The Male Ego

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“No, no–I got this.”

Well, kids, I’ve finally figured it out. Other people are off discovering bison particles; I am deconstructing Freud. I’m talking about The Male Ego—the Duracell battery that keeps men talking and talking and talking, even when there’s nothing to gain, and I’ve stopped listening. I’ve figured out, just tonight! why so many male-friend people, even when aware of, or acquainted with my boyfriend, still insist on paying when we hang out, still flirt, still insinuate that you know, maybe, later, we could? But it has nothing to do with my boyfriend, because it would and has happened since before he was in the picture.

Tonight, said boo and I were at a lounge where there was music and dancing and such, but we arrived at different times. I got there an hour or so before he did—and the maitre d’, after seating me, proceeded to ask me a lot of dumb questions, one of which, oh-so classically, was “Come here often?” (Can someone please update the pickup line handbook? They update The Joy of Cooking. They can update y’all.)

“Have you been here before?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Oh, well, I haven’t seen you before. Then again, I’ve only been here three weeks.” [realizes stupidity of question] [I hope] “What’s your name?”

COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY FOR YOU TO KNOW MY NAME!

When Baxy arrived, the guy continued to look over at our table, but that didn’t matter. Baxter was in and out of the restaurant, at one point, hanging outside with one of the performers, and elsewhere…I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention. But the maitre d’ sho was! And the moment Baxter stood up to go…to the bathroom? To greet someone at the door? my special friend came over.

“Were the drinks okay?” he asked

[Thumbs-up. When a hubristic man is trying to engage with you while your boyfriend has basically just taken a really long blink, keep the chatter to a minimum.]

“You look unhappy,” he said.

YES. He REALLY said that.

If this were the macho Lifetime movie he would have it be, at this moment, I would drop my head, sigh, then look meaningfully into his eyes: “I’m not,” I would say. Make a conflicted face; look at my boyfriend, still blinking [maybe he has something in his eye]; and then look back, even more meaningfully at the Maitre d’ of My Dreams.

However, since this is a) Life, and b) My life, in which I choose not to hide just how unimpressed I am by your attempts to impress me, I said, “No…I’m not unhappy, just mellow.” And made a “You’re dumb” face.

This is only the most recent example in the bajillion-part miniseries called Being a Woman. To be continued…forever.

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All Hollow

 

What train do you want to take? he asks, but I don’t answer, because I have no idea where we are. Here, everyone is in face paint and glitter, wigs and stripper heels. Everyone is the Mad Hatter, or Captain America, or even Waldo, finally, we’ve found him, smoking a blunt and slumped against a parking meter; and they all fill the streets, not just the sidewalks, but literally, the streets are run over with them. No one can save us now, not even the slutty cops.

We have just come from hearing Angela Davis speak about Black women and writing, on using our creativity to battle oppression. After the talk, we’re walking down MacDougal, and there she is, blond afro and red purse, in the midst of a series of Michael Jacksons and Black Swans. Quickly, we snap a photo with her. This is how you’re celebrating Halloween? she asks us. We smile. Yes. Happy Holidays.

I look at my phone, and it’s later than I’d hoped: 9:08—which means Donald Glover went on eight minutes prior at Brooklyn Bowl. But that’s only in the alternate universe where things start on time. A world outside New York. A world outside hip-hop.

I ask myself why tickets to this show are $20, and only available at the door, as if advance tickets had already sold out. That’s unlikely. But when we get there, it’s packed. It’s packed with furries—or maybe they’re just avid cartoon fans. Donald Glover, a.k.a., Childish Gambino, comes on stage—I miss his entrance in order to pee—and the Crowd Goes Wild.

So I look. I’m looking, right? I’m waiting to be wowed, after having heard him spit a single whiny verse on Peter Rosenberg’s mixtape. I’m waiting for the punch-line. But I had already been informed by my date, many times before: He’s not a joke rapper; he’s for real.

Mmhmm. Who isn’t these days?

My first thought: Well, first, the first lyric I make out: “I love pussy and I love bitches”; or is it “I love bitches and I love pussy”?

I wish I knew.

My first thought: This again? I don’t know much about rap, so I’m not sure who the reigning emperor of pussy and bitches (what’s the difference?) is, but whoever claims the throne, they don’t need any more subjects.

Which is funny, because he should be their jester. Before tonight, I’ve never heard Childish Gambino’s music, but I’ve also never heard his comedy. I’ve just seen him on the side of a bus and thought he was cute.

Well, he’s not. The other first thing I notice is that he has shoulders for ears, i.e., he’s tense. His eyes are bug-open, his eyebrows are permanent surprise. This is called “emoting.”

His emo is priceless. His emo is slavish to Drake ish—just rounder-faced. He has on a button-up and tie, he’s accompanied by a full band, and he’s bouncing around on stage, ever so rhythmically, but he’s really sad inside. You can tell. He says he’s not white enough for the white kids, not black enough for the black kids, and he’s a nerd, and he’s awkward, but it doesn’t matter because he gets mad bitches and hoes now, and yes, this is his only subject, and that’s stupid, but so what? He’s poorly rapping about poorly rapping. Meta-foolishness. And that’s how I know he’s sad. Because of the irony of it. Because irony is the saddest form of humor.

The crowd just loves him, though. A pudgy white bunny knows every word, even the nigga parts. He smiles delightedly as he mouths each word in the back of the room, one ear flopping over, a dribble of beer on his chin.

And he keeps going, this one, this Glover guy. All I can think, as I suck the sauce off a hickory-smoked barbeque wing, is that Angela Davis would hate this. And how glad I am that we didn’t invite her.

