A Keeper of Men

So I just have a question…

Ladies, how do you keep a man? Do I wear my hair a certain way? Are there “Keep A Man” clothes? Do they need special food? Specific snacks? Should my home resemble a sports bar with a bed? Do I fill my brain with motivational messages that I blurt out when he slaps me on the ass like a vending machine, giving him exactly what he needs, exactly when he needs it? How do you do it? Can you ladies in relationships help me out? Because I’ve wandered into yet another place where I thought I had some footing and it turns out I might be totally clueless. Walk with me…

I’m on Facebook, minding my business (which is part of the problem because I should have just kept doing that), and one of my longtime friends posted a meme asking women to name a way to keep a man that doesn’t involve sex, food, or money. Now, it was at this point that I really fucked up because I decided to stop scrolling and read the responses. What in the hell was I thinking? That just gets you more involved; I should have known better. I read what the ladies were writing down, and a lot of it was, quite honestly, what I expected: support him, foster his dreams, pray for him, build him up, don’t knock his ideas, and my personal favorites (sarcasm)–shut up sometimes and don’t nag him so much. I laughed a little, nodded my head thoughtfully, took a deep breath, and wrote my sure-fire foolproof method for keeping a man: nothing. That’s what I believe, so that’s what I wrote. I wrote that nothing “keeps” a man other than him wanting to stay. Period.

Now the response from my longtime friend (a guy, if you haven’t figured it out), was not agreement. He told me he disagreed and that I had answered the wrong question. Now that stumped me. Because I thought I read the question correctly. The meme didn’t say “Name ways to make your man happier,” “Name ways to cater to your man,” or even, “Name ways to keep your relationships strong.” It said to name a way you keep a man, which I interpreted as “keep him from leaving me,” and from what I’ve learned, there’s no way to do that, other than him wanting to stay. So I don’t know how it wasn’t the question being asked. Now, this is when I got smart and figured out that I didn’t want this Facebook discussion in any way, shape, form, or fashion. So I didn’t respond after he said that. I moved along. But it stayed with me, and I couldn’t move on in my mind. I even asked my Twitter timeline, that’s how confused I was. How did I not get the question right? Because I didn’t mimic the answers of those other women? Because I actually believe healthy relationships are a result of free will on the part of both people and not magic beans wrapped in condescending rhetoric like, “shut up sometimes and don’t nag him?”

Look. I don’t have a thing to say about those other women’s answers. I don’t care. Besides that, most of them probably have a man and I certainly don’t. So maybe I’m totally wrong. But it bothered me a lot that those answers were given, that those were the answers expected, and anything not in that vein was rejected as not answering the right question. I mean, support, prayer, encouragement are all par for the course in relationships, right? Why would you be in one otherwise? Those are all things that keep relationships strong, things that both partners need, things that are somewhat necessary. They’re not tips to glue a man to your side. Shutting up sometimes and listening is just good communication skills–necessary for life–not some ancient Chinese secret to keep a man. You think men are the only people who like silence? You think men are the only people who want to be left alone sometimes? But it drove me to something deeper. The idea that “keeping” him was my responsibility as his woman.

See, once you start throwing around things like, “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” you’ve just given the woman an extra job. Suddenly, it’s my duty to make him stay. Now the onus is on me to “keep” him rather than on him–a fully functioning, grown ass man–to make himself happy in whatever way that means. You’ve unbalanced the scales. You’ve moved the goalposts. Both of us working to keep our relationship strong is somehow not enough now. And you’ve given him less work. Because now, if he does in fact leave me, he can blame me. He can point to something I didn’t do, rather than just saying the relationship wasn’t right. And now he can go blameless into his next one without ever learning how to self-reflect, or self-correct. Maybe the issue is laziness. Because “maintaining your relationship,” or “keeping it strong,” implies that both people are working at it. And “Ladies, how do you keep your man?” clearly implies that only one person is. It’s entitlement. It’s unfair. And really harmful to women, I think. The idea that I have to do anything other than reciprocate what’s given to me, in order to “keep” someone who has the free will to leave anytime they want, is utterly ridiculous. And since I haven’t had the greatest luck in relationships, I can also attest that I’ve begged enough people to stay to know that it doesn’t work. A man who wants to stay will build with you, and stay–and a man who wants to leave, will leave. Nothing can keep him but his desire to stay. Let me say that again. NOTHING CAN KEEP HIM BUT HIS DESIRE TO STAY.

A friend of mine (a man) told me that part of man’s journey to do/ be better for women in this life is disabusing themselves of the notion that a woman’s love for you is assumed, but your love for her has to be earned. And I find myself wanting to ask men–is it more important that I love you, or is it more important that I earn your love for me? I wonder how many of them would have a thoughtful answer. Because in my mind, the first one is heart and the second one is ego.

Now let me not suggest that you don’t do all that stuff for your man that those other women wrote in the comments (if you want to). Of course you should support, uplift, encourage, and pray for him. Of course you should shut up sometimes and listen. But do it out of love and reciprocity, in the interest of strengthening your bond and falling deeper in love, not because you think it’s some magic glue that’s gonna hold him to your side. Because it’s all about choice. And so-called “perfect” girls get cheated on and dumped everyday, B.


Forgiveness, starring Lemonade and Ricki and the Flash

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Shameka, what the hell kind of title is that? What are you writing about now?” But I did it to pull you in. It worked, right? So walk with me. I promise I have a point, and those two ladies are at the center of it. Good news is, I’m back to using TV as inspiration for my life. Lol.

I watched Lemonade like the rest of the world and am just in awe of Queen Bey. Now, people who know me know that while I don’t dislike her, I am certainly not her biggest fan. So for her newest project to touch me so much really means something. It’s significant. For me. I wasn’t looking to be so captivated by it, wasn’t looking for it to resonate with me. But it did. And one element of it especially. Now, in this mini movie, Bey seems to be chronicling a journey of a woman going through a romantic crisis. She goes from wondering about her husband’s distance, to finding out about his infidelity, the pain and anger of her confrontation, forgiveness and reform, and finally, a higher level of self, and of happiness. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning to it all as well, but on the surface, this is what appears to be being depicted. Now whether she’s speaking literally of her and Jay has been the topic all over social media, but that’s not what I’m concerned about today. When she gets to the point of forgiveness, the section features both her and Jay and she sings a song called “Sand Castles.” That part speaks to me… and I wonder about forgiveness. But that was just the beginning. The universe continued it’s prod in this direction again today.

Today, I happened to watch a cute little dramedy starring Meryl Streep called, Ricki and the Flash. It’s a movie about a wife and mother who leaves her family to pursue her rock star dreams and gets called back into the fold years later when she’s distant and washed up, to help with a daughter (whom she barely knows) who has been abandoned by her husband. It’s a lesson in swallowing your pride, but also in redemption… and forgiveness. See the recurring theme? Told you guys I had a point! Anyway, all of that got me to wondering about forgiveness. Should we always forgive? Does everyone deserve it? Are there levels? Does forgiveness mean forgetting? How does anyone do it fully? Forgive, I mean.

