Decolonizing Male Allyship

I’m slowly starting to realize the damage that non-intersectional feminism has done to my thinking and my intimate relationships with Black women. So often we talk about the role that men need to take in checking our privilege as if Black men and white men should address patriarchy in the same way. How often do we falsely assume that white male supremacy and machismo are basically the same thing? How often do we assume that patriarchy in gay male spaces operates on the same internal logic as patriarchy in hetero-male spaces just because some of the symptoms are similar? How often do we not even talk about masculinity in Asian communities despite the umbrella term Asian encompassing the majority of humanity? How can we understand male privilege in non-binary, raced and classed terms?

Recently, I was having a conversation with a group of liberated cis-Black women on dating. I was arguing, foolishly in hindsight, that I should not be expected to pay for dinner just because I suggested the date. All of these women, most of whom are far more active self-advocates, liberated and professionally successful than myself were united on the fact that if you ask someone out on a date, you pay. I was advocating, again foolishly, for the expectation to be that you split the meal. My friend Erika leveled with me and said, “it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s just the way it is. Quoting her sister Shayna she added “do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?” I realize now, that what she was trying to tell me was that this is how Black women think about it, if you want to date Black women then you need to treat them in the way that they ask to be treated.

I realized later, after a lot of self-reflection, that I have dating with a feminist analysis predicated on addressing the needs of white women.

Specifically, the fact that the kind of patriarchy that white women face is one of forced domestication in which men paying for meals assumes that men provide for women materially and women support the man’s career. This model, one that I have been a staunch defender of for years, makes almost no sense in the context of Black women. Black women have historically been unable to be seen as domestic, Black women’s oppression has always been one of forced labor. Black women are expected to provide economic, spiritual and emotional support to the entire community.

So, whereas paying for a middle class, hetero-sexual white women’s meal might often be rightly interpreted as saying “I’m operating under a patriarchal assumption that you cannot take care of yourself;” paying for a professional Black woman’s meal in a hetero context is more like saying “I know you can take care of yourself but for once, I’d like to take care of you.” As my friend Erika put it, “think of it as reparations for all those niggas that came before you.”

If I’m honest, that angered me. I’ve gone far enough along in my journey to recognize if a woman holds me accountable and my first inclination is anger, then I’m probably doing something pretty patriarchal. So I sat in it. I reflected on what I had said and why I was angry. I thought about how much of my identity is still tied to being a “good guy” like all those well-meaning white people who fall out at the mere suggestion that they did something unintentionally racist.

I had a revelation later that night that I am ashamed to admit but was also the catalyst for this post. Addressing the way that the past wrongs of other men has benefited you is in many ways the central tenet of male ally ship. Patriarchy is a system that benefits us, so even if we didn’t create it, we still have to address the ill-gotten gains that it has given us. More importantly, we can’t pretend that patriarchy is not the context in which we are operating even if by some stroke of luck of social location means that we are not contributing to the specific aspects of it in question.

This is something that I readily accept when white women challenge me on issues of gender writ large. It is something that I readily accept when Black women challenge me on issues of gender writ large. However, it is not something I can easily accept when put in terms of things Black men do. I hate it. I hate being pathologized as just another nigger. So the comment was triggering to me because Black men are often held accountable for other Black men’s actions in  way that other groups of men are not.

Now, some of this anger was completely understandable, as collective punishment is an aspect of white supremacy, even though Erika’s comment was about understanding context not collective punishment. I believe that it is important that we be real and honest about how and why we react to statements. Because emotions are complicated and even the most problematic reactions hold a kernel of truth in them; its important to learn to separate the problematic from the truth. So given that, what does it mean for me to readily accept, without question, the faults and trespasses of white men as my own yet bristle when it comes to the actions of fellow Black men. As my friend Omo might say, “that’s fuuucked up.” Or, as Erika did say in this conversation “you sound like a twitter nigga!”

It is one thing for Black women to pathologize Black men. This is a thing that happens. Unfortunately it is something I have seen the women in my family do. It is generally a result of trauma and how internalized anti-Black shows up in hetero-sexual Black relationships. It is crucial to point out that the trauma that those women are reacting from was caused by the systemic activities of individual Black men. However, what my group of liberated Black women were doing was not pathology but accountability and loving agitation [that in all fairness I explicitly asked for]. It is only recently, and only through the grace and wisdom of many of these same liberated Black women, that I was able to realize the difference.

I now realize that we need a new model of allyship for Black men who love Black women. Though, the word allyship seems out of place here. I am not an ally to Black women. We are not, in most respects, separate communities standing together. So, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, that Black men interested in dating liberated Black women need to rethink our solidarity with Black women. Still, this language seems off as it assumes both that all we need to do is sit in quiet reflection or that women like bell hooks, Audre Lorde or Angela Davis have not already done that work for us. Perhaps, as Zoe Samudzi might say, we need to decolonize our understanding of Black solidarity.

For, as much as it might pain me to admit this, my understanding of solidarity with Black women is colonial. Over the past few years I have really started to realize how much emotional energy I spend tending to the emotional needs of white people, especially white women, in my professional and organizing life. It was only until the past couple of months that I have realized that it makes it difficult for me to give emotional support to the Black women in my life [not mentioned too drained to really come to terms with why there are so few Black men in my life.] More to the point, my colonial understanding of feminism in romantic relationships has really put me at loss for how to deal with liberated Black women.

It is easy to for men like me to take a step back in romantic situations. For Black men who grew up in neo-colonial contexts, we are conditioned to step back in most non-male social situations. When we don’t we are often ostracized, feared and shut out from vital economic activity. For professional Black men like myself, strategically stepping back and only asserting ourselves once we are in a stable positon is a tried and true survival mechanism.

It is an odd thing, being raised a Black man in world that teaches men to be hyper masculine in order to survive but also teaches Black men that our hyper masculinity makes us a target. We have to learn to code switch. Yet forced code switching, especially in such emotional vulnerable ways, is not without its consequences. Sometimes this means men taking out the frustration of deferring to white employers out on their Black families. Sometimes this means men like me retreating from male spaces. Sometimes it means male solidarity in homosocial spaces that is based, in part, in misogynoir. Either way, it complicates our relationships with Black women who know what they want and are used to having to get it on their own.

This hit home when my friend Erika posited that, “maybe you’re just not ready to date Black women.” While this might have been true for my past self, I refuse to receive that and let it be true for my current self. But this means that I have to change. I have process what the messages that stepping back to suit the emotional needs of white people forced me to internalize. I have to process what growing up fighting and competing with other men has forced me to internalize. I have to process this hesitancy that an honestly over intellectualized political understanding, itself a product of my clinging on to the lie of control and fear of failure, has bread into me. In short, I need to decolonize my own Black identity and how I relate to liberated Black women romantically.

But, like everything else. It’s a journey. In talking with these same Black liberated Black women, I realize that I’m not the only conscious Black man in a similar position. My hope for this piece is the same as everything I write, that it sparks a mind that sparks a mind, and we create a new model for interacting with each other. Hopefully one that’s a lot less abstract and intellectual and centers a complex understanding of consent and intersectionality. I imagine, somewhere out there, off the internet, where real people live, someone has already figured this out. Yet I think it’s important that we be real about the fact that being “woke” is a continuous journey and growth only happens with agitation and loving accountability.  It is conversations like this one that really make me believe that accountability is a gift.

As James Baldwin said, and my sister Erika constantly reminds me, “if I love you then I have to make your conscious of the things you don’t see.”

Femminist Reflections on My Spritual Sabbatical pt 3

Headed Towards the Light: An Itinerant Cartographers Unfinished Guide to the Poetics of the Movement for Black Lives.

My thoughts coalesce in long walks.

I take long, slow and steady strolls throughout the city examining the network of disparate thoughts that float through my mind. Each step makes a critical connection. Each street corner reminds me of another data point. My mind elongates in tandem with my strides, expanding to compute a thousand daily concerns and musing.

Over the past month I have walked through several valleys of understanding. I’ve taken a really long and hard look at how I’ve been operating over the past year. At first, it was difficult even to focus on it all. Every action, speech, rally and interaction with police was blurred together in one side splitting mental imprint of stress, anxiety, hope, rage and fear.

As I strolled through city blocks in DC and Brooklyn, I unpacked these dense imprints to examine the impact this year had on me. As I unpacked them, I could feel myself decompress and a weight slowly begin to lift off my shoulders. Unencumbered by these chains of constant anxiety I saw a bit of my former self start to return.

I began to remember how much I enjoy playing the dozens with friends and family. I remembered how calm I used to feel before the hurricane of constant organizing. I began to be able to appreciate, for the first time in a long time, how truly wonderful, amazing and beyond my wildest dreams this past year had been.

Despite the pain and agony of constantly reacting to another death, another sign that we are not meant to survive this system, I realized that I have been blessed with a wonderful, radical and radically supportive community. I have been blessed with an increased faith in my abilities and decreased need to prove my worth. I have been blessed with a spiritual awareness of the world and my place in it. I have become more acquainted with my internal power and more comfortable standing in it.

With each step, I was able to gain more and more of this perspective and more and more weight fell off my shoulders. Yet something has been missing. There has been an almost indiscernible feeling of internal lacking, of waiting from something to enter my life and complete my sabbatical.

