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 silly, slightly awkward, and surprisingly inappropriate me…and own it. 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 couple 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 and which types of women I’m most compatible with.

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

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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…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.*** 

Signs That Guys Look For To Know That A Woman Is Interested

start-dating-signs-compatible-ugly-flirting-ecards-someecardsWhen it comes to approaching women there are three types of guys.

1. The guy who will never approach a woman and will likely only ever meet a woman at an Everest College Alumni Mixer or Home Depot After Dark Game Night where the convos are controlled and he’s got a better than 75 percent chance of you at least saying something back to his, “hey…so what brings you here?” He is also most likely to marry the sh*t out of the woman that he eventually dates because he is NOT going through the agony of meeting anybody else. That sh*t is for the angry birds.

2. The guy who will approach your mother in front of you. He is likely the guy most women don’t want because well, he’s going to holler until he succeeds. Basically, its not you he’s after, well not “you”. He sees, he wants, he attempts. These guys are can eventually get hemmed up into a relationship, but its on his terms solely.

3. The guy who is waiting for as many signs as possible that he should ask for the number. Unless he sees a woman he just can’t NOT holler at because he is so taken aback. Think Jason from Jason’s Lyric. True story: I actually ran the lines from that movie about wanting to see a woman again (“If you go to church, I want to be in the back pew…”); that sh*t worked. It helped that I meant it. Anyway, I think most guys fall into this third camp.

Let’s talk about this last group. Why? I’ll tell you why. Recently I had a conversation with some friends of mine about why I never hollered at a woman I had an interest in. Me, Panama Jackson, was waiting to get my Ace of Base on. But I never saw the sign. Now, their argument to me was that, dude, she speaks to you, she’s not outwardly rebuffing your convo…go in for it.

Now, as stupid as this sounds, I will own the fact that this particular woman had me shook. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I was not about to stick a quarter in my a** in this situation. I feel like half of everybody will get that reference and the other half is SO confused right now.

But this got me to thinking of signs that most guys actually look for to know that women are interested. Not that batting eyes sh*t. But actual signs. Now before I list some, this does not absolve guys from not hollering at women. If you are interested, it is imperative that as a dude you leap out there on faith and take a chance. Women seem to know how hard it is to holler at women even though they feel like you should get over it. At the end of the day, it has to happen in order to preserve the species right? The Internet has become a great equalizer in all of this because you can reach out to damn near anybody via social networking and as long as she knows who you are and you have a few friends in common there’s a chance she won’t yell STALKER from jump. But that’s neither here nor there.

So here are what we’re looking for.

1. Smile

I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. Women hate it when men tell you to smile. So I’m not telling you to smile. In fact, get your sourpuss on, sista. Look like you eat trees to your hearts content. I’m just telling you that from where I’m sitting, if I see you and you see me and you don’t smile in my general direction like EVER, there is no way in Hell I’m going to test those waters out. If you smile at me, you’ve upped the likelihood I’m coming your way by at least 63 percent. Granted, I get why women ain’t smiling all day. Hell I’m not. And you don’t want to invite in Jerome from Martin. It’s a tricky dance. Ladies, I get it. I’ve seen some TERRIBLE situations occur. Hey, we’re all just trying to make it.

2. Some type of…bait

Sometime ago, via IG, a young lady I was curious about laid out THE perfect bait for me. I flubbed it. Totally flubbed it. In fact, I fumbled so hard that when I told my homegirl about t she punched me in the arm. She was like, dude, how the hell did you mess THAT up?!? I don’t know, dog. I don’t know. Well I know why but still…point is, she put the ball in my court in such a way that all I needed was a layup to win the game. On a 6 foot hoop. And I wish I could tell you what it was…but I can’t. And I know that’s f*cked up.

Oh, I can tell you this one tho! This happened via Twitter: I was on there talking about as a Gemini how much I love Aquarians (we’re supposed to be a great match and what not…its proven true thus far) and a young lady hit me with the: “I’m an Aquarius…wanna test that theory?”

Bait.

Remember these are things we’re looking for…like our optimal situations.

3. Active responses

Have you ever had a conversation with somebody and it just stops. Like the other person doesn’t get the concept of a dialogue? Yeah, those let me know that its a no go (obviously this is when somehow, we’ve started speaking). But, every so often you get somebody who lets you know, that you may continue the convo by the social cues they give you. Here’s how I met a woman one time. I was at a bar eating some food and she saw it and wanted to know what it was. Simple friendly question swag gangsta clique. Well, I told her and made some joke about the food. Well, she immediately fired back with one of her own. We zinged. We then talked for an hour and a half after that.

Those are three things that I can tell you most guys look for when attempting to discern if they should try to exchange info and progress a situation. Granted, as a guy, you do have to take a chance most of the time. You will win some. You will lose some. But you live to try again. But hey, we all (men and women) want as much positive info as possible when determining if we’re going to deal with somebody right? Bong bong.

