Neighborhood stroll...

Neighborhood stroll…

Over the weekend as I was walking to the post office to send my mother a letter (yes, we do that sometimes lol) I found myself staring up at the buildings around me-not only in slight disbelief that I am living this life, but also in slight disgust. There’s a substantial part of my being who despises paying rent, utilities and other money-pits that are offering me zero return or incentives. Reluctantly, sometimes I include college tuition/loans in this category as well. And that’s when I got to thinking…
Americans have got the game messed up.
When you look at other cultures in the world, African, Middle Eastern and Asian included, many require their young adults to continue living with them well into their adult years. They desire their youngest contributing members of the community to work, earn decent livings and save their money for many of life’s milestones that have yet to come. These will include marriage, children, and the eventual responsibility of the family’s elderly.
In addition they also encourage their children to work hard and find a vocation. By the time many of these kids are enrolled in somebody’s college, if they ultimately wind up attending college, they have a great idea of what they need to get out of it so that minimal time is wasted.
Here in America, the culture tells you to enjoy high school, then immediately enroll in some form of overpriced higher education that is supposed to eventually support the rest of your life-long endeavors, hopes and dreams. There’s a great chance that you will enroll in a program that you probably haven’t given the most thought to because who’s able to make those sort of life-long decisions when you’re just a kid yourself? Upon graduation your parents are kicking you out of the door, cutting off your insurance and wishing you good luck.
But what if American culture coddled their young adults a bit more? Allowed them to take a break after high school to really consider what working life is like? Would they not make better choices when it came time to picking a school, major and other activities? What if the young adults could hold off paying rent a little longer? Were encouraged to pay a light or cable bill, keep gas in their cars and be given enough time to adequately figure out the employment and relationship thing out? Because ultimately, in another 40 years or so it’s going to be these same parents relying on those kids to make sure they’re comfortable in their old age.
I guess I’ll continue to stew over this later this evening as I’m leaving a job/career I didn’t go to college for and consequently don’t see myself at long-term and to an apartment who’s rent is more than the average mortgage payment in my hometown.

It Was One of Those Nights…

This weekend I was telling my cousins the following story about my (then) most recent cab ride.  It was insanely ridiculous and a bit entertaining.  Afterwards Shelby insisted it was blog-worthy material so here it goes…

It was a really good night.

It was a really good night.

Friday night I partied hard in the Lower East Side with my cousins.  The youngest amongst us, Renny, was visiting NYC and celebrating her 22nd birthday so we knew we had to show her a good time.  Consequently I got quite inebriated, so much in fact that at the end of the night it was decided I take a cab home instead of the usual train.  My cousin Kenny (and Renny’s older brother) found a parked cab with his light on (a lit light indicates an available cab) so after giving me a hug goodbye, he and Renny took off down the street.

Immediately the African cabbie started rambling about how he wasn’t available because he was late picking up his wife and it was imperative that he head that way ASAP.  As he was going on his tirade I quickly opened the door and jumped in.  The cabbie was pissed and yelled at me to get out.  After going back and forth, he drove a block before pulling over to the left, turning off the ignition and getting out.  At this point I started getting nervous.

Is he about to open this door and drag me out?  I hope Kenny isn’t too far away…

Instead he headed into a convenience store for a few moments then came back out and continued to argue with me, insisting I exit his cab immediately.  He also let it slip that he wasn’t married and was actually headed to link up with a young tenderoni.  Finally, I agreed to a compromise: I’d get out after he hailed me another cab.  “Alright babe.  Give me a second.  I’m going to take care of you,” he said.  Did he just call me “babe?”  It was only a few moments before I saw a second cab pull up on the right side of ours.   As I exited from the left side of the cab and walked around the back towards the awaiting one, the waiting one abruptly pulled off from it’s parked position, leaving me stranded.

Behind me the African cab driver was rushing to the drivers side of his own cab, ready to hop in and leave me in the middle of the street I’m sure.  I’m not having that.  I beat him to the cab, hopped back in and really refused to get out this time.  The cabbie weighed his options and then completely changed his tone.  What had previously been a rude, loud aggressive cretin had become a sweet, purring apologetic gentleman who offered to let me hold onto his cab keys and not relinquish them until after I was safe and sound in a new cab that he was going to hail for me.

