Things We Don't Apologize For: Being Ourselves

Yesterday: Never apologize for making more money than your man, you work hard and you deserve to get paid.
Today: Never apologize for being you!

In the 3rd installment of this series, I jumped the gun a bit. To summarize the post, I said
I think that's the point of it all. All of these things you shouldn't apologize for because that's you not focusing on you. Instead, by apologizing, you're making things that affect you about the people around you when they are not
It's already hard in this world to be who you are. People want so much from us, they want us to change, to be different. They want us to suck that in, lift that up, and alter that thing over there. It's so hard finding people that only want you, and nothing less. I told a friend, the guy for me wants me -- 100% me and he won't settle for (or be attracted to) anything less.

Left Eye once said,
Be me and do what I believe and to be myself, and, I suggest everyone do the same thing; do what makes you feel comfortable, do what makes you feel happy...
It's been a quote I've tried to live by in one way or another and that's what I think these 25 things we don't apologize for really goes back to. I said it before, and I'll say it now, never apologize for who you are. There are some of these things that even I need to work on, but ultimately as long as I don't apologize for who I am, at my core, I'm doing alright. I'm doing better than a lot of us.

The black blogosphere has been abuzz with talks of Helena Andrews and her yet-to-be-finished book "Black Is the New Bitch." Everyone has an opinion. Some women see themselves in her story, others are already critical of who she is and her opinion and even others are just tired of discussing the plight of the single, educated and bougie black woman. There is one thing she's quoted as saying in the Washington Post article that discussed her and her book that I took to immediately, if only for it's frankness. "I'm a mean woman. I don't date nice people. That's why I'll be alone for the rest of my life. I will always have to settle." She could probably stand to work on being mean, but she recognizes that and guess what? She accepts what it is. I know there are things about me (like my sarcasm) that turn people off, but I've learned that I'm ok with that. If you don't like my sarcasm, that's fine, we're not good fits for each other's life.

Be happy with who you are and if you're not happy, make changes for self, not for anyone else. Don't apologize for who you are, it's a sure waste of time. Find the people who don't want you to apologize; those are the people you need. The rest will come and go and your life will be just fine.

Ok. Well, this is the end of this series. Hope everyone who read it found at least a few gems to take with them. If you missed any, go here to read them all.

I'm out of here until the new year, barring some amazing need to share deep thoughts (but more than likely, I'll write drafts and post them in 2010). But there's always Twitter!

Things We Don't Apologize For: Our Paycheck

Side note: I wrote this post yesterday and never published it. I'll have the final installment of our series up this afternoon

Yesterday: Never apologize for making a decision from your heart, even if others don't agree. You have to live with the consequences not them.
Today: Never apologize for making more money than your man, you work hard and you deserve to get paid.

I'm a public servant with a paycheck that reflects as much. I don't have any experience with making so much money that it causes a problem within a relationship; however, there are a few basic ideas we can take away from this tenament.

In our society, we reward work with money. Ideally, how much you make reflects how hard you work (though we can all think up people who don't make enough and others who make too much). Apologizing for your salary suggests you think you don't deserve it because you don't work hard for it. I highly doubt that's the case for any of us.

Money in a relationship is a sticky situation though. Generally, men like to feel they are providing for the people they care for. Men who work like the
idea that the work they do puts food on their families table. When someone they're supposed to be caring for brings home most of the money, it's as if they're contributions are neglected.

I'm reminded of an obscure episode of Family Matters, Carl has trouble accepting that his wife Harriett makes more money than he and so he finds a part time job so that he can bring home the larger paycheck. (FFWD to 4:28)

It seems ridiculous but for as progressive as our society feels it is, we still expect men to be breadwinners and when they aren't, people sometimes draw negative conclusions.

We should all look to be with someone who can celebrate with us in our successes just as well as they support us in our failures. If your man (or woman) can't be happy for you because you have a good job that pays well and would rather focus on the fact that you make more than them, then you should find someone else.

We also shouldn't lord our earnings over anyone. "I make the money, so you'll do as I say..." The other person deserves respect and shouldn't be expected to bend to any whim just because you bring home "the bacon."

Make your money, honey and don't say you're sorry.

Finally.... (We'll let what the last thing is be a surprise)


Things We Don't Apologize For: Our Decisions

Yesterday: ever apologize for changing your mind, it is your perogative.
Today: Never apologize for making a decision from your heart, even if others don't agree. You have to live with the consequences not them.

Most will recall the story I told about my mother in the first post of these series.
When I was 14 and in the 9th grade, my mother quit her job at a fairly stable snack cake company to go back to school. Everyone thought she was crazy. How would she afford my schooling? How would she afford her mortgage? Bills? What in the world, they wondered, was she thinking?

There's nothing easy about what my mom did. Plenty of people still think she made a mistake, but she knows she didn't. She knows it was time for her to quit worrying about what other people thought and start doing what she wanted to do.
I don't know what percentage of my mom's friends supported her, or how many of them told her she was wrong. What I know, though, is that even if it was just one friend, she made a decision that was for her and her child's benefit; no one else's and she never apologized for it (even when, 5 years later, we had an emotional discussion about the toll her decision took on me).

When I was going through the worst parts of being with J, I remember finding little solace in my friends' advice. They were right -- all of them. I should've packed my proverbial bags and hit the door. But I didn't. I made a decision to stay. What I could never figure out was why they thought it would be so easy for me to go. Why did they not realize, I wondered, how much of myself I thought I would lose if I walked away. It angered me beyond belief that none of them seemed to see how hard what they were asking me to do was.

