Friday, December 31, 2010

Be the Change You Want to See!!

It is officially the last day of the first year of the new decade. As we pause to reflect on the events of the past twelve months and begin to focus on the hope for the new year and all the joy it is set to bring, let us make a small plan to ensure that 2011 will become the very best year of our lives… so far!Champagne

I wanted to make a post about NYE resolutions, but didn’t want it to be campy. I didn’t want to tell you about how to keep them. I mean, I see NYE resolutions like the In case you missed it… at the end of The Dr. Oz Show. They are just things to try to do to make your life less stressful, more meaningful, and longer. So, I thought I would do something relevant: a top 11 list (in honor of 2011, of course) of things that we can all do to help lighten the loads on ourselves. I would’ve done a Top 10 list, but like another blog I love says: “Top 10 lists are for cowards!”

Off the top, I want you to take inventory of your life. Your family, your friends, your job, your money, your relationships. I’m sure you will see that one (or more) of those areas are lacking in your life. If you are honest with yourself, you might agree that you are (in)directly responsible for that which is stifling your happiness. So, in 2011:

1) Don’t settle for less than you know you deserve. With most improvements, the only one who can make them a reality is you. If you want better relationships with your loved ones (suitors, friends, and family), you have to be the one to initiate that change. If something sucks in your life, get rid of it! Please do your best to cultivate the flower as best you can, but recognize a dud when you see one!  …and what do we do with duds? Flush ‘em! Right along with the Christmas goose, I invite you to do a big number two!

2) Take a Christmas dump! While initially gross, I recently read that according to some psychologists, when something is stressing you out, you should write it (or that person’s name) on a sheet Toiletof paper and flush it down the toilet. The theory is that much like a big number two when the food that pains you heavily stuns you, expelling and releasing the past into the land of the forgotten can bring peace and relaxation. My suggestion for all of us within the month of January is to review your phone and your BGC and your Facebook, and eliminate those whom you haven’t spoken to in two years, can’t identify from name alone, or can’t name from photo alone. Send them the way of the Tidy Bowl man! Those deletions should put you in a state of serenity, and ultimately make things easier for you to:

3) Make time for love. When I first met one of my dearest friends, we were having a conversation about our singlehood, and the avenues we have tried to meet someone. He asked me rhetorically where all the single, attractive, employed, young, Black men (like us) were. I told him I believed that they were at work. He laughed, before I explained: “How many times has this happened to you? You’ve been working all day, ready to go home, and your boss comes to you and asks you if you can stay late. Then, you THINK (you don’t say), ‘Well, it’s not like I got a man at home.’ So, you stay…” My friend then politely asked me to stop reading him. I told him that I was simply stating that too many of us try to take our minds off our loneliness by working overtime, only to come home to an empty house and a cold bed where we can hear the silence. Make an attempt to use more of your free time to date! Breakfast at Waffle House, an afternoon movie at Atlantic Station, or dinner and the Falcons at Hobnob are all great ways to spend all that money you have saved up shutting yourself off from the world by working so much! Until you can make these dates happen, however, you may want to:

4) Find a dating partner (or two). For the record, I am not talking about people to whom you are attempting to become romantically linked. I am referring to two or three people within your circle of friends with whom you could double or triple date. Group dates tend to be more relaxed, and your friends can ask your date questions you might not think of. Afterwards, your friend might be able to help you better analyze a situation on the date that you are still mulling over. While you may not want to exclusively use group dates, they may work for initial dates to help your suitor get a fuller picture of who you are by how you are with your friend. Once you decide whom these dating partners will be (I suggest a minimum arsenal of three), you may decide that you need to:

5) Take up a hobby. Initially, it is to strengthen the bond you have with your friend, but it may also serve as a topic to draw from for conversation! Photography, cooking, acting, fitness, archery, or anything that makes you a more well-rounded individual. So, with your new skills intact, now it’s find to hit the sites and find someone to tell about your new hobby!  You can start that new journey by attempting to:

6) Write a real profile. All I really mean by that is to be honest with yourself, and others, about who you are, and what you want. Start with your numbers: age, height, and weight. It’s alright to stretch the truth…slightly, but remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. So you should add a picture…of your face, and not your ashy parts. I promise I will discuss this again at some point, but suffice to say: we are all anatomically correct. There is generally no need to feel compelled to prove it. Aside from the photo is the text, and some of us could serious benefit from 15 minutes of reflection. You have approximately 500 characters to tell us why we should want to date (or relate to) you…as opposed to the plethora of other no-name men on this site. Start with something interesting about you, but don’t write a composition that makes you look dumb, desperate or disconnected. Many men are too quick to use buzzwords like “masculine, educated or attractive.” Since nobody else is you, I implore you to:

