When Men Were MEN!

Today I was reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine several years ago. He told me of a time when he was embarrassed about ‘needing’ to work a second job. He had a professional job, a career, but at the time he had some personal, financial goals that his professional job didn’t allow him to meet. So being the responsible adult that he was, he decided to get a second job stocking shelves at night. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, but it also wasn’t what was expected of a professional man of his caliber and career potential, so he kept it a closely guarded secret. He didn’t tell his friends or family because he didn’t want them to think less of him. He finally told a close friend after having to miss her birthday party to work. She ridiculed him for taking a job doing menial labor. After that he didn’t tell anyone else. But he continued to, quietly, work toward achieving his financial goals.

I was reminded of that conversation today while reading a story about former American Idol Justin Guarini. In one of his blogs he mentioned that he’s gone without meals to feed his children. The comment made me cringe. It’s reminiscent of the men who ‘brag’ about taking care of their kids. Um, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO!!! If you create a child, man or woman, you’re SUPPOSED to take care of that child at all costs. If you’re raising a family and times are tough and someone has to miss a meal, it SHOULD be the dad/the head of the household. It’s not like we live in the agricultural age where the men went out and toiled away in the fields all day and needed the extra nourishment. Guarini sings for a living. He’s perfectly capable of singing on an empty stomach. I guarantee it – I’ve done a lot more with nothing in my belly.

Guarini’s story reminded me of that conversation years ago because I realized, once again, that men come in two different forms: Actual MEN and boys pretending to be men. MEN WORK. Period. A man does what he needs to do to meet his responsibilities. And they do it without seeking or needing praise. I remember telling my friend that all the men I knew had a ‘hustle.’ When I say hustle, I don’t mean anything illegal. By ‘hustle’ I mean that they used whatever skills they had to earn extra money to take care of their families. I knew men who had jobs, some white collar jobs, but could also fix cars, do carpentry work, do taxes, mow lawns, shovel snow, help people move . . . anything they could do to make sure the bills were paid and the kids had all the nice extras. It’s all I knew growing up in the working class cities of Detroit & Inkster, Michigan. I wasn’t used to a man saying he didn’t have enough money and then doing absolutely nothing about it. In fact, when I moved to Chicago in the early 2000’s I was shocked by the number of “men” I encountered who said, “I don’t make enough money on my 9 to 5.” I immediately wondered, “Well, what are you doing from 5 to 9??” It seemed to me that they had a lot of spare time that they weren’t using effectively. My motto has always been, “I don’t want to hear you complain if you’re not doing anything to fix the problem!!”

I shared my story with my friend and let him know that he hadn’t had anything to be ashamed about. Today, he’s older, more mature and is no longer ashamed of having been a responsible adult in his younger years. I told him that if more ‘men’ were like him, that our society would be in much better shape.


It’s GREAT to be a Michigan Wolverine!

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, “His & Hers” on ESPN Pod Center and the hosts were discussing how they chose their respective colleges.  It got me to thinking about my journey to college. While most students had a list of schools they were interested in, I really only had had one – The University of Michigan.

I’ve been a Michigan fan ever since I can remember.  Despite the fact that both my parents graduated from Eastern Michigan University, I was always a Michigan fan.  I mean, let’s face it, when you grow up in the state of Michigan, you have to choose your team early on.  And there are really only two teams to choose from – The University of Michigan and that school in East Lansing.  I’ve always been a winner, so I went with the winning team.

During the application process, I briefly entertained the idea of attending Duke University.  Their brochure quickly extinguished that idea.  My parents didn’t have anywhere near $80K to send me to school.  Also, I wasn’t quite as adventurous then as I am now. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that far away from home all alone. So I saved the $45 application fee and moved right along. I applied to three schools: University of Michigan, Wayne State University (I knew my grades and test scores would guarantee me a Presidential Scholarship) and one HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). During my sophomore & junior years in high school, I attended the annual HBCU College Tour.  Despite my high GPA and standardized test scores, I received extremely negative feedback from the only two HBCUs I might have considered attending.  Meanwhile, I had a private school in Illinois, which I’d never heard of, recruit me because of the same. But I digress. The one HBCU I actually applied to was one I’d never considered attending.  The only reason I applied was because I was attending an HBCU fair with some friends and one of my friends stopped at their booth to apply.  All evening, I’d been standing idly by as my friends completed applications.  I completed this application because the admissions counselor was very friendly.  He also waived our application fees because we were completing the applications on-site.  The school requested our transcripts from our high school, after we’d signed agreeing to the release, and the admissions process was underway.  I’d actually forgotten that I applied until the day I received a letter from them in the mail.  It was a rejection letter.  My feelings were hurt.  Here I was an almost straight A student, salutatorian of my class and college student at the University of Michigan – Dearborn (yes, I attended high school and college simultaneously) and this school had rejected me.  To add insult to injury, the school had struggled with accreditation and was certainly no academic powerhouse.  To make matters even worse, the friend who applied with me was accepted. This student’s GPA was almost a full 2 points lower than mine. My mother tried to console me by telling me, “They know you have other options. They can’t risk allowing you to block a space, when you’re most likely not going to attend, when there are students who can’t get in anyplace else, who need that spot.” Nice try, Mom!

