Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing



What I’ll Tell My Daughter About Love

When I was of what my dad considered an appropriate age, he began talking to me about what to look for in men.  He gave me a lot of advice:  Look at his nails and hands, pay attention to his oral hygiene, make sure I don’t have to depend on him for anything.  He also advised me that when I was ready to make a commitment to a man to make sure that I liked him.  He warned me that “love” or the feeling of love at least can come and go, but liking the person would ensure that I’d be more likely to work on the relationship as people tend to be more kind to those they like.

Well, The Fizzle isn’t actually of dating age just yet. She’s only 10.  However, she is of age where she is able to bear witness to relationships and she has already formed the foundations of what she’ll carry with her when she forges down that road.  Of course there are more things I will tell her about romantic relationships based on what I’ve learned over the years.

  1. I’ll add a caveat to her grandfather’s advice of making sure to like the person.  I’d say pay attention to what liking someone means.  Don’t settle for someone you find likeable because there is a distinct difference between finding one likeable vs. liking said person.  A likeable person is one who you like well enough but not entirely. You have a list of a few traits you like about them but you have an equally long list, or longer, of all the things you don’t really like. But instead of being honest about the things you don’t like, you sweep them under the rug and tell yourself you can live with them.  Well he makes me laugh. I like how he dressesHe’s really good with kids. Or some other such trait.  Instead, ask yourself: Do I truly like this man as a person?  If the answer is no, then Simon Cowell him.
  2. Choose someone whose values are in agreement with yours.  So many people look for surface agreements. We love the same movies. We have the same taste in music. We both love pizza. Sure those things are wonderful, but they aren’t necessary.  What you want is someone whose view of the world is in alignment with your own.  You want someone whose values are compatible with yours and that takes more than having the same tastes in food or music.
  3. Instead of focusing on how much you agree, pay more attention to how well you disagree.  So many place a high emphasis on how many things they can agree upon.  While agreeing is great, differences are inevitable. You’re not going to ever live in the world by yourself. Choose someone with whom you can agreeably disagree with and who can do the same with you. That will be a better measure of how well you can get along than agreeing upon things.
  4. Ask yourself, if this person never changes can I accept him?  If this person never changes can I accept him? And you have to ask yourself these questions because when you sign up for a relationship, you sign up to be with the person as they are.  That means you can’t sign up based on the potential of who you think he may become. There may be things you want to change about him, but you have to be able to accept him as he is because he’s not going to change for you.  He’s going to be exactly who he is.  However, at the same time, we are constantly evolving as human beings.  So you have to be prepared for the change you either wanted or didn’t want.  Sometimes we ask for things and we find ourselves ill-prepared for them once we receive them.  You may find that you wanted your mate to become someone only to find you don’t like what he’s become once he actualizes that.  Or he may actualize into someone else that you weren’t expecting and you may find you don’t like it.  Either way, you have to make space for him to be who he is and to become who he will become.
  5. When considering attraction, don’t make a snap decision. So many people base attraction solely on the first impression of physical looks.  That’s such a tiny part of attraction.  Attraction wanes or increases the more time you spend with someone. You can meet someone who you deem to be a 10 based on his looks, only to find that he’s a 5 or less in every other area.  On the other hand, a modest looking gentleman can easily become a 10 if he has other qualities you find attractive.  Also, don’t listen to your friends or others about his attractiveness.  You are the only one who has to find him attractive.
  6. Don’t go for the “good” guy.  So many pass themselves off as good because they get good grades, make good money, or dress nicely.  Good is an arbitrary term. You have to get specific about what good means to you.  Women settle constantly for the good guy without getting specific about what that means.  Does it mean kind, compassionate, intelligent, hard-working, assertive, etc.  Do you want someone good with kids? Good with explaining things you don’t understand?  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Also, understand that whatever it is you want him to possess, it needs to be compatible with you.  You both must complement one another.
  7. This should be an add-on to number 6. Please, please, please don’t go for the nice guy!  Whatever you do, avoid getting with a man simply because he’s nice.  So many people place a high emphasis on being nice.  But don’t confuse nice for kind.  Nice isn’t actually admirable.  It isn’t authentic. Nice is what people do so that others think well of them.  Nice guys are the ones who are insecure and do things to seek approval from others.  The nice guy is the guy who does things he really doesn’t want to do and later resents you for it. Instead, seek out the kind guy.  The kind guy is the one who is confident in who he is and gives of himself because it’s simply in his nature. He respects himself and others and expects to be respected in return.  He doesn’t need you to make him feel better about himself.  Yeah, go for that guy. But make sure you’re that kind woman first so that you’re not the nice girl he fell for.
  8. Be clear about your expectations. And your wants. Don’t hold back. At all!  Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you want from your mate or the relationship.  That way, the person can tell you yay or nay on whether or not they can deliver or if they’re willing to.  And you are then free to decide how you’d like to proceed from there.
  9. Don’t take it personal when a person can’t or is unwilling to give you what you want. Sometimes people love and give the best they have but their best isn’t good enough for us.  You absolutely get to say what’s good enough for you. But you don’t get to assess the true nature of the person’s heart for you.  There’s a lot of advice that says when someone loves you they’ll do whatever it takes to be what you want/need. That sounds wonderful, but it’s so untrue.  We meet people at different stages of their lives and sometimes no matter how much someone loves you, they just may not be ready or capable to give you what you want/need. Doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have though.  It also doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
  10. No matter what happens in the relationship, don’t ever be ashamed or guilty for being yourself, for caring about the person or for showing how much you cared. Oftentimes, when a relationship ends, or when someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, or when someone is unable/unwilling to give us what we need/want, there is an emphasis of blame.  People tend to tell the hurt person it was their fault for choosing that person or that the hurt person should not have done all the wonderful things they did in the relationship.  That’s a tit-for-tat mentality that is a relationship killer.  Please know that you never ever have to feel any shame for loving someone with all you have and showing them that.  You’re only responsible for you.  What they do with your love is on them.

