#ParentEngagement 25 Reasons Why Parents Don’t Come to School Stuff



#ParentEngagement As the parent of a first grader that has done quite a bit of work in education largely around helping schools get parents to come to stuff, I have a whole new understanding as to why parents may not come to school functions from being the parent of a school-aged child. Here’s a list (not exhaustive and every parent is different)

1. They didn’t know about it.

2. They don’t have a relationship with anyone at the school encouraging them to be involved that they connect to. THIS IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST REASONS

3. There’s no childcare…at home or at the event.

4. The issue or event doesn’t speak to them.

5. The event doesn’t seem fun, beneficial or important.

6. They’re busy (scheduling differences).

7. They’re tired and have no energy for extra stuff.

8. They’re struggling with life challenges.

9. They feel like making sure their child gets to school every day is enough.

10. They had negative experiences in school or they don’t like YOUR school.

11. They don’t feel welcome in the building most of the time so why should they show up this time?

12. They may want to come, tell you they will come, but at the last minute, decide not to come for a variety of reasons.

13. They forgot.

14. If their child is real active,  they may not feel like having to chase them around and are just more comfortable at home.

15. There’s no food, or no food according to their dietary guidelines which requires them to bring food which is one more thing to do or extra money spent to come to your event. This. Is. My. Life. as a vegan.  I literally have to spend money to come to this event so there’s food my son and I can eat, which decreases my chance in coming.

16. If they work, they may have to help with homework, make/supply dinner, get the child (ren) ready for bed and your event is just one more thing they have to do.

17. They may just wanna spend time with their child that night/day.

18. No transportation.

19. Evenings/ weekends may be their time to relax/ get other stuff done.

20. The last event they came to was poorly facilitated so they’re disengaged.

21. They don’t wanna hear a bunch of negative things about their child.

22. The event is not culturally relevant to their experience.

23. Planning for, instead of with them. No one asked them what they would like to do, come to, or how they’d like to contribute to school life.

24. They’re overwhelmed and stressed.

25. Lack of support.

There are always exceptions but rarely do I hear parents not wanting the best for their child in school. Parent engagement is HARD work that requires a lot of effort. Here’s a graphic that shows elements of good parent engagement. Here’s some practical information and strategies on culturally responsive parental involvement and how to connect and build relationships. It’s a little old but has really good common sense suggestions that are doable. Add to these suggestions using social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook) as a tool in your toolbox for engaging parents who can’t physically be present.  And I definitely recommend Beyond the Bake Sale by Karen Mapp and Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities to spark your thinking!


Women, Trump and Feminism: Where is My Place if I Don’t Identify As a “Nasty Woman?”

Medina Rally Pic
Question to ponder…


As we move beyond marches to ground work (and continued ground work for those who already been workin), how do we make this inclusive and attractive for them? What about everyday folks tryna make it do what it do that don’t carry all those descriptors? I am a Black woman who doesn’t identify as a feminist, but I play my part, am pretty progressive and try to do and support what I feel is right, at times, stepping outside of how I personally identify cuz it’s not always about me, and I’m learning about being a better ally in my own way. I’ve gone to, spoken and performed at several marches and rallies relevant to social and racial justice. This past Saturday, I performed at a beautiful rally and march here in Pittsburgh aimed at centering Black women, was led by Black women, with the goal of creating an intersectional space that over 1200 people attended. But I’m not a feminist.  Trying to get me to identify as one would be a waste of your precious breath and time.  So don’t.


Of course I’m supportive of equal rights, but I just don’t choose to identify myself as a feminist. I have other identifiers that work for me. I think animals should have rights, but don’t identify as an animal rights activist. See where I’m goin?  I, personally, have enough labels…those assigned to me based on how I was born and those I’ve chosen. I don’t need another one.


I don’t identify as a “nasty woman.” You wouldn’t catch me in a pink pussy hat and I’m not about that pantsuit life. The branding of this women’s “movement,” is PART OF why almost half of White women voted for Trump…cuz a lot of women (women of color included…we didn’t vote for him for the most part, but many of us are like this) have not heard of or identify with feminism and all of these progressive ideologies, platforms and frameworks, even if they looked at the platform and agreed with a lot of things, though some may disagree with some things. The packaging can be repelling if you don’t see yourself in it.