I took a lot from that experience and I've since tried to modify the way I give advice. Above all else, in a sticky situation, I want friends to know that I get how hard what I'm suggesting is. I get that it's easy for me to sit far removed from the situation with no skin in the game and tell them what the "right" decision is -- but that ultimately they are the ones who will have to pay the pied piper.

This past Labor Day weekend I visited some friends. I didn't want to go. I knew I wouldn't have a good time if I went and so initially when they asked me to come, I said "no." But I let them change my mind and guess what? I was miserable. It wasn't really their fault, but I should've spent that time with myself. I was dealing with a lot and I shouldn't have tried to ignore it by taking a trip I didn't want to take to appease my friends. When another friend asked me why I was so hesitant to go, I told them, "I might have a great time. I might enjoy every waking moment. But if I don't, the only person who will suffer is me and the only person to blame will be me." Sure enough, I was miserable for 3 days and furious with myself (which only exacerbated how miserable I was).

A mentor of mine has a saying, "I hope it was worth it..." It started off tongue-in-cheek, but it's become a saying of my own. When I'm looking to make a big decision, I weigh the consequences. What's the worst case scenario of either side and can I deal with those consequences. If I can I do it, if I can't, I don't. When I look back, I want to be able to ask myself "Was it worth it?" and answer "Absolutely". I don't always apply this like I should, but it's a rule of thumb.

We will all eventually make decisions that effect others. My mom's decisions effected me, the decision I made with my relationship effected J and the trip decision had ripples in the lives of my friends. However, within reason, we shouldn't apologize for our decisions and especially not when we're the main one who has to deal with the consequences.

We have 2 days remaining in our series

Tomorrow: Never apologize for making more money than your man, you work hard and you deserve to get paid.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Changing Our Minds

Yesterday: Never apologize for your taste in clothes. It's your style.

Today: Never apologize for changing your mind, it is your perogative.

For the last few weeks, I've been struggling to get it together to write these. Not at all because I don't want to do them, but I have a LOT going on in my space. I'm going home this weekend, one of my close friends is moving at the end of the year so this is our last week together, I'm stressed on the job, and as usual my mind is working overtime on issues I can't control/predict. With all that, my ability to sit and write a coherent post has waned. I crank 'em out, but I worry that they're not good enough.

Many of you may have come and read one post only to come back note major changes. For example, on yesterday's post, I published it and later decided I wanted to add a picture of Rihanna. I also intially added a picture of Cassie, but decided that was too much #tomfoolery for this space, so I simply linked it. I've even edited/changed posts weeks and months after their initial posting.

Why? Cause I changed my mind about the phrasing of a sentence, or the point of a paragraph. Or in the case of adding pictures, thought a little visual media might help my otherwise bland posts.

Changing your mind should not be confused with being indecisive (though I joked earlier with a friend that they were one and the same). Indecisive people can't make up their minds to begin with. We change our minds because we gain additional information that changes our opinion.

This got to be a big deal during the 2008 Presidency campaign. When is it ok, as a politician who makes laws, to change your mind? One of the candidates (who, exactly, escapes me now) suggested that as new information comes in, it is appropriate to change your mind if that information casts light on an issue you hadn't been able to previously consider. In other words: sometimes, you have not enough time and not enough information to make a good decision, so you make the best one you can and then you change your mind as more time elapses and more information comes in.

Look at the people that come in and out of our life. We don't often friend people who we hate. We like people we're friends with and then new information comes in: they show their true colors, they make a horrible decision that effects us irreperably, they cease to to be the person we became friends with, so we change our minds.

You shouldn't ever apologize for changing your mind because you got new information. If we didn't allow people to change their minds, we'd never see a change in our government, people wouldn't reduce their carbon footprint, enemies would never become friends, no one would learn. The ability to use new information to change your mind is a good one to have, so don't apologize for it.

3 Days remain in our series

Tomorrow: Never apologize for making a decision from your heart, even if others don't agree. You have to live with the consequences not them.

Guest Post - Stuff White People Do

I did a guest post on the blog Stuff White People Do

I'm briefly interrupting our regularly scheduled "Things We Don't Apologize For" to share this post with you and encourage you to go over and leave a comment.

On some blogs, my favorite part is the comments. I like to see how many people had thoughts similar to mine after reading a blog post. I think people are honest on the internet in ways they would never be in a face-to-face conversation. In fact, people probably say things on blogs, in comments, on Twitter and even on Facebook (which is ironic) that you couldn't pay them to say to a close friend. They leave these thoughts and ideas out there for people to read -- people they will never, ever meet -- and they can be painfully honest. One thing I’ve noticed is that when apparently white people leave vile, racist comments, other white people who don’t feel that way almost never jump in to counter the vile racism.

One blog I love reading the comments for is Unsuck DC Metro (UDCM), a website dedicated to Washington, DC's transit system. Compared to, say, NYC's transit system, ours sucks. Majorly. So it's kind of comforting to know there are other people who ride DC Metro and have some of the same complaints I do.

I stumbled upon an old UDCM post that invited comments on the "Most Annoying Metro Behaviors." I was sorta excited to read through all 200 comments, because I know most metro veterans have some of the same annoyances: people who talk too loudly on their cell phones; folks who don't know that we walk left, stand right; tourists who are incapable of moving out of the way before they decide to shove their nose in a map, etc. I wasn't surprised by anything I read. It was what I didn't read that I took note of.