And of course, I’ll tell her to look at his nails and his teeth too cause her grandfather was on to something with that. But again, she’s only 10.  I’m sure there’s going to be more to come.  Now that I look at this list, I think I need to remind myself of these things.  What will you tell your children, or friends, or yourself for that matter about love?

Why I’m Totally Against Playing Matchmaker

I’ve been single since my divorce, which has been 7 years and counting now. That seems to be a fun fact that bothers everyone but me. I say this because for some reason, people love to decide all on their own—with no prompting from me—that they are going to “hook me up” with someone. Now, I’m going to be honest. I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of matchmaking. My thinking is if you are not a professional, don’t do it. I don’t practice it. I feel even more strongly about this after having been the victim of so many well-intentioned (at least I hope they were) horrible hook ups. This strong feeling only intensified after my horrible experience a few weeks ago at my cousin’s wedding reception.

Picture it: Cooper’s Hawk Winery. A quaint little restaurant in Oak Lawn, IL. I’m with my daughter partaking of the celebration for my cousin and her new husband. I see my aunt wave to me from across the room. She motions for me to come over to her. I walk over to her and she begins to ask me about my hair. She raves about how cute it is and how much she likes it. I politely say thank you and believe that’s the end of it, when she does a most strange thing. She angles me so that I can face the gentleman sitting next to her and makes a sweeping Price-Is-Right showcase model type motion across me as she looks at the gentleman and says, “This is my niece, Je’Niece. She went to Xavier University of Louisiana and she has a Master’s degree.” I find this rather odd, especially when you consider I graduated from grad school over a decade ago. So it’s not like she was announcing my latest accomplishment, or that she was announcing it to the room. No, this was meant as a selling point to one individual. The gentleman makes some small talk with me and I initially think nothing of it, until . . . My aunt, for no reason that I can think of, save for she must have experienced a late onslaught of Tourette’s Syndrome, boldly (and rather loudly might I add) says “Y’all should go out on a date!” At this point, I can’t hide the shock and confusion and so I ask, “How in the world did we get to that?” to which she replies, “Y’all both single.”

And there it was. The idea that my singleness was a condition, which required unnecessary and unsolicited help to alleviate. God forbid that I simply enjoy the reception without having a date forced upon me. I’d like to tell you that’s where it ended, but alas, I cannot. Nope. It went on. Sensing the hair bit was a ruse on my aunt’s part to get me to the table to meet this gentleman caller, I returned to my table. However, I believe the man received more prompting from my aunt so instead of reading the social cues I exhibited; he chose to listen to her and continue to pursue me. I, not wanting to be rude–and also trying to pay more attention to my daughter and the people at our table–continued to be polite. However, that didn’t help me much, since it seemed to give the gentleman a green light to pursue me. At long last, I decide it’s time to go. However, before I could make my great escape, my aunt walked over to me and announced, “Je’Niece he wants your number!” At this point, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. She senses this and asks, “What, you don’t like him?” I responded by saying, “I don’t know him.” She goes, “Well do you want to know him?” to which I said, “Not particularly.” She then says, “Well why not? He’s single.” There was definitely more to the story but I share this with you to illustrate why I am adamantly against matchmaking.