I realize that I’ve been waiting, somewhat foolishly, for my old self to return. Yet the more I reflect, the more I realize that he no longer exists. Part of him grew up over the past two years and part of him was buried in Baltimore. In his place is n older, more patient, more jaded and more self-aware blend of echoes of my father and the person I was as a kid.

______________________________________________________

Walking is one of the few things that can slow the torrent of coupled thoughts that often race through my mind. It is one of the few forms of meditation that brings me to the particular sort of calm in which I feel the most myself. It is a reflective, active calm like the mind of an athlete ready to jump. Even though the blood begins to rush into my hands in anticipation, unlike an athlete, my movements are entirely metaphoric.

It is perhaps ironic then that after my walks I could not describe to you much of what I saw nor could I give you directions to where I went. I have no mind for mundane details. I remember only the slight details a painter might use to accent a work or the descending notes a composer uses to let you know the piece was ending. I tend to only remember the details useful for storytelling.

It might then be even more ironic that I have come to think of myself as a verbal cartographer. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you how to get from point A to B but I could describe, illustratively and in exquisite detail what the journey will feel like. I could point out to you, if you were interested, the history of significant ruins you might encounter along the way. I would end each map with a key explaining why the journey is so viscerally important. Yet I’m very bad at directing folks to where I feel they should go because it assumes a specific singular destination.

I think this is why I prefer poetry to prose.
It’s easier.
A rarity of words,
Increases impact.

Like a lover,
leaving the ring on the counter,
in lieu papers;
communicating more in questions begged,
than answers given.

But I digress.

I have, over the past year, developed more interest in complicating journeys than prescribing destinations. Perhaps it’s fatigue. Perhaps it’s uncertainty. Perhaps it’s a begrudging humility. Likely it’s all three. Either way, I’m more interested in poetry than prose.

“I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean–in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.”
Lorde, Audre. “Poetry Is Not a Luxury.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.

In another life I would have been a cartographer.

I can see myself devouring the latest missives from the “new world.” Immediately incorporating them in my maps. The outlines of coasts getting more and more accurate as times goes on. The descriptions of the people and culture getting more vivid and useful.

But the edges of the map, of the known world, would always be illustrated with the myths I felt to be true. The gryphons of the cold wintery north, dragons of the distance east, the giants that laid waste to the northern desserts. Over time we will discover the eagles, the alligators, the massive blue whales and giant squids that looked like krakens and myth will turn into science and we will pretend that we understand the world.

These are the many tensions in my soul. The observed and the felt. The diagram and the dreamscape. Different understandings fueled by a desire to know and explore, driven by the most ardent curiosity. A deep sense of the world in its totality but lack of understanding.
Of it’s beauty.
Its wonder.
It’s terror.
It’s Poetics.
Dialectical, symmetrically assembled choreography of masses, forces and networks of consciousness that I feel a deep, ethereal connection to.

I will forever be in debt to writers like Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler and Adrienne Maree Brown and Alexis Pauline Gumbs  for giving me language to explore and illustrate the edges of the map. I will be in debt to thinkers and spiritualists like Erika Totten and Omolara Williams McCallister for reminding me that there are many levels and kinds of understanding and multiple dimensions on which to know a thing. It is debt shared by all the Black Queer Feminist in my life whose power and energy inspire me, especially my sisters who taught me how to dream.

This is all to say, after a month long spiritual sabbatical, I wish to share with you a map of the edge of my understanding. I wish to illustrate, in the best medium I have available to me [poetics], the uncharted territory that my movement family and I have been exploring in the past year in the Movement for Black Lives.

A Unfinished Map Towards Liberation:

The topography is vigorous,
A land of dynamic forces.
Energies that are both waves and particles:
ideas,
impulses,
neurons firing in our brains
and chemical reactions to historical, economic, existential and social stimulants.
There are forces of beauty and wonder,
forces of oppression and human limitation.
There is bondage and emancipation.
Growth and decay.
Blossoming and withering.

These forces etch themselves unto the landscape of human experience, craving systems of opposition, obstacles to forward paths and valleys of understanding.

The west side of the map is our past: clouded in the fog of war, myth and dogma.

In the middle lies our present: dense, humid and warming.

Towards the east is our unknowable future: shrouded in mystery and wrapped in anticipation.

To the north is the observable world of facts and figures and

in the south lies the equally true world of dreams, feelings, imaginations, the science of living and other knowings.

 

Liberation lies to the SE of our present location.

“The man who knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.” Erykah Badu – On and On

 

As we travel towards liberation, we must ensure we are equipped for the journey. It is a rough road for the ill-prepared. We could not climb the mountains of true understanding without collecting the theory and analysis of the north and weaving them into the dreams and internal knowings of the south. Unfortunately, our species is not yet equipped to walk a straight path towards liberation. It will be meandering journey of starts and stutters.

On the frayed edges of the map are the metaphysical oceans where the forces of the land coalesce and pool. The rocky bays that connect these rivers of forces to the oceans of power filter out the impurities of domination, hierarchy, and inequity. Still, the depths of these oceans are dangerous to the unpracticed swimmer. The call of God is a siren to the unlearned ear, pulling you into these jagged rocks and in these oceans lay a terrifyingly transformative power.

Notes on the oceans of power:

From my travels in the south, I learned to bottle my dreams so that I can access this power. I see my sisters access it at protests. I drink from it nightly and feel it overwhelm me when I speak truth to the world. I sense is flow through me as my mind flows unto the page.
I intuit that this emotional energy, this transformative power, has the capacity to shatter this land.

I can access it at any time.

Sometimes, when I allow myself to access this power, shutting down highways, testifying in the Wilson building as knowledge coalesces effortlessly in my mind and flows freely from my lips; I think that the power is right when it suggests that I should break the world.

 

I am terrified, infatuated and addicted to this embodied power.

  • My movement family and I access this power together.
  • Collectively we both heighten it and hold it accountable.
  • I believe that this power is our salvation.
  • I have recognized this power as my birthright.
  • I have invited you, before I was even aware of what it was, to drink from my dreams and stand in this power with me.

 

 

“I see protest as a genuine means of encouraging someone to feel the inconsistencies, the horror of the lives we are living. Social protest is saying that we do not have to live this way. If we feel deeply, and we encourage ourselves and others to feel deeply, we will find the germ of our answers to bring about change. Because once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy. And when they do not, we will ask, “Why don’t they?” And it is the asking that will lead us inevitably toward change.

So the question of social protest and art is inseparable for me. I can’t say it is an either-or proposition. Art for art’s sake doesn’t really exist for me. What I saw was wrong, and I had to speak up. I loved poetry, and I loved words. But what was beautiful had to serve the purpose of changing my life, or I would have died. If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”

“Audre Lorde.” Black Women Writers at Work. Ed. Claudia Tate. NY: Continuum, 1983. 100-16.

The Movement for Black Lives is not asking for special treatment for Black people. Nor are we only asking for our needs to finally be meet after centuries of erasure or myths of pathology.

Rather, activists are returning from the edges of the known world, pointing out the holes in the dominate logics and inviting the world to stand with us in the light that shines through. We are shouting to you that this light is proof that this world is under ground, buried beneath a capitalist system of dominance maintained by patriarchy and white supremacy.

The movement for Black Lives is reminding all of us that we need to head SE towards liberation.

Years of being underground, submerged in this system, has dimmed many of our faculties while studying our surroundings [even in dimness] has brightened others. Yet all told, we have lived only in the north for far too long. We have become stagnant in our civilizations, forgotten our migratory nature and carved out pieces of the earth.

As if we could own it.

As if it didn’t own us.

We have lost much of the accumulated wisdom of the south. We have forgotten about how to be, to live in harmony with our selves, to seek to learn from the world without destroying it.

The M4BL is asserting that the particular position of Black people [especially Working Class Black Queer Women] in the system and the history invasions that forced us to flee periodically to the south gives us the second sight to help guide humanity out of the darkness and into the light.

We are giving you fair warning before we drag this whole system, amid its suffocating totality, into the above ground world we have been forced out of and almost forgotten.

We do not believe that when we return to the light we will return to a previous way of life. We are futurist not primitivists. We have chosen to be Diasporic Cosmonauts not earthly refugees. What is past is prologue, it needn’t be destiny nor our chosen destination. We believe that once in the light we must still journey east towards liberation, onwards to a new world that is better than we have ever experienced or can currently imagine.

The Movement for Black Lives believes in the fundamental ability of our imaginations and dreams to store and share transformative power. The power that we need to overcome the totality of capitalism and logics of dominance. The same power we will need to climb the mountains of true understanding.

 

We, beautifully flawed humans that can neither tolerate a world order that, in thinking we are worthy of its oppression, is beneath us nor wait idly by as it consumes itself, are headed towards the lands filled with the glorious black light of the power contained in the ocean of human imagination. We will not merely content ourselves to observe the effects of its absence.

Ours is a long march of trials, falters, tribulations, celebrations and lessons.

We are unlearning that all struggle must be painful and that all pain is wasteful. We are relearning the elation of change, the euphoria of spiritual endorphins that comes from exercising new muscles of self-determination.

Our wanderings in the south have taught us to embody old stories in new ways. We have become updaters and remixers not needless iconoclasts. We are Christ like in our imperfect divinity and utilizing of love, Mohammedan in our submission to the divine and commitment to study and like Moses we lead the captive, sometimes too content to settle near the lands of the pharaoh, on the long march to emancipation.

