Top Posts in April: Standardized Tests, Recommended Reading & Single lady blogging

It turns out that even though I am not betrothed & I am a woman, I can still have a sense of humor. Welcome to my new followers/visitors from around the world. I’m humbled that you were entertained by some of my musings in April. It makes all of the pain of studying for the GRE totally worth it. Almost.

Here were some of the greatest hits this month:

Why Standardized Tests are a lot like being single

The New Yorker on why so many Americans are single

The Good Men Project on why dating bloggers (like me? I guess?) are single

Commenters go a little crazy over Staceyann Chin’s Guardian piece about lesbians who chase straight girls

I wrote a piece about a relationship that both broke my heart, ruined a nine-year friendship and taught me more than any other relationship I’d had up to that point for GOOD’s Dealbreaker series.

Single Lady Music: The Ladies of the 80s

One of my favorite things about Austin is the Alamo Drafthouse. They have a sing along series for everything. I have shamelessly belted out all of the Justin Timberlake songs in existence while twirling a noisemaker. I don’t know what really important business kept me from the Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It Hip Hop Quote Along — but nothing could keep me from this Ladies of the 80s sing along when my best friend was in town. There were gems I had totally forgotten about. The only thing that could have made it better was if they had added Queen Latifah and Monie Love’s “Ladies First” video.

So, without further ado, I give you the Ladies of the 80s:

The Weather Girls. Two Tons of Fun? What! They really said, “God bless Mother Nature, she’s a single woman too.” No, really.

Gloria Estefan. You just couldn’t tell me I was not a Latina whenever I heard a Gloria Estefan song. I am no good at salsa, but I certainly try when it comes to this lady.

Janet Jackson. If you buy me an adult beverage one day, I will tell you about the afternoon that I saw this on Video Music Box and found a chair to nearly break my leg on trying to be like Janet Jackson. 

Whitney Houston. Yeah, you knew you weren’t going to make it out of here without I Wanna Dance with Somebody. I miss Nippy.

Big girls need love, too: Reflections on Dating While Fat and Feminist

I’m a thick girl with a running habit. I want to lose 20 pounds. But I don’t put pressure on myself to get thin — not because it’s not preferable, but because I fluctuate between being honestly in love with myself as I am and knowing that if I were thinner, there’s a whole extra layer of crap that comes with it. Reading A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss made me think of this again:

In fact, when you’re in a position like mine, you start to notice a lot about people’s dating habits. You also wind up making friends with guys who admit their dating preferences freely, knowing that – since you’re no longer fat – they won’t offend you. I’ve had men admit to me that they get chewed out for dating so many non-Black women, but they don’t seek out women who are simply non-Black – they seek out women who are fit. They seek out women who work out. They meet women and make friends in the gym, the one place where they spend all their non-work time, and want a partner that not only understands that but will be right there with him…working out. They don’t want a partner who complains about how much time they spend “up in the gym, just workin’ on their fitness.” You and I might know that now, but I certainly didn’t know it before.

You also start to notice the pairs on the subway, late on a “date night,” out together. Him, in his cardigan, bowtie and hat… her, in her cute dress, jacket and heels. Neither one overweight.

You also start to hear stories of how some men only “use” overweight Black girls as a “last resort,” meaning that if a guy can’t pull a more socially-approved-as-sexy-looking-woman, he’ll go to her because at least he knows “I’ll get laid tonight, and breakfast tomorrow.” You start to find out how some men manipulate society’s fat-hating culture into a way to skate by without accepting any responsibility for anything: “if fat Black women are considered the least worthy of love and affection, then if I choose one, she’ll do anything and tolerate anything to keep me.”

How do I hear all of this? People often misjudge me as one of those people who loses weight and now “hates” fat people to the point where I would high-five them for telling me these things.

Excerpted from “Dating While Fat And Feminist,” And The Nasty Things You Learn About People After You Lose Weight | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Silently Single & becoming the poster child for single folk

I liked this:

Those people who write about being single are annoying.

They are either super happy with being single [and make you feel guilty for the days that you don’t feel equally super happy] or they complain about being single [and that always makes me roll my eyes in annoyance].

I didn’t want to be annoying.

But on a deeper level, I didn’t want to write about something that was so. stinking. personal.

Because when you desire to be married, pray and believe that God hears you, and then buzz by your 31st birthday still single, that junk is personal.

The writer approaches her single life as a Christian woman who deeply wants her unanswered prayer of getting married to be heard by God. She writes about being in an unwanted season of her life and being unsure how to cope. I can relate: I am still learning how to have authentic relationships, show up for my friends and myself, be gentle and kind to myself so I can share that with others…let alone becoming emblematic of happy single people. (As some of you have probably guessed, I embody the Single more than the Happy most of the time!)