1. Most people just aren’t good at it. Sure everyone thinks they’re a regular cupid who can magically bring two people together to create the cutest couple.  And why shouldn’t they? It’s simple. You just take two people; mix in some common ground, and Voila! Instant relationship. Right? Wrong! There is actually so much more that goes into bringing two people together to create a relationship. And most laypersons just don’t understand this. The average person simply picks two people they like and attempt to throw them together on some very arbitrary trait.   I like John. And I like Mia.  I will like John and Mia together. Yay! See my aunt’s logic as to why I would fit great with the gentleman. We were both single. That’s all that was needed.

2. It’s awkward as hell. Most people decide to play matchmaker without actually considering the parties involved. As with my aunt, she never even asked me if I was interested until AFTER the man sensed my rejection. If she’d asked me beforehand, she could have saved my aggravation and her gentleman friends feelings. And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. It’s happened far too many times. One Christmas Eve at a family function, one of my grandmother’s church members was at the house. I noticed he kept hanging around me, but I thought it was simply because we were close in age, as everyone else was either much younger or much older than we. Nope. Not to be. One of my other aunt’s later pulled me to the side and announced more than actually asked, “You know I invited him here for you, right?” She was actually shocked when I answered “No.” I had to ask, “Did I ask you to?” She admitted that no I didn’t, but she just thought it would be a good idea for me to get with him since he and I were both single. Again, it made for an awkward night because she’d sent homeboy on a blank mission that he would not complete.

3. When considering the “couple,” most people don’t consider anything beyond the superficial. When people decide to play matchmaker, they don’t usually think about what will be the foundational glue to hold the two people together. Instead, they think, John likes money and food. Mia likes money and food. They can like money and food together! Yes commonalities are great. However, human beings are much too complex to reduce to simple commonalities. A relationship needs more than common surface traits to thrive. My best friend once tried to hook me up with one of her co-workers. She didn’t ask me if I wanted this. She didn’t even ask the coworker if he wanted it. She simply decided that she would do this and it would be great. Her logic was that I was cool, he was cool, and we were both into that “hippy-dippy” stuff. I mean, look at my aunt’s logic. Both the gentleman and myself were single. ‘Nuff said. If that wasn’t the making for a beautiful relationship, then I don’t know what is.

4. Most don’t know how to play their role. If you are playing matchmaker, then you know you role isn’t a participatory one. You are simply a liaison. A consigliere, if you will. You’re a conduit, which connects the two people. But then you back off and allow things to unfold as organically as they possibly can. However, the average layperson doesn’t understand this. They think they need be involved in the entire process, oftentimes trampling over their desired couple’s free will. They will stalk both parties to make sure calls were made, dates were done, what follow-ups are necessary. Take my aunt, for example. She felt it necessary to do the gentleman’s bidding for him and get my number to pass to him, instead of facing the fact that he took his shot and missed.

5. Frankly, I’m quite tired of other people trying to decide my fate. Ok, so this point doesn’t actually support my case, but it’s the truth. I am not the single friend who laments about her single status. So there’s no need for anyone to think that I need help with my single status. On the contrary, I’m quite content. So I grow tired of other people deciding that they’ve had enough of my single status and I need to be in a relationship simply because of their own stuff. Just let me live dammit! Why won’t they let me be great?!

All I’m saying is that people should play their roles. And if you are not Patti Stanger, or some other professional matchmaker, odds are pretty low that you’re skilled in that area. So that means, you best leave that area alone—as well as the people you’re messing with. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me. Trust me when I say, it’s not welcome. At all. And don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for love. And I’m not against two people meeting through a mutual friend.  But I think most people should leave the forced love connections alone.

I saw a video today of a young lady who I truly believe had great intentions. The topic was things a woman needs to do to keep her man. I actually began to check out at the moment I heard “how to keep your man.” However, I’m working on practicing the art of non-judgment as well as being open to opinions and thoughts that differ from mine. So I watched. I was not impressed. There were some things she said that I could sort of, kind of, maybe, quite possibly agree with. However, there were more than a few things that I could not. One of those things involved fixing your man’s plate because, as she said, a man should never ever have to fix his own plate. The other thing that rubbed me the wrong was the mention that a woman should be so in tune with her man that she anticipates his needs so that he doesn’t even need to ask for what he wants. She’ll already know. Because she knows, she will do get whatever he needs.