We are workers building class consciousness and harnessing the science of revolution in a new economy. Mothers who are also teachers and nurses smashing the patriarchy and midwives birthing a gender fluid world. We are the Ebony skinned neo-abolitionists delivering the supersedants to zion. We are anarchist fighting against the alienation of our transformative power. All while being queer as fuck and refusing to let these histories, texts or identities define us.

If this way of being destroys your idols it is collateral damages of a fluid world in motion.

Notes on the Underground Landscape:

“Alienation is the gap between desire and what is socially valued, between our potential to transform the world and the theft and parasitic use of that power by capital and the state.” Anonymous

 

 

Capitalism became total, and blotted out the sun, when it began selling us deficits instead of just commodities. We now have a culture of deficits and inflated spiritual debts. We are too ugly. Too Black. Too poor. Too femme. Too foreign. Or too queer to fit in. We must work, buy, sell and scrape to get closer to an unattainable able-bodied, symmetric, fit, white, wealthy, male ideal citizen.

What we have is a global system of perverted forces that create false scarcities and deficits before providing draining resources we are told will solve them. It is as if we are desert people living in a glorious oasis but being sold salt water and taught that to live is to hydrate.

The long buried truth is that the vocation of all humans is to live fully and in communion with their needs and shared desires. We are the intellectually nomadic bards of our own histories and songs, living well in order to share our stories with each other. The fullness to which we aspire is a facet of our species’ current and progressing social and economic development which in turn shapes our desires.

Yet we are told that in order to live we must work and observe and buy.

 

We are told what we must do in order to be.

The options given to us in the cold calculating north, these shadow life vocations, constantly place us under the control of others but out of relationship with ourselves and each other. Most revolutionary ethos in the west merely seek to change the ruling class without changeling the idea of ruling. Others merely put forth hollow and solitary images of individual self-determination.

Our journeys southland, to our dreams, have taught us that instead we must reframe our whole realm of living. We must stop wasting our spiritual energy tweaking the details of our alienation from our true vocation–cultivating a land we were never meant to settle in–so that we no longer have any opinions on its totality.

 

“In a caricature of antagonisms, power urges everyone to be for or against Brigitte Bardot, the nouveau roman, the 4-horse Citroën, spaghetti, mescal, miniskirts, the UN, the classics, nationalization, thermonuclear war and hitchhiking. Everyone is asked their opinion about every detail in order to prevent them from having one about the totality.” Basic Banalities — Raoul Vaneigem

 

Yet our goal cannot be as narrow as ending capitalism. This map leads to liberation, not merely away from our past. While this global society serves our bosses more than us and they exhibit more control over it, the system does not really serve them either. The same way that proximity to power is not power, having the system geared towards you does not mean it fulfills you. It does not allow the wealthy to fulfill their full vocation. Their true vocation is not power. Yet their options are limited by their determined gaze at their feet on our backs.

They are merely favored captives chained by their fathers and forced to stare at shadows of the forms on the walls of the cave; convinced that it’s not prison because they have box seats. The same gaslights they use to tell us that America is not a prison because we have cable in here.

The same can be said of emotionally stunted men and emotionally fragile whites too chained to their positions above those they oppress to run freely and gaily southeasterly towards their true vocations.

This does not absolve them [or us] of their [or our] complicity, it merely goes to show us that switching positions with them or raising everyone to their standard [as if this would even be possible without destroying the very system that enshrines and maintains that standard] is not a solution.

Reform is not revolution.

Equity is not liberation.

Notes on the Roads to Liberation[s]:

There is no one path to Liberation. The straight course from our current position to liberation is perilous and we are not equipped to take it.

We must use the analysis of the north to identify the systems of oppression that alienate us from our true vocation. We must use the dream materials of the south to dismantle them and create space for our evolving work that approaches authentic fulfilling human vocation. We must synthesis the techniques of the north and south to heal ourselves and our communities in order to clear our collective imaginations of the miasma of oppression and fog of trauma that clouds our vision. We must work together to build a new world aligned with our new vision in the shell of the old world we are dismantling. All of this must happen at once.

Yet this work does not happen in a vacuum. In order to work collectively we must address the systems of oppression; white supremacy, patriarchy and xenophobia, which has thwarted journeys in the past. This path is hard and healing will consistently be needed. The way forward is dark and we will need our theory to guide the way, our historical experience and the wisdom of our ancestries will guide us through forks in the road. We must develop spiritual practices and spiritual farms [beloved communities] that will feed us as we crawl through the darkness headed towards the light.

This is the unfinished map of the Movement for Black Lives. It is for this vision we are dragging our society kicking and screaming through the darkness and into the light. We may stumble, we may falter, we may get lost but we are committed to our task.

We fight even for those you would not fight for us. We fight even for those who would stand against us. While powerful, we are not large enough to hold this society on our backs without dropping or fragmenting parts. We cannot hold enough of it in our consciousness to ensure that precious parts of it are not forgotten. So those of you who share these visions, dreams and analyses must carry your load of the world with us.

  • Only collective liberation is strong enough to carry all of society into the light without tearing it asunder.
  • Only collective liberation can provide enough guidance to show us the way to the light, without it we can only fight against the darkness unsure if we are headed up or down.
  • Only collective liberation can plant the spiritual fruits complex enough to feed the army of sojourners needed to bring this society into the light. And only in the light and we build the true world.
  • Only in the light can we see and be our true selves.

So I invite you to drink from this cup of dreams, to stand in this power with me.

Together we shall create a revolutionary communal praxis able to wield our new analytical dreamscapes through story and song, organizing and building, through destruction and creation and ultimately: rebirth.

Illogic

Illogic

:

This poem is called:
mixed metaphors

or

the physics of nonsense and non-compliance:
radical action in the forefront

or
meager meandering of an eager and creative soul child
or
streams of neon-neurotic non-neo-liberal consciousness
or
things mother forgot to remind me
or
things I think of in between the oppressions
or
the science of living
or

If, as they say, E=MC2
then would ODB and Jay-Z squared off
freestyling in the market place of ideas
make matter reverberate off the window you forgot to put down in the rain storm?
Would your room be flooded with the 2 cents of disaffected black youth?
Could you handle all that realness?
Would the curvature of time-space triangulate slowly if Lauryn sung the hook?
If it got loud enough would it scare the birds in the bush worth the gander with the one Black swan?
Would your investment in bird watching books be squandered?
If, as the world turned faster the days our lives got longer
until a year became the infinity between the end of your first kiss and your eyes opening
would time still equal money?
What if we all woke tomorrow and decided that it would be Sunday
every day,
would we ever get our mail?
Would the mail-man,
mail-people,
persons,
zers be forced to work on sunday?
Would the injustices of the world perpetuate themselves in our own lackadaisical heaven?
Does liberation come with Paid Sick Days?
Does the revolution take water breaks?
Will the water be our grandmother’s lead lined tap water?
What if “Alf” was just an anachronistic prophesy of Clintonian democracy?
How much wood would a wood chuck need to chuck for Chuck and Heavey D to stop the violence?
If our best educated, best prepared, best equipped refuse to fight then when does the battle start?

What if we all got into a room and talked it out?
What if only the respectable folks could hold the mic?
What if I told her I loved her?
What if we all got along, all the time, all the time and love was everywhere?
Would we have room for our beds?
Would we have to sleep,
huddled in our happiness,
peaceful in our orgies because
fucking is the opposite of war?
Maybe the world is just too much.
Maybe we just can’t handle it all?
Maybe the revolution will just turn off the lights
Maybe we will spend our lives on our backs,
staring at the stars at night,
holding hands and signing hyms
praising how simple,
how beautiful,
how lovely it all is when take the time to look at it?
Maybe heaven is a world only perceived through our eyes and ears.
Maybe it just beauty without context.
Maybe this hell is being beaten with false histories.
Maybe death is the daily monotony of work and existing with our blinders force feeding us information and life is everything else…

Meditations On Liberation

IMG_6651

Liberation is ultimately an internal, self-reflective process even if it requires years of systemic change and collective action to be possible. Liberation means tearing down the barriers between who we are now and who we could be. Liberation is both a state and a process, each barrier destroyed, each chain broken, brings us closer to it.

Liberation means breaking the chains that limit our human potential and cultivating a communal nirvana. Liberation means believing in ourselves enough to love each other without limits. Liberation means trusting our strengths and bonds enough to be vulnerable to each other. Liberation means unlocking our greatest most authentic selves together.

Liberation means pushing ourselves past fears of inadequacy rooted in internalized oppression and into a realm of self-love which is the well-spring of communal self-determination. Liberation is not struggle even if struggle is necessary for liberation. Liberation is fully realizing that you are beautiful and together we are powerful beyond measure.

Liberation is celebrating our shared humanity through action. Liberation is making out between protests. Liberation is a meal between friends. Liberation is feeling loved, making love, spreading love, finding new love, rekindling old love. Liberation is preparing yourself to handle the soul bursting joy that healthy communities produce. Liberation is a block party, a birthday party and a wedding that can’t begin until everyone has the means, the time, the support and the invite to join.

Liberation is not dancing like no one is watching; Liberation is dancing like the world is cheering you on. Liberation is dancing like the movement in your hips is all that is keeping the lights on. Liberation is dancing like you were made to dance, like God is divine musician that just needed an audience.

Liberation is the life we lead in the narrow spaces between our oppressions. Liberation is the intimate moments where our full selves show up. Liberation is when our identities are not barriers but starting points; holy departures for interpersonal exploration; prologue not destiny.

