On How To Be A Man (Well…A Very Particular Type Of Man)

I see you're following tip #25 "If you ever see your father with this hair style, strangle him."

I see you’re following tip #25 “If you ever see your father with this hair style, strangle him.”

Bacon. Things wrapped in bacon. NBA basketball. Asses. Asses wrapped in bacon. Milkshakes. Music produced by the RZA.

Although I pride myself on being discerning and occasionally (and annoyingly) particular, there are a few things that always capture my attention, regardless of their quality. Yet, despite my affinity for each of these things, they all pale in comparison to my love for lists. Preferably random-ass lists found on the internet.

Naturally, when a friend shared The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide To Being A Man with me yesterday, I had to stop everything I was doing and consume. Created by @GSElevator and John Carney, it’s comprised of 60 or so tips on, well, how to be a man.

How do I personally feel about the list? Did it meet my measure of mandom? Does it ascend to the height of he? Well, let’s see.

Below is the entire list, with my comments in italics.

  • Stop talking about where you went to college. (Agreed. At a certain age, only politicians and male strippers still care about that.)

  • Always carry cash.  Keep some in your front pocket.

  • Rebel from business casual. Burn your khakis and wear a suit or jeans. (Or, better yet, never buy a pair of f*cking khakis you f*cking nut-less monkey.)

  • It’s okay to trade the possibility of your 80s and 90s for more guaranteed fun in your 20s and 30s. (In other words, act like a 17 year old Black male.)

  • The best public restrooms are in hotels: The St. Regis in New York, Claridge’s in London, The Fullerton in Singapore, to name a few. (Um…yup.)

  • Never stay out after midnight three nights in a row … unless something really good comes up on the third night.

  • You will regret your tattoos. (Eh. Just don’t half-ass them. If you want a sleeve, get a f*cking sleeve, not a skeleton key you’ll wish was a sleeve two years later.)

  • Never date an ex of your friend. (Depends on what you mean by “date.”)

  • Join Twitter; become your own curator of information.

  • If riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will. (Hmm. Rosa Parks rode a bus. And so did Idris Elba in Daddy’s Little Girls.)

  • Time is too short to do your own laundry.

  • When the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink. (Same goes for when you’re at Panera.)

  • If you perspire, wear a damn undershirt.

  • You don’t have to like baseball, but you should understand the concept of what a pitcher’s ERA means.  Approach life similarly.

  • When people don’t invite you to a party, you really shouldn’t go.? And sometimes even when you are invited, you shouldn’t go. (Filed under “things introverts say.”)

  • People are tired of you being the funny, drunk guy.

  • When in doubt, always kiss the girl.

  • Tip more than you should. (Filed under “things bougie black people do”)

  • You probably use your cell phone too often and at the wrong moments.

  • Buy expensive sunglasses.  Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them. (Nah. I’m good.)

  • If you want a nice umbrella, bring a sh*tty one to church.

  • Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.

  • Eat brunch with friends at least every other weekend. Leave Rusty and Junior at home. (And your arteries as well. If you’re eating brunch every weekend you won’t be needing them for much longer anyway.)

  • Be a regular at more than one bar.

  • Act like you’ve been there before.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.

  • A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day.

  • It’s better if old men cut your hair.  Ask for Sammy at the Mandarin Oriental Barbershop in Hong Kong.  He can share his experiences of the Japanese occupation, or just give you a copy of Playboy.

  • Learn how to fly-fish.

  • No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman. (Someone must read VSB)

  • Own a handcrafted shotgun.  It’s a beautiful thing.

  • There’s always another level. Just be content knowing that you are still better off than most who have ever lived.

  • You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.

  • Ask for a salad instead of fries (Pussy.)

  • Don’t split a check.

  • Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.

  • Cobblers will save your shoes. So will shoe trees.

  • When a bartender buys you a round, tip double.

  • The cliché is that having money is about not wasting time. But in reality, money is about facilitating spontaneity.

  • Be spontaneous.

  • Find a Times New Roman in the streets and a Wingdings in the sheets. She exists. (No comment. And, by “no comment” I mean “definitely!!!”)

  • Piercings are liabilities in fights.

  • Do not use an electric razor.

  • Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.

  • Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.? (If you push this back to 35, I wholeheartedly agree.)

  • One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.

  • #StopItWithTheHastags

  • Your ties should be rolled and placed in a sectioned tie drawer. (Yeah, we’ve definitely reached the “past my pay grade” part of the list)

  • Throw parties. But have someone else clean up the next day.

