Ok so I know it’s only the pilot but I am in love with Twenties. Lena Waithe, of Dear White People fame, created Twenties because she felt it was a universal story and because she needed to tell it. While networks love the script and premise of the show; they don’t think there is an audience for Twenties. Now we have to prove them wrong. Lena’s call to action is simple, share Twenties with twenty of your friends. I have already raved about this show on my facebook and my twitter but this feels like a better way to do it. I mean, we can’t let Tyler Perry be the only voice of Black people, and especially Black women. Ugh, can we really handle more The Haves and The Haves Nots? shudders.
Although many people have been calling Twenties a “Black Girls”, I think it’s more than that. Sure they are twenty somethings struggling in a city, but Hattie is no Hannah and that’s a good thing. Some of my friends have said the characters are annoying, but to me that makes them endearing. The tampon vs. pads scene was something I have seen played out many times in real life. I wasn’t in love with the down low angle but I do know that’s a fear many women have while dating. I love all these familiar situations finally being shown on a screen. These aren’t your typical Black girl characters. But what I loved most about Twenties was the way the show dealt with Hattie’s sexuality. She’s not the gay friend, she’s the friend who having problems with her ex, who happens to be a girl. It’s not a big deal. But it was hit home in Hattie’s breakdown that she was in love with an emotionally damaged straight girl. (Nope, that couldn’t have been a vlog from one of my own exes.)
So check it out and let me know what you think.
Thank you Lena, I really hope someone picks up this series soon because I need much, much more twenties in my life.
I am still raw from last night’s verdict. I tried to watch the case over the past few weeks but it was too difficult. People were sidetracked by Rachel Jeantel’s color, weight and grammar. Sidetracked by a little weed in Trayvon’s system and old pictures of him on social media. And then last night, I thought I could handle news coverage after the case but a few minutes into watching the defense gloat and I was sick to my stomach. And then Zimmerman’s brother came on asking more questions to tarnish Trayvon’s reputation and push the idea that Zimmerman, who is alive, is the victim. I tend to get angry over verdicts like this, but last night I cried.
After last night, how can we look Black boys in the eyes and tell them they are valuable? We can’t act like this is an isolated incident when it seems every year an unarmed Black man or boy is killed and justice is not served. One can’t help but notice how Vick got two years for dog fighting and Placo got one year for shooting himself, but Zimmerman serves no time for admitting to shooting a child. What we learned last night is that you get a pass for hunting a Black child if you feel scared enough. We also know that every act of self-defense isn’t considered Stand Your Ground when a Black woman,who didn’t kill anyone, was given 20 years.
And what scares me more, this idea that your fists, your attitude and a slab on concrete are now dangerous weapons at Black men’s disposal and are so dangerous that they can be countered with a gun if you feel threatened enough. When I heard this come out of Zimmerman’s brother’s mouth, my first thought was of Douglas Reddish and how his case has already been totally rewritten. Instead of a Black man punching a drunk White man for yelling profanities and racial slurs at him and his girlfriend over lunch, I can already hear how the angry, drunk, belligerent man is the a victim because Reddish used the weapons of his fist and the sidewalk to knock him out. Because Reddish couldn’t just sit there and take the verbal abuse.
And perhaps the worst part, how so many people were sad about the verdict but not surprised. Some people weren’t surprised from a legal standpoint. I don’t really understand their argument, but I’ve heard if enough from lawyers and pundits on television that I have to believe at least some of it is true. But mostly, many people already know that the lives of Black men and boys are never valued as much as others. This is how you can have a case about murder and somehow manage to place the dead victim on trial. The irony of Zimmerman’s frustrated muttering, “These assholes always get away,” was not lost on me.
Today I am still sad about the verdict. Today I still wonder how do we explain to boys that even though there are countless examples of them being killed with no one being found guilty or sent to jail that their lives still matter and that they are still valuable. Today I wonder how can men balance protecting themselves and their families while juggling everyone’s fear. How can we look men in the face and say you can no longer protect yourself if you feel threatened because it’s not safe for you? You’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It’s not fair and it’s not going to change anytime soon. I think Cord Jefferson nailed it: It’s a complicated thing to be young, Black and male in America.
Last Sunday, Oprah, Iyanla and friends tried to tackle fatherless sons again. I want to preface this post with: I’m happy this are discussing this issue and sparking dialouge but I absolutely hate the way they are doing it.
The thing that bothered me most was the faux attempt to fix father and son relationships within the span of two hours. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t forgive someone for letting you down in two hours. You don’t change the way you’ve acted for years in two hours. You can’t “do the work” in two hours. And I get that this is a television show, but this is also real life for the guests..
