Am I My Brother's Keeper

I read today on Necole Bitchie's site about this percieved beef between Beanie Siegel and Jay-Z. It appears that Beanie is a bit upset with the way Jay has treated him recently, beginning with his being dropped from Rock-A-Fella.

I had a brief exchange about the situation on Twitter.
@ASmith86: Apparently [Beanie's] mad from when a judge asked Jay if he'd be responsible for him if he let Beans out and Jay said no.

@mzvirgo: well he's not his guardian or whatever, so that's Beanie's problem.
She has a point. When I read what happened: a judge asked Jay-Z if upon release, Beanie could go with him on tour and he (Jay) would be responsible for Beanie and Jay said "no" I understood both sides. Beanie felt like Jay owed him more than that. He felt like they had been best friends and that Jay was turning his back on him. In fact, Beanie quotes Jay as having once said, "if my life were a movie, the sequel would be Siegel."

On the flip side, I can understand Jay's angle. Maybe he felt like Beanie was too great of a liability. If Beanie messed up, it wouldn't have been just his butt on the line, it would've been Jay's too. I've never been on a major tour, but I can imagine that you do good to keep up with yourself, let alone someone else. He may look like the a**hole in this case, but I can understand it.

So I wonder: are we our brother's keeper, anymore? Do we feel any responsibility for our close friends? Do we think it's our job, anymore, to take care of them when they fall -- or is it always fair to look out for the #1?

Ultimately, while I understand Beanie's disappointment and feelings of rejection, I don't begrudge Jay-Z. If he didn't feel like he could be responsible for Beanie, if he felt like Beanie was too much of a liability, I understand that as well. At a certain point, I think we'd all be upset with the idea of having to take care of a grown adult. Sometimes, despite their best intentions, people still make mistakes and that's ok, but when your mistakes begin to effect me and my world -- well that's not ok and not necessarily a liability I'm willing to take on.



Coping Mechanisms

After you read this, head over to The Outlook and check out my commentary on Lincoln Heights.

Damon did a bit of a rant today on This May Concern You about Steve Phillips' jump off mistress and the attacks on her looks. An excerpt:
If your significant other were to ever cheat on you, wouldn’t you want that other person to look better than you? Wouldn’t that make you feel better?

When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t care what the other guy looked liked or what he did. I’ll admit that there was a time — long ago — when that type of stuff may have mattered some. But at this point in life, it’s inconsequential. I see stuff like cheating and adultry in black and white. That said, I don’t think we should be paying that much attention to Hundley’s looks and comparing them to his wife, either (But this is America. She looks terrible and this is what we do).

Here’s why: Comparing oneself — be it looks, education, earning potential or social status — to the competition is one of the most frivolous things we do as people. When you start trying to understand why someone decides to go outside of his/her relationship, the primary place you need to search is the guilty party within the relationship.

Too often people get caught up in that game of “How could he go there with her when I am/look 20 times better than her?” when the question mark in the query should come after the word “there.”
Before futher commentary, first a story.

I've already mentioned that after our relationship ended, J began dating a guy. Go back with me...

It was about 4am when I heard my phone buzzing on the table, near my head. I hadn't long been asleep and my first instinct was to ignore, but something (probably the fact that I'm unable to ignore my phone, all the time) made me grab it. It was from J, whom I'd spoken to earlier. We'd actually had a good conversation which, at that time, had become fewer and far between. I had gotten off the phone because I had a play date with some friends. J asked me to call him back when I got in, but I warned him it would be late. "I don't care. Just call me," he responded. I had no intentions of calling him back, though -- I was playing a game with him then, that I would never play with anyone now. I needed to prove that I was getting over him (we weren't officially together).

Confused and concerned about why he was texting me at 4am (but assuming he was upset I hadn't called him back) I opened the text. It was 4 pages that amounted to, "I'm gay..." I re-read the text message to make sure I was reading it correctly and then I sorta went numb. I had no idea how to feel or operate, but anger wasn't an emotion I considered. While I was extremely upset that he chose to text me something like that, the rational side of me (surprisingly) was the louder voice and it wanted me to try to be supportive.

A 2 hour phone call ensued and it did not go well, at all -- the details are for another post, but in the end he called me names, threatened to kill himself and hung up the phone. The next morning I found out that he'd gotten into a car accident and was in the hospital. Within a month, his parents had sent him to rehab out in California and that began a whole new chapter of issues for us, the details of which, again, are for another post.

