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WATCH T.D. Jakes discuss Jumping the Broom with Roland Martin

Bishop T.D. Jakes makes some valid points about the state of the black family in America – for one, how he thinks there is a meaningful shift in the mentality around long-term partnership, suggesting that we are actually choosing to remain single.  One of his reasons for creating Jumping the Broom is to promote positive images of black family life. CnC readers – what do you think? Are movies like Jumping the Broom purely entertainment or do you think they play a relevant role in counteracting (oftentimes negative or dysfunctional) perceptions of black relationships? And more importantly, do WE ( Black America) still believe in the strong black family or it is something left to the fictional relm of Hollywood scripts?  .. Weigh in!

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My Heart’s Desire
by Andrea Michelle

My muse, my brotha, my Mahogany Brown
My Black Atlas Man, standing there
with your shoulders strained under the weight of the world upon them
Let me lighten your load, recall your memory, take you way back when
To the very beginning
To where we first met on the banks of the Nile
Remember when you rubbed my feet with anointed oil?
And soothed my sun burned skin?
and told me I was yours for a lifetime?
We lay together and birthed a civilization
it and our love was the envy of all that beheld it
Nothing mattered but you and me

 we: The Original People

Through jungle and ancient metropolis you provided for me
and our offspring spread far and wide
Though your mighty spear was no match for their foreign magic
you maintained your faith
Over seas and under cargo we went, separately but with united spirits
Chained to you, I jumped overboard
into the darkest waters my soul had ever seen
Because I knew, with you, I would somehow be free
although my body was broken and bound
We washed up in unknown lands filled with insurmountable demands
and crops to harvest for as far as the eye could see
I forgive your consternation and hesitation when we first met again
You had to relearn me: your queen, your lifetime
But we eventually celebrated with newfound shared language
and jumped-over brooms
Shaking off impending doom and sealing our brighter future together
I cooled your forehead and hand-fed you molasses and hot water cornbread
after a hard day’s work
And in turn, you kept me safe
sold yourself so that your family could remain whole
The whipping scars formed on your broad back
look like the mighty branches on our family tree
My life I owe to thee
remember that my love, please

You have been mine from the moment I saw you
Yet here we stand today, as strangers
with mountains of deafening silence between us
I no longer recognize the gaze you give in my direction
your face has been disfigured by society’s dereliction
So you drag your feet and medicate your restless mind in search of yourself
and in search of the reflection that your memory belongs to
In urban captivity and concrete jungles
your gentle spirit has succumb to the malevolent magic of their world
So behind the steel bars you keep your vulnerability concealed
but your faith still shines in that dark place:
where backs bleed ink from tattooed crosses
and hands pray on biceps for loves lost
where street preachers have flipped their robes for baggy clothes
and necks sag with the weight of Jesus dipped in gold
and your stories told may not be direct from the Bible
but still speak of salvation
My brotha, this is the byproduct of what happens when you have a nation
full of generations of unchained slaves with no reparations

But I still see you, my beloved Invisible Man
Please grab my hand
For I remember and love you for all that you really are
Your legacy and unborn children cry out for you
So in this purgatory place we remain prayerful and nostalgic –
patiently waiting for you to come back home
to once again promise us that we and us and you and me
will be yours

for a lifetime

© Copyright Cupid ‘n Cleopatra, 2011

As little girls playing with our Barbie dolls, we vicariously acted out what we wanted our future adult lives to look like – 2.5 kids, awesome wardrobe (sold separately),  hot & fashionable friends.. and, of course, our man Ken.  Now, it was never really clear what Ken did for a living but we knew he had enough suits and cashmere sweaters to stay fly, a nice convertible to keep our hair blowing in the wind and, most importantly, enough cash to keep us securely in that dream house.  Fast forward to 20 years later and many of us have exactly what we wanted, with 2 major adjustments:  1) we’ve bought our own dream house, wardrobe and convertible and 2) Ken & those kids are still things of girlhood dreams.  Along the way to womanhood, no one gave us the roadmap to actually getting everything in the packaged, plastic dream that was advertised to us as children… I guess that manual was definitely sold separately.

