Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

High Heels and BJs

July 17, 2011

Every other day, a new article appears somewhere in the blogosphere, promising to tell women the keys to finding and keeping a man. To summarize:

  1. Step up your personal appearance game: lose weight, then put on makeup, a tight dress and a pair of high heels, because men don’t like girls in sweats, baseball caps and sneakers.
  2. Step up your kitchen game: cook for your man and fix his plate. If you won’t, someone else will.
  3. Step up your sex game, especially the blow jobs. And work on your porn star skills. If you don’t, someone else will.

If only it were so easy.

Never mind that there are fashionable women who keep it cooking in the kitchen and the bedroom, but are without a steady partner. Never mind that there are women who stay in sweats and don’t cook, but who are happily married or in a long-term relationship. Reality doesn’t matter. The message to women is always: whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.

I joked on Twitter that I should start a class, “Cooking in High Heels + BJ Lessons.” Sadly, if such a class existed, it would sell out. Women would sign up hoping to learn to look and cook like Giada De Laurentiis, and men would sign their wives and girlfriends up, like “See! This is what you need to do!”

Problem is, you can own a closet full of Louboutins, be a master chef and suck peen like a pro, and be lonely or unhappy in your current relationship. The key isn’t sexy footwear, plate fixing or bedroom tricks. Those things certainly don’t hurt, but they’re not enough.

The secret to being in a happy relationship is finding a compatible partner. And there is no one way to do that. It starts with a combination of attraction, shared values, and mutual respect. Understand what your own wants and needs are, then don’t settle for less.

When you’re in a relationship with someone you care for, showing your appreciation for each other comes easy. I love to see my married co-workers changing out of their casual Friday slacks into a cute dress at the end of the workday, because it’s “date night” with the hubby.

People who enjoy cooking love to make something special for their beloved. Cooking is one of many small ways that you can show your appreciation for your partner. But if you don’t cook, there are many other ways to show your appreciation for your mate.

Good sex doesn’t require you to puncture your esophagus with his genitals (although there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s your thing). That said, if you like each other – not just love, but really enjoy being with each other – you’ll want to take care of each other’s needs, wants and desires sexually as well. You can tune out the chatter about what you should be doing and focus on doing what he actually likes – and vice versa. 

Even finding that combination of attraction, values and mutual respect doesn’t guarantee lifelong, till-death-do-us-part, diamond anniversary happiness.

As anyone who has ever been in a relationship for longer than one year knows, it can be hard to keep the magic alive over time. These “how to get a man” pieces might work better as reminders to women and men alike who are in long-term monogamous relationships of ways to maintain your connection. 

If you are seeking relationship advice, try consulting with a relationship coach. When I was finally ready to jump back into the dating pool – five years after my divorce – I worked with “The Modern Day Matchmaker,” Paul C. Brunson. Brunson helped me identify the values that were important to me, which in turn helped me zero in on the qualities that mattered most in a partner.

Although Brunson didn’t match me with my current partner, his advice helped me figure out what worked and didn’t work for me. For example, online dating never worked for me, but going out – often alone – to do things I enjoyed, turned out to be a great way to meet people.

Some people find the proliferation of dating sites, books, blogs, etc. devoted to providing relationship advice annoying. They’re not going anywhere, though.  So if you read them, use those suggestions that speak to you for personal self-improvement. Whether it’s losing weight, learning how to cook, learning bedroom circus tricks, or improving your fashion sense – if it makes you feel better about yourself, it will probably lead to your projecting a greater sense of confidence as you go about in the world.

And confidence, my friends, is sexy.

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Carolyn Edgar on NPR’s “Tell Me More”

June 30, 2011

On June 29, I had the pleasure of appearing on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” to discuss the forthcoming book by Stanford Law Professor Ralph Richard Banks, “Is Marriage For White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone.” I discussed this book in my post “Single Black Women,” and I am one of several women Banks interviewed for the book. This subject continues to touch some raw nerves, as evidenced by comments on both the NPR site and my own blog (note to anyone reading the transcript: the term is “code switching,” not “coat switching.” I hope the transcription error has been corrected). But I believe continued dialogue and debate – led by the black women and men who represent this paradigm, not media personalities and actors – is healthy and necessary. Enjoy, and feel free to post your comments.