After accepting the keys and tucking them securely away into my coat pocket, I found myself walking in the middle of Delancy St, arm in arm with this cab driver, while whining to him about how hard it is being a Black woman trying to hail a cab and get safely home.  “I know, I know baby.  Don’t you worry.  I’m going to take good care of you,” he repeated over and over again.  He asked for my name and I gave it.

“Okay Ashley, this new cab driver is going to get you home.  Now what’s your number so I can make sure you’re properly taken care of and I can keep in touch with you?”  He asked after a second cab finally pulled over and agreed to take me to Brooklyn.  I laughed to myself as he fumbled with his phone, clumsily hitting the ignore button to the numerous incoming calls (no doubt from the young tenderoni he was extremely late picking up).  After climbing into the waiting cab, I handed him back his car keys and after rambling off a fake number, he proceeded to call me on the spot.  I hurriedly closed the door, rattled off my address to the new cabbie and was off across the Williamsburg Bridge headed back to Brooklyn, leaving that ridiculous African cabbie behind.

Time or Money, Choose One

I was talking with a sorority sister of mine this afternoon and when discussing her current relationship woes, the topic of time versus money came up.  Her assertion?  When dealing with a man, if he has lots of leisurely time to spend with you, he’s not making much money (because he’s not working hard enough to advance his career) and if he has any kind of money, he doesn’t have much time to spend with you (because he has a strong work ethic that is motivated by career advancement).  She believes we all have to choose… you can’t have both because it takes nearly all of your time to advance in your career and earn good money.  As for herself, she preferred dealing with a man who had time over the money, because as she put it, “I plan on making my own money.”

As soon as she explained that outlook it triggered my mind to conversations Shelby and I have had time and time again.  Over the years, she and I have spent countless hours dissecting our romantic relationships.  A reoccurring theme in majority of mine is the struggle I face in being attracted to hard-working men who don’t have time to spend on romantic relationships …especially with me.

Why is that?

Daddy issues.

I’m blessed to be able to say that my father was never absent from my life.  He always made sure he had a presence and was accessible to me.  On the other hand, he was also a VERY hard worker.  Growing up, he would rise before my siblings and I, prepare breakfast, iron our school clothes and get our baths/showers running before we had even opened our eyes.  After seeing us off to school, I might not see him again that day.  He would come home from work well past my bedtime and do it all over again the next day.  Monday through Friday that was the routine (occasionally he might come home early and I might get to see/talk to him then-it was such a treat).  Saturdays I might see him in the mornings before he raced off to the golf course and Sundays were family days.  I missed him…a lot.

Fast-forward to my life with men now that I’m in my mid-20s.

The men I’m attracted to don’t have time to spend on a relationship because they are driven mainly by their daily grind to “get money,” and advance in their careers….all in an effort to feel secure.  While they are aware of this restriction, they also have a “superman” complex where they pile more on their plate than they can chew, my relationship with them being part of that.

From here, the daily battle ensues.  I spend the duration of the relationship regulating an arbitrary schedule of our quality time that I have drilled into his head.  I refuse to allow him to miss scheduled phone calls, dates, events, etc.  To keep my mind off of his lack of time, I myself find tasks/passions/goals/commitments to occupy my time (because even though I’m in my mid-20’s I still have no clue what I want to spend my life doing other than knowing writing had better be a part of my job description).  We both wind up working ourselves to the bone, motivated by different reasons.

At times it can be exhausting, but always worth it to me, because I understand the choice that I have made…money over time.  Sometimes I wish it weren’t this way; I wish that I would be satisfied with time over money but unfortunately I see it as such a male weakness…*insert Daddy issues here.*  While mentally I know it’s not a weakness, spending all those years watching my father complete his daily routine has now got me jaded.

In the meantime I am holding out hope that God will present to me a man who is able to offer time AND money.  While it is rare, it is certainly not impossible.

What about you?  When it comes down to it are you settling down with a partner who is offering a plethora of free time to dedicate to the development of the relationship OR a strong work ethic that is chiefly motivated by career advancement with the promise of money?

