I Have No White Friends (And I Think I Know Why)

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As our wedding date approaches and the planning becomes more and more likely to drive us insane — not insane in a Hannibal or Huck sense, but more of a Will Graham or Radiohead “I’ll be waiting. With a gun and a pack of sandwiches” sense — we made a concerted effort last weekend to detect the main source of stress so we could at least attempt to rectify it.

The verdict? The invite list.

Along with making you the worst person ever, the list is directly involved with the three biggest stress inducers.

1. How many people are we inviting?

2. Who will we invite?

3. How much will all this shit cost?

After debating just saying “Fuck it” and eloping and inviting everyone to a Waffle House in Washington County for the reception, we considered trimming the list. As I glanced through it to see which of her, er, our family and friends could be expendable, I noticed something:

Out of the 200 or so people we have coming, only one is White.

Actually, that’s not completely true. Six are White. But two are married to my cousins, one is one of my dad’s old co-workers, and two are that hybrid Persian/Kardashian off-White that doesn’t really count as White. But, between the two of us, only one of our closest friends is White.

It’s not like we’ve lived segregated lives. We’re both from the Whitest major metropolitan area in the country, we both went to racially diverse high schools and predominately White colleges, and we both interact with many White people on a personal and professional level. We also both have White friends. And we both like hummus. But, the wedding list suggests those friendships are limited.

Although the discovery surprised me a bit, this dynamic isn’t particularly unique. While light beer commercials and The New Girl might suggest otherwise, most of us are very exclusive — reclusive, even — when it comes to the racial make-up of the people closest to us. When it comes to close friends, we all tend to stick to our own kind.

Salon’s Brittany Cooper wrote on this last year, and suggested that our country’s complex racial politics often make it too difficult to maintain close friendships with people who don’t share a racial and/or cultural tie. I don’t disagree with her. But, after considering both personal experience and anecdotal evidence, there’s something I want to add.

When thinking about the White guys I’ve known who were comfortable hanging with a group of brothas and the Black guys I’ve known who’ve had no problem being the perfunctory token Black guy, they each had something in common with those friends: Women. More specifically, an attraction to and/or willingness to date a certain type of woman.

Basically, the White guys legitimately close with multiple Black guys were also interested in Black women, and the Black guys cool with frequenting all the “White” bars, clubs, and parties were also interested in dating White women.

I’m not suggesting they sought out these friendships just because of their dating interests. (Although, I’d totally watch a movie about a Black guy who pretended to be friends with White guys just so he could get closer to White women.) I think that who we’re romantically/sexually interested in has a substantial role in determining our adult friendships. This seems impractical, but it’s actually organic. Pragmatic, even.

Adult friendships are usually cultivated through shared activities. You like each other and you like doing many of the same things, so you spend time with each other. When you’re single, the potential of potential romantic opportunities present often determines these activities. This is one of the reasons why you might be more likely to hit one of the “Black” happy hour spots after work instead of one of the “White” ones, or why the weekend gallery crawl might interest you more than the beerfest. You just know that the type of person you’re attracted to is more likely to be there.

Even thinking of the types of activities and events I’d usually attend when I was single, a single White guy looking for a sorority girl-type was not going to find her at any of those spots. And, when I had White co-workers, as much as I appreciated them inviting me out with them, the perpetual lack of sistas — and the lack of sistas interested in Black men — there limited my enjoyment.

Also, this phenomenon is deeper than race. The White guys into sorority-girl types and the White guys into the ironic hipster types probably wont be spending that much time with each other either. And I doubt the sistas into Donald Glover are going to be frequenting the same spots as the ones interested in someone more Weebay Brice-ish.  

There is a definite benefit to both expanding our horizons and not crafting our fun around the idea of romantic potential. No one would deny that. Unfortunately, by adulthood most of us lose the type of stamina and curiosity that requires.

We still haven’t decided who we’re going to cut from the invite list yet. But, we do know one thing: We’re keeping all six of the White people. It’s the least we could do, right?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

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.

Two Thoughts About The Reactions To Pharrell’s GIRL Album Cover

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1. It’s been two years since Trayvon Martin was murdered. A couple weeks since a jury let Jordan Davis’ killer off the hook for murder. Eight months since I watched Fruitvale Station. These and other notable stories about the tenuousness of Black male life have dominated (and will likely continue to dominate) our conversations about what it means to be present in America. Black males are both endangered and dangerous. Threats and targets. Feared and scared. Policed and…privileged.

Yes. Privileged.

This (obviously) does not apply to all Black males. But, for many who’ve, by the grace of God, managed to make it to their 20s, managed to be employable, and managed to stay out of the system, the tides change. People will support and root for you just because you’re a living Black man with a job and a driver’s licence. Someone might even create a job for you. You have social capital. If you brush your teeth, tie your shoes, and can put two sentences together, you’ll likely have romantic options. You will always be included.

This privilege is also tenuous. You’re still a Black man in America, which means it can be lost forever at a traffic light. Or at a movie theater. But it exists. And the mental juxtaposition of possessing this micro-level privilege while existing in a hostile country can be jarring, comforting, and humbling. Sometimes all at the same time. It can also make you a prick.

