A Gender Role Bending Christmas

***And, just in case anyone doubts the validity of the engagement scene from the video, I’d like to share a quick synopsis of every conversation my fiancee (BTW, it still feels funny typing “my fiancee.” Admittedly, it might just feel funny because I just might still be compelled to type “the Gay Reindeer” when writing about her.) and I have had with our friends since our engagement***

“Her”

Her: “So…I’m ENGAGED!!!”

Friend: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

Her and Friend together: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

***5 minutes later***

Her and Friend together: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

***10 minutes later***

Friend: “OMG, that ring! Did he have help? Tell me you helped him pick it out. Bitch, you helped him. You had to help him. Right? He couldn’t have picked that by himself. You helped him! You had to help him. He had help, and this help was from you, right? There’s no f*cking way you didn’t help him. But, if you didn’t help him…wait, nevermind. I won’t even f*ckng go there. You helped him. You had to help him. Help was had by him and it was offered by you, right?”

Her: “ ….yea. I helped him. A little. But I helped.”

Friend: “I knew it!!! You helped him!!! OMG, the ring is so perfect for you and like, for the Earth. It’s Earth perfect. If the sun and the stars had a baby, and that baby knew how to make guacamole, it would totally be that ring.” 

Her: “Thank you!!! That’s exactly what I was thinking!!! Exactly!!!”

Friend: “So how did he do it? I need details. Where? When? Why? How? Did he write something? I could see him writing something. Like a vow. Not a wedding vow. But an engagement vow. And having you find it on a tree outside your house. And giving you clues all day by saying stuff like ‘You should look outside the box more often’ and you not even knowing they were clues until after you saw the tree. Did he carve the engagement vows with a knife? What kind of knife was it. OMG! OMG! OMG! Did he get it from Williams Sonama? Cause that would have been soooo romantic. And they were having a sale last week.” 

“Me”

Me: “So yeah, I’m engaged and shit now.”

Friend: “Word?”

Me: “Word.”

Friend: “Congrats, man.”

Me: “Thanks.”

Friend: “What her friends look like?”

Me: “They aiight, I guess.”

Friend: “They f*ckin?”

Me: “Which one?”

Friend: “Any.”

Me: “I guess.”

Friend: “Aiight. I’ll come to the wedding, then.”

Me: “N*gga, aint you married?”

Friend: “Yea. And faithful too.”

Me: “So why you asking me about single chicks?”

Friend: “I prefer to fantasize about the ones who I know are f*cking. Makes it more real.”

Me: “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Friend: “It will after you’ve been married five years.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

So…I’m Engaged Now. Here’s Why

jumping-the-broom

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

At least, this is not how I envisioned things happening. I’m not supposed to be engaged now. I’m not supposed to be in love. I’m not supposed to be planning a life with someone. I’m not supposed to not be able to envision a future without her in it. But I am engaged. I am in love. I am planning a life with someone. And I am uninterested in envisioning a future without her in it.

None of this was supposed to happen because I’m supposed to be single now. At least, that is what I told myself two years ago. Newly single, I planned on remaining single. I didn’t have a set amount of time to stay single—doing that would have felt too arbitrary and inauthentic—but I knew I did not want to be in a serious relationship again any time soon.

Why? Well, the best and most attractive part about being single is the most obvious. You’re single. Which means you’re free. Often, the activity that can be a product of this freedom is touted as the best part about being single. I disagree. The freedom itself is the best part. The ability to do whatever, whenever, however. And with whoever. Or not. Freedom isn’t dating multiple women. Or eating cereal for dinner. Or staying out until four every weekend. Freedom is just the freedom to do these things if you choose to.

This freedom is intoxicating without any of the side effects associated with intoxicants. There is absolutely no downside to it. None. People often blame bad decisions on freedom. Which is silly. Freedom doesn’t make you do anything. If it did, it wouldn’t be freedom. Freedom doesn’t cause anything. It just is. Blaming freedom for bad decisions is like blaming oxygen for asphyxiation.

