Here at the CFC we like to spend February writing about love, sex, and relationships. But 2012 simply has not been cooperating. Three of our five posts this month have been tributes to people we’ve lost tragically: Don Cornelius, Stacey English, and Whitney Houston. To top that off, I started off Valentine’s Day in a midnight twitter campaign against XXL Magazine and rapper Too Short, who gave an interview with a primer for middle school boys that might as well have been called, “How To Be a Rapist 101.”
Too Short really should take a clue from our beloved Whitney: “I believe the children are the future, love them well, and let them lead the way, teach them all the beauty they possess inside, show them a sense of pride.”
Love them well. Those are powerful words. To me well could be read both as an adverb of “how to love,” (and it is clear from Wayne’s song) that ppl our age and younger are really trying to figure out how to do it. When I think of Whitney though, I am reminded that we should also read these words to mean, “love people into a state of wellness.” I have felt deep sadness over losing Whitney, because like so many, I hoped for her a different ending. As my mother’s only child, my heart wrenches for Bobbi-Kristina, and I wonder how she will marshal the strength to get to the other side of heartbreak. And I feel like we didn’t learn the lesson with MJ, namely that if we had shown these folks the kinds of love in life that we have shown them in death, perhaps they would still be here. At the same time, I am reminded that the things we hate most in others, are the things we hate in ourselves. We must learn to replace ridicule with a kind of radical, accountable love.
So to Too Short, I say simply: your apology was not enough. The advice you gave will needlessly turn young men into criminals and young women into victims. Your words give Black boys another model that tells them that their strength, their manhood lies in treating women like conquests and objects. Because no one talks to black boys about how to love themselves, the wellspring out of which they will come to love or at least offer care to romantic partners is pretty low. (And for Vanessa Satten, EIC over there, I have no words. I mean, et tu, chic?)
And frankly, if I can keep it really real, the unsophisticated view that Too Short promotes about women’s bodies, is one that many men carry into adulthood. And deploy to all kinds of ignorant ends.
I’ve heard too many stories of late from my feminist homegirls about grown men who approach sex with ego first, dick second, and care last. They have been taught to believe that women’s bodies are ready for penetration at exactly the same moment that they are ready to penetrate. More to the point, they have been taught that penetration, rather than pleasure is the goal. No hating on penetration, but this is probably the only time you’ll ever hear that the best time to go for a ride is when conditions are wet and slippery. Take heed, brothers, and make it rain. Do the dishes, bring lube, but above all remember, if you have the luxury of getting it in this Valentine’s Day, I say to you, “it gets wetter.”
I will be getting it in this Valentine’s Day a different way: with my homegirls! My Galentines (Crunkadelic tells me that this is what Leslie Knope calls them, and I dig it)! Even though I know that Valentine’s Day is a commercial, made-up holiday, still I love it. Some feminists do, some don’t. (The Occupy V-Day Campaign is one I can get with.)
I think I get it from my mama. Every Valentine’s Day, my mom would get me a cool goody basket, with fun pencils and pens, books (usually Baby-Sitters Club, but there was that one year when I wanted all things New Kids on the Block), and lots and lots of chocolate, plus a cool Hallmark card. We weren’t huggers at my house (and anyone who knows me knows I’m still not), and not particularly expressive of verbal love either. I always knew I was loved, my love language being quality time, of which my mother gave me much. The gifts were just, I think, my mother’s way to celebrate me, to be intentional about letting me know I was worthy of love and appreciation.
I’m thankful for those years because they taught me powerfully that having a boo isn’t the only option for having a Valentine. The last and only time I had a Valentine’s Day boo was circa 1997. So given my love for commemorative days, these last 15 years woulda been hella miserable had I retained my traditional definition. And hell, there have been some miserable V-Days. But about 7 years ago, I looked around and realized that one of the great blessings of my life was that I had more homegirls than I can stand. I knew what a blessing they were because I remember a lonely adolescence without many close Black homegirls, a time when I wondered if I’d ever have other nerdy, beautiful Black girls to share my time with. It took a while, but one day, I looked up and there they were in brilliant, beautiful abundance. Since most of us were single and hating it, I thought I’d throw a party. Feed them. (and in so doing feed myself.) Celebrate them. (And in so doing celebrate myself).
I’m still single, though hating it much less. Perhaps because I’ve realized that I really love my life, and I love spending time with my homegirls, laughing, giggling, and not being pressed with the home responsibilities of children and partners. It’s a new luxury for sisters to get to spend this much time on ourselves, and for the intellectual types among us, the ability to choose solitude or company at will is…a necessity. So I’m still throwing parties in every new place, among every new group of homegirls. It reminds me, and hopefully them, that we are loved. Now I’m off…the girls will be here at 7!