Liberation is that good shit.

It comes in spurts and stutters and rarely all at once. It can be temporary, fleeting, and elusive. So we chase it, we long for it and search for it. We create gigantic mechanisms and machines to try and produce it yet Liberation can neither be found nor created. Liberation is all around us, we need only create space for it.

We need only destroy the soot and oppression and grime and hate and stand back as Liberation seeps into the vacuum. We do not need to destroy the old world in order to make space for the new. We do not destroy institutions of oppressions to wipe the slate clean and build a more just society. We destroy the systems of oppression because they are taking up the space where Liberation would naturally be.

Humans were not simply born free; we were born before the concept of slavery. Liberation is what will exists when slavery, privilege or rape are no longer options. Liberation can take many forms and it is not defined by its aspects. Liberation is simply the lack of social limits; it is unchained, untraumatized humanity flexing its communal muscles of self-determination.

Liberation is not an end, rather it is the most beautiful of beginnings…

Strength Without Power

Silence
Deep breaths.
Focus on the food.
Eat away the stress.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it feels like your heart will explode.
Then focus on the pain.
Focus.
Control.
Strength.
Story of my life.

The meeting begins a few minutes late. I was too busy eating to actively notice. My friend is sitting next to me, and even though I’m too anxious to interact with her I’m comforted by her presence. I ignore the pain in my kidneys, I try not to imagine them shutting down. I try not to think of Buddy Boy and if this is how his kidneys felt before he died. I try not to think about if he forgave me before he died. I tried not to think about if my constant remembrances of my uncle means that he visiting me from heaven or that I still haven’t come to terms with his death. I try not think about the pain in my kidneys.

Deep breaths.
Focus on the meeting.
Think away the stress.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Follow the logic.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it feels like your heart will explode.
Then focus on the pain.
Focus.
Control.
Strength.
Story of my life.

At a meeting this evening an older Black man is talking. I don’t know him well and often disagree with him but I respect him. He is smart and real and wise and Black. Authentically Black. Black because he had no other option. Black like Buddy Boy was Black. Quiet but present. I like him but more importantly, I respect him, so I listen as he talks.

He is rambling on the way my people do. It’s comfortable. Familiar. In white spaces this is called a tangent, in Black spaces it’s called talking. Part of me wants to police him, to remind him subtly, under the radar- in the way that Black people do in these situations- that this is a white space. But I don’t, because I can see where his story is going and I want him to talk me there. The facilitator cuts him off gently and tries to redirect the conversation. I’m upset because he got me out my body and into his story, but I understand that it’s a white space. The facilitator though Black, and cool, and smart and authentic is wearing a facilitators hat. Which is a white hat. And We started late. There’s an agenda.

But the older Black man won’t be redirected, he knows it’s a white space but also that it doesn’t need to be. That’s not why he’s here. He talks about walking next to the highways in south of his youth. The scary, southern gothic south. Swamps and strange fruit and crosses burning. The south of my parents.

He talks about instinctively ducking down into the tall grass whenever a car went by. You had to hide he said, or else white people might get out to mess with you. He remarks that this is something the youth don’t see. It’s not our reality, though it’s very much his. For the first time that night, he’s wrong.

In that moment I remember walking down highway 24,the long stretch of road reaching off into the eastern expanses of my youth. A highway that feels old and probably smells like yesterday’s America. It’s the middle of nowhere Colorado in the early 2000’s not the South Side Chicago of my grandfather’s childhood or my father’s Alabama or the older man’s Carolinas. Fly over, sleep through and die-in middle of nowhere Colorado.

I must have been 11 or 12, the age at which these sorts of things make a disproportionate impact. I knew I was not supposed to walk home down this road even though I lived less than a mile away. My mother said I could get hit by a car but I wonder now, with all that I know of the world, if that was just the only danger my mother could bring herself to voice.

A car- in my head it’s a pick-up but I can’t see it clearly- drives by and shout’s nigger and throws a glass bottle in my direction. I freeze, terrified, traumatized, confused and the memory ends.

Nigger. Nigger. Nigger. Nigger. Aaron.

Deep breaths.
Focus on the meeting.
Breath away the stress.
That pick-up truck is years away now.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Don’t follow the highway.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it burns.
Then focus on the pain.
Focus.
Control.
Strength.
Story of my life.

I sit in the meeting, relieving this moment, over and over again. I see the menacing headlights grow over large as I replay them on a sadistic automatic loop in my mind’s eye. I start to rub my adolescent fingers together methodically, meditatively in a trauma induced trance as all the blood rushes to my chest and legs. My body is screaming for me to run. But I sit in the meeting, remain silent. I put on the mask.

Slick, composed and coolly dispossessed of emotion. Faux confidence that becomes real as I harden. The old callouses begin to reform as the meeting continues. I begin to push the memory away, make it less real. Then I remember that I refused to let this world make be hard. I remember what I once wrote to my friend, a facebook post that lingers in my mind:

“Tragic. But I think, and I might be wrong on this, that we have to force ourselves to process the pain in order to be able continue to see the humanity of the victims. By turning aside we are not just avoiding bad news, we are telling ourselves that its not happening. Then, when it inevitability happens to us [albeit on smaller scale] we are shocked, in disbelief and doubt our feelings because we’ve spent so long telling our selves that this is not the way the world works. By getting in the habit of processing the pain we can get stronger without having to get harder. We can deal with the terrible things in the world without closing ourselves off from the joy and the warmth. IDK. Just my thoughts…”

I remember that this is just the way the world works. Highway 24 is still there. I force myself to feel it, to process it to make the memory useful somehow. But I can’t bring myself be vulnerable in this space. I soften; I raise my hand non-threateningly and tell my story, quickly. I’m triggered I say, this story reminds of my childhood I remember walking down highways and men throwing bottle. I stop.

In my head I continue:

I remember the disdain of white children. I remember the pity and contempt for the children of Cain. I remember being told I was going to hell. I remember being called gorilla. I remember their fear and how it always seemed to lead to violence. I remember the inhumanity of being feared by children whose words ripped you apart.

Silence. Next topic. We have agenda. This is a white space.

I note the little response, much less than the woman who earlier started crying. The kind, caring and hard working woman whose audible tears stopped the meeting, if only for a second. I’m not angry at first. She should cry, she had a shitty day, why should she hold it in? Who am I to police her pain?

It is not her fault she passes for white sometimes. It is not everyone’s fault that they feel compelled to respond to white tears with empathy. It’s not their fault that they have never learned to empathize with my pain verbalized.

I want to cry in that moment, more as means of communication than as an emotional release. I want them to understand how much it hurts to realize at 11 or 12 years old that the whole world hated me and would continue to hate me for something I couldn’t control. I relive that moment, over and over again until highway 24 stretches from the year 2000 till the present moment and beyond.

I walk down that road until that highway stretches from my grandparents chained to slave ships and on and on and on until my grandsons sit in jail cells. I relieve the trauma of being Black in America, silent, alone in a room full of friends I can’t trust to vulnerable with.

I want my friend to hug me but she can’t read my silence.

Deep breaths.
Focus on the meeting.
Think away the stress.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Follow the logic.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it burns.
Then focus on the pain.
Focus.
Control.
Strength.
Story of my life.

So I remain in control. Refuse to put the mask back on and instead sulk in petulant silence as some sort of half-assed compromise between Robinson’s mask and being vulnerable. I revel in that control briefly. I revel in the ability to remain calm until I remember that white people don’t have to. I revel in my self-control until I realize that it’s not self-control… its self-policing. I see myself forcing my emotions to be respectable, presentable, professional, non-threatening, to keep from rocking the boat.

I begin to realize this control was merely a prison with walls built from the tears I hold inside. I begin to resent this emotional panopticon of my own creation. It’s this moment that makes me begin to resent having so much strength with no power. I begin to resent having a heightened ability to police myself without being able to stop society from policing me. I begin to resent every minute spent in white spaces.
Deep breaths.
Focus on the meeting.
Think away the stress.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Follow the logic.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it feels like your heart will explode.
Then focus on the pain.
Focus.
Control.
Strength.
Story of my life.

My heart is pumping so much blood into my legs that I can see my thighs twitching. I want to run. I need to leave. But leaving would be admitting defeat. It would be letting them win…it would be letting my friends win a game they are not playing. Leaving would mean losing a game I didn’t create and hate playing. But I play it because I’m good at it. I’m so fucking good. I’m strong. I can keep my cool. I can put on this mask and shuck and jive silently, in place. I am in control. I am so strong!

Even if I have no power…

Deep breaths.
They gunned down Africa on skidrow.
Focus on the meeting.
This pain is eating away my abdomen.
Think away the stress.
Deep breaths.
Center yourself.
Follow the logic.
These moments are too large to be micro aggressions.
Deep breaths.
I realize that Whiteness is a parasitic virus not a people,
A single celled ameba that consumes my culture while enfeebling its host
Turning white ethnics into fragile powerhouses
Glass steam engines that turn the word counter clockwise but can’t stand criticism.
Control your anxiety.
Keep it contained in your chest.
Hold it there until it feels like your heart will explode.
Feel everything burn.
Then focus on the pain.
Let it fuel you.
Focus.
Control.
The only thing worse than being a push over is being a monster.
Strength.
Respect and Fear are not compatible.
I am so strong!
Story of my life.