It doesn't matter what city you live in, whether you use public transportation or not, you can identify with this: annoying teenagers. We all know them, we cringe when we see (or hear) them coming. They're loud, obnoxious, aloof and bothersome. Typically, I remind myself that I was 15 once, and I and my friends probably liked being obnoxious, too. All teenagers think that they're cool because they're loud (or so it seems).

Here in DC, many metro riders will tell you that right before school and right after school, you can't help but be annoyed by the already overcrowded train cars filling up with teenage students who are rambunctious, loud and obnoxious. They play their music way too loud, use inappropriate language and act rude. Other riders agree that these behaviors are obnoxious, so it was no surprise that a lot of the commenters on UDCM's post did too. However, what the comments also revealed was that almost everyone seems to think it's only black teenagers who do this. What was even more striking is how they were referenced. There isn't any reference to "black kids." Instead, they’re all derogatory terms -- the rude, ignorant and racist kind.

One commenter referred to them as "Ghetto-ass bebe's kids," others called them the "Ghetto Fabulous Street Urchins," "section-8 welfare street urchins," and even "sewer ghetto rats." My favorite was probably from commenter Grrrrrr, who referred to them as "ghetto sewer rats with no upbringing or future." I won't lie, I laughed at the sheer ignorance of that comment. It wasn't enough to call them "ghetto sewer rats"; they also have no upbringing or future. I didn't know this, but apparently you can figure out everything about a person after less than 5 minutes of sharing the same space.

But like I said, it wasn't the comments that got me; rather it was that no one had anything to the contrary to say. No one came to the rescue of this maligned group to say, "hey, is there a reason you only refer to them with these racist terms? Is there a reason you don't reference white teenagers? They can be just as obnoxious."

The closest attempt to rescue this group was a comment from one person who pointed out that these obnoxious teens could have come from anywhere in DC, not just S.E. (Southeast is a predominantly black and poor area of D.C., though it is also being gentrified, so almost anyone could live there). But even that person didn't point out the extensive use of derogatory, hateful terms or the lack of anger pointed towards white teenagers.

All of this is in strong contrast to the treatment of other maligned groups, like the disabled. For example, plenty of commenters complained about people who "look normal," but make use of facilities that are supposed to be for the disabled. Many other commenters came to the rescue, stating that no one should be quick to think that a person who looks able-bodied can’t be disabled. Multiple commenters also came to the rescue of "men" who are often attacked for not giving up their seats.

No one, not one person, took issue with all of the hateful descriptions of loud and obnoxious black teenagers. No one said, for instance, that we should be careful about assuming who these teenagers are and where they're from. No one pointed out that many teens want to look like they're from the poorer and rougher parts of town, even though they’re actually from the more affluent parts, and furthermore, that this is a universal trait -- some black teens do it, just like some white teens do it.

There’s also the fact that most of these commenters probably don't ride the train to the parts of town where they seem to think these "street urchins" go -- so how would they know anything about where they're from and what they know? These are simple and basic corrections that anyone ought to be able to make, but no one did. Wondering why we would assume that only the truly disabled "look" disabled, and why we would be so quick to malign all men for the actions of a few, though, were corrections deemed plenty worth making.

I'd like to be clear: I’m not really taking issue with the obviously ignorant and racist commenters (in the sense that I know these people exist, and I personally don't waste a whole lot of breath or time on them). Rather, I take issue with the people who read the racist comments and didn't think enough to question their legitimacy or factuality. I take issue with the people who read those comments, knew better, but didn't think they should say so. Probably because, truth be told, they felt the same way.

Why is this? Why would people read these comments and not think enough of the absurdity to correct the original poster in the same way disparaging comments about the disabled, or women, or men are often corrected?

Even the commenter who pointed out that we can't assume all these kids are from poor neighborhoods didn't dare touch the horrible titles used to refer to them. I'm going to make a large assumption that I can't prove (but feel is true) that Unsuck DC Metro is frequented mostly by white people. If so, that would mean that white commenters feel a sense of security in expressing inflammatory views that I, as a black woman, might disagree with, but that another white person might readily agree with.

How white people speak to each other about minority groups when there are no minorities present is something I would never be privy to in "real life," but I have heard a lot about it. In an all-white environment, there’s an implicit assumption that because everyone looks the same, they have the same opinion about the "others." And so, it’s okay to spew vile racism about the “others.”

Not only was this assumption clearly made in this post’s comments, but no one refuted it. The simple failure to correct racist comments suggests that every person who read the comments agreed with the assertion that only Section-8 kids have no future or upbringing, and that they are street urchins, undeserving of the simple respect of at least being referenced as if they are human.

Of course, the other problem here is how all the obnoxious white teens get overlooked. No one mentions them, in either a derogatory or a straightforward manner. I guess they don't bother anyone when they run around train stations (like their black counterparts), act loud (like their black counterparts) and obnoxious (like their black counterparts), and generally make commuting just that much more annoying (like their black counterparts). Or, perhaps, it's actually that when they do these things they’re seen as normal, rambunctious teenagers, but when their black counterparts do it, it's seen as almost criminal...

I'm more interested in what the readers of this blog (swpd) think explains why white people do this, rather than affirmation that they do it. Is it because they don't think maligned minorities need someone to stand up for them, especially in their absence? Do they not think that's their job?

