That Conversation, Week 3: Talking To Strangers

 

When I started school, we were constantly being taught not to talk to strangers. We were constantly taught not to get into stranger’s cars, take things from them, and to tell an adult if someone tried to bother us, to let an adult know. How similar these rules become when you cross from child to woman!

My girls are at the age now where I have to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. I have to tell of the trappings of moving through the world as a pretty girl. I have to make them aware, and unassuming all at once–and it troubles me. Especially when I take public transit, or am out in public. As a woman, I have the accouterments of the realm for assurance I won’t be bothered:  phone, book, sunglasses, earphones. When I was of the age where  I went out every weekend–and my Spanish was better I pretended I didn’t speak English.

It worked.

The goal was always to be safe, get home, or not be bothered. In this age of participation trophies, and continuous yeses, there is a certain ilk of young man that does not like to be told “no”. And in telling them this ancient word that is used to dispatch, they–like all evil spirits—seek to destroy what they cannot hope to possess.

There is a certain portion of the male persuasion whom cannot cope with rejection or being ignored.

They stalk in packs like wolves, waiting and looking for the weak or unassuming, seeing if they can seduced or devoured. When I was younger, my father would tell me if there were a group of men/boys inside a place (like a gas station)  to let him know, or he would come in with me.  Or, the scarier part as a girl between 12-15 is when I would have to pretend I wasn’t scared—when I was. At that age, I knew what sex was. What rape was. What being touched when I didn’t want to be was. I knew all of these things. And I didn’t want these things to happen to me.

Yet, because toxic masculinity is real, and toxic patriarchy makes weak men believe all women are possessions and property, this evil roux births rape culture. In such a world that has such people in it, daughters are sent out into it. As scary as this is, they cannot avoid such evils in the world. If we love them, we have to equip them for this as well. We have to be brave enough to tell these brilliant female children, they walk amongst wolves.

Now, I am a fan of women and girls being able to defend themselves. I am a fan of women and girls always knowing their surroundings, and being aware of who they are with and the places their feet tread. There are conversations I have had with my daughters as it relates being ladylike, clean, and dealing with law enforcement. This, however, is a conversation I dread; only having it in pieces. I have only had the strength to have it in pieces. How do you tell your daughter there are people in the world that don’t see her as a person, but property? How do you remind your daughter to stay close to you in parking lot where there is light, and close your door as soon as your get in without making her feel utterly terrified? Yet, I must. I do. I continue.

I cannot have them go into the world unknowing. I cannot allow them to be in a position where they fall prey simply because they were uninformed! Where or when they didn’t know what to do; how to get out; how to defuse a potentially dangerous situation with an equally dangerous person? How can I let the go out into the world and not recognize their gut feeling and intuition–so they don’t override it? No. I cannot be that lax, or naive. I equip them, piece by piece-for their own good. Even when they don’t know it yet.

In that, I remind them the world can be dark–but it’s better to have a flashlight.

That Conversation-Week 2: The Wisdom Of Better Men

(This is an intimate letter to the Kings that inhabit this Queedom. Read and share.)

Kings of this Queedom:

Toxic masculinity is described as follows:

noun. a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health: Men and women both suffer when toxic masculinity perpetuates expectations that are restrictive and traumatizing.

Let me make this appeal simple for the men of this Queendom:  I need you to raise better sons. I need you to understand being a man is more than phallus antics. It is more than killing bugs. It is more than sporting events, being physically strong and ‘being a man.’ I need you all to understand your sons need to be able to be attentive, perceptive, and be taught to care for women.

Let me say this again:  be taught to care for women. 

Caring for a woman is more than buying her things. It is more than providing orgasms, or masturbating with her body (oh, it’s a thing)! Caring for a woman means that you have to be able to be what she needs, provide support (outside of material things), and have some empathy.

I need you to understand the world is scary, and women don’t always have the ability to ensure they will be okay. With that, what I also must impress upon you is toxic masculinity is not what grows a relationship. You exerting control over a woman, claiming that it’s what men do, is not the healthiest space to be in.