7) Define your definition. Could you be more specific? If you asked 10 men what one thing makes a man feminine, you’d get 20 different answers. So, when you say “masculine,” does that mean “quiet,” “athletic,” “mean,” or some combination thereof? Does “educated” mean “a Masters?” What about “attractive?” When you describe yourself as “cool” and “down-to-earth,” how do you know? Then, once you’ve gotten a bit closer to your word limit:

8) Stop waiting on other people to hit you up. It is a social network, after all…in one form or another. So, be social! Click on other people’s profiles, and see what they have to say. Maybe those pictures are indeed all they have Waiting1to say, and in turn, might be all they are good for! We can’t all be philosophically deep. Some of us are just empty vessels, waiting for passers-by to deliver whatever they care enough to deposit, but I digress… Completing profiles enables other men to have something to say when they approach you. You will see how remarkable this concept is once you give it a try, but that’s also why it is important to put something few other people might have in their profiles! After a while, you will begin to enjoy the benefits of having become more conversational online, but be careful of roadblocks (one-word answers). When you encounter a roadblock, remember:

9) Don’t chase! Hopefully, you’ll remember my post from a couple of months ago about this. If you don’t, here it is. I know some of you enjoy the pursuit, and that’s great, but don’t forget that some returns aren’t worth the investment! That will keep you from overloading your phone or the friend list of your local social networking site with random aliases again (which should keep you from having to repeat item 2 next year!). If you insist on it, however, maybe you should:

10) Develop a filing system for your phone. The symbols and other denotations in your Android, Blackberry, or iPhone are there for your assistance, you know. It can be very confusing to remember which of the 7 “Mikes” in your phone is your sister’s boyfriend, your barber, that guy you met at the bar the other night, or your roommate. Don’t send that naughty picture to the wrong one! I encourage you to learn someone’s last name, attach pictures to the contact in your phone, or find another way to denote them. Some phones will allow to add work information. So, in that space try “(site)/(screenname).” That’s gotten me out of a jam a couple of times before when I couldn’t remember who “Jay” was…but we’re not talking about me.

I know I said I wouldn’t do anything on how to keep NYE resolutions, and I promise I won’t stay long, but I can guarantee you that the answer is simple. In the end, we all should learn to:

11) Develop self-control. I know it is monumentally easier said than done, but still very necessary for us. So many of us can’t resist: sleeping in/eating out instead of exercising, purchasing that second item for equal/lesser value, or sleeping with that guy on the first meeting. Just keep this in mind for 2011:

“Impulses lead to regrets.”

I wrote this list to help some of the backsliders to stay focused. I promise I understand how difficult this rat race can be sometimes, but much like those sad travesties of women on Maury who wind up staying with men who have lied to them to various degrees, I think some of us don’t let guys go once their time with us is over. It’s like Maya Angelou stated:

When someone shows you who they are, believe them!

Appropriately, in less than 24 hours, we will all be welcomed (in one form or another) to 2011, and it is my fervent hope that we start it off as best as we can. Try to be more cautious of the people that you surround yourself with, and begin to remove those that seem less than trustworthy from your presence. As Susan Boyle will ask us in the “official” song of the New Year, Auld Lang Syne:

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to light?”

Yes, they should!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

From Date to Mate: 5 Questions to Ask

This winter season, many people are looking to get “boo-ed up,” as the kids say. It is unfortunate, however, that too many of these “relationships” are simply carnal in their true nature, and are devoid of the substance through which the involved portray a rather sad and transparent fa├žade. Perhaps a few of the pretend couples this season are looking to solidify something with this person that they originally considered to be a stand-in until their dream date finds his way to them. Date1There may also be a reader who will be taking this Saturday night to date someone to whom they feel they have nothing to say. I’ve known quite a few individuals who have gone to dinner with a treating suitor only because they were hungry…(but that’s another post!)