With statistics and cover stories awash with bad news for black love, I often collect sista-girl theories about why things are the way they are.  Most point to the educational and earnings potential gaps that exist in our community – ratios that mathematically prove that someone is certainly getting left out in the cold. But does the math really add up? Is dating and compatibility really that cut & dry or have we women of a certain status preconditioned ourselves to look for (subconsciously or not) only one kind of man, therefore significantly limiting our own options?  I wonder if Ken had been the stay-at-home dad, 3rd shift hard working brotha or the one tending to the garden in front of the dream house through his own landscaping business, would we be so quick to refuse his advancements 20 years down the line. Author Jimi Izrael outlines a theory called the “Denzel Principle” in his book which illustrates that 95% of black women are looking for 5% of black men (The “Denzels”), leading to more single situations than necessary. He calls the brothas out, too, but for the most part he places the burden of singledom in perpetuity with black women and their oftentimes “unrealistic” expectations in a mate:

“Sisters decry the shortage of good men and say there is no way she is settling for less than a good Black man. Not just a good one, but the BEST one: Denzel Washington. She, of course, has no idea what that means, what she wants or what a good Black man truly looks like. So what does your very own Denzel look like?  Well, he’s rich but earthy, handsome but not pretty, doting but not docile, tough but vulnerable, political but not radical, passionate but not hysterical, ambitious but not overbearing, well-read but not nerdy, manly but not macho, gentle but not feminine, Black but not militant, sexy but not solicitous, flirtatious but particular…and all that on cue and in proper measure.”

If you are from a certain generation, you may remember there were many characters in movies and TV showcasing black love at different levels of the economic spectrum.  Eleanor and Roc had a modest but loving union, we were rooting for Lem and Bird to make it in Soul Food, Stomp the Yard’s groundskeeper got the girl, Gina kissed Martin on her way out to her corporate 9-5 and Julius was arguably the most loveable character on Everybody Hates Chris.  Hell, even Sanaa Lathan dropped her Tres Bouge Negro for a down-to-earth (literally) Something New! Couple these fav film images with real life examples of men in our families and friendship networks holding it down, regardless of profession …but yet the notion of white collar women dating blue collar men seems foreign, if not forbidden in today’s rules of love.

In researching this article, I intentionally tried to get representative viewpoints from many sides of the debate; and one thing is for certain, this is a hot button issue that everyone feels passionately about! From my own findings, I concluded of the single black women surveyed (min stats of at least a bachelor’s degree and a professional career) 89% cited economic security as a main requirement for a serious union, while only 11.5% of their black male counterparts seriously considered the woman’s profession or bank account status while looking for a mate. When it came to traditional blue collar roles like tradesman, city workers or good old hourly-wagers (think Subway and Starbucks) women were more prone to ask for supplements to the equation:  “Is he getting a night MBA?”,  “well,  you say he’s a plumber.. is he looking to own his own plumbing business one day?”, “Subway?! You mean he owns a franchise, right?” …lol!   With no supplements, women were less likely to take the man seriously, however, if it seemed like he was on a tangible path to something “better” than his current situation women were willing to work with a brotha (and even pay most of the bills!) to help him achieve his goal  – e.g. Michelle Obama. **Disclaimer: back when he was just Barack, yes he was kind of okiedoke and broke BUT he still had 2 degrees to fall back on in case his 1st plan didn’t work out. Fellas, please be mindful of comparing yourself to President Obama when you are trying to get your lady to support your half-baked dream with no concrete markers of success or  track record of follow-thru to show for yourself**

If the option of professions became more flexible, I found women were more willing to date across the collar line if the man were making significantly less money than they were, yet had a notable public servant position such as a police officer, fireman, teacher or soldier (there’s apparently something sexy about saving lives with good government benefits). Only a few women actually asked for more about the man’s qualitative traits (like family values & morals) when making their decisions without prompting. In general economic & educational compatibility were consistently top 3 (besides looks and personal values) in the women’s ideal mate traits.