Then there were two.  Wayne State University accepted me pretty quickly and I received a Presidential Scholarship which provided for full tuition.  Wayne State, while an excellent school, is no Michigan.  But then again, no place is Michigan. I applied to Wayne State for four reasons: 1) I knew I’d get in, 2) I knew I’d get a full ride, or very close to it, 3) The University of Michigan is HIGHLY competitive and I wasn’t quite sure I’d make the cut, and 4) Michigan was #1 . . . as in at the time, they were the most expensive public school in the country. I said earlier that my parents didn’t have $80K to send me to school.  Well, Michigan wasn’t much cheaper at around $60K and my parents didn’t have that either. They had, or came up with, about a third of that. Because I stayed in-state, I received a scholarship from the state, based on my standardized test scores, that earned me 10 semesters of (partial) tuition. I had several other smaller scholarships.  I chipped in a third of my college costs through scholarships I’d earned.  My parents had their third. And grants & loans made up the final third. I was all set.  All I needed was an acceptance letter.

Although the acceptance letter came relatively quickly, it seemed like years between the time I mailed my application and the time I received the letter.   As the holidays approached, I hadn’t heard back.  I knew that once the holidays were in full swing, it would probably be February, or later, before I heard anything. I’ve never checked the mail so much in my life as I did during those couple of months.  Finally, I received an envelope with the University of Michigan seal on it.  It was a big envelope.  I immediately knew what that meant.

I have absolutely no idea what I got for Christmas that year.  I don’t remember who came to our annual Christmas dinner (although I can probably guess). I don’t even remember what I got for my birthday that year.  All I remember is that I officially became a Wolverine on Friday, December 24, 1993.

GO BLUE!!!!!

Black Folks and Therapy

Something I talk about fairly often is black people and their reluctance to seek professional help for their problems. There is a huge stigma in our community as respects mental illness and therapy. I have my theories on why the stigmas exist and how they’re perpetuated. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that we really need to “do better” when it comes to accepting that sometimes we all need a little help. In light of the reported suicide of actor Lee Thompson Young, I thought I’d mention it yet again.

As a people we’re doing a much better job of opening ourselves up to experiences we used to be quick to say were “for white people.” One of the last frontiers for us to conquer is being able to admit that we may not be able to work through our problems alone and taking action to get the help we need. Big Mama is an amazing woman but she doesn’t always have all the right answers. Yes, you can “take it to Jesus” but like I told someone last night “God is busy. I’m not worrying Him about that nonsense.” (It really was trivial.) Our mothers, sisters, sista-friends and good girlfriends only know so much. As well as they know us, they don’t always have best answers. Many of them don’t have the skills to properly manage their own lives yet and still they try (with all best intentions) to help us manage ours.

Sometimes after we’ve prayed about it, talked to Big Mama about it and dished about it to our girls, the issue remains unresolved. There are things that we need help exploring, and resolving, in a constructive manner in order to heal from them once and for all. Too many of us are afraid to take a cold, hard look at ourselves and admit that we face challenges bigger than ourselves. We find it difficult to admit that there are problems impacting our lives and our futures that we simply cannot handle alone.

So what do we do? We self medicate. We use food, shopping, sex, alcohol, drugs (“they’re not drugs, drugs. It’s just a little weed and a few pills every now and then.”) and countless other methods to soothe our hurts and mask our pain, fears and insecurities. Self medicating is more destructive than the thing it is we’re attempting to cover up. While self medicating grants us a temporary reprieve from our issues, it doesn’t actually solve the problems. In fact, self medicating creates more problems in our lives. The food leads to weight gain which leads to health issues. The shopping often leads to financial destruction. Sex, well, while it’s fun if we’re not careful, and sometimes even when we are, can jeopardize our health. Alcohol and drugs not only lead to health problems but they can lead to financial ruin, death and a string of bad decisions made under the influence.

So how do we get our people to understand that therapy is sometimes necessary? We take away the stigma associated with it. Some of us would rather walk around glassy-eyed and reaking of alcohol (even when we’re not drinking) instead of going to therapy and risk having someong call us “crazy.” Which is better: “crazy” and alive or “normal” but dead of of Cirrhosis the liver at age 35?

If you know someone who is “going through it,” let them know that it’s okay to seek professional help. Even if you don’t necessarily believe in therapy, don’t discourage them, or make them feel ashamed if they mention it. Support their decision. The stigma wasn’t created overnight so it won’t be eliminated overnight. But please do your part to help. You could be saving the life of someone you love.