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/29/137499303/author-tells-black-women-marry-out-not-down

I Am Not the Father

June 19, 2011

Lately, it’s become fashionable to wish single mothers Happy Father’s Day.

Miss me with that.

I am a single mother raising two kids alone. I do it by necessity, since my kids’ father has chosen, for the most part, to be absent from their lives since our divorce.

I also do it a little bit by choice. Some women in my shoes would have initiated a search for Mr. Stepdad a long time ago. Marrying a man for the sole purpose of providing my kids with a replacement father does not interest me in the least.

Being a single mother does not also make me a single father. Or some type of mother-father hybrid. I am a woman, and I can only approach parenting from a woman’s perspective. I grew up with my father and mother, but my mother was the more dominant influence in our home. For better or worse, I adopted her style of parenting even when I was married.

The notion that a woman raising children by herself is acting as both mother and father is misguided and harmful. It does a disservice to all of the fathers – including the single fathers – who are also working hard, every day, to raise their children. We single mothers enjoy the appreciation, but on Father’s Day, fathers, not mothers, deserve all the love.

My kids do benefit from positive male influences. Unfortunately, their father isn’t one. I don’t live near my family, so my children don’t have uncles and older male cousins who take the place of their absent father in providing this influence. They do have teachers. coaches, their friends’ fathers, and my significant other.

None of them can take the place of a loving, caring father, but my ex-husband is not a loving, caring father. They wouldn’t have a nuturing dad in their lives even if their dad were still around. A psychotherapist told me recently, if the absent parent does substantial damage to the child when he or she is present, it is better for that parent to remain absent. My children are not better off without a father, but they are better off without a father who is still so hurt from his own childhood that he inflicts pain upon his own children almost without knowing.

I am not a hero. I am not “holding it down.” I’m doing what I have to do. I take care of my children because I’m supposed to.

I take care of my kids because I love them and I need them and they need me. I do it alone because their father is unwilling and unable to participate. That doesn’t mean I fill both roles.

I am a mother. That’s more than enough.

So while I appreciate the acknowledgment of single mothers on Father’s Day, don’t wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I am a lot of things to my kids, but a father is most certainly not one of them.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Memoir

May 24, 2011

All my life, people have told me I should write a book.

My first short stories were potboilers about cheating dogs and doggie love triangles. No, really. My first short story, at 8, was about a trio of German Shepherds named King, Queenie & Jackie, with Queenie and Jackie vying for King’s affections. This is what happens when a chubby girl with an overactive imagination combines her love of the family pet with stories overheard from gossipy neighbors. 

In college, my Anecdotal Writing professor told me I had book material and even offered to work with me to shape it into a memoir. I thought he was crazy. Those were just some stories about my crazy family. But everyone’s got a crazy family. Why would anyone want to read about mine?

Besides, no one was writing “memoir” back then. It was called “autobiography” and only famous people wrote them.

When I began blogging about parenting and started my own self- titled blog, people said, “I enjoy your writing. So where’s the book?”

So after 20+ years of hearing, “you should write a book,” I decided, “You know? They’re right!”

And I had all these great stories about my family and kids and ex-boyfriends already written. All I’d have to do is flesh out the family life, add a bit about the awful marriage, end on a happy note with newfound love, and I’d be done.

Then people started opting out of my life story.

The first was my sister. She had been one of the most vocal proponents of “you should write a book” until I wrote a post that mentioned, in passing, something about her. Some moment where our experiences crossed.

“Don’t write about my life,” was the terse private message I received after that post.

I didn’t write about her life. I wrote about my life. Except…I do have five siblings. Three brothers and two sisters. Writing about my childhood will be a bit challenging if I don’t get to mention at least something about being the youngest of six.

