Top Posts in May: The Best Advice I Ever Got, Rihanna on Being Single and the costs of dating

The summer is approaching for many of you, but for me it’s already begun. I got news last weekend that I got accepted for a writing workshop I’ve wanted to go to for more than five years to work on a memoir I’ve written about five different drafts of over the course of my young life. And that’s just the short version of the good stuff the summer has in store for me, it appears.

Here were the top posts for May:

Pastor pens book with Call Tyrone in the title, encourages black women to stay single, wins this blogger’s heart

The costs of dating

Katie Couric and friends on life advice

One is not the loneliest number: Elephant Journal on feeling loneliest in a crowd

Rihanna says there’s a dating drought and I try not to weep

Amanda Hess on reframing romantic narratives

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?

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.


Black women & self-defense: Should I get myself a gun?

(Not actually me or my dog, Cleo.)

I spent several months turning that question around in my mind. Only at the end of it did I ask myself, “Girl, if you have heard you were intimidating before, what do you think a man is going to say when you tell him you’re packing heat?”

When I was working on this piece for Bitch Magazine, though, I realized that any would-be suitors not only can’t keep my feet warm, but they can’t protect me from the reality of the world we live in, either. That’s not a dealbreaker, in part, because I have specific reasons for wanting to have my very own weapon:

Journalists, like activists, must be proactive in the face of bleak statistics and violent events. For me, learning to handle and shoot a gun seemed the most direct way to fend off growing feelings of vulnerability. But what started out as a simple intention to earn a concealed handgun license and buy a weapon ended up as a yearlong quest that involved a few stops at the gun range, being fingerprinted by Texas authorities, and staring for months at the incomplete application on my desk.

People presume that tall black women like me are tough and sufficiently able to protect ourselves. But I wanted an additional layer of insurance for my freedom to explore, unfettered, the realms I pursued as a journalist. As my own process unfolded, I noticed that the number of stories about women shooting for recreation or buying guns for self-defense had started to multiply. Each made me think about the limits of self-protection and question what, if anything, gun ownership would mean for my work and life not just as a journalist, but as a womanist/feminist.

What’s not included in this piece — probably because I deemed it insignificant on some level — is that I have not done a lot of fist-fighting in my day. I bit a girl on the hand because she wouldn’t stop messing with me when I was in third or fourth grade (Time flies when you’re having fun!) and she had to go to the hospital. So that’s my history of self-defense. Nerd life is the new thug life, people.

Anyway, what I found fascinating about the process of earning my concealed handgun license (the paperwork is not complete yet, but I spent part of Valentine’s Day wrangling some of it) was that support for my right to carry a weapon if I chose came almost exclusively from Southern white men, who, as a Northern-raised black woman, I have always feared the most. To me, the heart of what I wanted to express was here:

For women, part of the tension around this topic is that female gun owners are marginalized in a feminist culture that promotes unarmed resistance and “clean” fighting techniques. These send the message that as long as a woman does not have a lethal means of protecting herself, she is still feminine and worthy of “real” protection—either from a man, or from the police. I grew up with the notion that self-defense achieved via martial arts, pepper spray, and the biggest keys on the key ring are how women combat sexual assault. Movies, media, and college self-defense classes reinforced the emphasis on clean fighting as the feminist way.

And as I got older, my reporting on public safety in Texas led me to stories about pink personal Tasers and women involved in restorative justice—but never to women (rape survivors or not) who had decided to use more assertive means to protect themselves. To be a gun-owning feminist, to prepare to protect oneself against two of the most frightening enemies of female-identified people—rape and/or domestic violence—still strikes at the heart of what could be described as a feminist identity crisis, wherein women oppress each other with our inability to make room for alternative models of self-protection.

I welcome your thoughts on this. Be civil, or I will hunt you down*: Is it impossible to be a progressive and also believe in your right as a single person to bear arms? Can you reconcile, as I try to, being a peace-loving person but also wanting the space to defend yourself against sexual assault, home invasion or worse? If you have, how do you do so? Or is it something you don’t even think about?

*I was being sarcastic; but I will delete any ignorance here, so, take that how you want to.

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