The meetings ends. I write this. I share it, maybe it will make the catharsis real. Maybe sharing it will keep me from breaking things. I can’t get arrested. I have more meetings tomorrow.

A Farewell to 2013

Dear Father Time,

We regret to inform you that your daughter, 2013 has died. We want you to know that our thoughts and well wishes are with you on this most difficult of days. We are so lucky to have known your daughter, even though she was a difficult person to know, we literally could not have gone on without her. Personally, I will remember 2013 as the most formative year of my life. My list of personal accomplishments and triumphs this year dwarfs nearly every other year of my life. So, I’d like to honor your daughter with my list of accomplishments:

  1. Your daughter allowed me to find myself by making me too busy to continue looking. She started her life with me being an unemployed and thoroughly depressed former educator, living with his Uncle. She forced me to decide what I wanted to do with my life and most importantly, taught me that happiness is never beyond my reach. She blessed me with a renewed connection to my Chicago Family, without whose support I never would have made it out of Chatham sane. With support from my cousins I was able to move into Su Casa which, though perhaps the single most stressful place I’ve ever lived, was fertile ground for a personal transformation.
  2. I pushed myself to create meaningful, fulfilling relationships with a diverse set of people who took me out of my comfort zone. Working at 57th Street Books proved to be an amazing experience. The people who I worked with were some of the most amazing individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. We make each other laugh in the face of common enemies and problems too numerous to count. I was fortunate to work with some of kindest, smartest and funniest people I have ever met. I know they are all headed on to do great things and I feel so lucky to have been able to work with them. My time at Su Casa saw the renewal of a cherished Friendship with a veteran of my College organizing days as well several new friendships. Where would I be without my friend, confidant and platonic life partner the Liturgical Michigander! Would I view breakfast the same without the odd mix of hilarity and sexual harassment every morning from the Michigan’s other #1 export? Would the word Freedom instantly bring a smile to my face were it not for Simone? Would I have made it through those harrowingly stressful months without watching Jericho reruns and talking about my childhood until 2 a.m? Not to mention hundreds of Puns, impromptu performances of “Gungdam Style” and the families who taught me that laughter and love are universal languages. Or to mention Germans who proved to be capable sparring partners in fantastical debates and volunteers I met towards the end of my stay who probably think I’m crazy but can at least respect the method [and reason] of my madness.
  3. 2013 saw the rebirth of my creative endeavors and witnessed the largest creative outburst of my life. In the last six months I wrote over 50 post on this blog and sent 6 pieces off for publication [with 1 published and another accepted!] All told 2013 saw me right over 100,000 words! Yes, that’s right, I wrote over 100,000 words in poems, essays on Masculinity, essays on Hip Hop, personal journals and fantasy themed letters to dear friends. I wrote more words for fun this year than in any previous year. And, thanks to my blog, the majority of these words were read by more people around the world than ever before. I have been blessed with readers from around the world. From friends studying in Mexico and the UK to strangers and kindred spirits in Estonia, Brazil, India, Vietnam, Korea, Poland and many other countries. So, 2013 will also go down as the year my insecurities, humor and philosophy went Global! I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my loyal followers for that. I couldn’t have done it if it were not for friends who showed me what true beauty and unconditional support looks and feels like. From friends who discussed our principles in late night walks through downtown Chicago & who read everything I sent them to my Bay Area friend who gives me a much needed dose of reality. My Oakland comrade who teaches me to strive and taught me that sometimes all it takes to succeed is to have the guts to walk in like you own the place. And of course, my Bay Area native turned Chicagoan who encourages my writing as eagerly as he encouraged my teaching when we worked together in Englewood.
  4. 2013 saw me push past my geographic comfort zone in an all-out sprint towards my dream. 2013 say me move away from my erstwhile muse into the warm embrace of another city. I moved from Chicago to D.C and was greeted by dozens of amazing new friends. From Falcons who go as hard for social justice as they do for Dancing to social innovators fighting for a more just and democratic economy. I have met some truly wonderful new people here. Including some people whose drive, passion and creativity inspires mine. Though my Chicago and Su Casa family can never been replaced, I’m excited to know that I will not be lonely in D.C. I rekindled friendships with old SummerLinks friends, proving that the more things change, the more the stay the same. I’ve been blessed live in same metropolitan area as one of my most faithful snail mail correspondents, proving that sometimes the best friendships are the ones for whom distance matters the least.
  5. 2013 saw me struggle to understand my role as both oppressor and oppressed. I spent a large potion of this year thinking about the intersecting oppressions and privileges that constitute my identity. I like to think a have grown significantly from my first foray into these thoughts from a guilt ridden man to a confident man able to check his privilege more often than not and learn from mistakes when I don’t.
  6. I actively and respectively [if awkwardly] put myself out there. Never before have I gone for it so many times and failed so awkwardly or succeeded so unexpectedly. From awkward confessions of affections to completely disinterested women over NYtimes crosswords to 4 hour long dates that turned into new and exciting relationships 2013 was the year of putting myself out there. So, I may start the this new year as single as I started the last one but I start it with a lot more confidence and comfort in who I am.
  7. I was able to maintain and build upon my oldest and dearest connections. And, given that today is traditionally the day I spend with my two friends for whom Distance matters least to, I’d remiss if I did not give a shout out to The General and House Husband with no kids. My two oldest and dearest friends without whose friendship support and shared memories I would be lost. I was blessed to see the former get married and return safety from war the same the year. I was over joyed at knowing not only that he was safe but that his faithful wife, who I am thankful to count as a dear friend, can rest easier knowing he is back. The latter musketeer finally found love and college degree, while I knew both were inevitable; I am still overjoyed that he has found what he has been seeking for so long.
  8. I grew closer to my familyI developed stronger bounds by biological and informally adopted families. It was a year for learning my about my parents and being there as my friend welcomed his wife into our extended 21st century family. I have received so much support from both my families that it breaks my heart with joy.  2013 was also the year of the Goggans Family. Our arrival was announced by Drake, and we have started our take over. My parents are thriving in one of America’s better kept secrets, my Brother is traveling the world, my sisters are getting it done in D.C and my niece is coming into her own the only way she knows how: loudly and with plenty of style.
  9. I increased my commitment to my ideals. Whether it was by refusing to work in role that was unhealthy or by redoubling my commitment to service, I’m proud that stayed true to what I believe in. I was able to grow and create better, healthier relationships. I’m not perfect and 2013 stands as a testament to that fact as well, but I continued to struggle to live my beliefs despite set-backs and moral failings. I’m living a life closer to how I think it should be lived than ever before.

So, all in all, your daughter 2013 will be sorely missed by us all. Yet, I think 2014 will be Time’s finest year to date. While I know it will bring sadness and hurt, I have no doubt that 2014 will also bring triumph and success. Who knows what adventures I will find myself having in the next 12 months? All I can say is that for this 25 year old, youth will not be wasted on the Young! I look forward to new causes and new friends. Not to mention being excited to see a few old and cherished friends in a few weeks! 2014 is going to be a year for the record books.

So that’s my year in review. How about you? I’d love to hear about what 2013 meant to you. To paraphrase a question from my friend, what did you do this year that you were most proud of?

THIS is what I’m doing with my life.

Service Learning

Facts and figures fly over the iris’  of the eyes of  Jack as I serve him potatoes. He asks me if I’ve heard of the Jesuits. Though confused at his reasoning I want to answer honestly saying “I’ve heard of those proselytizing teachers, over payed priest turned popes who preach populism from the pulpit.” He smiles knowingly, like my alliteration was a code word of our conspiracy seeking society “the noble order of know nothing street poets.” I imagine in this reality my cool demeanor and nickle platted watch and rosary were all he needed to identify me. He would then ask the real question: “Do they come from Nigeria?” I think hard on their lineage and wonder if where they hail from is more definitive then how they saw hello. In all this jive talking and sly tongue walking I’ve forgotten my divine truths. I say to my brother, the honorable abbot, the divine preacher and thought tamer “Only the wise women know the origins of such fiends for only the mind of the three fold life givers can comprehend hailing and beginnings. I’d call the mother superior for consultation if only my mind’s eye could see her number written in Arabic on the Rolodex of God’s memories.”  Jack would look at me like I’m the crazy one.  Instead I smile and ask if he wants more potatoes.

Behind him Daze is laughing his raspy, sinister laugh. “Man, Chicago, you one crazy mother I tell you that.” I know it means that you doesn’t remember my name but I love when the guys at the soup kitchen call me Chicago. It has got to be my all time favorite nick names. The only other nickname that compares is when my uncle calls me “The Franchise.” Terrel comes next, muttering to herself incomprehensibly. I know not to engage her when she is talking to her ex-husband who may or not be a demon depending on if she took her medicine. I serve her and wish her a happy Tuesday though I know that, her at least, it will be anything but.

This is how I spend most mornings now. After I wake up at 6 a.m. read e-mails, check the news, meditate, try to say words of encouragement to my niece and then I walk two miles to Capital Hill United Methodist Church. The walk is generally cold and now that it is December, dark. Yet, for some reason the coldness but in my a contemplative mood that the setting moon only amplifies. Some mornings I listen to talk radio and learn about something new on the walk. Once I get to the Church I wait by the entrance with people facing homelessness as one of them pushing the door bell repeatedly. Eventually someone comes to the door and we all pile in.

