Not at ALL What You Thought

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"And What About YOUR Husband?"

Seriously. This is a direct quote from a new member of our church. FWIW, I just love this new member: he's funny and smart and talented and happy with his life. But I nearly burst out laughing when he asked me this, not, mind you, with a view to a Relationship. (Brother is happily married.) But, in my not-so-humble opinion, with a view to All Up In a Sista's Bidness.

Hey, don't get me wrong: I really don't mind anybody asking me, "Are you married?" I'm not keeping secrets. I'm not ashamed of my divorce. (More ashamed of my marriage, to tell the truth.) But just ask me, okay?

Oh, and please, I'm beggin you with tears in my eyes, don't make assumptions about me simply because you know I'm not married. Yesterday, a very vocally devout used-book buyer was in my office when I was defending my right to sell used books. "Yes," I told a colleague, "I do that. Single mother? Child in college?" When I turned to the buyer (a Ukrainian gentleman named Yuri), he was smiling at me.

"How many children do you have?" he asked. I gave him the number and their general ages. "And no husband?" His question was just dripping with assumptions, and being a black single mother, my reception was just dripping with stereotypes. Surely, he was thinking, this is one of those welfare queens one hears about. Or, you know, not.

"Not any more," I replied. Then followed a discussion about why. I was vague, as one should be with random used-book buyers. Mostly, I said I didn't feel ready for a husband (yet). What bothered me most about this conversation wasn't the prying; as I say, my life's an open book. What bothered me was my feeling of being on the defensive. Somehow, I feel I should be married, which makes me just putty in the hands of folk who feel I should be married, whatever their reasoning behind it, which is Just Sad.

Related to this sadness is the assertion that if your marriage is failing, whatever the reason for the failure, you should work to save it. Or, as I learned recently, if you Have The Nerve to try to work through the end of your marriage by writing about it, publishing your thoughts and experiences is "a bit much."

On the other hand, I was extremely heartened by some things my pastor said during his Back-to School bible-study series. For example, he called out the young women and told them that, while he had nothing against marriage, these young women had better focus on educations and careers and not husbands. He preached independence and self-esteem. To young women and girls. And then, after bible study, he hugged those who came near him and asked them, "You hear what I said? You hear me?" I like it that my spiritual leader doesn't just assume, because a young person is female, that she should be obsessing about marriage.

If it weren't for this experience, I'd blame all men for this "Why aren't you married?" atmosphere. All out here in the twenty-first century. I guess I still could blame them. What the heck: it's men's fault. The problem is, women don't behave any better these days. Don't get me wrong. I think marriage, good marriage, is a God thing. And I do hope someday to have one. But I wish people wouldn't assume that an unmarried (or about to be unmarried) woman is a broken thing, something that needs to be fixed.

Dear Jesus, my brother, help us to make the best of the non-marriage relationships we have, especially those we have with You.

I Don't Even LIKE Obama Like That!

First of all, this is not a political rant. It's a rhetorical rant. What in the world has happened to the logical and sensible ability to talk about a politician? Any politician --even Barack Hussein Obama? I discover a lot about people's stances on Facebook nowadays, and I'm horrified by the way they argue.

The assertion that Sotomayor wasn't the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice is tacked onto a charge of antisemitism. The assertion that Obama can't craft a decent national health care plan is tacked onto his stance on abortion. The assertion that Obama is "incredible [sic] cold and arrogant" is tacked onto his ability to president* the country. I had to unfriend two people because of their rhetoric (and, frankly, their commitment to fallacy and inflammatory folklore), and I'm trying to decide about a third.

Clearly, I'm a naif, but I'd just like for people to focus. No, you don't have to love this president; I don't, for what it's worth. Look, I realize that logic is too much to ask for in this dialogue, but could you talk about this administration with some common sense and basic humanity? Less of the "I HATE HIS MUSLIM FACE!!!" and more of the "Eh, not liking this health care idea"? Less of the "But his middle name is Hussein" and more of the "His foreign policy's kind of weak"? This is all I'm asking. What is the point of all the irrelevant vitriol?

Frankly, I blame that idiot Bush.

Dear Jesus, my brother, help us to use the brains you gave us.

