The Problem With Wanting It All

Two things dawned on me the other day while driving around and listening to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”

1. This song is nine f*cking years old. Nine. Nine!

Nine years (Nine!) seems like a long-ass time when I say it aloud, in no small part because it seems like the older I get, the shorter the distance between events I’ve experienced seems to be. For instance, it was 2003 nine years ago. I remember 2003. I was (only) 195 pounds, I could still dunk without having to stretch for 37 minutes and juice the night before, I’d rap any voicemail message I left after 11:30pm, and I had an inappropriate obsession with Esther Baxter. And, in 2003, 1994 seemed like it happened a long-ass f*cking time ago. But, today, in 2012, 2003 doesn’t really seem like that long ago. And, if I’m lucky enough to make it to 2021, I’m sure the distance between now and then will seem even shorter.

I’d continue trying too deconstruct the meaning of all this, but the nosebleed I just developed is making it difficult to type.

2. I have exactly 98 less problems than Jay-Z.

Admittedly, what exactly constitutes a “problem” is relative. Things that may be considered problematic for others don’t necessarily rate as huge concerns for me. For instance, if Jay-Z woke up tomorrow morning with a bank balance that mirrored mine, that would (probably) be a big problem for him. And by “that would (probably) be a big problem for him” I mean “he’d likely consider suicide.”

With all that being said, although I don’t have as many problems as Jay-Z claims to, my problem, although singular, is a f*cking doozy. It affects each of my actions, permeates each of my thoughts, and has managed to infiltrate (and, occasionally, sabotage) every plan I’ve ever had. It mocks, teases, taunts, and torments me with a steely relentlessness that would even make Bryan Mills say “Damn, dude. Chill!”

What exactly is this problem?

I want it all.

Now, wanting it all doesn’t mean that I want everything. I don’t want everything. I don’t even want most things. If there are, I don’t know, 57 trillion things I could possibly want, I can safety say that I don’t want (at least) 56,999,999,999,900 of them. I do, though, want to be able to do everything I want to do exactly how I want to do it. And, since this is not possible, this is a problem.

How so? Well, I want real intimacy, but only on my exact terms.

I want to write with the same sense of “I’m saying this because I think it’s right (and funny), and I really don’t give a f*ck if it makes you uncomfortable”-ness that make Louis C.K. and the late Patrice O’Neal my favorite comedians, but I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I want a New York salary, a D.C. community, and a Pittsburgh standard of living.

I can continue, but I think you see the point. I want things that, in the physical universe that we currently inhabit, are just not possible to achieve. In fact, not only is much of what I want impossible to achieve, they directly contradict. It is literally impossible to stuff yourself with food at a buffet and not feel the effects of being full some time later, and wanting to cultivate a truly intimate romantic relationship without making some sort of personal sacrifice is just as absurd.

Yet, I still want that. I still want the ability to make choices without possible negative consequences, and this want becomes problematic when it turns into an action (which it has). I think I’ve led a (relatively) decent life so far, but each “problem” I’ve had in the past and have today stems from me attempting to do things that just can’t be done. I guess this makes me (slightly) insane, but I don’t seem to find that to be too problematic either. Hmm. Maybe I have more than one problem.

Anyway, people of VSB.com, has “wanting it all” ever been a problem for anyone reading this? Not necessarily wanting everything, but wanting to have and/or do certain things that just don’t seem to be possible? (i.e.: wanting to work your dream job and make your dream salary, hoping to find a man that’s equally ambitious/competitive and compassionate, etc) If so, how did/do you reconcile yourself with the fact that you’re chasing something that just can’t happen?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

The “I’m Lucky I’m Black” Passes: Things Black People “Get Away With” That Others Can’t

There’s an episode of “Louie” — the hilariously awkward and awkwardly hilarious FX series starring comedian Louie C.K. — where a older male police officer asks Louie for a kiss. The cop had just gotten Louie out of a tight jam, and the kiss would be the reward for that service. Since the cop was rather cool about the request (and since the cop seemed rather desperate), Louie obliges, planting a kiss on his lips. The cop thanks him, and they go about their ways.