In the meantime, I had to figure out what to make of the fact that J was gay. He attempted in the early portion of our phone call, and in subsequent conversations and e-mails to convince me that everything had been real and that he did love me. I wanted to believe him, but I quickly began realizing that everything had not been real. So much so that some things J wasn't even sure what had been a lie and what had been the truth. I needed some coping mechanisms.

At first, I attempted to just be the bigger person. I tried to be supportive of him all the while trying to make sure I wasn't going to crack. Eventually, I gave into the bitter side of me that wanted to make J hurt. A year later, though, I still wasn't over it and so I resorted to convincing myself that no matter what he was saying or doing, I still had been a better match for him than his then-current boyfriend. I sent a friend to his facebook profile (I had long removed him from my friend list) to scope out who she thought might be the new beau. The e-mail I received had a picture titled "yuck" and the new guy was not a looker. I was actually surprised as he was nothing like what I imagined J might be attracted to (but then again -- how would I have known?) and so began a host of conversations with friends that, at some point, included the phrase "Wow, the least he could've done was get somebody better looking than you..."

That was the way I was coping with things I hadn't yet figured out how to deal with. I had put up quite the front for my friends, pretending that J's revelation didn't really shake me to my core like it had and pretending that I'd moved on; I hadn't. I was still trying to wake up from the nightmare. Going to them to just talk about what I was feeling didn't seem like a viable option, but laughing along with them at J's new boyfriend did seem to work.

Our coping mechanisms don't always make much sense, but I don't think they're supposed to. If we understood how to truly deal with the issue at hand, we wouldn't need coping mechanisms. In the long run, I really had to be honest with myself that no matter what I said, I wasn't over J. Despite his sexuality, I still had feelings for him (compounded by his inability to decide if he was really "just gay") and I needed to figure out if I could live with that or if I couldn't. That wasn't an easy thing to do, but once I did, I found I no longer needed those ridiculous and silly coping mechanisms. There was nothing to cope with.

Sometimes we need to reassure ourselves that we are "worthy" and there's nothing wrong with us and we use other people's shortcomings to do so. For the most part, we'd frown on someone doing that, but when it comes to being cheated on or left, we seem to accept it. However you have to feel better about yourself is how you have to do it, we seem to think. We should want better for ourselves; we should want to deal with issues so that we can move on. Coping mechanisms are temporary fixes for our ego; we should be looking for permanent fixes.


What I Am

Brandy ft Mase - Top of the world
by Dante35

What I Am is not perfect. This fact seems to be lost on a lot of people I know. I feel like people don't know that I'm human. I make mistakes, I screw up, I get confused, I can't find my way. I've long wondered what people see in me that makes them think I've got it together. I'm just as clueless as the next guy. I probably know less than the next guy.

This, of course, still stems from my situation with Jessica. I got to thinking about the things she said to me and what I really felt was that she holds me to some impossible standard. She kept referencing my relationship with J.
"You were able to get over him so quickly. You said it was done and it was done."

"But, that's not what it was, at all. Getting over J was not easy and hell, I'm still not sure I'm over him."

"Yeah, well, you made it look easy."
I know that a lot of the reason people think I'm "sitting on top of the world" is because I keep a lot of my struggles to myself. That's one thing I got from my mom -- your business, is your business. Over the years, I've learned to open up to people, but as I've mentioned before -- that was one of the major issues J and I had. He hated feeling like I wasn't telling him everything (and I wasn't, but it wasn't always because I didn't trust him....)

I make mistakes all the time and I feel like those mistakes are obvious, and yet somehow the people in my world feel like I "always know what to do."

A few weeks ago, a friend called.
"I'm calling you because I have a question and you know everything.

"No, I don't know everything. What I know is how to find the answer."
I don't mind that my friends trust my judgment. On some levels, it's not even all that bad that some of them have this belief that I always have everything under control. The problem comes in when, as I do, I make a blunder. It's like their whole worlds crash.

Truth be told, I think a lot of them get some wierd satisfaction out of knowing I messed up -- even though they're the ones who put me on this damned pedestal in the first place.

The Outlook

I've done 2 new posts on my other blog. ::eek::

(Black) Students Not Allowed

Tyler Perry


Talk To Me

Our freshmen year in college, a friend of mine -- Jessica -- started dating a guy named Alex. Eventually they broke up because Alex said he wasn't ready for a relationship. Not too long after their break up, Jessica found out he was in a new relationship.

