Brooklyn based, Sudanese-American rapper Oddisee released a free EP titled Alwasta last week. The title of the EP is a loose translation of the term “the plug” in Arabic. It’s a great vibe and it’s available for free on Bandcamp. Listen below.
I haven’t been able to put in words what I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks. You know when you have something to say, but aren’t sure how or what to say but you HAVE to get it out? On a train ride with a friend, she pieced it all together for me, and I came I had a bitter realization about myself and…the rest of the world. Let me explain.
I often see complaints about people’s dating lives. So many people I follow on social media lament over their dating woes and lack of love lives. Most of the complaints aren’t serious and rather trivial ranging from sexual positions or if the person has reliable transportation. I find myself thinking about these things, too and often times making mountains out of mole hills.
I also log on to Facebook and bitch and moan about another FB friend getting engaged or having a baby. It’s like, why on earth would I be upset about that? Those are joyous occasions and should be celebrated by everyone. And even if they’re ugly, at least you’d have something to laugh at, right?
So it’s like…what is wrong with me?
No one ever likes to admit that they’re lonely, but I guess I’ll set myself out there and truthfully admit that I am lonely. There’s power and freedom in pulling back the layers of what’s bothering us to get to the root of the issue. I find myself scoffing at happy couples, and where I publicly say that those things aren’t bothersome for me and that I mind my own business and all that jazz. In reality, as you get older, companionship–intimate companionship is the grand prize. Going through life alone is one of the worst things on the planet when the whole entire world hates you. I’m Black, gay, opinionated, with a platform–the world hates that. The world already marginalizes me, and that’s fine. But there’s a different type of sting when your heart is marginalized, too.
I’d even further venture to say that a lot of those people who do the same thing I do are just as lonely. I’m not sure how to “cure” this, but admitting it might be the first step.
Or maybe it’s just the lonely talking.
My mother used to own a Pontiac. I can’t remember if it was a Thunderbird, but I remember it being a coupe and it was grey. It looked like a DeLorean and albeit small, it was always able to handle a 6ft Douglas Fir Christmas tree attached to the roof via twine. Around the holidays, Sis (my mother, see previous posts) and I would sing carols at the top of our lungs with all the riffs and runs that our Black, beautiful hearts could muster. My favorite was “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” I sang it and my mother always would reach and hug, or hold my hand when it came to the lyric “you can plan on me.” That memory played out in my head as I handed in my resignation letter about 3 weeks ago.
In a post on my social work blog , I talk about the things leading up to me leaving. And where I have spoken about being too old to not do things that make you happy and the like, I think one of the lessons I’ve been needing to hear through this “journey to 30” is that having people in your corner that love you unconditionally is God’s grace and mercy smack dab in your face.
I think for a good portion of my life, I felt like I had to do everything alone. That’s commonplace for Black gay men–this idea that no one will understand us sans subjugation, ridicule, or sheer hate. We become hardened and cold because of it, impacting us almost at a cellular level as this idea of thinking impacts every facet of who we are and what we become. And….it doesn’t have to be this way. God, or whomever or whatever you believe, fashions people to be in our lives to make it through–to survive. Through journey to 30 and the lessons that come with it, I can surely attest to the power of friendship, family, companionship, unwavering and unconditional love from a support system that’s divinely ordered.
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When I first started this blog, it was for me to sort a bunch of these growing pains out. Tying loose ends, and trying to make sense of what my life has been and will be. I figured writing through it would help me, and perhaps those who read this site, help others too.
Let’s back track. I have a confession. I’m obsessed with working.
My mother always worked, and she still does. She works for a major retailer that’s in and out of hot water. It was her first and only job out of high school. It was always just she and I, and her rationale for anything and everything was “I have to work.” I find myself doing the same thing. Work is a mode of survival for most of us. It’s a source of fiscal support, and working gives you purpose…it also gives you an ego boost when you do a good job at something–a self esteem boost.
