Not All Nerds. . . Just You

Last weekend, actor/comedian Donald Glover, aka musical artist Childish Gambino, headlined Saturday Night Live. He also released a brand new single and music video, “This Is America”. I don’t know if he just cemented his relevance at the right time, or people felt just that strongly about seeing him dance shirtless for five minutes, but he seems to have reignited the “black girls don’t like nerds” debate (which is just a subset of the “girls don’t like nerds” debate). The truth is, it’s not all nerds. It’s YOU.

I have strong feelings about this subject and I consider myself an expert. I’ve been a nerd my whole life and I went to college at Georgia Tech, arguably one of the nerdiest schools in the country. Half of my family and 90% of my friends are nerds. I know plenty of nerds with thriving love lives, and it oftentimes boils down to three things.

  1. What’s wrong being confident?

    It’s true that, on balance, school age nerds aren’t getting checked for like that. But the popular kids were maybe 10-20% of the class and everybody else was just there. I’m not here for a grown ass man complaining about how the head cheerleader laughed at the Valentine’s card he gave her in th grade. GET OVER IT! Sure, I was bullied in middle school. And back in high school I got curved by a couple of nerds too. But I didn’t attribute any one guy’s rejection as an indictment of my lifelong undateability. Stop letting other people determine your self-esteem!

2. Stay in your lane

I don’t care to find the episode, but the tv show Friends actually had a good theory on what scientists call “assortative mating”. That is, most relationships occur between people who are more similar than not. Friends‘ take was that if you rate the entire population on a scale of 1-10, you can only successfully date within two numbers of your number. So if you’re a 6, you probably can’t pull anyone above an 8, but you won’t be happy with anyone less than a 4.

 

Blerd = black nerd, ICYMI.

My whole life I’ve seen nerd guys strive for the sorority presidents, homecoming queens, and Instagram baddies of the world and ignore cute nerd girls that they hung out with every day.

3. Pretty Pays

Urkel was a solid 4, who somehow managed to get caught in a love triangle with two 8’s. But that’s TV, and when Urkel transformed into Stefan he was an 8 himself. Which brings me to my third point…attractiveness matters.

 

Now there are certain things–height, body type, facial features–that are hard or impossible to change. Life is a lottery and we don’t all win. But even if you are, objectively, less attractive than the average person, there are things you can do. Half of the allure of Stefan was confidence. He knew what he wanted, and went after it. He stood up straight and made eye contact. And I’m convinced that potion had some Sudafed in it too because Stefan wasn’t a mouth breather and didn’t speak in a nasally whine!

Now, it’s clear from the picture above that when he tried, Steve Urkel was actually a 7 not living up to his full potential. All those things men say about wanting a girl who “keeps herself up”–staying in shape, hair done, nails done, cute clothes–apply in reverse. You may not look like Idris Elba but you damn sure don’t have to look lia mess. Find some clothes that fit you properly and make sure they’re ironed. Get acquainted with Proactiv. Find a good smelling cologne or after shave, and don’t forget the deodorant. Keep your hair cut and groomed in a style that flatters your face (you’re not Killmonger or The Weeknd, so don’t try it).

So what’s the takeaway?

 

All that being said, the heart of this “nerds never get the girl” argument is entitlement. And it’s the same entitlement that forms the core of the extremist “incel” (involuntary celibate) community that has spawned several mass shooters. You are not entitled to anyone’s time or affection. Companionship and an active sex life are not rights. All you can do is put your bait out, and see what bites.

Advertisements

Soundbites

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve had some too-long-to-tweet thoughts knocking around my brain so I decided to put them here. A lot of this is old news but I assume you all come to this site for my sparkling commentary.

Mo’Nique and Netflix

So here’s the Cliff’s Notes, in case you missed it: Mo’nique got offered $500k to do a Netflix comedy special, and Netflix also asked her to do an audition for them. She asked Black people to boycott the site, and proceeded to cut up all over everywhere. Wanda Sykes revealed that Netflix only offered her $250k, and DeRay got $5 million.