There are a lot of women, not just White but across the board, who have different life experiences that come from a whole notha space that just may not relate to some of the dominant discourse…some of whom are married to, have children with, have fathers and brothers like, or grew up around men with Trump’s disposition when aggressive or vulgar. There are women out here who like that shit…period. So all of his “inappropriate” comments didn’t come off like a big deal. It was familiar. To some, his pros and potential outweighed his cons. Trump’s “appeal” was gettin at some real baseline shit, though promoting racism, sexism and xenophobia…
We will protect you.
We will give you jobs. 
I’m a strong White man with the balls to do what’s necessary.
Pretty much. There is a lesson to be learned there.
How do you make space for women who hear, see,  and internalize sexism and misogynoir on a daily basis cuz that’s just life?  How do you make space for women who are impacted by all the above but don’t yet have a sense of what those terms are or mean and are just doing the best they can? How do you make space for women who are okay with patriarchy and male leadership?  How do you make space for women who ain’t really here for none of that shit and are just living day to day?  This is another level of “inclusion.”
The question in the title isn’t a real question for me because I know my place and space in activism, advocacy, etc.  The issues I care about are issues you couldn’t keep me from, no matter how inclusive folks are or not.  This is about making sure that throughout the next few years and beyond, we are mindful of folks who think differently, when developing messaging, outreach, branding and the general sensibility of ongoing efforts.  I’m not surprised that most of the marches around the country had primarily White women.  They were directed toward and resonated with them, regardless of the progressive language and platform included later on. If it appears to be liberal/ radical feminist, even if not in name, but in identity and activity (White or otherwise), you will largely only attract people who think that way, and this needs to be broader, simpler, and relatable to a wider audience.
Do you know what people who don’t identify as feminists care about?  Probably a million things, some basic things and maybe some of the same things that feminists care about, but by promoting a platform or activities as “feminist,” it won’t get you any closer to the folks who ain’t on that wave. And make no mistake…you need them.

5 Points on Diversity for Educators and Parents

Especially for the holidays…
1) Not all children celebrate the classic American holidays. We don’t do Xmas, Thanksgiving, etc and strive to make our NGE (Nation of Gods and Earths) celebratory days special. We drive around and look at the lights sometimes cuz Masiah likes them. He gets gifts all year round for being right and exact. The only thing that makes it a little difficult at times is school culture and other kids…at school. But we ain’t gon do it just cuz everybody else is doin it so…
2) Not all children are of the same culture or religion. We are Five Percenters, but Masiah is aware that many people are not, and that’s okay.
3) Not all children believe in God (as you know it). We teach Masiah that “there is no mystery God,” (God in the sky) and that he is a great young God that will grow up to be God of his life and reality like his father. That’s the God he knows (and his uncles). But we reinforce that that is what WE teach and it’s okay for others to think differently.
4) Not all children eat the same and have the same diet. Masiah has a pescatarian diet (primarily vegan since he rarely eats fish), but he is aware that many others eat differently and that’s okay. It irritates me when someone asks me “if he chose to eat that way,” not out of sincere curiousity, but as a judgement. Liiiike, what are you implying and either say what you really wanna say so I can diplomatically verbally lash you or zip it. If I let him choose, he’d eat vegan mac and cheese, crackers and cookies everyday (that’s what he wants when I give him choices lol). I’m always open for genuine conversations tho.
5) Not all children’s families have the same political ideology and that’s okay. All Black folks ain’t Democrats (or Republicans for that matter). Don’t make assumptions.
Respect diversity…you ain’t gotta like a particular viewpoint, but be aware and respect it. Try to keep your personal opinions to yourself. Find ways to be inclusive of kids that have differences or be broad and general enough so that no one feels left out. Ask the parents for tips if you need them.