  • You may only request one song from the DJ.

  • Measure yourself only against your previous self.

  • Take more pictures.  With a camera.

  • Place-dropping is worse than name-dropping. (!!!!!!!!)

  • When you admire the work of artists or writers, tell them. And spend money to acquire their work. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Your clothes do not match. They go together. (So your clothes are in a relationship? Hardy har har. I’ll be here all night, folks.)

  • Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.

  • Staying angry is a waste of energy.

  • Revenge can be a good way of getting over anger.

  • If she expects the person you are 20% of the time, 100% of the time, then she doesn’t want you.

  • Always bring a bottle of something to the party. (And don’t be the triflin negro who leaves with one.)

  • Avoid that “last” whiskey. You’ve probably had enough.

  • Don’t use the word “closure” or ever expect it in real life. There may still be a mortally wounded Russian mobster roaming the woods of south Jersey, but we’ll never know.

  • If you are wittier than you are handsome, avoid loud clubs(Some very practical goal post shifting here.)

  • Drink outdoors. And during the day. And sometimes by yourself.

  • Date women outside your social set. You’ll be surprised.

  • If it’s got velvet ropes and lines, walk away unless you know someone.

  • You cannot have a love affair with whiskey because whiskey will never love you back.

  • Feigning unpretentiousness is worse than being pretentious. Cut it out with the vintage Polo and that ’83 Wagoneer in Nantucket.

  • The New Yorker is not high-brow. Neither is The Economist. (Damn, I wonder what brow VSB would be. Basement brow? Sewer brow? Zion in The Matrix brow?)

  • If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.

  • No-one cares if you are offended, so stop it.

  • Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is settling with you. (Hmm. I agree with the first part, but not sure about the second.)

  • Eating out alone can be magnificent. Find a place where you can sit at the bar.

  • Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party – provided that you don’t initiate conversation with, “So, who are you reading …”

  • Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.

  • Hookers aren’t cool, and remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.

  • Don’t ever say, “it is what it is.” (What if it’s at the end of the day?)

  • Start a wine collection for your kids when they are born.  Add a few cases every year without telling them.  It’ll make a phenomenal gift in twenty years.

  • Don’t gamble if losing $100 is going to piss you off.

  • Remember, “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.” (As are lists.)

That’s it. Any additions or subtractions?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On Kinda, Sorta, Maybe Finally Getting Why Women Hate The Term “The Friend Zone”

it starts early

It starts early

From sharing an experience with it to giving men a few tips on staying out of it, there are few subjects I’ve touched on as often as the concept of the friend zone. Although I did “invent” a term to describe what happens when women are caught in it, most of this discussion has been, if not male-centric, told from a decidedly male perspective. And, when you talk about the friend zone from a decidedly male perspective, it makes women out to be manipulative, conniving, cock-teasing assholes. (Which some are. But, that’s another topic for another day.)

Considering that I am, in fact, a man, this is somewhat understandable. Since women are generally considered to be the ones deciding to damn someone to the friend zone—and since this seems to happen much more often to men than it does with women—they (women) have the “power,” and it made no sense for the powerless (men) to even consider empathizing with them. Whenever I’d hear a woman lament the loss of a friendship she “thought she had” with a guy who turned out to be crushing on her, I’d offer her a candlelight solo with the world’s smallest violin. (The name of the song? Boo f*cking hoo, Bitch Pt. 2)

This all changed yesterday, and I can thank MTV for that.

I was upstairs eating watermelon when the Gay Reindeer called me to watch this show she just turned to. I pretend not to hear her, hoping she’d lose interest and make some eggs or something, but she called my name again. This time, too loud for me to pretend.

As I walked into the living room, she explained the premise. It was a reality show about people with secret crushes on close friends. Naturally, it’s called Friendzone. The segment I watched featured a guy (“Jake”) who had fallen in love with his homegirl (“Jane”). He never shared any of this with her, though. Instead, he told her about this girl (“Kim”) he met over the internet and developed strong feelings for. He was soon going to meet Kim in person for the first time, but since he was so nervous, he wanted Jane to come with him. She agreed.

Fast-forward a couple days. As Jake and Jane wait at the date spot for Kim, Jake drops the bomb. Kim doesn’t really exist. All those feelings he expressed for Kim a few days ago were actually his feelings for Jane.

