Monday, May 3, 2010

Maturity... and a tangent or two

Don't need a man who can give you money
c'mon, let me show you just what you need honey (I got what you need)
you need a man, with, sensitivity, a man like me
Ralph Tresvant, "Sensitivity"

I don't know if it's Ralph Tresvant's calm, almost-whisper that makes me believe him, but despite never being able to sing the rest of the lyrics to the song, and overlooking the very corny 90s rap toward the end of the song (it was the 90s, after all), whenever I get to that line, I find myself singing along, sighing with his almost-whisper, wondering if sensitive guys really exist. Wondering where they are.

I was pondering last night, a night that seemed as though it wouldn't bring sleep; my mind was so active with things I wanted to say, things I wanted to write. I took down a quick few notes before I went to sleep, knowing that, as they always do, the morning hours would bring renewed inspiration.

A message from an old friend aroused this topic in my mind. I started thinking about the many complaints that Black women (myself included) utter when it comes to the status (or supposed lack thereof) of good Black men. For some reason, my mind stuck on the topic of education. I complain all the time about the "thug life" phenomenon*, and just this past Saturday, I lamented to a lunch partner--as a grown man walked by with scruffy facial hair, dreadlocks formed into sloppy french braids, a big purple, electric pink, and light blue polo shirt, and pants with the same blinding colors hanging near his ankles--that when thug life stopped being popular, maybe I wouldn't be single anymore.

How does this connect to education, you might wonder? Well, we are all humans, and we all pass judgment. Even I, oh ye Queen of the non-judgment passes judgment. *Kanye shrug* ** Consider it my imperfect humanity. Generally, when I see a thug life example, of course I assume that this spoken imitator of all that is Plies is not a friend of higher education. (Though, Plies himself apparently has seen the 4 walls of an educational institution. Who knew.) Now, could I be wrong? Sure, there's always that possibility. But usually, I'm not.

This used to be a pretty accurate judgment call. Back in the days of undergrad (and by back in the days, I do mean less than three or so years ago), I knew that if I saw Mr. Thug Life walking around looking like he didn't belong... it was probably because he didn't belong. Thus, not in school. Conversely, if I met a guy, and he wasn't in school, or wasn't getting his degree, or trying to pursue any type of education, even if he didn't resemble a street pharmacist, that usually could explain to me (without him needing to explain further) his aspirations. Hence, the possible presence of the thug life phenomenon. Yeah, you can not be going to school and actually plan on doing something with your life (cue Diddy or Russell Simmons as entrepreneurs), but usually, those dreams ended up being more like, I wanna be a rapper, like Jay-Z, or Biggie, or Pac, or Wayne. (cue Fabolous... because you know damn well the likelihood of everyone who wants to make it in rap being anywhere close to those four artists I listed is like the chances of every man who wants to ball being another MJ, or LeBron, or Kobe. Just not that realistic.)

Yeah yeah yeah, you could say I'm being wrong, or that I'm generalizing, or exaggerating (I wish) or doing the same tsk tsking that white people do***... but I'm just being real. Continue.

My point is that, the educational factor isn't what is missing. I mean, sure, there's nothing like having a conversation with a well-educated brotha, but that's not enough. The maturity is what's missing. I've been duped by enough great conversations to have learned this. (And that my weakness for strong conversation is like the weakness in the flesh behind my knees.)

In today's times, having a Bachelor's Degree is the new standard norm. Still an accomplishment by far, but now that everyone is getting one, or has got one, it doesn't quite stand out as much. Kind of like bellybutton piercings. (I guess that would make a Master's degree like a tongue piercing? What would that make a Ph.D? A clit piercing?)

Even more important, an arena that was once reserved for the upper-echelons of intellect, class, and monetary standing (institutions of learning, having a degree), is now open to everyone. Am I happy that this arena is now more public? Of course I am. That's how I got there. But, in regards to this topic, the Waka Flocka Flames**** of the world now have degrees too. Sometimes they can even hold a great conversation with you. But at some point, their true colors will be revealed.

I guess what I'm doing is likening this whole thug life thing to immaturity. You can call it "self-expression" but I call it immature when a man walks around without being able to speak correctly and when he wears his pants at his ankles. And this alllllll comes back home to roost with me because I started thinking about people I've dealt with. About people I deal with. Thankfully, I don't have many thug life examples (though, shamefully, there are a couple whom I will never, ever tell you about), but I do, sadly, have many immature ones.

I guess I didn't realize it until I sat down last night, that I've been dealing with immature young men for a long time. I guess I thought I was doing all right, because, well, all the people I deal with have, or were in the process of obtaining degrees from institutions of higher learning. (Except those couple examples... though, if it's any consolation, we were never serious... or comedic, for that matter. I don't know what we were doing.) But, despite the fact that the majority of all the guys I've called myself liking had degrees hanging from their walls, they had immaturity hanging from their bones.

