Why There Will Never Be A Black Male Olivia Pope

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You know, I do sympathize with those annoyed by how Scandal (and, more recently, Being Mary Jane) seems to dominate the conversation in Black digital spaces. I can imagine it being even more nerve-wracking for people who have no interest in either show. Thing is, the place they have in our cultural zeitgeist is less about the show itself than the fact that, while people may not know an Olivia Pope or a Mary Jane Paul (or aspire to be either), they represent a version (well, an extreme version) of an archetype very many Black people seem to relate to: the “successful woman who seems to have it all together, but doesn’t.” Ultimately, the meta-conversations about these shows allow us to talk about ourselves without talking about ourselves.

Yet, the conversation is incomplete. There is another archetype. An archetype that seems to cause much of the angst our other archetype struggles with. This one is found in the same cities, the same Twitter timelines, the same offices, the same lounges, and even (occasionally) the same beds as our Pope-ly protagonists, but they don’t receive nearly as much cinematic or conversational deconstruction. This lack of attention isn’t due to a lack of interest, though. People (and by “people” I mean “Black women”) are very interested in what is going on in the head of the “single and successful Black male” what drives/motivates him, why he makes the decisions he makes, where love and commitment fall on his personal needs hierarchy, etc. But no one actually wants to see it on screen.

I can imagine it now…

It would star someone relatively young and realistically attractive like Columbus Short or Rob Brown or Derek Luke. The show would be set in D.C. or Chicago. He’d be a lawyer or an engineer or something. He’d have a nice loft. And, while the show wouldn’t just be about his dating life, his dating life would be a big part of the show. He’d date. A lot. Some wouldn’t even be dates. Sometimes it would just be 11:32 pm “hey, do you want to come through?” texts. On Wednesday nights. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a “hey, do you want to” attached to “come through.”

He’d always be very nice to women. Well, “nice” in that he didn’t talk bad about them, he remained (somewhat) chivalrous, he had many very close female friends, he’d always be affectionate and attentive to them, and he’d make a point to let everyone know how much he loves sistas with natural hair. But the niceness is only a surface niceness. He claims to feel bad when women he “dates” catch unrequited feelings for him, but he actually only feels bad when forced to confront their feelings. Worst of all, he knows what he’s doing. He’s too smart not to. He’s just selfish. Very selfish. He wants to settle down, eventually. When he meets the right person. At least that’s what he tries to tell himself. But he’d continue doing what he’s doing, with no real end in sight.

and no one would watch this show.

Actually, let me rephrase that. We’d watch. But everyone would hate it. Black men would hate it for misrepresenting us and/or airing our dirty laundry. Black women would hate it because, while it’s easy to mock the Stevie J’s and the Peter Gunz’s of the world (and the women who deal with them), a show featuring their urban and educated counterparts would hit too close to home. Black people (collectively) would hate it for reinforcing the hyper-hetero sexual stereotypes about Black men. White women would hate it because, if it were to mirror the life of a real actual single Black man in D.C. or Chicago, he’d date nothing but Black women, and they (White women) would be pissed for not being included. There’d be a thinkpiece a week at Jezebel devoted to it. White men would hate it because…well, I can’t think of any reasons why they would. They’d probably love it.

I’m joking (well, kinda), but I don’t think I’m that far from the truth. Pretty much every other oft-discussed piece of the Black population has been explored in some way on TV. Upper class families. Working class families. Single women. People in the hood. Young parents. Young couples. But none from the perspective of a single and successful urban Black male who dates Black women. (That last tidbit disqualifies Kevin Hill and House of Lies)

And, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d want to watch it either. Sure, I’d watch to be a part of the conversation. And to nitpick stuff the show didn’t get “right.” But I’d probably cringe the entire time. Or, more likely, I’d vacillate between cringing and jumping on Twitter, Facebook, VSB and everywhere else I write to defend all the indefensible shit the main character was doing.

Of course I’d be telling on myself if I did that. The show would be far from a mirror image of my life — it would be much too extreme for that — but I’d see enough of him in me and other guys I know to be compelled to comment. Of course I’d deny the connections, though. And I wouldn’t be wrong. I mean, it’s “just entertainment,” right?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On D. Wade, Gabby Union, And Making Sense Of Non-Break “Breaks” And Condomlessness

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(Today, Maya Francis makes her VSB debut with a piece that talks about exactly what the title says it would)

I’m going to keep it real with you all and say that there is a very, very small handful of celebrities whose happiness and success I’m actively rooting for. Among them, Janet Jackson and her gotdamnit-he’s-fine-billionaire-husband, Kerry Washington (and Nnamdi by association), Mariah and Nick, Idris and his bowtie.