The Dip Back

I was listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning and an interesting topic came up: Have You Ever ‘Dipped Back’ to an Old Relationship for a New Fling?”

The topic reminded me of a blog I wrote some years ago – “The Ghosts of Chrissy’s Past.” Virtually every one of my exes has come back at some point. All except the ONE I would actually take back. Sometimes they come back with the old “Hey, how’ve you been? Long time no hear. We should catch up sometime” and later work their way up to the point of contacting me. Other times they get right to the point,  “Hey, I was thinking about us and that we should give it another try.”

I’ve done it. I’ve dipped back a time or two. I’ve fallen for the banana in the tailpipe.  When I dipped back I found that it didn’t work for one of two reasons.  Either 1) he was the exact same person he was back then, which made us (still) incompatible or 2) he’d changed but so had I and the people we’d become were (also) incompatible. Either way, Le Partie Deux, needed to be cut short. Most of my friends who’ve dipped back have had similar experiences. Because of this I lean toward the thought that the successful ‘dip back’ is more likely the exception than the rule. So, I’ll stick to the conclusion of the old blog.  Check it out.  Enjoy!


You’re Perfect!  Wait for Me:  Ghosts of Chrissy’s Past (2007)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the following statement:  “You’re perfect.  You’re smart, pretty, kind, ambitious, caring.  You’re just wonderful.  You’re exactly the kind of woman I want to marry . . . someday.” 

Starting way back in my Junior and Senior years in college I started hearing that speech or something very similar.  Later in my twenties, when I started to consider the possibility of marriage, I found the speech to be incredibly frustrating.  Here I was at a point in my life where I felt I was ready to consider marriage and I was being told by almost all the men I dated that I was exactly what they wanted . . . someday.


Intellectually, I understood.  They simply weren’t ready.  And I’m not one to push anyone who isn’t ready.  I guess my problem with the statement is that they somehow seemed to think I’d wait for them.  That I’d want them 10 years down the line after they’d sewn their wild oats.

Well, it’s ten years later (for some of them).  These men are now 30 – 35 and guess what;  theeyyyyyy’rrrrreeeeee baaaaaccccccckkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!

Dudes from my past have been showing up like roaches in the projects.  They’re everywhere.  I guess they’ve sewn their wild oats and “someday” has finally arrived.  Lucky me?  Not so much.  I may have been willing to entertain the option of exploring a relationship after a number of years apart had they not given me “the speech.”  Having heard the speech it feels like I was placed on hold.  It’s like they said, “If nothing better comes along then I’ll go scoop up Chrissy.”  Doesn’t it just give you the warm fuzzies?  Nah, not so much.

So to all the fellas who put Chrissy on the back burner until someday, yeah, I’m still available.  But I’m not available to you.

No Scary Age for Me!!

I don’t have a “scary” age.  I’ve never had one and don’t ever plan to have one.  I am, however, in the age group where many of my peers are at their scary age, quickly approaching their scary age or they’re depressed because they’ve long ago passed their scary age.  Let me explain the concept of the “scary age” for you non-Sex and the City viewers.  The scary age is the age at which women start to panic if they haven’t married and/or had children and it usually coincides with a woman’s biological clock.  The scary age is viewed as the entrance to spinsterhood.  If you aren’t married with kids by the time you hit your scary age then you may as well start making doilies and buying cats.

The main reason I’m opposed to setting a scary age is because women who are nearing their scary age become neurotic.  They do some of the most insane things you’ll ever hear of.  Take for instance the 46-year-old woman on the We TV show “Bridezillas.”  She had an adult daughter but had never been married.  On the reality show she married a 38-year-old “salesman.”  She paid for the entire wedding with no assistance from him.  This “salesman” was away from home for four months at a time because he was traveling “on business.”  I’m not the only one who thought this sounded a bit suspect.  Her adult daughter and sister both thought it was suspicious that his job didn’t even allow him to come home on the weekends. When he was in town, his hometown also, he lived with her, drove her car (because he didn’t have one) and used her cell phone (because he didn’t have one).  Let’s just ignore the housing situation.  What kind of salesman doesn’t have a car or cell phone? Most companies supply these items. And even if the company doesn’t supply the car, the employee is required to own a vehicle.  Despite the protests of her family the 46 year-old ignored her fiancé’s shortcomings and married him anyway. She married him despite the fact that he first failed to show up at their wedding, leaving her at the alter.  He finally showed up at her house the next day, apologized and they went to Vegas to get married.  I don’t set a scary age because I don’t want to be so desperate to make it happen that I settle for a “man” like this one.