The segment that bothered me the most was between Aveion Cason Sr. and his son. Aveion had not seen his son in 8 years. He had just missed his son’s graduation. His son was very hurt. What the show should have done was have them start the conversation that would help them improve their relationship and then provide some counseling to continue after the show. Instead, Iyanla fed the sons lines to say to his father (a la DMX and his son) and then the father promised to be there and not let the son down before. Without know these people, I can imagine the son and father have had this conversation before and I can also imagine that nothing has changed. And then the father took this opportunity to tell his son that it hurt him that his son didn’t respond when he told him “I love you.” I can see how that would hurt, but sir, this is a child, your child, who you hurt all the time. Act like an adult, deal with your pain and don’t put it on your child to change, especially when you’ve been dropping the ball for eight years.
I struggle with absent fathers. I struggle with their excuses about why they are gone. And I struggle with their pain when their children treat them the way they have been treated before. Later in the show, a father came on and asked what he could do because his son had stopped responding to him. The father admitted that he had a new family and his stepchildren loved and adored him and that helped him to see what a mistake he had made with his own child. I was glad Steve Perry was there to tell him that he might have to eat it. I think what gets lost in these fatherless children conversations is that children have a breaking point. There comes a time when they can’t handle the rejection any longer and they shut down. While I understand that this hurts fathers, it never ceases to amaze me how they don’t understand how their actions have hurt their children. This confusion grows when it’s men who grew up with absent (either physically or emotionally) fathers. They know how it feels, and yet, they turn around and do the same thing to their children.
Steve Perry and Geoffrey Canada discussed how some kids punish their fathers to make them feel the hurt they’ve experienced for years. I was glad that they bought that up because I haven’t really heard it discussed or read about it but it’s something that I did to my father and I know some friends who have done the same. This defense mechanism allows children to feel power and control in their relationship with their father. For me, it also made me feel better to see my father actually try to be a part of my life, even if was later than I wanted and in reaction to my rejection of him.
Something that I didn’t realize until after I watched the show was that there was only one White guest speaker on the show. I understand that the world wants to believe that Black people are the only ones dealing with fatherlessness, but that’s simply not the case. There are plenty White, Hispanic and (I’m guessing even) Asian children that are fatherless. I also think people forget that many children experience living in a single parent household when parents get divorced.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Parlour Magazine and discussed my thoughts on fathers, child support, my own relationship with my father and my research. My main message was that children just want their fathers, but that fathers often miss this because they are so focused on being a provider or their relationship with the mother. The title definitely was an attention grabber. The comments cover the spectrum; it’s nothing that I didn’t expect. It’s awesome. Then it was picked up by The Root. Check it out.
Last Sunday, we climbed to the top. I’m not going to say that it was easy. I’m not sure that I want to say that it was fun. I climbed the stairs with three old friends and one new one. Towards the end, they literally held my hands and helped me up the stairs. They stayed positive and friendly through 66 flights of stairs. They cheered me up 1215 steps. They took breaks with me when I couldn’t catch my breath. They smiled the entire way. They made it happen. The climb was the win I’ve so desperately been needing.
I learned two life lessons from this experience: one that I was supposed to already know but didn’t until now and one that I keep forgetting but life keeps placing awesome people in my life to remind me.
During the two weeks before the climb, I was feeling really low about who hadn’t donated or volunteered to climb. I had expectations that friends that I had had forever, people that I talk to all the time, would be the ones to step up and make it happen. And instead, friends that I hadn’t spoken to in months, in some cases years, were stepping up the plate. People that I had only heard of before were donating money and leaving nice notes. People that I had only “met” on the internet were coming to climb stairs with me in real life. And despite how amazing that sounds (and feels to type) for weeks I was stuck feeling sad about who wasn’t giving. To be honest, it still hurts a bit. But it was wrong of me to let a little bit of negativity outshine all the love and support that was being showered on me. It’s embarrassing to think about it now. It’s very easy to focus on the negative and I’m thankful for my patient friends who allowed me to vent, offered some solutions, but ultimately told me to snap out of it and to not let this ruin an incredible opportunity. You can’t let negativity suck all the shine of awesome experiences.
The other lesson is so simple, it’s funny. It’s that you get what you ask for. In the beginning I was hoping just to raise the $250 necessary to be eligible to climb. But in the end, I raised over $2000. I made a cowl for my brother for Christmas and people said they wanted one too. I decided to use the proceeds from them to donate to the climb, I raised over $50 in proceeds to donate to. I’ve never liked asking for help. I dreaded asking for donations. And while I can’t say that I love it or even like it, I’m humbled to know that if I just ask for it, people will be there to give it. And that feels pretty good.