So let me jump right in. When someone does you wrong, lets you down, breaks their promise and your trust, is forgiveness always the way? Is it the truth and the light? People always say you should forgive, for yourself. They say it’s so YOU can move on, with a clear head and heart and it doesn’t have anything to do with the other person. But it does. Forgiveness absolves them, it wipes their slate clean. You might not have done it FOR them, but they benefit. You might think it’s petty for me to concern myself with that, and you’re probably not wrong. But it’s how I feel. So here we are. I’m all about justice and balancing the scales. And when someone who’s harmed me gets to skip away unscathed with no comeuppance, my petty comes out. I mean, it’s quite possible that the other person doesn’t even care and will skip away unscathed anyway–but if that’s going to happen, then you certainly don’t need to have my forgiveness to go with it. I’m much more likely to forgive if I can at least count on you to be contrite about your shit.

Then I wonder what my level is. Because I’ve done plenty of things wrong. And one would think I’d want to forgive as I’ve obviously been forgiven. We all think the things we’ve done are forgivable. And it’s easy to pass judgement and say that other people’s transgressions aren’t. Trust me, I know. And I get it. And as much as I struggle with forgiveness, I still realize that I need it too. I still want it. But I also know when I’ve done wrong and I acknowledge it. I work hard to make amends. I want people to be able to trust me. I think sometimes I worry a little too much about that. Sometimes I’m pretty consumed with making sure I’m walking that straight and narrow, and showing the appropriate contrition for the things I do. So I usually feel like someone who has in fact “earned” forgiveness. But that’s just me. It’s the rest of the world I’m worried about. And it doesn’t really work that way anyway, right? Or does it? Do you have to “earn” forgiveness? Or does everyone just “deserve” it?

On a more spiritual note, some say it pulls you closer to God to forgive as he forgives, as he’s forgiven you. To err is human, to forgive, divine, and all that jazz. And I think there could be some truth to that. I think it does put you on a bit of higher plane to forgive someone completely and without any lingering negative feeling. I just don’t think I’m ready to be on the plane. And is that really the goal? I mean, should I forgive everyone, all the time? I don’t think I should, nor do I even think it’s possible. And frankly, so what if I didn’t? I guess I really can’t get to the higher plane then. But quite honestly, sometimes forgiveness is tiring and being the “bigger person” is vastly overrated. Sometimes is it not better to simply cut the offensive persons out of your life and move on? What do they need with your forgiveness? Like I said a couple of paragraphs ago, they probably don’t even care. But you’re doing it for you, right? Not them. So there should be satisfaction in that. Hmmm… maybe.

Then  there’s the whole forgive/ forget argument. Some people say you should forgive, but never forget. Others say that you haven’t fully forgiven if you don’t forget. I don’t see how you could ever forget some things, even if you do forgive. But I guess that in order not to let the mistake color how you treat the person, you’d have to forget on some level, wouldn’t you? I think that’s my issue. I mean, I let my anger go. And I cry enough to wash away the hurt, and I forgive. I do. But I’m always cautious with you from that point. I don’t ever feel like I can let you all the way in, again. Does that mean I didn’t really forgive you?

I guess there really are levels. It depends on whether you’re ready, whether your life is being held up by your anger, and in some cases, whether you feel like you should, or want to. Forgiveness in the eye of the beholder, huh? Like beauty. And art. And… other things you look at.

A Thirsty Heart


I’m starting with a sigh because here I go again. I have a lot to unpack and I’m here, again, with the intention of working through these emotions that just keep popping up. Now mind you, when I work through these things, the response I get is usually overwhelmingly supportive, and I have to thank all of the people who encourage me, and love me, and read my thoughts and see me for who I am: just a woman trying to figure this life thing out, which is what most of us are doing. But still, whenever I write about something that’s weighing on me, I’m hesitant. That being said, I was hesitant at first. Sometimes I really wonder if it’s a good idea for me to be so transparent. I wonder what people think of me that they’re not saying. I wonder if I write about my weight, and my love life, and my struggle with confidence and some people just read and go, “that Shameka sure is fucked up.” I wonder that. I do. But even with that, I have to persevere. I have to express myself. So here I am. Here we are. And here we go. Again.

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about love. I write about love… all the time. Most of my stories have some element of romantic love in them. I’m kind of obsessed with it. There are so many ways I can go, so many places the characters take me. But more often than not, I’m writing that all-consuming love, that TV melodrama love, the love that really conquers all. I’m writing the love I wish I had. Now, I know enough to know that love is far more nuanced in the real world. It can fade, even when we don’t want it to. Sometimes we grow out of it, or are forced out for reasons beyond our control. You don’t always get a hundred chances to make it right. Sometimes separation… is just that. But even with all of that real world knowledge, I’m still writing out my romantic dreams.

In one of my earliest blogs (see link here https://shamekaerby.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/not-the-same-girl/), I wrote about how my last break-up had chilled my romantic, optimistic nature. How I was more cautious, guarded. And how I was afraid I’d be that way forever. I’m kind of happy to say that the worse didn’t happen. I may seem a little more guarded in my real life, but my stories are proof positive that my romantic nature is fully intact. Plus, I’m not afraid to like people again. I’m still optimistic about it- mostly. But the sad truth is, as much as I believe in it, and write about it, and hope for it, my love life has been a pretty big disappointment as a whole. And I have no idea why.

I thought for a while that my lack of confidence was killing it for me. I even wrote a blog about it (https://shamekaerby.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/kill-them-with-confidence/) . I mean, all of the relationship “experts” go on and on about how you have to project a certain way, and attract people to you, how you can’t want it too bad because men will sense your desperation and they won’t want you. I took it all to heart, got to the bottom of why I wasn’t confident, vowed to work on it as much as I could. And I did work on it. I even think there’s been progress. But still… disappointments. People said I should broaden my horizons. So I tried online dating. More disappointments. I won’t link those blogs. Who needs to relive my slut shaming episode again anyway? Not me. Then, I thought maybe it was my weight. So I tried to lose some. But that wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t my weight as much as it was the way I felt about my weight. I didn’t feel attractive, which circled right back to that confidence thing.


Anyway, next I tried to unpack all of my issues inside as a way of cleaning out the cobwebs and getting to the bottom of things. I realized that my biological dad had left me with some feelings I needed to acknowledge. I realized that this led me to seek people who were emotionally unavailable because I wanted to “fix” them. I mean, I got to the crust of some pretty heavy shit. And I needed to. I did it for the right reasons, and I’m better for it. But a small part of me wonders about whether I’ll ever get to share my emerging, emotionally healthy self WITH someone. And it’s hard not to believe that it’s just you. But I know some pretty wonderful people, who are also single, who are also hoping that love will happen for them. So I know I’m not the only one slugging through this shit, and that makes me feel marginally better. Still. Some things are hard to process.