Now, I could say I didn’t like what she said and I disagree because of sexism. I could say that I have grown tired of the trite “Wam-Bam, Get Your Man!” “Don’t Go To Sleep, If It’s Your Man You Want To Keep!” messaging geared toward women which speaks on how they need to get and keep a man. I can say it’s ridiculous to believe that one should be able to–and consequently can–read another’s mind. As if one is not responsible for speaking up for their needs and wants. I could say how illogical it is to think that it is actually possible to “keep” another person, since realistically speaking, one cannot do such a thing. People remain in relationships; and faithful or unfaithful to their beloved; by their own volition. However, those are not my issues with the video I saw today, or the many others out there like it.

No, none of those are truly my issue. I dislike and disagree with the message because I do not like the generalized nature of the message. Human beings are far too complex to simplify their behavior. While I understand that a 7 minute video, which I myself share from time to time ; ), requires one to get to the point quickly and succinctly, I cannot get with a step-by-step instructional on how to maintain a relationship. There are far too many complexities to even attempt to surmise that there is a certain number of steps that will guarantee your partner will want to remain in relationship with you. Let’s say you do all of these so-called steps, yet you and your partner part ways for reasons unrelated to those steps. Would one be able to surmise that you failed?

There is also the fact that relationships end for a multitude of reasons. Relationships are simply our very own intimate class, where we are provided opportunities for growth, death, rebirth, and more growth. Once the growth has stopped, the relationship ends. You reach a point where it is made evident that you can go no further together because you have gone as far as you can. For some, the end happens with a physical death of the body. For others, it happens when there is a death of love, trust, or respect. And yet for others, the relationship can simply change course.

The other reason I disagree is because I really dislike the transactional view of relationships. I cannot get with the idea of I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-and only if-you-scratch-mine in a relationship. I say that with the full understanding that in practical terms, there is a bit of transactional play in relationships. However, I don’t think it’s the least bit healthy to enter into relationships with the mindset of I’ll only do my part if you do yours. I think that mindset is what has cost many relationships. I’m not quite sure what it is about romantic love that makes us mere mortals lose our grip. We place a tremendous amount of pressure on our lovers and on our relationships. I think it’s far better and simpler to figure out what you desire, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you are willing/unwilling to do within the relationship. Once you’ve done those things, then you can seek to find someone who will not only accept all of those things in you, but also take you and stretch you to your limits. Only then can you know and experience real love. And that, my friends has nothing to do with any steps or instructions. That is all an unspoken language that only the heart can speak and comprehend.

So that’s just my two little cents. I don’t say any of this to disparage the messenger or anyone who agrees. I like to chew on and digest what speaks to me and leave the rest. That’s exactly what I did today. And I wholeheartedly believe that she had the best of intentions. And there were many people who, based on their comments, agreed with her. It was touted as conventional wisdom. But as a wise man I’ve heard once said, “Conventional wisdom is usually neither conventional or wise.” And again, that’s just me.

I Always Fall . . . For Your Potential

I’ve heard it said before that a mistake that many people make when they fall in love is that they fall in love with the potential of who the person could be rather than fall in love with who the person actually is. Well, to an extent, I agree. I agree that people look to another’s potential as a marker for pursuing and remaining in a relationship. However, I don’t believe that people fall in love with, or, are in love with potential. I say this because potential doesn’t exist. Potential isn’t real. Potential is some made up entity you have created with your imagination to create the perfect person for you. So in essence, when one has fallen in love with potential, one has failed to actually fall in love with the person. You’ve simply decided that your created image is better than the reality.

I have been guilty of this on occasion. I married my ex husband totally ignoring the reality of who he is. I knew who he was and what he was about. I knew that he wasn’t who I wanted. However, I believed in this version of him that I created in my head. And I hoped like hell that one day soon he would grow to meet that image. I found myself pissed  9 years later, when he was no more that man than he had been on the day we met. I felt betrayed. Now, on the one hand, I can say that he did try for a time to pretend to be that man. But as we all know, pretending only goes so far. And even with his efforts, I still saw through the veneer. Yet I chose to look beyond what I saw and hold tight to my image. Once I divorced him, I grieved. Funny thing is that I never grieved the end of our marriage. I celebrated that. I considered that among one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. No, I grieved for the man I never met. The man he never was, but whom I always hoped he would become.  And none of that was his fault.  He was who he was.  He was clear on that even through his consistently inconsistent behavior. It was I who failed to accept him at face value.  And while I may not like the sound of it, I failed to accept it simply because I liked my version of him better.

