On Acquiring A Very Particular Skill…And Watching Your Marriage Murder It

"Ok. She's finally close to me. Try not to slobber this time."

“Ok. She’s finally close to me. Try not to slobber this time.”

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.

I’m sure most of you recognize this quote from Taken. It’s part of a phone conversation; the most memorable scene in a movie filled with memorable scenes. It’s so good that excerpts from it were even used in the trailer. What made it so effective was the level of confidence and control Liam Nesson (“Bryan Mills”) was able to convey. It didn’t matter if his daughter was in Uzbekistan or Youngstown, you knew he was going to find her, you knew he knew he was going to find her, and you knew he’d do anything necessary to do it. (Well, I didn’t know he was going to shoot his homeboy’s wife during dinner. That was a f*cking surprise.)

Yet, as great as that scene was, what really resonates with me were the early scenes showing how mundane his life had become. Here was this expertly trained and highly skilled government operative in peak physical and intellectual condition living in some hotel next to an airport, eating cheap wings with his buddies, and losing pissing contests to his daughter’s stepdad.

Granted, this “new” life was voluntary. He chose to be more normal so he could spend more time with his daughter. But damn. Without his dumb-ass daughter and her fast friend getting kidnapped, all those years of training and combat would have continued to waste away in a Rent-A-Center barcalounger and a bottle of Jack. This wasn’t just a tiger losing his stripes. This was a tiger shopping at Urban Outfitters and ordering gluten-free couscous at Mercola.

Why does that scene resonate with me, especially now? Well, I don’t possess the skills necessary to murk an entire room of murderous kidnappers with a paper clip and a pair of New Balances, I’m not cold-hearted enough to electrocute someone after they already told me everything they know, and I don’t own an Armenian to English dictionary.

But…I can relate.

You see, I too have spent decades working very hard to acquire a particular set of very useful skills. Skills that don’t make me a nightmare for people like you. But did help me sleep very well at night. I am also better at this particular skill right now than I’ve ever been. (And there’s still room for improvement!) On July 19th, though, these skills will no longer be necessary. I will be a tiger with a bowtie and a bottle of honey Jack.

There are some boys who seem to be born with an innate ability to be comfortable around girls. At least more comfortable than most other boys. I was not one of those boys. The moment I realized I was attracted to girls was also the moment I realized I was completely and undeniably frightened by them. As I got older and entered high school, this fear began to subside. But I never was comfortable. Fortunately, I was good at basketball (and I had nice Nautica jackets) so girls started to notice me. Still, even with them noticing me, I still had to actually talk to them, and all the witty jokes and articulate thoughts swirling through my head were reduced to monosyllabic mumbles when forced to talk to one I actually, gasp, liked.

I got better when I got to college. And by the time I reached my early 20s, the fear was pretty much gone. I could approach women I liked, and I felt relatively comfortable around them, but now I was faced with another obstacle: What the hell do I say???

It took a few more years to realize that being myself — and not a representative of myself — was the best way to pull this off. Just be silly, slightly awkward, and surprisingly inappropriate me…and own it. And, if she doesn’t like me for me, she’s not the one for me. In hindsight, this seems like an easy concept to grasp. But, well, it wasn’t. At least not for me. I guess I’m a slow learner.

It took a couple more years of trial, error, and success for this to all come together. And “all this” includes a better sense of timing, an appropriate attitude and demeanor, a slight tinge of “I-don’t-give-a-f*ck-ness,” the ability to be self-aware, and the insight to know which types of environments are better for people like me and which types of women I’m most compatible with.

That’s over 20 years of very intentional work at getting better at talking to and cultivating romantic interest in women I’m romantically interested in. Today, I am better at this than I’ve ever been. And to be clear, I’m not saying this to portray myself as some Idris/Leonidas hybrid. Just acknowledging that I’ve never been more confident of whatever it is I bring to that table.

But, I’m getting married on July 19th. And those decades of work at refining that very particular skill will all be for naught.