I have loved. But I have never been loved in return. I’ve been lusted after, wanted, desired. And that feels pretty good. But none of the men I’ve loved have ever loved me back. Not one. I’ve heard the words, but they weren’t true. That made me sad, when I first said that out loud to myself. You know what made it worse? I had to talk myself through the reality that maybe it won’t happen. I mean everything isn’t meant for everyone, right? Maybe things like lasting romantic involvements and children aren’t meant for me. Maybe. Now before you accuse me of having a defeatist attitude, I haven’t given up all hope. I’m just saying that at some point, I may have to accept that those are things I’m not meant to have, that my purpose is different, that my fate won’t bend in that direction. Maybe. I had a conversation with one of my aunts about hormones and she told me to get ready for more changes because I was nearly menopausal, like that was supposed to give me some sort of comfort. All I could think is that my biological clock was running out of batteries. And I… am running out of optimism. Not purposely, of course. Maybe I should stop having conversations with people.

Anyway, as with many of my blogs, I don’t have the answers. I guess I’m not supposed to have them. Yet. If you’ve ever heard a genuine, “I love you too” you’re pretty lucky for that–don’t forget it. And all is not lost. I still believe in love, and in its absolute power. I’m still telling stories, and still making people fall in love on paper. For now, it’ll have to be enough.

Middle Ground With My Mother

I love books. Words and pages and binding- subplots and character study. Story worlds are my worlds. I grew up with my nose in a book most of the time. My parents used to have to make me go outside. Books were an escape, but also a friend. Lately though, my life has been so much in the way that I haven’t had the time to balance- so I haven’t had the inclination, let alone the free time to read a book. Between work, friends, writing and TV, things are getting hard to juggle.

But recently, something amazing happened: I had time to read a book. 2013 was an awesome year for my writing; this is the most productive I’ve been since high school. But, as I stated, it hasn’t left a lot of time for reading- something I love to do. I regretted that change in my life, so I made a commitment to this book- and I finished it. The book was called Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. She’s also the author of a book called Gone Girl, which I didn’t read, that got pretty good reviews. I hope it was better than the one I read. But back to my story. In the book, the main character is a reporter writing about the murder of two adolescent girls in a small town- a small town that also happens to be the reporter’s hometown. So she goes there, on assignment, to try and shed some light on the murders. When she gets there, she’s forced to stay in her childhood home, with her mother, who doesn’t like or love her. She finds out later that her mother has Munchhausen By Proxy, a mental disorder that compels you to make your own children ill, in order to gain more sympathy for yourself. Anyway, the distant, abusive, totally dysfunctional relationship the main character shared with her mother made me so grateful for the one my mother and I share. But then it got me to thinking about how I didn’t always feel like we had a good relationship.

* Before I start this, I need to add a disclaimer that my mother is the strongest person I’ve ever known, a great role model, and the person I love most in the world. So this is not meant to malign, complain, or disrespect her. She is everything to me.

I am my mother’s middle child. Studies and research have alleged that the middle child is most often ignored. I believe this is true. I can tell you that I definitely felt that in my house growing up, and in my life later on. My older sister and younger brother always seemed to need some sort of extra help. The extra help brought extra attention, and I often felt lost in the shuffle. There were times when I wished I needed help, just so I could get attention. I knew that was the wrong way to go about it, but it seemed like the easiest way. It was as though my siblings were privy to some special magic that automatically made them less responsible and more needy. It sucked most of the time, the amount of time my mom spent just making sure they were okay, asking if they were okay. I often wished my mom would just ask me if I was okay. Most of the time though, she didn’t ask. Because she knew that I was okay, and that unlike them, I probably didn’t need help. And it was true. I took my parents’ independent genes and ran away with them, so most of the time, I really was good on my own, and didn’t need “help.” But it’s also true that sometimes I felt like I couldn’t “need help.” I felt like my mother needed me to be okay, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about me too. And I have to confess that I wanted that for my mother; I wanted her to worry less. I wanted her to catch a break. I couldn’t stand to see her upset about how things were going to work out with us; I wanted to alleviate that. But it puts a lot of pressure on you as a kid, to try and make everything okay. To exhaust everything your mind can think of to solve your problem by yourself, rather than just find an adult to make it a little easier. That’s a pretty heavy load to carry- even for someone who thinks they can handle anything (which is the kind of person I tend to be). But the problem with this scenario, is that I was just a kid. So even though my rational, logical self knew that my mother didn’t love me any less, or love them more, my emotional, sensitive, insecure, kid self was afraid that she did. I was afraid that the extra attention meant she liked them more, liked being with them more, liked interacting with them more. I was also convinced that their constant  need for help led my mother to lower her expectations of them- and that she expected far more of me than she did of them. It led to a lot of resentment between me and them- and between me and my mother.

I started to hate the fact that she saved them from everything, that she never let them land on their asses and suffer for their stupid choices. In my mind, she liked them more because she was always helping them, saving them, babying them. I often thought that if she let them hit the bottom just once, she’d have a minute to notice me, see me. I thought that was the solution. It did often occur to me that I didn’t want to be like my siblings, making the choices they made, doing the things they did- I didn’t want to be them. I just wanted my mother’s undivided attention; I just wanted her to myself, for once. I was jealous of every single one of my mother’s thoughts that they occupied, because I was convinced that she didn’t think about me as often as she thought about them. I was convinced that she told herself, “Shameka’s fine,” and then didn’t waste another thought on me. The conundrum to this: most of the time, I was fine- and she didn’t necessarily need to worry. But I hated thinking that she just made that assumption all the time- instead of worrying- like she did about the others. And the more I had these thoughts, the angrier I was at my mother- and my siblings. I was angry because there were a few times, isolated incidents, short periods, where I wasn’t fine at all. I just didn’t feel comfortable saying that. I started gaining weight in the fifth grade, and got glasses in the sixth grade. Talk about an adjustment period. In middle school, I changed from my neighborhood school (where I knew everyone) to a magnet school all the way in North Philly- where I got teased constantly by this one boy and all his friends (Interesting side note: the guy went to high school and grew up with people that I eventually went to college with, so we have lots of mutual friends and I see him all the time on Facebook- some of that hurt is still there, lol). But anyway, I had my share of struggles- but I never wanted my mom to worry, or think that I couldn’t handle it- so I never really said anything. As you can imagine, this was a confusing time. I didn’t want my mom to worry, but it still bothered me to think that she wasn’t worried.