After hearing this news, Jane made a face I have never seen a human person actually make. She looked like she wanted to crawl inside of her own mouth. And, after seeing that face, I kinda, sorta, maybe finally got it.

Now, I don’t know how close Jack and Jane really are. But, let’s assume they were sincerely BFFs. And, if they’re sincerely BFFs, I kinda, sorta, maybe get how Jane—and any other woman—could be pissed about the love bomb.

First, it is a stealth form of emotional terrorism. Sweet? Possibly. But, definitely stealth. You’re basically forcing someone to immediately acknowledge, access, and respond to a feeling you’ve been stewing for years. It’s like getting a 9th grader out of bed at 3:30am and telling him he’s taking the SATs right now. 

Most importantly, while we (men) might think “I like you so much that I want to add f*cking to our friendship” would be flattering, I kinda, sorta, maybe finally get how it could be deflating. Why? Well, she’s likely hearing “I thought you were my friend. Now you’re telling me you were just waiting for an opportunity to f*ck me? I thought you actually liked me.” Now, this isn’t always true. Sometimes, the guy legitimately values the friendship, and just happened to catch feelings. But, more often than not, while he may “like” her, the like is somewhat based on the condition that she’ll eventually fall for (or f*ck) him.

Also, the term “the friend zone” does kinda, sorta imply that there’s something fundamentally wrong with just being a woman’s friend. Obviously, it may not be the type of relationship a man wants. But, something as rare and valuable as a friend probably shouldn’t be thought of with a negative connotation.

Jack eventually learned his feelings were unrequited. Which, as any man who’s ever made that type of confession knows, sucks. We all know this already, though. Movies have been produced, books have been written, and songs have been created because of it.

Most of that content tends to leave out one tiny detail, though:

It sucks for her, too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Ask A Very Smart Brotha: Should Men Have Any Reproductive Rights?


***I originally answered this question in my weekly Madame Noire column yesterday, but I thought the topic was so interesting that I decided to expand on the answer and post it here.***

Hey Damon,

The other day my friends and I were watching this show about adoption and in this particular episode, this couple, who’ve been dating for a year, accidentally get pregnant. The woman, who already has a child, wants to keep the baby, but also understands that her boyfriend has said explicitly over and over again, even before she got pregnant, that he never wanted children. And would inevitably resent a child if he were to ever have one. The woman ended up giving the child up for adoption, reluctantly at first and then in the follow up, she’d made peace with her decision.

The whole thing was upsetting to watch because it was clear that the woman wanted to keep the baby but only if the man wanted to keep the child as well. But it also made me consider the lack of rights most men have when it comes to parenthood. Are there so many absentee fathers because men who never wanted to be fathers just couldn’t and still can’t see themselves being responsible and present for their children? Conventionally, we’re told if a woman gets pregnant that it’s completely her choice whether she decides to have the child or not. Ultimately it is but, as a man, what role or say do you think men should have in all of this?

—Forced Fatherhood

Dear Forced Fatherhood,

Damn. This wasn’t exactly a soup question. I’m going to answer this the best I can. But, before I begin, I will also say that there are people much smarter than me who study, read, and write about this particular issue much more often than I do, and after reading this, I’d research their thoughts and opinions about this as well.

Questions like this bring to light how culturally unbalanced our concept of child-rearing tends to be. While men are socially expected to be active and loving fathers, we’re also socialized to believe that a tiny bit of sperm is our only meaningful contribution to this entire process. Think about it: If men and women are supposed to join forces to raise children together, why are little girls the only ones “allowed” to play with baby dolls? Why aren’t teen boys encouraged to consider babysitting as a source of practical experience (and extra income) the same way teen girls are? Why don’t we throw baby showers for men?

I know these questions seem silly, but they only seem silly because we’ve been taught it’s a silly idea for little boys to play with dolls and have any type of experience handling and taking care of babies…which is a silly thing to be taught.

Anyway, the question of pregnancy rights is one where the right, socially accepted answer—that women have complete say over whether a child will or will not be born—has some inherent “wrongness” to it. As mentioned earlier, both men and women have to collaborate to create a baby. So, logically—even considering the fact that women have to carry—a man should have equal say on whether to keep it.

But, in this case, that particular wrong of a man not having any say is better than any alternative solution.

Yes it’s “unfair” that men don’t have any legal say on the decision to keep a baby, especially since he will be legally obligated to provide for that child for the next 18 years. But this “unfairness” is for the greater good.

