This can’t be life: A Free Writing

Kindergarteners and teachers are dead and a 23 year old med student has lost her intestines.

If India and the U.S. have anything in common, it would be a whole slew of ‘isms and schisms’ and an inability to stop violence.  They are inherently linked, some might say – the crime and the cure.  In our multi-ethnic societies class saves.  Or so we thought until working parents in Connecticut dropped off their 6 year olds in Newton for a day no one would forget.  “How could this happen here?” is the question heard on both continents, struggling to figure out just what the fuck is going on and what the hell we do now.

See, she is like me, except I’m sure she’s smarter.  She was in med school for goodness sakes.  And she did what everyone says to do in this town, ‘never go out alone. Always go with a man.’  ‘A man’ (actually I was with 2 men) didn’t stop that guy on the motorbike from grabbing my breast in the middle of Vasant Vihar, and it clearly didn’t stop a penis parade and a bus driver from raping the life out of her.  And we live in the good part of town.

There’s something about class that makes you feel safe.  Like you bought out of petty violence.  Sure, someone could kidnap your dog for a bribe or steal your car – but that’s because you have something and they don’t.  It’s about stuff in these areas, not life.  Life is what gets taken in ghettos and poor neighborhoods and slums and villages, where people get stabbed for cheating, women get acid poured on their faces for reasons unknown, where Black people sell drugs to each other for kicks.  Cash saves you from crack pipes and crackpots.  It is the bubble that insulates your life from ignorant bloodshed.

But nothing can save you from deranged men.  It is always men, isn’t it?  Men get bored too easily.  They are simple-minded creatures that always need something to keep their fingers busy so that they don’t get it into their heads to use their hands for more destructive purposes.  Don’t dare give them knitting needles though – they’ll stab your eyes out!  White men with mommy problems.  Brown men who’ve only seen naked women on web sitesBlack men who get paid to play football.  You know, I’m noticing a trend.

We ask, ‘How do we keep our kids safe if we can’t take them to school?’ Ban guns! ‘How did we keep our girls safe if they can’t take a bus?’ Ban tinted windows!

Is anybody asking that we ban men?  It is a question worth asking.  I don’t recall the last time a group of women got together and rammed a man with a metal rod that just so happened to be within arm’s reach.  Women with daddy problems become activists or prostitutes – they don’t shoot up an elementary school for fuck’s sake.  What is wrong with half of the world’s population that the rest of us have to be victims to their whims?

Do you sit down with your sons, your uncles, your brothers, your dads, your nephews and ask them who they hurt today?  Ask them if they think it’s their right to hit or harm?  Have they had desires to do things that would make someone else cry?  Well, maybe you should ask.

There are things they aren’t telling you about themselves.  And you should not permit them to lie to you or else you’ll have no explanation for the questions the reporters will ask.  They will surely come probing, ‘What was going on at home?’  How many hot chappatis were you making while he was driving a bus around town to the soundtrack of a young girl’s screams?  How many times did you let him believe that he deserved an education more so than his sister?  Or that you would arrange his marriage with a fair, homely girl, after he was 25 and had done something with himself?  Why would you even think this is a good idea? Well, because he deserves the best.  This is what he is entitled to: a woman.  A prize on the backs of so many other female sacrifices.

Who would want to be the mother of a rapist?  The father of a baby killer?  Do you think they ever thought that it would be their kid that would go out at night – or in the middle of the day, for that matter – and dash the life out of somebody else’s baby?  Oh, and she’s not dead yet – for the record.  But what kind of life is there to live after that?

She was your Emilie once.  She liked glitter and pink too.  But she made it past the age of 6, past the age when many Indian children die of preventable diseases like dysentery.  She made it past infanticide and the abandonment of girl children.  She made it to medical school.  She made it to the movie theatre.  She made it to the bus stop.  But she never made it home.

I’d like to blame the NRA, and Sheila Dixit, and the private bus companies.  I’d like to blame Satan, the manufacturer of metal products, and those who took chastity belts off the market.  I’d like to blame people who told us we didn’t need metal detectors in kindergarten, and those of you who don’t send your children to school with Kevlar vests.  I’d like to blame you all, in addition to the perpetraters.  And I’d also like to note that proposing that religion in schools is a way to fix things is just about the fucking dumbest idea I heard since someone blamed rape on blue jeans.

Give me a damn break.

There are protesters in New Delhi.  And there are mourners in Newton.  There are dead hopes and dreams, and there is resignation.  We do not have answers.  The investigations will be a farce.  We will debate the future of two nations – but we don’t know what we want.  India wants to be modern, but can’t handle having women going outside after 7pm.  And America wants to be inclusive, but it hasn’t yet found a place for all the mentally insane people walking around.  All the things we want to be, all that we aspire to become, are illusions.  We are what we are.  We are what we have always been: a violent, murderous, deceitful bunch.  A people with no sense of the future, and a predatory present.  You don’t survive this hell to make it to heaven, quite the contrary.  You must die here – really die here.  Quit fighting, be an innocent 6 year old and let the Lord Shiva take you.  Be a brilliant young woman with your whole life ahead of you, and let them pull the umbilical chord of the children you can no longer have.