I really don’t care anything about Dwyane Wade, his divorce troubles, or Gabby Union. I have opinions, and my opinions have skeletons, but I am not that invested.

But, when every single person in the whole entire world spent a week writing status after email after tweet after blog after thinkpiece deconstructing their relationship and our reactions to their relationship from every conceivable angle, I had two choices. Continue not really caring, or trick myself into believing that they’re not celebrities, and offer my opinion then.

I chose the latter.

And since I chose the latter, and chose to re-imagine new identities for Dwyane Wade (Carpenter. Yes, like Jesus.) and Gabrielle Union (Some chick working at Verizon), I have no qualms about saying two things:

1. There’s no such thing as a “break”

There is together. And not together. There is, “I’m need a couple days to avoid possibly murdering you,” and letting all calls go to voicemail forever. Sure, you might need some days to air yourselves out and regroup, but no part of that should include the next man/chick. When your “break” from me includes the addition of someone else, we’re using fuzzy math.

But, I’m aware some of you slept through math. And slept with your math teachers. So, for the Valtrex-sniffing portion of the population who do use sex with other people to get closer to their partners, there’s something else in this that doesn’t fit quite right.

2. Where the f*ck were the condoms?

I know this is a rhetorical question. At this point at least. Still, the whole condomless break sex thing reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine some time ago. Apparently, men don’t just randomly stop using condoms. There’s no man out there who is a serial condom user and decides on one special night not to use one. Men who don’t use condoms, he says, always choose not to use them. Since those last three sentences scared the f*ck out of me, I won’t even attempt to address them. Just wanted to put them there so they’d scare you too.

Anyway, condoms are $12 a box. You get one condom per dollar. That’s less than an Egg McMuffin. Hell, you could get them free from a multitude of places. I mean, they’ll be Durex or Avirex or whatever other off-brand condoms they give out at free clinics, but still. That’s better than nothing. So what never seems to curl all the way over for me in these situations is the conception of #BreakBabies who are living proof of the lack of foresight, or consideration, held for the health of one’s partner whilst sexing someone else… to get closer…to the partner.

One of my personal rules in life is “never make a mistake you can’t fix.” This is why I’m not a Delta. The problem with irresponsible sex – and I’m calling it “irresponsible” in this case because any way this is spun, I think we can agree that it was not the intention to make another baby – is that it’s a shared mistake that can have detrimental, unfixable consequences for individuals who haven’t made any personal decisions for themselves. Wade, and others like him, is lucky that the conversation is just about a baby. And whether you agree with Gabby’s choice or not, let’s just be glad she still had an opportunity to make one.

You can follow Maya @MF_Greatest. And, if you don’t do that, she will follow you. Like, in real life. She will literally follow you to your house. 

So…I’m Engaged Now. Here’s Why

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This wasn’t supposed to happen.

At least, this is not how I envisioned things happening. I’m not supposed to be engaged now. I’m not supposed to be in love. I’m not supposed to be planning a life with someone. I’m not supposed to not be able to envision a future without her in it. But I am engaged. I am in love. I am planning a life with someone. And I am uninterested in envisioning a future without her in it.

None of this was supposed to happen because I’m supposed to be single now. At least, that is what I told myself two years ago. Newly single, I planned on remaining single. I didn’t have a set amount of time to stay single—doing that would have felt too arbitrary and inauthentic—but I knew I did not want to be in a serious relationship again any time soon.

Why? Well, the best and most attractive part about being single is the most obvious. You’re single. Which means you’re free. Often, the activity that can be a product of this freedom is touted as the best part about being single. I disagree. The freedom itself is the best part. The ability to do whatever, whenever, however. And with whoever. Or not. Freedom isn’t dating multiple women. Or eating cereal for dinner. Or staying out until four every weekend. Freedom is just the freedom to do these things if you choose to.