What about the commenter who wanted us to remember that these black teen subway riders could be from anywhere, but apparently didn't take issue with how they were referenced? Is there a fear that if they stand up for them, they will in turn be attacked?

One of my close friends was the first person to "hip" me to what happens in a room full of white people (read: the first person to make me consider what actually happens). She told me she's been attacked when she's tried to disagree, and that she always notices the difference in how she’s treated or spoken to after the fact (I told her that though I know it's hard, it's people like her who can make a real difference -- but that's another post for another day).

Is there, then, some fear that standing up to racism from other white people will make you less white?

I guess in the end I'm not so disturbed by what these teenagers were called because this is America in a supposedly post-racial society. However, it's the passive agreement in situations like these that furthers these ignorant and absurd ideas. These people are just like the police officer who forwarded that ignorant e-mail to his co-workers after the Dr. Gates' incident. He'd probably sent similar e-mails to a certain group and no one ever stood up to him. Or how about the TN state lawmaker's aid who did something similar? How many of us receive offensive e-mails everyday? Maybe it's not offensive to us, but it is to others, and yet we say nothing?

That passive agreement furthers the assumption people make that everyone who looks like them thinks like them. It's important to nip that thought process in the bud, even at the risk of losing some of your "whiteness." It's ironic, but I believe that if we're ever going to truly realize the post-racial society people seem to so want, it'll be white people who push us over the edge. That's why it's important to include them on topics of race, and that's also why it’s especially important to expect them to speak up.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Our Style

Friday: Never apologize for not knowing how to cook. Even if you can't burn like Grandma you know how to order good take out.
Today: Never apologize for your taste in clothes. It's your style.

I wouldn't consider myself very trendy when it comes to clothes. I loathe clothes shopping and can't wait to be able to afford my own personal shopper. As a result, I don't spend a lot of time wandering the aisles of my favorite high-end fashion retail... err department clothing store checking out the latest fashions. I'd rather go in, grab the old trusty items and head straight for the shortest check-out line and be on my way.

Electronic stores, though, I can be in there ::shrug::

In any case, I have a style that's my own. A style that I'm comfortable with and a style that I think, for the most part, fits me. From time to time I've been known to branch out for the shock factor, but for the most part, I'm completely predictable and that's fine by me. I realized a long time ago that it made no sense to me to spend my time worried about what others thought of my clothing choices when none of them were paying to keep my closet stocked with the latest styles.

I was talking to a friend about this blog post and she said, "I have seen some mistakes that people werent aware of, but I get it; people have to like themselves... I went on to add that there are basic rules to the clothing game and I think we can all think of the major faux pas... ("just because they make it in your size, doesn't mean you have to wear it...") but what matters is that you're comfortable with what you're wearing. And even with our favorite cases of "What are you wearing?" if they like it and don't mind all the crazy stares and awkward side eyes they're going to receive, I can't help but to silently and reluctantly co-sign their decision. At least as far as doing what makes you feel comfortable.

What I like are individuals who look good in what they wear because they exude confidence. I've seen stars like Rihanna in some stuff that on almost anyone else I'd have to judge them for, but she has the confidence (and quite frankly, the fashion capital) to pull it off and then suddenly -- bam! Everyone wants it. Do ya'll remember when she first did this haircut:

Folks thought she was crazy at first., but then the next thing you knew, folks were cutting their hair similarly and dying their hair black, and even now, people look to Rihanna for what's next in both clothes and hair style.

Cassie's half-head haircut was really a crash and burn less because it looks awkward and more because we all know she did it to get attention. I look at her and I don't see confidence. I don't see an attitude that says "I did this because I can and I like it..." I see an attitude that says "I need you to pay attention. Look over this way..." There are those of us who need folks to look and those of us who don't really care. The latter can pull off almost any look and typically, the former end up following on some real extreme b.s.

I digress, though. The point is, find a style that is yours -- hair, clothes, or otherwise. It can be completely unique or it can be pretty generic -- as long as it works for you, looks good on you and you're confident wearing -- and then don't apologize for it.

As a note, we're winding down this series. It took up the last half of November and we're half way through December -- quite a long series. We only have 4 more days.

Tomorrow Never apologize for changing your mind, it is your perogative.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Not Cooking

Yesterday: Never apologize for demanding respect. You are to always be treated as a queen.
Today: Never apologize for not knowing how to cook. Even if you can't burn like Grandma you know how to order good take out.

A few days ago, OneChele at Black 'n Bougie posed 5 questions that she answered and encouraged her Bougie Readers to answer. One of the questions was "What are your thoughts about women who don't cook? Do you cook?" My answer was
I don't have a strong opinion on poeple who don't cook. You should at least be able to sustain yourself; there's no need to be a gourmet chef unless you work in a restaurant, but to be completely incapable of pulling together at least one full meal (main dish + at least 2 side dishes/casserole equivelent = full meal) is problematic. I think all men and women should be able to cook SOMETHING.
I think everyone should know how to cook something. ANYTHING. But if you don't, don't apologize for it! Go find a simple recipe and go from there.