Ok, ok, ok, ok. I know how this sounds. If I used these skills to help find someone I’d eventually fall in love with and propose to, can I really say I acquired them for naught? (No.) Isn’t this the appropriate end to those means? (Yes.) Isn’t what’s happening on July 19th the point of all of that? (Yes.) Don’t you realize you sound like a fisherman who finally caught the BIG FISH and can retire from his earnings but still bitches about wasting all this minnow bait he bought last week? (I do.) Do you expect anyone to have any sympathy for anything you’re saying right now? (I don’t.)

Also, this is a completely voluntary decision. As much as I might have enjoyed field tests with these skills, my relationship is better than that. Much, much better. And, I’m sure these skills will be applicable in other areas. Perhaps I’m done getting phone numbers, but I’ll still be able to get free bagels and hotel room upgrades.

But, let’s take the romance/marriage part out of it. Wouldn’t feel weird to spend a decade learning how to be a sharpshooter, only to never shoot a gun again after hitting a difficult target? Or to wish to be a doctor, go through a decade of medical school, graduate, and decide to teach Zumba instead? Or to develop a discerning palate at a young age, take cooking classes in high school, study all the cooking-related materials you can, enter the culinary academy, graduate, get invited to (and win) an episode of “Chopped”, create the perfect meal…and retire from cooking right when you have enough capital and status to start your own restaurant?

Nevermind. Don’t answer any of these questions. Just know that I have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. But, since they’re not of much use to me now, I’m selling them to the highest bidder. The auction starts Sunday, July 20th, at midnight. The tiger stripes will be first.

—Damon Young

Why I Believe In Marriage (…And Why I Can’t Judge You If You Don’t)

Are there any Black wedding figurines that don't look like Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder?

Are there any Black wedding figurines that don’t look like Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder?

Although I’m getting married in three months, I have to admit there are parts of being single I will miss.

Actually, that is a lie. There are no “parts.” But there is one specific part, and all of the positive benefits of singledom stem from it.

Most committed relationships — well, most healthy committed relationships — require each partner to be aware of and sensitive to each others wants, needs, and feelings. And this consideration sets parameters on what you’re able to do. Singledom has no such limitations. If you want to go to India for a month or if you want to spend half your paycheck at the casino or if you want to quit your job and direct cat videos or if you want to f*ck your landlord’s daughter — and you’re able to do these things — you can do them without having to explain or justify or hide it from anyone.

Thing is, actually doing these things isn’t what makes singledom great. It’s the principle. It’s the fact that you can do them, even if you don’t actually want to. It’s not the physical act of getting “new p*ssy.” Its the mental acknowledgement that you’re able to entertain new p*ssy if you choose to. It’s the freedom.

For many, I imagine the idea of giving up this type of freedom to willingly enter a lifelong commitment to one person — a lifelong commitment to one person with no guarantee of happiness — is f*cking nuts. Even if this person checks each and every one of your boxes, it’s insane to sign away the next — and last — several decades of your life just because they made you laugh yesterday and they looked good as hell buttnaked in the kitchen today.

And, you know what? They’re right.

It is crazy. It doesn’t make any damn sense. And it is f*cking insane. There is no logical reason for me to dead my freedom for an archaic institution; an institution revolving around a commitment that, according to statistics, is likely to fail.

So why do I believe in marriage?

Because my parents were married. And they loved each other. And I grew up with that. And I wanted it for myself.

That’s it. It’s not about any ambiguous macro concepts like Black love and the Black family. It’s not about the community. It’s not about God and Christianity. It’s not about creating the best environment for a child. It’s not about tax benefits and building wealth. And, to be honest, it’s not even about love. As much as I love my fiancee, I might not have been as interested in marrying her if I didn’t grow up the way I did. If fact, we might not have even been together. Without my parents’ modeling, who knows if I would have even been interested in someone like her. (And, who knows if she would have still been interested in me.)