Now I believe (and the data show) that the gender pay gap is a real thing, and it’s worse when you adjust for race. But I have questions, sis. Businesses always lowball their first offer and so I wonder if she made any attempt to negotiate? Regardless of having an Oscar, Mo’Nique hasn’t had any major credits since that Christmas movie a couple years ago. In the entertainment industry you’re only as relevant as your last success. It might have been a smarter move to negotiate them up to $2 million, knock it out of the park and come back asking for more when you have the receipts.

Robin Givhan and Journalistic Ethics

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Robin Givhan was invited to serve on a panel at the BET Leading Women Defined conference. There was an interview with (forever First Lady in my heart) Michelle Obama, where conference attendees were asked to put their phones away as the event was a “safe space”. Well, Robin wrote this article about the interview and was kicked out of the event a few hours after the piece was published. A detailed synopsis can be found here. At any rate, I have to side with the reporter. Unless you say something is off the record, it’s on the record. And a media outlet such as BET should know the protocol for dealing with journalists. The panel was being recorded in a room full of hundreds of women, in what world was that a private or confidential affair? This was an avoidable scandal.

On Cardi B & Tiffany Haddish

People seem to be really surprised by both of these women and I’m confused. Cardi B is the living embodiment of everything rappers have been praising in their songs for years. Tiffany Haddish is funny in the same raunchy way that Tracy Morgan and Eddie Murphy are, and funny sells. But folks seem to just be sooOoOoOO aMAzEd that they became successful being “regular”.

WHAT?!?

Dave Chappelle is regular. Chris Rock is regular. Lil Wayne is regular. Drake is regular (basic, even). Are we really surprised in 2018 that women can be atypical and also successful? Are there really that many grown ass women out here who feel like they can’t bloom in the fullness of their being? How incredibly sad. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. I was bullied as a child, but in a way it was the gift that keeps on giving. I learned early on that I had to count on myself for my esteem and sense of worth. I learned that  you can fight people or placate them, make yourself invisible or try to fit in, and they will find something wrong no matter what you do. Might as well be yourself.

 

On Hairdressers

Every Black woman has a salon story. Getting our hair done is a time honored pastime. While the natural movement (and broke millennials) have caused a shift away from weekly wash & set appointments, it’s still a thriving industry for weaved and braided styles and hair color services.  But these new school hairdressers are something else. They’ll still overbook you, but now if you’re not in the chair at 11:58 for a 12:00 appointment, you’re hit with a salty text message informing you that if you arrive later than 12:15 you will forfeit your appointment and also, your $50 is nonrefundable. If you want a custom hair color, you get charged extra for the dye. If you want a weave or braids, you need to arrive at the salon with your hair freshly washed, dried, moisturized and detangled. My God, do I need to put in my own cornrows too??? A friend of mine said a hairdresser once asked her to bring her own shampoo, I kid you not! A scalp massage used to be part of the shampoo, now it’s a $15 upcharge. And getting your scalp greased (hands down the BEST part of the salon experience) is completely defunct.

On Thrifting

I use an app called Poshmark to resell items in my wardrobe that I’m done with, as well as final sale, nonrefundable items that just didn’t work out. I never expect to get back more than 50% of what I paid for an item. Americans generally prefer new stuff, so thrifting still has a stigma attached to it. Also, I don’t buy designer brands and they don’t make clothes like they used to. Still, I typically only sell things that look basically new. If it has stains or rips I just give it away, and I put in the effort to write detailed descriptions and take close up pictures in good lighting. And yet people still complain. I got a two-star rating this week for packaging.

B*tch, you bought a sweater for $12 and 20% of that is going to the app fee! Your sweater is getting folded into a flat rate priority box, and you will deal. If you want tissue paper, ribbon, a thank you note, and a perfume sample go buy a new sweater at full price!

The Book That Changed My Life

 

My battered copies of the books, purchased with my own allowance money from a used bookstore, once upon a time.

