The VSB Files — Episode 003: Black Woman Down? A Conversation with Helena Andrews

Hey young world. Today we bring you a discussion with the woman that seemingly launched a thousand ships with a Washington Post profile article that made it to the far reaches of Negronia and beyond. Helena Andrews (aka Big H, as we affectionately call her), author of the forthcoming book Bitch Is The New Black, has been the subject of many a blog post and article in the past few weeks (including here at VSB) and we figured that we’d reach out to her and see if she’d be willing to chat with us. Lo and behold, she accepted our offer and what followed was a long, yet interesting discussion about the WaPo article and her characterization in it, dating in the urban professional community, East vs. West Coast rap debate, Tyler Perry, and ultimately her book and what it intends to bring to the table.

Enjoy.

Podcast Notes: This was taped in December before Christmas so all references to last week are to December. Also, because Panama decided to participate while out Christmas shopping, there are some minor spots of sound distortion and he sounds like a doof. Forgive him people for he knows not what he thinks half the time.

Download: (right click > save as)

-VERY SMART BROTHAS (aka Big C and lower.case.p)

i am (not) tiger woods (anymore)

considering the world-renowned verysmartness of panama jackson and the champ, it shouldn’t surprise you all to hear that celebrities occasionally seek us out for advice.

in fact, just last week we received an email from a “barry o” at blackisthenewpresidentbitch@whitehouse.gov, asking us if he should put red or purple kool-aid on the menu at the next state dinner

***our reply? purple. it has a softer taste. and, if you add lemons, it almost tastes like south african wine***

still, i have to admit i was quite shocked yesterday when a letter from a twoods@gmail.com popped up in our inbox. and, although it usually isn’t our custom to publicly share what people send us, i’m going to print this today because i need you all to help me figure out how to reply:

dear very smart brothas,

you know, guys, my favorite book of all-time is ‘the great gatsby’. if you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a guy named jay gatsby who spends his entire adult life trying to convince himself and everyone around him that he isn’t who he really is. he knew he was living a lie, but he believed that the lie would eventually become true if he believed it hard enough.

i read that book when i was 12, and gatsby made such an impression on me that i tried to emulate him. you see, i had a few pretty ambitious goals, but before i’d be able to achieve them, there was a certain part of me i needed to erase. and, i hoped that it would eventually disappear if i tried hard enough to pretend it never even existed.

as i grew older, i began to do more and more things to further this process.

i’d recall black dick jokes in front of crowds of white men, which was my way of saying “hey, no need to be scared of me. i tell jokes about black penises and play golf just like the rest of you. i’m just like one of you guys”.

i invented a word (cablinasian) to describe my not really that unique ethnic background

(although, guys, i have to admit, all of the video hoes and urban models of the world need to send me royalty checks for that one. where else do you think they all got the idea to list themselves as “1/8th cherokee, 1/3rd irish, and 3/16th martian” in their bios, despite the fact that all of those broads are blacker than the back of oprahs knees? me, bitches)

sh*t, i even scoured the earth to find and marry the whitest woman on the planet. seriously, i don’t think you all realize how white elin is. she’s a freakin viking, for chrissakes. f*cking her was like sticking my d*ck in a jar of white-out sitting in the snow.

before november 27th, 2009, this process seemed to be working like a charm. i became the richest athlete in the history of the world, a fortune largely amassed through endorsements that my (seemingly) successful attempts to rid any evidence of that undesirable quality helped me to procure.

but, as i’m sure you both know, things changed a bit after november 27th. still, even though i lost my wife, as well as my clean image and numerous fans and sponsors, i still held a bit of that same gatsby hope that if i wished hard enough, things could go back to the way they were.

this misguided hope crashed and burned monday morning, when i turned on good morning america and saw a picture of the cover for february’s vanity fair. the realization hit me like a ton of bricks: from now on they’ll always see me as a BLACK MAN, and there’s nothing i can do about it.

***btw, i’m still pissed at those vanity fair bastards. of all the pictures they took, they had to choose the one that made me look like a paper-bag test passing DMX???

seriously, look!!!

once you take away the blood, theres no real difference!!! no real difference!!! how the f*ck am i supposed to get the accenture account back now??***

anyway, i’m writing to you because i don’t know where to go from here, and i figured that the very smart brothas would be the best people to ask. i have no choice but to embrace this “being a brotha” thing now, but where and how do i start?

sincerely,
tiger

(wait….”tiger” is the old me. f*ck that. tiger is dead.)

sincerely,
el-dubbs

anyway, people of vsb.com, i need your help. i have no idea how i should respond to tiger, errr, el-dubbs. what do you think i should say?

