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Wiley Wandering

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November 30, 2007

Responding To The Words “I Love You!”

What is imbedded in our actions that make large, sometimes very large statements about us that we don’t even consider. For example, what are the implications of saying “I love you?” More so, what are the implications of responding with “I love you” immediately after someone says it to you? Okay, this is probably too direct a question to hit you with without giving you some background first, right? Okay, here is the background…

So, I was involved with a woman once that I was totally enthralled with. The way she walked, talked, laughed, frowned, ate, drank, etc. None of it was boring to me. It was all like the NBC slogan “must see TV.” I didn’t want to miss a single episode of her. Well, one day, after we had been dating for quite a while (approximately eight weeks, an eternity when you are young) she looked at me longingly and said those words people die to hear “I love you?” Wow! I couldn’t believe it. I had heard them before, had said them before. So, what made hearing them from her so special. Well, I guess I didn’t think my game was tight enough (at that time) to inspire someone like her to say those words to someone like me. I mean, I was cool (whatever that means in our own mind’s eye), fairly attractive, definitely intelligent, and very modest (can’t you tell). Anyway, as excited as I was to hear those words, I rocked her world when my response was simply “Wow, I never thought I would hear you say that to me. I am overwhelmed and need to process the magnitude of what you just told me!” Now, those of you that are in disbelief in my lack of the endearing response that you may assume she wanted to hear from me can take solace in the fact that she did hear it in return, but it took a while.

Well, what do you think? Should I have immediately said it back to her because she said it to me? It is somewhat of a customary occurrence in those situations to immediately extend that same salutation back to the person who says it to you, if you are anywhere close to feeling that way about them, right? What would you do? What have you done? What should we be doing with our assertions of love?

Listen, in my defense at that time I was just starting to ask myself some of life’s so-called big questions like “Who am I (something I still do today)? I was starting to take myself to task for why I just automatically did certain things or didn’t automatically do other things. For example, somehow I had gotten into a pattern of acknowledging Black people that I didn’t know as I passed them by on the street with a hello or smile. However, White people didn’t get the same acknowledgement from me. Somehow this cultural norm had been taught to me in the most subtle of ways and I had adopted it but never questioned it. I was actually at the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament in Palm Springs one day, walking through the huge crowd with my boss who happened to be White (and also happened to be one of my best friends). We were rapping about life, tennis, relationships; you name it, until he noticed that every time we passed a Black person there was an exchange between me and that person. Suddenly after witnessing it a half dozen times or so, he said to me “Hey, you don’t know them, what the hell is going on?” I told him that I was simply succumbing to one aspect of my socialization of being Black in American society. He said “What?” I told him it probably went deeper than that, but that I didn’t want to have that conversation today, I wanted to watch Serena, Venus, Jennifer, Andre, Pete, and Malivai. We nevertheless did have that conversation. It is a conversation I will have with you on another occasion, but in the context of returning an acknowledgement of love, it is just an example of how we don’t take the time to unpack what we say.

So back to my questions, is it okay to have something that is packaged so seriously, framed so intimately, tossed about so cavalierly? Is the act of verbally expressing love lessened or cheapened when immediately repeated back to someone? Is there an expectation that men should say it first, since traditionally, in heterosexual relationships, we initiate the first date, lean in on the first kiss, make the proposal and buy the ring. Are we responsible for saying “I love you” first? Is it our duty to say it back if the woman has taken the initiative? If so, how does this play out in lesbian, gay relationships? Are there socio-economic class implications attached somehow to expressions of affection? What is someone really saying to you when they say I love you? What is being said when the immediate response is "I love you too." Of course for some it is a strategic move that is not heartfelt, but an attempt to position oneself for certain benefits and privileges, let’s not be naïve here. But this “I love you” and “I love you too” thing is quite serious, don’t you think? Somebody help me on this one? Can I get some “love?”

November 19, 2007

Hillary & Barack: Who Are We Kidding?

It could be argued that we still live in a society where people don’t think for themselves, but if you point that fact out to them, they will get seriously upset with you. Many philosophers have made the point that one of the most intimidating moments anyone will ever experience is the moment when we truly start to think, to question, to intellectually engage life. Arguably, once we start examining this thing called life, it is extremely difficult to stop reasoning your way through it, or around it. “It was Albert Camus who once wrote “beginning to think is beginning to be undermined,” and “everything begins with consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it…”

We have a major election on the horizon. In this election we have two underrepresented candidates who thus far could be considered viable, if not front runners. Hillary Clinton could very well be the first woman president of the United States while Barack Obama could very well be the first black president of the United States. Let me repeat that: Hillary Clinton could very well be the first woman president of the United States while Barack Obama could very well be the first black president of the United States. Is that a big deal? Duh, Yes! Should it be? Yes/No! Yes, because it has never happened before and is long overdue. No, because in a society that thrust its chest out as the leader of the free world, it is ridiculous and shameful that we have never anointed and celebrated a woman/racial minority as our leader. When you really think about it, isn’t it truly embarrassing?

Because of egos, scars, an ex-president as possible first gentleman, and divergent agendas (did anyone say Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s eventual philosophical differences), the possibility of these two on the same ticket appears remote. Nonetheless, the one thing that fascinates me most is what will occur when people step into the solitude of their polling place’s voting booth to cast their vote.