 

Contrarily, men on the other hand were more concerned with looks, personality (no attitudes, divas & drama queens, please!) and a woman’s ability to take care of family & home. Education and class status were decidedly not a deal breaker and was something that could be upgraded by him naturally along the way if need be.  So where is the disconnection? Why are professional women willing to date a blue collar man for, ahem, a temporary walk on the wild side or “pipe dream” situation but are less willing to take him seriously as a candidate for the life partner position – even if his values and personal goals align with hers? Many cited that the difference in worlds and social circles are just too great. One woman used a bachelor’s degree as her base criteria for dating because she thinks it speaks to more than just a man’s intellectual pursuits. In her opinion a college degree shows, “ability to see through a complex task, organization, discipline, fortitude…and acknowledgement that he could inevitably rise to the top. These traits are helpful not just in business; they are essential in love and in navigating long-term partnership.”

 Additional women from the survey said that being the primary provider would eventually get in the way of expected traditional gender roles (read as the man’s ego would eventually creep into the relationship if he were not the breadwinner/provider figure.)  One BFF of the blog put it best:

                “Men are naturally hunters, gatherers and protectors. They are providers and need to feel needed, wanted and appreciated. Suppose the Prince hops on his white horse & fights his way through the magical forest, rushing to save his beloved princess from her dungeon atop the tower. However, when he arrives, he realizes the Princess’s dungeon is really a penthouse apartment and not only has she slain the dragon herself…she’s turned it into some hot reptile skin stilettos and matching briefcase. What does the Prince do then? Chances are he hops back on his horse and rides through the forest in search of another chick that actually needs to be saved.”

Underscoring this thought, many women had anecdotes about how men who approached them seemed interested until the man found out the woman’s educational or career background. The key word that kept coming up was “intimidation”; they felt men were intimidated by their success. A professional consultant with a top firm explained her personal quandary of being on the road for months at a time. She would see the same attractive men around the local watering holes or airport of her current assignment and strike up conversation. Once they learned she was a senior consultant the vibe suddenly went cold and “their eyes glazed over … maybe they were calculating my annual salary.” Her social experiment: create a new identity. “For fun, I started telling men that I was a flight attendant just to see their reaction. They were immediately much more receptive and complimentary of me. They thought it was sexy and offered to take me out on dates whenever I was next back in town. One guy even told me he’d have to take me on a trip one day – one flight that I didn’t have to work on!” So what to make of it; are men (subconsciously or not) attracted to damsels in distress and turned off by a lady who can stand on her own? In a recent Nightline panel discussion, Steve Harvey addressed this theory head on: “I think’ it’s more shame than anything else. I think y’all confuse [intimidation with] shame. I’m sorry, I’ve been broke before. You don’t intimidate me, I’m just embarrassed that I didn’t have myself where I wanted to be or trying to figure out how I can get myself to where I can compete. But it’s not intimidation… If you meet a man who is intimidated by you, you haven’t met a real man.”

So if intimidation is the secret word (“ahhhh!”) from the women’s perspective, ask the men about dating high-powered women and the word they most used was “drama.”  Some general themes about career women emerged with my conversations with the gents:

1)      Men could really care less what your professional stats are. Really. They want to know that you are a cool chick with a sense of humor and are a private freak that will be cute for a lifetime. Being well-read and successful is actually a plus!

2)      Career women bring their “big-bad-business- woman” act home too much. A man’s home is his sanctuary; he wants peace, comfort and someone who’s got his back waiting for him with a smile. They suggest that women with big careers make an effort to design clear personality separations between their businesswoman & wife/girlfriend roles. Drop the micro-managing mean-mug act; he loves you without the spreadsheet and power suit and is there so you can let your hair down, drop your defenses and feel safe doing it.

3)      Yes, it’s 2010 but gender roles are still important to men. Ladies, you gotta cook and clean. Not all the time but you have to know how or at least demonstrate a willingness to learn. At the end of the day, your messy bathroom & sink of dirty dishes today may hinder your man’s future ability to put a ring on it because he needs to know his house and his kids will be taken care of. The good news is most men surveyed were willing to chip in with the chores but the Joan Cleaver gene in potential mates is a must-have. If anything,  it is because that’s what his Momma will be looking out for.