A Wrinkle In Time is  a strong contender for my favorite book ever. It was so influential in ways that I really did not realize until reflecting upon it. I don’t know that I’ve ever read any other book as many times. I loved the whole series so much as a kid. There are four other companion books, but A Wrinkle In Time stands out for many reasons. (Spoilers ahead)

The Murry family has many adventures, but this one is Meg’s. And Meg Murry was the first time I remember seeing myself in literature. As a weird (not quirky, weird) black girl growing up in the suburbs in the late 90s, I didn’t have a lot of role models. I came of age in the girl power era, but I was no Scary Spice. I was too young to model myself after Aaliyah, En Vogue, or any other R&B songstress. I couldn’t wear makeup, much less a midriff top! I wasn’t sassy like the black friends on various Disney and Nickelodeon shows. But Meg was me. She has her good qualities–super intelligent, compassionate, fiercely loyal to her family. But she was also stubborn, sarcastic, didn’t trust easily and grappled with moments of crippling self-doubt. Intellectually, she knows she is competent and has potential. Emotionally, she is unsure of her place in the world and her unpopularity matters more to her than she’ll ever admit. Whenever I was feeling down, her story would remind me that all the things people mocked me for were part of what made me strong.

Meg’s journey to self acceptance is why I always turned to this book whenever I needed comfort. Grade school was a bit hellish for me, and the book gave me reassurance that one day I’d leave behind the hell that was grade school, and make a meaningful life for myself.  I especially love that Meg gets a happy ending, not just here but in future books. She becomes a physicist and marries Calvin, and has kids of her own. And even though she’s happy, she’s still the same prickly old Meg.

The philosophy of this book is another reason why I love it. It seamlessly blends religious notions of good and evil with the reality of science and technology. The two coexist as a matter of fact. Whether they do so harmoniously is a function of how humanity uses them. This book was a turning point for me in my faith. I read it around the same time I got serious about church and decided to read the Bible all the way through for myself (and I did, except I copped out on Revelations because it was too scary). I was starting to ask questions about how the concepts I learned about in school–the Big Bang Theory, evolution, etc–should affect how I felt about Christian teachings. These books planted the idea that my faith and my belief in science were not contradictory or mutually exclusive. The message that science could take us to the ends of the universe but love remains the most powerful force was revolutionary to me, and also made perfect sense. Something about that just felt right in my spirit, and that has guided my spirituality ever since.

There is also a political message here. Evil perpetrates itself in a million different mundane ways. The cruelty of schoolchildren; the petty tyranny of an authority figure; an abusive parent; the idea that conformity is the same thing as equality. The second book in the series addresses the idea of wholeness within oneself, and establishing harmony within the universe that is your own body and cellular makeup. It’s really heady stuff, especially for  young people, but the beauty of these books is that they don’t talk down to you. They challenge you.

Is it a perfect book? Not by any means. But it spoke to me, and resonated with me, and the heart of this outweighed any criticisms I might make about style or technique. It was a life changer, and I can’t ask for anything more.

I just saw the Wrinkle In TIme movie, which inspired this whole post. As much as I love the book, I think it’s important to evaluate the movie on its own merits. I think it succeeds on all counts. It’s amazing by itself, and also a worthy successor to the book. Seeing a black girl play Meg onscreen was just wonderful. I felt some of the same magic that I felt during Black Panther because representation matters. Aside from that, Ava DuVernay really captured the magic and the spirit of the books. There were some omissions and changes compared to the book but nothing that affected the core plot. I laughed, I cried, I remembered the child I used to be. It’s been more than 10 years since I last read the books and I felt that same sense of wonder that I did on my very first reading. It was no small feat but Miss Ava knocked it out of the park! (Spoilers ahead, again)

However, I went into this movie with a little trepidation because the reviews were so mixed. A lot of people seem to think that this just doesn’t live up to the hype. I think a big part of it is that we are so used to big, splashy, apocaplyptic blockbusters. The stakes were much lower here. The real obstacle here is internal: Meg’s inability to love herself. Saving the world is just a side effect. In fact, if Meg fails, the world won’t end immediately. It’s just that evil will keep getting stronger on Earth until it takes over entirely. Ultimately, her win doesn’t even defeat Camazotz entirely. But it pushes him back and gives them time to fight another day.