This freedom is why I get why some people choose to stay single longer than society would like to dictate. It’s also why, for many of us, the common narratives about why people in our generation (men and women) are choosing to stay single longer than our parents and grandparents did seem all wrong. It’s not about a fear of commitment. Or narcissism. Or selfishness. Or even a lack of love. It’s just that, for many of us, a “free” life equals a better one. The benefits of love and companionship are known, valued, and appreciated. The benefit of being free are just valued and appreciated more.

Anyway, I dated a few women during this free period. I even grew to like one of them very much. Very, very much. So much that when I learned I wasn’t prepared to give up that freedom for her, I started to think it would never happen. I was fine with that. As I said, I planned on remaining single and staying free. But I also planned on not liking anyone that much, and when I did and still felt the urge to be free, I figured this commitment to freedom was for real.

And it was.

Until she happened.

And when she happened, I no longer felt that urge to be free. There was no ambivalence. No second thoughts. No pulling away. No anything else but her.

We were friends. Great friends. Best friends, actually. And then, we were no longer just friends. I know that sounds too simple. And I debated adding details to give the story more meat. To make it more realistic. But that would just obscure the suddenness and the violence of how it happened. One day I was alive. And then the next day the rest of my life began.

I was free before her. But now my life is better. This isn’t a knock on freedom. I was happy. Very happy. Freedom is unbelievable. Freedom is fucking great. It’s just that she’s just so much better than it.

I proposed November 30th. We’ve been together for a year now, which is how long we’ve both known how much we both wanted each other. The ring is just a way to let everyone else know.

None of this was supposed to happen. I thought I knew what I wanted. But it is happening. And I thank God I was wrong.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Five Quick Takeaways From The 300 Sandwiches Internet Shindig

I love you

I love you

1. I lucked into my favorite sandwich. I happened to home during the afternoon one day, I happened to be watching Oprah, and it happened to be an episode where she had celebrities on to speak about their favorite foods. Chris Rock was one of the celebrities, and he raved about a shrimp and bacon club from The Cheesecake Factory.

This blew my mind twice! (Yes, I had a twice blown mind!)

A) Shrimp and bacon are arguably my two favorite foods, and it never crossed my mind to put them together!

B) I had no idea The Cheesecake Factory sold anything other than cheesecake!

You see, this episode aired maybe a month or two after The Cheesecake Factory opened their first Pittsburgh-area franchise. I’d hear people talk about going there all the time, and I’d always think “I like cheesecake, but not so damn much that I’d wait an hour for a table just to eat some for dinner. WTF is wrong with people?”

I made sure to go there the next weekend, and, well, let me just say this: This happened eight or nine years ago. In the time since, I’ve been there at least a couple dozen times. Despite the fact that they have a menu heavier than Drake’s conscience, the shrimp and bacon club is the only thing I’ve ever eaten there.

2. This whole hullabaloo reinforces the idea that certain things just don’t translate well to paper. And by “certain things just don’t translate well to paper” I mean “the internet is full of humorless shrews.”

Just take a look at this part in the original NY Post profile.

Each morning, he would ask, “Honey, how long you have been awake?”

“About 15 minutes,” I’d reply.

“You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?”

To him, sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex. “Sandwiches are love,” he says. “Especially when you make them. You can’t get a sandwich with love from the deli.”

“You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?” has drawn quite a bit of internet-ire. To be fair, this standalone statement does seem rather demeaning. But, while I (obviously) don’t know what’s going on in their relationship, I do know that many couples regularly say jokingly playful shit to each other that, if taken out of context, could be considered offensive. This actually seems rather tame.

For instance, there was a two week stretch earlier this year when the Gay Reindeer and I were on a Kendrick Lamar kick, and “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe” was our default reply to everything. It was nothing for one of us to say “How was your day?” or “Did you pick up some orange juice?” or “I’m going to the gym later” only to have “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe” as the response. 

Corny? Definitely. I am the corniest motherf*cker who ever lived, and I think it’s affecting her by osmosis. But, we thought it was funny, so we did it.