Over the last few months I realized that work, whether it was my full time job or doing ‘XD’ stuff, was an escape to not have to deal with real issues or people or things that I’m just afraid of doing for whatever reason. My obsession with work caused me to miss out on a bunch. So, I scaled back. That’s why I haven’t written much.
When Adele announced ’25,’ she explained that she had to live a little. I did too. Me not focusing on helping others, branding, or whatever and doing the things that make me happy and not worry about reproach was necessary. And honestly, that’s probably one of the hugest lessons I can take from this journey. I am too old to let life pass me by and not do things that make me happy. I am deserving of a happy life that is stress free, balanced, honest, and fun.
I spoke to my mother a few nights ago. She was just getting off work. I asked her for some money because, hell I live in New York City and shit is expensive. She obliged and she said to me that she would put it in my account when she got off of work the next day. She said jokingly, “You’ll take care of me soon, right?” She laughed.
“I will, once I figure this all out.”
“You will. Work through it.”
I have a niece. Her name is Noah. You’ve probably seen her around on instagram and such. She’s not my biological niece, but she calls me “Unkoh” and that’s just fine. We take selfies together with our tongues sticking out and we watch Elmo and “Spyman” (Spiderman) on occasion. My mother buys things for her, although they’ve never met. Noah’s mother, Jade, said to me recently that my mother buys things for Noah because she knows she’s not going to get any grandchildren.
When I was a kid, I always declared that I didn’t want children. I always jokingly told my parents that I didn’t want children because I didn’t want to be responsible for their hours and hours of therapy. When I came out to my mother, her immediate thought was grandchildren. I was her only “miracle” child as she was told she couldn’t have any before I was born. She figured I would get married and have children one day, eventually.
Going back to Jade’s words, I felt guilty. I’ve been wrestling with this guilt for the past couple of weeks and I don’t know how to process it. I guess a great part of getting older is this tussle between doing what’s right for you vs appeasing your parents. I don’t see children for me. My personality doesn’t welcome children in my life aside from the ones I can drop off to their parents house after a few hours. I know I can’t have kids to make my mother happy, but I want to make my mother happy. Does that make sense?
What’s interesting is that not wanting children (or marriage, we’ll get to that later) is that is has become a deal breaker in some of the men I have entertained as of late. I’m running into a lot more men who desire heteronormative romantic archetypes. In other words, I’m finding a lot of gay men who want to a lot of straight shit. And sure, having children isn’t necessarily a “straight” thing…but then…maybe it is?
I’m still figuring this all out, and I guess that’s what turning 30 is all about.
Anyone out there with me?
A couple of weeks ago, I sat with a friend in front of Sundaes & Cones on a bench. We caught up over artisan ice cream–I had two scoops of thai tea and taro, and he had thai tea and something else fancy. He told me about his boyfriend. They live together and their very much in love. In fact, we saw him later on that afternoon. They look so happy and excited every time they see one another, even if they had only been a part a few short moments.
On the bench, he asked me how I was doing. As usual, I began to talk about work. Work seems to dominate most of my conversations when people ask me how I’m doing. He stopped me and asked me about men. He specifically asked me if I had heard from and ex or if I was currently seeing anyone. I said no to both questions and then, for whatever reason, it all hit me.
Last year, a group of friends of mine on Twitter live-tweeted Bishop T. D. Jakes’ famous sermon “Woman, Thou Art Loosed.” We did it mainly for shits and giggles, only to find our spirits to be full and a word to carry with us. Jakes said a lot in the sermon, most of which didn’t apply to me, but there was one thing that stood out.
“We always wonder why we’re single. Whine and complain. Perhaps you’re single because God isn’t healing you yet.”
Sitting on the bench, I talked about what I was in the process of being healed from: Almosts. My life is filled with Almosts. Almost were together but… Almost fucked but… He almost moved here but…We almost loved each other but… Almosts add up and I don’t have any free mental or emotional real estate for someone to come in and be who they were sent to be in my life. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that it’s important to recognize what is holding you back, and ask God for healing from what you both recognize and don’t.