I don’t have to tell you about the paths their lives have taken. Those are not my stories to tell.

But if I’m telling a story about riding the Bob-Lo Boat to Bob-Lo Island as a child, it’ll be hard to tell that story without mentioning who I was on the boat with. Perhaps I should only mention the stories where my sister looks really smart and I’m just the dumb little sister. That might work.

Next was…well, I can’t tell you that. I’m not supposed to mention anything about my current r___________. What’s a r___________? I can’t tell you, but this video may give you a clue:

But I can’t talk about it. Not on my blog. Not in my memoir. So much for ending on a happy note.

So it seems the only relationships I can discuss in the book are the failed ones: the marriage and the high – or low – lights of those that preceded it.

And I’ve got some great failed relationship stories.

A friend suggested I avoid complaints from the subjects of those great stories by saying each one of them had a small penis.

I was thinking the opposite. I should give them all large penises. Maybe if I Super Size all my exes, they’ll be so flattered they won’t complain about whatever else it is I might have to say about them.

But I guess I’ll have to allude to the happy ending by way of lessons learned.

Which may not be such a bad thing. A lot can happen between writing and publication. And perhaps it’s best not to write about anyone until they’ve been a part of my life for a minimum of ten years.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, trying to figure out how to tell the story of my life in isolation. Wish me luck.

Dating Pet Peeves

April 18, 2011

Following up on my “Guy Pet Peeves” post, my beautiful online pal Saida Latigue (@MochaMama42 on Twitter), had a few pet peeves of her own to share. I thought it best for Saida to express herself in a separate post. Without further ado, here are some of Saida’s dating pet peeves.

 1. A self-proclaimed gentleman has respect for my time.

You’re a man and you want to be treated and respected as such. If I am supposed to meet you at 10:00 am, calling at 10:40 am “to see if I’m on the way” is silly. If I’m meeting you somewhere crowded and popular, and I haven’t called to say I won’t arrive at the agreed-upon time to meet, shouldn’t you make yourself visible in the crowd and call at 10:15 at the latest to inquire about my ETA if you don’t see me or haven’t heard from me?

My time is valuable and I actually arrived at 9:55 am. You have no respect for me or my time, so …. NEXT!

2. Being a man means you pursue me.

You say you’d really like to get to know me better. However, to communicate with me, you text my phone intermittently. You email vague one line questions, and when I ask for an in-depth explanation, you don’t respond. You think of “conversation” as attempting to engage me in “relationship style” banter on mutual friend’s threads on Facebook.

I am no longer in grade school. I can infer you’re interested in me, but if it comes across as such a half-hearted attempt to get to know me, it’s a turn off, big time.         

3. A man is decisive and knows what he wants.

I decide to meet for drinks with someone I’ve dated in the past. As a single divorcee, sometimes I just want to spend time with a member of the opposite sex. The conversation is easy and out of curiosity, we ask each other why we’re not in a serious relationship at this time. I completely understand the “people are in your life for a reason or a season” rationale; however, when you share with me that you felt DUPED in your last relationship because the woman you were dating said she didn’t want marriage or a serious relationship and that was why you were in a relationship with  her — only to find out a YEAR later, she shares she would like to “take the relationship to another level” of  commitment and monogamy…and you join a dating website ( in retaliation) and only choose potential dates by photo — those are RED FLAGS that you haven’t yet figured out what you are doing. STILL. Sad, particularly when I have known you going on six years.          

4. GROW A SET.

Get some CAJONES about yourself. Be a man about it, do your thing as a man and be one, because I’m definitely very much a woman and don’t want to be the man. Period.

Phew! Saida laid it out there, didn’t she?  Do you agree or disagree? The floor is yours.

Facebook Friending Ghosts of the Past

January 18, 2011

A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a man I’d known in college.

Someone I’d avoided for most of my college years.