I’m glad to say things are better now. I’m still the one who’s “fine” for the most part; I still feel like I’m the one my mother worries over the least- but I know she does worry. I know she cares, I know she’ll listen when I need to tell her that I’m not okay. But that took time. For a lot of years, my mother was in complete denial of all of this- she didn’t see it. Now, it’s not that she didn’t take me seriously or didn’t care, it was just that she, like most good parents, didn’t like to think that she favored one child over another, or treated me differently than my siblings. I think that she thought admitting this, or even considering the possibility, made her a bad mother. She didn’t want to feel like she’d messed up. So my mother was steadfast in her belief that she treated us all the same- but I didn’t see it, or feel it. As I got older, and was able to better articulate exact situations where I felt like I had been treated differently, she understood it more- and we got better. Part of the healing was also me growing up and realizing some key things: First- my mother tries to save my brother and sister as much as she can because she’s their mother. I mean, what mother wants to see their children fall down and get hurt? Especially when they can prevent it? No one. I understand this so much better as an adult than I did as a child. The pull inside that compels you to help and shelter the people you love is 1000 times stronger between moms and kids. Once I realized that, I stopped being so angry over my mother just doing what came naturally to her as a mother. Second– my mom does see me. She doesn’t see me in the same way, or interact with me the same, but she does see me now- and she did see me then. I took some time to think over my past and remembered all of the times my mom and I shared something special- and how we still share it today. Watching my mom in the kitchen for hours, gave me a love of cooking- and now we swap recipes. Reading my mom’s Harlequins (and other books, lol) all those years was the foundation to all those in-depth discussions we’ve had about how we love James Patterson and his character, Alex Cross. It led to me writing a manuscript last year, and my mother being the first one to read it. And those are things that are just for us; no one else can intrude on that. I’ve got something of my mother that is mine and no one else’s. And I’m happy to say that now we’re friends. I’m glad I read that book now. You appreciate your parents so much more when you read about bad ones.  At least my mom doesn’t have Munchhausen By Proxy. I mean, think about the bullet I dodged there.

P. S. – The main character also had a weird, destructive, dysfunctional relationship with her sister… but I’ll come back to that some other day.

The Shame of Sex Drive

Before we begin, I have to warn you my friends… this is the realest shit I ever wrote…

Okay, so I know the VMA’s were weeks ago, but something happened to me recently that made me think of Miley Cyrus. Now, before you ask me, no I am not doing drugs, losing my mind or considering a career in twerking. Now that we got that out of the way, walk with me on this…

I’ve been trying to get back into the dating game and have taken yet another dip into the online dating world. My responses thus far have been overwhelmingly positive- and I think it’s because of two things: 1) I am having fun, and letting things develop as they should instead of always feeling the need for control; and 2) I’m not letting the responses from the weirdos get to me anymore. Now, I’ve been messaging and then eventually texting a few people and my dealings with one of them made me think of poor, little butt, crazy Miley. Let me tell you how.

After the VMA’s, there was a firestorm of articles and blogs talking about her performance, from her imitation of twerking (I call it an imitation because it was my understanding that you need ass to twerk and she doesn’t have any) to her rude gestures and her supposed “appropriation of black culture,” because apparently twerking was invented by us and she “stole” it to advance her popularity, thus making a mockery of us or… whatever. But anyway, she set the Internet on fire for a day or two while people wondered what drugs she’s on and how she could step on her daddy’s achy breaky heart like this. Along with that though, many of the articles and blogs questioned her morals and argued that she was behaving as though she didn’t have any. People were questioning her need to be quite so free with her sexuality, since she is a young woman influencing other young women. The Internet has even given this a name: they call it slut-shaming. Slut-shaming is when a woman does something of questionable taste, that has a sexual connotation- and other people chastise her for it. Your lack of propriety makes people point their fingers and shake their heads and wonder how you were raised. This has become the semi-polite way of letting a woman know you think she’s acting like a whore. But… let me get off of Miley and onto me. The public business of slut-shaming hit home for me when I had an encounter with a man who I felt tried to shame me afterward. I think he was trying to make me ashamed of my sex drive, my sex life- and my sexual awareness of him. I think he was slut-shaming me! How you ask? Well here we go…

I have to start with some background so you can know me a little more. Most of the time, I do what I want- when I want. I’m an emotional creature, so I usually fall fast- and I fall HARD. I’m also really tactile; I love to feel things. Touching is everything to me. I don’t like sex; I LOVE sex- and I’m not ashamed. I know that there’s levels beyond the physical, but my tactile self thinks the physical level is a damn good one for me- so I’ll keep it. I probably have the highest sex drive of anyone I know (men included). I’ve been in love, and I know love. So I’ll thank you not to see me as some lonely girl using sex to kill the pain. But I appreciate a strong physical attraction and will act on it. Now, having said that- I don’t see myself as someone with no morals. I’m kind of selective. In no way shape or form do I give it up to everyone. But I do give it up- and I’m not going to pretend like I don’t. I also rely very heavily on my feelings, my instincts. I really think on the idea of me and you- and really try to dissect how you make me feel- from the very beginning. I still get butterflies- and I listen to them. My instincts have never steered me wrong; in fact, I’ve only been in the wrong when I haven’t listened to them. So I’m not the kind of girl who puts some sort of time constraint on when I give it up. When it feels right to me, it just feels right to me. And contrary to what you might think, there have been many times, and people- who haven’t felt right. I know we’re all flying high in this Think Like A Man, five dates, ninety days and a partridge in a pear tree relationship era where there are rules at every step. But I’m not good with rules. Most of the time, I do what I want- when I want. So here we are. Now… I had a conversation or two with this man that I like. All signs were pointing to sanity, and there was an attraction there. But also humor and intelligence and ambition. It was nice and we decided face-to-face was definitely needed. I had already made up in my mind that I was going to see if he was as good a kisser as his lips suggested, so I was prepared for that. It went… a bit further (I’ll spare you the details- but I didn’t give it up. It just went… further). Now, I didn’t feel bad at all about this extra distance because to me, IT FELT RIGHT! And I listened to myself. I did what felt comfortable to me. But afterwards, I had a conversation with him that made my head hurt, then it made me cry- and then it pissed me off.  He said that he felt like we disrespected ourselves going further than we intended and that there was still a lot we didn’t know about each other, and that he felt like it was necessary to slow down and reassess what we really want. He threw in some stuff about how he couldn’t believe what had happened, and how he agonized over it the entire drive home. I could have screamed when we were having this conversation. AHHHHHHHH!!

Before ya’ll start trying to rip me apart for not appreciating a man who has morals and who wants more than my body, let me tell you that was NOT what this conversation was. He was trying to slut-shame me! First of all, this took place at my house. Which means he had to physically get into a vehicle and come to ME. And I didn’t invite him- he ASKED if he could come. If you’re so worried about “our” moral compass, why didn’t you stay your ass at home? Now he thinks we should slow down??! He could have slowed all the way to STOP by sticking to Facetime and staying at HIS house. Also, HE made the first move. We were a respectable distance apart on that couch before he started inching over. He could have “reassessed” his position at any time. But he didn’t. He came over, knowingly throwing his moral compass to the wind, pushed his OWN self-control to the limit, kissed me with that gorgeous mouth, and then NEVER TRIED TO STOP!!! He never said, “Maybe we shouldn’t,” or “We’re moving too fast,” or “I don’t want to.” You know why? Because he was waiting for ME to say those things! He was waiting for ME to be OUR moral compass! Well you got the wrong girl, asshole. And now, with this conversation (held at 3:30 in the morning in the softest, most cowardly voice possible), he was attempting to subconsciously blame me for not having more self-control. I’m supposed to have more than him? He had the advantage- because he was all the way at his house. Why is it my fault that he didn’t stay there? He was slut-shaming me- that miserable, piece of shit. He was trying to make me feel ashamed of myself by lamenting to me that he was ashamed of HIMSELF!