While I sat on the bench and finished my ice cream, God began to work before I even asked Him. I received a text message from an almost. I deleted it. And it felt good.
“u masc” “Are you masculine?” “I prefer masculine niggas.”
I’ve talked about online dating here a couple of weeks back, and what I failed to mention is that online dating governs and dictates how a good portion of Black Gay Culture responds and reacts to things. It almost drives conversations at some point or another.
When I was a contributor at Mused Magazine, I’d often read Black Gay stories and the most visible, or shared, were ones about online dating in relation to preference. In essence, a lot of the things I read were about people being upset at the no fats no fems no whites credo that some folks to which adhere. I would never understand someone’s anger, hurt, frustration, or fear of someone else’s preference. I would always shove it off and say, “Well, let me focus on who likes men like me.” Whereas I do continue to share that same sentiment, the idea of masculinity has come up a lot in the thoughts I’ve had recently.
Folks argue that gender is a social construct and all that bullshit. Frankly, I don’t care about an ongoing sociological argument that won’t ever be palatable to an audience that would need to hear it most. What I’m trying to figure out is why masculinity is valued? And further, what does it mean to be masculine anyway?
I had a phone conversation with my good girlfriend who just finished her doctorate. We had an in depth conversation about…niggas. What rang true to both of us was something that I just happen to blurt out.
Well, I think men, straight and gay, do a lot of shit for appearances. They aren’t sure how to adjust their lifestyle to make it look a certain way. Masculinity is designed to be measured by another man’s worth….
That’s why I can’t get jiggy with gay men chasing this idea of a masculine man cuz it’s super insecure and silly
I’m not posing this as law, so much as this is something I’m questioning and leaning further to reject. We do a lot of shit for appearances, you know? Buy flashy things to “get women” or “get men.” We tend to honor this belief on making people feel bad about their circumstances. And don’t get me wrong, I do this. The other day, I tweeted something about “balling on fuckniggas,” because I mean…why wouldn’t you? I also think about tests of strength, like arm wrestling. I tend to think about men and their quest for their next nut to add to their list of bodies (this is more so for the straights, but it still rings true).
This all sounds so destructive, to me. Femininity isn’t the antithesis of masculinity as it comes with it’s host of issues. But in the context of us, or me, rather, I’m not sure I can continue to acknowledge masculinity as a commodity. In fact, it might just be a defense mechanism.
I’m still flushing this out. Maybe you can help. Share your thoughts.
My mother was born in the late 1950s. A military family, she moved all over. Oklahoma, the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri and finally settling in California in 1970. I call her Sis.
Sis and her sister were one of the first Black children in an integrated school in Wichita. In the second grade, she and her sister entered the school with all eyes on them. She hated the attention. She also hated what she later learned as micro aggressions and…there was just flat out fucking racism. Her parents prayed through it and told her that this is just the way it is. Sis went on through life thinking this way–pray about it, ignore it and whatever it is, things will get better.
She raised me to be this way. Ignore what’s happening, pray about it, it’s going to get better.
I have gone through a lot, as a lot of us have. I was molested as a child. I was raped and gay bashed as a teen. My boyfriend committed suicide. I went through a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have.
Since then, I’ve unpacked and worked through those issues and I can thank God for being so well adjusted after all of these things. However, I never worked on addressing abuse head on.
I’ve often told people to ignore abuse, you know? “Oh, just ignore them.” “They’re nobody.” “They’re not worth your time.” I’ve come to grow and understand that approach is more damaging than it is helpful. And I guess in turn, that makes me an abuser, too. I’m sorry for that. What’s helpful is to listen and support.
That’s what I’ll do from now on.
For myself, too.
