Archive for the personal Category

Wonderfully Ordinary

Posted in parenting, personal, Uncategorized on October 22, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

Post image for The Epidemic of Busy-ness

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.– George Eliot

It’s early fall and it’s time for the end of the first series of the myriad activities that consume our kids.  I’ve spent the better part of this morning listening to a coworker whine about  having a 6 year old kid signed up for soccer and t-ball.  Each sport has at least one practice and one game a week.  It’s a rather tame schedule until one considers that he also has a four year old son who has a budding interest in soccer, and a two year son who loves to throw all kinds of things(including his food).  Oh yea, and the plans to enroll the oldest two in Japanese classes and the martial arts classes currently being vetted.  He and his wife each work at least 40 hours a week.  Then there are the orthodontists visits and carpool duty and playdates and  housework and yardwork.

There is something completely troubling about this to me.

I’m sitting here in my living room enjoying lunch and down time as part of a  self-imposed sabbatical from anything that resembles work or responsibility.  On the south side of my apartment I have a view of a lazy lake where people take their boats and kayaks and canoes on drowsy voyages to… somewhere.  To the north I can see the normal hustle and bustle that usually slams along down Ocean View Avenue; most cars going well above the prescribed 35 mph speed limit.

It is a tale of two worlds.  One world in hyper drive and the other at the mercy of the pace of the gentle low tide current.  Worlds seperated only by an acre and a half.

People can be likely divided.  There are those who are seem perfectly content with going along in life  winding up wherever the wind blows them like some seed from a dandelion head.  Then there are those who are inexorably driven by some unseen yet unrelenting force to go faster..farther.. achieve more… now.

What drives these people?  What makes them drive their kids to seemingly achieve more… more …. MORE… NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ordinary and extraoradinary lately.  Is there any room for the kid – or adult- who enjoys a pickup game of basketball  but is far from being an NBA lottery pick with an eight figure shoe deal, who will be a good citizen and parent and friend, but won’t set the world on fire otherwise?

Let me start off by saying, in the spirit of full dislosure, that I do not have any children.  I want children one day, but there is a certain part of me that dreads the idea of bringing an innocent being into such a tepid, fickle, and unoriginal world.  But, I digress; I was talking about ordinary in respects to the kids.

Most times, I find, from the second a child is born he’s told how special and beautiful and exceptional he is.  To me, it’s the start of unconsciously conditioning a child to value style over substance; or to covet accolades more than real achievement.  Why aren’t parents teaching their kids the value of character and hard work, while also giving their kids the straight truth: that their lives, no matter how well meaning they are, will probably be spent in relative obscurity and normalcy.

There I said it.  Most of you will have very normal…very average kids.  Hell, most of you will lead average lives. 

The scandal.

When did being ordinary become such a bad thing?  What seperates the extraordinary from the seeming ne’er-do-wells?  Most often the answer is mere chance. 

Would Michael Jordan be a household name if he hadn’t been cut from his high school team?  Would Mozart be a timeless icon if his dad had pushed him to learn the tuba instead of the piano?  Would Einstein be legendary if he had not been commisioned to manipulate the atom?

The answer to all of those questions is simply no.  They were just like us.  Good at what we do, but waiting on an opportunity to be more.  For the large, vast majority who never get that opportunity or squander them as they come along are we failures?

The answer to most of us who live and exist in this Pimp My Ride/Cribs/Reality Show Celebrity society the answer is yes.  So, while we wait for that watershed moment to happen that promises fame and fourtune, we try to create a world where people think we’re sought after and needed. 

The business of busyness is real, and it is affecting and swallowing us whole.  What’s worse is that we feed our kids this notion that if they are do things like…being a teenager then they are falling behind their peers.

There was a time in my life where I was poor of everything but youth.  I used to buy little date books and fantasize about being the type of man who would actually need to use one. I would write things in it that I already knew in my head just because I thought that people who were worth something used those sorts of things.   I remember now the boy that dreamed he was something more than a guy trying to find his way as a Marine, a cable installer, an electronics technician, a shipyard worker, until I finally learned to be comfortable with myself in the space I occupied.  I will never give up on my dreams, but Ialso decided a long time ago to not be consumed or defined by them. It was a selfish life I lived when I was poor of everything. At least today I can say it is only money that I am poor of.

11 Things Mom or School Should Have Taught Me About Sex

Posted in African American Interests, marriage, personal, relationships, sex on June 27, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

Sex.  The mere mention of the word in some circles can cause reactions measuring from sheer embarrassment to utter anger.  Sex education brings on a similar myriad of emotions.  Sex education, though, is becoming a more integral part of adolescence with the  number of sexually active teens rising every year.  Leaving your kids to learn from their big brothers or porn can lead to the passing on of myths and worse, misinformation.  For me, there were many things that didn’t become clear to me until  I was well into my twenties. 

