On Finding The Grey

***Hello, VSB Nation. Today, I’d like for you all to welcome a very talented friend of ours who, well, let’s just say that she has a lot to say. Enjoy, relate, and respond. —The Champ***

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived by the “just jump” mentality. Armed with a unending supply of optimism and the knowledge that the universe usually conspires for things to somehow work out in my favor (see: The Alchemist), I’ve often found myself on barely trodden roads; paths that felt like the best direction for me, and not always the direction that gender or cultural standards suggested I go. In adolescence, adults would regard this natural tendency to go against the grain as a subconscious but harmless rebellion; I was just the “different” child. Years later, people chose terms like “free spirit” to define what I hadn’t even known was an unorthodox way of approaching life.

Not least of all, relationships

Also not intentionally, I’ve been what some would call a serial monogamist. The perpetual girlfriend. The problem that arises when you are someone that lives by your own rules and doesn’t really give weighted thought to what social norms say you’re supposed to do, think, and act like though, is that this very thing that attracts men–that delirious enrapturing in the magic of you–is one of the first things they attempt to change.

It occurred to me after the third failed (years-long) girlfriend stint, that the “just jump” personality attracts a lot of parachutes– men wanting to save you from yourself; cushion what they think will be your inevitable fall. People with good intentions who feel they know what’s best for your life and for you as a woman, when all you really want is someone who believes you can both fly, together.

All of a sudden the people you call friends are too loose, or too weird, or too plain male. Your carefree, ‘don’t worry, be happy’ Kanye-shrug tendencies and ideologies are met with disapproving looks and exasperated talks about the need for before-hand discussions regarding any decision you make. Your dreams are too lofty. You’re too free. You’re unconventional, unemotional, nontraditional, untamed. What is wrong with you?

They attempt to harness. Stifle. Box. Mold. Change. Suffocate. Train. Or engulf to the point where you are no longer recognizable to yourself, even in the most optimizing lens.

I began to look at relationships in stark shades of black and white: I could be me, fully, or I could be in a relationship. I could be single, or I could conform to the Stepford society and “land” a husband. I could be free mentally, or shackled emotionally. What I definitely knew was that I could not be an independent thinking, dream-seeking, altruistic free-spirit and also be in a normal, functional, healthy relationship.

Mutually, exclusive. There was no coexisting. I tried, I failed. Washed, rinsed, and repeated.

So, I made use of little black dresses, I flirted, I dated, I enjoyed the banter of tall, dark (and not so dark) and handsome conversations. Firmly I held though, mind made that I would not trip and fall over a nice smile or smooth tongue and into another box of pregnant-and-barefoot-slaving-over-the-stove expectations.

Then, it happened. One day I looked up and found myself, despite the enormous hurdles of doubt and opposition he’d faced, once again holding the girlfriend flag. He had slipped in quietly, beneath the radar.

I rushed to the mirror upon this realization, afraid that my reflection would be reduced somehow; distorted. Amazingly, what i saw was well, myself. A smiling, happy self I’d only previously seen glimpses of when wearing the G on my chest. I ran down the list, checked the usuals, the vitals, all seemed normal. Stretched my arms out side to side, no cardboard barriers pressing against my palms. Looked behind me, no reins tightly strapped to my shoulders. No strong arms pulling my legs back down to earth.

When i looked up, the sky was covered in grey. Not the depressing gray that warns of thunderstorms or woeful days, but a glorious, muted silver, like the strands that bless a wise temple. A wonderfully merged grey made up of the previously stubborn blacks and whites of my life that had refused to peacefully coexist. A grey that welcomed both me, and the hand holding mine.

That grey space, without trying, has made me a believer. I now know that it is possible to cook for and not serve; to learn, and teach; to respect without bowing; to elevate someone without having to descend yourself; to be interdependent without the sacrifice of personal freedom.

… To jump, look to your side, and see that you are flying, together.

S. Nicole Brown (aka “Muze”) is a writer of fiction, lover of words, and chronic reader happily living the clichéd under-spaced and overpriced life of a NYC writer. You can find her in 140 or less @muzeness or on her blog, Because I’m Write.

Why Monogamy?