A recent conversation with a successful, professional guy friend turned to blog fodder when he described his simultaneous casual dating situation with an Ivy League-educated dentist and a dental hygienist with an Associate’s degree (they were not in the same practice.) He found that the dentist had all of these pre-conceived notions and rules about what he should be doing with his career and a laundry list of expectations about how he should act. He felt that she was too high-strung, overly critical, too sassy/borderline rude at times and did not carry herself “with quiet strength and grace” (the way the older generation of black women he grew up around do.) He didn’t mind that she was accomplished; in fact, that is one of the reasons why he was attracted to her in the first place. However, he came to realize that she struggled to infuse her professional persona with “femininity” and ultimately, her personality was a deal breaker. In the end he decided to focus on the dental hygienist – why? Because she was “upbeat and kind-hearted, could laugh and {make him laugh}; carried herself like a lady, let {him} be the man … plus she had a big booty and could fry fish.”  Period.  Lol.

.. Ladies there you have it.

The collar line debate is never ending and does have varying levels of success. Some professional women have thrown their social rules to the wind and have tales of victorious, sustainable infinitely happy relationships with “regular” guys because they are focusing on what matters to them in the long-run (love, safety, support & family-driven values) not the often fleeting social status requirements and monetary wealth. Others struggle to still find a balance and let themselves completely be governed by unfamiliar territory (after all, financial problems are a leading cause of breakups behind infidelity.)  Still others have been there, done that and decided it’s not for them.  One thing is for sure, if that manual for getting Barbie’s life did exist, I bet there would be a rule about doing something you’ve never done to get something you’ve never had. And as one of Barbie’s most famous mottos goes, “We girls can do anything!”

So, play on.

by ANDREA MICHELLE

© Copyright Cupid ‘n Cleopatra, 2010

In this Throwback Love Jam, CnC explores the complex intersection of love and money through Gwen Guthrie’s Ain’t Nothin’ Going On But the Rent. Money trouble has always boxed love seekers out of the game but are the rules that cut and dry? When the balance of power is shifted do certain gender roles still apply? Generally, why are men more willing than women to “upgrade” their partner in the relationship?

..and is the mantra “you got to have a J-O-B if you want to be with me” keeping some women seeking love single?

Happy listening on the side panel or via the link!

Creating a balanced and whole relationship starts with YOU!

Oftentimes the biggest concern I hear about relationships is a lack of reciprocity and one partner feeling that they are either unappreciated or putting in more than the other.  The Law of Reciprocity always works in relationships.  The Law of Reciprocity can be simply stated as “you get what you give.”  Whatever that you feel you are lacking in a relationship or with your partner – give more of that!  For example, if you feel that your relationship is lacking honesty… pour more honesty into your relationship. 

Whomever we are attracting in a relationship is a direct reflection of ourselves.  So if you are attracting someone who you categorize as dishonest, you must reflect on yourself and what you are projectiong to the world about honesty.  Just because you always tell your partner exactly where you are going does not mean you are truly being honest.  Nor does it mean that you are practicing honesty in your general life.  The universe recycles energy – if you are being dishonest in a seemingly unrelated area of your life, you may end up attracting dishonesty across those areas of your life where you most wish to avoid them.

Below are my thoughts about some of the most common areas of our daily relationships in which we seek growth and corresponding simple suggested actions to develop them:

AFFECTION:  If you feel that there is not enough affection in your relationship, become more affectionate.  Become more physically and emotionally affectionate.  Don’t leave touching only for when you are in the bedroom.  Embrace your partner in public and touch hands and other physical parts, but also become emotionally affectionate.  Leave notes for your partner in their home on their bathroom mirrors and desk telling them how amazing and attractive they are.