1.  Masturbation is awesome!

Think of the problems that could be avoided if teens were simply told it was alright to have a self-love party whenever they felt like it?  No, it will not make your eyes cross.  No, it will not make you stutter.  No, God will not send you to hell for it.  It amazes me the number of women that I’ve been with(trust me it’s not that big of a number) who know less about their own anatomy than I do.  It’s equally amazing the number of moms who do not know how to explain to their sons proper hygiene of their, the sons, parts.  We have a generation of ignorant adults who are charged with teaching their children the right and wrong things to do with their bodies.  Think of the frustrations and confusion that could have been alleviated if our parents had taught us that it was ok to explore our bodies in safe ways.  We should all be familiar with our bodies and how it works and there is nothing shameful about that.

2.  Manhood is amalgamous.

So often young men think that manhood equals vast amounts of bravado and machismo… and little else.  The truth is that being a man is a complex ballet.  The most important thing is to find your niche… not someone else’s idea or caricature of what manhood is.  The greatest men on this planet were the most unassuming.

3.  Sexuality does not fit into a box.

Sexuality isn’t some flawless computer program that never has glitches.  If you see a man/woman walking down the street and notice how attractive they are, that doesn’t mean you want to do something with them, and that does not mean you are batting for the other team.  You can be as straight as an arrow while admitting another man or woman is attractive.  Being comfortable with yourself is a sign of strength.  Besides being hyper active about being ‘not gay’ is not a good look.

4.  Skin is the largest sexual organ. 

Hug your partner while fully clothed.  Take your shirts off and hug again.  There’s just something qualitatively different about pressing naked flesh together.  Touch has the psychological effect of helping people feel loved, happy, accepted, calm and reassured; all elements that are important in a happy and healthy sexual relationship.  Too often sex is limited to the skin that creates our sex organs.  When is the last time you touched or kissed you partner behind their knee.   Have you ever kissed their elbow.  Behind their ear.  Too often we get hurried into getting to the penetration, when simply slowing down and caressing can heighten and prolong the pleasure.

5. Pee after sex.

You ever wake up after sex and feel needles and pins jabbing your bladder?  You ever piss fire or knives after sex?  Having sex introduces bacteria to normally sterile places.  Peeing flushes those bacteria away, lessening your chances of painful urinary tract infections.

6.  Sex comes with feelings. 

Sex is not without its pitfalls.  Try as most might, it is almost impossible to have sex with someone without having feelings or expectations afterwards.  Know this going in.  Understand too your level of feelings that may result may not be equal to those of your partner.  So be prepared for rejection.  The best solution to this problem is to be sure you both have mutual feelings and goals prior to having sex. 

7.  Toys are ok–required.

Sex toys are not evil…or trashy… or abnormal.  Sex toys cover a broad spectrum of items that are designed to enhance physical pleasure.  If it feels good, use it.  If in a relationship never substitute a toys for your partner.  Always remember to focus on giving and not taking, and the use of toys will never be a problem in a relationship.  The idea is to achieve sexual and emotional intimacy.  If a toy does that for you, GO FOR IT!

8.  Talking during sex is ok.

Telling your partner what excites you is ok.  If you do not communicate the  chances of you having awful, boring, or uninspired sex is increases exponentially.  Never be ashamed to be honest about what pleases you…no matter how weird you think it may be.  You’ll never get what you want and you’ll spend more time complaining to your friends about how weak your sex life is.

9.  70-80% of women cannot orgasm through sexual intercourse alone.

This is a simple fact that is missed by both sexes.  Women are often moved to feel inadequate and fake it.  Men often feel like failures who can’t please their woman.  There are other ways to help women reach orgasm.  She is/you are not defective.

10.  Orgasm is not the end of sex.

Orgasm is not the  ‘end’ of sex but its resolution.  Obsessive concentration on reaching climax obscures whatever else there is to be enjoyed sexually.  The ultimate goal should be pleasure and intimacy.  Orgasm is not a must every time.

11.  Real people have hair.

Porn and pop culture leads us to believe that in order to be proper and sexy one must be hairless from the eyebrows down.  This is not true.  Most people have hair ‘down there’ and it does not mean they’re lacking in hygiene, discretion, or love.  It just means they are happy with their natural, normal state.

Suspicious

Posted in African American Interests, brutality, civil rights, personal, police on March 20, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

Suspicious.  It is a state of mind and being that I have endured since birth.  Trayvon Martin should have known better, because he too has been Suspicious since before he was conscious of such a word.  Suspicious is as American as ‘terrorist fist bump’, ‘keep the border to Mexico closed’, apple pie, ‘blah people’… it is entrenched in the lexicon of this country.