I need you to be mindful of the women in your life whom need you. I need you to check the men in your life who demean women, whom participate in street harassment, or are unable to handle the most dangerous word a woman can say:  “No.” I need you all to understand your manhood, the idea of manhood, is not determined by what the world may think of you. I need you to understand your worth as a man is beyond the mastery of your emotions. The ability as a man to control your emotions, does not mean they do not exist.

Give your son, the young men in your life, permission to emote. To cry. To be human more than once! I want you to affirm your sons in the non-athletic things they do. Dearest Kings of this Queedom,  I want you to give your son the permission to possess all of their personhood. This means being able to be the young men whom will help shape the world. Let them cry, let them draw, let them play football and paint or play trumpet. Remind them that manhood is both collective and individualistic. Collective as they are not the only men in the world, and somethings are just common to the sex. Individualistic because they are, will be, unique to the world; such things are to be special.

What is needed now, what is needed for future generations of daughters is men (and women) whom are able to value all of their person; beyond sexual antics. I need the men of this Queendom to understand women are not possessions to hoard, or projects to critique, but people. I need you all to understand that as a man, you have the unique responsibility of instructing and modeling for your son, and instilling that model for your daughter.

She will need your strength to let her know what reasonable expectations of a partner. Your daughter will need your help to navigate these spaces that require her to be astute as well as charming. She will need your wisdom to set reasonable expectations, how to avoid crazy situations, and to know what love looks like.

Can you do that for her? For her sake, I pray you can.

For the sake of all the world, teach the Princes how to be Kings.

No, Queen Bey Didn’t Have To Stand Up. We Do.

Our Beloved Queen makes even being an a firestorm hella elegant.

With that said, let me say something else first. I didn’t watch the 2020 Golden Globes because I think Ricky Gervais is a more palatable form of the demon Screwtape in the C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Life is hard enough–I don’t need extra shenanigans which is both toxic and crazy-making.

Now, as pumped as I was for Joaquin Phoenix, to win Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for JOKER, I was irritated to know the world seemed to be mad (again) that Beyonce did what she wanted to do. She chose not to stand when Joaquin’s name was announced.

According to The Griot, she did clap, but she did not stand. Beyonce was in attendance because her song, Spirit (from the album The Lion King: THE GIFT), was nominated for Best Original Song. Now, Joaquin stans are mad she didn’t stand, and insulting her acting ability. Okay. Whatever. But here’s what isn’t talked about:  sis had been drinking, and her dress was huge and maybe standing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. The doper part? The writer of The Griot article, Dawn Onley, can tell you:

She and Jay-Z came to the award ceremony with two bottles of Ace of Spades champagne, also known as Armand de Brignac, the champagne company that Jigga bought out back in 2014, according to Cosmopolitan. Their bodyguard carried the alcohol in for them.

So not only did Bey not stand, they were drinking, they were drinking. And they were also promoting their interests.

Win-win.

I get why the world hates Beyonce. And yet, she moves in grace despite of it! The thing that irritates me the most is people believing she should have stood up–because that’s just what you do at these events. She should be grateful to be in this space, right? She should just do as all the others do–Beyonce is in Rome, right? Do as the Roman do, right?
No.
This is the consistent issue surrounding Black people in White Spaces. The expectation is that all be done to the Master’s specificity:  no deviation, no independent thought. And definitely no room for plain ol’ ‘I just don’t want to.’
The other issue that needs to be address–which I try my best to bring attention to constantly–is this idea of invading White Spaces with more Black people! Any space a Black woman or man inhabits is already a Black Space. It cannot just be those at the intersections of Black, wealth and privilege to negotiate the terms of acceptability. It cannot just be expected that the interest of the unfortunate many be delegated to the advantageous!
We all can do something–we need to stop expecting other people to force that visibility.
Besides, Black women been standing/serving/fighting since our feet touched the waters of these shores called the Americas. I wouldn’t have stood up either.

DECADE OF RUNITBACK

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The dirty secret about all that I do, what I do, is there are people that think that what I do has been easy, sort of nebulous, and that ‘anyone’ should be able to do. Yet, the great thing about all that I am doing is that no one that I know is doing it on such a scale. My brother’s nickname for me is Shonda Rimes.