3 Things #OnRelationships. Peep game…

1) ROMANTIC…We are conditioned to see job/ profession as a top 3 qualifier or disqualifier when looking for a mate or even just someone to date or spend time with, cuz ultimately, we want that security, AND whether we admit it or not, we care about what other people think about what he/ she does cuz it’s perceived as a reflection of us. Dating up, down, or on our level has become largely dependent on what a person does for a living. But the way a person earns money isn’t necessarily the essence of who they are. Their job may be an outgrowth of that, but for some, a job is just a way to pay the bills. Who you are and what you do can be 2 different things. So if he/ she ain’t what you deem as “on your level” or the level you want professionally, what else is there, in that person, that you could be missing out on because the gig, which is only PART of the day and PART of a person, ain’t glamorous or what you want it to be?

1.5) If a person is hard-working, responsible, and determined to pull their weight in a relationship, they’ll be that, regardless of where they work. If a person is loving, honorable, thoughtful, noble, intelligent, creative, has drive, is productive, etc, they’ll be that, regardless of where they work. And if a person is lazy, lacks ambition, or is an asshole, they’ll be that regardless of where they work. You’ll see it. I’m not saying “settle and struggle,” but sometimes, you gotta redefine what “settling and struggling” means and identify what matters to you based on ALL of a persons’ CURRENT qualities…NOT THEIR POTENTIAL, which is an idea in YOUR mind, not theirs, anyway. Sometimes THE JOB keeps you from seeing THE PERSON, whether you perceive the gig as “THAT SHIT” or menial. Water seeks its own level but all that glitters ain’t gold. Yep, I know it’s hard.

2) WITH EVERYONE…in all of our relationships…family, friends, coworkers, our kids, romantic, etc, we can look at each one and ask ourselves what is this interaction supposed to teach me about myself? What about me does this relationship highlight and reflect? Relationships are testing grounds that show us who we are and if and how we need to grow. Do this analysis enough times, and it’ll eventually become kinda fun.

3) WITH YOURSELF…Self awareness doesn’t always mean that your patterns and pathologies are destroyed after that one big time you think you finally “got it,” cuz yes, once you say you “got it,” life will be like, “Oh huh? You say you’re done with this? Lemme see about that. Lemme remind you of your pattern through this person or experience and see if all that shit you were talking is real or if you just blowin smoke.”  Yep. Every damn time, life comes through straight like that. And “life” is really just who you are and what you attract based on things you know and don’t know about yourself. So just like if you say you’re fasting off meat, of course you’re gonna find yourself surrounded by a meat buffet eventually and THEN you’ll see if you’ve built up enough immunity to walk away with a smile or if that shit is still kryptonite that makes you put on a bib, smash on the whole table with your bare hands and go rock back and forth in the corner with regret!  But the more aware you are of your stuff, you can disrupt the pattern while you’re in the thick of it by checking in with yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.  If you’re in tune with your body, you’ll  “know the ledge,” notice the trigger, pause for the cause, and pull yourself back from the ledge…or not, cuz everything’s a choice. You might choose to jump off the ledge and fuck shit up one more time.  And again.  And again. Up to you.  Even though you know better, there’s still a pay off…an itch you need to scratch until you’re fully aligned and DONE. But the test?  That’s ongoing.