Now, after I hung up- it took me a minute to wrap my mind around what had just happened. That made my head hurt. I mean, I know I said he could come over- and I wasn’t denying that, but I had already loosened the reins on my self-control- which was why I said yes in the first place. So I was fully aware of the possible outcomes that I was choosing. Regret is not an option when you know what you’re walking into, and you continue walking. Besides, I liked him and I had a good feeling- for me, that was enough. Then, for a few miniutes, I wondered if he was right. If I was just one of those fast ass, easy girls your mama tries to teach you not to be. If I had thrown away my morals. That made me cry. I cried for a while. I also felt stupid, and rejected. I wondered if he hadn’t liked what happened, or liked me as much as he thought- and this was just his way of rejecting me without me really knowing why. That made me cry harder. The last thing I wondered was if my instincts had taken a beating. Was I losing touch with myself? With my judgement of character? Should I just rely on my head from now on? After the cry, I was so tired- I just went to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up pissed. I mean, I was mad! I’m a grown woman- who is kind, and honest, and careful. I don’t hurt people intentionally- and I don’t make them pay for my mistakes. And that’s exactly what this man had done to me. Now you morality police can wax poetic all you want about my behavior. But this wasn’t about that. I know what I did. And I knew what I was willing to do when I opened the door for him. But he lied to himself- and then to me. He came to my house, like he had self-control and innocent intentions, all the while hoping that I would enough self-control for the both of us. And then when I didn’t he tried to hurt me by shaming us “both,” effectively making me a culprit in his supposed crime. I was beyond pissed. Pissed that this only seems to happen to women- pissed that it was happening to me.

I’m a single girl, trying to make it out here. I have to have control over my own life, and my own behavior. So excuse me if I’m a little more free then you’re used to. If I choose to be an active and willing participant in my own sex life.  It is not my fault that I’m not the innocent you see on TV, begging with her big eyes, telling you no when she really means yes in that breathy little voice. I am who I am. And I say YES when I mean yes. Don’t punish me because you’re only used to girls you have to convince. Maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt and you’re angry that you didn’t have to chase me as far as other girls. But I don’t want to play a game when I don’t need to. I’m sorry you don’t know women who are more direct. But this is me. And you don’t get to shame me because I’m not what you’re used to, or comfortable with. Because I act on my feelings (even the sexual ones). Or because I don’t stop you from acting on yours- especially when you don’t even bother to stop yourself.  Grow up. I’m begging you. And if this little foray into my mind has made you feel differently about me, please feel free to disassociate yourself. I’m not crying over you jerks anymore.

Just as a side note – As much as I might now identify with Miley, I still liked her better as Hannah Montana.

Mind Over Marriage

This past weekend, I was in Rhode Island for my best friend’s sister’s wedding. My best friend is second-generation Nigerian so there were a lot of traditional aspects mixed in with the wedding. Overall, it was beautiful and special and I was proud of my adopted little sister. But as weddings do, it started me thinking about my journey to matrimony.

Don’t get all hype- it’s not happening soon. I’m not even in a relationship. But weddings make you think of all kinds of things along those lines- what you would wear, what food you would serve, what song you would dance to- everything. Most of the time when you attend a wedding, you don’t think of the actual married life the couple is going to have; you’re too busy figuring out how to make your party better than the one you’re attending. And I have to say I am no exception to this rule. I had my own dress, food, reception, music visions all the way home (and it was a seven-hour drive, by the way). But that’s not really the important part is it? Clearly, I should be more concerned with whether I could even handle marriage on a mental and emotional level. Or whether I even want to.

I don’t need to get married. I believe in marriage, and I wouldn’t mind it- but I don’t need it. I hate this premise, this subconscious societal implication, that if you love someone, and they love you- that marriage is the stamp that makes your relationship “real”. That your love isn’t genuine (or your man’s love for you isn’t genuine) if you’re not married and you’re not pressed about being married. I know a lot of women who believe that being a wife brings them to a level of respect that being a girlfriend just can’t touch. So many women think being a wife means something special, something untouchable, something realer than everything else. But since I am someone who knows married men who aren’t faithful, or even in love with their wives, I ain’t falling for that argument. I’m a romantic. So the way I figure it, if you don’t have the man’s heart, it doesn’t matter what he calls you. It doesn’t matter that he pays your bills, or that you’ll be the one who gets his pension when he dies. If I’m going to commit myself to a man- with the idea that it will be forever- I want his heart, and nothing less. And if I’m confident that I have that, and he has mine, then I don’t really care about the marriage part. See this is what I mean when I say I don’t need it.

Now, let me stop here and say that some of the most beautiful, talented, fabulous, fearless women I know are married women. And I think they are awesome wives. I think that their husbands simply could not have done better; these girls are amazing- and I never want them or anyone to think that I am somehow insulting the fact that they chose to marry. I’m not; I never would. And quite honestly, if I was in love and committed and with a man whose heart was mine (in a perfect world, this man would be a big, burly, rough-around-the-edges intelligent man who slapped me on the ass and recited rap lyrics to me)- and this man asked me to marry him, I would TOTALLY say yes. I would be an asshole to say no. I’m just saying that if he didn’t ask me, but I knew he loved me and wanted me forever, then that would be enough. Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking, “But Shameka- if he really loves you and wants you forever, why wouldn’t he ask you?” And that’s a good question. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t. But I don’t want him to think that that’s expected of him, that I need that. And the reason I don’t need it, is because I feel like a lot people think the marriage guarantees them something, when it doesn’t guarantee you anything. It doesn’t mean he’ll stay, or be faithful, or even be kind. It doesn’t mean he’ll respect you, or love you, or cherish you. You need to have all of those things in advance, and I think sometimes people forget that. It’s almost as though they get married and then try to build a marriage. When in actuality, you’re supposed to build your marriage FIRST and then get married as a celebration of the continuation of your journey.

If we want to get all biblical about it, I’d have to say that the story of Adam and Eve is where it all started, lol. God made them, and put them together FIRST- and then told them to build a life- AFTER. And I think we carry that model in our lives now- that a marriage will just magically appear because you’re married. Conceptually, it’s completely wrong. I’m not saying God was wrong, but it’s a little archaic to think that things that worked when we didn’t have a population on Earth are still supposed to work now.