Except a very small few. Very small. So small, in fact, that I overlooked this highly beneficial, could-make-you-husband-material-instead-of-let's-get-some-sexing-in-when-we're-both-bored trait.

There was the guy who was so sincerely nice to me when I was head-over-heels infatuated with him and could barely utter a sentence in his direction, and who never took advantage of my naivete; who never uttered anything sexual toward me, as is the norm from the peanuts' gallery. He has always spoken to me with respect, the way I imagine all men should speak to all women, not just because you may happen to value yourself, while another woman may not.

There was the guy who offered me advice and told me to love myself and value myself, even after I'd shown my ass and lost my dignity and probably convinced him I was crazy. (Well, sending yellow roses for a graduation I technically didn't know about, on a date I technically didn't know clearly is a much more romantic ideal in a fiction novel.)

There was the guy who asked me long, long ago to be his girlfriend (and I said no... for no reason); who was always kind to me, who was a friend in school, who took me out on my first real date, who was God-fearing and seriously, the kind of good man that Black women seem to think (or so say all the magazine articles and news stories) no longer exist. (And, to boot, he was always like that. Even in middle school. When we were twelve and most boys were running around copping a feel on booties.)

All of them were always mature. They possessed a calm about them that my other, later loves, infatuations, interests, and conquests did not, and do not. They are mature men, now all snatched up by women who knew what they held in their hands.

I'm not sad that these men have all made it to some-kind-of relationship bliss. It was inevitable. And the immature girl that I was--and, to my surprise, partially still am--wasn't ready for their kind of maturity. That I know. But it did leave a profound impact on my psyche. And it helps me know what I'm looking for.

Now, what does that have to do with the song? Not much, really. It's just that when Tresvant sings about wanting to give me his sensitivity, I imagine that there's a guy out there, singing the same song about his maturity.

I'm listening.

you need a man, with sensitivity, a man like me...

*-the "thug life" phenomenon (my terminology, so don't expect to look it up on Google) is this not-so-recent-I-can't-remember-when-this-started-but-I-wish-it-would-die-a-hard-death-and-be-buried-in-an-unmarked-grave trend of men thinking that they can emulate the Lil' Wayne look and resurrect the Gucci Mane vocabulary in everyday life. Pants no longer sit on the waist, they hang so far below the ass that thug life men have taken to walking like 21st Century gunslingers, only this isn't the old West, and John Wayne didn't have a platinum grill. Just saying.
**-I've been wanting to say *Kanye shrug* forever. All the cool kids do it. Color me trendy.
***-no, I don't have extremely significant problems with white people. I'm just being real.
****-yes, I had to look him up in order to know whether I was spelling that horrific moniker correctly. *shudders*


Anonymous said...

Preach! Seems like the world is flooded w/ Thugs and Barbies. Where do people like us fit in? There's no way I can do a damn Thug Life dude and I'm 27. No sir...ain't gonna happen. And I agree, it def ties into maturity. (lost my train of started talking to me)

Avanti said...

Def agree. I was with a friend today and saw a man about 30 walk into the gas station store in a tall T-shirt and shorts he had to hold up in order to not let them drop at his feet. It surprises me that some men still feel that this is acceptable, trying to match middle school and high school trends in a world in which they need to realize no longer accepts that. I was at work today and even before I read this I was thinking about how the Barbie trend has trashed the college atmosphere turning educated women into less then what they are. You gave me some inspiration to actually write those thoughts out.

Miss Malorie said...

@Chavon: lol at the coworker making you lose your train of thought. And I feel you, girl. Don't even get me started on the Barbie phenomenon. Where DO women like us fit in? I'm pretty much too intense to be a girlfriend, but sexy enough to be a great lay. GREAT, that's exactly what I wanted to be. I guess I might as well put on my Barbie wig, hold my head to the side, and rap-by-numbers. *sigh*

@Avanti: It's disturbing to me that this is still acceptable, but as long as there is a section of culture that embraces such foolishness, we will continue to see it, and these folk that embrace spoken "trend" will continue to try and merge with our worlds. And yes, the Barbie trend is not making me happy right now, because women's images of themselves, and their relationship with the media is already shaky enough. Not to mention, how come when a chick decides to be Black Barbie, she has to appear to be dumb as fuck? Did anyone think about the fact that "actual" Barbie isn't dumb? That chick had a career (many of them), a nice guy with no genitalia, many cars... okay, so that's not to say she wasn't dumb, but she sure as hell didn't cock her head to the side and prop her breasts up.

Okay, I'm going off on an indignant tangent. But yes, I hear both of you. Avanti, I'm glad I granted you with some inspiration. Stay writing, girl! And thank you both for reading and leaving some great commentary!

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