#KeepIt1000Friday 7 Thoughts on the Elections +1

Now that I’ve gotten my shit together…
1) Based on the outcome of the election, people are gonna do a few things after they have come out of the initial shock/ haze. Some will be activated in a way they’ve never been before. Some will continue doing their work cuz #TheyBeenBuilding and ya’ll showin up late to the party. Some will wait and see what he does. Some will talk big shit or speak eloquently and won’t bust a grape. Some will remain quiet and inactive like they’ve always been. Some will get active for a minute and peter out. How do I know this? Cuz this is a “flare up.” It’s a big one, but we’ve had many of those #PatternsAndPathologies
2) Blaming 3rd party voters or non-voters for Trump’s win…you’re missing the forest for the trees beyond the numbers (and the electoral college system is getting waaaaay less accountability than it should cuz Hill won the popular vote). This is a BIG ASS SIGNAL that people…those for Trump and folks on the other end of the spectrum who didn’t fuck with Trump or Hill want change. Some have been voting 3rd party for YEARS. NO POLITICIAN IS PERFECT but folks are obviously tired of the okey doke. They’re tired and distrustful of politics as usual. They’re tired of being lied to. They’re tired of rhetoric to win a vote, broken promises and back door dealings. They’re tired of distractions. They’re tired of smile in my face while you bomb another country or quietly pass a fucked up bill. They’re tired of being told election after election (cuz this ain’t the first time nor will it be the last) to vote for the lesser of 2 evils and incrementalism that bares no tangible improvement for their lives, even if they are unaware that things can most certainly get worse.
2b) Analogy…it’s like blaming customers for choosing not to buy what they perceive as a flawed computer that may work for a lil while but will break down after 2 months or it doesn’t have enough bandwidth to do what they need it to do, so they sit there and try to use it, but it doesn’t really help them so they give up on it. Some people said fuck it…I’m gonna try this new model. Might not work either and it’s ugly but it’s different than what I’ve been getting all these years (and yes, many Trump supporters are racist, sexist and xeonophobic whether they acknowledge it or not. For some, they chose the remote possibility of a candidate improving their economic situation and cast aside his remarks because HE wasn’t talkin about THEM). Some people said, I’m not with either model so I ain’t gon buy. Matter of fact, I ain’t even goin to the store. I’m stayin in bed! And some people said, this model over here is the best model that fits my needs. It’s the future…a better model for a better world. It may not make it in stores this season but I’m gonna invest in it so that one day, it might, cuz we need more choices in the store. They have to learn ways to effectively advocate and push for an additional model beyond voting every four years. You can blame the customers if you want to for all this but the bigger problem is the industry and limited options provided. My vote was a game time decision partially influenced by all the damn fear mongering and guilt tactics…up till it was time to push that red flashing “Vote” button. #StillAintTellin
3) Most people don’t know how to create institutional change so they voted for the figurehead who best represented their interests and values. That is natural. This is what every single person did, whether they voted or not, no matter who they voted for.
4) Even though Amurrrica has essentially shown the world it’s racist asshole, many of us have always known that asshole exists. In our faces. And lets intersect race with class, gender, sexual orientation, identity, Muslim, immigrant, etc and you have likely REALLY seen the ugly side of America. Some folks are so butt hurt/ shocked/ surprised/ sad because you haven’t had to see or deal with this asshole in a real way. It hasn’t directly impacted YOU. Maybe people you know, but not YOU. Privilege blinds you to other peoples’ experiences. Some of us have had to deal with this asshole daily.
5) Trump being elected shows how much White women value a perceived “strong” White man over feminism and the advancement of their gender. Majestic called him “the last White man.” I call him “Marlboro man.” He represents an idea of an honest, brash, take no shit kinda guy. Even if he was lying his ass off, he came off as honest. The “trust” factor was underestimated. I know that he’s that guy, mixed with acting chops. So making appeals based on the vile things he’s said or done to women…grab em by the pussy…liiiiisten…some women don’t feel that’s so bad and know men in their life who speak or behave that way, so it’s normalized. And I’m sorry to say this, but some women don’t mind that type of male aggression/ toxic masculinity. Some have been conditioned to like it.
6) If you are in politics in any way, NOW is the time to rethink your purpose, role and teach people how to create institutional, systemic change and how the system works cuz that is what folks want. Most folks are ready for change but have NO IDEA where to actually start. This goes for folks that voted for Trump, Hillary, 3rd party or those who stayed home. The people have spoken. All those actions mean something significant, and instead of showering blame, what can you do to HEAR what folks are saying based on these actions and collaborate to bring some things about?
7) White women specifically, and White folks in general, need to have a collective processing and catharsis or somethin. Your people are the folks that overwhelmingly voted FOR Trump.Ya’ll have to do that work with each other…at the dinner table, in your neighborhoods, over the holidays. Uncomfortable conversations are required. Deleting someone you know from your timeline or life and dismissing them is the easy way out cuz as you can see, they still used their power to vote for this guy. Shutting them out only makes your reality more comfortable. These are your friends, associates, family and people that you grew up with. I’m not talkin about shadow internet trolls. You have to fight the good fight to be allies by working to change your people’s minds…when it frustrates you, when it annoys you, when they’re being brick walls that you can’t get through to. That’s the only way your tears will really mean something. And tangibly support organizations working with communities most impacted by all this. Like…give them MONEY and resources they can use. #YouReadyForThatKindOfFightOrNah
Random +1…Listening to something negative someone else says about someone you care about and allowing what that other person said (or ideas in your own head) to change your behavior toward the person you care about WITHOUT TALKING TO that person you care about for confirmation or context is lame AF. Until you’ve had a conversation, it’s gossip, and you’re playing right into it #ThisIsWhyWeCantHaveNiceThings

