. Try to forget ‘What I Thought I’d Be Doing’ and enjoy the ride. Aim to enjoy where you are. Everyone has to start somewhere.

9. Save Money. I used to have a really silly relationship with money, shaped by growing up without much. Interviewing wise people over the years has underscored for me the importance of having a stash saved in the event that I need to leave a toxic or untenable situation and regroup.

10. Win. I used to hate attention and I would unconsciously sabotage myself, thinking that if I won all the time, people would hate me for it. Specifically, “boys club” women and intimidated men. It turns out winning is sexy. It also makes you happy and confident, which gives your skin a healthy glow. Go for it.

If you have some, I’d love to hear it.

The costs of dating

I wrote this post at Bitch Magazine about women who make more money than their partners. It’s something I think about a lot, especially because when I was a little bit younger, one of the things I often heard from women about guys and in general was that I had an “intimidating” career.

The only upside of being a writer who doesn’t make a bunch of money is that it has become a little easier to date. I can’t figure out if this is because I have a more flexible schedule, or because I’m happier and therefore more available and sultry-looking, or if it’s because I’m less intimidating now that I’m not pulling in five figures.

What’s confusing is that I don’t know if a decision has been made about whether women who bring home most of the money who are also in relationships are hot or not. It used to be common knowledge that that whole power dynamic thing in a relationship shifted with the purse (man purse?) strings.

It occurs to me that in the dating world, things might still operate according to outdated principles. In other words, it is expected that the person who is the pursuer in any dynamic is the one who pays for dinner and drinks and other things — no matter what his or her gender expression might be. If you go dutch, that sets a specific kind of tone. These are all impressions I have related to my own expectations in the dating world. I have purchased unnecessary drinks during dates and sometimes even paid for dinner, because it felt weird to expect for the guy to foot the bill for everything.

At the same time, like many of my friends and women I have met over the years, I am a person who loves being feted. Romance to me looks a lot like it does in fairy tales and rom-coms. Part of me thinks that’s pathetic and shameful as a thinking feminist; another part of me wants to just accept that I have these assumptions about what romance and courtship look like and just have a good time. Mostly, I just wish that courtship and dating were a little more linear so I could wrap my brain around them.

I guess that would suck all the fun out of them, though, right?

Ebony Magazine on being Single, Saved & Having Sex

Let me not cast any stones, not even the first one. But ranting online this morning about the ways that the discussion of Barack Obama’s changed stance on same sex marriage has cast the Black Church and the Black Community as a monolith nearly clarified for me what I find annoying about discussions related to black everything in popular culture.

If the community is still a monolith (which it isn’t) then no one has to do the work of finding out just how diverse the individuals who make up said community are. It is a way of denying their humanity – collectively and individually.

That said, I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of Christians who do things that aren’t Biblical. But this is a false conundrum because having sex as a single person if you’re saved is explicitly a no-no for Christians. But so is judging others. And not tithing. And a host of other ugly things that folks have no trouble doing.

Ebony spells it out:

Many Christian youths who signed abstinence pledges or wore purity rings reach a crossroad as young adults. They are faced with upholding Biblical principles against sex outside of marriage during an era when the average age of first marriage creeps toward 30. Celibacy may be even tougher for singles who have splashed around in the pool of fornication long before dedicating their lives to Christ. More are asking, “Am I really condemning my soul to eternal damnation by getting my freak on Saturday night and praising the Lord on Sunday morning?” As many as 80 percent of young unmarried Christians have had sex, according to Relevant, a magazine for Christians aged 18 to 30.

So, let’s do some quick math, because you know — that’s my favorite subject.

One hundred million unmarried people. About 12 percent of those are black folks. So, about 10 million black people, let’s say. Eighty-five percent of them identify as Christian. Less than 50 percent are married. What’s that – about 2 million, give or take? (That’s a low estimate. From a journalist. Who doesn’t really like math and never took statistics.)

I guess I wonder about the voices of the single and celibate who aren’t sure they even want to get married. Because if you’re not sure that God is calling you to get married, that seems about as plausible as declaring yourself a practicing and devout Christian and saying you think it’s cool with Jesus if you just let this one thing slip, right? I mean, what is the point of going all in if you’re not really going all in? (I did not mean that as a pun.)

And another thing. Sex is at the heart of so much shame in the black community. Part of the reason that’s the case is because of the shaming of churches around pervasive behavior. You know there are women getting infected with HIV/AIDS in your pews, on your watch, and all you can do is gesture in the direction of what the Bible says? The Bible also says a lot of things that people forget about when it is convenient for them.

Going solo, the costs of singlehood & navigating intimacy in virtual communities

A friend of mine sent along this link about Eric Klinenberg’s book, “Going Solo,” which I still haven’t read. I found this passage particularly interesting:

Klinenberg goes on to explore the forces and factors that have sparked the transformative social experience of living alone, which has in turn changed not only the way we understand ourselves and our most intimate relationships, but also the way we structure our cities and orchestrate our economies, demonstrating that solo living affects the lives of nearly everyone in the social ecosystem. He points to four key developments driving this cult of individualism, championed by Emerson and Thoreau: (1) The wealth generated by economic growth and the social security provided by the modern welfare state (“Put simply, one reason that more people live alone than ever before is that today more people can afford to do so.”); (2) the communications revolution (“For those who want to live alone, the Internet affords rich new ways to stay connected.”); (3) mass urbanization (“Subcultures thrive in cities, which tend to attract nonconformists who are able to find others like themselves in the dense variety of urban life.”); (4) increased longevity (“Because people are living longer than ever before — or, more specifically, because women often outlive their spouses by decades rather than years — aging alone has become an increasingly common experience.”).

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the costs of solitary living vs. living in groups or in partnerships because of some of the blogging I’ve been doing at bitch. Particularly in light of some of the stories that have emerged about academics & aspiring academics who are receiving food stamps while earning doctorates and admitting in public that I 1) have a change/Coinstar addiction and 2) am actually a closet business nerd.

One thing I’ve been repeating to my friends is a quote from Claire Bidwell Smith’s book, The Rules of Inheritance, that both haunts me and provides food for thought is this concept of not being anyone’s Most Important Person. I think that has economic consequences and emotional ones. I think they must be mitigated by all the people who are living alone and who are single.

I wonder how other people do that. I’ve been so blessed that I have relatives, and friends who are just like family, who serve to support me in a myriad of ways. Some of them are other single women. Others are partnered. I don’t take them for granted. At the same time, I’m still working on how to navigate having the solitude & space to create with being accessible & available physically and emotionally for my communities in real life and virtually. It seems that those of us who live alone and are single have to put more effort and intention into this journey.

Guest blogging for Bitch Magazine

Things will be a little sporadic around here while I prep for guest blogging at Bitch Magazine on business, economy and money topics in the coming weeks.

I will not be on a hiatus, but I ask for your patience as I juggle writing deadlines & blogging elsewhere. I’m excited to try something new, & I’ve loved Bitch for a long while now, so this should be fun. Hope your week is getting off to a great start.

 

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