If you allow men to have legal say over whether a woman can keep a baby, you’re restricting her legal right to have complete dominion over her body.

And, if you don’t hold men responsible for children they helped create—basically, if you allow men to legally opt out before the child is born—it would ultimately hurt the baby. Also, think of how messy this could be legally. What’s to stop a man who “agreed” to care and provide for the baby when it was conceived to say “Um, nevermind.” three months into term? And, what’s to stop him from changing his mind again once the baby is born?

Basically, the “wrongness” of men having no say in that process is less wrong than what would happen if men did.

Also, I wouldn’t blame the prevalence of absentee fathers on this issue. Yes, people — men and women — need to make smarter sexual choices. There is no such thing as an “accidental” pregnancy, especially when their are multiple effective means of birth control—including the pull out method. (Yes. The pull out method works. It only doesn’t work when you…don’t pull out.)

But while I’m willingly to concede that some men do get “trapped,” most who selfishly skirt their responsibilities do it because…they’re selfish and irresponsible. The pregnancy rights laws and some “lying-ass woman” didn’t jam them up. Their own penises did.

The best solution to all of this is to be in a committed relationship where both parties are on the same page about children, and both parties respect and consider each other’s opinions. Even then, the woman still has the final say. Yes, its unfair, but there’s a small device that goes a very long way to prevent that unfairness from ever happening:


—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

What Would Your Exes Say About You?

"All my exes live in Texas." "Lucky you."

“All my exes live in Texas.” “Lucky you.”

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t overstate how much of an affinity I have for High Fidelity. While other movies may rank higher on my “all time favs” list, I doubt any of them have been as influential.

To wit…

1. It remains the only movie I’ve forced every. single. woman. I’ve been even somewhat serious with to watch. The Wire doesn’t even get that treatment from me, and if The Wire was a woman, I’d (happily) hold its purse in public, go rock climbing with it, and drink its bathwater after we finished said rock climbing.

2. It’s at least 27% responsible for me creating lists out of everything—I swear Buzzfeed just straight up jacked VSB’s 2008-2010 steez—and maybe 53.7% responsible for me creating arbitrarily exact percentages when making a point.

3. It’s also 13.8% responsible for my steadfast belief that the music, movies, books, and TV shows a person likes—and why they like it—matters. It’s not the only thing that matters. But it’s definitely one of the only things.

4. I’ve included Lisa Bonet before when people have asked me to name actresses I thought were very attractive. This is a lie. I’ve never really been attracted to Lisa Bonet. But, I am totally, completely, head over heels in love with “Marie De Salle.” This also matters.

Still, while all the other tidbits about it make it cool, what makes High Fidelity High Fidelity—basically, what makes High Fidelity good—is the concept behind it.

What would happen if you had an opportunity to speak with each of your exes?

How would it go? Would you be cool? Cordial? Antagonistic? Would you still be attracted to them? Would you be surprised that you were actually attracted to them at one point? Would you be upset if they weren’t attracted to you anymore? If single (or not), would you try to sleep with them? Would you recognize them? Would they recognize you? 

Whether you have two exes or 32, I’m sure you can think of dozens of questions you’d ask them, and High Fidelity gives us an opportunity to vicariously do something everyone has thought of but few of us have actually done.

But, while this is a thought we’ve all had at some point, it only tells half the story. And, it only tells half the story because it’s a self-centered thought. Of course we fantasize about having that type of conversation with some of our exes, because that conversation would be safe. Sure, they probably wouldn’t feel the same pressure to be “nice” that people in relationships with each other often adopt when sharing feelings so they won’t hurt each other’s feelings, but they probably won’t be exactly forthright either.

If you really want to go there, there’s only one question that needs answered:

What would your exes say about you…when they’re not talking directly to you?

I’m sure every one reading this has at least a couple stories about “the batshit chick” you dated or “that stalker-ass n*gga” who still randomly shows up to your family reunions or even the “emotionally insecure idiot” with “daddy and mommy issues” who you swear is going to ruin the next person they date. 

But, when that person you dated from 2003 to 2007 is talking about you to their friends, are you the batshit chick? When they happen to come across your Facebook profile, do they shudder, cross themselves, and thank God they were smart enough to delete your number? Do they take it upon themselves to warn other people about you? Do you think they think of you as “the one who got away” when you’re really “the one who’s the reason why I caught the gout”?