—the champ

stages: three underrated relationship benchmarks

wow. that was really an impressive fart
wow. that was really an impressive fart

often overlooked in the perpetual dating and marriage talk is the fact that there are a number of stages every couple should probably pass in their journey between the beginning (the time he first spied her across the dance floor and walked through 30 feet of hoodrats, club stink, and armed washington wizards just to talk to her) and the beginning of the end (the walk down the alter). this lack of attention to the actual steps sometimes results in us spending so much time discussing points a and b that we’re ill-equipped to make the actual trip.

and, while everyone is aware of pre-marriage relationship benchmarks such as “meeting the parents”, “opening a joint account”, “buying a pet” “swallowing”, and “shopping for rings”, there remains several more underrated stages that hold just as much significance, steps you probably shouldn’t ignore if you want to actually stay at b after you get there.

here’s three of them

1. the clothes gift surprise stage

while gifts such as diamonds and herpes might be forever, clothing is the one gift that gives everyone (yourselves included) an idea of how much you have invested in the relationship. if you’re wondering how surprising your mate with something as seemingly innocuous as a sweater from the guess store shows how serious your relationship is, consider (as my cousin expressed to me last week) that making an unprompted clothing purchase for someone suggests each of the following:

a) you’ve spent enough time around this person to have an idea of their personal style and favorite store/designer. basically, you know your man well enough to know not to go to the adidas outlet to get him new sneakers because you know he usually rocks nike when he plays ball

b) you’ve paid enough attention to them that you’re aware of what they need…or already have in bulk (you know your girl already has two red banana republic sweaters so you know you probably shouldn’t buy her a third).

c) you know their size, and you’ve done the proper research, inquisition, and investigation to figure it out. why is all of that necessary? well, lets just say that i found out the hard way that finding the right size for a woman isn’t as easy as just thinking about them and saying “yea, i think they’ll fit this”.

also, you probably don’t want to be the cat who gets your chick a 36 c bra from vickys when she’s really a 32 b, because you don’t want her to ever pull the “so, you’re not satisfied with my boob size, huh? maybe i should buy your slightly above average ass some magnum xl’s then. how do you like those apples, bitch?” card on you.

d) you plan on being around to witness them actually wearing it. no one’s going to surprise someone with a pair of jeans if they’re planning on dumping them the next weekend

2. the “i’m having conversations with your friends while you’re not around” stage. (also known as the “you begin to refer to certain people as “our friends” stage)

reaching this stage implies that you’ve managed to accomplish two equally important things:

a) you’ve already passed the all important ‘meeting the friends‘ phase with flying colors

b) you trust your mate enough to have them conversate and shit with your friends when you’re not in the picture.

at this point, its no big deal if you just happened to have an hour long facebook chat with her homegirl about ray j, p*rn, and p*rn made by ray j.

3. the “you know what, i’m gonna take a sh*t in his toilet, and its okstage

i’m not saying that you need to go all ‘dinner at the klumps’ on each other, but if you think you’re really into someone and you still haven’t made it to the sh*t stage, then maybe its time to re-think those joint lease plans.

this sentiment extends to burping, bleeding, and any other bodily function. personally, i think its a bit odd to be ok with catching kids on your chest but still freaked out about farting, but thats just me

anyway, people of vsb, what say you? are the listed “stages” actually meaningful, or are they just more evidence of the champ’s impending insanity?

also, are there any other important relationship stages i neglected to mention?

—the champ

five reasons why successful brothas don’t want to put a ring on it

“hey, what’s keeping ya’ll from putting a ring on it?

essence magazine relationship editor demetria lucas. lucas, who also blogs at abelleinbrooklyn.com, included this question in her response to a recent nightline segment lamenting (again) the successful but perpetually single black female of the saks fifth serengeti.

its been almost a month since the helena andrews hellstorm made the ninjanets spontaneously combust. in the weeks since, we’ve seen approximately 150,000 different takes on her washington post profile, with responses ranging from empathy and esteem to surprisingly dogmatic disdain and dismissal.

yet, amidst all of that discussion, lucas’s essence piece was the only time i saw someone (other than my mom, who must be contractually obligated to have this discussion with me at least once every three months) address the cheesing elephant sitting on the futon. her question roughly translates as…