#KeepIt1000Friday 10 Points On Romantic Relationships That You May Not Want To Hear

Cuz it’s necessary to burst bubbles sometimes…
1)Being legally married does not ensure the strength of your commitment or that your relationship will last. It’s all about the BOND, not the BIND
2)Love, loyalty, and fidelity are 3 different things that aren’t always related
3)In that vein, if your mate cheats on you, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. If you cheat on your mate, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Folks cheat for all kinds of reasons
4)How can you love, learn and know your mate if you don’t love, learn and know yourself???
5)Playing mental and emotional games with your partner to keep them or “teach them lessons” are epic wastes of mental and emotional energy. If you feel like you gotta do alladat, it might be time to close that chapter #WrapItUpB
6)Having a baby won’t save your relationship. It might buy you some time, but you’re really just prolonging the inevitable
7)We have been conditioned to believe in fairytale versions and processes of courting, relationships and how they evolve. Those fairytales keep us from authentic connections with ourselves and our partners or the people we’re dating.
8)If you’re going on a first date, don’t look for a potential partner; look for a potential friend. It takes the edge off, you’ll be more relaxed, you’ll be less likely to “send your representative,” and you may take the enormous risk of actually showing up, AS YOURSELF
9)Relationships last as long as they’re supposed to. Sometimes, we try to fit a circle into a square and stay too long cuz we’re comfortable and scared of being alone. You may be in a romantic relationship with someone who should really just be your homie. Don’t force it.
10)You attract what you are or what you’re open to receive based on a need, want or pattern you may or may not be aware of. Whoever shows up is your mirror and you’re supposed to learn something from them. If you don’t learn the lesson in this relationship, you will be exposed to similar circumstances in the next one and on and on until you “get it.” You will keep bringing your pain with you, leaving you receptive to all kinds of bullshitery and fuckery, until you heal it.

5 Questions for #KeepIt1000Thursday on #BlackPeopleShit

Inspired by a variety of experiences. These may or may not be rhetorical…
1) What happens when we separate, segment and judge each other because he/she ain’t “woke enough.” Who/ what qualifies a person’s level on the “wokeness continuum.” Is there a test?
2) What happens when we start automatically labeling someone with Black cultural leanings as a “hotep/ hoteper/ notep,” disrespecting the legacy of elders and ancestors who fought to come into knowledge of themselves and fought internal and external battles to identify and greet folks that way, paving the way for YOU to be Black and proud today, by the way. SN: I know the origin regarding the type of folks you’re talking about when you call someone a “hotep.” No need to explain. We are creating stereotypes and categories that will become generalizations that WE perpetuate. It will become “incense+ afros=a hoteper.” Juuuuuust watch.
3) What happens when Black women categorize and divide each other because we see things differently…when there is no room for the spectrum between “conservative” and “progressive” ideas of identity and sexuality…when one is considered wrong, because it is not the other.  Will we alienate each other out of sharing space with one another?
4) What happens when Black people tire of explaining our WHY to White people or Black women tire of explaining our WHY to Black men who genuinely want to improve or educate themselves (not talkin about internet trolls)? Do we then remove ourselves from the conversation, and contribute to the erasure of our voices? Do we marginalize ourselves when we do that? And when White people or Black men activate on that premise and just rely on each other for information (or reading/ research), will we not find a problem with that, stating they’re talking about us without including us in the conversation (unless it’s something like a study group designed specifically for said population to educate each other)? Do we want to just be left alone and let folks figure it out on their own, but wouldn’t we find a problem with the result of that? Doesn’t it make sense for folks to go to the source sometimes, without the expectation that our thinking is monolithic or that this one person you’re talking to has all the answers or that it is the responsibility of this one person to tutor you on the topic while knowing that this person has the agency to speak or not speak to you about it? Can’t folks do a combination of their own research, talk to more informed folks of their ilk, and talk directly with the folks they seek to learn about?
5) What happens when we get so wrapped up in our personal perspectives and experiences that we lose the ability to think critically or objectively about a person, topic or experiences? When our lens colors all things red when some things are actually orange?
With some of this stuff, especially on social media, I feel like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, and this is the 2016 iteration of us eating each other alive.
How can we continue to make room for all of our complexity?

