Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buried Dreams

The class manager of my weekly Jazzercise class in Northeast Washington had a death in the family. The father of her only child was killed last week after being shot multiple times. Her son, 13, will now join the millions of Black boys without fathers.

The news comes on the heels of one of the deadliest shootings in the nation's capital. Violence engulfed an impoverished neighborhood Tuesday night. Once the shooting stopped, four were dead and five were wounded. The motive? The police believe the 20-year-old alleged shooter was upset over a missing bracelet. He thought someone had stolen his bracelet.

Four dead. Four lives lost — over a bracelet?
A Washington Post article reported that a young woman had taken the bracelet to keep it safe. She turned it over to authorities.


Four lives. Four dead- over a bracelet?
I wondered what they had dreamed of becoming - a doctor, lawyer, teacher, entrepreneur.

I watched the news: a fearful mother mourned the death of her only child, a grandfather spoke of holding his dying grandson in his arms, a young girl cried out for the young lives lost in her neighborhood and a father, still in shock, wondered why. I wondered the same. Where did this rage come from?

A couple of weeks ago, I had to speak to a group of mostly African American students about my career. The majority lived in the inner city and were in a program to help them get into college. But I was a minority. The majority of speakers did not look like them or me.

It reminded me of a project I had done for the Children's Defense Fund several years ago. I had to interview students at a school for those who could no longer attend public school. One young man I interviewed had been in and out of juvenile detention for stealing cars and even did a stint in jail. He was smart as a whip, extremely talented in math. He liked computers and wanted to be an engineer. But there were no positive male role models in his life, someone he could talk to or look up to for guidance. He was the oldest of five. His mother, in her '30s, was struggling. He stole cars because he was bored. It was fun.

I don't know. I just felt that if this young man had somebody, someone to show him another way, a better way, his life would be different. A member of my Giving Circle suggested we visit a school and talk to young Black students about our careers and experiences. It's a great idea and something I hope we do. Who knows? It could inspire someone.

We are in the nation's capital, where young Black professionals in corporate suits and fancy cars populate happy hours and fundraisers nearly every day of the week. I wonder if there is any room to show our children successful folks who look like them.

What do you think? Where is this rage coming from? What would make a difference in our children's lives?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Your Place or Mine?

In the recent issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, real couples talk about love and marriage, how they've made it work. There's an interracial couple married for 45 years, a woman who fell in love with a man who was born a woman, a couple struggling to raise a disabled child and another who work together all day, every day in a one-room art gallery (I can imagine the dinner conversation - Honey, how was your day? Just fine after we sold that painting). To read about the couples click here.

But one story in particular caught my eye. In the vignette, "The Art of Living Apart," Marisol and Rob Simon have been married for seven years and have never lived together as husband and wife. They've maintained separate households their entire marriage.

Rob, 55, has two children, a girl and a boy. Marisol, 45, wasn't interested in being a mom and the children weren't interested in another mother. The solution? Get married, but keep their own places.

"There's a certain magic to our marriage and it comes from not being together all the time," said Marisol in the O article. "Rob and I always miss each other, and I don't know if it would be the same if we lived together all the time.

"Just because you love someone doesn't mean they have to consume you," Marisol continued."There has to be room for yourself in a relationship. People need oxygen."

In the piece, Rob said he believed they actually spend more time together than most couples and said the arrangement worked because they trust each other.

Marisol likes the arrangement because, well, she doesn't have to compromise her living situation: "At my house...I don't have to follow anyone around with a bottle of Windex. At night, I can wear my ugly red shorts...I get an entire night of sleep without someone snoring..."

I know there are many married couples who live apart for a variety of reasons — maybe military duties, family obligations or job opportunities. But this couple decided to live apart, not because of any special circumstances, but because, well, they just wanted their own space. And what's wrong with that if it works for them? I mean Marisol doesn't have to deal with his children or baby-mama drama. She doesn't have to worry about preparing meals or keeping a clean home for a family of four.

But I always thought marriage was about compromise and loving someone — all of them — despite his/her faults, baggage or whatever you want to call it. Sure he may snore, he may leave the toilet seat up more than you like or throw his clothes on the floor when he gets home from work, but aren't there more important things to worry about? I don't know, maybe I'm just being an old fashioned fuddy-dud.