I’ve learned to respect all the people who share this morning ritual. I realize we are all here to fill a need. Some of us come here to eat. Someone us are here for fellowship. Some of us are here to hear the word of God. Some are here because their lives would be lessened without service.  While I respect all you come as they are, I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the organizers. They give up a lot of time, money and energy to make this Soup Kitchen run. They remind me what is really important in life.

Because the Soup Kitchen is important to me, I get there around 7:30 and leave around 10:30. I help cook, serve food and clean up afterwards. Its a meditative experience that keeps me calm and grounded. It soothes some of the unease I feel about state of the safety net in SE D.C. It is hard for me to sleep comfortably on my sister’s couch with a full stomach when I know their are people going without food and safe place to sleep. I have very little money to name at the moment and my net worth is completely in the red but I know how much economic privilege I have that the people I see almost every morning do not. Serving each morning reminds me of that privilege and reaffirms my commitment to removing myself from actively contributing to systems of oppression. It is a process, one that I struggle with every day but I believe that I am morally responsible for the outcomes of the systems I contribute to. When I buy my food from a company with terrible labor practices I am contributing to the oppression of those workers.

The problem with constantly worrying about how you contribute to these systems is that it is almost impossible to remove yourself from them completely. How do you get what you need without buying from a less than perfect corporation? How do you find a nice place to live without contributing to displacement? The answer would be go off the grid and only use what you make yourself. Of course, you are still responsible for the violence and oppression done on your behalf. If you are in America, you property rights are upheld by the same government that sends drones around the world. Not to mention that idea that all that needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing is a compelling argument for actively ending oppression being morally superior to removing your self from those systems. Yet is there a way to do both? Can you work to end oppression completely from the outside? Could you be off the grid and walk into the city to engage in activism? At what point would you come up against the moral complication of being the perennial outsider telling other communities to how to live?

I haven’t yet found answers to these questions so I continue my commitment to “active confusion” or refusing to let my uncertainty breed inaction. I am constantly trying to improve the way in which I operate through the world, yet sometimes the constant effort to do the moral thing is hard to maintain. I compromise on my morals for the sake of ease and comfort far more often than I’d like. Yet, there are moments at the Soup Kitchen that make me feel better about my flawed commitment to justice.

The other day, a man who comes in for Breakfast asked me if I was a volunteer. I told him that I was and that I try to come four days a week. He was puzzled and said “oh, you must be a student then?” I informed him that I had graduated from college some time ago. He confusion deepened and he asked “then what are doing with your life.” I laughed, looked him in the eye and said “This, this is what I’m doing with my life.” He laughed, probably assuming that I was crazy or joking but I affirmed, if only by my own certainty in my answer for the first time in a long time. I am living my life, the best way I know how. I want my life to be defined by how I move through it, not what I do for money. I try to move through life intentionally. I try to move through life ethically. I try to move through life with a eye towards growth and increasing self awareness. I try to move through life knowing that everyone I meet has the tiniest yet most priceless narrow piece of the human experience. I am a interactive performance artist who works in several different mediums but whether I perform service, writing, organizing or labor each piece tries to understand and improve the world. That is what I’m doing with my life.

After the Soup Kitchen I walk back home. I usually make lunch and jump into writing. While I have been lax on updating this blog I have been writing for other venues a lot. I usually write until 6 and either head to an event, do some paid work around the neighborhood, edit my writing or [for a month a least] try to see the girl I was seeing. [Everything I say that I think of Forrest Gump “I see lots of girls, I sit next to them in my home economics class.] I’ve also been doing more commenting on other people’s blog’s which has been interesting and surprisingly has brought a lot of traffic to my site which I was not anticipating. So, to all you who were wondering. That is what I’m doing with my life.

As for specific developments:

I currently earn what little money I have through filling out surveys about safe and healthy housing.
I am currently working on improving my editing skills and finding my unique voice
I am recently began, enjoyed and ended a relationship with a woman. It was positive, if somewhat confusing, experience. It was the first romantic relationship I’ve pursued with my new outlook on life and after several months of thinking about my feminist allyship. It taught me, among other things, the vast difference between my intellectual understanding of how things should work and how things actually do in the real world.
I am more aggressively sending out pitches for articles and submitting articles for publication. This is the next serious step my writing saga and I am excited and cautiously optimistic.
I am continuing to apply for more conventional part-time work and am pretty pessimistic about it.
I am trying hard to make new friends here in D.C and have already met some wonderful people.
My best friends from High School are doing well. One came back from Afghanistan and the other just graduated from college. Both have been pretty exciting
I am working hard to maintain relationships with people from Chicago [even those who have now moved to SF] and am excited to from them.
I can now say that I no longer have anxiety about talking on the phone which is pretty big deal for me.
2013 will go done in my personal history as the most formative year to date!

Unsent Letter To All The Girls I’ve Loved

bell hooks on love

[Below is an unsent letter to every female friend I’ve been secretly in love with whom I sent really long e-mails to or hand written notes to after/before I went to college/when you were studying abroad/when I moved back to Falcon in 2008/when I moved to Colorado Springs in 2010/when you moved to a coastal city once I made it back to Chicago/when you went to grad school/visited your family for Hanukkah/ moved with your significant other [sometimes another female friend I had also once liked] back home/I moved to D.C.  If this sounds remotely similar to a letter I once sent in you in one of these moments then this was probably the first draft of a letter I wrote and decided not to send for one reason or another. I realized that this a recurring pattern in my life that I need to analyze…so I did…and what better way to process self-analysis than self-parody?]

To All The Friends I’ve Loved,

[There always start with some  overwrought and florid metaphor for whatever I’m unhappy about in the moment. In most of these letters it is my hometown] I’m not sure if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest with no one to hear it but I know from experience that the speed at which it falls is in direct proportion to number of observers. Falcon is not a place for me to write. Falcon is where writers are born. It is where the bigotry and backwardness drips from the lips of neighbors destined to be characters; cold as molasses and twice as black, pumping sweet visceral into an author’s creative glands.  Falcon will serve as the time capsule I use to write of time so long ago that it never really existed, at least not in the way I remember it.

In my stories I call it Mesa Valley, my Yoknapatawpha County [always includes an oblique reference to writer whom I feel an unjustifiable though visceral connection to. Sometimes I’ve only read their shortest published work but count them among my favorite authors] I write about the villains and saints of my childhood in this Mesa Valley so that the fictionalized grandiosity of the moment evokes the same emotion as the tonnage of years of microagressions and mini miracles. Put simply, the events are lies but the emotions are real. My neighbors will undoubtedly protest but I imagine my fame will soften their protest the same way their privilege softened mine. Their bigotry bit into my psyche layering trauma upon trauma [I actually had a pretty chill childhood but I thought for a while that I need to be a tortured artist to be a good artist.]

Is life so miserable? Is the darkness seeping in, encroaching on my happy moments? No, I suppose not. [almost all of these letters start the second paragraph with a refutation of the overwrought opening metaphor…insecure much?] In reality life is bland and it is that blandness that frightens me. Like Oscar WildeI live in terror of not being misunderstood. [quote is purposefully out of context. In an example of hipster letter writing, it serves as an illustration of my meta awareness] Drama and vibrancy are my heroin. In their absence I fiend for the thematic like a smoker turned niciderm addict. I lust for action with all the gusto and impulsiveness of a sex addict.  In the late hours of the night, when time seems to drip like a leaky faucet in a silent kitchen instead of flow, I try to figure out why this is. I have always had an overactive imagination and I have always been vicarious reader, living the lives of the characters as I read them. If you had asked my 12 year old self what I wanted to be when he grew up he would have said “a living legend.” Yet no childhood trauma or tendency could explain this burning desire of mine in its maturity [though, when I was 8 I used to scream “I’m going through a stage!” at my family when my siblings complained about my parents bending over backwards to not accommodate my latest fixation. I heard my parents discussing my habit of hiding eggs around the house and whether it was a “stag” or ealy onset mental illness one night and decided to use the phrase to justify my weirdness…jury is still out about early signs of mental illness]

There is an answer to the question. And yes, that is the short one. I’m doing fine. [you are supposed to assume the unasked question “how are you?” Man, is this guy meta or what?] Living with my parents has been interesting though not ideal. I am doing what I can to not waste way. When the monotone hum of prairie life turns into a tempest of passive, almost inert, aggression that threatens to overwhelm me I try to think of you and your adventures in [insert study abroad program, grad school, or new city her]. I imagine your [insert distinguishing feature] as you [insert activity that can I think can only be done where you are]. How is it in [insert colloquial/pretentious nickname for current location]? How is the air? What are you thinking about? What things are challenging you? Forcing you push your limits? What do you know now that you didn’t before? [still not sure where this habit of asking these sorts of questions to people became a thing that I do…constantly… but I can remember doing it as early as middle school]

I know you are probably laughing at my intensity. You mention that intensity often and each time I want to tell you how I really feel. [this when I show my insecurity in a self deprecating way. This portion is usually added to qualify previous or subsequent statements that were overly florid or ridiculous but I found too well phrased to delete.]  I spend so much time trying to calm that intensity for fear of scaring you away yet sometimes restraining my love for you seems more intolerable than your absence. I want you too know, finally, that I love you fiercely. [this is the part that is ALWAYS cut out of the final draft. The unspoken longings off…ugh…I’m doing it again!] When we take our walks through [insert significant place in our friendship] I’d be convinced that my feet never touched the asphalt if hearing you about what’s one your mind this week didn’t make me feel so grounded. I love the way your mind unravels in those moments. Your thoughts are distinct and intricately laced like braided steel cables supporting intellectual bridges from Kafka and Morrison to Weber and Du Bois [I always reference Kafka but never actually read Kafka until like 6 months ago.] Sometimes I am too mesmerized by how an individual thought of yours develops that forget how your smile gives me butterflies.