So fellas, what are other signs you look for? And ladies, what signs do you think you give off that should let a dude know that you’re interested?

-VSB P aka MR. HELLO IS IT ME YOU’RE LOOKING FOR  aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

When A Black Man Breaks Up With His Barber

barberrich

Allen Iverson often gets credit for making both cornrows and visible tattoos more, for lack of a better term, “mainstream.” But, although this isn’t brought up as much, he’s also somewhat responsible for what’s been the single most popular hairstyle for African-American men over the past two decades: The Caesar. He had one as a freshman at Georgetown, and he was so popular that it convinced thousands of young Black kids to eschew the fades, tapers, and cornrows that sat on our heads. I was one of those kids. This was 1995. And I’ve had the same haircut since.

Now, there have been some variations. I used to line up the back, and now I fade it out. I also went from sideburns, to the point thing, to the faint beard line when I could finally connect my beard, to the (somewhat) full beard I have now. And the actual amount of hair on my head has varied. But, the basic template — an even cut all around — has remained the same.

Despite the Caesar’s simplicity, its maintenance requires effort. It needs to be brushed a couple times a day, it needs to be shampooed at least twice a week, and you need to have a barber who knows what the f*ck he (or she) is doing. The last point is the most crucial. A Caesar with a jacked-up line-up is a perpetual practical joke, a public gong show where the only prize is dry vageen and you have to stay on stage until enough time has passed (usually between 10 and 14 days) for your hair to grow back enough for someone to fix it.

But a fresh Caesar with a perfect line? Man!!! That’s the shit dreams are made of. Seriously, every Caesar-ed man reading this can probably name the five best haircuts they’ve ever had — when the shape-up and the beard and the fade in the back and the sheen of your scalp all aligned perfectly. And each of those men can probably also give you the names of the five or six women whose numbers they got the week of the perfect shape-up because, even if you look like the construction workers from Fraggle Rock, the perfect shape-up will have you feeling and acting like an Idris/Leonidas hybrid.

And this is why a good barber is the best friend any Black man can have. It’s also why you do what you can to hold on to one. I’ve had the same one for 12 years now.

And this is also why I’m probably going to break up with him.

As you can imagine, the decision to break up with my barber hasn’t been an easy one. I’ve read before that it takes a fourth of the time you’ve been with someone to break up with them. (Basically, If you’ve been with someone two years, it takes six months. Three to convince yourself breaking up is the right decision, and three more to gather the courage to do it.) If this is true, I’ve been breaking up with my barber for three years now. Seems like a long time, but it sounds about right.

He’s not a bad barber. The relationship wouldn’t have lasted this long if he wasn’t. And, when he’s focused on cutting my hair, he’s actually good. The problem is that those moments of focus are occurring less and less often. He takes breaks to text. And to check the messages on the dozens of dating sites he belongs too. And to show me pictures of the women he’s dating. And to talk to me about the NBA draft. And to run across the street to play the lottery. And to run to the corner store for a Cherokee Red. And to run to his car to make sure the windows are closed.

I wouldn’t mind any of this if he was still able to make my line even — well, I wouldn’t mind it that much — but the more distracted he gets, the worse my haircut is going to be.

Also, I’ve traveled quite a bit for panels, conferences, festivals, and parties over the last few years. Sometimes, this travel will be last minute, my barber won’t be available, and I’ll have to go to someone else in the shop. And sometimes I’ll just wait to get a haircut in the city of the event. And, when this happens, my haircuts are always better. Always. 90% of my Leonidas Elba weeks since 2010 have been because of “new” barbers.

So why is it so difficult to get a new barber? If he’s not providing a service I’m paying him for, why not just pay someone who will? Well, it’s not that easy. As I mentioned before, I’ve known him for over a decade, which makes this one of the longest relationships I’ve ever been in. Aside from family, there are only maybe 10 people who’ve been as consistent in my life in that time period as he has. We’ve seen the neighborhood change together. We’ve changed too. Both personally and aesthetically. I’ve been there long enough to see an entirely new group of barbers man the chairs beside him. I also remember his “old” shop — a raggedy storefront on an off-brand corner — and I remember how he got the money together to move to the much, much nicer location he’s in now. I look forward to going there, and talking shit with him and the other barbers about the Steelers or sneakers or strippers or credit scores or whatever the hell else happens to be the topic of conversation that day. And I know he looks forward to my visits too. He’s not my best friend. But he is my friend.

There’s a shop I pass a couple times a week in route to my barbershop. I started paying attention to it last summer after a guy randomly complimented my cut, gave me his business card, and told me he works at the new shop on Baum Blvd. I actually think it’s owned by one of the Steelers.

Since then, I’ve become increasingly tempted to take him up on his offer. But I haven’t. At least not yet.

What’s stopping me? Two things:

1. An irrational fear that my barber will see me walking out of the new barbershop shop, and having to deal with that awkward moment.

2. Who gave me the extra-sharp line up that compelled that guy to compliment me? My barber.

—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.