Obviously, there are people who didn’t grow up in a similar household but still believe in marriage. I’m not suggesting that modeling is a prerequisite for this type of belief. But, if someone didn’t experience that growing up…or if they did experience it, but the relationship between their parents was so unhealthy that they should have been divorced…or if they crunched the numbers and it doesn’t make much sense to them…or if they just value their freedom more than they value a marriage commitment, I can’t really fault them for it. It’s not wrong. It’s just not me.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ)

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There’s only two days left to cop a Bougie Black Girl shirt from Teespring. It’s the perfect way to be the coolest chick in your crew without actually telling everyone you’re the coolest chick in your crew.

And yes, we have tanks to show off your guns from all that winter gym time…

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…women’s cut tees for blazers and kickball…

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…and v-necks for…whatever people need v-necks for…

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…available until Wednesday at http://teespring.com/bougieblackgirl.

***Also, those who purchased VSB logo tees and I Love Bougie Black Girls tees should have received them this week. When you do, take a selfie — or just ask someone to take your damn pic — and send it in for our yet-to-be-determined selfie/damn pic day.*** 

Things About Being Engaged You Don’t Learn Until You Get Engaged

"I'm smiling now, but I'm still pissed you told that lettuce-scented n*gga he could come."

“I’m smiling now, but I’m still pissed you told that lettuce-scented n*gga he could come to our wedding.”

***An actual conversation I had with my actual fiancee a couple days ago***

Me: “We need another computer chair.”

Her: “We do?”

Me: “Yeah. The one I use upstairs is hurting my back.” (This is true, btw. My back isn’t at “back problem stage” yet, but it’s definitely holding court a couple stages before you get to “back problem stage.” Basically, if “back problem stage” is Rick Ross, my back right now is Anthony Anderson.)

Her: “Ok. Do you want to buy one now, or when we move?” (This move, btw, may not happen until 2015.)

Me: “You know what? What if we just put one on the registry?”

Her: “I don’t know about that”

Me: “Why not? I mean, a computer chair costs less than the type of appliances and shit people put on them.”

Her: “But…those are for the house.”

Me: “A computer chair isn’t for the house?”

Her: “I mean, if you want to put a chair on it, we can put a chair on it. But a computer chair isn’t a registry-type of gift.”

Me: “Basically, the registry is just for gifts the wife would use more often?”

Her: “I love you.”

Me: “You didn’t answer the question.”

Her: “But I love you. That’s the only gift you’ll need.”

So, if you’re keeping score at home, the wife-to-be gets…

1. A diamond ring (which could run in the tens of thousands of dollars)

2. A wedding shower (with gifts and games)

3. A bachelorette party (with more gifts and games)

4. The majority of the gifts from the registry and the actual wedding

Meanwhile, the husband-to-be gets…

1. Maybe a random ass cheek or boob in his face during a bachelor party

…and, if this stripper happens to be from Cleveland or Baltimore…

2. Crabs

Granted, I’m not complaining about this. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for rust belt born strippers. They seem to have more character. But, this gift inequity is a part of the wedding process I wasn’t fully aware of until I actually took part in it. Sure, I’d heard about it and kind of knew about it, but you don’t knowknow what it’s like unless you actually go through it. Basically, “the wedding process” = “getting head while smoking crack.”

Anyway, I’ve been engaged for four months now. In that time, I’ve learned quite a few things, including…

People will invite themselves to your wedding. Often. Like, be prepared for this happening several times a week 

***An actual conversation I have with actual people several times a week***

Person: “When is the date?”

Me: “July 19th.”

Person: “Word? I can’t wait, dog. I’ll see you there. Make sure your girl invites some of her single friends.”

Me (in my head) “No you will not see me there. Why? Because you won’t be there. Why won’t you be there? Because I can’t afford to invite people I haven’t seen or talked to in person in four years. Plus, the last time I saw you, I think you stole the lettuce off my junior bacon cheeseburger. I have no proof of it, but all I can think of when I see you is lettuce. And there will be no lettuce at my f*cking wedding.”

What I actually say: “Aiight, man. Word.”