I can't burn in the kitchen like my mom can, but I do well enough to still be alive. I love men who can cook. A mentor of mine, who's like a father figure, does the cooking in his family. I remember the first time I went over to his house and he cooked dinner; I thought it was just because I was there -- but as I grew closer to his family, I learned he was the chef in the house. One day I asked him why. He told me, I asked my wife what household chore she hated the most because that's the one I would do exclusively. She said cooking, so I cook. I thought that was too precious and I've since fallen in love with the idea of marrying a man who can cook. I realized how tied I was to the thought when I began dating a guy earlier this year who can't really cook.
"Hey. You should come over tomorrow and we'll watch a movie and make dinner."

"Ok. Sounds like a good plan." jokingly, I added, What are you going to make?"

"Um. I don't know. What do you think? Truth is, I can't really cook at all."

record scratch
I'm not dating him, anymore.

Ok, the truth is, I'm not dating him anymore because he'll be living in another country in less than a month -- I don't do long-distance relationships that have to exist as such for longer than 1 year and this would be at least 3, maybe more. But I won't lie -- when he said that he can't really cook the record did briefly scratch. Ultimately, I found it kind of cute that he suggested we make dinner (and he did help) even though he couldn't cook.

What was ultimately a good thing was his willingness to learn and not to sit back and expect me to do all the cooking. He wanted to help. He didn't apologize for not knowing how, which I respected, but he did throw himself out there to be taught and you can't frown your nose up at that.

Monday: Never apologize for your taste in clothes. It's your style.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Demanding Respect

Yesterday: Never apologize for dating outside your race. Just because you found Mr. Right across the color line doesn't mean you don't love your brothas.
Today: Never apologize for demanding respect. You are to always be treated as a queen.

I struggled to write this one. I had no motivation on this. I think it's because this is too basic to need explication.

I wrote a guest post for another blog (it has yet to be featured, but I'll let you guys know when it does) where I took issue with the free-use of euphemisms for black teens that reduces them to "urchins" and animals; creatures, really. It's disgusting the way humans will refer to one another sometimes as if it's ok. We all (well most of us -- that woman who sold her daughter in N.C. doesn't count, for example) deserve to be treated as humans. We deserve that basic respect.

We should expect anyone we come into contact with to treat us with basic respect. Looking us in the eye, listening to what we have to say, acknowledging our presence, etc...

The simple way to avoid apologizing for demanding respect is to accept nothing less. You don't have to be crude or crass about it, but when people know what you expect, they will often rise to the occasion. I'm reminded of a dr visit I had a few years ago. I had an embarassing and very painful problem that I was being told over and over again could only be cured with surgery. I have this irrational fear of surgery and so when the dr began talking about it, I got emotional. My mother ended up having to come into the room and it all went downhill from there.

She began asking questions that he had already answered but she had not been in the room for. I think he thought she was accusing him of making me cry and his tone went from moderately condescending to downright rude. I was so worked up about the thought of surgery that I acted out of character and listened to him damn-near belittle my mother because she was confused. Had I been thinking straight, I probably would've punched him in the face. Thinking about it now gets me incensed. You don't talk to me like that, and you definitely don't talk to my mother that way. I do remember getting up from the table, though, and grabbing my mom by the hand while he was mid-sentence. I couldn't kick him like I wanted to, but I could walk out. We paid the co-pay and refused to answer their calls for a follow-up.

How you treat others and treat yourself is what shows how you expect to be treated. I also try to treat people with respect until they give me every reason not to and if it comes to that, no words need to be exchanged, I just need to go. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend where we were talking about people who get in your face during an argument. "If we're that close, we don't need to be exchanging words; you obviously wanna go for blows..." she said. If you're so disrespectful that I can't respect you back, well we don't need to talk; you obviously don't want my respect.

Don't apologize for demanding respect, as long as you're giving it (within reason) to others and yourself.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for not knowing how to cook. Even if you can't burn like Grandma you know how to order good take out.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Who We Date

Yesterday: Never apologize for ordering dessert or more than one dessert.
Today: Never apologize for dating outside your race. Just because you found Mr. Right across the color line doesn't mean you don't love your brothas.

Finding Something New, catching Jungle Fever, getting your swirl on... we have all kinds of euphemisms for it, but it's still one of those really touchy subjects: interracial dating. Every blog has a requisite post on interracial dating (and if they don't, it's coming...) we've all talked about it, thought about it and some of us have done it.

The reason this topic gets so much press and can evoke very passioned responses is because race is not an easy topic in this country. We like to say we're in a post-racial society, but we're not. Racism still abounds, it's still a big deal and even though interracial marriages make up more than 7% of all marriages in this country we're still not comfortable with it.

But we're not talking about marriage. We're talking about dating. Going to see a movie, having a drink, spending a couple of hours with (gasp) a person of a different race. Sounds simple, and I think it can be, but trust me when I say I know that it's not.

J (for anyone who may be new/missed me saying this, J is my ex and he was white) seemed completely oblivious to the stares we would get when we would go out. Almost to the point of aggravation on my end. I talked before about our experiences with bold waitresses
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.
I can say that part of what bothered me more was knowing that for these white waitresses thinking that J was in a relationship with me was too far-fetched.

There was also the staring. I vividly remember going to eat at one of J's favorite restaurants during a busy dinner service. We were positioned in such a way that his back was to the entire restaurant but I had a perfect view of the people around us. There was a booth off to my right where 3 girls were seated shortly after J and I ordered. I didn't pay them any attention until I realized one of the girls kept leaning over to get a better look at me, and, presumably J. Of course everytime I told J to turn around she'd quickly scoot back inside the booth. He knew, though -- by then he was aware of the staring, he just didn't think it was worth it to worry about it.