Fast forward 5 years. In that time, a pattern between Alex and Jessica developed. Alex would get in a relationship and stop calling Jessica, then he would break up with his girlfriend (or hit a "rough patch") and start calling Jessica. Jessica would play the girlfriend role -- she would go by his house when he called, she would sleep with him, stay up with him, exchange cutesy text messages with him -- all that and then suddenly, Alex would get really busy for a few days and call her up and tell her he was in a new relationship. Just like that; no warning, no explanation. This happened more than once. Of course as the friend I am, I tried to warn her, but eventually learn that I couldn't do that.

In fact, in recent months, I've really been trying to take a step back; let my friends live their lives like I want people to let me live mine. That means learning to accept their decisions as their decisions and finding better ways of expressing my own opinions. Prefacing advice with, "If I were you..." and attempting to vocalize that I understand how they feel.

This morning Jessica called me and in telling me the story of how her brother almost "talked the panties" off of a mutual friend, mentioned that something had gone down with her and Alex, again but that this time around she decided she didn't want me to know. She was scared of what I would say, worried about disappointing me and embarrassed that yet again she fell into his "trap." "I don't know how to feel that my own friends are scared to talk to me..." I told her. She told me she saw me as a "moral rock" and just couldn't bear the thought of disappointing me.

I'll deal with being another person's "moral rock" later but I have to admit, it bothered me that she felt like she couldn't tell me what was happening. She told me she actually intended to never tell me. Am I that harsh with my friends? On the one hand, I feel like my friends come to me for advice. They know I'm a straight shooter and I'll tell you what I think. "Givin' it to ya straight, no chaser..."

We spoke, she told me the whole story, I gave her my opinion and she told me she was relieved. She liked the advice I gave her and felt that it was more in line with who she is as a person than most of the other advice she'd been given. While I was glad that my advice went over well, it's still not sitting well with me that she was scared to tell me in the first place.

I've long understood that I'll take a lot of lumps in this life driving my own boat and making my own way. You just never expect those lumps will be from your close friends. It's not about Jessica trusting me or not trusting me with the information -- it was never about that for her. It's that she didn't trust me that I would prioritize her feelings above "being right." She told me, "I just didn't want to hear 'I told you so.' Not that you'd say that, but I know I would've heard it in your voice."

Just thinking... pondering... am I too much?


I Hate Your Boyfriend

I'm very protective of my friends. If I were honest, I'd admit that I'm overprotective of some. I've long said, and in fact did list as one of my "30 Secrets, 25 Random Facts" that I'm more protective of my friends than myself. All of this usually means that I'm the chick men hate. I have a lot of guy friends and they all tell me they hate their girl's friends and I'm the chick they hate the most (ok, they don't say the last part, but I know it's true). In fact, in recent years, I've attempted to not be so critical of my friends' boyfriends. I did a post on what to do when your friend is dating someone you don't like and I decided, in the end, to keep my mouth shut and, in the words of a clever commenter, "stay out of grown folk business."

Today, one of my most favoritest bloggers, OneChele did a post on domestic violence. Make sure you read it, her stats are incredible (and not in that good way). In the comments I shared about a friend who's boyfriend is a punk.

I met my friend Katrina the fall of my freshman year in college. She lived down the hall from me in our freshman dorm and we found out that though she moved away, we were from the same city, knew a lot of the same people and even had lived in the same neighborhood. We became fast friends. A few choice decisions on Katrina's end put her a year behind me in school. The summer after our second year she was in summer school and got to know the rising star on our football team; the quarterback. I had already met Patrick and I never got a good vibe off him so when she called to tell me they were seeing each other, I'm sure my reaction left much to be desired.

Fast forward a semester and she and Patrick are hot and heavy and living together in an off-campus apartment. Our schedules kept us from seeing each other quite as much, but through some mutual friends I began hearing that she and Patrick were having a lot of problems. I began making greater efforts to see her to let her know I was still around and she took the opportunity to try to help me get to know Patrick. There was something about the way Patrick didn't really look at me when Katrina was around and the way he never spoke to me when we saw each other on campus that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. One night, Katrina said to me, "Patrick says he thinks you hate him." I laughed and responded, "I don't know him enough to hate him." Katrina quickly said, "I know; that's what I told him." I could tell things about their relationship were amiss, but she seemed happy so I didn't see it as my place to make any comments.

Finally someone told me what was really going on: Patrick was beating her. He had broken 3 of her phones, left marks on her face and was intimidating her. I knew something had to be done when I found out one night she was hiding in a mutual friend's closet. A few days after that night, I was finally able to get ahold of her. We spoke and she confided in me that she was ready to leave. She hadn't been back home in a full day and when she left, Patrick had gone into such a rage that she said everything that could be broken in their apartment was. I grabbed my BFF and we drove Katrina over to her apartment to get her stuff since she figured he wouldn't be home. We pulled into the parking lot and she immediately spotted his car. I told her I was more than happy to go in with her, but she was afraid my presence would upset him. I told her that if she wasn't out in 10 minutes, I was coming in.