But let’s say she wrote a blog about it. And let’s say that blog was quoted somewhere without any sense of the context.

I’d wake him up, and ask him how his sleep was.

“Bitch, don’t kill my vibe” he’d reply, as he stumbled into the bathroom, leaving me alone in bed.

I’d call out to him again, reminding him to put the cap on the toothpaste or the lid on the toilet. “Bitch,” he’d sneer, “didn’t I already say you were killing my vibe?”

Now I’m an emotionally abusive asshole instead of just a corny one.

My point? J Cole is better for relationships than Kendrick Lamar.

3. Stephanie Smith and her boyfriend were on the TODAY show yesterday. A clip of it showed up in my newsfeed. I watched it.

She seems like a very nice woman who has unfortunately turned herself into one of those characters from one of those J-Lo romantic comedies from a decade ago where she’d play a single woman who was approaching 35 and was driving herself and everyone around her crazy with her need to find a man—any man—before her ovaries fell right out of her vagina and bounced softly into the grass before rolling into a sewer.

And, he seems like a very nice man who, unfortunately for Smith, seems to be the White version of the “Every. Single. Person. On. The. Planet. thinks he’s gay except for her” guy some very successful middle-aged Black women tend to write books about, marry, divorce, and write more books about.

4. While the idea of “earning” a man’s hand in marriage through cheeseburgers and Reubens seems rather odd, I think her blog is cute and creative and shit. I also realize I could just be saying this because of how much I love sandwiches and Black women who make sandwiches. Seriously, if Burger King or McDonalds ever combined the two and made a Black woman sandwich, I’d…well, I don’t like where this is headed, so let’s just move on to the next one.

5. All things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised if this all were some elaborate prank. She does write for the Post, and he does kinda remind me of a villain from Burn Notice, so anything is possible.

I’d write more, but this subject is making me hungry, and I’m growing annoyed that the Gay Reindeer has been up for 15 hours already and still hasn’t made me any damn sandwiches.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

How I Fell For, Proposed To, And Will Marry A White Woman

Interracial_couple_beach

There’s a scene towards the end of High Fidelity where Laura (Iben Hjejle), Rob’s (John Cusack) estranged girlfriend—and the muse for much of Rob’s angst throughout the movie—finally gives into Rob’s pleas to get back with him. Naturally, Rob needs to know what caused her to make this decision.

Laura: I’m too tired not to be with you.

Rob: What, so if you had a bit more energy we’d stay split up, but things being as they are, with you being wiped out and all, you want to get back together? Is that it?

Laura: Yeah.

High Fidelity is one of my favorite movies, and “I’m too tired not to be with you” is one of my favorite lines. Still, I never quite got what it meant until finally meeting someone who hit me with so many reasons why I needed to be with her that I just couldn’t fight it anymore. I was too fatigued by reason. Too exhausted by realization. Too beat to continue to deny that I’d fallen in love with a woman who happened to be White.

Even now, eight months after we first met, it remains jarring to see in print. So jarring that in the last sentence of the previous paragraph, I typed “woman who happened to be White” instead of “White woman,” a linguistic device subtly minimizing the fact that her Whiteness has been and will always be very conspicuous.

It—her Whiteness—was the very first thing I noticed about her. We were introduced to each other through a mutual friend. She recently moved back Pittsburgh after living in California for a couple years, and the friend thought it would be a good idea to connect. We exchanged emails, made plans to meet each other at a nearby Panera, and I assumed she’d be not White.

I was wrong.

She is not thick for a White girl, she is not “down,” she does not look like “she could be mixed.” There’s absolutely nothing I can say that would make her seem or sound less White. Aside from the fact the she’s currently engaged to a Black man, she is, both literally and culturally, one of the Whitest women I’ve ever met.

And, after running into each other at a gallery crawl a couple weeks after first connecting—and spending the next two hours talking to, laughing with, and just generally being surprised by her—I’d found she’s one of the warmest, wittiest, silliest, and sexiest women I’ve ever met, too.