I thought about this yesterday when reading some of the reactions to Pharrell’s GIRL album cover. More specifically, I thought about how, when I first saw it, I didn’t think anything of it at all. I clicked on a link, said “Oh, I guess Pharrell has a new album” and went about my day. The “Black male artist surrounding himself with racially ambiguous women…again” thing didn’t even register with me.

A small part of this is due to the fact that I don’t pay much attention to Pharrell. I like his music, but I like it the same way I like grapes and pillowcases. The bigger part is due to me just not being as sensitive to the context making that cover upsetting to (many) Black women. I looked at it and saw an artist trying to convey a sexy type of “fun.” Others saw another example of a prominent Black man shunning his sizable Black female fan base and promoting “other” women as some sort of feminine ideal.

Just as I didn’t intentionally overlook how potentially troublesome that image could be, I’m sure Pharrell didn’t consciously want to insult Black women. He’s probably laying in some hyperbaric chamber below a lake right now, shocked at the pushback it’s received. And both my lack of awareness and Pharrell’s lack of consideration is a result of privilege. It didn’t immediately register to me because I’m not as sensitive to those types of images, and I’m not as sensitive to those types of images because I’ve never had to be. Sure, when someone points it out, I recognize it. And, I’ll even join the “yeah..that’s effed up” chorus. But, despite whichever challenges I face as a Black man, having my sexual/physical/aesthetic value and desirability constantly dismissed (or even ignored) — often by the same people I love and support — is something I’ve never really had to deal with.

2. This conversation brings up another point; a point that makes you wonder if a person like Pharrell or Kanye is caught in a perpetual catch-22.

GIRL’s cover features Pharrell and three women in bathrobes. It looks like they’re in a hotel room. Maybe a private home or resort. It’s (somewhat) implied that they’ve either just finished a foursome, or they’re about to go have a foursome. (8:20 am edit: So, according to some comments here and on Facebook, the cover may also suggest they’re just headed to some type of spa. Which doesn’t negate my main point, but does prove I was raised on Cinemax After Dark.) If this is true, they’re his sexual props, and it would qualify as objectification. Maybe it’s not as explicit as “Tip Drill”, but the idea is the same: “I’m a cool motherfucker. So cool that all these beautiful women want to have sex with me.”

With videos like “Tip Drill”, the objectification was the problem. With the GIRL cover, though, the problem seems to be that Black women aren’t considered attractive enough to be objectified. But, sexual objectification is a bad thing. As is using women as sexual props. Right? Or is it only a bad thing when it’s not done tastefully by someone as cool as Pharrell?

I’d try to answer those questions, but I think I just gave myself a nosebleed. Where’s a hyperbaric chamber when you need one?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why We (Men) Don’t Write About Our Sex Lives

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A scoff. A prolonged, intense, and bemused scoff. Followed by an aggressive bite of a granola bar.

This was my first reaction when reading “Why Is It So Hard for Men to Write About Sex?” — a piece from Slate’s Amanda Hess that gave some sociological (and, potentially, biological) reasons for why it’s more difficult for us (men) to write about love-making.

I mean, had she not been to VSB? (Probably not, but play along.) Had she not read the dozens of pieces I’ve written about sex, sex acts, when to have sex, when to have certain sex acts, who to have sex with, who not to have sex with, who to perform certain sex acts on, what you’re supposed to do when an eager cat is watching, etc? Did she not know that the longest chapter in Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night — a book about dating, relationships, and SEX — was titled “19 Things About Sex I Definitely Didn’t Learn In Sex-Ed” and contained 28 pages of sex-related topics written by me, a man?

Basically, what the hell was she talking about?

But then I finished my granola bar. And another. (I like granola bars.) While in the middle of that second bar, I started to think about the sex-related pieces I’ve written. By the time I was finished, a realization hit me: She was right. Well, she was right when it comes to me. And, since she’s right when it comes to me, she’s right when it comes to (straight) men.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve written about sex quite a few times. And the sex-related topics have varied. But, despite this variety, they all seem to fall under one of three categories:

1. “Explain” pieces. Usually tongue-in-cheek, these bring up a sex-related topic, and “explain” why you need to do it, why it’s not important, why you need to do it differently, etc. Example: “The Dos and Don’ts of Making a Sex Tape”

2. “Mandom” pieces. These tend to adopt a collective male voice while giving insight into a “difference” between men and women. Something with a title like “Why Men Love Sex On The First Night.”

3. Anecdotal pieces. These are usually humorous stories about a sex-related incident in my past. Example: “My First Time.”

While these types of pieces serve their functions, all stay on the peripherals of sex, using humor, observation, and an occasional bit of sophomoric overshare to talk about sex without actually talking about sex. VSB has been up for almost six years now. In that six years, I’ve had sex at least 1,000 times. (2,000 if you count sex with myself.) Yet, I’ve never written about my sex life. Nothing about the myriad feelings — physical, mental, and emotional — associated with sleeping with someone. Nothing about the difference in preparation and performance between sleeping with a one night stand and sleeping with a f-buddy. Nothing about the awkwardness of being with someone new, or the extra awkwardness of sleeping with someone familiar but thinking of someone new. Nothing about any sexual fantasies. Nothing about my own sexual prowess (or lack thereof).