It’s not my job to be the poster child of Single Christian Girls.

I don’t know everything there is to know about how to handle this season – friendships with boys, sex, boundaries, roles, career pursuits, all of that stuff. I am not here to claim ultimate wisdom on how to do this.

[And seriously, those poster people are the annoying ones I already told you about. I really don’t want to be annoying.]

I thought you’d enjoy that perspective. I know that y’all will tell me if I get to be one of those annoying people. I’m really trying to avoid that.

The connection between civil rights and gay rights

This article by Jonathan Capeheart makes some excellent points. I usually dislike the analogy between the struggles for gay rights and civil rights in the African American community, because they seem to be very different struggles. But I am OK with being wrong in this case. That’s what education is good for:

Civil rights icon Julian Bond told me during an interview for the PBS program “In The Life” in 2008, “Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality. It does not matter the rationale – religious, cultural, pseudo-scientific. No people of good will should oppose marriage equality. And they should not think civil unions are a substitute. At best, civil unions are separate but equal. And we all know separate is never equal.”

When I asked Bond what is the connection between the black civil rights movement and its gay counterpart, he said it was the immutable characteristics of the individuals involved. “You are what you are,” he said, “and you cannot be discriminated against in this country for what you are.

“And the fact that the black civil rights movement came to public attention before the gay civil rights movement, which is existing at the same time but I don’t think well known to people. . . These draw from each other. And the gay movement draws tactics and techniques and songs and slogans. As did the Hispanic movement, as did the women’s movement.”

From The Washington Post: “Black and gays: The shared struggle for civil rights.”

Staceyann Chin on lesbians who chase straight girls

I really admire Staceyann Chin’s writing. She wrote a wonderfully poetic memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, about growing up and coming into her own as a lesbian in Jamaica before moving to New York. A quick glance at the comments on this story at the Guardian suggests that people in the UK and maybe in general mostly missed the nuance and sweetness in what she was going for with this piece that ran last week:

Maybe it is the thrill of conversion – and that is only if any such crossover can be deemed a conversion. Who is to say such conquests were not sleeper-lesbians, just waiting for the right moment to awaken? I suppose, though, through the right lens, the process could be described as evangelical, this business of meeting, and courting and having a woman decide to jump the heterosexual ship to be with you (even if it is temporary). More often than not, the crossover is accompanied by confessions of, “I’ve never done this with anyone before.” Or, “I’m not into women, there’s just something about you that makes me want to try this.” Either way, you are the chosen one, the messiah, the mandate that pulls her, magnetic, toward her most hidden desires.

Or maybe we are just like everyone else, desperately looking everywhere for love. Whatever it is, the phenomenon excites us; this lascivious dance between the narrow spaces occupied by the women the world wishes we were and the women who sometimes wish they were us keeps the tradition of lesbians chasing straight alive and flourishing. Yes, we crack mean jokes about it – who wants to invest in a relationship with a LUG? (Lesbian until graduation.) And, yes, we complain about the true cost of cavorting with the bi-curious – the eventual sexual frustration (often, our sexual favours are not returned during lovemaking). But we all do it, over and over and over again, until something happens that makes us say, no more. And this resolution can last for quite a while – years even – until the next dangerously intriguing straight woman struts by, flirting at us, daring us to make her cross the line.

Somehow, this struck some readers as predatory in a way that would absolutely not be praised were Staceyann Chin a man writing about courting women in the same way. I think that misses the point, but more than that, these are people who are not aware of the Pick Up Artists and Neil Strauss and The Game and maybe twenty billion other examples of ways men openly brag (and make a ton of money) off of targeting women to pick up and/or seduce. Anyway, the writing is good.

Why so many dating bloggers are single, according to The Good Men Project

There were one or two very Good Men that I lost by spread eagling myself on the a blog. I said what so many bloggers say. “The right person will understand and support my writing.” Not so oddly enough, that guy never seemed to appear. I had met a lot of men during this time. Most punched out the minute they were discussed on my blog. I had actually deluded myself into believing that they either would never read it or, get this, be flattered. The ones that did get a vicarious thrill from being mentioned on a popular blog stayed around far longer than they should, compounding my dependency on oversharing.

From, “There’s a Reason Why So Many Dating Bloggers Are Single.”

Yikes.

I’ve been meaning to address this for awhile, even though I write about relationships, dating, single life and all manner of personal topics…and I also wouldn’t classify myself as a dating blogger. (Maybe I’m deluding myself there.)