There are few things I’m more proud of than the eclectic collection of books I’ve accumulated in the bin next to my toilet. A Bible, Save The Cat, Bitch Is the New Black, a pamphlet for a near-by methadone clinic, Afrodisiac, a sheet with the lyrics from “Talk Show Host“; seriously, my bin of E-Coli ridden reading materials kicks your bullshit living room bookcase in the nuts.

Included in this library is Chuck Klosterman’s A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas — a collection of essays and interviews that’s both my least favorite Klosterman book and the one I’ve read the most times — and included in this book is “Monogamy,” an essay where he theorizes that “…cheating begins the moment anyone decides that it’s unreasonable to be sexually committed to one person.”

Basically, even if a person hasn’t technically cheated yet, if they truly believe that monogamy is unreasonable, they’re already unfaithful because they’re either just waiting for an opportunity to confirm this belief or they’re just scared of getting caught.

Now, I don’t know if I quite agree with Klosterman’s view on cheating. Calling someone who hasn’t quite cheated yet a cheater rings of the pre-crime unit from “Minority Report,” and I’m not trying to f*ck Katie Holmes. But, although I’ve written about my feelings towards cheating and monogamy numerous times (Short version: I’ve never cheated and I have a tendency to get holier-than-thou when speaking to people who have), I have to say that reading his essay against this weekend raised a few questions. Most notably: Why do I feel the way I do about monogamy?

Yes, I’ve been faithful to every girlfriend I’ve had (and I strongly presume that this fidelity has been reciprocated), but am I monogamous because it’s the right and moral thing to do, or because I’ve been taught that it’s the right and moral thing to do and I blindly trust my teachers?

I guess this question is applicable for everyone. Or, at least, everyone who believes that monogamous relationships are the right choice. Sure, we argue that monogamy and being committed to one person is right — sounds right, looks right, and, most importantly, feels right — but how much of that is confirmation bias — us looking for evidence, any evidence, to confirm a belief we wish to be true?

And yes, it’s true that our wish for something we want to be true to be true, our need to know that we’ve always been doing the right thing, has a way of superseding rational thought. Being right becomes more important than the truth.

I don’t know where exactly I’m going with this. I mean, I don’t have any personal qualms with the idea and/or practice of monogamy. And, as far as “proof” goes, the people I know who are in (presumably) monogamous relationships seem to be on average a tad happier and more successful than those who aren’t. I guess I’m just wondering if we (the pro-monogamy people) are irrationally holding on to a concept that we all already recognize as being imperfect…and just might be wrong. Do I feel this way because it feels right for me to feel this way, or do I just desperately want it to be right?

Anyway, people of VSB.com, I’m curious: If you believe in monogamy, well, why do you believe in monogamy?

What role have your “teachers” (your parents, the Bible, etc) played in constructing this belief….and what would you do if you somehow found out that they were full of shit and monogamy was, in fact, completely irrational?

(Also, to be clear, monogamy and fidelity aren’t the same thing. Cheating is always wrong. Monogamy, on the other hand, might not always be right. Big difference.)

—The Champ

Why Cheaters “Win” At Relationships

“Running a mile in under five minutes and thirty seconds”

This was my response to an interview question about the most difficult thing I’ve done as an adult; a “safe” answer that 1) allowed me to segue into some faux self-depreciating discussion about my star-crossed college basketball career (I started off with “Oh yeah. I played ball in college a long, long, long time ago.” It’s not a game with my faux self-depreciation game.), and 2) was a lie.

Ok, it wasn’t a total lie. The 5:30 mile — a somewhat pointless feat of mental and physical anguish my college coach forced us to complete before we were allowed to practice — still haunts me. While others have nightmares about death or falling or getting chased by groups of especially irascible midgets with full clown costumes, thoughts of track shoes and stopwatches give me cold sweats.

But, while running the mile was definitely daunting, it’s nowhere near as difficult as breaking up with a woman — a completely draconian task I’ve (unfortunately) had to do twice.

What makes breaking up with a woman so hard for a man to do? Well, it’s always difficult to give bad news to a person you care about. More importantly, though, much of a man’s life (and much of a man’s “success” in life) is predicated on convincing women we find attractive to say “Yes.” — “Yes, you can have my number,” “Yes, we can have sex,” “Yes, you’re allowed to cum there” and so on. This ongoing socialization has left most of us somewhat ill-equipped to say “No” to a woman we’re even marginally physically attracted to and completely ill-equipped to deal with the guilt-ridden emotional fallout of telling a woman “You know those things you do — the things I practically begged you to do when you still weren’t sure if you wanted to do them to me? Well, I no longer want to do them with you. Sorry!”