I guess there's an assumption that when you return from the honeymoon you'll make a home together - in the same house. Instead, this couple said your place or mine. Tradition doesn't work for everybody and I get that. And maybe that's why they're so happy. Marisol may be on to something.

What do you think of Marisol and Rob's arrangement? What about you? Could you be married and not live with your spouse?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back to Square One

Dear God,

I know I said I wanted a man who would worship me,
but why did you listen to me?
I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
Love Lottie

It seemed to start off well. Like my other Match mates, Bachelor #4, who I'll call "John", and I had exchanged several emails before talking on the phone. Our conversation flowed easily. John was born in the Virgin Islands and grew up in Brooklyn. He had moved to D.C. 20 years ago to work for a transportation company and now was a manager at that same company. John was 42, never married, no kids and was currently renting an apartment in Temple Hills, Md. We talked several days before catching a movie on Sunday.

We went to see the Blindside at a small theater in Virginia. Afterwards, he suggested we grab a bite to eat. He was excited about a Boston Market he had seen on the way to the movie theater. He really wanted the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. We talked more over dinner. The conversation wasn't as serious as the one with Mr. Rutgers MBA, but that was perfectly fine. John had a down-to-earth, laid back personality.

By this time, it was 9 pm and Boston Market was closing up. "Man, I'm not ready for the date to end," he said. "How about going to Adam's Morgan? I know you have to work tomorrow. Are you interested in hanging out a little bit more?" Sure, I said.

We went to Adam's Morgan and I suggested we go to Tryst. We went into Tryst, a bright spacious coffeehouse with people on couches having serious conversations. "This is not my vibe. Let's go to Bukom," he said. "Do you mind?" No, I replied. He grabbed my hand and headed to Bukom Cafe right across the street. It was small and dark. A live-reggae band was entertaining the mostly dreadlocked crowd who were enjoying the cafe's West African cuisine. John started grooving. We found a table and ordered some drinks. He looked in my eyes, "You don't like it here do you? Let's go back to Tryst." No, I'm fine, I assured him. He didn't believe me. He stood up and grabbed my hand: "Let's go to Tryst." I'm not moving I said. "Cool." And he started grooving again to the tunes of the reggae band.

"So, what do you do on weekends?" he asked. Well, I"m in school on Saturdays from 9-5 and then I attend my church's Saturday evening service because I teach Jazzercise on Sunday mornings. "I want to go to church with you," he said. "Let's go church hopping together." I'm not really interested in going church hopping, I told him. I like my church. "I'm going to come to your Jazzercise class. Where do you teach? What time?" I laughed. No, you're not. "You don't want a boyfriend," he said. Why would you say that? I asked. "Look at your schedule. You're Miss Independent."

We stayed at Bukom for about an hour and I got home a little before midnight. John called and said that he really enjoyed our date. I enjoyed it as well. He was a perfect gentleman and generous with the compliments. He told me several times during the evening that he really liked my hair. Little did I know that it would be all downhill from there.

Monday: I received several text messages and phone calls from John. That evening he asked if we could do dinner. I told him that I had to go speak to a group of students about my career. "Why didn't you tell me about it? I would have come to support you." I just didn't think about it, I said. "So when you're in a relationship, are you committed? I mean do you cheat?" he asked. I'm not the cheatin' kind, I said. "Good, good, cause I really like you."

Tuesday: I received several text messages and phone calls from John. He wanted to do dinner that evening. We talked when I got home and I asked him what he had in mind. He wanted Chinese. I suggested that we go to a Mexican restaurant because I wanted a margarita. "Mexican? You mean like Taco Bell?" he asked. No, a real Mexican restaurant. They don't serve margaritas at Taco Bell, I said. "I never been to a Mexican restaurant, but I'll try it. Do you know where one is?" Yeah. There are several near my house. But we decided maybe lunch on Wednesday would be better because I had to get up early the next day.