In case it matters, I’ve been keeping a journal since 1992. (No, I won’t tell you where I keep it.)  I highly recommend keeping a journal, especially for folks who want to express their angst, displeasure or generally NSFW ideas somewhere where Google can’t keep it against your will. I put all of my errant, private, not-for-public-consumption thoughts there. This is particularly useful in an age when everyone can say whatever they want on social media but even if you delete it, the Library of Congress might be archiving it.

I write about relationships that have happened in the distant past, as I did recently at GOOD.  I don’t name names. A writer once said all writers sell out their friends and lovers, but I don’t write to settle scores. I simply can’t not write — so I try to find ways to continue with my writing habit.

I thought of this when a writer I admire suggested it would be important to create boundaries for myself, in terms of topics I should and maybe shouldn’t write about. She was not aware that I’ve been writing deeply personal stories about my life since I was 19 years old. That ended up being a good thing, because it made me think about how to write about something as personal as living a happy single life without spread eagling myself and my soul all over the Internets.

So, in the interest of clarifying for myself and for my potential paramours and for my wonderful followers, I have crafted a kind of manifesto. It essentially is an old phrase — do no harm. In my attempt to write authentically about the odd ways our culture alienates a growing segment of the population for living alone or living adventurous single lives, I will not write about relationships in progress. Something must be sacred, and as a spiritual person, my evolving religious beliefs are too close to the core of my existence — so none of that, either.

I wonder what others who write about relationships or personal stuff think about the idea of oversharing — the best writing, after all, cuts close to the bone. You can’t get there from withholding.

Single Lady Quotes: Gloria Steinem

From: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2029774_2029776_2031807,00.html

I had the pleasure of meeting Gloria Steinem in person and she is as gracious and elegant as she seems.

I don’t need to tell you anything more about her than is out there in the world, but she is an iconic feminist pioneer and activist, and I have looked up to her since I was a little girl. In an Oprah interview, she talked about being raised by a mom with mental health issues, and now I relate even more to her. I want to watch the HBO Documentary about her some time soon.

Until then, a few quotes:
“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.”

“We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

“So whatever you want to do, just do it…Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential.”

Dealbreaker piece at GOOD Magazine: I was his sugar mama

I learned so much from this relationship:

(Illustration by Liz Mamont for GOOD Magazine)
I never wanted to save the world—just every stray cat, directionless friend, and single man I’ve ever met. This tendency started with my mom, a fiercely independent woman who tried to care for me in spite of her fading mental health. At the height of her bipolar mood swings, she extolled my beauty and smarts. At the depths of her depression, she called me worthless and almost choked me to death. I didn’t just learn to fend for myself—I learned to fend for her, too. l stole money, saved all my after-school income, and figured out how to stretch fast-food meals between us for days.

When I set out on my own, I soon attracted other people who needed to lean on me. My best friend in college was the perfect example. A former child actor and the eldest son in a Caribbean family, he was charming, handsome, and needy. He was a Bronx-raised nerd of color like me. I loved the way he shouted when he entered a room. He made the best chili I’d ever tasted. I had a romantic dream about him shortly before I visited New York for a baby shower. We hooked up once. Then he called me after a wedding and asked if I would be his girlfriend. Thoughts of biracial babies danced in my head, and I said yes.

Ultimately, despite the shenanigans of that relationship, it cured me of ever trying to save anyone ever again in my life. One of my mentors likes to say, “You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it.” But it’s also true that we are culpable for the things that people “do to us” in relationships. I took full responsibility for ignoring my intuition and allowing myself to be used…but that took some time.

Teenage boys are waiting longer to have sex because they’re more romantic

Speaking of unexpected things that made me happy this weekend:

Why are boys behaving more “like girls” in terms of when they lose their virginity? In contrast to longstanding cultural tropes, there is reason to believe that teenage boys are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.

That’s how sociologist Amy Schalet begins her sweet editorial about the new cultural tropes being rewritten by teen boys.  I learned about it over at Sociological Images. More from Schalet:

Today, though more than half of unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds have had sexual intercourse, fewer than 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls have, down from 50 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls in 1988. And there are virtually no gender differences in the timing of sexual initiation.

What happened in those two decades?

Fear seems to have played a role. In interviewing 10th graders for my book on teenage sexuality in the United States and the Netherlands, I found that American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: “I could be screwed for the rest of my life.” Another boy said he did not want to have sex yet for fear of becoming a father before his time.

The rest of the editorial just made me beam with pride. I think each generation assumes that the one after it is going to hell in a handbasket. But to see that American boys, like Dutch boys, were not only afraid of the consequences of having sex before they might be ready but that they also were using really strong romantic language to discuss love was so refreshing. Maybe the kids are really alright.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Theme: Customized Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.