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 me. 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 few 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.

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

The Differences Between Northern Blacks And Southern Blacks

If you can guess where this pic was taken, I'll give you...nothing. Because it's an easy f*cking answer

If you can guess where this pic was taken, I’ll give you…nothing. Because it’s an easy f*cking answer

(A timely blast from the VSB past. Happy Friday.) 

Question of the day: Aside from accents and the always hilarious soda vs pop battle (it’s #teampop all the way, bitch), are there any other behaviors, characteristics, and mores separating Blacks from the north and Blacks from the south?

(Oh, and just to be clear, although the south technically starts once you pass the Mason-Dixon line, I’m going to throw the entire DMV — well, the entire DMV except for the backwoods of Virginia where they breed 400 pound rottweilers and things named “Marcus Vick“ — in with the north.)

This is (obviously) a rhetorical question. Why? Well, OF COURSE there are intraracial regional differences. The only thing left is what I plan to do today — determine exactly what these differences are.

Oh, and before I continue, there’s a couple things I want to add:

1. This “determination” will be completely anecdotal. I’ve done no studies, surveyed no people, and slept with no cousins to understand what it’s like to be from Mississippi. These are just observations I’ve made, that’s all.

2. I realize that limiting this to northern and southern Blacks leaves out midwestern Blacks, west coast Blacks, northwestern Blacks, and n*ggas from Youngstown. If you’re a member of one of those neglected populations, please feel free to add your own observations in the comments.

Anyway, let’s begin.

Southern Blacks are more likely to…

…attend HBCUs, be Greek, attend church, be Baptist, have stupid-ass names that are hybrid combinations of other names (i.e.: “DeLadariusray Jenkins”), get married at a younger age, get married at all, buy expensive American cars, buy cheap-ass American cars and put $35,000 worth of added expense in them, know their fathers, hate White people but date and/or marry interracially, be killed by White rednecks, coordinate outfits, have happier, more fulfilling lives, eat everything on a pig except its eyeballs and anus, buy Steve Harvey books, look like Steve Harvey, be colorstruck and not realize that being colorstruck is a bad thing, breed better women, rock braids/cornrows/locks (the men, at least), be provincial, be socially conservative, be unpretentious, have children, and be generally better people.

On the other hand, northern Blacks seem to be more likely to…

…attend PWIs, scoff at HBCUs while secretly wishing they had decided to attend one instead of paying 75 grand a year to attend some bullsh*t liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, be anything (Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Laker Fan, etc) but Christian, be smart, have stupid-ass names that have absolutely no connection to anything remotely human name sounding (i.e. “Powerful Godbody Jenkins”), convince themselves that they’ve willingly chosen to stay single, buy European, be cool with white people even though they’d never actually date one, be militant, get killed by white rednecks with billy-clubs and badges, not be decedents of American slaves, rock ceasers, coordinate furniture, have better, more fulfilling lives…on paper, be more worried about how they’re perceivedread Hill Harper books, look like Hill Harper, look like someone who’d date someone who looked like Hill Harper, abstain from pork for no apparent reason, be staunchly liberal and close-minded at the exact same time, be somewhat lame, but migrate to the south and be the sh*t down there, be professional and promiscuous, live generally “better” lives.

Did I miss anything?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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.*** 

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

rent-a-black-friend-picture-new1

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”)

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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.