Wednesday: John called me at 6:30 a.m. I didn't answer. He called again at 7:30. I picked up the phone. Hello? "I just wanted to make sure you were up because you said you had an early appointment." I"ll get up in 30 minutes I said. My phone rings at 8. "You up yet? I don't want you to miss your appointment." Now, I understand that he was being thoughtful, but seriously 3 phone calls before 9 a.m.? I received a call from John during lunchtime. "I want you to be my girlfriend," he declared. After one date? I asked. "Look, I know what I want." But don't you want to get to know me? I mean, people usually date for a certain length of time before they decide to become romantically involved, I said. "Well, Google it and let me know how long we're suppose to date before you can become my girlfriend. Is it a few weeks, months?" I was at work and told him we could continue the conversation later that evening. "So did you find out?" he asked after I had gotten home from work. Find out what? "When you can become my girlfriend." No. "So do you have plans on Sunday? Let's go hang out at Hains Point." That sounds good. "Maybe we could grab some ice cream if it's nice out." We'll see.

Thursday: I get an early text message from John, "Good morning." Hi, I replied. Got a busy day today and project due this evening. "Well, have a good day," he said. And with that, I put my phone on silence for the rest of the day. I had to cover a luncheon and then had an in-person interview afterwards. I didn't want my phone going off. When I checked my phone early that evening, there were several messages and phone calls from John - about 4 or 5 missed calls. I called him back that night. "So how was your day," he asked. I sensed a little sarcasm in his voice. Busy. I said. A lot of running around and I had a deadline. "Well, there's someone in my office. I'll call you back." Sure. A minute later, I received this text message from John: "Why do Black women play so many games?" I replied: "John, if you have an issue, let's discuss it like adults." I never heard back from him. I didn't get it. Was he upset with me because I had a busy day, had to meet a deadline and didn't get back to him in a timely manner?

So here I am, back to square one. Is it me? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I'm not girlfriend material.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Miles Away

My phone rang early Friday morning - 6:30 a.m.
Who in the world was calling me at this hour? I looked at the caller id and it was Chicago. What did he want this early?


"I wish you were here," he said.

My heart stopped.

Silence. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes.

"Hello?" he said, making sure I was still there.

"Good morning," I finally answered. "How's it going? Is anything wrong?"

"No, I was just thinking about you and wanted to hear your voice.
"I wish you were here," he repeated.

I can tell you, there's no greater feeling in the world than to wake up with a phone call and the person on the other end is saying that they want you, need you even. It's the best feeling I tell ya.

I was set for the whole day. Just smiling. Happy. I probably even gave the homeless man a few hundred bucks. I was literally walking on air.

Chicago was the first person I "met" on He emailed me the day after I signed up in January and we have been talking, emailing, texting, every day since. The first two weeks he sent daily emails. Questions: What do you like to do? What are your favorite movies? What kind of music do you like? What do you like to do in your free time? Do you like to dance? What's your favorite type of food? What's the last book you read? What did you think of Obama's State of the Union address? Do you like to travel? What are some of your favorite places? What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? What are some things you would like to learn? What do you like about living in D.C.?

I felt like I was being interviewed. I'm used to do the interviewing. After two weeks of emails, I guess he felt my answers were good enough to take this thing to the next level - phone calls. He emailed me his number and asked me to call. I emailed him mine and told him to feel free to reach me. He called that night and we spoke for hours. We've talked every day since then, sometimes several times a day. He'll send emails of articles to get my thoughts and I'll usually get a text some time during the day from him: "Hope your day is going well." We usually end the evenings on the phone until one of us is too tired to say another word.

So I was quite surprised by his phone call that night.

"I think we should just be friends," he said.

What are you talking about?

"This is hard. I can't see you," he explained.

You knew I lived in D.C. when you contacted me on Match. Why did you even reach out to me?

"I thought I could handle it. But I get frustrated when I can't see you," he said.

You can come visit.

"Lottie, I've done the research. It costs nearly $400 roundtrip for a flight, then it'll be $200 a night for a hotel. If I stay the weekend, that's already $1,000 and I haven't even counted entertainment yet, going out," he said.

People do long distance all the time, I countered. It's called a long-distance relationship. We could alternate weekends.

"I can't do that every weekend and I don't want to have to wait a month to see my woman."

"I think it's better if we do this now before we become too deeply involved," he continued.

I couldn't believe this. Was he breaking up with me? How can you break up with someone you never even met?

You know what, whatever. Fine. (I had a date lined up for Sunday anyway.)

I got a text from Chicago yesterday during class: "How's your day going?" I ignored it. He called last night. We talked until 2 a.m.

I don't know where I am with Chicago. But I have to move on. I look forward to my date with Bachelor #4 tonite.