“wait a second. yeah, yeah, yeah. we all know that successful black women make worse decisions than gilbert arenas, and that the chances of a high-earning sista in her 30′s finding a spouse are less than the chance that ann coulter’s adams apple isn’t bigger than her balls, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. but…what about the guys? there seems to be quite a few successful but never married black men as well. what’s keeping you all from the alter?”

i initially scoffed at her implication that many (if not most) young and successful black men were staunchly marriage-phobic. but, a close look at the 25 to 40 year old men i personally know showed that while the majority of the white men were either already married with children or recently hitched, the majority of the brothas were single or doing the long-term wifey/concubine bit with no wedding plans in the near future.

i have to admit that this wasn’t the first time i noticed that many “eligible” brothas seemingly held anti-marriage sentiments, and here’s five possible reasons why

1. the career scare

you know, after i saw that the aforementioned “men i personally know” sample was split along racial lines, i went back and re-examined to see if maybe there was a class or social-economic theme overriding the racial one. i mean, if the white guys were in more lucrative professions than the brothas, it makes sense why they’d be more willing and ready to marry.

anyway, while i found that there was no real difference in (assumed) income, i did find a distinct racial difference in the thought patterns of my friends. the white guys were much, much, much more likely to be settled.

if the white guy was a lawyer, the black guy was a lawyer thinking about leaving law to go teach. if the white guy was an english teacher, the black guy was an english teacher with plans to go to dental school. if the white guy was a dentist, the black guy was a dentist who still has the dates of open tryouts for NFL teams circled on his calender.

basically, the white guys had accepted their lots in life. they seemed to be more willing to realize “hey, if i’m lucky, i’ll be working at this same firm for the next 20 years“, and they acted accordingly while the brothas were still trying to “figure things out”.

mind you, i’m not suggesting that the white guys way of thinking is better or even more mature. some of them have resigned themselves to the types of mind-numbing existences that eventually lead to you pulling a kevin spacey in ‘american beauty’. but, this thought process does lend itself to being more ready to get hitched.

with the brothas, even with their decent jobs and nice salaries, the fact that they weren’t settled mentally most likely affected their willingness to settle down and marry, a sentiment that leads us to…

2. the potential upgrade

“wait…if i’m a social worker who’s convinced that i’m going to own a lucrative chain of upscale barbershop/brothels (where you can get a trim and some trim at the same time) in less than five years, why the hell would i commit to someone now when i know that my soon to be banging bank account will increase my options???”

3. no upside

actually, this is a bit misleading. most marriage-phobic men are very aware of the marriage positives. its just that in their minds, the potential bad from the negatives (losing independence. potentially losing income and custody of their children if it ends, etc) vastly outweighs any good from any potential positive.

they’re basically thinking “why do something that might maybe make my life a little better if it also has the potential to make it much, much worse?”

4. the chip

“the chip” refers to the “f*ck any and all institutions” chip sitting on the shoulders of many brothas. this inherent mistrust of the government, the church, the media, the military, and the NBA also extends to the concept of having the government aware of and involved in your home life – their main reason for being anti-marriage

personally i think this is a bit of a bullsh*t conspiracy theorist cop out, but since i’m discussing “reasons” today and not “my feelings about the reasons“, i’m just gonna move on

5. no incentive

while we can endlessly debate about whether men should need an incentive in order to do certain things, you can’t really argue the fact that, generally speaking, we do. like it or not, its in our nature to do what we’re allowed to do and what’s expected of us.

basically, as long as its not socially unacceptable for successful brothas to juggle and bone multiple chicks while having half-assed fisher price commitments to them, it’s going to continue to happen.

6. they’re ahead of the curve

marriage was a necessity in 1892, when life expectancy was 31 and you needed a wife and at least eight kids to help you plow fields and sh*t so you could continue to live your miserable, lice-ridden existence. things have obviously changed for the better since then, and the only thing that separates the successful black male from everyone else is that he’s the first to realize it.

anyway, people of vsb.com, i’m curious. do you agree that successful black men seem to be marriage-phobic? if so, why do you think this is…and is this a bad thing?

also, for the eligible (eligible = employed or at least employable and still in possession of the majority of your teeth) brothas reading this, why haven’t you put a ring on it yet?

—the champ

Happy Holidays.

In case it wasn’t absolutely clear yesterday, we here at VSB would like to wish you all a happy holiday season. We’ll be back next week with some more fun and goodness.

And, no, the lawdwasntwillin’ so I couldn’t finish what couldn’t get done.

Here’s a little something to take you away:

-VERY SMART BROTHAS (AND LIZ)