We are a world of martyrs and executioners, and you can’t buy that off.  Who do you bribe – or in the case of my countrymen, pay your taxes to – in order to afford protection from your neighbors in your safe neighborhoods?  So, we need militias in Munirka is it?  People in Newton ought to give their teachers nines, huh?  There is no police force.  There is no army.  There is no people’s coalition strange enough and strong enough to protect us from the will of the deranged – a guy with an idea.

A guy with an idea has no price.  He can’t be deterred, only momentarily distracted.  He can’t be told how much your dad makes in lakh rupees.  He can’t be concerned that you are only 6 years old.  He is the unmoveable.  He is unshakeable.  He is the God of small things, just as you are if you consider the ant under your foot as a small, very small thing.  A woman is a small thing.  A child is a small thing.  Ants and insects and people who only count for target practice for those feverish for feigned power.

Please have some Kool-Aid, my friends of two far away continents.  What brings us together in tragedy, is the end of something that was worthy of this place.  When even survivors are victims, who make a mockery of the tragedy and become assailants in their own right, what do we do next?  Should we party in Mumbai for New Year’s Eve?

What exactly do we have to celebrate?

The Mayans were right.  Something died this year.  Humanity died this year.  Something that we used to have that made us creatures worthy of this earth is no more.  We have lost our redeeming qualities.  We have reached the pinnacle and the shit is going down hill, folks.

On an abandoned dingy in the middle of the ocean, we are supposed to drown.  You are not Richard Parker.  You are the French cook – and you eat people! YOU EAT PEOPLE!  We are not meant to survive.

(I love you mom & dad!)

Damn you, Irene!

This post is long and late. It almost didn’t happen, actually. I was supposed to be in New York City and, thus, this post was supposed to be about the glamorous grit of my favorite city in America and it was supposed to be written while I cozied up in my over-priced, midtown east hotel room. But, nooooo…. this, Queen bee0tch Irene checked ya girl. For real, for real. So, on Friday night I asked myself, “Self, does not being in your planned destination mean that you shouldn’t blog this weekend?” Myself replied just a few minutes ago, and said “Don’t let nobody block yo’ shine.” So, there! Irene – 0, Me – 1, and you all may, in fact, be the biggest losers of all. You all are stuck reading my free-writing on relationships. I apologize, in advance, because it’s sure to make no sense and have no point… Sorry.

Fact: I have no idea what a successful, amorous relationship looks like. But, I’m preaching matters of the ruptured heart, because that I know all too well. I spent the night of Irene’s DC debut downing Bota Box wine with my neighbor, watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, talking about failed relationships, dating in DC, online match making sites, and unrealistic expectations. I spoke to another friend on Friday about why she deserved better than the inconsistent and partial reciprocity she’s been getting from the love of her life. Before that, I spent days talking to a friend about his ex-girlfriend dependency gone awry, and why his ex kinda, sorta asked for the shiner she got from the new guy she’s seeing/sharing (read: silly hood rats get away with treating good guys like doormats and, when they deal with scum bags, the likelihood that keeping it real will go wrong increases exponentially- NO SYMPATHY!). And before that, I was at Georgetown Harbor chatting it up with friends about why men should pay for every meal & why I’m used to paying for meals; why men should always plan dates & why I pretty much have planned every date I’ve ever been on. The list continues, but it is far too embarrassing to share further.  After we exhaled, my Bota Box partner sent me home with a prayer and her arsenal: Iyanla Vanzant’s In the Meantime and Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. I’m a little scared to read the former. I spent all day reading the latter. And now I’m depressed.

First, I don’t know anything about men. Who are they? I get the idea that what they make and what they do, is defining, but I don’t get why that’s just a male characteristic. Trust me, I’ve worked harder, better, faster, stronger to get where I am academically and professionally than many of my peers – male or female. So, after 6 years, 2 ivy league degrees, 4 continents, 2 passports, countless fully armored vehicles, 300+ overtime hours of Blackberry harassment, and an impending 16% pay cut, I’ve earned my stripes. I appreciate a man’s hustle when it’s real and on point. But, in a ball busting contest on careers, I’m not backing down. I’ve been through them before, because most men hint that they won’t have a serious relationship with me unless I leave my job.