What are your thoughts? What do you think is going on? Should I just stop all communication?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Your Man and The Strip Club

So I get a call this weekend from a friend who's upset because her man is taking his brother to a strip club to celebrate the youngster's 21st birthday. Now, she's been dating this guy for about three months and told me she really likes him.

Oh, it's just entertainment, I assured her. Male bonding. But why a strip club, she asked. What's the point? She wanted to know why he had to go pay to see women take off their clothes and do tricks on poles. (I pray homeboy didn't get a lap dance.) Anyway, she thought it was a waste of money.

What do you think of men and strip clubs? Do you mind if YOUR man went to a strip club? Does it matter how often he goes? For example, what if he only goes every once in a while for a birthday party or bachelor party? What if he went once a month for a guys' night out? What if he went every week - by himself?

Would you go to a strip club with your man? Why or why not? What if he didn't want you to go with him? Would you be upset? suspicious? frustrated? annoyed? Would you feel insecure? Then again, are you secure enough with your own body to give him a private striptease?

Does it matter how long you've been with this person? My friend has only been dating this guy for three months. I mean they may not even be together by the end of the summer, who knows. But what if you were in a long-term relationship? What if you were engaged? What if it was your husband?

Some men get addicted to strip clubs. Some men fall in love with the strippers. Look at NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. She met her husband Greg during her days performing as a stripper in one of Atlanta's most exclusive Gentlemen's Clubs, a strip club. He was one of her regular customers.

Wait a minute. On second thought, maybe my friend does need to go get her man (lol).

So tell me: What are your thoughts on Your Man and the Strip Club?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wrong Number

I had to hang up on him. I really did.

I met "Ray" about a decade ago through a friend who thought we would make a good couple. It didn't work out romantically (and you'll see why by the end of this post), but we remained cool. We would call each other maybe twice a year just to check in, say hi, what you up to, how you been.

When I met Ray he was a physical education teacher. But over the next ten years he would have a host of jobs — security guard for a strip club; security for a federal government building. He got a bartending license, but I don't think he ever worked at a bar, lounge or anywhere else that served alcoholic beverages. He became certified in personal training, but never got any clients or worked at a gym. Somehow he got in the mortgage business and started doing reverse mortgages for senior citizens. Like the other jobs though, that didn't last long. At one point he told me he wanted to be an actor. About five years ago he came up with a plan to open a gym for young people and offer tutoring services. I thought it was a good idea. He never came up with the funding.

Are you beginning to understand a little bit about Ray? Do you get my drift?

Anyway, I received a call from Ray today. He told me that he was in a bind. What do you mean? I asked. "I'm in a bind. I need some cash," he explained. Why? I asked. "Because with the snow storm it was hard for me to go out and get my money."

Huh? What?

So Ray, who is 41-years-old, explains that all these people owe him money, but because of the Blizzard of 2010, he hasn't been able to get out and go get his money.

Wait a minute. It gets better.

He tells me that in January, he flew to Memphis one-way to buy a car he found on the internet. What kind of car? A BMW. He drove the car from Memphis to Atlanta to South Carolina, stopping along the way to visit family and friends. Three weeks later, he was back in D.C.

Wow. I said you have that much leave from work where you were able to take off 3 weeks at the beginning of the year? He admitted that he didn't have a job.


February comes and the snow hits the east coast. All of a sudden, he's looking for these so-called friends who owe him money. Nothing. He's in a bind. He can't pay his rent, his utilities. March 1, he calls me. Man, are you serious?

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

I did. I asked Ray why he would go to Memphis to buy a car and he didn't even have a job. He tried to convince me that the car wasn't that expensive. (Did I mention that he was 41?) That's not the point I said. How much is your rent? I asked. $800. You went and bought a BMW, drove cross-country and now you can't pay your rent? I was disgusted at the whole situation.

Then I asked if he was looking for a job. He assured me he was. Okay, why don't you go back into teaching? I asked. He said he would never go back into teaching. Honey, you don't have a job. And in this economy, the options are few and far between. Plus - you can't pay your rent!

Sigh...Ray, on the outside, is a good catch: college-educated. Never married. No kids. But he's not, how should I put this, not...well, he just doesn't have it all together.

I had to get off the phone. I really did. I just couldn't stomach his nonsense any longer.

Was I wrong?