Now, in real life Louie C.K. is by all accounts a heterosexual family man. In fact, much of his act (and much of the show) is based on him being a father and husband. But, even if this wasn’t true, even if we knew absolutely nothing about his personal life, most (reading) adults realize that actors occasionally have to, well, act, and that cop kissing scene alone wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone that he was homosexual.

Louie C.K. is also white¹, and his whiteness allows him a certain peculiar privilege, a privilege my girl (who was watching the show with me) quickly observed.

“It’s weird. That scene didn’t make me think twice about whether he was straight. But, if a black male comedian did the exact same thing, I can’t lie; I’d question whether he was completely straight. I know it’s a ridiculous double standard, but it’s true”

Although that statement wasn’t exactly politically correct, she was completely correct. Men like Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon can star in movies like “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and still be considered 100%  hetero, but black male actors aren’t afforded that same luxury. Sh*t, there are still bisexual rumors floating around about Will Smith, rumors stemming from a movie he did two decades ago.

This double standard goes beyond the silver screen. For instance, if I were to post some Facebook pics of a few white frat boys jokingly and drunkenly wrestling and hugging each other a bit too closely, your first thought would probably be “Eh. Typical crazy college white boys.” If these frat boys were black, however, the thought changes from “typical frat boys” to “typical Mean Girls of Morehouse.”

This, this pretend gay” pass, is one of the myriad passes unique to white people, not as game-changing as the get an easy bank loan” pass but definitely much more useful than the ultra annoying if college aged, allowed to end every single sentence with an interrogative inflection” pass

But, since we’re already aware of the hundreds of thousands of “white” passes, I’m actually more curious about the “black” passes — things black people can get away with that whites (and other races) just can’t — and I thought of a few.

The “say somewhat insensitive things about other races and still feel no real repercussions” pass

Let’s just say that if I founded a website called VSR (Very Smart Rednecks) and allowed black people to be referred to as “1613′s” (Why 1613? Because the 16th letter in the alphabet is “P” and the 13th is “M,” and the PM stands for “Porch Monkeys”) in the comment’s section of said site, I most likely wouldn’t have made business cards advertising the VSR, I probably wouldn’t be so quick to put my real name on the cover of the VSR relationship book, and I definitely wouldn’t have rocked a Very Smart Rednecks t-shirt yesterday evening while taking some black people on a tour of my apartment.

The “beat our kids in public” pass

At the extra snooty Whole Foods two blocks down the street from my place, I once saw an entire checkout line full of people stare down and ice grill a woman just because she forcefully grabbed the arm of her out of control child.

At the much more hood Giant Eagle a mile or so away, I once saw an entire checkout line nod their heads in appreciation and admiration as a woman forcefully choke slammed her not really all that out of control child.

The “I’m a grown ass man/woman who still needs some “time” before I’m ready to get married, and it’s perfectly ok” pass

Um, moving on…

The “wait, did you call me a n*gger???” pass

Donald Glover actually joked about this in one of his stand-ups, but once a black person has been the real (or perceived) victim of any type of racial injustice, we basically have carte blanche to do whatever the hell we want. Seriously, you can go to an Apple store and take a piss and full dump on every iPad, but not only would you get off if you tell the judge you thought Steve Jobs called you a n*gger, you’d probably be able to sue (and win!)

Anyway, people of VSB: did I forget anything? Can you think of any more “black” passes? Also, are there any “white” passes you’d trade one of your most valued black passes for?

¹He’s actually part Mexican, but since he looks white, that’s all that matters.
²Is this just a Pittsburgh-area thing, or do 18-25 year old white woman across the country all end each of their sentences with the same inflection they’d use if they were asking a question?

—The Champ