Great compliment. Fantastic comparison.

And with quiet reflection, I examined the last decade of my life, with a professional lens. With full candor. With disclosure. With the desire and happiness for the future. It is with the complete childlike happiness that I anticipate what is to come–and what is already in the works.

At the beginning of the last decade, I was a 28-year-old single mom, whose ex-husband was aloof at best and narcissistic at worst. At the end of the decade, I am a locally known indie author; blogger; started a podcast; creating a working professional network which consists of  college professors and 1 mentor,  Dr. Kimberly Welch.

Come walk down memory lane with me:

 

2010-first marriage left me destitute with 2 children under 3.

2011-Went back to school; divorce final

2012-not writing, trying to be a nurse

2013-lost my grandmother, a 3-year relationship; left school because I couldn’t pay for it

2014-Murder of Michael Brown, Jr; activism galvanized. Writing begins as a career. 3 books published.

2015-more writing; forgoing nursing as career; met Marissa Southards (now the founder of The Awakenings Project-STL) via Twitter.

2016-The Ideal Firestarter created more writing; sat for The Awakenings Project; met Winnie Elizabeth as a blogging mentor

2017- first novel done; writing is now a career; started editing professionally  through JBHarris Writing Services ;writing mentorship starts; first company started.

2018-RUBY published; professional network grows; writing workshops begin; book count stands at 10; started I Breathe Fire, met Amanda Wells, founder of FLOW STL.

2019-The Writers’ Block podcast begins; The Ideal Firestarter staff is at 4; 2 companies started; graduated college. Three professional mentors, with plans for grad school. Writing Mentorship starts 1.15.2020.

I am not playing with this next decade.

Let’s Be Real About It, Girls Love Joe! They Loved Theodore Bundy, Too.

I have few guilty pleasures, fam. But one of them is infamous Netflix show, YOU. I must confess, I saw Season 1, before I read the first book. And I read the second book (Hidden Bodies) before Season 2 began not even a week ago!

But as dynamic as Penn Badgley is, his portrayal of Joseph “Joe” Goldberg is amazing and creepy AF! In the first season (I hadn’t read the book, mind you), I thought Joe was cute and smart and the fact he worked in a bookstore? Bonus.

How Kepnes wrote the book, and the writers crafted the story, you overlook the fact that Joe (in the words of the now deceased Guinevere Beck), “creeps into girls’ lives and violating the shit out of them!”

Let me just focus on the show, because the books is so much better, but bear with me.

In the age of instant access, Snapchat and Google Maps, it’s so easy to dismiss that dude Googled the girl–and then showed up at her house.

It’s easy to dismiss that dude followed her schedule through her public posts, and like just happened to show up where she would be at.

Fam. In a parallel universe (i.e. this reality), if a strange man shows up outside your house? You wouldn’t be utterly thrilled to say the least.

But, we love Joe!

He’s well read, handsome, simple, relatively good-natured and tries his best for the woman he’s with! He wants her happy, safe and cared for!

Now, these same things were said about Theodore Robert Bundy (read the Phantom Prince and watch The Bundy Tapes on Netflix).

This image: Black Twitter strikes again!

But…we love Joe. I have repeatedly said I would have dated him because he’s intelligent. I have also said that if I would have been like Beck, and found his love stash/stalker pile in a wall or the ceiling, I would have just left it there! That shit has NOTHING to do with me. And the bad part? I’m not the only woman who has said this! But why do we love him? Why is Caroline Kepnes’s version of Bundy so attractive?

Simple.

We, as women, want to be chosen!

We want to be loved, cared for and lion protected. We want the security of knowing the person we would do anything for, would do anything for us.

Joe killed the dude that didn’t respect or honor Beck.

Joe killed the girl that tried to take her from him–whom he warned Beck about.

Joe also affirmed Beck, told her how brilliant she was; how she needed to do what made her happy. He respected her space (sorta) and her intelligence.

He loved her.

But he also killed her because she rejected his love for her.