The preparation for climb had been such a difference experience than I was expecting. Initially, I didn’t have much of a reaction to the climb. It was something I was going to do, and it involved me doing something I really didn’t want to do. I felt like jerk emailing everyone I knew to ask for money. But I’ve been forcing myself to do things that scared me, so I looked at fundraising as an opportunity to work through my fear – to do something even though it scared me. And so I did it.
Then there was the climb itself. Although I’m not in the best shape of my life, I was pretty confident I would get to the top. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but I knew I could get up there. It was only in talking to people who weren’t doing the climb, that I started to doubt myself. People wanted to calculate how long it would take. In my practice runs, I was doing 40 flights in 20 minutes. But somehow, in these talks with other people, I was convinced that it would take me over an hour to do 66 flights. I began to panic. What if I couldn’t make it to the top? (Self-doubt is so lame.) But as usual my friends talked me down. My friends helped me up too. We did all 66 flights in 23 minutes. Anna thought we probably could have gone faster. Crazy, huh? In the end, my breathing was the biggest problems. My legs could have easily done the climb faster, but I just could not catch my breath.
When we finally got to the top, I thought I might cry. My emotions surprised me. I did something very difficult. I did it with friends. I finished something. As I said earlier, the week before the climb was a disaster. A comedy of errors. There were lots of tears. I remember crying over drinks that I just needed one win. Just one victory to show me that it was going to be ok. I got that on the top of the rock. I got my first step back on track.
Over a month ago, I moved to CT from my beloved Brooklyn to focus on my dissertation. My family offered me a deal that I would have been totally crazy to give up, and so I packed up my life and moved to Hartford. While I knew this was the right thing to do, it made me incredibly anxious and sad. The first morning I woke up, I thought I’d feel like I feel today: ready to get up and make it happen, but instead, I kinda dragged myself to the computer and I can’t really remember if anything really got done. Slowly over the past two months I’ve managed to complete most of the data work for my entire dissertation, get all the committee members, and put work into my proposal. I’ve been working on different versions of my dissertation for the past five years, so at this point, it doesn’t excite me like I wish it would.
But I woke up excited today.
As is par for the course, I’ve been incredibly anxious about my what’s next. I’ve been paying too much attention to what my rockstar academic friends have been doing and then beating myself up for not having done as much. I know, lame. But in conversations I’ve been having with my brother and some male friends, I think I’m stumbling upon my next big step. It doesn’t have the shape yet for me to describe it here, but I’m hyped about it. For the first time, I woke up (hyped) and walked to the computer (hyped) and started working (hyped). Instead of “this humongous, overwhelming paper that I don’t know when I’ll ever finish”, my dissertation has become “this thing I gotta get done now so I can do this really cool thing.” My plans after my dissertation still aren’t as clear as I’d like them to be, but they are taking shape, which is a relief. From the few people that I’ve spoken to about my next step, I’ve already received an incredible amount of support. As much as it scares me, it’s something that I can’t not try. It’s in a field and working with a population where my gender will be an obstacle and still I can’t stop.
I haven’t felt passion for a project in such a long time. I am so thankful. When facing hard realities, instead of feeling defeated, I just keep saying “there’s got to be a way to do this.” I have to keep pushing it. I’m too excited not to. Naturally, I’m terrified, but even that is serving as motivation. I’m about to make it happen.
I originally wrote this post over a month ago, but I figured since so many people were asking for the entire story behind my last post that I’d post it here:
Before I turned 30, I was incredibly nervous. I was going to be 30 but I wasn’t where I thought I would be. 30 felt really old and I still felt really young. I was worried.
For my 30th birthday, I copied my 13th birthday. For that birthday, my mother invited all her friends over and we talked about what it meant to be a woman. I remember feeling so loved and so empowered and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel on my 30th birthday. So I invited my closest friends and a bunch of my mother’s friends. I asked everyone to be prepared to say a few words about what it meant to be a woman to them and/or their advice on how to live a good life. The party was awesome and exactly what I wanted. One of my most awesome and closest friends even flew in from Oregon. I rekindled some friendships that were dwindling. I got to spend time with some of the most important people in my life. I got awesome advice – mostly to live life on my terms, live without regret and to stop waiting for whatever I’m waiting to to start living.
I left my party feeling like my life was about to begin and that I was so blessed.
And then I turned 30.