Interestingly enough, as “self-aware” as I say I attempt to be, I have absolutely no interest (NONE!!!) in knowing what a couple of my exes would say about me. Not all, but a couple. I can only imagine that, if I heard the inner thoughts of one ex in particular, my memory of a “considerate, witty, but slightly immature” 27 year old me would be, um, contrasted with “f*ck that big head, big toothed, limped d*ck, analog-ass n*gga. F*ck him as a staff, a record label, and as a motherf*cking crew.”

And, I’d (probably) deserve it.

Anyway, people of VSB, I’m curious. What would your exes say about you? Do you even want to know, or would you prefer to stand beside me with your head in the sand?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

5 Times It’s Perfectly Okay Not To Fight For Your Woman


“Would and could he fight for me?”

It’s a question that somehow manages to be completely relevant and completely irrelevant at the same damn time.

It’s relevant because it’s never not at least a consideration when a woman is deciding whether she wants to commit to a man. Perhaps “Would and could he protect me?” isn’t the first question she asks herself, but she’ll definitely ask herself that question.

It’s irrelevant because, well, no one actually gets into fights. Actually, lemme rephrase that. Some adults still do get into fights. But it’s a very small percentage of us. And, the 7% of adults who still somehow get into fights at least once every other month probably make up 97% of the adult fight total between themselves. If you asked one of the 93% when the last time they get into a serious fist fight was, I bet most answers would fall between 5th grade and “That time in 9th grade when I thought that I was big enough to talk back to my dad. I was wrong.”

Earlier this week, Keyshia Cole became one of the few adult women to have that question answered for her, as her husband—former Cavs guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson—broke the jaw of a man who reportedly “disrespected” her in some way.

Considering the fact that Gibson is a free agent—and considering the fact that Cole hasn’t had a hit single since the last season of Scrubs—getting into a fight and potentially jeopardizing a new contract probably wasn’t the smartest move. How else do they expect to cover their monthly tattoo bills?

Still, if Gibson legitimately felt that Cole was threatened, no one would seriously begrudge his jaw breaking. It’s his husbandly duty and shit. But, is there ever a situation where your girl/woman/wife/concubine is disrespected in some way and you’re actually not supposed to fight for her? Of course!

In fact, here are five of them!

1. If she kinda, sorta, had it coming. 

Lemme put it this way: If I’m at a club, and I see some dude push my girl and call her a “bitch,” we are going to have a serious physical problem.

But, if my girl happens to be Evelyn Lozada-ish, and she’s talking shit, throwing drinks, and spitting in people’s faces for no reason, and I happen to see one of the guys who she spit on push her and call her a “bitch,” we are going to have a…conversation. And then we are going to leave. And then I am going to stop at a gas station. And then I am going to ask her to get me a pack of Now & Laters. And then I am going to drive off and leave her there.

2. If you’re definitely going to lose…badly.

Look, I can handle one Kimbo Slice. And by “handle one Kimbo Slice” I mean “sucker punch and run from a Kimbo Slice.” (And yes, I would expect my girl to keep up with me. What’s the point of being in Black Girls Run if you don’t take it literally?)

But, if my girl comes over to me upset that some dudes disrespected her, and she points to a table of three Kimbo Slices and three “Comb That Nigga’s Chest Hair” dudes, I figure a slight scowl in their direction is an appropriate response.

3. If you’re definitely going to win.

If you’re 6’5 and 350 pounds and the Kevin Hart doppelganger at the bar calls your girl a bad name, he’s actually putting you in a no-win situation. You can’t put your hands on him, cause you’ll be a lame for fighting a dude half your size. But, you can’t not do something either.

My advice? Just pull out your dick, with your arms extended outward in the “Ta-Da!” pose. Hopefully this’ll shame him into silence. (This also has obvious backfire potential, but you have to do something, right?)

4. If you’ve been wanting to break up with her for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity or guts to do it.

Usually, men in this predicament try to sabotage the relationship by cheating and hoping he’ll get caught. But, why do that and expose her to all types of STDs? Just let her get disrespected in front of you, and let her get mad enough at you that she ends it. Now, you’ve rid yourself of a problem and you saved her from syphilis. It’s a win win.

5. If you’re busy.

It’s not your fault she picked the 4th quarter of game seven of the NBA finals to get disrespected. She needs to learn that if she wants a good defense, she needs better timing.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)