I say all that to say that of course there are people out there who "don't approve" or take issue with interracial dating and that's their problem. Really. Letting them bother you, especially letting what you think they think get to you is making their problem your problem and that is no bueno.

But what about your friends? What about the black guys who think that a black woman with a non-black man is a traitor and somehow takes it personally? I can say with certainty that there were black guys I had known for years who never seemed to care about who I was dating or what I was doing romantically until they found out I was dating a white guy. I didn't understand it and none of them were negative about it (they couldn't be, almost all of them had dated non-black girls) but I noticed it. You are not a traitor because you date outside of your race. You are no less black for dating outside your race because, surprisingly, race has nothing to do with who you date/marry/sleep with (ask Tiger Woods).

You don't have to justify who you're attracted to, or who you date to anyone. I've said before:
...the point I'm trying to make is that I could go into all of the social reasons why I'm open to dating outside of my race and make some larger point about how we all need to just chill out and mind our own business. You know, ultimately, one shouldn't have to justify why they choose to be in relationships with whomever they choose to be in relationships with. That's the individual's business and surely none of mine. No one should ever, in my opinion, justify the type or sort of people they are attracted to. Attraction in and of itself is hard to explain and thus is all the explanation necessary.

I have found that most of the time there's a larger question [people who are fascinated by my dating history] want to ask or discussion they want to have that usually goes back to how "black" I am, which is also a stupid question. I'm black. That's enough -- who I do or don't date has nothing to do with my ethnicity.

I'll never, ever try to "justify" or "explain" why I date non-black men by placing the blame on anyone else. I date men -- period. There wasn't some wayward relationship I had with a black man that made me decide all black men were dogs and thus I'd only date white men. If you're attracted to people outside of your race, that's fine. But we shouldn't make people feel like they have to explain it and on the flip side we shouldn't feel like an explanation has to be at the expense of a group of people, most of whom we don't even know.
Frequently I've found that people who date interracially want to tell you a sob story about all the people within their race they dated that made them decide never to do it again. Those people are stupid, just like people who are against interracial relationships. I've never understood why I can have non-black friends but I can't date them.

It's not everyone's cup of tea. That's fine. But if you want to date someone of another race, you should feel ok to do that, you should feel like your friends will support you and you should feel like you don't have to explain it to anyone. If you don't feel that way, you need new people around you. I often found that if I didn't offer an explanation, no one asked me for one. You can even assert your decision in such a way that dares someone to ask you to explain it. It doesn't always work, but it can. Regardless, don't apologize for who you date to anyone. It's not worth it.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for demanding respect. You are to always be treated as a queen.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Satisfaction

Yesterday: Never apologize to your new friends about old friends. There's a reason she's been your girl from day one.
Today: Never apologize for ordering dessert or more than one dessert.

J used to get mad at me sometimes when we'd go out to eat. He'd swear I curtailed how much I ate because we were together. "I hate it when girls eat less to impress guys..." he'd say. Because of the distance, we didn't spend tons of time together and I think just the excitement of knowing I'd be spending a few days with him would eat into my appetite, at first, but I always got over that. I enjoy food. :)

But let's make this bigger than simply getting dessert. There's nothing wrong with doing something for your own satisfaction, within reason, obviously. Buying a new pair of shoes, not necessarily because you need them but because you like them and can afford them (note: affordability assumes that you're not dipping into rent money, bill money or other "already spent" money to buy something. We call this disposable cash, and if you're unfamiliar with this concept, that's a problem. E-mail me. We can talk about it) then get them.

Msbehavin at This Little Write of Mine just talked about wanting to go on vacation by herself, the only "problem" is that people are telling her she shouldn't. I guess because they wouldn't go on vacation by themselves, no one else should. That's false, actually. We can't let our own insecurities effect other people. Sure, a good friend would caution her to take care of herself and watch out for the rapists who always wear signs that say "Stay Away From Me" and such, but to discourage an adult from doing something for their own satisfaction? Not ok.

I mentioned previously stealing away one weekend. I holed up in a random hotel in a random city for a weekend and told only 2 people where I was going (you know, in case I never made it back) and I left. I did that because I just wasn't interested in hearing what everyone else thought about what I wanted to do, for my own satisfaction.

Thinking about random conversations I've had lately led me to post this as my gchat status
What is it about people that their first instinct is to be critical? As if it is their job to be sure no one is on a high horse. We shouldn't let our own insecurities become others' killjoys.
You know why we don't go for dessert, let alone a second piece? Because people will be critical; they will have something to say. It amazes me the way people seem to always go for criticism, first. I'm all for being honest with people and letting them know the flaws in their plans/ideas/whathaveyou but why do we always go straight for the "this sucks" line, instead of trying to find what's good about it?

It's a discussion worth having, but in the interim, I'll have a slice of red velvet cheesecake and a cookie, and no, there will be no "sorry" as an afterthought.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for dating outside your race. Just because you found Mr. Right across the color line doesn't mean you don't love your brothas.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Who Our Friends Are

Yesterday: Never apologize for wearing a weave or braids. You bought it so it's yours.
Today: Never apologize to your new friends about old friends. There's a reason she's been your girl from day one.