Many of the same people that would challenge those who might be apt to vote in terms of gender or race vote blindly in terms of political party. As I have mentioned in other blogs, many, if not most voters probably couldn’t articulate the principles of their political party but vote in their political party because their parents did. These considerations however, don’t deter them from casting that ballot. Is it far fetched to also publicly state that probably a large percentage of our elected officials wouldn’t have been elected if they weren’t relatively attractive (a form of beauty privilege). So, how can people be upset with the fact that droves of women and blacks may be voting for Hillary and Barack because, as Victor Hugo once said, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

So, will race and gender be the call of the day? Well, will they, and if so, why? What are some of the harsh realities that may accompany voting of this type? How does it differ from voting realities of the past? Lastly, how different will our beloved America be if we have a president who has overcome some aspects of oppression to ascend to the oval office that no other president has ever had to overcome?

November 11, 2007

Majoring in Romance: So Why Is It Called A Bachelor’s Degree?

I just finished reading a book titled “Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement, and College Culture,” by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart, which entertains the question of whether college women are distracted with romance to such an extreme that it adversely affects their educational attainment. The research for this book was done on 23 women in the late 70s and it focused on two very different colleges with two different female demographics. Nonetheless, when I read it my mind started racing. Could this still be the case today?

Now, I have an advantage on many of you because I have seen the movie “Splendor in the Grass” which gives an adequate depiction of this phenomenon in the character portrayed by Natalie Wood (albeit from the reality of high school). I have also read a follow up article (by Shannon Gilmartin) that challenges/advances some of the research through a more contemporary analysis predicated on interviews of 14 women on a college campus in the year 2005. But, that aside, what is your take on this intriguing question? Do you think that our society has somehow instilled the notion that finding a husband while your attending college is as much a priority, if not more, than achieving the college degree? Do you think the priority/pressure to meet a life mate differs depending on the academic potential of the female student, or is that also inconsequential once the love interest is discovered (upon discovery obtaining the degree becomes less significant)?

Even considering the presence of women studies on college campuses all over the country, I would imagine that most of you would agree that a dysfunctional preoccupation with romance is still the case for some women. Assuming it is sometimes the case; do you have anecdotal evidence of this, or reasons why women’s career aspirations are sometimes restructured once their heartstrings are tugged? What might be some of the reasons it appears as if this wasn’t and still is not the case for as many men? Lastly, how different do you think the consequences would be for women in the survey if they found romance with another woman, as opposed to a heterosexual romance? Do you think it would be quite different if men were looked at outside of the domain of heterosexuality (if gay men’s relationships were considered)?

November 4, 2007

Their Reality: Is It Really That Cut and Dry?

I had just entered the house when I heard my mother’s voice calling my name. As a fifteen year old my first thought didn’t have me noticing anything special in her tone, but upon first glimpse of her it was apparent she was overwhelmed with something. I am sure most of us have experienced a moment where we knew, deep within the pit of our stomachs, that something was extremely amiss. That was one of those moments for me. My mom then said the words that seemed to lift me out of the reality of our moment and into a reality that felt as if I was living someone else’s life. I remember both thinking to myself while I was asking myself did she just say what I thought she said? Did Mama just say “your father was shot and killed today…” Damn, she did!

I remember not shedding a tear that day, or days, weeks, even years after that moment. I had too much anger in me to allow even one tear to slide down my cheek. Why would I cry for a man who walked the earth for six years prior to the moment of his death, but not find time to see his son! I felt much contempt for this man who was my father but never really my daddy. While not necessarily hating him, I hated what he stood for, or didn’t take the time to stand for. It would be years before I would shed a tear on his behalf or on my behalf for him, or for myself. Eventually I did though, and there is one film which invokes those tears every time I see it. The film is Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals! The scene is towards the end of the film when the main character, Victor (played by Adam Beach), is trying to come to terms with the death of his father and goes to disperse his father’s ashes off a bridge. Maybe it is the way this scene is packaged, but I can’t get past this scene without a flood of tears racing down my face. I can take a deep breath, steel my nerves, and convince myself it is only a movie. But the bottom line is always the same, I find myself crying for a man that just didn’t seem to care enough to love me! As Victor tosses the ashes off the bridge his thoughts are revealed in somewhat of a poetic fashion:

How do we forgive the sins of our fathers? Do we forgive them for leaving us too often. or forever when we were little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage? Or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying... or not marrying our mothers? For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth... or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning? For shutting doors? For speaking through walls... or never speaking? Or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age... or in theirs? Or in their deaths, saying it to them? Or not saying it? If we forgive our fathers... what is left?

How do we forgive the sins of our fathers or as a matter of fact, the sins of our parents? Who is it actually that we should be trying to forgive in some cases, our father, mother, both parents, or the society that prevented them, inhibited them, from being all they could be? How important is it to find a context that at least gives us access to better understand their decision-making process so that we aren’t judging them by a modern day standard that isn’t applicable to the time they lived in? Is the thought of forgiving our fathers/mothers really fair when often times we really have only a limited version of the story? Is it really that cut and dry?