INTIMACY:  Intimacy is one of those words we love to throw around, but we probably don’t even know what it really means.  Intimacy comes from the Latin intimus, meaning “innermost”.  If you want to grow close with another human being, grow close to your truest inner self – your spirit!  Get comfortable with who you are non-physically and then you can grow closer to another spirit and attract the best people into your life on all levels.  Open up to this idea and watch as others open up to growing close and safe with you.

COMMUNICATION:  If there are communication issues, it is usually because of fear. Due to fear of possible negative outcomes, it oftentimes stands in the way of someone communicating openly.  Start communicating fearlessly with your partner.  Do not let fear stop you from saying or sharing how you truly feel.  Share what is on your mind with grace and respect – and without fear of outcomes or results.  Share in order to grow and create freedom and welcome acceptance into your relationship.

UNDERSTANDING/CONSIDERATION:  To create more understanding, begin to listen to your partner more.  Listen to their needs.  Practice a time when you do not even speak, but you just hear and listen.  Give them time to share and be considerate of their feelings with no judgment or offense.  Create a space of safety so that you can foster consideration and understanding.

LOVE:  Love is only unconditional.  So practice love always for yourself and all those around you– no matter if your partner is running late or does something that annoys you – pour out love from your heart for them. Of course, this does not mean you cannot tell them how you feel, but don’t let one moment of annoyance or confusion get in the way of the larger essence of love in your relationship.

for this upcoming month I am sending you all energy for a beaming and healthy whole relationship!

Namaste.

 -Shirley

CnC expert contributor Shirley Johnson is a holistic health consultant and founder of Soulistic Wellness. Click HERE for Shirley’s full bio and more information on other CnC experts.

Cupid ‘n Cleopatra is thrilled to welcome our latest resident expert & guest columnist, Shirley Johnson, Holistic Health Consultant! In its most basic definition, a chakra is believed to be a center of activity that receives, assimilates and expresses life force energy.  Through her monthly contribution “Couples Chakra”, Ms. Johnson will explore the use of varying practices of holistic wellness to build and maintain sound personal relationships full of palpable life force energy. These methods include assessing one’s own astrological personality & compatibility traits, meditation techniques for higher levels of self-awareness and affirmations to promote & project positive energy into daily existence.  

BIO

Ms. Johnson is the founder of Soulistic Wellness, a boutique wellness practice whose mission is to approach health and wellness in a way that incorporates nurturing both spirit and soul. A native New Yorker with roots all over the world, Shirley is a woman of many interests and passions for justice, health and love.  A graduate of Brown University with a dual degree in Ethnic Studies and Modern Culture & Media, Shirley has always been fascinated with cultural studies and theory.  After college, Shirley completed training as a naturopath and a holistic health counselor and began independently working as a holistic health consultant with special interests in herbs, astrology, yoga and the power of the mind. 

As a certified Yoga Instructor, Shirley has independently worked with individuals seeking holistic ways to approach their health. Shirley is also a practicing astrologist with a particular affinity for studying the field as it relates to identifying and strengthening the existing synergies between two people. 

 As part of her community building efforts, Shirley works with high school groups to teach wellness, holistic health and positive thinking and is a certified Yoga Education for High School Instructor.

Please visit http://www.soulisticwellness.com/ for more information; to contact Shirley for holistic therapy sessions or to contract her for speaking engagements, please contact: info@soulisticwellness.com

From CnC reader and BFF of the blog Ozzie.. thanks for contributing!

Growing up, my mother didn’t give me a lot of relationship advice.  That was probably because I didn’t share much with her about my relationships until I got married.  But I do remember a specific piece of advice she did give me, and the more I think about it, the more important I feel it is in a relationship. 

My boyfriend (now husband) and I were walking into my mom’s house with some grocery bags and I had grabbed a lot of them, telling my beau “I got it”.  When I walked in, my mother pulled me aside discretely and asked me why I was carrying all those bags.  I said, “It’s fine, I grabbed as many as I could manage and let him take the rest.”  She told me in a loving but firm tone not to do that again, and explained that even with things that seem as little as this, a man needs to feel needed. 