I also don’t want to be the chick who shows up to a relationship with a timeline.  (The following is a true story)  A 32 year old woman gave up a, by all accounts, perfectly good man after a year and a half of dating because he was not ready to propose to her by a given date and married to her within six months of that date.  After having dated for a year she informed him that a proposal would be required by the 18-month mark, exactly six months from the date of the conversation.  When the date arrived, and he had not purchased a ring or made a proposal, she presented him with a prepared statement advising him that if he was not willing to make the proposal that day, and commit to a wedding date on that same day, that she would be leaving the relationship.  He let her know that he would not be making the proposal.  They ended their relationship that very day.

Then there’s the woman I refer to as “Atomic Clock.” This woman would meet a new guy, fall in love and become “engaged” within six months.  I use quotation marks because there was never a ring. In my mind, men aren’t serious until they’ve spent money on a ring. Within three months of the “engagement” the couple would break up and she would start the cycle all over again. It was as if she were so desperate to find a husband, any husband, that she would blindly jump into relationships in the hopes that she might finally be able to check off “get married” on her list of things to do.

I don’t fully blame this outlandish behavior on the neurotic women.  I partly blame society and the pressures it puts on women to be married with children.  I also blame the socio-economic factors, and plain old ignorance, that have created the ever-dwindling pool of suitable men.  When you subtract the men who are: already married, in jail, gay, bisexual (aka gay in waiting), unemployed, uneducated or addicted, there are but 3 or 4 men left for us single chicks to fight over.  As a result of the relatively few, decent men available, women are putting up with all kinds of unimaginable nonsense.

I watch these women and I’m sad for them.  I’m sad for the ones who’ve settled for less than they deserve and are miserable in their relationships.  I’m sad for the ones I watch cling to a piece of a man just so they can say they have one. And I’m even sadder for the ones who desperately want to be mothers so they’re making a go at it with men who aren’t good people or good boyfriends and will likely be even worse fathers. And even more than being sad for them, I am determined not to become one of them.

Change or Die

I’m watching a mini-marathon of “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” on Bravo. There’s a man on the show who has lived in the same house for all of his 37 years on earth. He grew up there, never left home and inherited the house after his father died and continues to live there. He’s moved in his new wife and believes it’s absolutely normal to continue to live in the house his father built for the rest of his life.  He expects his new wife to live in this house and raise their children there.  He also expects that his wife not be able to make any updates to the house. While he was kind enough to grant her permission to replace the carpet in one room, she’s forbidden to make any other changes, including donating his dead father’s clothes, which seem to litter the entire house.

This episode fascinates me for a couple of different reasons. It fascinates me because this grown man thinks it’s okay to live in a castle. Oh, did I forget to mention that? The father built an actual castle, complete with a moat. There are shields and armor everywhere. All of the décor is dark, heavy woods and metals . . . exactly what you’d expect to see in a castle. And this grown man thinks it’s ok to live in a fairytale castle at 37 years old.  I find his wife, who I’m almost positive is a former contestant on America’s Next Top Model, to be a bit delusional as well.  This man was living in this castle when they met. He’s clearly not good with change, and admits as much. So why would she expect that he would all of a sudden change just because they have a piece of paper saying they’re stuck together? I’ll save her for a future blog.

I am always confused by people who are afraid of change. I’ve moved a lot during my career.  Oftentimes, I moved to places where I didn’t know a single soul.  I once had a high school friend say to me, “I don’t know how you do that, just go somewhere and you don’t know nobody.  Wouldn’t be me!” (sic) For once in my life I exercised a bit of restraint and avoided saying “And it wouldn’t be me stuck in this town with no education working a dead-end job, married to a bum and spending my spare time bickering with his sidepieces and other baby mamas.” [Sometimes I go too far] Instead I said, “I’d rather go out and see what the world has to offer than sit in one place and wonder what could have been if I hadn’t been afraid.”

I often wonder how people get this way.  What happens to a person to cause them to become so complacent? What makes them afraid to know if they’re capable of more? I fully understand the concept of being “happy with what you have.” But what about when you’re not happy? If you’re unhappy in your current situation, why not try something new? The man on the show suffered from depression. He was finally able to admit later in the show that he hadn’t realized that just living in the house used up so much of his energy, that he wasn’t able to properly focus on anything else. This is a completely understandable explanation.  But I still wonder about all the people I know who complain about their current situation but refuse opportunities that could change their current situations just because it forces them outside of their comfort zones.

I am a firm believer in the notion that “the only constant is change.” I’m able to easily adapt to most situations and either find a way to be okay with the change or create another change that I can be okay with. When we look back over time, we see that those creatures that were not able to adapt to new environments ceased to exist.  In my estimation, either we change or die.  Perhaps not literally (immediately) but we kill off an important part of ourselves. We kill off the part of ourselves that allows us to challenge ourselves.  And once that part of us is dead, we might as well go sit in the cemetery and wait to be buried. You’re not really living anyway, so why not?