It wasn’t always that way. [Name Redacted, or NR for short] was smart, funny and charming. And attractive. He was built like a linebacker, big and tall. We girls wondered if NR was big and tall all over.

I decided to find out.

After weeks of flirtation, one night NR invited me to his room. There was alcohol. There was an attempt – a fumbled, bungled and ultimately unsuccessful attempt. Equipment failure played a major factor.

There was the late night walk of shame back to my side of the dorm.

And the next day and the weeks that followed, there were the rumors of how wild I was, what a freak I was, how NR had been all up in that.

The big, baggy shirts I liked to wear at night provided unexpected grist for the rumor mill. I had taken a few of my father’s old shirts to college. At night, I would don one of Daddy’s shirts over a pair of shorts or sweatpants.

I was wearing shorts under one of Daddy’s shirts the night I went to NR’s room. Of course, the rumor mill said I went to NR’s room wearing just the shirt, with no pants or panties underneath.

I never knew if NR initiated the rumors or just went along with everyone else’s assumptions. I could have ruined his reputation by disclosing the equipment failure issue. But I just wanted to forget the whole thing. 

The rumor mill wasn’t about to let that happen. Thanks to the rumors, I started getting all sorts of unwanted attention from NR’s boys.

One of NR’s boys, however, appeared sympathetic. He claimed not to believe what everyone was saying about me. He invited me to his room to talk, and I tearfully confessed what really happened, and didn’t happen, with NR — all the embarrassing details.

Sympathy Guy claimed to be upset and angry about NR’s lies. He pretended to be a friend, a big brother.

And then Sympathy Guy raped me. He forced me to perform oral sex on him that night. I will never forget the gagging, choking, spitting; the feeling like I’d never breathe again. I felt lucky he didn’t force intercourse as well. I begged him to let me leave, and he did.

Although I didn’t press charges, I didn’t keep quiet about what Sympathy Guy had done. The rumor mill got the word out. I guess not even a ho deserved that.

I steered clear of NR, Sympathy Guy — the whole lot of them — from then on. Thanks to them, I also learned to stay out of men’s dorm rooms at night.

Although I can’t hold NR responsible for what Sympathy Guy did, they are forever linked in my thoughts. Sympathy Guy’s flawed logic went like this:

a) According to his boy NR, I was a ho.

b) A ho could be had, without the need to question whether she wants it or not. Either she always wants it, because she’s a ho, or it doesn’t matter whether or not she wants it, because she’s a ho. Therefore, he was entitled to shove his penis down my throat.

When I got NR’s friend request, I thought about accepting it, as a symbol of forgiveness. NR had made a stupid, young adult mistake. His lies led to Sympathy Guy raping me, but I couldn’t say he was the cause of the rape. And anyway, it all happened such a long time ago.

Furthermore, what does being Facebook friends really mean, anyway? I have over 600 Facebook friends, and communicate with less than 100 of them. Accepting NR’s friend request wouldn’t mean we have to actually become friends.

On the other hand, forgiving NR doesn’t require me to feel differently about what he did. NR let people think we’d had some kind of wild, crazy sex rather than admitting we didn’t have sex at all. I have a right to still feel some kind of way about that.

Forgiving NR also doesn’t mean I have to allow him access to me and my contacts — or expose myself to his. For all I know, NR and Sympathy Guy might still be connected, and Sympathy Guy is someone I have no desire to hear from ever again.

No matter how insignificant Facebook can be, it’s still a level of access to my personal life that I have the right to control.

While I mulled it all over, the friend request disappeared.

If NR tries to friend me again, perhaps I’ll link him to this post. I’m not seeking an apology. I’m not even sure an apology would change how I feel. His friend request reminded me of an unpleasant and painful learning experience.

My own daughter is only 4 years younger than I was when I had my encounters with NR and Sympathy Guy. I will share this story with her, in hopes that she can learn from her mom’s mistakes.

And if NR and Sympathy Guy have daughters, I hope they teach them to avoid young men who are like the young men they each used to be.

To Snoop or Not to Snoop?