But, when I reflect on each of those failed relationships, I can’t help but come back to this one act, an act that could have saved each and prevented my break-up anguish if I’d been willing to do it.

Cheat.

Yup, you read that correctly. The general sense of relationship melancholy preceding each of the break-ups? Solved if I spiced things up by occasionally stepping out. The feeling of “This isn’t working. Maybe I need to end this and explore other options” the aforementioned relationship melancholy eventually leads to? Not an issue if I decided to explore other options while still attempting to work things out. The inevitable frustration with the idea of monogamy? Cured if I completely eschew the entire notion.

This issue goes well beyond me. Even the oft-cited reluctance of many “good guys” — and “good guys” in this sense are eligible men interested in healthy and monogamous relationships — to commit can partially be traced back to how most good guys feel about cheating. Basically, you can argue that it takes longer for a person invested in monogamy to commit because they understand that commitment to be somewhat final, whereas a person not concerned with monogamy will “commit” at anytime to anyone.

In fact, if I’d been willing to cheat — and assuming I was either clever enough to never get caught or with someone willing to forgive my repeated transgressions –  not only would I have “saved” myself from having to break-up with a woman, I’d probably be married (with children) right now.

I’m assuming these last couple paragraphs — which can be interpreted as pro-cheating — comes as a surprise to those familiar with my work. From “five completely selfish reasons why i’ve never cheated” — an entry listing, well, five completely selfish reasons why I’ve never cheated on a mate — to “35 reasons why he cheated,” I’ve made no secret my absolute abhorrence for cheating.

That feeling hasn’t changed. I still abhor cheating, but I’ve began to wonder if this abhorrence is less due to what I thought was some moral code than just plain ole envy wrapped in a layer of self-righteousness. Maybe I just hate the fact that while I’ve had to deal with relationship acrimony and break-up anguish, cheaters seem to take the “easy” way out.

I mean, if you’re spending countless hours and sleepless nights cramming for a final exam while your roommate has a cheat sheet with all the answers, how soon before you either start hating that roommate or just say “F*ck it” and ask him to make you a copy?

Who knows? But, do you know why I lied when asked to name the most difficult thing I’ve done as an adult? I knew the real answer would lead to a conversation I just wasn’t interested in having, and I wasn’t prepared to share what it would say about me.

Hmm. Kind of reminds me of the reasoning behind the lie we tell ourselves when saying “Cheaters never win.”

—The Champ

If Women Ruled The Dating World, Would Monogamy Still Exist?

There were a ton of very insightful, articulate, and even soul-bearing comments left in yesterday’s “Where’s The Love?: Making sense of our dating and mating malaise”, but one reply in particular stayed with me for the rest of the day.

From Scipio Africanus:

“When women are free to date as they wish, they wind up all gravitating to the same 3 – 7% of the male population. If they can’t get those guys, they just drop out of the dating market altogether.

This is why monogamy was even created by societies in the first place.

When women have their way, the vast majority of people, male and female, get completely left out in the cold. Monogamous marriage essentially forces women to accede to some dude, somewhere out there. If a dude can’t pull a woman, he’s going to drop out of society too. Work hard and innovate to make money? What for? He ain’t got no kids. Take up arms to defend his homeland from threats? Yeah right – he’s not vested in it in the first place.

Like you mentioned yesterday, most women are completely underwhelmed by the vast majority of guys they encounter or know. I’m still uncertain as to why that is, but it’s the root of everything.

While I don’t agree with the numbers he cited –I think 7% to 10% is a bit more accurate than 3 to 7% — and the moral arbiter/monogamy promoter in me doesn’t want to believe what Scipio said is true, proof of this phenomenon’s existence can be seen on any college campus; the perfect control group as it’s the only place in America where groups of sexually viable people are forced to live together, have no real concerns about food, shelter, or safety, and have a relatively large amount of sexual freedom and choice.

