Insecure: The Married Friend

HBO’s “Insecure” is one of my favorite shows. It’s funny, beautifully shot, and does a great job of showing the ups and downs of black adulthood. There is a widespread societal myth that once you turn 30, you have it all together. Thanks to the depressed economy, wage inequality, and massive inflation that milennials inherited from Baby Boomers, that’s not the case. Add in love life drama and it can feel like you’re not together enough to even claim the title of being an adult.



Episode 6 of Season 3 aired this past week. Warning–spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s time to get outta here! You don’t have to be an Insecure fan to understand my point, but I’ll add a little extra description for those who don’t get it. The star of the show is Issa, who is fun but slightly awkward and always irresponsible. She has three good girlfriends–Molly (her BFF) who has a high powered law career but a tragic love life; Tiffany, who is super bougie, derives great pleasure from being the only married one in the group, and is pregnant with her first child; and Kelli, who is as hard working as Molly but having much more fun being single, and is closest to Tiffany. 

Tiffany mentioned earlier in the season that she knows her friends have a group chat without her, and even though she claims to be unbothered we all know it’s a lie. In episode 5, the girls went to Coachella. They popped some pills, missed the Beyonce performance, and had some real talk. Tiffany revealed to Issa that she’s been feeling left out of the group ever since she got pregnant, and even though she didn’t go as hard as the rest of them she made an effort to ignore her pregnancy related discomfort and fatigue to have one last outing before everything changes. 

In episode 6, Tiffany has a baby shower and all these tensions come to a head. Tiffany has a new group of mom friends, dubbed “The Crazy Crew”, who planned her shower and were there extra early to make sure everything went off smoothly. While Molly and Issa seem to get past the affront with a little snark, Kelli is devastated when one of The Crazy Crew calls her beautiful handmade cupcakes a “backup dessert” and won’t put them on the main table. Kelli storms out and confronts Tiffany about excluding her from the baby shower planning after she volunteered. Tiffany says that Kelli wouldn’t understand because she’s not a mom. Kelli breaks down over the fact that she’s losing her best friend to the baby and nobody, including said best friend, seems to care.

I found it so interesting to see this scenario play out onscreen. Insecure focuses mainly on the lives of its single characters, and this was a great look at the shifting friendship dynamics that happen after major life changes. I don’t have any kids yet but I have seen and experienced some of what happens after marriage. 

No matter how long you’ve been together as a couple, a honeymoon period follows the wedding because everything feels new again. You can’t call each other husband and wife without giggling and you’re just so excited to have made it official. This is the start of the estrangement–single friends, who were assured before the wedding that nothing would change, see their married friend slipping away. A couple happy hour or brunch invitations get declined, a few calls or text messages get missed, and then they stop coming altogether. Meanwhile both friends feel like the other doesn’t care anymore.

What unmarried people don’t understand is that their married friends have good intentions. They just didn’t know what they were getting into. Being a spouse comes with a lot more obligations than being a boyfriend or girlfriend. You’ve got a whole set of in laws and if your spouse is close with their family, you’ll be expected to see them more than once a year. There’s a whole new set of birthdays, weddings, and graduations to attend. If your husband’s cousin who lives across the country comes into town and his aunt wants to have a special family reunion dinner, you gotta go too. Plus there’s all the social invitations from your spouse’s best friend(s): double dates, cookouts, game nights, engagement parties, etc. If your friend has a kid then the entire game has changed. Moms barely have time to shower and feed themselves after the baby is born, so unfortunately friendship is way down the priority list for that first year while they figure out how to keep a tiny human healthy and thriving.

It takes understanding and communication on both sides to maintain any adult friendships–even single people have jobs, other friends, family, and hobbies that take up their time. At a certain age, spontaneous weeknight drinking is just not going to be the default hangout anymore. Your friend (parent or not, married or single) isn’t trying to schedule brunch a month ahead of time because she doesn’t want to hear from you the rest of the month. She’s doing it so that time is set aside for you to get her full attention and you don’t keep getting shoved to the bottom of her priority list. Husbands and kids are special, but nobody can replace your good good girlfriends!

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Capitalism is a scam.

I’m tired, y’all. I have to admit that Drumpf’s America is wearing on me. After 8 years under our glorious King Obama, I had bought into the notion that we were heading into the twilight of the worst inequality and that better days were ahead. Now I see that the ugliness of racism and bigotry is not going to go quietly, and is in fact still actively sowing seeds of hatred faster than we can dig them up.

I get why white people are mad. Truly, I do. I don’t get paid what I’m worth. The rent is too damn high and so are the utilities, the groceries, and the gas. I have an advanced degree and over $50,000 of student loan debt. I live in a six figure household and I don’t even have one full month’s income in my savings account.

But I don’t blame this on immigrants, queer people, or minorities because they haven’t done shit but try to survive and thrive in a system that is set up for everyone but the richest to fail. 22.5% of my income goes to federal taxes, while corporations pay a top rate of 21%. But given the wealth of deductions, setoffs, and loopholes, big businesses are only effectively taxed on profits, rather than gross income. I don’t get to deduct the gas for my commute, or the payments on my student loans. I can’t even deduct the cost of my bar license renewal and continuing education fees because they’re less than 2% of my income.