I also think that we’ve perpetuated some idea in our modern society that marriage is the way, and the truth, and the light- whether you mean it or not. For example, a few years ago, I watched an episode of Dateline (or some similar show, I don’t remember) and one of the segments was about this woman who ran a program called, “Marry Your Baby’s Daddy.” She was encouraging couples who had been together for a while, and who had kids to get married. Now, I believe her heart was in the right place, but her segment made me angry. There was nothing in the program about how to have a healthy, stable relationship. They never showed her offering these people counseling, or classes. There was just a church where you could marry the father of your kid. Also, some years ago, there was a church that was running some kind of marriage campaign- where they bought out billboards over the highway to tell us how much better married people do in life (Married people make more money, Married peoples’ kids do better in school, etc.) And again, no message about love, or trust, or respect and honesty. You’re going to encourage marriage without first trying to teach people that they’re relationships should be healthy? We really are assholes- and we’re ruining the world. Don’t try to push people into marriage with that, “You have kids and you live together- so you might as well” bullshit. We should be encouraging people to be mentally and emotionally healthy individuals, and then couples. And if we do that, most people will probably get married on their own. Because I believe most people feel like that’s what they want.

Also… if I’m being honest (and I always try to be with you guys), I’d have to say that there’s anxiety there on some level. I’ve noticed in a lot of cases, that men feel like being a husband is completely different from being a man in love, when being a husband is simply an extension of that. I don’t want the man I love to feel like marriage is something he has to change for. And I don’t want to feel like I do either. I don’t want him to feel like marriage is moving us to some level where he has to somehow figure out how to love me better. If I marry him to begin with, it’ll be because the way he loves me now is perfect. Husband and Wife titles seem like they put so much extra pressure on people. I don’t want that pressure on me.  I know that when love is real, and true- a lot of this won’t matter. And like I said, if that man asked me, I’d be an asshole to say no. But I don’t need it- I don’t know if I ever will.

Earning The Friendship Badge

This weekend, I had the pleasure of spending time with my best cousin. The two of us are like kindred spirits to the 100th power. Now I have friends, good friends, great friends- the best friends. But there’s nothing like a best cousin. At least, there’s nothing like mine. I’ve known her since she was born (1 year and 3 months after me); we even have the same alma mater. She’s in Philly and I’m not, so we don’t get to see each other as much as we did when we were younger. But she’s still the person I trust the most in the world- the one I’m 100% confident will always be there. Anyway, we were spending time together, and as we usually do, we talked- about everything. The conversation we had today made me want to cry- not because I was sad, but because I was relieved. Why you ask? Because she… gets me. I think that for most of us, the need to be understood is almost as urgent as the need to be loved. So having someone “get” you is a pretty big deal- and she does. She asked me about things, things that no one ever asks about. In the defense of everyone else, no one knows me quite like she does- so she pretty much always knows what to ask. But I’m getting off track- as usual.

We were having an interesting conversation about friends, which led me to some thoughts about levels of friendship, earning your status as a friend, as well as giving support to and receiving support from your friends. I’ve had similar conversations with my friend Nikki (@DarlingNiq on Twitter), so it’s been stuck in my head for a while. I just didn’t have the words to express the idea… but I do now.

I’ve always been an advice giver to my friends. Many of them look to me for an honest opinion and they care what I think. Because I know this, I shape my words very carefully when I’m talking to them. I tailor my advice, I try to make it as personal as possible. I feel like this is the least I can do, as a friend. I feel like the more careful and personal I am with the way I speak, the more they are sure that I am focused on them, and on our relationship. The more they know that I mean what I say, the more they can be sure that I am speaking from a place of love… even when I am saying something that they don’t necessarily want to hear. Sometimes, when you’re having a discussion, emotions run high- so I don’t always succeed in this. But I always try. Likewise, in other areas I feel like I try with all my heart and strength to give you what YOU need when YOU need it. In all honesty though, I don’t know if I feel like that care is returned. Let’s have an example…

I’m a bit of an independent, and I don’t usually ask for advice. But when I do, I expect it at the same level that I give it- because I believe in reciprocity. I believe that I’ve gone above and beyond to earn the badge of friendship- and I don’t think it’s wrong to expect a star effort if I’m giving one. Or at the very least, a star attempt. Sometimes, the advice I receive (from my friends) is impersonal and vague. How can this be, you ask? Well that’s what I’m wondering. They’re my friends- they know me- they… get me. Right? But maybe not. Because sometimes I get the coffee mug cliche advice- and it makes me sick to my stomach. I do have my own brand of spirituality, so I do believe in the power of speaking to God, and asking Him to show you the way. That having been said, if I ask for advice and all I get is, “you should pray on it,” I’m instantly angry. Now before you nail me to a stake, let me explain. I’m not angry because I don’t want to pray, nor am I angry because I don’t believe that prayer works. I’m angry because that’s not the advice I’m asking for- and you should know that. To me, that phrase is just a fancy way of saying that you have no fucking idea what I should do- and if you’re my friend, I’d rather you’d just be honest and say that. I’ll respect that. Let’s go again, shall we?

A lot of my friends are in relationships. My best cousin in a relationship; I have four very best friends and in our circle of five, I am the only one still single. Don’t worry, I’ve acknowledged and am working through my complex about that. But back to the point. I’ve noticed that sometimes when people are in relationships, the advice they give to single people is condescending and inappropriate. It’s almost as though every memory they have of their single life is filed away in a safe and they don’t have the combination. Don’t tell me to put myself out there more. What would you like? Me standing on the corner wearing a sandwich board that says, “Relationship Wanted. Inquire Within?” Don’t say that improving your social life helped you unless it actually did. Don’t tell me I’ll get him when my heart is ready to receive him because this is not a fucking Nicholas Sparks novel. And for goodness sakes- don’t tell me this is an opportunity to get to know myself. That advice will bring out the asshole in me and I will regale you with tales of my frequent masturbation. How’s that for knowing yourself? I know that there’s no magic fix to a single relationship status, but that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m not asking you to cry with me, or male bash with me. I’m asking YOU to tell me that you’re still here. I’m asking you to let me know that I’m never alone; that loneliness is temporary. I’m asking you to call me your friend- not your single friend.

This kind of advice breeds resentment and it alienates your friends. I know that there are relationships where I’ve been distancing myself because the reciprocity isn’t there anymore. The compassion isn’t there anymore. The personal element is lost. Friendship has become something we say, when it’ s supposed to be something we do as well. I know we think we’re being all deep and enlightened, but the truth is we’re being lazy. I’m a grown woman, and I don’t have time for fortune cookie advice.

I know I sound angry, but the topic has been building for a while. I think we get too damned comfortable and we stop earning the friendship badge. We forget to turn on our compassion and understanding for one another. We forget to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. We forget to reciprocate. I’ve tried to work at my friendships- to recognize their worth and seek to keep it. I think that’s what we all should do. My friends have a special place, specifically carved out for them, in my life. And I want a space too- in theirs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with removing myself if I don’t get that.

I guess I just think you should be careful with your words. You should be honest with your words; if you’re giving advice to a friend, you should be personal with your words.  For most of us, the need to be understood is almost as urgent as the need to be loved.