For all of you who are upset that Trayvon is dead, I apologize on his behalf.  It is not as if he was born with every advantage of say.. a non-suspicious person.  If he had chances are he would have never been seen as suspicious for merely walking down a street.  Or walking near a non-suspicious woman with a purse.  Or reaching for his wallet.  Or being a cop making an arrest while having his gun out of his holster.  Maybe the taxi company or pizza company would have come to his neighborhood without hesitation.

He should have known better.

Suspicious people everywhere are not surprised by Trayvon’s case.  Even hearing him beg for help does not really stir the soul.  Afterall, Suspicious people have been running from Non-Suspicous people with guns since America, the land for all people who have been bestowed inalienable rights, was founded.  The sad part…the scary part is before the year is out Trayvon will be a memory because a few more Suspicious people will have been disposed of in similar ways for even more Suspicious reasons.

It is funny.  Just a couple of weeks ago Non-Suspicious people were up-in-arms over the brutality of Joseph Kony.  They wanted heads.  Before that it was bin Laden.  Ahmadinejad.  Qadhafi.  Hussein.  All men of Suspicion.  All dead or being hunted.

Ask yourself,  who killed Trayvon?  Who beat Rodney King?  Who shot Eleanor Bumpurs?  Who killed Amadou Diallo?  Who killed Emmit Till?  Why are these vigilantes.. these thugs who live right here at home and in our neighborhoods not afforded the same lights, stature, media attention and venom as our Suspicious brothers from Africa?  Why are they not infamous?  Are domestic terrorists not a more direct obstacle to the everyday way American life?

This post is dedicated to Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant,Ousmane Zongo and all others who have been or will be victimized simply for being Suspicious in America.

My Struggle With Feminism and The Sexist in Me

Posted in African American Interests, feminism, personal, Uncategorized on October 14, 2011 by beneaththeunderdog

“What the hell is a black male feminist?’ I’m a new convert to the feminist credo.  Being a new recruit in a growing movement I welcome the opportunity to be identified as a “feminist” because it celebrates those of us who are serious about promoting changes in attitudes and policy that allows and cultivates the environments that breed sexist and misogynistic attitudes.  We have to work together to discard the accepted norms within the black community and strive for more unity and diversity.

The work of building a whole community of progressive black men is being done.  Young men who are advanced in politics, business, education, real state, and finance are needed more than ever in the African-American community.  If men, black men, were to unite and form a protective cocoon around our young black males, there might be a noticeable improvement in a relatively short amount of time.  That sounds good for the community: a few men… a few boys… kumbaya.. and then we’re all better.  Sadly, we will not be better.  We won’t be in the same vicinity as ‘better’ if we continue to ignore the festering problem of sexism.  Our women are screaming.  Through their tears, with their heads held high, they are screaming.  Sadly, it seems, their screams are falling on deaf ears.

The United States of Male Privilege

America is what it is.  Mostly it is a land built to maximize an environment of male privilege.  It’s no secret that men rule this nation.  While doing research for this essay I came across this lengthy checklist that illustrates the historical, and somewhat stereotypical/implied advantages that men have enjoyed for as long as America has been and ideal.

The Male Privilege Checklist

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.

15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.

17. As a child, I could choose from an infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability.

26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.

27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.

28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.

29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.

37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.

39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.

40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily clad women intended to appeal to me sexually.  Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.

43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”

45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment.

45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

My Own Personal War

I’m not going to lie, until recently, I enjoyed the complete anonymity of the assumed power of  being a man.  That is, privilege and power are invisible but it’s plain to see in everything that surrounds us.    It is also plain to see the impact that my given rights have on the females that surround me.  Whether it’s in the news (Topeka voting to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases), in the music (Dr. Dre attempting to  throw Dee Barnes down a flight of stairs or Chris Brown beating Rihanna), or in the news (the recent case of the Norfolk police captain who killed his wife and himself), women are more vulnerable than ever.

As a man… no … as a human being, it is my duty to give these advantages up in the name of sincere fairness so that the women, who already give up so much, might have a chance to have at least a little more.  The idea, male feminism, in itself is strangely heroic but is not without its pitfalls.  There are going to be some of  who question my masculinity, sexuality, and sanity.  Some are going to read this and think I’m ignorant or under-valuing the war that women have been waging in this country from its very beginning.  I’m at the beginning of this journey and I intend to see it through.  We all have mothers and each of us posesses a unique opportunity to replicate ourselves in the lives of others.  I just want to make sure that the influence I have is one that changes things and makes the world a better place to exist… for everyone.

This is part one of a series of posts on Feminism.  Please leave comments/stories of how the movement affects you.