Love of money is the root of all evil, and that evil comes to bear in capitalism. The natural end of capitalism and a 100% free market isn’t equal pay for equal work, or even pay commensurate with productivity, skills, or experience. It’s slavery or at best, indentured servitude. Capitalism prizes profit above all else, which means that business will never, I mean NEVER, pay their debt to society. A safe workplace isn’t a natural result of capitalism because cutting corners to increase output makes more money than making sure the factory equipment isn’t going to cut someone’s hand off. After all, basic needs are priced so far above production cost that you’ll have no problem finding a replacement for your crippled employee because people have work or starve. Wage inequality hasn’t been this high since right before the New Deal, and before that, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Not to mention that at the rate global warming is progressing, parts of the world will start becoming uninhabitable within our lifetime. I don’t understand why people can’t, or won’t, see that we need to band together and fight for humanity as a whole. Capitalism is killing us and too many of us are refusing to fight back.

 

Thoughtful 30

 

I’m 30, which is an age that comes with a lot of “supposed to be”. You’re supposed to be married, supposed to be starting a family, supposed to be at a high point in your care, supposed to be financially stable, blah, blah, blah. I am where I am, which is better than where I used to be but not where I want to end up and most days I’m 100% okay with that. I literally do not have the energy for anything that’s not about my family, my friends, or my job.

30 years old is when you start to recognize your mortality. You realize that you can’t take your health for granted. It could be something as big as having experienced the death of close family or friend. Or the simple fact that you can’t work out without stretching afterward and expect to be mobile the next day. Your body still bounces back from a night of drinking, or a week of eating nothing but junk food, but you feel it. It’s not automatic. I’ve really started to prioritize my health because I owe it to myself. And I feel it would be stupid of me to become a mother and try to raise a whole human, without being consistent about the things that take care of me.  I’ve got a few years left to myself and I’m using them to become a better version of me, the me that I want to maintain into my golden years. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I want to vibrate higher.

People tell me, “You’re always so calm!” or “You always know what to do!”. Which is funny because it’s so far from the truth. I am less uptight and anxious than I used to be but the progress was hard fought, and there are days when I feel crazy. What grounds me? The knowledge that stress kills, so I try not to work myself up over nothing. As for the rest of it, I do my research, ask questions, and then make a decision.  There’s no way to completely avoid making a mistake ever, and most mistakes, if made in good faith, are not unfixable. You can’t let the fear of getting it wrong 5% of the time paralyze you into never doing anything, or constantly apologizing for your decisions ahead of time. It’s inefficient and annoying as f*ck.

To close this out, I experienced a stumbling block just this week that would have sent 25 year old me into a tailspin. I got passed over for a lateral promotion that would have made me permanent at my job rather than staying on contract. And I didn’t care. I was truly at peace, and even happy for the people who got it. God has never let me down, so I know he has something better for me. Even if it’s me finally going out on my own as as solo practitioner (something else I realized will happen eventually, because I’m just not built to be a worker bee forever. I have too many strong opinions on how I could run a business better!). Not once in my life have I had to beg, borrow, or steal in order to take care of my basic, essential needs. Everything else I can live without. I trust that there will be a day when I’m rich (by my standards), and will be able to comfortably do most of the things I want. That day won’t come any faster by spending these building years envious of others, or upset that my blessings aren’t coming faster. So I will wait, gratefully.

Money Problems

I have a money problem.

Not in the traditional sense, though. I have some credit card debt but nothing that is making me eat ramen noodles or contemplate filing bankruptcy. I have student loan payments, but as long as I follow my monthly budget I can make them without sacrificing all the joy in my life. Really, what I have is a problem with thinking I won’t have enough money.

Granted, you can pick up any newspaper and read about the economic factors that are causing my generation to delay marriage, children, and home ownership. But as far as millenials go, I’m par for the course and on track to meet my financial goals–albeit not as soon as I want to.

I grew up in a household where money was tight. My parents did the best they could, and taught me from their mistakes. But being a natural worrywart, money was something I obsessed over. I hoarded my allowance and gift cards to buy brand name sneakers, and jeans on clearance from Aeropostale (yes, that brand was hot back in my day lol). In high school I decided to be a lawyer because I thought it was a profession that would allow me to help people without being broke.

Christians subscribe to the belief that God will keep testing you until you pass the test. I’ve come to the realization that money is mine. I’ve never been evicted, never missed a payment, never had a creditor call my phone. I’m not a superstar, but on balance, I’m good with money. I put aside a portion of my check each month into savings and retirement. Sure, I can’t spend $5,000 on a vacation tomorrow and I can’t buy all the things I want but that’s life. No matter how much money you have, you get used to it and there will be something you can’t afford.

In the meantime, I’m learning to sit in the discomfort of “but why can’t I have it” and practice gratitude for all the things I do have.

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.

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!