I Saw #BirthOfANation And…

nate-parkerI saw Nate Parker’s movie Birth of a Nation last night.  After reading both sides of arguments for and against seeing it due to rape allegations 20 years back, including a letter written by his Penn State comrades (who are and were my comrades in organizing a while back), I determined that he may have been an asshole.  He may have been a dickhead. I don’t know…I didnt know him. But it was not proven to me that he was a rapist.  So I chose to see the movie.

Now, about the actual movie…IME, how can you say that a movie depicting the horrors of what happened to your ancestors is good or bad?  It’s hard for me to qualify this kind of narrative that way.  So I can say that it is a movie that I appreciate.  Were there historical inaccuracies?  Yes…that’s what “based on a true story” is for. It wasn’t a documentary, and folks take liberties with historical accounts all the time.  Artistically, was it the best rendering of a film of this subject matter I’ve seen?  No.  Could Ava Duvernay have worked wonders with this? Possibly. But they had a shoe string budget.  Were there parts that were a little melodramatic or could some choices in the flow of the storyline have been different?  Sure.  But I find some of the critiques of the film inaccurate and in some ways unwarranted.

There were quite a few positives about this film.  Nate Parker, as an actor, did an excellent job portraying Nat Turner as a human being.  I was happy to see a film depicting this period in America’s sordid history where there wasn’t a White savior to ride in and save the day.  I was happy to see a film that brought to life an important story of how Black people took their freedom into their own hands…for themselves and their children, knowing the consequence of death would be imminent. One thing those who are tired of slave narratives has to remember is every generation of people hasn’t seen the same films.  Everyone hasn’t seen Roots.  Everyone hasn’t seen Glory.  Everyone hasn’t seen Sankofa or Goodbye Uncle Tom.  Everyone hasn’t seen 12 Years a Slave.  So the fact that a new generation of young people have access to a mainstream story about an aspect of our sojourn in America, where we actually fight back, is important.  Birth of a Nation may be their Glory…their Roots…their Sankofa, and that’s a good thing.

Birth of a Nation also made me reflect on transformation and the experiences that makes one “get active.”  Nate directed and portrayed the conflict of being passive to injustice, to being conflicted, having to do things contradictory to his moral compass for survival, to that first moment of standing up and speaking back, to becoming a full blown freedom fighter in a resonant way for me. It made me think of myself and my journey.  It made me think of all of the folks who are on their journey right now and the experiences that led them to wherever they are on the continuum.  If you are or have ever  been an activist, his portrayal of this aspect of Nat Turner will have you reflecting on your own life.  Most of us didn’t come into this world fighting for freedom in our own way.  It took a myriad of people, places and things…of having gone through or seeing ENOUGH to get us there.

Due to the violence (though there was less than I thought there would be), I wouldn’t recommend it for young children, but teenagers should see it.  It won’t leave you feeling happy because, if you know the story of Nat Turner and the rebellion, everyone dies in horrific ways.  But I can also appreciate the depiction of that because in standing up for your convictions, there is always a price…a sacrifice.  Every individual who makes that choice must be aware of and wrestle with this.  Know that in whatever way you define it, there will be blood.