One afternoon, a friend of mine came over to my dorm room to do some studying. We'd been doing more talking and joking around then studying, but that was the way of undergrad. We were getting ready to go for some food when my friend noticed a picture on a shelf...
"So, I'm not trying to get in your business or anything, but what's up with all the white people?

I turned around in my chair and stared my friend in the eye, hoping this conversation wasn't headed where I thought

"I'm not sure I follow."

She hesitated...

"I mean, all your friends from home that we've met have been white. I'm just asking, what's up with that? Did you not have any black friends in high school?

I took in a deep breath silently both to calm myself and also to create an awkward silence

"Yes, I had black friends in high school. I'm sure you'll meet some of them at some point, but does that matter? Are my white friends a problem for you?"

She stuttered, stopped and looked at me to figure out how badly she'd messed up with me, before she continued.

"N-no. They're not a problem. I just think it's kinda weird how they're the only ones we've met and most of your friends here are black. I mean, how much do you really have in common with them?"

"I get it that some of ya'll didn't interact with white people before college, and that's cool, but I went to a private school so they were everywhere. The friends of mine that you've met are true blue friends. We've been through a lot and at this point, the fact that they're white is rarely an issue for us. You can let it be an issue for you, and that's cool or whatever, but those are my girls and they've had my back like I've had theirs."

Feeling a bit emboldened, she finally made her point

"Yeah, but I'm sure there's some stuff they don't get about you the way we do."

I didn't feel like arguing with the dense, so I ended it

"You're absolutely right. There are somethings they don't get about me, but then again, there are some things you obviously don't get about me either."
This is a conversation I've had to have more than once, with more than one person and in more than one way. The first person I had to have this conversation with was my mother.
"Just because you go to school with those white people, doesn't make you white..."

My mother didn't like me spending the night places, but especially not at the homes of my white friends. I can still vividly remember the many arguments we had. After one especially heated argument, I was fed up...

"You can go spend the evening there, but you will be coming back home to sleep. That's just the end of it. If you can't find a way back to the house, then you don't need to go. Don't you have some friends closer by you can hang out with?"

"I don't get it. You send me to school with these white kids and then get mad at me for making them my friends..."
Two of my closest friends from high school are white. I'm still cool with all the black people I graduated with (well, except one, but that is SO another story) and I even consider myself close to a number of them, but I don't seem to ever have to apologize for my friendships with them.

I didn't go through all the same things with my black friends that I did with my white friends. Not in high school. You see, the black people were friends because we were black; not necessarily because we liked each other. Me and my white friends? We got to be friends because we had stuff in common, we had shared experiences; we liked each other for who we were. Don't get me wrong, eventually my black friends and I realized we had lots in common, we created shared experiences (you try being the only black kid in at least one class for 5 years) and some of us began to genuinely like each other; however, I've never had to apologize to any new white friends for my old black friends but I'm always being asked to apologize for my old white friends to my new black friends. I quit doing that when I noticed a habit my black friends and I had in college.

I was walking with 2 of my friends to the dining hall. We were all having a spirited conversation when a white guy interrupted us to say hello to one of my friends.
There was a brief silence before my friend spoke
"That was Kevin from my theater class."

The conversation we'd been having picked up again, until I decided to switch the subject

"You guys ever notice how that always happens?"


"If a white person comes up to speak, the group gets quiet until someone explains why."

"Oh yeah, that's true."

"Like we just did it. Kevin says 'hi' and we waited for Alex to tell us who he was and how he knows him. It doesn't matter who you're with, that silence afterwards always happens. Like it's an understanding that all relationships need to be explained."
Not only had we all been apologizing for meaningless relationships, but we'd been expecting it of one another. I decided at that point I was over apologizing. I didn't even know what I was apologizing for and I surely didn't like the thought of it.

My friends are my friends. I'm not naive about race and what that means for every day interaction. I meet white folks all the time who get on my last nerve and I've surely gotten to know some white people very well only to then realize they were too ignorant for my life. But I've also met some white people who I'm glad to call friend and who, when compared to some black folks I know, proved to be better friends. There really is a reason these people are friends of mine. There's a reason all my friends are my friends and I don't apologize to any of them for it just like I don't apologize to any strangers for it.

Don't apologize for your old friends to your new friends. If the new friends are really your friends, then all that doesn't matter anyway.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for ordering dessert or more than one dessert.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Our Hair

Yesterday: Never apologize for asking for what you want. If you don't, then who will?
Today: Never apologize for wearing a weave or braids. You bought it so it's yours.

In the black community, we put a lot of focus on our hair. Some black women easily spend thousands of dollars a month (yes, I did say a month) just on their hair. It's a necessary line item in most black women's budget. We care a lot about how our hair looks. Whether it's natural or not, I'd venture to say there isn't a black woman alive who doesn't care how her hair looks, at least some of the time.

I've never understood people who apologize for what they do to their hair, just like I don't understand people who judge it. The black blogosphere is ripe with the natural vs. weave/permed/non-natural hair debates. There are those who think if your hair isn't natural, it's not right and there are those who think if your hair is natural, it's unkempt and nasty. Major and unnecessary assumptions.

Listen, how you do your hair is of no concern to me. I can support a woman who chooses a close crop, just like I can support a woman who adds extensions to make her hair longer and just like I can support a woman who's afro is huge. What we have to be careful of is letting our hair define us. You are who you are with or without your hair, and though we care about it and though many of us put countless hours and dollars (well, we could count the dollars and hours but I don't think we want to) into it, our hair does not define us (let's all break into a chorus of I Am Not My Hair). Feeling the need to apologize for your hair suggests it has some sort of identifying capabilities and it surely does not.