“The wedding” can be your out/excuse for anything

Seriously, “I’m preparing/saving/getting ready for the wedding” is the ultimate “get out of jail free” card. Actually, it’s not even that. It’s a “don’t have to commit to shit I don’t want to do” card.

A party you were invited to but don’t really want to go to? “I’d come, but we’re still working on this invite list. Plus, she wants to go to the candle store. To look at candles. We might be there all night.”

Impending marriage makes you a bit of a hypocrite

If you went back far enough in our archives, you’d find a couple posts where I was very dogmatic about why married couples should have a joint bank account. Very, very dogmatic. This dogma wasn’t false, either. I believed it. So much so that even before my fiancee and I started dating, I matter-of-factually mentioned it to her.

But, when we actually had our first “How are we going to budget/handle money as a married couple?” conversation, my chest literally tightened at the mention of a joint account.

“Wait…wait…what? You want to know exactly how much money I have? “My” money is now going to be “our” money? I…I think I need a drink.”

Making things even worse was the fact that she wasn’t even suggesting or pushing for it. She just brought it up as an option. We have somewhat similar incomes, and I (obviously) trust her, so I know my issue isn’t about her. But just the mention of it made me feel like I accidentally swallowed some wasabi.

I think it’s just that the idea that someone will have access to your everything can be jarring, even if you want to give them that access. Which makes absolutely no sense. Until it does. And then it makes perfect sense.

Basically, it’s just like marriage. (I hope.)

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Reminder: For the next two weeks, you can purchase your own I Love Bougie Black Girls t-shirt via Teespring for the insanely low prices of $11.50 for a men’s shirt, $13 for a women’s shirt (don’t ask why the women’s shirts are more expensive, because I have no answers)

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and $24.50 for a hoodie.

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The campaign ends Sunday, March 23. So, if you don’t buy one before then, you, um, won’t have one.

Anywho, they’re available now, so go and BUY!!! and be fly.

When Your Worst Behavior And Best Behavior Is The Same Damn Thing

worst behvaior

We’ve all heard the story before:

Boy spots Girl at 6th annual Delta “Chicken Wing Eating Contest For The Mouth Gout Cure.” Boy approaches Girl. Girl, impressed by Boy’s use of “intersectionality” and “motherf*cking goat cheese ravioli” gives Boy her number. They eventually date. And, after a couple surprisingly fun trips to Walgreen’s and a very intense bout of post-Thai buffet car sex, they decide to date exclusively. 

Months later, things continue to go well. She’s beginning to get used to his strange penchant for burping when he’s nervous, and he’s gotten used to her strikingly large clitoris. But, there has been one pretty major bump in the road. She has a penchant for laziness. Not life-crippling laziness, but she tends to do things on her own time. And sometimes “her own time” means “only when reminded repeatedly” or “not all at.” Which is a problem for him, because he’s naturally a detail-oriented and concrete-sequential person. 

What makes the problem even more complicated is that Girl’s laidback attitude and generally calm demeanor is what attracted him to her in the first place. (Well that and her thigh gap.) He was used to drama-filled relationships with manic-depressive women, and the fact that she’s so cool and calm made him want to put a Nuvaring on it. The thing he loves most about her came from the exact same place as the thing he’s most annoyed with.

As the Gay Reindeer and I near our wedding date, and conversations about guest lists, parenthood, and gotdamn recycling are regularly had, a few things have become more apparent:

1. I made the right choice.

2. I need to make more money to afford all the toilet paper we’re going to need. 

3. I’m going to have to get used to the things that annoy the hell out of me about her.

The first two I’ve known for some time. I knew she was the right choice before I even made the choice, and every month my bank statement reminds me I spend so much money on toilet paper you’d think “Charmin” was a stripper I’m sponsoring.

That third one, though, is a monster. While she has many lovely attributes and talents, she’s not perfect. And there are some parts about her that irritate me. Maybe that’s only 4.5% of her (as opposed to the 95.5% that’s f*cking awesome), but we’re getting married. And we plan to stay married. And we plan to stay alive. And, over a span of 30 or 40 or even 50+ years, that 4.5% will add up.