*Yeah, I turned it into a verb. You like that?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Does Your Breath Smell?

(Rated R for pervasive strong language)


I'm on Facebook (a LOT these days), and, surprisingly*, quite a few teenagers are my Fb friends, most of whom requested my friendship. This means, of course, I'm exposed to teenSpeak in its variegated forms. Most of the time, this amuses. But every once in a while, in fact, too often, it troubles. I admit it: it's the Language.

I am not referring to textspeak or slang. I'm talking about profanity, vulgarity and obscenity. For what it's worth, I'm really not a prude as far as language is concerned*. I am, after all, a wordsmith myself. I avoid strong language, but I recognize its place in dialogue. When I was a kid*, people cursed in public only when they were angry, drunk, or insane. If one adult cussed at another adult, there was a brief stunned silence, signifying (I believe) the presence of anger in the conversation. Maybe my adult friends grew up the same way: rarely does any one of them use Language in our conversation unless anger is there. (One of my colleagues, maybe ten or fifteen or twenty years older than I, no prude in any context*, and certainly privileged with the prerogative of cussin, has cussed only once in my presence. She was very angry. She also whispered the cuss word. I leave you to map out the implications.)

Then there is the thing about my faith. Because of the way I read the bible and follow the Lord Christ, I believe in the power of the curse. "The power of life and death is in the tongue," I was taught and I believe, because I've seen that power at work, for good and ill. So another reason I avoid strong language in my own mouth is the fact that I believe I am a woman of power. I believe that not only what I do, but also what I say has authority. Every idle word from my mouth smites my heart, bothers my peace for days, sometimes years. So even when I laugh and joke, I don't do it with strong language: contrary to current culture, I don't believe strong language is meant for joking around.

Which brings me back to my teenaged friends and their language. One young Fb friend used to status only about sex. One cussed profoundly about having to go to work. And to my horror, my own daughters began punctuating their Fb threads with LMAO and even LMFAO. These are the same people who gasped in shock when I called an ass an ass*, or when I said "damn it" after my older girl accidentally snapped me in the eye with a towel. (I use the word accidentally because, although she was playing around and meant to snap me with it, she did not mean to snap me in the eye with it. In response, I deliberately used the words damn it to help her realize that, even when playing, she should be a lot more careful.) In the same way, I recently told these people who live in my house that they should refuse to become "anyone's fuck buddy". And these people gasped in shock. (You see the hypocrisy --theirs and mine-- by now, I hope, because, I'm just not going to confess any more of my sins. In this essay, anyway.)

I'm reminded of Walter Mosley's character, Socrates Fortlow, the sixty-something ex-convict who, in the novel Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,
caught a strange boy killing and stealing a neighbor's chicken. Fortlow makes Darryl clean, cook and eat the chicken, an object lesson in responsibility and accountability. When he asks the boy if he's ever had such a good meal, Darryl truthfully responds, "Shit, no." And then Socrates, the murderer-rapist (many times over, once outside and, consequently, the other times Inside) tells Darryl, "Keep your mouth clean, li'l brother. . . .an' then they know you mean business when you say somp'n strong." Some would argue, of course, as I used to, that there are many ways to "say something strong" without certain language. Point taken. But (again) I have come to recognize Certain Language's place in dialogue, even if I prefer to keep my mouth clean.

Among my teenaged friends, I'm just saying, I don't see even the knowledge of a distinction between regular usage and Strong Usage. There is no sense of propriety. There is no discretion. Why should your status say, "Take pride in your shit" when what you mean is "Take pride in yourself, your accomplishments, your standards, your creations"? Personally, I haven't taken pride in my shit since I was two. I flush it away, in fact.

So why, finally, is shit always in your mouths, little brothers and sisters? Aren't you aware of what that does to your smile and your breath?

Lord Jesus, my brother, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.

*Because my older daughter refuses to befriend me or her aunt. And the younger one unfriended her aunt when she was called out on the LMFAO thang.
*I am, however, a prude in other areas. Deal with it.
*Yes, a hunnert years ago.
*She and her husband actually follow The Dead around. Nuff said.
*Yes, I use this word advisedly, but only in reference to certain people, never a certain part of their (or anyone's) body.