The other crazy thing about apologizing for your hair is, who are you apologizing to? Seriously. Just think about that one.

Aight, no more apologizing for your hair. It's yours and you'll do with it

Monday: Never apologize to your new friends about old friends. There's a reason she's been your girl from day one.


Things We Don't Apologize For: Asking For What We Want

Yesterday: Never apologize for saying NO.
Today: Never apologize for asking for what you want. If you don't, then who will?

I was really tempted to just say "So... we don't apologize for asking for what we want..." and leaving it be, but I won't do that. :)

Again, this is another lesson that hits close to home for me. People are not mind readers. They're just not. If you don't open your mouth and say what you need/want no one else will. You are your best cheerleader, your #1 advocate, the lone person who wakes up every day with your best interest at heart. That being the case, who better to vocalize your wants and needs than you?

This can be hardest for those of us who are predisposed to the caregiver role. We try to anticipate what people need and in the back of our minds we tend to think that someone else is doing that for us. Guess what? They're so not. Not at all.

Only you know what you want. You won't meet people and invite them in your life and they fit perfectly, bending to your every whim, knowing your every need. They have to get to know you and you have to help them by vocalizing what you expect. I don't mean have a conversation that starts off This is what I expect (though, there is a time and place) but when opportunities arise, let 'em know. Use your position as your lone #1 advocate to your advantage!

Tomorrow Never apologize for wearing a weave or braids. You bought it so it's yours


Things We Don't Apologize For: Saying No

Yesterday: Never apologize for setting high standards in a relationship. You know what you can tolerate and what simply gets on your nerves.
Today: Never apologize for saying NO.

The only thing I'm worse about doing faithfully than taking time for myself, is saying "no." At least to certain people. Just today on Twitter I said "I'm such a sucker..." Day or night, when my friends come calling, I'm there. Nevermind that 9 times out of 10 when I need (some of) them, they're nowhere to be found. Over and over I'm told some variation of the idea that I'm trusted to always be there, be the rock, be supportive, etc... and it always amazes me that no one ever thinks I need that from them. I digress, though...

Learning not only to say no, but to not apologize for it has been a tough lesson for me. I'm not even sure why. I'm so strong and bull-headed about some things, but when it comes to that...

I know part of what I need to do is reconcile the difference between "abandoning" my friends and taking care of myself. If they can't accept that I don't want to do something, for whatever reason, well that's their problem. The only issue is that's way easier said than done. Like way easier.

I'm a work in progress on this one. I know one thing I really need to do is start focusing more on the people who support me taking care of self instead of the people I wish would do so. We don't apologize for saying no, or at least we're actively working on getting to a place where we don't.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for asking for what you want. If you don't, then who will?


Things We Don't Apologize For: High Standards

Yesterday: Never apologize for keeping the ring even if you did not get married
Today: Never apologize for setting high standards in a relationship. You know what you can tolerate and what simply gets on your nerves

A while back, I did a post titled Deal Breakers and I said,
Deal Breakers are the things that either with or without, you have to leave a relationship. Be that a romantic one or friendship or even business relationship. When you know what your deal breakers are and can effectively communicate them, it helps people know what you want but most importantly, they help you know what you want. I'm not sure my personal deal breaker list is exhaustive, but it's a far cry from where I was. My deal breakers apply (except where obvious) to any kind of relationship.
I also did a post titled Flows Like Water where I recalled words J said to me during one of our classic "are we breaking up for real this time?" arguments.
Good luck finding a guy who meets all of your requirements. You want too much
I went on to say
I know he said that out of anger, but it's always stuck with me. I might want too much -- but that's why I'm ok being single forever...
Deal breakers and standards are something I believe heavily in. When J first made that comment to me (and he would repeat it later) I remember spending a lot of time thinking about what he said. Are my standards too high? Do I want too much? I tried to imagine a relationship without the things I wanted and I kept coming up with a relationship that didn't look too good. I decided then I wouldn't settle for less than I deserved. It took me a while to put that decision into practice and it started with being ok with singleness and understanding the difference between compromise and settling.

I'd love to be in a long-term relationship with a man who has no kids, but I won't kick an otherwise eligible man to the curb because he has a child. That's a compromise. It's important to me that anyone I date be goal-oriented. If you are not goal-oriented, we don't need to go past the friend zone, because otherwise I'll grate on your nerves and you'll grate on mine. To decide to be in a relationship with someone who has no goals and no drive would not be a compromise, it would be settling. It goes against something I value highly.

When we start apologizing for knowing what we want and refusing to accept anything other than that, we set ourselves up for failure. It's like researching the perfect car. You find out that the ideal car for your lifestyle is a small 2-door coupe with great gas mileage, but for some reason, when you go to the dealership, you let the car dealer talk you into purchasing a large SUV with horrendous gas mileage. It makes no sense and that's not a compromise, that's absurd! Now you're giving away your hard-earned money every month for a beast of a vehicle that you didn't even want. We wouldn't do that with buying a car, so I have no idea why we would do that with people we're in relationships with.

For all the ish we go through in our lives, dealing with other people and the mess they bring into our lives, the least we could do is set some standards and expect people to live up to them; compromising where necessary and not budging one inch when it's important. High standards? You'll be getting no apology for that.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for saying NO.