November 18, 2010

Let me be clear: I do not snoop.  But not because I’m made of morally superior stuff.

I don’t snoop because I don’t like being hurt.

The last time I snooped through a guy’s things, I was in my late teens or early 20s.  I suspected my then-boyfriend of cheating.  He denied it, but I remained suspicious.  I used the first opportunity I had to be alone in his apartment to go through as much of his stuff as I could in the time it took him to go to the grocery store and back.

Of course, I found the evidence I was looking for.  I didn’t find panties, or used condoms.  I didn’t hire forensic scientists to do DNA analysis.  This was old school.  I found love letters, from her to him.  She wrote, in the flowery language of youth, of her love for him, and how safe she felt lying in his arms.  The English major in me wanted to red pencil the grammatical errors and send them back to her for a redo. 

I didn’t feel guilty about reading the letters.  My then-boyfriend had violated my privacy the year before by reading my personal journals, then confronting me about what he had read in them.

When he came home, I flung the letters in his face.  Much screaming, wailing and throwing of things ensued. 

Of course he denied everything.  She may have had feelings for him, but he didn’t feel the same way.  Yes, he had once held her at night, to comfort her over her sick/dead/dying mother (I’m not being rude, I can’t remember which one it was), but nothing ever happened.  Yes, he may have kissed her, but they never had sex.  He didn’t know why he kept the letters, but they meant nothing to him (this said as he dumped them in the garbage).

We talked about it all weekend and decided not to break up.  I said I forgave him, even though I didn’t.  In hindsight, not breaking up was a mistake.  For me, the damage was irreversible.  Regardless of whether or not they had sex, he admitted to caring about her.  The emotional betrayal was devastating. 

From that moment on, I felt no obligation to remain faithful to him, physically, emotionally, or otherwise — which is why I should have ended the relationship.

I vowed never to snoop again after that experience, and I haven’t broken that vow.  Here’s why:

1.  Unless you actually catch him in the act, whatever you find isn’t dispositive of anything.  See #2.

2.  Evidence can always be explained away.  One guy told me the black thong panties on his bedroom floor belonged to his ten-year-old daughter.  They must have gotten mixed up with my things in the laundry, he said.  I smelled them.  They were freshly laundered.  Call me nasty all you want. 

He had made no effort to hide them, and told the lie so effortlessly, I accepted it.  Which leads me to point #3.

3.  You believe what you want to believe, good, bad or otherwise.  Did I really believe those panties belonged to that guy’s daughter?  No.  Even before I had a ten-year-old daughter, I knew ten-year-old girls didn’t wear black thong panties.  But I wanted the lie to be true, so I talked myself into believing it.  (Of course he was lying.)

You can also convince yourself that a truthful man is lying.  Hence, point #4.

4.  You don’t have to snoop to find out the truth.  You don’t need to go through a guy’s cell phone, copy down all the females’ numbers and call each one.  Or hack into his Facebook or Twitter account and see who he’s private messaging or DMing.  The evidence is usually pretty visible on the surface.  Be observant.  That usually yields more than enough information to enable you to ask intelligent, informed questions — and to ascertain whether or not he’s lying.

5.  If you suspect he’s lying, by the time you’re tempted to snoop, you already know what you’re going to find — so why do that to yourself?  This isn’t always true, but it was certainly true in my case. 

If you need that final confirmation: finding the emails, the sext messages, the hotel receipts, the flavored lubricant he’s never used on you, to know for certain he’s cheating, you should do what works for you.  For me, it’s just too painful.  I’d rather trust my instincts than find all the damning evidence that hurts so much.

I totally understand the reasons people snoop.  I don’t judge those who do.  For me, though, the violation of privacy feels wrong.  And I believe the evidence you need of whether to trust or not to trust the person you’re in a relationship with often lies right on the surface, so long as you’re willing to trust what you observe, as well as your instincts. 

Ultimately, what’s right is what feels right to you.