That may seem somewhat contrary to the messages we hear in society.  For years, we’ve listened to independence anthems like Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” and Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” that make it clear that we don’t need to wait on a man to give us anything.  And that’s definitely true – do your thing, get that dream job, buy those hot Jimmy Choo’s for yourself – get it, girl!  But I wonder if we’ve allowed these messages to cause us to give up some feminine vulnerability, to give up some respect for the men in our lives.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fully capable, self-sufficient, professional woman with advanced degrees and letters behind my name.  But am I communicating to my husband that I can do it all and get it all without him, that he’s just someone that I choose to share my bed with every night? 

The book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs asserts that women need and crave love, and men need and crave respect.  Now you may be thinking, “Well, my man better respect me, too – he’ll get respect when he shows me some respect”.  Both men and women need to feel respected, and both men and women need to feel loved, but what the author is talking about is the driving, deep-down need for each gender.  Without these needs being met, our relationships will enter tailspin.  When we don’t feel loved, we react without respect for our mate, and when he doesn’t feel respected, he reacts without love.  No one wins in that situation. 

The book is based on a scripture that shows that God has already given us direction on how to meet the core need of our partner.  Ephesians 5:33 states, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (New American Standard translation). 

In Love and Respect, there is a specific illustration that I thought was interesting, so I’ll just quote it here:

“Author Shaunti Feldhahn describes going to a retreat shortly after graduating from college.  The speaker divided the attendees into two groups:  men on one side, women on the other.  He asked both groups which of two bad situations they would choose if they had to make a choice:  one, to feel alone and unloved, or, two, to feel inadequate and disrespected.  She remembers thinking what a simple choice that was – who would ever want to feel unloved?

But when the leader asked the men how many of them would choose to feel unloved over feeling disrespected, the women in the room let out an audible gasp.  The majority of the men’s hands were raised.  Only a few men said they’d rather be disrespected than unloved.  When the leader turned to the women, the results were exactly the opposite:  the majority of the women said they’d rather be disrespected than unloved.”

Let’s talk about what respect means to men.  My husband and I read this book together as a part of a Bible study group, and I thought I had been doing a pretty good job showing him that I respect him.  But he brought up specific examples that he clearly remembered about times I used a tone of voice (in front of his friends, my bad!) that could be interpreted as disrespectful, or when I gave him the side-eye look that indicated I didn’t like what he said or did.  Those times really made an impact on him – and he’s not an overly sensitive guy.

 So here’s how the book breaks down what translates into respect for a man, using a pneumonic device that the author developed: CHAIRS.

 C-H-A-I-R-S

  • Conquest – his desire to work and achieve
  • Hierarchy – his desire to protect and provide
  • Authority – his desire to serve and to lead
  • Insight – his desire to analyze and counsel
  • Relationship – his desire for a shoulder-to-shoulder friendship with you
  • Sexuality – I think you get this one

 The more we can appreciate our man’s need for respect through the dimensions above, and the more we can be aware of how our actions and words may translate to him through this lens, the better off our relationships will be.

 By the same token, he needs to meet our need for love.  There’s another pneumonic device for the love women need: COUPLE.

 C-O-U-P-L-E

  • Closeness – we want our man to be close to us
  • Openness – we want him to open up to us
  • Understanding – we don’t want him to try to “fix” all of our problems, just listen to us and support us (I’m personally a little different here – when I ask for help, I really want a suggestion for a solution)
  • Peacemaking – we want him to say “I’m sorry” when he’s done something that hurts us
  • Loyalty – we want to know he’s committed to us and to our relationship
  • Esteem – we want to be honored and cherished

 What do you think of the Love and Respect stance?  Is it something that you think will be / has been useful in your relationship with your mate or future mate?

 And by the way, Aretha’s famous song about respect was written and originally recorded by Otis Redding.  Hmmm….

 Ozzie is a business professional, a charitable group founder and a strong proponent of lasting, committed relationships.  Married for 5 years (and counting!), she keeps it real about the joys and challenges she and her husband have experienced through their journey together.