Some of these irritating things will soften over time. I’m sure she’ll learn that the 4th quarter of a tied game isn’t the time to ask me about scented bleach and fried zucchini. But most of those things will always be there, because they’re an inherent part of her. And, without getting too specific, each of these annoyances come from the exact same damn place as the parts about her I fell in love with.

This has a tendency to make things very ironic. Not cute, hipster irony. But “I love that you’re so thoughtful and hate that you overthink things sometimes” irony. That grown-ass, “butt naked in the house on a Saturday night eating steak salad and watching Shark Tank reruns” irony.

And, since I don’t want to suppress those great parts about her, I have to learn to live with that four point motherf*cking five percent.

Oh, and yes. I know she can say the same things about me. Most of the things she loves most about me and most of the things that annoy her the most come from the same place in my (very large) head. Some parts will get better. I’ve already stopped using nine different glasses every day (I’m down to five), and I’m definitely getting better at giving non-verbal feedback while she’s talking to me instead of the bemused indifference my resting face usually conveys. (I’m not indifferent. But I always look like I am. Which, I guess, can be annoying.)

But some parts will always be there. And for this to work she’ll have to choose to suck it up. Which, all things considered, is an easy choice if you made the right choice.

—Damon Young 

The Big, Fat Lie About Black Marriage

I think these are Black people

I think these are supposed to be Black people

Monday night, my fiancee and I attended the first of seven sessions for a pre-marriage counseling class. It’s a decent sized group with roughly 15 engaged couples, and the course is led by a husband and wife team who’ve been married for 36 years and reminded me of Aunt Helen and Uncle Junior from The Jamie Foxx Show.

Before attending, I thought the comparison of the relationship-based topics I occasionally touch on here with the topics discussed in the class would make for a good piece, and I planned on writing about it this week. But honestly, there really wasn’t much we went over that night that we haven’t already written about on VSB and my fiancee and I haven’t already discussed. Communication matters, relationships are work, and women use a lot of toilet paper.

Still, there were a couple things that stood out

1. They give you pizza at these things

Everyone who’s ever gone to any type of evening gathering like this knows how important is it to have food, right? Of course! Without it you can’t concentrate, you get irritable, and you spend the majority of the time counting stomach grumbles and waiting for it to end. Right? So, why do so many people hold food-less evening events? Why is it a pleasant surprise when there actually happens to be food? Who are the people who think it’s a good idea to invite a bunch of grown-ass men and women to be somewhere for 90 minutes without food, and why do they still exist?

2. EVERYBODY GETS MARRIED! EVERYBODY!

Now, when I say “EVERYBODY GETS MARRIED” I (obviously) don’t mean every single individual person is getting married. Nor does every single person need to get married. Even if there is someone for everyone, sometimes the world is a better place if some people never meet.

What I mean is this. If you read enough, watch enough TV, or listen to enough conversation about the state of young Black marriage, you’d think the only marryable Black people were Idris Elba/Neil Degrasse Tyson hybrids and PhD-ed Briana Bettes with active fathers and good credit.

But, aside from the age — everyone was relatively young (between 28 and 40) — it was like someone threw all of Black America in a plastic bag, and randomly pulled people out. You had short people, tall people, light-skinned men, dark-skinned women, people with nice bodies, people with not so nice bodies, virgins, former players, people who looked like they were upper middle class, people who looked like they were working class, introverts, extroverts; basically any type of Black person you can think of was there. I know this was just one class in one city, but I think it’s good snapshot of the type of Black people who get married. Every type.

Again, I’m not bringing this up to convince people they should get hitched. Or make anyone who wants to get hitched but still happens to be single feel bad about it. Just that if you put — or allow others to put — arbitrary limitations on and requirements for who and what you need to be in order to get married, you need to stop. All types of people (Black people!) are getting married all the f*cking time, including people who look, talk, think, act, and smell just like you. 

And no, you don’t have to thank me for this information. Just, if you ever invite me to an evening event, make sure to have some f*cking food there.

Please.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)