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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The Parent(hood) Trap

Two months ago, I turned 29. I feel pretty good about it. I never subscribed to the notion that your life ends when you’re 30, or you’re a failure if you haven’t accomplished every single life goal you have by that age. Unfortunately, I’m starting to notice that the sand in my biological clock is running out. I’m not in a rush to have a baby right now, or even next year. But I am aware that my uterus doesn’t give a damn about my professional or financial goals. If I am going to have the two kids I’d like (and not directly back to back) I’ve really only got two more years before I need to get a move on.

Which kinda sucks. I love being married, and kids are so much work. I like that my weekends aren’t packed with Little League games and dance recitals. If I want a night out with my husband, I don’t have to get a babysitter. If I come home from work and don’t feel like cooking, we can order takeout from anywhere. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to wake, dress, wash, and feed another human being. I just have to take a minute to mourn the unfairness of the fact that despite all the help moms may get from active fathers, the fact is that they can’t share the huge burden of actually making the baby. You might be able to go back to work in six weeks, and you may be able to have (s)e.x again in three months, but it really takes a year before your body and mind get back to normal (well, as normal as they can be when you’re sleep deprived and raising an infant). I look at my adorable goddaughter and can’t help but think about how drastically her parents’ lives have changed. Better I’m sure, but still COMPLETELY different than before.

sleep in meme

Unfortunately, biology just doesn’t seem to have caught up with society. Your body is more or less ready to have kids as soon as you finish puberty. I’ll say that was around 15 or so for me, because that’s when I hit my adult height. I didn’t finish law school until I was 25, and got married that same year. So when, exactly, was I supposed to have a kid? Some studies say I should have one now, because if I wait any longer I’ll destroy my earning potential. But you can’t make a living wage without at least a college degree anymore, and tuition costs are sky high. So being a student and a parent is nearly impossible–you’re losing time to study and money for tuition at the same damn time. I have so much respect for the people that do it though. Then when you’re finally financially and mentally ready to have a kid, your body is on the decline and you’ve got to take time away from work that will potentially haunt the rest of your career.

going to bed

Honestly? I wish I could back in time and shake some sense into Gloria Steinem and all those second wave feminists. I think they went a little too hard in the paint on all that working outside the home stuff. Now you gotta work AND be a mom and feel like you’re failing at both. And what do men have to do? Learn how to wash some dishes and do the laundry? Sheeeeiiiit. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade off to me. Lord. Somebody convince me that parenthood is worth it before I go and get my tubes tied. Just kidding…kinda sorta…

 

 

How to Lose an Employee

Every other week there’s an article about how Millennial employees are all lazy, entitled brats. Well, the truth is that sometimes the problem is a little higher up the food chain. Below are the best practices for running off anyone in your organization who wants to see it succeed…

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  1. Be unclear about your expectations.  Whenever possible, give out work assignments with competing priorities and no additional guidance. Sink or swim!
  2. Emphasize form over function. Reward low performing employees who milk the clock by coming early, staying late, and getting little to nothing done. Chastise anyone who leaves less than an hour after closing time, even if they’re high performers.
  3. Delegate, but don’t train. Why should managers do any work as long as there is a lower ranked employee around? Pile on the to-dos, but don’t show them how to actually do their job. They’ll figure it out and if they don’t– fire them!
  4. Never admit that management could be improved. If anything goes wrong, it’s always the underling’s fault. Deny any knowledge of a crisis. Always throw your employees under the bus, that’s what they’re there for after all.
  5. Minimize feedback. Don’t take the time to meet with your employees unless something is wrong. Never give them a chance to correct the problem early. Much better to ambush them with a 10 page dossier of shortcomings so that it can really sink in.
  6. Overwork and underpay. Pay the minimum acceptable wage for every position and don’t pay benefits. Who needs full medical and dental with Obamacare? Employee bonuses should never be expected. A new car for the CEO gives peons something to strive toward–it’s practically motivational.

Breaking Point

2016 has been a year.

Culturally and politically, as a Black woman, it’s been rough. We have a presidential candidate endorsed by the K_K_K who has yet to disavow said endorsement. We lost Prince. It’s apparently open warfare between the police and the Black community.

Personally, it’s also been a trial. My third wedding anniversary is coming up next month and we’ve been together for 8 years now. In all that time, we had never had a real falling out. You know, the kind where one person can’t stand to look at the other and is afraid this might be the end? Yeah, we finally had one of those. We’re back to normal now but that kind of ruined a full month of my summer. Things at my job have been. . . challenging, to say the least. If you know me personally, you know what I’ve been dealing with and if you don’t–just use your imagination. All I will say here is that I’m considering my options. Just three days ago was the first anniversary of my friend’s death. I’ve thought about him every day since he passed and it still doesn’t seem real. Riding an emotional rollercoaster on two fronts has me feeling like a crazy person. I like to stay at equilibrium. People always comment on my restraint, but it’s self preservation for me. Emotional extremes are just exhausting and if I’m too far on either side of the spectrum, it’s hard for me to buckle down and be productive.

Today I almost had a full blown anxiety attack, which has only happened to me two or three other times in my entire life. It’s the red flag, flashing lights, blaring siren sound from my subconscious to me that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE. I know exactly what needs to change and while the more prudent thing may be to wait, I’m at a point where my physical and emotional health are being compromised and that is simply not acceptable. I will find a way to do what I need to do.