Another part of the criticism is that Meg, as a character, is too flat and unexpressive. She’s a skeptic and a complainer. In short, she’s a problem child. But that’s the whole point! And it’s what I have always loved about her. Meg is a grouch but she saves the day anyway. Pretty much every other story insists that heroes be nice, damn near to the point of  sainthood. In some sense, you have to be the right kind of person who deserves to have a magical adventure. You can be an outcast, but you must always turn the other cheek (and never throw a basketball in someone’s face). If you’re awkward, it’s all in your head because actually you’re beautiful. I reject that. Sometimes you really are awkward and rude and ungrateful. But being imperfect doesn’t mean you’re undeserving of anything good.

In both the book and the movie, I appreciated that Meg was regular and had an attitude problem and hair that didn’t do what she wanted. I loved that even though she missed her father dearly, and knows she should be above high school drama, it still bothers her that she has no friends. She is a real person, and in the end she succeeds by embracing her flaws, not by becoming someone else. That’s a powerful message for kids everywhere, at any time.

If you haven’t gotten in on the goodness that is A Wrinkle In Time, what are you waiting for? Get on it!

 

Soundbites

I’ve been working on an issue-related blog post for a month now and I have writer’s block. Well, not so much writer’s block- I know what I want to say but I can’t focus long enough to say it. So I’m just gonna let it cook and come back around to it. In the meantime I wanted to get some other thoughts out into the universe.

On work: That’s actually going pretty well. I work in legal aid and it’s everything I thought it would be (for good and bad, lol). Every once in a while I run into a difficult client but on the whole, they’re easier to work with than some of my private practice clients because they trust my expertise and don’t question me to death. And even when I can’t do anything, people are just so grateful to be listened to and treated with dignity. I’ve had more than one person cry on the phone because they had lost so much (I work primarily with folks who were displaced by Hurricane Harvey). I am also up for transfer to a community advocacy position which is the job I’ve been preparing for my entire career. My interview is next week and I’m just praying I get it so y’all send some good vibes my way, please!

On wellness: Sleep is everything. I mean I’ve always needed my 8 hours a night but now it’s more about physically being able to get up on time rather than just being grumpy all day. My body will get its rest whether EYE say we have time to sleep in or not. I slept through my alarm all last week and fortunately, my boss was out of town and didn’t witness my egregious lack of punctuality. I’m working on winding down at night and being disciplined about my bedtime because I legit have things to do!

On politics: America is completely f*cked. And I’m tired of all these thinkpieces about how white men feel forgotten, and conservatives feel attacked, and racists don’t want to be called racists. Liberals have their own set of issues but I’d rather have people err to the extreme of political correctness and inclusion than the extreme of hatred and condemnation. You can’t disagree with a Drumpf supporter without them taking it as a personal attack because they are their politics! So where does that get it? We’re being held hostage by a combination of backwards thinking morons and selfish greedy rich assholes. God help us.

On social life: I read a long time ago that Capricorns age backwards–we get more fun and lighthearted as we age. And in my case that appears to be true. You had to practically bribe me to be social but now I’m going out, having friends over, and even enjoying the occasional glass of moscato or champagne. I was just very goal oriented when I was younger. I knew that I needed an education to get a good foundation for life. Now I’m at the point where I just have to keep from screwing things up, so I can relax a little. Fortunately I’ve come across some cool people and developing my own little circle of girlfriends.

On mortality: I guess your 30s are when things get real. I have a friend who just received a cancer diagnosis, and another good friend who lost their father this week. All I can do is keep praying for them, and checking in to give my support so that hopefully they don’t feel alone. That last part keeps me up at night because I found out recently that a friend of mine who passed away, actually committed suicide. I’m glad I found out after the fact because knowing up front would have made it so much harder to get over. I’m still not over it, but I’ve accepted that he’s gone enough so that this new information doesn’t send me into a grief spiral. I just wish he had reached out to someone, anyone. For the record, if you are my friend and going through a hard time, I’m here for you. I’d rather you “inconvenience” me than go to your funeral.