This freedom is intoxicating without any of the side effects associated with intoxicants. There is absolutely no downside to it. None. People often blame bad decisions on freedom. Which is silly. Freedom doesn’t make you do anything. If it did, it wouldn’t be freedom. Freedom doesn’t cause anything. It just is. Blaming freedom for bad decisions is like blaming oxygen for asphyxiation.

This freedom is why I get why some people choose to stay single longer than society would like to dictate. It’s also why, for many of us, the common narratives about why people in our generation (men and women) are choosing to stay single longer than our parents and grandparents did seem all wrong. It’s not about a fear of commitment. Or narcissism. Or selfishness. Or even a lack of love. It’s just that, for many of us, a “free” life equals a better one. The benefits of love and companionship are known, valued, and appreciated. The benefit of being free are just valued and appreciated more.

Anyway, I dated a few women during this free period. I even grew to like one of them very much. Very, very much. So much that when I learned I wasn’t prepared to give up that freedom for her, I started to think it would never happen. I was fine with that. As I said, I planned on remaining single and staying free. But I also planned on not liking anyone that much, and when I did and still felt the urge to be free, I figured this commitment to freedom was for real.

And it was.

Until she happened.

And when she happened, I no longer felt that urge to be free. There was no ambivalence. No second thoughts. No pulling away. No anything else but her.

We were friends. Great friends. Best friends, actually. And then, we were no longer just friends. I know that sounds too simple. And I debated adding details to give the story more meat. To make it more realistic. But that would just obscure the suddenness and the violence of how it happened. One day I was alive. And then the next day the rest of my life began.

I was free before her. But now my life is better. This isn’t a knock on freedom. I was happy. Very happy. Freedom is unbelievable. Freedom is fucking great. It’s just that she’s just so much better than it.

I proposed November 30th. We’ve been together for a year now, which is how long we’ve both known how much we both wanted each other. The ring is just a way to let everyone else know.

None of this was supposed to happen. I thought I knew what I wanted. But it is happening. And I thank God I was wrong.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Used To It, Schmeused To It: Sex Is, Always Has Been, And Always Will Be F*cking Great!

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I’ve been waiting for it. Thinking about it. Fearing it. Dreading it. Hoping against it. Running from it. Losing sleep over it. (Well, not really. More metaphorical sleep lost.)

But it still hasn’t happened. At least not yet. But there are no signs that it ever will. No clues. No cues. No indicators. No inklings. Nothing.

Perhaps I’m still too young. Maybe it’ll start happening next year. In two years. In 10 years. Maybe it’ll happen next month. Maybe it’ll happen tonight.

Maybe it’s my experience and not my age. Maybe I just haven’t reached the critical mass. Or the climax. Or the summit. Or the tipping point. Or the plateau. Or the point of no return. Or whatever the fuck else. Maybe I’m still climbing. Still reaching. Still finding.

And maybe it’s just not going to happen. Ever. Which is great. But it does make things rather anti-climatic. What happens when the other shoe never drops? Shit, what happens when the other shoe doesn’t even exist?

Since I can remember, various sources—cousins, parents, barbers, neighbors, inappropriate neighbors, Michael J. Fox, magazines, textbooks, teachers, nuns, bus drivers, women named Shirley, Radiohead, uncles of women I dated while unemployed for a month in 2002, God, paper Deltas, etc—have either implied or just outright told me that sex would lose its luster as you got older. Basically, you get so used to it and the feelings associated with it that it becomes just another one of the many mundane tasks associated with being a normal human. You even start to get…tired of it. In this sense, sex is no different than brushing your teeth or taking out the trash or trolling Lakers fans by making Kobe 19th on your list of the 20 best basketball players ever.

But—and we’re getting into TMI territory here, but we’re all family so I’m cool with it if you’re cool with it—I had my first recorded orgasm at 14. My first one with another actual living human being came a couple years after that. My last orgasm was, at the time of writing, 20 hours ago. That’s 20 years of sex. Which comes out to roughly 7000 different orgasms (give or take a thousand).

And nothing has changed. Nothing. They each still feel fucking amazing. Like eating bacon for the first time. While skydiving. On Mars. The first one was great! The second one was great! The 22nd one was great! The 6,122nd one was great! The 10,002nd—if I make it there—will be great!