Your wild and frantic idiosyncratic hand gestures that increase in their assertiveness as the topic turns from history to your theory of how we constructive our identities through narratives remind me of the awkward girl I first met and not the poised woman I know now. As your passion burns through your light brown eyes I’m tempted to believe that my world has the same golden haze has its reflection in your gaze. In these moments I want to tell you that I love you. I know you would just smile and say “I know.” I know that I would have to hold your heart-wrenchingly beautiful gaze longer. I would lock my eyes with yours to add weight to my words; to tell you this was that kind of the love. The kind of love that causes me to fear that I’m losing myself in you, the terror of thinking that maybe falling so hard for you that I forget who I am sounds more like heaven than white clouds and halos. [who says that…seriously….I mean…it has a nice ring to it though…reminds me of this poem I wrote about my first “real” love]

Instead, I smile and hold my tongue. We walk miles through this city, you and I, with the secret of my love between us like a warm invisible sea. Swimming through it is the most exhausting endeavor of my life but living without it seems dry and barren in comparison. When we hug goodbye I wish I could wrap my hands around your soul instead of your waist and I pretend that my sadness is contemplation and not the awareness of the inevitability of your departure. [this would typically get re-written to something about missing you but not loving like THAT.]

[I feel like some of my friend must have suspected that I was not so secretly in love with them. Yet, I still write letters to some friends like this, long after I’m crushing on/overly-dramatically in love with them so I think most of friends probably just think its par for the course…and I guess it is par for the course. I love all my friends dearly, male or female and I’ve had a crush on like 95% of the women I’ve met who are no more than three years younger or 10 years older than me. I think if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I’ve been in love with about 30% of my good female friends at some point in my life. I don’t actually think I’m using the phrase “in love” lightly here either. I have a natural tendency to love easily, deeply, quickly and fiercely. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with a female friend and thought “we should just get married…like… right now. Why wait.” Yet for most, the timing was off or I was too shy. By the time either changed, we had changed.   But I’ve been in love with almost 1/3 of my female friends even if only for a moment and while that might seem pathetic and laughable…well…it might actually be laughable…it is not pathetic. I feel very fortunate to have befriended such amazing and beautiful women in my life.

I’ve been blessed to love women who have pushed my intellect, who have encouraged me to follow my dreams by pursuing theirs, who have shown me what it means to live by your principles, who have become teachers, and mothers, and executives and dancers and writers and organizers and PHd candidates. They are the unofficial therapist of their friends, the shoulder to cry on, fierce advocate for justice, level-headed and practical guides, the uplifting jokers and gorgeous wordsmiths of my world. I have learned and grown so much from these friendships and am so glad that we got  through the infatuation, the puppy love and the romantic love to richer and more sustaining and truly platonic love with my friends. I feel that with a few of my friends our relationship has matured into something greater than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced; we’ve learned to “love each other well.”  So to all the girls I’ve loved. From the playground to county fair to the main quad and whether I loved you for a conversation, a week or since the moment we first talked about our passions, I’d like to thank you teaching me, for bearing with my florid passion and intensity and, most of all, for accepting my love even if you were unaware of its true form. Know that every letter I send and note I write expresses the truth of how I feel about everything, even if only a part. Though honestly Erin, if you are reading this, my offer of marriage still totally stands. My romantic love for you is eternal and forever enriches my platonic love for you which is equally eternal. So, uh…call me, Maybe?]

With love [in all its varied forms and meanings],

Aaron

True Love

Veteran’s Day Challenge

Veterans' Day

 

      Today is Veterans’ Day.  It is a day set aside for us to remember the sacrifice members of our armed forces has given in service to their country. Let me say up front that I am continually humbled and honored by that sacrifice. Yet normally these sort of holidays [Labor Day, National Teacher Appreciation Day, May Day] are at best a chance for people to post irritatingly banal nods to certain  professions or at worst become opportunities for thinly veiled class commentary. It is for this reason that I especially hate Veterans’ day. There is always some Sarah Palin like political figure talking about “American Heroes” before launching into rants about the debt ceiling, Obama’s Birth Certificate or welfare. Veterans’ are increasingly used as props to increase Patriotic furor or create political cover.

                Today President Obama himself will talk about “our brave women and men in uniform” and how much they do to keep us safe. He will make some mention of our duty to them but it will not come with increased funding for veterans benefits or legislation to allow army field medics to be considered qualified paramedics upon returning home. At the same time President Obama will be actively contributing to the American people’s disengagement with the military. Obama declared victory in Iraq before all of our troops left and rarely, if ever, talks about that theatre. He hopes that out of sight is out of mind and we will forget about Iraq, we will forget to ask what we role we have in country moving forward, we will forget to ask was it worth it, we will forget to ask who will be held accountable for the lives lost, we will forget to ask if drone strikes actually do anything to reduce troop causalities. He hopes the same will happen for Afghanistan and he is not alone in his desires. The entire political establishment has been systematically trying to remove public opinion as a factor in military operations.  War Weariness, after 10 years of open warfare, is increasingly becoming a non-factor in U.S foreign relations.

                Granted, we were weary of another open ended engagement in Syria but when was the last time you heard anything about the withdrawal in Afghanistan? When was the last time he saw a report on the news about the readiness of the Afghan military?  Do you know how many troops we have in Iraq and Afghanistan? Even as I write this I know I could not sufficiently answer those questions. If you are like me, your updates about the wars come from a loving military mother or husband or wife for whom out of sight is not out of mind. For the millions of military families across the world who cannot forget that their daughter, father, cousin or wife is fighting thousands of miles away the American people’s disengagement from the war effort is a slap in the face that empty platitudes about “American Heroes” does nothing.

                I don’t mean to undermine the day for people for whom it is incredibly important. I know many of my loved ones will be thrilled at the reminders that they are not alone in thinking about Veterans. I know many will be able to tell their stories today and that will help with the healing. I know that for some of us, Veterans’ Day will remind us that we are still at war. Yet I want to challenge those of us who say the words “American Heroes” to challenge themselves to think critically about not only what makes someone a hero but how a just society should treat its heroes when they come home.

                Having grown up in Falcon, Colorado outside of several military institutions I know my share of military families. I have several friends and families members who have served this nation with honor and distinction. I also know a lot of kids who had no other viable choices. Who joined to pay for college or because it is what they thought they were supposed to do. So I don’t think enlisting makes you a hero. Just like taking a job as a teacher doesn’t mean you are doing something noble, collecting a paycheck is not noble.

                I will say, like I said to my dear friend Iain who is fighting in a war as I write this, that the commitment to something greater and willingness to give “the last full measure” of devotion to a nation is a truly heroic act. I don’t agree with why my friend was sent to a third world country halfway around the world. I don’t think he was sent there to keep me safe and I don’t think his sacrifice or those of his comrades will be deemed worth it in the end. Yet I do believe that his reasons for going, his unerring belief in civic duty, a desire to serve his county and his commitment to the wellbeing and safety of both his soldiers and the Afghans he helps train is beyond admirable. This nation is built on off the blood, sweat and tears of women and men like him. His willingness to put his life on line for those beliefs day in and day out is heroic beyond anything I’ve ever been asked or willing to do. Like Aristotle said, we are what we habitually do, and so I believe that this is what makes my friend an American Hero.

                I want to honor his actions by making sure that his family knows that his sacrifice does not go unnoticed. I will make sure that his wife knows that she too is loved and her sacrifice is also cherished by at least one fellow citizen. I want to honor his continual sacrifice by insuring that he will not come home to nation that gives him a cold shoulder. That the skills he learned at war will be valued when he comes home. I want him to come home to nation that knows that even heroes may need space and time to heal. Even brave American Heroes needs shoulders to cry on, support groups, therapy or just a hug.

Above all, I want to use Veterans’ Day to figure out what I can do to ensure that America remains a country deserving of his past, present and future sacrifices. I hope those of us for whom out of sight might often be out of mind to do the same.

 Please share what you will do to honor the sacrifices of veterans or to insure that America lives up to their sacrifice.

Dating In The Chocolate City? A Humorous But Impotant Excursion Into Beltway Dating Rituals

singles-dc

You would think, for a man recently reentering the dating game in a new city, living with two beautiful D.C residents would be a huge added benefit. My sisters are both attractive, accomplished young professionals in the DMV with goals and ambition and laid back [broadly speaking] demeanor. They must have insight into the befuddling and majestic alien creature that is a beltway woman. In all seriousness, I recognize that all women are individual human beings with their own wants, desires, strengths, quirks and insecurities. Yet, I also know that each region has it norms and regional ways of going about social interactions. I was hoping my sisters, DMV veterans that they are, could enlighten me. Yet let’s examine how these conversations actually play out.

[**Disclaimer the following account is a fictionalized account of true events. Everything in this account happened but the timeline, names, and minute details of the dates were changed for illustrative and entertainment purposes** **Irritable Bowel Disease is a real condition and if you identify with any of the symptoms, please seek out medical attention**]

Sister #1 [we’ll call her…Lindsey.] is currently wearing sweat pants and flowing flowery shirt. She is rubbing her stomach and smiling a satisfied smile.