Question: How do you feel about snooping?  Do you snoop through your lover or partner’s things when he or she isn’t home?  Do you worry about your lover/partner snooping through your things?  How would you feel if he/she did?

Do You Know Your Sleep Number?

August 10, 2010

Couple relaxing in bed

My Twitter friend @purplepeace79 Twitter-ranted recently about the notion that men view a woman differently if she’s slept with 50 men versus 5 men, and that this causes women to lie about their number.

At a certain point in your life, keeping track of the number of people you’ve had sex with is stupid.  Which is one of many reasons why I no longer do it.

When I was younger, I used to maintain lists naming the men I’d slept with.  It was cute for a while.  Each time I wrote down a name, I’d pause and indulge in a few sweet thoughts about our fun times together.

But then things got complicated.

In the beginning, I wanted to count every new experience.  However, when I left for college, some of those new experiences were being shared with people who were not my boyfriend back home.  That became a problem.  The goal shifted from recording every new sexual or quasi-sexual encounter to keeping as many people off that list as possible. 

Thinking like a lawyer long before I became one, I began questioning which experiences “counted” for purposes of the list.  Did making out with that guy at that fraternity party count?  Did it count if we went back to his room and, someone was, um, serviced?  What if the service was reciprocal?

My answer to all of the above was No.  Except I was stupid enough to write about the encounters in my journal.  My boyfriend read my journal and confronted me about cheating. 

I denied what I’d written.

“What are you going to believe?  What I’m telling you now or some bullshit I wrote in a diary?  And if anyone’s betrayed anyone’s trust here, it’s you!  How dare you read my personal journals and invade my privacy like that!”

It worked.  He bought my story.  The downside?   I stopped keeping journals.

Eventually there were experiences I didn’t care to record, situations I wished not to remember — worse than just the failures and the embarrassments.

Did the guy who date raped me earn a spot on my list?  Did I have to count the guy who lied and told his frat he did when he didn’t?  What about that almost-rape when I was alone on vacation?  Did my own behavior in these situations make them count? 

The list became, as Jo Nubian calls it, my ho tape, that voice that told me I was wrong for having the sex I’d had with the people I’d had it with, and for daring to enjoy any of it.

It also dawned on me that if a boyfriend could pick up a personal journal and read it, he could also come across a random sheet of paper with fiftyeleven dudes’ names on it and guess what it was.

So I found and burned all of the lists.  In time, the distinctions between what did and did not “count” blurred in my mind.  I forgot what wasn’t memorable.  I lost count, not because there were actually fiftyeleven dudes’ names on the list, but because the experiences and what I learned from them came to matter more than numbers. 

When I first met my ex, he wanted to know how many men I’d had before him.  I told him he was ridiculous. “You knew I wasn’t a virgin when you met me.”

He did some fairly sloppy due diligence, and confronted me with stories he’d heard.  Everything had been so mangled in the retelling, I could say with a straight face that none of it was true.  I honestly (and naively) didn’t see what difference it made.  He boasted about his ho exploits, so I told him to get real about mine.

It didn’t quite work that way, of course.  He threw the things he’d heard up in my face, regardless of truth or accuracy.  But the most damaging story was the one I told him: the story about the one that got away.  The one-who-got-away story confirmed what he had long suspected — that I was with him, but I didn’t love him.  

I was faithful for the close to ten years we were together.  No close calls, no judgment calls.  But my ex never stopped looking around the corner for the boogeyman: the man I wanted, who was not the man I had.

I was faithful to my ex, and I stayed celibate for a number of years after my divorce. 

So as far as I’m concerned,  I re-virginalized.  The clicker has been reset. 

I’m still not keeping count, though.  My sleep number is my business.  Each and every one of those experiences – good, bad, tragic, indifferent, and everything in between — made me who I am.  I don’t know the actual count, but I am no longer ashamed of it.   It’s irrelevant.

Besides, if any man asks me “how many” at this point in my life, I’ll assume he wants to make sure his name never gets added to my count.