So, let me spell this out. Nice and C-L-E-A-R: for children, anything is possible. But, for a full grown, adult, partner, with all his faculties: I’m not compromising. I’m not stroking ‘neh body’s ego, if the ego is all he’s got. Either you’re doing your thing or you’re not. Don’t worry about me, cause I stay winning. I can bet you dollars to donuts that I’m not that worried about what you’re doing, if you’re doing something worth something. And if I’m not worried, I will make you a happy man. Support is one thing. But, if you’re not about yours, then frankly you’re not doing me any favors. So, explain, why do I have to fake it til’ you make it? I am not…wait for it…the one.

Second, I was born in the mid 80s. Hence, I caught the tail end of Jody Watley – not Joan Cleaver.  I swear, until about December of last year, it never occurred to me to think about my partner as a provider for me. Our future, fictitious children? Yes. Me? Hell to the naw. What do I look like? I’ve worked since I was thirteen. When I started my own mag, I found a way to pay off 20Gs in start up costs in 5 years – while in college, full time. Point? I am Joan Clayton with Toni Childs’ never go back to Fresno (ahem: Newark) fund. I’m not never going to be without. The messages, subliminal and overt, I learned from childhood all screamed “don’t depend on any one for any thing, ever. For ever, ever? For ever, EVER!”

I went to a women’s college. I had boyfriends who weren’t complete douche bags. I mean… really… I thought I was doing ok, not being dependent on guys. Not asking for gifts, paying for meals, being as undemanding as possible – aside from asking for the freedom to be who I am. And, let’s be honest, who I am is not easy to put up with.

A mani, pedi, brow wax, brioche french toast, tall iced soy mocha, American Apparel leotard, 7 peanut butter cookies and 24 hours later, Steve Harvey’s Stacy Adams suit wearing self comes to tell me, I’m effed up in the game? DAMN DAMN DAYUM! So, how do I walk it back? How can I be so good at telling my friends about their really crappy relationships and I can’t see the more subtle, but definitely present, dead ends right in front of my face?

I haven’t been beaten or cheated on (to my knowledge), so I guess I’m ahead in some ways. But, do I really have to give a man the big piece of chicken to keep him around? I don’t eat meat. Do I really have to stop doing the adventurous things I love to do, because he can’t protect me while I’m doing them? I think bullet proof vests are heavy, but still kinda cool. More importantly, if I’m really in charge of setting the tone for the relationship, at what point am I supposed to hand over responsibility to him and let him ‘lead’ our family? Guide to transitions please!

When I read this book all I heard was (1) a guy likes a woman who has it all together before he meets her, and (2) he certainly expects that she’ll unravel all of that togetherness if she wants to keep him for life (togetherness exceptions include taking care of kids from a previous relationship and going to church, because everybody knows that everyone who reads Black relationship books must be god-fearing Christians – SMH!). So, what about the hard headed, worth every dime, loyal, adventurous, nurturing, creative, adaptable, value added woman who actually likes who she is, what she has, and wants a guy to up the ante, but really, honestly, truly, has always worn the pants and doesn’t know anything else? How do we, I mean – I, I mean – she, get to the place where I’m supposed to be part Beyonce, part Carol Brady, and part Whitney Houston (pre-crack), when in real life, I’m part Jazmine Sullivan, part Hillary Clinton, part Jada Pinkett-Smith and all me?

I get that these guides to relationships make sense when you’re so fatigued by love’s evil twin, douchebaggery, that you’re so desperate to find a valuable partner that you’re willing to disregard everything you believe about life and your valued place in it. I also get that my generation is in this weird in between place where women are supposed to be 21st century independent everywhere else but in their own homes where they go all early 20th with their partner.  The recession means that my generation is full of highly indebted, late bloomers, so providing can be an issue and it has nothing to do with ambition. But, in DC, the majority of the single population is college educated and earning that contractor paper. The pool is large, but I’m a big girl and I swim in oceans.

Sometimes it’s dangerous, but it’s a big part of who I am: the woman  who actually does the stuff she says she’s doing, goes to the places she says she’s going, and isn’t afraid to be her beautifully flawed human self. Nuff long talkin’… time for action! Where does my integrity come in? After I’m done stroking your ego and being someone I’m not, then will you love me for life? Steve? WTF? I’m confused…

The real point is that I, like everybody else, want to find a meaningful relationship. You know, the fairy tale that’s grounded in today’s realities. But, I don’t want to stop being who I am to get it. AND, if I’ve never really seen a successful marriage, is scouring the negative space around all of my friends’, family members’, and ancestors’ failed and infuriating relationships the only tactic I’ve got? You know, aside from Steve Harvey’s bible on successful boo-loving?

How is this supposed to work? When is it too late to start over?  What if all this works, but I still think it’s a crock of crap? Am I too principled for my own good? Am I letting guys get away with too much? Do most guys cheat on their wives and then discover how to be good men? Are men really like children? If so, can I make mine go out back and get a switch when he acts up? My spirit is broken, my head hurts and I blame this all on Irene.