It started simply enough: my left eye was acting funny. It didn’t hurt or anything, but it was funky to look through that one eye. Initially, I thought there was something in there. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom playing with my eye trying to see what was going on. I took an L for the day and was crazy unproductive because reading was a total pain at this point. The next morning I woke up and my eyesight was a little worse. So I spent the morning trying to figure out who to go to since of course I don’t have a ophthalmologist. So I finally get someone and they say I need a referral from school and so begins my day. I got to work (late) and explained to my boss that eye was being a total pain and that I’d prob need to leave early to get to a doctor. She was super cool about and so I spent the rest of the day trying to get appointments and referrals. This was when I learned exactly how much my school’s health insurance sucks. Anyway, fast forward to 4 pm when I find a doctor who actually takes my health insurance and she makes me take a million different eye tests. This is when I started getting scared. Three hours later, the doctors are whispering in a different language, they keep asking if my eye hurts and then tell me I need to get an MRI soon. As in within the next 48 hours. And said something was wrong with my optic nerve. Then they sent me on my way home.
Of course I went drinking instead.
Next day was spent trying to get the damn referrals I needed to get the MRI.
The day after that I met with the big daddy eye doctor who did a preliminary check and guessed that my eye was acting funky because of an old injury. I couldn’t really remember any serious injuries other than my boo dropping his stupid phone on my eye a month earlier but I felt relieved that this injury was starting to make sense. He sent me to get more tests and then to get the MRI and blood work.
Hours and hours later we’re both looking at my MRIs and I’m smiling to myself because I’m not seeing any tumors or anything I think is crazy. (Yes, I do think I can read MRIs because I watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy.) There is a history of cancer on both sides of my family, so I was prepared for that to be the issue here. I’ve kind of been waiting on a cancer diagnosis for most of my life since I know those odds aren’t in my favor.
What I wasn’t prepared for was my doctor thinking that I have multiple sclerosis. I wasn’t even sure what it was until he started explaining. It’s an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the mylein sheaths that protect your nerves. So that was what was happening with my eye. He said he thought it was just a regular optic neuritis until he saw two small legions on my brain. Yup. Then the rest kind of fades to black. I remember bits and pieces “50/50,” “I know this is hard because you came in here thinking you’re healthy” “home nurse” “iv” “steroids” “another specialist” “bring someone with you to our next appointment” and “come back in two weeks.”
In a daze, I left the office. I called my mom. I cried the entire subway ride home. I drank two vanilla cokes since they told me not to drink alcohol because of the steroids. My friends came over. It was insanely awkward and sad. My mom came. It lightened up a little. The drugs came. It got scary again. The nurse came, it got scarier. The catheter went it, it got gross. Chris came and I smiled. The nurse left, and then Chris left and then it was just me and my mom.
And for the next four days, it was me and my mom and my catheter. I only went out once during those 4 days and randomly ran into friends. The catheter, while wrapped up, freaked them out. I went back home and stayed in the house. The catheter came out. There was blood everywhere. I worried if this was going to become a regular occurrence in my life. This can’t be my life.
This week I see a MS specialist and get his opinion on my MRIs. I also go back to my first doctor to get the results of my blood work. I’m scared. This week I find out if I have a slightly annoying autoimmune malfunction where my eye is gonna get cute every now and then or if I have a chronic disease that might lower my life expectancy to just 30 years. [spoiler: it was MS, and that life expectancy estimation is off (too low) according to newer books I'm reading. phew.]
There’s nothing like a situation like this to kick your ass hard enough that it forces you actually live. Before I turned 30, my biggest goal was to pay off my loans within the next 30 years. After I turned 30, my biggest goal is to live the most incredible life I can within the next 30 years. Let’s see what kind of shenanigans I can get myself into now.
I must say, nothing makes me happier than hearing about my friends’ children. But my real joy comes when it’s my male friends doing the talking. I don’t know what’s so special about men doing what I’ve started to call “talking Daddy,” but I just can’t get enough. Luckily for me, a quick trip to facebook normally provides my fix. And if that doesn’t work, I simply have to ask my friend Jose how his son is and squeal when his answer is something super sweet like “delicious.” I almost can’t take it anymore.
I love when my friends tell me how their infant does something new or totally unexpected. I love watching videos of babies who have no idea how precious they are as they fall asleep while their parents try to get them to dance to songs. Or even simply little observations of their cognitive development. My favorite is when fathers tell me their child is their new best friend. I eat it up.