You Say Goodbye- And I… Don’t

Channel surfing is so dangerous. One minute you’re flying high, pressing buttons, ruling the TV, dodging commercials like that ball in your elementary school gym class- and the next minute, you’re getting sucked into the last twenty minutes of Love and Hip Hop and all is lost. Now there’s no need for me to repeat my paragraph on my hatred of reality TV- you guys should remember my loathing of it. But tonight, I saw two segments that did the absolute impossible- they connected with my life. I mean, my real life. I watched the conversation between Tahiry and her father and I also watched Mendecees try to explain the possibility of jail to his seven year old son. Those two parts pulled me in, reminded me of myself. Since the memories start with childhood, of course, I’m going to address the two scenes in reverse. But first, a little background…

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about whether you should share your whole past in a relationship (Let the Past Be Present). And in that post, I explained that the emotional trauma in your past should be shared. And then I admitted that my biological father wasn’t in my life the way I needed him to be. In actuality, he’s been an addict most of my life. Now, I had another father- a wonderful, honorable man- and a mother too, so I don’t want anyone to think that my life was this struggle- and I don’t want to take away from the fact that this struggle has been 1000 times harder for my dad- but it is what it is.

When I watched Mendecees try to explain to his son that he may not see him for a while, that moment got to me. I remember being 11 years old, and sitting with my dad, listening to him tell me that he was going away to get better and that I wouldn’t see him for a while. I didn’t understand addiction- so of course, I didn’t understand him leaving to deal with it. He said he was coming back, but deep down I was always afraid that he wouldn’t. I cried, because that’s what you do when someone you love says goodbye- but I had no idea what it really meant.  He did come back, and things were good for a while, but a year later, we had the same conversation- this time, over the telephone. I guess he thought it would be less painful if we weren’t face to face; it wasn’t. And I had no idea that years later I would be hanging on to bad relationships, to outgrown friendships, to things I shouldn’t- because he made me afraid to say goodbye. And even though he did come back, he’s still not fully in my life. Sometimes I feel like we said our final goodbye that night on the phone, when I was twelve years old, because nothing was ever the same between us after that. My dad is a decent guy- and he loves me. But I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to appreciate how long it took me to reconcile that feeling of abandonment. I don’t know that he’ll ever see that my need to hold on to things was a direct manifestation of my inability to hold on to him.

The other scene that connected with me was the one of Tahiry’s conversation with her father. She talked to him about how his failings as a father and husband shaped her as a woman. And I thought about that too. In dealing with my biological dad, I felt like the parent most of the time. I looked for my dad, made sure he was eating, sleeping, and generally getting along. It made me think about the partners I chose- and why I chose them. It made me think about the men I’ve loved, about what I was looking for when I fell for them. I know this is classic Psych 101 shit- but it’s pretty real. I wanted to save my dad. I wanted to make him better, fix him up. And I wanted to keep him- so much that I chased him. And that’s how I was as a woman in love. I loved people who I thought needed me- needed me to fix them, look after them, save them. I chased them when they left- and forgave them when they returned. I thought that love meant never walking away. I didn’t believe in saying goodbye- not even if it was going to save me.

Five years ago, I wrote my biological dad a letter, telling him some of these feelings. I never mailed the letter; I just needed to get my broken heart on paper. I needed to see and hear and read- out loud- how I was killing my own spirit by following this man’s example. I don’t want you guys to think that I don’t love my biological dad. I do. Very much. But I can’t forget who was there for me, and for a long time, it wasn’t him. I can’t forget that he made me afraid to cut my losses, afraid to save myself… afraid to say goodbye.

It hit me a few years ago, after I broke up with my ex, that I had a great example that I was ignoring all this time. My father. Not my biological, but still my real father. He was the man I should have been emulating. The person I should have let guide my decisions. I took for granted what a great job he did, and what a great man he is. So now, I’m trying to be the woman he raised- finally. Love myself- as he loves me. And define myself- the way he always wanted me too.

Like I said, channel surfing is dangerous. I don’t have the energy for another blog… no more TV. I’m going to bed.

Treat Her Like A… Woman?

Hello again. The last few months have been an age of discovery for me. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years, my friends have saved my spirit- as well as my life, my job is better and dating doesn’t suck. I’ve been learning so much about myself- and falling in love with TV again. But we’ll get back to TV later. Today, I want to focus on Twitter.

I’ve been on Twitter almost a year and a half now (@ShamekaErby if you feel like following me) and I think I connect with it on a different level than Facebook. Twitter is the home of random thoughts- people say whatever comes to their minds. And anyone who’s my friend on Facebook knows that I live for my random thoughts. It’s interesting to see random spurts of comedy from people that you thought were completely serious, or thoughts of romance from those you thought were the biggest cynics; random bursts of insight from people you thought were too dense to have any. Now don’t get me wrong- Twitter is as fraught with frauds as any social networking tool- but just like the rest, it’s all about who you associate with. That being said, there are many tweets that make me think…

A couple of weeks ago, I saw some tweets from a guy- just sounding off about what kinds of women he liked. And didn’t like. He made mention of liking his women to be softer, more ladylike. One tweet in particular caught my eye because he expressed his displeasure with the kind of girls who “wait for mixtapes to come out.” Now, the reason this tweet caught my eye is because I am that girl. I am the quintessential hip-hop lover. I have a book full of mixtapes in my car, the DatPiff app on my phone, and I check the site every week for music I might like. So when I read that I immediately started thinking about how strange it was that my love for hip-hop made me less “ladylike.” At least in this guy’s eyes- well his, and all his friends that retweeted him. It brought back so many memories of when I muddled through this womanhood/ ladylike shit before.

If you were ever my friend years ago in the MySpace era, I used to blog there too. And one day I went on a bit of rant about how I wasn’t ladylike and had NO desire to be. To me, womanhood was the adult thing that every girl wanted to achieve- being ladylike was doing it without causing a fuss. So womanhood is what you do, ladylike is how you look when you’re doing it. That tweet brought all of that back and I realized that still have some lingering issues with it.

I remember telling my grandmother once that I didn’t want to be a lady. Needless to say, my favorite girl wasn’t very happy with me. But I felt like I was fighting for my life then- my right to be myself. See, for me, it used to be the age old argument of the girly-girl vs. the tomboy- but then things got a little bit deeper… because in terms of that basic definition, I’m at about half and half. I get my hair done (most of the time) but my nails and eyebrows? Whatever for that. I love handbags, but I hate shoes. I’ll wear a dress, but pantyhose make me want to throw things. I’ll wear SOME makeup if I’m going out- but doing my face everyday? No way. I don’t play sports, but I love watching them. And I know plenty of girls like that- but I don’t think that makes me more or less ladylike.

But there are other things. Like the fact that I LOVE hip hop music. I mean, more than any other kind. I live to wear sneakers and sweats; they’re two of my favorite things. When I buy things that require assembly, I don’t wait until I can get a man to do it for me (and if I did, with my dating life I’d be waiting awhile). I say curse words frequently, purposefully, and with intent and if you try and tell me I shouldn’t, I’ll probably curse at you. I drink and I like it and I can hold my liquor. It doesn’t embarrass me to talk about sex or about how much I love it. But do those things make me less ladylike? And does me being ladylike really matter that much in the grand scheme of things?