10 minutes later, she text me to say they were talking, he was sorry and she thought she should stay. Knowing the unfortunate cycle of abusers, I immediately got out of the car and went to the door. Katrina anticipated me doing that and met me at the door. While I was far from convinced that everything was "ok" I knew I couldn't make her leave with me.

The next week was full of similar situations. Finally, I grew tired of the cat and mouse game and I quit answering the phone. I told one of our mutual friends who Katrina was also confiding in that when Katrina was ready to go she could call me, but that I was done playing games. In the meantime, Katrina began confiding in another mutual friend of ours who she had had a "thing" with prior to Patrick. Joseph started giving Katrina money thinking she was trying to save up to leave, and he bought her another new phone when Patrick broke yet another one.

One night, the BFF and I returned from a road trip to find Katrina sitting in the lobby of our dorm. The three of us hadn't been together since the first night at her apartment and so we decided to go to Waffle House for a late night meal. I called Joseph and he agreed to go. We all met back up 20 minutes later and were headed out when Patrick came downstairs. Without a word, Katrina disappeared and it was all the BFF and I could do to keep Joseph from killing Patrick. That night, I decided I was really done. Katrina had used me, Joseph and the BFF. We were all done.

Fast forward to now. Katrina and Patrick have a beautiful son who I call my nephew and are not together but still living together. Katrina understands that if she ever truly gets ready to leave, I'm here, but until then, I don't care. Patrick knows, as I've made it clear to him that if I ever even THINK he's put his hands on her in front of their son, I got something for him and I will make SURE he gets it. That's the decision I've made for this situation. I have to say going through this has helped me understand better the thinking that makes a woman stay; I still think it's crazy but I better understand. I still hope that Katrina will get real about leaving him, but I know that their son makes that harder.

Domestic violence is one of those things I never thought would happen to any of my "strong, independent, black female" friends but it has and I've been surprised both at her and my own responses. I prioritize keeping my friends safe and I have to say at times I felt I'd failed her. Now I'm just focused on making sure my nephew grows up healthy and happy even with a loser for a father.


Hi. I'm Still Here....

I was reading Joey's blog post on the Swizz/Mashonda/Alicia debacle. Her post reminded me of quite a few incidents that happened with me and J.

We would argue all the time about whether or not our waitresses were flirting with him. He would swear up and down that they weren't. Eventually he admitted that he knew they were flirting with him, but he didn't want to admit it to me because he didn't know how it'd make me feel (that he didn't shut it down...)

I wasn't the insecure/jealous type so mostly my irritation at the waitresses was more on a "can you please be more professional" level than anything else. I wasn't actually worried that he'd take their bait.

There was the waitress who wouldn't look at me when she came to the table. She'd walk up, look at J and say "Is everything ok? Do you need anything?" Even when I'd pipe up that I needed more Coke (because though she'd been refilling his beverage, she hadn't touched mine) she wouldn't look at me. At the time, J swore he didn't notice -- but he couldn't argue with me when the check came and on the back she'd written her name and number.

There was the waitress J was able to flirt with to get alcohol. He was underage and I'm sure she knew that, but he was also a charmer.

But probably my favorite story happened after he and I had broken up and he was in a new relationship. We met up for dinner once -- we hadn't seen each other in at least 9 months -- and decided to go to some rinky dink place. We really just wanted to talk. J happened to be wearing a cologne that I had bought for him (I say "happened to" but I doubt it was accidental). Our waitress noticed and commented on it. I had already checked how she was flirting with him and ignoring me, but it didn't matter to me very much. She kept complimenting him on the scent and he was nervously laughing and sort of looking to me for a little guidance. I just shook my head; on some level her desperation was amusing. Finally she asked him where he had gotten it from. I knew he knew where I bought it from, because he liked it so much he'd asked me repeatedly where I'd gotten it. This sneaky grin came over his face and he looked me in my eyes and said, "Baby, where'd you get this from?" I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. The waitress's face got very red and she immediately turned to me and said "Oh! You bought it?" I said, "Yes, I got it for him as a Christmas gift last year. I got it from Rue 21." She didn't talk to him much after that, and I noticed my beverage stayed full.

It boggled my mind the blatant disrespect many of the women felt free to show. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it bothered me a little that J would rather ignore the problem than speak up on it, but he made up for it with that little gem.