And, as anyone who’s ever lived on campus will tell you, regardless of what school you’re at, the campus sexual dynamics usually play out the exact same way: a small percentage of the men (10%?)¹ have sole access to a much larger percent of the women (35%?), 40% of the men and 40% of the women are in monogamous relationships with each other, and the remaining 25% of women completely drop out of the dating game, leaving the remaining 50% of men to take out their sexual frustrations on gaming message boards and intramural ultimate frisbee tournaments.

Once these people leave the college universe and are forced to enter the real world, though, monogamy and marriage pressure starts to enter the fray. This finally gives Dragon Ball Z Zachary a realistic chance at finding a mate, which is absolutely fantastic for all of us because there’s absolutely nothing more damaging to the well-being of a society than an abundance of perpetually sexually frustrated men. (Why? Well, perpetually sexually frustrated men kill random people, and occasionally kill random people in bulk)

I wonder, though: if women had complete sexual choice autonomy and weren’t constrained by moral and societal pressure to be in monogamous relationships, would the “real” world be exactly like a college campus — with more relationship and family-minded women making the conscious decision to be in a polygamist relationship/marriage with a high status/high earning man instead of a monogamous relationship with a “mediocre to below-average” joe? I know it’s a hard concept to wrap your mind around, but while I know all women don’t feel this way, there are many women who value security (for themselves and their offspring) a bit more than they value the idea of having a man all to themselves. In this sense, one seven figure earning man can support 10 women easier than one $50,000 a year guy can support one.

Thoughts?

¹Although these numbers were pulled directly out of my ass, I do think they’re accurate rough assessments

—The Champ

wanted: black marriage public relations specialist

***whether its dating advice, wisdom, levity, or orgasms, we at verysmartbrothas.com will provide any service necessary to keep the peace and help to create a happier populace. with this, as well as the unstable economy in mind, we realize that luvvie and ms. sula can’t be prostitutes forever so we’ve decided to alert you to relevant job postings as well.

here’s one i found on craigslist this weekend.***

wanted:

black marriage public relations specialist

job description:

smartbroinc, a newly developed and uncommonly sexxy non-profit is searching for an extremely skillful pr person to lead their “marriage and sh*t is a good thing…really. no, seriously. no bullsh*t. word is bond” urban campaign, an attempt to reverse the increasingly negative and pessimistic sentiment held towards marriage and monogamy in the black community

job duties:

**successfully convince the 7 to 35 year old black population that marriage is a viable, positive, relevant, and essential institution.

**create and communicate detailed analysis of pro-marriage factual data, including (but not limited to) information about how married people and children generated by married couples are generally happier, healthier, wealthier, and less likely to stab your sister in the forehead with a kitchen knife because of a man than the general populace

**effectively explain exactly why the overwhelming prevalence of single-parent families, not racism, poverty, lack of quality education, gentrification, or kim kardashian is the single most pressing issue facing the black community today.

**find, synthesize, and communicate historical data that shows how successful marriages, and the dual incomes potentially generated by each household, have been a key ingredient in the ascension of every prominent racial and cultural community on earth in the past half dozen or so centuries.

**if questioned and challenged on the importance and/or historical relevancy of marriage, be equipped to explain each of the following points of information:

1.  throughout history, slave-traders and slave-masters intentionally separated married couples because they understood that this was the most vital step when attempting to completely breakdown a community

2.  up until 900 or so years ago, catholic priests were allowed to marry and have children. the vatican eventually disallowed this practice, though, when realizing that their vast wealth would eventually dwindle when the money and properties amassed by individual priests were passed on to their wives and children. even then, powerful and intelligent people knew that the best way for people to get and stay wealthy was through marriage.

**successfully debunk young blacks who use the 50 percent marriage failure rate as their sole argument against marriage by pointing out its inherent faultiness. (possible retort: “well, if you believe so strongly in statistics, why did you even bother going to college if only 23 percent of us have college degrees?.”)

**successfully debunk young blacks who use the laughably faulty and inane “monogamy is unnatural. no other animals practice it” argument as their case against marriage, by showing how truly idiotic it is to compare a rational and reasoning human being with a cheetah or chipmunk

if interested, please contact the champ at contact@verysmartbrothas.com.

hmmm. sounds interesting. any takers?

—the champ