A Lil #RandomWisdom To Start Our Day

Words of wisdom1) Un-earth everything in your foundation…the good, the great, the bad, the ugly, the raw, the dreams, the goals, the expectations, the knowledge, the beliefs, the joy, the trauma, the truth, the logic, the unreasonable, the rational, the lies, the reality. Then, figure out what you wanna do with all that…consistently #TodaysMath #WhatLivesUnderThere #KnowledgeOfSelf

2) There are some problems you can’t solve and situations you can’t resolve, no matter how much you want to. The willingness has to be mutual. #LetItGo

3) Trying to hold on to what is no longer there, be it a person or idea, is like chasing an illusion…a ghost of the past. It’s futile. It’s gone. They’re gone. Moved on. Release it/ them from your mind and free yourself. #LetItGo

4) “Maybe a poet should make sounds, even when she’s not speaking.”-Anne Sexton #YaJinglinBaby

5) “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”-Dr. Seuss. And if today sucked, live to fight another day

6) Some pain will go away. Some pain sticks with you, and becomes a part of you. Fuses with your bone marrow. Courses through your veins. You get used to it, numb to it, comfortable with it, one with it, and eventually, dependent on it, allowing it to define you. What would life be without it? Who would you be without it? Only you can do the work to uncover that mystery.

On Relationships…#INeedAnswers

Relationships picRomantic relationships are fucking hard…and beautiful…and complex…and unpredictable. Here’s 6 tips…and a couple might burst ya bubble:

1) You want forever huh? Because we’ve been socialized to believe that once you find “The One,” that should be IT right? #SorryNotSorry to rain on your parade but what if I told you the idea of “The One” is a crock of shit? Why is it that 50% of marriages end in divorce? One could say infidelity or financial issues, but what if I told you that having an expectation and intention that once you get with a person, ya’ll will be together forever is a tad unrealistic? Sure, it happens sometimes, but the error is in thinking that 2 people can’t/ won’t grow apart and want to make different choices. A better thought is…

Let’s be together for as long as we want and choose to be.

It takes the edge off a bit, and gives both of you the freedom to move on/forward. Release the pressure of feeling like, “WE HAVE TO BE TOGETHER!!!” It also means that if ya’ll choose to ride, live and  die together, ya’ll are present and intentional enough to choose each other every day, through the highs and lows, instead of going on automatic pilot and ridin’ it out cuz that’s what society says you’re supposed to do. You have choices, no matter how good, bad, exciting, boring, blah, or fantastic things get.  The right amount of interdependence and detachment goes a long way.

Turn the idea of “The One,” into “The One I Chose For Now and We’ll See What Happens.”

Being together for the sake of being together or just wanting to be with “someone” is a time waster and energy sucker. Some relationships have an expiration date and shelf life. In the words of Fantasia, “Go ahead and free yourself!”

2) The both of you need to have your own lives.  Two people wrapped up in each other, and that’s it, will get boring real fast. The physical attraction will not be enough eventually. Having rich INDIVIDUAL lives will only make your lives together that much more interesting.  Productivity is sexy!  The both of you continuously doing new things, surprising each other with your personal strides and growing keeps you curious about each other.  It keeps you wanting to engage with who your mate is and who they are becoming over time.   One person following behind the other cuz they don’t have anything goin’ on gets annoying, and eventually, the more productive side of the couple will be attracted to a presence that matches it. #GetYoLife for yourself.  It will only enhance the team.

3) The root of infidelity is not ALWAYS because the “cheater” doesn’t love you.  Yeah, I said it! Monogamy is what is socially acceptable in our society but it’s not necessarily natural…for men or women.  What IS natural, is for people to be mentally, emotionally, physically and yes, sexually attracted to multiple people, potentially at one point in time.  Yeah, I said it! People have the ability to love more than one person at one time. People have the ability to compartmentalize their attraction and relationships so that this here on the left doesn’t cross into this here on the right. The choice lies in what you choose to do with that attraction based on the agreements or structure of your relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some relationship partners who are fucked up and do what they do because they don’t love you or anyone and don’t want to make the choice or have the ability to be monogamous whether they’re conscious of that or not.  But because it’s the social norm, they link up with somebody as their “main” and do what they do on the side with no remorse or consideration of you and when they’re caught, they still don’t give a fuck.  But I’m not really talkin’ bout them. Monogamy isn’t the default…it’s a CHOICE…one kind of relationship structure.  There are other options.