On Greek life: I love my blue and white but I love my husband and my free time more. I won’t lie to anybody. The die hard sorors will tell me “It’s only a couple hours a month to participate!” LIES. Chapter meeting is 3-4 hours on a Saturday afternoon, which we all know is peak weekend when everything happens! Let me know when y’all stop letting people hold us hostage to read the entire minutes from all 12 committee meetings. Between email and Facebook there’s no reason to go more than 2 hours. Then y’all wanna hang out afterwards when I was just here all day. Next thing you’re asking me to be on a committee which is a 2 hour conference call every month. I would go to the social events but my choices are a) go to the movies or the park with your kids (*shudder*) or pay $40 to go hang out in the VIP section of some lounge and still have to buy my own food and drinks. If I wanted to spend $50+ on a night out I could have met my bougie friend at III Forks, ate a gourmet steak and got into Grooves for free before midnight. And did I mention the dues which seem to go up every year? GURL BYE (*in my Funky Dineva voice*)

What is fashion right now?

I love fashion, and since it was just New York Fashion Week earlier this month (aka one of the most anticipated events in the fashion world), I was inspired. I’m no fashion expert–I don’t know how to pronounce half the haute couture brand names, I can’t spot the difference between designer labels and their diffusion lines, and quite frankly runways bore me. But I am a reading expert and I go through 3-6 magazines every month. I can always name the latest fashion trends. Unfortunately, for the past year or so they’ve been less than thrilling.

Let’s start with cropped pants.

I get the appeal, especially in the summertime. Shorts still aren’t considered office appropriate, and cropped pants bridge the gap between a 95 degree high with 80% humidity, and an office air conditioned to 60 degrees. But they’ve gone from a spring/summer item to a year round staple. I’m tired of having my ankles out! And now all the full length pants are super wide leg. Can we bring back normal pants please?

We have also done ruffles  absolutely to death.

Ruffles on necklines. Ruffles on dresses. Ruffles on skirts. Ruffles on sleeves. Ruffles on pants. PANTS! Am I dressing to live my life or to visit Louis XIV’s court? And the ruffles on tops always look pirate-y or add too much fluff to my bust area. Not to mention that ruffles are a nightmare to launder. They get all wrinkled and weirdly shrunken up, so you have to spend precious time ironing them out. It’s annoying.

Next I want to talk about whatever the hell is going on with women’s tops.

bell sleeve

If I see one more damn bell sleeve I’m going to scream! It was cute at first. But the bells keep getting bigger, and now they have ties. How is anyone suppose to eat in these? Or type? And apparently all the extra fabric that’s going to these silly sleeves is being taken out from my shoulders.

cold shoulder

The cold shoulder trend needs to die. Quickly. It was fine in summer 2016 but it just kept going. I’ve seen shoulder cut outs on wool sweaters and velvet dresses. It doesn’t make sense and it’s near impossible to wear for girls whose cups spilleth over. And I know that five years from now we’re going to look back on this trend as utterly ridiculous so let’s just cut the cord now.

Next I have a bone to pick with athleisure. Now listen, I love leggings as much as the next girl. They are an absolute necessity for workouts (seriously, did we really used to go to the gym in sweatpants?), they let you survive the hell that is now security check at the airport, you can wear a dress in the wintertime even if it doesn’t come down to your ankles, and period bloat isn’t as much of a problem when your pants are stretchy and have no zippers. They’re great!

However….you can have too much of a good thing. WHAT ARE THOSE?

I’m fine with sweatsuits. But I’m not fine with actual suits made out of sweatpant material. Nope, not doing this with y’all, count me out. *pulls parachute ripcord* BYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

So those are my five fashion pet peeves. Feel free to chime in with yours in the comments!

I want to live in Wakanda

Black Panther fed my spirit.

I’ve always enjoyed superhero stories. I love science fiction and fantasy, and comic books almost always contain a little bit of both. I’ll admit that before the movie came out, I didn’t know much about Black Panther other than the fact that he existed. I watched the miniseries back in 2010, but that was it.

As you can see, the production value is decidedly subpar. But the story was good and the voice talent (Djimon Hounsou, Jill Scott, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard) was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but promptly forgot it existed as I had no real expectation of ever seeing  a live action version. I watched Blade but never really got into it. Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies was a disappointment, Halle Berry as Catwoman was an even bigger disappointment. Don Cheadle was good as War Machine but he was still a sidekick. It was a feel good moment, but not one that made me run to theater.