I can tell from my social media newsfeeds that I’m not the only one struggling, either. The devil is busy and we all need to pray for each other.

It’s a cliche because it’s true

I’ve got a pretty good life, I must say. There are things I’d like to change, but none of my goals seems impossible. I have a husband I adore, great friends, and I’m starting to finally meet people in Houston.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling reflective. I’m 28, so my biological is starting to tick. I want a house and kids. I want work/life balance. I want to be a better person. I want to be able to take care of my mom when she is no longer able to take care of herself. I don’t want (o settle for a life that is just “good enough”; I want to CHOOSE my life rather than just reacting to it.

In order to do all these things, I have to let go of some things that do not serve my purposes. And in reevaluating my path I’ve come to realize that a lot of the advice and sayings my parents used all. the. time. when I was growing up are true as hell. For example:

  1. Birds of a feather, flock together. If you are the only person in your circle of friends who prioritizes fitness, education, religion, or whatever–it’s far more likely that they will influence you than the other way around. It doesn’t even have to be peer pressure, but the subconscious knowledge that you can do less of what you claim to be about, and not be judged will make you start slipping.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. This a one sentence sermon! Don’t believe what people tell you unless their actions match! To be nice or avoid conflict, folks will say a whole lot of things…and then not follow through.
  3. Knowledge is power. This can cut two ways, the first being that looks fade but education is forever. The second is that information is currency so- DON’T TELL EVERYONE YOUR BUSINESS. S–t.
  4. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. All the hard work and dedication in the world won’t help you if you don’t know the person who can get you that raise, promotion, new job, etc.
  5. Treat others the way you want to be treated/You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It doesn’t hurt you to be nice to anyone and you never know when a favor will pay itself back threefold. Conversely, keep treating folks any old way and it will catch up to you. God don’t like ugly.
  6. It’s not what you’re called, it’s what you answer to.  You have to live with yourself forever. That’s a long time. Get comfortable with yourself. Because if you don’t? You will define yourself by the labels that other people assign to you. You can’t teach folks how to treat you if you don’t know who you are.

The list goes on… but suffice it to say, parents are always right.*

 

<small>*Don’t tell my dad that, lol. Happy Father’s Day!</small>

What they don’t teach you in law school

Every day when I wake up, I have to remind myself how blessed I am. Approximately 1/3 of the population has a college degree. There are about 1 million active, licensed attorneys and the US had a population of 316.1 million people as of 2013. I am part of an extremely elite profession that encompasses a mere 0.003% of the population. given that I am female and African-American, my status makes me somewhat exceptional.

So when I wake up and start applying for jobs on Craigslist in my bathrobe, thinking of those things reminds me that I’m not a failure.

I also make myself remember why I got into this line of work: to help people. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can solve a problem for someone. But it’s not as easy all that. There’s rules of procedure, courtroom etiquette (aka trying not to piss off a nitpicky old judge), research, depositions, brief writing, motion pleading, etc, etc, etc. Most of which you only scratch the surface of in law school. Solo practice is hugely intimidating. Doubly so when you’re a minority and know that everything you do is scrutinized even more. Triply so when you’re new in town and don’t know the lay of the land. I went to a CLE today and everyone was saying you need to basically stalk the courthouse and pick up pro bono work (which ostensibly leads to paying case referrals if you do a good job), or just hand out business cards and pick up a random client. Sounds great in theory. But:

1. Malpractice suits are a real and present danger. Westlaw subscriptions are expensive. I have access to Fastcase through the bar association but it only lets me see Texas cases. Thus, I mostly stick to editing and drafting contracts because the law because the law tends to be easier to find and less variable across jurisdictions.

2. Who’s going to help me learn how to present a hearing, or conduct a trial? The procedural manuals tell you a lot, and so does courtroom observation. But it’s not the same as having someone to walk you through it and fill in the gaps. Clearly the judge isn’t going to do it, so…

3. Where I am supposed to meet my clients? I don’t have office space or money to rent it. I suppose we could conference at the courthouse but that raises issues with breaking privilege and confidentiality since it’s a public space. Same thing with a random coffeehouse.

I could go on….Let’s not even get into all the money I have to spend on gas and parking- I live 30 minutes away from the courthouse and there’s no such thing as free parking in Houston. Working for free costs more than just your time, contrary to what people believe.

I went to a seminar today for new lawyers and the privilege disgusted me at times. Then there was a very awkward session where a retired lawyer went on a rant about the lack of respect for authority- in my opinion, a dig at the national unrest stemming from Ferguson but I could be reading too far into it. When he started talking about professional attorney, he basically stared me (and my fluffy twist-out) down. It was pretty apparent because there were only four other attendees, all sitting to the left of me and more directly in his line of sight. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Why is it that natural hair is only professional when it’s braided or bunned and essentially, tamed? My hair grows out instead of down. What of it? And although you think I just rolled out of bed and achieved this afro, in point of fact I spend a few hours each week maintain it and several minutes every morning coaxing it into its current shape. The microaggressions are real out in these streets.

I don’t really have a point to this post. Except to say that there’s a lot they don’t teach you in law school. And life can be much more unfair than you thought. But there’s always hope. I’m going to make it, one way or another.