In fact, there is nothing on Earth more predictable than the fact that when you have an orgasm, you’re going to feel great. Not death. Not taxes. Not Scandal. Nothing. Maybe the circumstances surrounding your orgasm will make you feel shitty (“Well, I didn’t know his name, but at least I got some fries“), but that shittiness will be preceded by awesomeness.

I will concede that they were right about one thing. The willingness to go above and beyond to get sex dissipates. Sex is no longer the end all, be all of my universe. I am no longer willing to move mountains, or a mile, or even (sometimes) “over” to get some. “Getting some” is a journey now instead of the destination or some other Zen-sounding bullshit.

But while the willingness to make certain efforts wanes, the results are never not awesome. Never not great. Never not the best thing ever. Never not the great thing that you compare other almost, but not quite as great things to. Never not proof that God exists. (And is in a surprisingly good mood.) Never not a bacon-wrapped slab of bacon in your mouth. While hang gliding. On the moon. While having sex.

So they were all wrong. At least I’m hoping they were. Or maybe they just told me this cause someone told them this too. Which I prefer to believe. Bacon is great. Especially bacon wrapped slabs of it. But it is not sex. Nothing is. And absolutely nothing ever will be. Because absolutely nothing can be.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

How To Be Gay As F*ck

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Many faces. All gay.

As is the case with most popular news items that have absolutely no impact on our actual lives, the reactions to the NFL bullying story have become more interesting than the story itself. We’re not even two weeks in, and it has already spawned numerous national sub-conversations about masculinity, sports culture, football, hazing, and half-niggers.

Oh, and faggotry. You can’t forget about gotdamn faggotry.

One of the more popular theories bandied around social media about this story is that Jonathan Martin is gay, and this incident was either the result of a lover’s quarrel gone bad (which would make Richie Incognito gay as well) or Martin’s Dolphins’ teammates having a problem with his sexual orientation.

This may very well be true. Thing is, there is absolutely nothing in this story that would suggest that. Nothing.

But, because Martin’s demeanor and background (introverted, from an upper-middle class background, Stanford-educated, etc) don’t fit our expectations of what a Black male professional athlete should be like—and because he chose to solve his problems in a way we don’t expect Black men to—he must be gay. At least according to some people.

Anyway, although I was taught in a 4th grade biology class that there was only one way to be a homosexual man—be attracted to and/or sleep with men—life has taught me there are hundreds of thousands of things a man can do to definitely let everyone know he really, really, really, really must want to have sex with men. Here’s a few.

Not want to fight

Always want to fight

Smile too much

Be too happy

Match

Read

Sing

Sing in church

Go to church

Join the church choir

Live in Atlanta

Move to Atlanta

Visit Atlanta

Be soft-spoken

Use umbrellas

Be single past a certain age

Don’t have children

Use straws

Sleep with a lot of women

Don’t sleep with enough women

Go to the gym too much

Shower with other men in the locker room

Feel a certain way about showering with other men in the locker room

Love sports too much

Don’t love sports

Take pictures with a transgender model

Be a model

Be an actor

Be a dancer

Be HIV positive

Eat pussy

Enjoy a woman’s touch or tongue on certain parts of your body

Befriend gay people

Hate gay people

Wear skinny jeans

Be skinny

Sag your jeans and sweats

Wear jeans and sweats that actually fit

Use body wash

Take a woman’s side during a disagreement or argument

Be friends with women

Like women

Have female friends

Have no female friends

Be Chris Bosh

Own a loofa

Apply chapstick

Eat a banana, or any other phallic-shaped food, in public

Be an adult virgin

Cry (especially if it’s about some gay shit)

Recycle

Drive certain cars

Have manners

Use emoticons

Take a lot of pictures of yourself

Walk funny

Talk funny

Get molested as a kid (Or sexually assaulted as an adult)

Order certain types of drinks

Order colorful drinks

Order drinks in certain types of glasses

Hold your drink a certain way

Don’t drink

Dance too well

Be Drake

Listen to Drake

Not agree that Drake is gay

Be Kanye West

Be post-808′s Kanye West, especially

Be Kanye West today, especially especially

Enjoy anal sex

Not be sexually attracted to a certain woman

Be sexually attracted to thin women

Make too much eye contact

Don’t make any eye contact

Compliment a man’s looks

Have a man compliment your looks

Be too good-looking

Write something titled “How To Be Gay As F*ck”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)