Of course, there’s one very obvious reason for this lack of openness. Every woman I’ve been with in that time is aware of VSB. Some of these women also have friends and family who read, and it just wouldn’t have been the best idea to provide sexual details about those relationships.

But, while this reason is practical, it’s a bit of a cop-out. I’ve written about other intimate relationship-related topics before. Some of these topics were very sensitive in nature, but that didn’t stop me from finding a way to express myself without being too explicit. Also, even if the women I’ve been with didn’t read VSB, I still wouldn’t feel very comfortable sharing anything sexual.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. Part of it is stylistic. My work tends to be more observational/distant, and that type of writing doesn’t lend itself to detailed conversations about the bedroom.

Also, it just doesn’t feel…right. Writing about sex makes me feel like I’m either humble-bragging or pandering. There’s no inbetween. Even earlier, when I mentioned how many times I’ve had sex in the past few years, I was tempted to delete it. Despite the fact that it’s an innocuous stat and a (relatively) unremarkable number, it felt tactless to include it.

This feeling of tactlessness is present whenever I see other men writing about sex. Sharing those type of details seems, for lack of a better term, feminine. And yes, I realize the irony in thinking that a straight man sharing details about sex with women is feminine, but I can’t deny that the feeling is there. Considering how rare it is to see straight men talk openly and explicitly about our own sex lives, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. We’ve been socialized to think that sharing those types of intimate details about what happens in our bedrooms is something women do, not men. Sure, there are the storied “locker room” conversations, but those are more about reporting conquests than sharing details about them.

Also — and this goes back to the humble-bragging point — because of the language commonly used to describe sex, it’s difficult to really talk about it without using certain verbs and adjectives that suggest that you are, in fact, bragging. The way words like f*ck, bang, screw, pop, hit, beat, and bone are usually incorporated drive home the conquer/conquest concept. And, if you prefer to use less aggressive language that suggests you were receiving more than giving, it feels soft. Unmasculine. So instead of striving to find the perfect language to hit that sweet spot between “too aggressive” and “too weak”, we just don’t talk about it. (And, if we want to, we use a fifteen-year-old rap song as a proxy.) The best writing is inherently, sometimes painfully vulnerable. And we (men) can be vulnerable about family or fear or even love. But, when it comes to (straight) male sexuality, there really isn’t much room for it.

This brings me to my last point. Perhaps we don’t talk about it because no one really wants to hear it. Maybe there’s just no real audience for a straight male version of someone like Feminista Jones. Which sucks for me. Because I did want to start talking about my sex life more often.

Actually, nevermind. Even if there was an audience for it, there’s one person — a person I’m marrying this summer — who I know wouldn’t be happy with me sharing. So I won’t.

Drats.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Ask A VSB: He Hates My Natural Hair!

Cute Lioness style.

(Damon’s latest at Madame Noire advises a woman whose boyfriend isn’t a fan of her new hair)

Hey Damon,

I recently decided to cut my hair off and go natural. I made the decision on a whim and I felt empowered doing it and I love my new TWA. But my boyfriend absolutely cannot stand it. This is who I am so I’m wondering whether or not our relationship stands a chance? What do you think?

-Newly Natural

Dear Newly Natural,

That’s a tricky question, for many reasons.

It’s possible that he doesn’t dislike your natural hair, just the particular natural hairstyle you have. Just as there are dozens of different things women can do with weave or relaxed hair, there are dozens of different “natural” hair styles — twists, afros, short dreads, long dreads, braids, etc.

I bring this up because it’s often implied that if a Black man doesn’t like a Black woman’s natural hair style, he’s a self-hating slave to the euro-standard of beauty. And while that may be true in some cases, usually it just comes down to a man getting used to his woman with a particular hairstyle, and not immediately feeling the change.

Also, although men are the ones who get criticized for being upset about a woman’s hair change, many women actually would feel the same way if their bf/husband made certain hair-related changes. For all the women attracted to and/or dating men with dreads, I’m sure you’d feel a certain way if you came home one day and he cut all of his hair off. Same with the women who attracted to and/or dating men with full beards. And, I personally know that my fiancee would have an issue if I went all Pusha T on her.

You also have to consider the fact that maybe it’s not about the hair. Perhaps he’s upset you made that decision without discussing it with him first. Not asking permission, mind you. But discussing it. Perhaps the hair issue is a symptom of a deeper communication problem.

That said, a situation like this can say a lot about your relationship’s health. Basically, if he’s truly into you, he’ll eventually get over it and get used to your new hair. Maybe he won’t ever love it, but it won’t be a deal breaker either. And, if the hair continues to be an issue, he’s not the one for you.

Sincerely,

Damon Young

(Read the rest at Madame Noire)