Because he’s just so awkward, so uncomfortable in his own skin. In addition to his posture problems and unwillingness to blink is the fact that he’s so caught up on his childhood. Childish Gambino could be fudged into simpler terms to mean Babyish Baby, and that’s apt. Donald’s childhood, I glean, was very similar to mine: an ethnically black child who grew up culturally white because of the surrounding school system and neighborhood. The difference between him and me, however, is that I found something else to say besides Ow.

It’s amazing how pain can permeate. Soak. Completely overwhelm a person’s personality, goals, ability for rational thinking. If Donald Gambino weren’t so hurt by the split he was made to feel as a well-spoken, non-gangbanging little black boy, maybe he could find something to say besides, Gee, it really sucked being a well-spoken, non-gangbanging little black boy. It’s strange how genuinely funny he is, talking about hot Asian chicks at UCLA, and how people said he wasn’t really black, and how now, brown cow, everyone is riding his dick, because it’s really not funny at all. Not from back here. Not without more alcohol, a better get-up—not without the amount of distance it takes to laugh like that.

Somewhere, maybe in New York, maybe in a giant, gilded hotel suite, Donald is writing rap songs that are completely inaccessible as songs. The experience is true—didn’t Trey Ellis write about this very phenomenon, didn’t he call us all “cultural mulattoes” in the early nineties? He did. But in long lines of prose, not over snare and kick, not in front of whites who don’t—can’t—get it. Donald is staring out at the skyline, ordering room service, flipping channels, hoping he’ll catch himself—and then there he is, on stage, the hottest ticket in town, an almost-crown on his head, an almost-cape on his back. This is his dream, his dream as an unwanted black nerd, his reality as a cool-ass motherfucker. New York City. Just like he pictured it. Adoring bitches, dap for days. He is getting back at us for all those jabs at his tender pride, all those people who doubted him. This is for high school, for the cruelest thugs, for the clueless whites, for the girls who always said no. But not for anyone else.

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We Are Not the World

...harder

Dear Poets,

I am so disheartened by so many of you. Trolling Twitter, and Facebook, and other realms of the Internet, as well as going to readings, reading poems online, and being in an MFA program, have brought me to the sadness that many of you do not get it. I am tired of reading bad poems–poems that are overly cerebral, poems that are overly cute, poems that are self-conscious, poems about poems. I am tired of hearing “poetry is for everybody.” Yes, it is–but poems are not. I am tired of people bemoaning the lack of poetry’s prominence in our society and educational system, while those same be-moaners are writing poems–and scholarship on poems–that even I, very smart, and very well-educated, cannot understand. And scholars: I am tired of you, too. I should not have to explain to my very bright boyfriend what you are talking about at a lecture because you are speaking Collegese.

Poetry comes from the body. The soul, the heart, the spirit, and yes, the mind–which is different from the brain. When I am writing, really writing–even as I compose this blog–I am not calculating. I am not devising what would be most clever. I am simply feeling. Intuiting. Telling myself not to fear–and letting go of whatever is inside me. I know that it is already inside me. That means I don’t have to try to think of it, but rather, wait for the big reveal.

I am tired of your cliches. Of poets who are not trying very hard. Please, Lord, don’t let me read another poem using this form: “Not the ___; not the ___; not the ___; but the ___”. Don’t let me read another poem that ends on the word “name.” No more “what if” poems–those pesky things that imagine cutesy little situations that provoke a chuckle and nothing else. No more poems about the last book you read that only you and your collegiate peers will ever know about. No more poems about what it means to be a poet. No more poems using poetic terms that only other poets will get. No more.

I want poems in a book that interact with each other, i.e., not little throwaway poems that are basically filler. Poems that provoke my mind and heart. That are vulnerable and honest. That show their ass. That’s the role of the artist–to create something that shows us who we are. The artist is our mirror. She makes a distorted version of her life, but when the viewer sees it, it’s crystal-clear. I would like to see myself in some of you. I would like you to show me, show me you, not your degrees.

When poets complain about the lack of attention poetry gets, I can relate. We live in an intellectually mediocre society, with a short attention span, and very few rewards for smarts or arts. So I can relate to the need many poets feel to be recognized outside their own circle. You put so much work into something, and you want to shout it all over town–and be heard. But what so many of you, bless your hearts, are doing, is a high-pitched poet whistle. And I am turning my ears off.

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Welcome to She*ll Make Her Mark!

Hi everyone!

Bet you can’t believe I’m blogging again. That makes two of us (or more, depending on how many people are reading this…). In November 2008, I started a blog called Until the Real Thing Comes Along, which ultimately became A Pretty, Young, Gifted & Black Thing, in order to share thoughts outside of the Facebook Notes platform. To reach more people, and obsessively track how many hits I got each day. I slowed the blogging about a year ago as I had less and less I needed to say publicly, then slowed it more once I realized how much I was over-sharing, then stopped completely once I started the online publication SunDryed Affairs. But now I think I’m ready to be back–just with fewer personal details (if you’d like to read the mushy overshare blog…well, you can’t, I deleted it. Sorry.) I’m not entirely sure what the content of this fancy new blog will be, but the focus surely will be IDEAS, THINKING, and THOUGHTS. And so on.

Read away…

Oh, and about the name: all the smarties out there in TV Land probably saw how I mishmash-jumbled up my name to make a sentence. Brilliant, I know. But of course, “She*ll make her mark” also means…I’ll make my mark! Okay, you get it. Read away…