But, we focus on the fact he saved her from the train. Put her IKEA bed together, and played Scrabble in her apartment.

Joesph Goldberg is effing dangerous!

But so is the world women inhabit.

The saged and wizened Penn Badgley has continuously said Joe is not a good dude–and shouldn’t be idolized! But, we do, don’t we?

He opens doors, studies you, knows your favorite flower and where you take your coffee breaks. He’s the one. Moreover, you have to check you own moral compass because at some point–I started cheering for Joe! I saw Beck this monstrous thing that had to be destroyed.

Dude.

I told a writer friend of mine that even though Joe is crazy, he needs to stay on squad! I believe there’s a vernacular around these types of activities that says, “I paint houses.” Joe paints houses–but, the thing is, just as he said in Season 1: “We sometimes do bad things for the people we love.”

Shakespeare says, “Love is but a madness.” My father said, “If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazed what he’ll do for you.” When love, broken boys, sex and obsession congeal–you get Henry Hill with a Shax complex. That’s our Joe!

Fairy tales and classic mythology regale us with tales of knights saving damsels in distress, scaling towers, killing wolves and witches to save fair damsels. What we forget is sometimes the dragon isn’t the one you think it is.

With that in mind, there’s a third book to this series being written. I’m anxiously awaiting that release! And I’m still rooting for Joe to get his happily ever after. Why? It’s nice to be chosen. And it’s safer to have a dragon on a leash than out in the world.

Dear Karol: This Ain’t It Sis.

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Dear Karol:

Dearest one, I am glad you are safe and well. I am glad this was all a scam, a caper of sorts. I am glad–for what its worth–you were safe. Also, I am glad that you came back. With that said, allow me to say what I’m sure no one else has been able to–calmly.

Stop running after men. Stop. Stop it now. If you don’t stop now, you will do this your entire life. You will look for affirmation, comfort, adulation and praise from outside sources. Your life will remain a coup of the saddest sort.

Stop. Stop it, Karol.

I know him being inside you, flipping your body, pulling your hair and taking your body to an ecstasy your 16-year-old can barely hold  is intoxicating.  I know it is! Any woman that was ever a girl knows.  The sweet nothings, the thoughts of forever as you hang on to him as he does as best as he wills his body to give.

But this? What you just did? My dearest one, this is not how you craft forever. You are young, and these mistakes are expected of the young. In that respect, I can forgive. As a mother, I am defiantly angry at you. I am disgusted at this perverse plan you either orchestrated or co-signed. Yet, I can understand it. There were other ways, dear one. There were other ways–yet, here you are.

Mothers do not have the programming to be your friend before the age of 25. As daughters, we need all their wisdom, clarity and influence to live and survive! Female children need mothers equal parts satin and iron. We need their softness and comfort. We also need their strength and steadfastness! Your mother is not your friend–stop looking for her to be.

What you have done? This is a stunt. This is a tantrum. With girls that look like you vanishing every other day–whether by stunt, bad decision, fake friends, immigration–what made you think this would be ‘cool’ to do? What you have done is kicked a hole in the relationship between you and your mother. The relationship you wanted ain’t possible right now. The time she will need to get over what you did–will not be quick. Not at all. This is not the kind of lore your family will laugh about until your mother is dead.

The consequences of your actions will go beyond being talked about on-line, blogs or other forums. You need to understand their are consequences to these types of capers:  you cannot go through life raging through it!

This was wrong, Karol. I cannot even express how wrong this was. Bad thing is you won’t see just how wrong this was until you have a daughter. The lore is when a woman has a daughter, however she was to her mother, she will get a daughter just like she was–3 fold. At this point, Karol, I’d pray for a son.

 

READY OR NOT! I FINISHED YEAR ONE!

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This week, I got the reminder from WordPress that I started this corner of the internet universe one year ago last week!

That indeed is something to celebrate!

With that, I am strutting into Year 2 a little more confident, a little more confident and a little more brash–not that I need help with that.

Thank you all for your love, support, and ever present readership.

Tell a friend so you can breathe fire, too.

Love Always,

JBHarris