The answer to both of those questions is I don’t know. I mean, as long as I’m a strong, responsible woman- what does it matter if I’m a lady? I guess what I’m really asking is if the qualities I described above are considered unladylike and if they make me less attractive. Now, I wrote a blog previously about being self-contained- self-sufficient- and not a damsel in distress. And I worried then if me being that made me less attractive. So I’m worrying now. It’s a little disconcerting to think that you’ll be more alone if you don’t fit into certain slots- if you don’t like certain things. I know that all men don’t think the same way, but there’s a lot of them who think that being ladylike means certain things- and that those things are important.

Now, because there are some qualities and preferences I don’t have- or don’t want, it sometimes gives others the impression that I’m lazy or noncommittal, at least in the way of attracting the opposite sex. Not wanting to change and do the same things other women do, more “ladylike” things, I guess, makes them feel like I’m not trying. So in effect, I’m losing at this game we’re all playing. The worst part is that most people (even my friends) have made me feel like “losing” is my fault. That can wreak havoc on a girl’s confidence- especially a girl battling body type issues to begin with. Over the years, my swag has taken quite a beating. But I’m better for it. And that’s another blog for another day.

I guess men deal with the same kind of dilemma. Trying to live up to what women think a man should be, so they’ll be more attractive to them. I guess they do- but you can’t fight your personality. I’ll always be soft (it’s an advantage us plus size girls have) but I’ll never be delicate. I’m made of some pretty sturdy stuff and I like it. I love it. I love my sweats, and drinking dark liquor and calling people assholes. That’s just who I am. I love trolling the net for new hip-hop and blasting it in my car. I just want to be around people who get that, who get me. I’m sure that’s what we all want. I don’t try to make people over- I mean, I like what I like too, so I get it. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be a lady. But I’m a woman- and that’s good enough for me.

Besides, ladylike or not, I’m pretty fucking awesome…

Fishing Nightmares

Anyone who knows me, knows that there is no television I loathe more than reality television. I don’t care if you sing, dance, cook or do hair. I don’t care if you are or used to be in love with someone famous; if you’re trying to show off how rich and pointless you are, or how poor and pointless you are; I don’t care if you’re trying to find love, or win money- or both. It all sucks to me. So no one was more surprised than I was that I was sitting in front of a television being poisoned with someone’s so-called “reality.”

My friend went through a hard time recently and I went to hang out with her at her house for a while. She decided that she needed a little television distraction- reality television. I resisted at first, but in deference to her emotional hardship, I relented and agreed to watch something with her. And she introduced me to the heartbreaking, tragic, train wreck that is MTV’s Catfish.

Now, even though I’m sure the entire world knows the premise of this show, I will break it down real quick: Nev is a guy who fell in love with a girl online. But when he met the girl in person, she turned out to be someone else. He was heartbroken, his brother filmed that heartbreak- and that short film has started the clock on his 15 minutes of fame. Now, he is going around the country, helping other people meet their online loves and verify the truth about them, and their lives. I watched three episodes of this show with my friend and my super-emotional self couldn’t bear how completely heartbreaking it seemed. In two of the episodes, the online love was a completely different person that didn’t even seem all that repentant that they had led someone on and played with their life. In the other episode, the person was actually real- but they had been lying and using a glamorous alter ego with a fictional life. I know I’m soft- I know this- but it made my chest hurt a little to watch it.

I don’t want you guys to think I’m naive. I know people lie, all the time, about a lot of things. But the concept of watching a person say that they have real feelings for someone and then find out that it was a joke to the person on the other end was tragedy at its best. Now I’m on Twitter (@ShamekaErby if you want to follow me), and I have read my timeline when Catfish is on. There’s nothing but jokes- people seem to find it amusing. And I didn’t laugh one time when I watched it. If anything, it made me sad and cemented my resolve to stay far away from reality TV. But, as usual, I’m getting off track…

Watching Catfish led me to some serious thoughts about online dating. These days, if you’re over the age of 21, saying that you haven’t connected/ dated another person using some form of online engine is like saying you’ve never been to Starbucks. And I am no different. I’ve met people using social network tools, I’ve joined a couple of dating websites. It’s been… surprising to say the least. At first, I flatly refused to even consider it. I wanted to meet someone the “normal way.” I thought it made me some kind of social freak that I couldn’t meet people just going out, and having fun, and living my life. What I figured out later (with my friends’ help, of course) is that I could do those things in addition to dating online- and it didn’t make me a weirdo. This calmed me- because my inner South Philly knows that one of the worse things in the world to be is a weirdo. So I gave it a shot… and regretted it instantly. Because what I met online was a long, unattractive line of- you guessed it- weirdos. Some were brash, some were disrespectful, some were just stupid. It was twice the work of meeting someone in real life because you couldn’t even trust your own eyes. The people could be lying about everything you were reading on their profile pages. Now, I know people can lie to you in person too- but the lies are completely different. If I met you in a bar there’d be no way you could tell me you were 6’3″ when you were really 5’4″. Now when you meet someone in an actual setting, you can’t trust them completely, but there’s at least some things you can be pretty certain about. Dating online has NONE of that certainty. And it’s scary, to be honest. 

I won’t front like I haven’t had some mild success. I met a couple of nice guys- guys that turned into good friends. Guys that I eventually did verify- by meeting them in person. Guys that I can honestly say are good guys. I haven’t fallen in love, and I’m not completely convinced that I could without ever meeting them (like the people on Catfish) but I’ve had some really good conversations and spent some nice quality time. None of it has turned into a relationship- but I don’t think it’s because of the way I met them.

I guess the key to it is the eventual meetup. There’s no way I could call myself being in a “relationship” with someone I’ve never met face-to-face. It’s just too far-fetched for me. There’s this book out about love languages and how everyone has a different way that they love and like to be shown love. Now, I’m a writer so when I heard about this, naturally I thought words of affirmation would be most important to me (especially since I had an ex that never told me how he felt and that was a huge disconnect between us)- but I figured out that physical touch may be the most important to me. I’m tactile; I love to feel things. When I’m sleeping with someone, I need to be touched (even if it’s just a little) or I can’t settle down. I still read traditional books because I like turning the pages. I’m just that girl. So love strictly over the internet will never work for me. Because eventually I’m going to need to hug you, or hold your hand, or feel your touch in some way. That’s just me. But I guess those Catfish people don’t need that- I guess the email, text, phone call connection is enough.

I feel sad for them. Although there’s no shame in online dating (even with all of the weirdos), there has to be some real loneliness at the heart of these things; loneliness that makes you hinge your heart, and your life decisions on someone you’ve never met. I don’t know if it’s “deep down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no hope, end-of-the-world loneliness” as Charlie Brown once said, but it could be pretty serious. All I know is, if anything will make you scared of online dating, it’s that show.

Suffice it to say, online dating has all the same risks as face-to-face dating- with a few extra thrown in, and it can also be fun… but it’s not the joke that reality TV is turning it into. Not when it’s obvious that so many people take it seriously. I’ll just keep my current method of using it occasionally as ONE of my dating tools- but definitely not the only one. And I’m never watching Catfish again… the things we do for friends…