Something tragic happened to one of my closest friends, and yet even still, everything cool thing he does, he says it’s for his son. And even in private conversations, I can hear how this child who left the earth too soon has changed his life. My friend still talks Daddy to me.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how much I enjoy Daddy talk given my field of research. I literally read and write about fathers all day long. And I find when I talk about my research, I spend a lot of time debunking this idea that fathers that aren’t married to the mothers of their children aren’t around and that they can’t be good fathers. And I spend the most time talking about Black fathers. Man, they get a bad rap for no reason. Especially when the research shows that as nonresident fathers, they are the most likely to actually be involved with their children.
But this selective vision is the problem. We really have got to stop assuming fathers aren’t around. We need to stop for one second and realize that we’re surrounded by many men talking Daddy to us. We need to start listening.
A friend summarized it best when he said “Boy, when we fail kids, we fail big time.”
What does it say about a community that cares more about football than children and their well-being? What does it say about our society? I have long felt that we don’t care enough about children and we have tons of policies that show that. We fail children all the time. And we fail them in bigger ways every year. I mean, look at the apathy shown to Wang Yue who was run over by a van (twice!) and laid bleeding in the street for over 7 minutes and later died. I know people like to think that would’t happen here, but it’s classic bystander effect in action. And I can’t help but think that a lot of these men held their tongues because they expected someone else to step up and help.
Real talk, I didn’t know who Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz or Joe Paterno were yesterday morning. I had heard whispering about shenanigans at Penn State but didn’t pay attention until yesterday. But I spent most of the day reading and talking about the Penn State scandal and the easiest way to describe my feelings are: totally pissed off.
I read the indictment and almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. Sandusky was caught not once, but twice, in the act of raping children in the showers at Penn by two different grown men who could not get it together enough to call the police. I can understand that both men where shaken, but what about the children? I don’t know what I would do if I saw someone being raped in front of me but I hope that I would have enough sense to say something to stop it and then continue having sense and call the police. I’m sure I would call my mother, like then-grad student Mike McQueary, did. But I know my mother, and I know that if I had not already called the police she would talk me through it. (But I certainly would not work for the same people who traumatized me and ignored the victims like McQueary,who is now an assistant coach for PENN. shady.)
I can understand that people may not know what to do when they know a child is being abused. The only reason why I feel confident about what I would and should do is because I was trained when I got my MSW. (go go social work!) And I realize a lot of people don’t get trained but I’m surprised most of these people in this situation aren’t mandated reporters. In fact, I can’t believe some of them aren’t. Looking squarely at Schultz.
I also can’t help but wonder if more women had been involved in this process along the way. From what I’ve read, the only two people who have called the authorities were women – Victim 1 and Victim 6′s mom. I don’t know the gender of the official at Victim 1′s high school, but they also called the authorities and banned Sandusky from the school. While Penn State eventually banned Sandusky from bringing children from his organization to the school, there was no way to monitor it and he obviously did not follow this rule.
I think the biggest misconception about daddy issues is that people know how to deal with them. It took me easily 15 years to figure out that “dealing” with my father meant forgiving him and accepting him where he was. It took me a few more years to actually be able to do that. And I was lucky (using that term real loosely here) because my father had an excuse I could buy (addiction and PTSD) but more importantly, because he changed. (I wrote about it yesterday.) I’m only beginning my research on adults and their fathers, but from what I’ve learned so far, this is not the way it always goes.
More often it’s a painful disaster. A few months ago I read Naked With Socks On’s piece about when he confronted his father about why he wasn’t there. His father didn’t have a good answer, he barely had an answer at all. And when that happens you are crushed. Hell, I was crushed and it didn’t happen to me. Another public example is a scene in the documentary the Prep School Negro. Andre visits his father’s house for the first time and confronts his father about what happened, where he’s been, what the deal was. To be honest, watching this scene was like watching a horror movie. I didn’t want to watch because I was scared of what the father would say. And like NWSO’s father, this guy didn’t have an excuse and it hurt. It was literally painful to watch.
I think the fear of these scenes becoming a reality is why I think a lot of people avoid having the conversation. What in the world do you say to a parent who wasn’t there and offers no acceptable reason? What do you do with that information? I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what I would do. And my guess is, a lot of you don’t know either.
What was the point of me writing this? Lately, it seems that everyone fancies themselves experts on fathers and fatherless children. And frankly most of what I’m reading comes from people who have no idea of what they are talking about. I also have many, many thoughts on how we talk about women who grew up without their fathers, but that is another post. I say all this to say that I hope the next time someone wants to tell people to go deal with their daddy issues, they’ll think for one second about what that really means, how much time it takes and how it feels.
To be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t “deal,” I’m saying offer some compassion instead of ordering someone to do it.