4) Be your authentic selves with each other.  Contrary to this popular new agey cliché, doing so is HARD AS FUCK. Why? We’re socialized to play games and mental gymnastics with each other to attract and hold one another.  When you first meet and date, ya’ll are bein’ maybe 50% real, sending representatives because you wanna hook, line and sink her/him.  A representative can represent you but it ain’t the fullness of YOU. We are socialized to shift, bend, and be flexible to fit the mold that our partner is looking for.  You bring some of you to the table, and the rest is what you think this person wants so they’ll stick around.  But the ball will drop eventually.  All masks and bonnets come off at some point because there’s only but so long that you can keep this act up.  I’m not saying keep it real to the point where you’re an inconsiderate asshole (but if you are, show that side early so people who aren’t into assholes can skidaddle), but bring the truth of who you are.

If you frame your initial dates as an introduction to learning someone new and making a new friend versus a potential boo, you’ll be a lot more relaxed, probably have more fun, and the YOU that you show may be the YOU that they like.  You’ll also know if ya’ll are compatible or not faster. If you’re into legal marriage (cuz all folks ain’t and are perfectly fine with that, ya know), give it a couple years AND living together before you do the deed.  Even though women in particular, are socialized to be on a marriage time table, you don’t REALLY know someone till you’ve had a plethora of experiences over time with them and you want to know as much as you can before you make a serious commitment that will require paperwork, money and stress to end.  You know one way to know if ya’ll are at least comfortable with each other?  When one of ya’ll can use the bathroom while you’re talking and the conversation continues where you’re in the bathroom with them or the door is open.  Everybody ain’t into that…but it’s a benchmark.

5) Come to the relationship as whole people.  That whole “you complete me” scenario from the Jerry Maguire movie, as romantic as it sounds, sets most of us up to fail. It will turn ya’ll into social work projects, and even in social work, that should not necessarily be our approach to working with people/ communities. Sure…ya’ll may have your shit that you need to work on, but don’t look to the other person as your solution.  They ain’t here to fix you.  You shouldn’t be lookin for somebody to fix.  This ain’t charity work!

Sure…help each other out.  Sure…farm the complimentary skills that you both have and see what ya’ll can build together.  Sure…unalike attracts and alike repels sometimes. And sure…you can choose to be supportive of your partner if they’re going through a rough patch.  “Charity” cases are tempting, especially to women.  Maybe it’s some sort of maternal instinct where we meet this person and say, “They would be perfect if only they made this change.  I’ll help!  I’ll fix it!” I’ve been there and you need to #StahpIt. Most of the time, that dynamic will lead to ya’ll resenting each other cuz they didn’t change yet and they want you to stop trying to change them.  Nobody changes unless they want to, when they want to.

6) Relationships go through phases because individuals change.  The duration of one relationship may feel like 7 different relationships all in one.  Ya’ll will be into each other like puppies playin with their favorite toy.  Ya’ll will be hot and spicy.  You’ll simmer down.  Might get cold.  You’ll be homies (if it’s going well).  Sometimes it will feel like you’re siblings.  You’ll have moments where ya’ll ain’t really fuckin with each other too tough cuz you’re on a different type time.  There may be lies, secrets and betrayal.  Those experiences may provide life altering truths that break ya’ll apart or take the bond to another level, peeling back a layer of you individually and as a unit.  Ya’ll will feel like roommates (if you live together).  You will annoy each other.  You will gross each other out.  You will be astounded and awed by each other’s greatness.  You may get bored.  Things may get exciting again.  And you go in and out of those phases if you’ve been together long enough.  The most important question to ask yourself during and after a relationship is, “What did I learn and how did I grow from this experience?”  Pay attention to the lesson. Find your constant…the core of what makes ya’ll YA’LL to weather those changes (if you choose to).  What relationships rarely are, are fairytales.  They’re more like roller coasters, so buckle up and try to enjoy the ride.