Lindsey: Hey, have you noticed anything different about me?

Sister #2 [We’ll call her…June] is currently wearing her red dreads wrapped up the Do-Rags Lindsey bought for the community clean up last month. She eyes Lindsey and gives her a patented “really?” look.

June: [looks at me now, one eye brow raised] Don’t say anything…maybe if we ignore her she will go away.

Lindsey: [Has lifted her floral shirt above her belly and is now unabashedly rubbing her stomach that is significantly smaller that it was yesterday] I finally had a bowel movement…I just lost like four pounds.

Me: [In a true testament to how not-at-all-out-of-the-norm this is] Yeah, you look great Linds. [I give her a proud look like she just chugged a beer and smashed it on her forehead.] That’s a lot of shit kid.

June: [Clearly disgusted] Tsk. Don’t encourage her, she needs to go to the doctor.

Lindsey: No, I think one more bowel movement and I’ll be good.

The Conversation continues like this until we wake up. My sister’s bicker back and forth for about 10 minutes.

June: How was your date?

Me: It was great. She was really nice, smart and pretty. We had a really great conversation; I’m hoping to see her again.

Lindsey: Hm, did you pay for dinner. [June gives Lindsey her “WTF?” look] It may be the 21st century but a man should always pay for the first meal. [June’s look now says seriously cuz?]

Me: Well, I…

June: See this is way you should come to me with this. [Pause. Looks at Lindsey and back to me.] Some people [look back at Lindsey and rolls her eyes] No, I’m playin’. But seriously. What was she like?

Me: She was really cool. I had a really great time. I’m starting to really love the life I’m been building for myself in D.C. Being proactive, meeting great new people…it’s nice. I’m not sure if I should write her today or wait…I

[simultaneously]

June: call her now, it’s not the 90’s

Lindsey: Wait a few days. You’re a grown man, you have shit to do. You don’t have time to be writing her every moment.

Me: Uh…I feel like… I should just be able to…

June: [fainting anger] What kind of shit is that Linds?

Lindsey: What? He shouldn’t appear needy. Just wait a day.

This continues until they get distracted arguing about their exact same opinions of “The Rachel Ray Show.” I have learned nothing from this conversation other than that my sisters are two very different people. I enjoy it because they are hilarious in their sibling bickering. They are polar opposites who have grown eerily similar due to prolonged exposure to each other’s idiosyncrasies. As they continue to argue I turn to Google to solve my dilemma. As I type in “dating advice” into Google I revel in the butterflies flirting through my stomach as I think about the date. It is been a long time since I’ve had butterflies and so they are a welcomed feeling. What is even more welcomed is their background presence in my day. They are a dull echo compared to my college crushes.

The online advice is basically ten different versions of be yourself, don’t do anything borderline rapey or stalkerish. Check. Check and Check. Phew. I’m glad got out of the clear there. It can never hurt to make sure you are not exhibiting rapey or stalkerish tendencies.

[**Disclaimer. For real though, EVERYONE should check themselves for rapey or stalkerish tendencies. Just because I joke about it, doesn’t mean it’s not serious. I’m looking at you “I’ll get few drinks in her before I go for the kiss” Happy Hour Dude**]

While this confirms my hope that I am perhaps not as out of the loop as I thought, it provides little insight into my current situation. Undeterred, I type in “advice for e-mailing after a date,” and I try my best to wade through the sea of rules for dating.  I lack the focus to stay on task and end up reading a series of variations of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus [MFMWFV.] I’m fortunate at least that as writer this is now no longer procrastination but will be referred to as “research.”

I continue my research as I try to find the nuggets of truth in the universally misguided and oft times bigoted glimpses into out dated courting rituals and blindly binary hetero-normative written projections of loneliness. I am slightly encouraged by the fact that these thirty and forty somethings whom deem themselves worthy of bestowing their wisdom to my generation still believe in being yourself. A few young millennial writers note that people are just people, and therefore women are in fact not from Venus but Brooklyn and Hyde Park and Tarrytown. I am heartened by this but am still left thinking, great, but do I write her today or tomorrow? How do you tell if a person [any person really ‘cause it might help with these job application follow ups] values immediate communication or if that seems too eager? Do I tell her she’s beautiful or should I tone it down a bit? How do you know whether someone is a hugger?

After about 30 minutes of distress I decide to call back on my sisters. I try and channel my mother and project the face that always gets them to stop bickering pleasantly. They see the face and, reminded of my mother, are ashamed for a second. June in turn imitates my mother’s “I’m listening intently but also kind of mocking you face.”  After listening to my blown-out-of-proportion-because-I’m-really-bored dilemma, June says that older people [read: in their 30’s] call this dating etiquette.  I relax a little and peruse those articles before finally settling on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/dating-rules-better-than-3-day-rule_n_3403137.html.

I silently thank Arianna Huffington for solving my immediate problems and write a heartfelt message about how much I enjoyed the date and plainly asked for another. I feel much better at this point and am glad that, unlike 18 year old me, I feel confident that I can go about my day without waiting for a response. The more I think about the series of MFMWFV articles though, the more unsettled I become. The feeling of unease creeps up on me like after you get off the 90 in D.C or the Redline in Chicago and aren’t sure what to make of the man selling apples out of a biohazard bag. You know it’s not okay but you are unsure as to the extent to which it’s not okay.

I was concerned with the lack of practical non-patriarchal relationship advice for men. Again, I’m super excited that there is a lot of advice on how not to be a creepy needy slightly rapey date. And, admittedly, dating etiquette was helpful for the more banal questions like what to wear, what to say, where to go. Yet what about the more meaningful concerns. Even though I’ve only gone on first dates my mind inevitably wandered to questions about more serious relationships. What does courting look like without patriarchy?

[**Disclaimer. Mom/Dad/ random other adult figures in my life. I’m going to talk about some adult themes so if this is going to make you slightly uncomfortable or[ worse] make me slightly uncomfortable, please stop reading**]

How do you bring up physical intimacy and sex without offending someone or worse pressuring them?  How do you clearly state where you’re at and what you want at the different stages of courtship, dating, and being a couple? What if you’re not sure if you what kind of relationship you want? Is there a way to bring it up without your date being like “dude I’m not even sure if I’m going to peace out on you when my friend calls to see if I need an excuse to leave?”

I tried relationship advice but found that far too broad and again, obvious. Thank you Doctor Phil, now I know that I probably shouldn’t talk about my emotional scars from previous relationships in the first or second date. Really? I probably shouldn’t pretend to be interested in a committed relationship if all I want is sex? I then tried “dating advice for feminist allies.” This advice was only slightly more relevant to me. There were some interesting discussions about not using the word rape to describe things are not rape and how you can show women respect [ http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/11/deconstruction-how-to-be-male-ally.html ]. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the article is awesome. I think everyman should read it and if everyman took it to heart we could end large swaths of rape culture in America.

My concern is, are there really so few men in my position? Most of this discussion is, quite frankly, obvious to me. This would be fine if I were some saint of new age maleness. I would be fine if it meant that I was so far past my Neanderthal-lite contemporaries that I didn’t need this advice. Unfortunately, I struggle with and perpetuate patriarchy every day. I still am not sure how to confidently approach sexual topics with women as equals. How do I make my wants and desires clear and respected while giving her space to do the same? How might I ethically navigate a hypothetical partner’s “sex-positivism” with my odd mix of slightly old fashion views on “common decency” and unique sexual desires? Basically how and when do you create a safe, non-awkward space to talk about physical and emotional intimacy from kissing & sex to commitment issues & mental illness?

To be clear, my concern is less at the practical lack of easily available discussions of these sorts of issues now that I’m dating, it is about the symbolism of the absence in our discussion. Past experience has told me that often these sorts of things resolve themselves organically in my own relationships. I’m fairly confident that if I continue to be the honest, open and caring person I try and often succeed at being it is unlikely that any potential partner will feel uncomfortable pressure or offense. Yet what does it mean that there is no cultural conversation about this. Do people either accept offense and pressure as hazards of dating or possess some sort of brazen honesty on these subjects that risks scarring off potential partners in order to avoid said pressure and offense.

And if I’m perfectly honest with myself [and by myself I of course mean the 20 random people who will read this], it would be practically helpful for me too. What if I’m wrong about things working out organically? What if one of my many unknown unknown’s was that I am doing things in my organically developing relationships to offend women? It’s been known to happen [ “nice guy patriarchy” or back when I used to dance beside girls and pretend like I was dancing with them in college].

So, Facebook friends, random bloggers, fellow allies, womanists, feminist, queer theorists and free thinkers: how do you date ethically in the modern world? I suppose I should also ask, is it reasonable to expect to be able to date, hold true to your needs, wants and beliefs without inadvertently benefiting from or perpetuating patriarchy? I’m not asking about how to date without getting your feelings hurt [mom I know that probably what you’re about to send me a heartfelt message about…send it anyway just in case] I thinking dating, like all human interactions, come with risk and miscommunications. My question is can it come without rape culture, patriarchy, emasculation and WTF moments? Not only would I like to know but I think this conversation (which is undoubtedly taking place somewhere in the interweb) needs to be more main stream. Please, if I’m simply missing out on a great conversation out there, post it in the comment section. Can’t wait to hear from you!

p.s. what’s the deal with :)’s. Is that deal breaker? What if I’m really excited about what I just said?