In any event, I thought I would bite from this article I read in Yahoo!. You can read that article, also. For the ones of you that are going on a date, you are probably aware that getting the real information out of a date can appear to be a daunting task. I know too many men who know how to ask what they want to know, but don’t happen to be too versed in subtlety. There is also a pocket of men who end up dating a man, and even after five dates, still do not feel as though they know this person with whom they are considering becoming exclusive. Their questions tend to be too bland or basic. In short, people on a bus can talk about the IF and the THAT. People on a date talk about the HOW and the WHY.

It’s easy for many of us to ask about the menial things some of us tend to find “important,” like zodiac sign, job title, and nearest major city of origin. However, facts don’t make a man. You don’t marry profiles. After you ask the basic questions to determine physical compatibility (many of which helped to initiate the desire to date in the first place), you must learn to follow-up with questions to determine intellectual or ideological harmony. I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask your potential mate for you to get through a few dates if you tend to be more introverted or shy in your romantic pursuits.

1. What is your favorite scene from your favorite book or movie or TV show? – Again, initially, it is easy to ask someone about their favorite source of media entertainment, but the WHY may lead you to true insight about your date’s personality or values. For example, one night, a friend of mine had come over to watch Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. We were already watching TV, and Tabatha wouldn’t be on for at least another hour. So, my friend asked if he could watch wrestling. I agreed. However, after about 60 seconds of what I found to be the cradle of idiocy, I had to ask him what drew him to this particular spectator sport. He replied, “I like to watch people talk shit…because I like to talk shit.” Knowing my friend for as long as I had, it made complete sense to me. I also discovered that I myself enjoy shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, Tabatha, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Millionaire Matchmaker, and Tough Love because I like to tell it like it is. So, I want to watch shows where people are saying what I’m thinking. With proper analysis, you can discover something possibly fascinating about your potential suitor!

2. What do you love about your job? – As we all know, in the current economy, you should consider yourself lucky to even find someone who has a job in the first place! On a more serious note, a job title may not do much to tell you someone’s aspiration, especially if you’re dependent on what might be a “stop-gap job” (a plan B that came to fruition before plan A). Plenty of us have had a job in  retail, fast food, or a call center while we waited to complete our degree in psychology, law, or IT. This question could reveal key items like how someone handles conflict, their willingness to try new things, or possibly their preparedness to enter a relationship. …which leads me to…

3. What’s your definition of a relationship? – Personally, I think this question should be placed on the back burner until at least your third date, and you two have given yourselves ample time to become comfortable around each other. You are simply asking this question to find out if you are dating someone who wants to be a normal housewife, or a Real Housewife! There is a difference, not that there is fundamentally anything wrong with either one, but remember that a relationship is defined by the people in it. So, you may have someone who is generally docile or meek and may act like they are glad you made it home from work safely, even if it is after midnight. You might also be dating someone who expects gifts “just because,” a condo in the clouds, and takes you and your wallet for granted. This question may lead you into your date’s fundamental beliefs about male-male romantic relationships, and could tell you more than you may be prepared to receive!

4. If money were no object, what would you do with your life?This is another great question that would give you fathomable insight into your dates ideals, dreams, and regrets. I think it is fairly common knowledge that you can learn a lot about a person by how they spend their money! Perhaps answers will reveal philanthropic desires, educational pursuits, or an attempt to revive (and star in) the now-defunct MTV’s Cribs. Let me reiterate that there is nothing fundamentally wrong about those responses or the men who give them. You are seeking compatibility. Don’t forget that!

5. Will you share an embarrassing moment with me? – In his 1999 comedy special, Bigger & Blacker, Chris Rock commented on how people tend to meet someone else’s “representative” in the initial stages of courting. Despite the uproarious laughter, Rock had actually made a genuine point about the force fields that most of us construct within the first year of dating someone, including denying our virtual idolization of a certain song or TV show, suppressing certain bodily functions or smells, or possibly “butching it up” to convince this guy whose last name we don’t yet know that we won’t be an “embarrassment” to him…the Pygmalion effect, if you will. Asking someone to share an embarrassing moment is only to “humanize” both them and yourselves. It takes you out of that ethereal dream state, and reminds you that (although it can be difficult to remember or recognize within ourselves):

Nobody is perfect!

Just take things slowly and remember this:

Dating is about determining compatibility according to the hierarchy by which the people in that couple agree to abide.

You’re simply asking questions like this get an idea if their insides will make a figurative fit with yours. The literal fit usually goes without saying… To help you relax and reflect on that, maybe you should take A Long Walk! Here’s Jill Scott with her second single…