Several years after my divorce, I partnered briefly with a man who I’d known back in high school. Ours was a most unexpected coupling. I’d never expected to fall in love—and definitely not with him. He was the last man I would have ever considered as a romantic partner. The thing is, he was probably one of the last men I should have ever partnered with. He was a recent widower. I knew he wasn’t ready for a new relationship. To add even more fuel to this already lit fire, he was incredibly insecure. He was the kind of guy who pretended to be a “nice” guy, but deep down he wasn’t. So he would say things that I intuitively felt were meant to break my self-esteem. I saw that, but I wouldn’t accept it. Why? Because I was so focused on the potential of what could be. I told myself that once he healed, things would be great. He was just hurting and needed some compassion and love. Well, I could have given compassion and love. I just could have (and probably should have) given it from a distance. But I was so busy ignoring who he was because I preferred the image of who he could be.

For a time, I fell into the woe is me trap. Why can’t I find a good man? What’s wrong with me? But I had to do what my father would have told me to do; which is to take a good, long look at myself in the mirror. And so I did. I recognized that I failed to accept teach man as he was.  I have a good heart. I don’t say that in a bragging manner. I just do. And my good heart sees beneath the surface in everyone. I see the good in everyone. I can’t fathom another person being a terrible. After all, no one person is completely good, nor completely bad. Even when I intuitively sense something is off with a person—and believe me, I do, as my intuition is very strong—I ignore it. I choose to create a better version in my head and go with my creation. It’s nicer. Neater. Better. I’m the type of person who you can stab directly in the heart (literally), and with my dying breath I’ll tell you how it’s ok because deep down I know you didn’t mean to do it because you really are a good person. Extreme examples aside, the only thing I have ever done when I’ve chosen to do that is cause myself issues. Now, I am able to say that I appreciate both men for the soul lessons they provided me. But I recognize that I could have saved myself so much heartache had I given up the false hope of potential. I also recognize that my choice to love their potential says much more about me than it does either man.

When one chooses to remain with another simply because of potential, one is failing to see, accept, and subsequently choose the person as they are and where they are in the present. The man has no job? That’s ok. He can get one. We’ll send him to ICDC College and get him a job. My baby gon’ get it together. Well that’s love from a parenting aspect, and not from a partner aspect. Let me put it to you like this. I have the potential to be a killer or a billionaire. At the moment, I am neither. To choose to either avoid or get in a relationship with me based on either sounds, well kind of dumb, right? Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that it’s the same thing for potential. I know. I had to break it down for myself too.

It can seem tricky because on the one hand, everyone has the potential for growth, and a person’s status in life today is not necessarily indicative of where their path may lead. However, I think there is a bit of a marker, and it’s pretty simple. It’s about vision. Ask yourself, does the person have a vision for him or herself?  Once you ask and answer that, go a little deeper. If he or she has a vision, what is the vision? Now don’t stop there. You’ve got to go even deeper.  Now you need to ask if they have created goals AND taken steps to actualize those goals to create their vision? Now notice that I didn’t say ask what your vision is for that person. I didn’t say ask that because your vision for someone else does not matter. You can’t love, hang on to, or encourage another enough to maximize their potential. That person has to want it and do the work for him or herself. If they don’t, then there is nothing you can do for them. We’ve heard that you can lead a horse to pasture, but you can’t make him drink. Well the same is true for human beings. We can influence, encourage, and desire things for others. But we can’t do the heavy lifting for them. You can absolutely serve as another’s muse–their catalyst that sparks the desire for change.  It’s happened before, and it will happen again.  Marie-Thérèse Walter served as Pablo Picasso’s muse during his surrealist period.  However inspired he was by his favorite model at that time, he still needed to choose to pick up the paint brush, paint, and canvas and start painting.  He couldn’t have stood in front of an audience and simply said, “Here lies my muse. She makes me want to paint.” If he had, he’d probably be known as the crazy artist everyone laughed at instead of being known for his famous works of art.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

If you find yourself in love with potential. Stop. Do not, I repeat, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. In the words of Ghost’s very own Oda mae Brown, as played by Whoopi Goldberg, “You in danger, girl.” Of course I say this fully understanding that there are no guarantees and there are some things that one can truly feel. But I caution you to remember that you can’t take a person to their potential. Trust that person enough to do it for themselves. Trust yourself enough to know that there is room for the person you want–even if it doesn’t come from the potential one.

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