I belong to a couple of dating sites and apps. Jack’d, OKCupid, and Tinder as of right now. I think I’ve been on almost all of them at some point or another. It’s easy, convenient, and play into my insecurities of approaching men in public because of my crippling fear of rejection. I can admit those things, whether they sound awful or not.
My first taste at online dating was when I was 17. It was after Adam died and a classmate kept asking me, “Are you downe?” “What the fuck does downe mean,” I eventually asked because normally I’d just ignore him. He sent me a link to Downelink.com through Friendster and I signed up. I wasn’t too new to the internet dating thing because I would talk to twinks and men in the AOL chat rooms and on XYMag but it was rather harmless and I had no real clue as to who I was talking to or what I was doing. Downelink was like Myspace, and it’s still up and running, but for gay people. At the time, it was filled with a bunch of Gaysians (gay asians) and lesbians (note: Lesbians still love Downelink 12 years later). I posted suggestive pics on there that I took in the bathroom with the kodak digital camera I got for Christmas. It was just me in my underwear, because at an early age I knew how to sell a masterpiece. I received a bunch of messages and one stuck out. Jose lived in Salinas, about 40 minutes away from me but he drove. We chatted and he wanted to come visit me. I lived at home and refused to have men in my mother’s house so I had him drive up to meet me at Starbucks across the street from my house. In hindsight, he looked like Roger Klotz from Nickelodeon’s Doug, but I went a long with it. He told me to get in his car and we went for a ride around town. We talked and I showed him around. He was sweet. I ended up giving him head in the car, because even at an early age I knew when people RSVP for a party it’s your duty to come.
12 years later, I’m still online dating. I often hear that people refuse to utilize dating apps and services when they reach a certain age because they feel that it’s for young people. Too, I wonder how long am I going to remain using dating apps and services. After my hospital visit, however, I began to think that there’s no time limit on discovering companionship.
I was never taught how to be a Black gay man…and the Black gay men who happen to be reading this weren’t reared to be such either. In some form or another, we were taught to be Black straight men. I was always taught how to treat women as that was a part of not only being a good person, but being a man. Which, yes, it is, but what about how to treat a man in a romantic sense? The men in my life taught me how to talk to women in a romantic sense. “You have to go up to her and compliment her on her outfit.” “Take her on a nice date.” “Bring her flowers.” “Make her laugh.” I was taught all the things, but never what to do about dating a man. Dating apps and services is one of the largest and relatively safest spaces we have as Black gay men to communicate with each other on a romantic level sans reproach. We don’t have the spaces that they do to commune and just be gay and meet folks. If we go, it’s the club or some forum about HIV/AIDS. Frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that.
So, I guess I’ll be on them until…
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Jermaine. “I’m in your neighborhood, come down stairs in 5 minutes and let me up.” It was 2:34 in the morning. Normally, I never wake up for anything at that hour, but something told me to get up…
I met Jermaine in 2005 on a dating site. He was very forward, direct, and the first time we met, we had sex. It was never meant to be anything serious, and while the sex was the best we both had ever had, it was never consistent. We’ve had sex once a year over the last decade, each time more amazing than the last. With that, we’ve (meaning him) talked about, and maybe even entertained the idea of us, but I always come back to, “Well, we’ve never been on a date. I don’t know his mother’s name. Is he pro-Black? What’s his stance on [insert any social justice issue]?”
I don’t know, and sadly…and honestly……..I don’t care.
He came over, I showered. He showered. And we had sex. This time it was different. It wasn’t about the positions, or the length, or the amount of rounds we went. I couldn’t put my finger on it until about 8 o’clock when woke up for a final round. Jermaine represents a lot of who I used to be: apathetic, emotionless, and selfish. He came at a time in my life when I was young and thought I knew it all. He was always there as a release for me, a sexual and emotional trash can where I can put things and never have to deal with them, and for whatever reason…he always stayed. I don’t want to be that guy anymore.
When he left, I told him good-bye and I hugged him. He said, “This is for good, isn’t it?”