That two hour span inside of an abandoned warehouse-turned art space for untalented hipsters was the best night I’ve ever spent with a woman. Not best conversation. Best night. In any other situation, I would have left with at least a plan to see each other again. But, she was White. And, her Whiteness prevented me from pursuing, blocked me from doing anything other than (awkwardly) shaking her hand and wishing her a good night.

This reluctance to even entertain the idea of pursuing a White woman was more due to a decades-long love of Black women than anything else. I’ve met funny, smart, cute, and cool White women before, but none of them were funny, smart, cute, and cool enough for me fathom choosing to date one instead of a woman of color, nevermind spending the rest of my life with her. I wasn’t loyal to Black woman as much as I was just unable to imagine finding someone better. Not better in general, but better for me.

Also, I do not live in a vacuum. I was not (well, at least I thought I was not) prepared or even willing to be one of those Black guys who dates White women. Whatever the Black man dating White woman burden happens to be, it just was not a burden I—a Very Smart Brotha—wanted to carry.

So, I fought off the thoughts of texting her or calling her or asking our mutual friend for her address so I could send her a letter or play my jukebox outside of her window. I downplayed the time I spent thinking about her, dismissing it as me only thinking about her just to remind myself not to think about her. I ignored how often I’d glance at my phone, and rejected the idea that I was checking for a sign from her.

After a few weeks, it began to work. I’d forced myself to remember to forget about her so often that I started to legitimately forget. Until, well…

I was standing in line at that same Panera when I heard the door close behind me. Before I could glance back to see who it was, I heard “Hey stranger” with the same raspy voice—and the same slightly sardonic tone—that had been on loop in my head for the previous month. (I later learned that, for that same month span, she’d go out of her way to visit that Panera a couple times a week with the hope she’d “run into” me)

We spoke and shared a table. Our first date was two days later. Our first kiss was two hours into our first date.

It’s been a little over seven months since this all happened. I won’t go into any detail about the racial hurdles we’ve faced because, well, they haven’t really existed. I’m not too myopic to assume that they’ll never surface. But, aside from little, meet-cute-type shit (until she was a teen, she thought collard greens were actually called colored greens), nothing worth writing about has happened.

I proposed to her on Monday. She (obviously) accepted. (If she didn’t, I damn sure wouldn’t be writing about this today.)

I am a Black man who’s going to marry a White woman. And while I’d like to think I was too tired not to be with her, I think I was just too tired to realize that I didn’t have a choice.

—Wishing you a very happy (and very early) Happy Fools Day, Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

 

Ask A Very Smart Brotha: I Cheated On Him Some Time Ago. Should I Tell Him?

***The Champ’s latest at Madame Noire includes questions and answers from his weekly Facebook chat***

Jasmine: What is the most reasonable time period in which a woman should receive a proposal from her boyfriend?

DY: I don’t believe in an arbitrary set time for things like that. But, I will say if you’re in your late 20s and above, just “dating” for longer than two years probably isn’t the best look

Nita: Who comes first in your life, your wife or your mother?

DY: Wife. In my opinion, a wife comes before everyone else, including children

Cynthia: Why do today’s men want women to take care of them?

DY: Men, by in large, follow the path of least resistance. Basically, (some) men expect women to take care of them because (some) women are willing to do it.

Shahdae: Is it okay to date more than one guy at a time?!

DY: Of course! Dating is supposed to be when you’re out meeting people and finding out what you like/don’t like and need/don’t need. How are you going to do that if you don’t date multiple people?

Clarissa: If you cheat and know you made a mistake should you tell your man or take it to the grave?

DY: Honestly, it depends on when. If this happened some time ago and he’s unlikely to find out—and you know it won’t happen again—I think you should keep it to yourself. Although it seems “honorable,” letting a person know about something they’d never hear about otherwise—something that would definitely hurt them—would likely be more about you having a clear conscience and feeling better than anything else.

But, if this happened recently, you probably need to tell him because your sexual behavior has put him at risk. He needs to know that. Either way, your first step should be to get tested.

Read more at Madame Noire