Then Chadwick Boseman showed up as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, and Marvel announced a Black Panther movie and I was excited. As casting news kept trickling out, I got even more hyped up. My brother (an OG comics nerd) has watched all the #BlackPantherSoLit and #InWakanda feverishness with a detached skepticism. I’m a skeptic too, but I couldn’t suppress my inner child on this one.  We went from a low budget cartoon on BET to this:

I GLADLY bought my opening weekend movie ticket almost two months beforehand.

*******SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON********

Black Panther was EVERYTHING. It felt so good to watch a movie where black people and black problems and black culture were the focus, and not an afterthought. The production was loving and thorough, as each Wakandan tribe incorporated references to actual African cultural clothing, hairstyles, and rituals.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Best of all, the women were the black women I know in my own life–fierce, sexy, competent, multifaceted. Wakanda’s elite fighting force is all female. They rock bald heads and armor but still retain their femininity. Their general had a black male lover who respected her. T’Challa was in love with a covert operative who wants to serve not only Wakanda, but disenfranchised people all over the world–and we catch her in the middle of a mission to save African women from being sold into the sex trade. And all four of the women featured in the main cast are brown to dark skinned. It just felt so good to see women of my complexion being both objects of affection and trusted advisors to royalty.

T’Challa flanked by his love interest Nakia, on the left, and general Okoye, on the right.

So often the token black person in media is lightskinned; recently, more and more often they also look mixed and/or racially ambiguous. Kill all the diversity birds with one stone, as it were. But Black Panther is different. Because Wakanda is an African country untouched by colonizers, the Wakandans are overwhelmingly dark skinned–with natural hair! I’ve honestly never seen this in a movie that wasn’t about slavery. Wakanda is the Africa that exists in every black American’s mind, a myth of what could have been if slavery had never happened.

Lupe Fiasco captured this feeling in the track “All Black Everything” on his Lasers album. It’s one of my favorite songs of his, but it makes me feel so emotional that I can’t just listen to it at any old time. The first time I heard it, I felt chills down my spine and tears pricked my eyes. I’m an African American descendant of slaves; I’ve actually seen my ancestor’s burial grounds and the record that reduces his life to a mark on a tally sheet and a  comment  in the margins that “He was a good slave”. I am also descended from the Muscogee/Creek Indian tribe, a tribe that is virtually defunct thanks to the actions of the American government.

But Black Panther takes us a step beyond the color blind utopia that Lupe imagined, into a world where Blackness is, at least in one corner of the world, undefeated. It’s supreme, even, and because the Wakandans were  more concerned with pursuing excellence than being conquerors, no one else had to be oppressed in order for them to thrive. However, their choice to remain isolated means that the rest of history still unfolded as we know it. Could a small but technologically advanced country have defeated colonization on the African continent, creating a unity of nations so powerful that it stopped slavery long before the Civil War? We don’t know. But Erik Killmonger’s (righteous) anger at Wakanda stems from a feeling of abandonment, that Wakanda was strong enough to help its brothers and sisters in the diaspora and chose to turn away instead.

Killmonger was a powerful villain because in him, I recognized the same anger I feel whenever another black person is gunned down by the police, or gets a sentence three times harsher than the one given to the white person who committed the same crime. I feel that anger when I hear rhetoric about welfare queens and entitlement mentalities. To keep it 100% real, I felt that anger when I heard Africans complaining about black people wearing kente cloth and dashikis to the movie theater. My roots are lost to me. Ancestry.com can tell me I’m from Nigeria and most likely of the Yoruba tribe. But I don’t have a cousin whose house I can stay at. I don’t know what village I’m from. And anti-American sentiments are widespread enough in Africa that I wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed if I went exploring to find out.

The conflict between Killmonger and T’Challa is one that every African-American descendant of slaves faces. Do we fight and live  solely to protect ourselves and our families from the dangerous forces of white supremacy? Or do we share our resources in order to preserve Blackness across the country and across the world? It’s a hard choice, especially so because white supremacy is so vicious and the resources that we have are not nearly as much or as organized as Wakanda. We don’t have vibranium weapons to ship to the hood, or a superpowered king who can bring in allies from the United Nations. We all we got.

Even though Black Panther grappled with some heavy questions, I left the theater feeling lighter spiritually. For a couple of hours, I was in Wakanda; and there at least, black people would get a happy ending.

WAKANDA FOREVER.