Ladies (And Fellas), Name Your Price

Several months ago during a Yancey family debate, Grandma Yancey got incredibly offended by my assertion that marriage is a form of institutionalized prostitution (lol).  She reflected on her own marriage of 50+ years with Papa as being nothing less than a union of true love with her soul mate and best friend.  While I do believe that what she and Papa shared was as pure and innocent as she says it is, there’s also no denying that Papa was the chief breadwinner.  Grandma obviously cost Papa a pretty penny, holding down that household, taking care of home…

I wish Papa would have been there to hear our family’s conversation.  I’d so have loved to hear his outlook.  While Grandma cost Papa a pretty penny, Papa was an expensive acquisition himself!  He was a few years  older than Grandma so he’d had time to gain popularity.  Known as a hardworker, he was incredibly attractive.  She had to put in WORK to peg the man as her own.

Bringing this relationship-tradeoff into current day,  I now realize that everything I allow to happen in any of my romantic relationships comes at a cost.  The question is, how much am I charging?

I used to step innocently into relationships assuming that anyone I was dealing with was going to be of pure intentions and want the best for me and them.  I wasn’t counting down how many dates we’d had, how much money had been spent or how much time had transpired.  “Why would I need to?” I naively thought?  Surely we were both going with the flow, enjoying the ride, right?  If I was feeling the situation, I would agree to be exclusive with them, be in a relationship with them, or bring them around my friends, etc.  The list goes on.  I thought this way until…

Social networking.

It was on social networking that I began seeing men talk about gaming women, giving arbitrary means of measurements to gauge where they stood with her…how much did she cost them?  Things like, “I just met her last week and she’s already sleeping over.  I bet I get her to____ soon.”  Or even, “I took her to this nice little spot to get her to warm up to me.”  Lastly, “She’s already done ALL of these things without me putting in much work so I’m over her now.  Who’s next?!”

SMH.

I consider things MUCH more carefully now.  When meeting someone new I will only tolerate texts for so long until phone conversations need to take place.  Phone calls will only last for so long until it’s time to link up.  Call me snobby, but I’d prefer the first date to not be at Starbucks-save that for date two or three after you’ve already had a chance to establish you’re not-a-cheapskate-but-do-enjoy-the-simple-things.  The list goes on…

All of that to say…

Nothing is free.  Every single woman has a price.  Papa paid HEAVILY to be able to have my lively, dramatic Grandma on his arm!  The fabulous frenzy of pearls, furs, dinner parties, strong backbone of emotional/mental/physical support, vacations, four children and the warm-spirited home were not cheap!  One day, when/if I get married, I can only pray that my price is close to what my Grandma charged-I’d love to look forward to a lifetime of love with my soul mate…with 50+ years of happily ever after tucked in our back pockets.

50th Wedding Anniversary

I’ve Never Been Here Before…But I’m Ready.

The season of Lent is upon us and while many are feeling conflicted about what it is they are about to attempt to fast from, for me I’m dealing with a bevy of other emotions that are rooted in my disdain for the Catholic religion…

When I was 6 years old my parents divorced.  While my father got primary custody my brother Ty and I saw our mother pretty much whenever we wanted which was nearly every weekend, random days  during the summer and many holidays.  My parents were pretty flexible with that.  A few years later my father remarried and Ty and I had to switch school districts.  Since my stepmother had my stepsister enrolled in a Catholic school they believed it would be best for Ty and I to switch to the Catholic school instead of the local public school.  The Catholic school was extremely competitive-as a result there was a waiting list to get in.  After meeting with school administration my parents managed to strike a deal-if Ty and I would be converted to the Catholic religion, we could skip the 1-2 year waiting list.  My parents would get their kids a great education and the Catholic school could count on two new Black students to increase their diversity numbers.

My first year there as a 5th grader was challenging.  In addition to being the only Black student in my entire grade (the second Black student in the entire middle school), I was also bombarded with Catholic policies, rituals, sacraments and classes.  While I had to attend regular religion classes during the school day, I also had to attend a course outside of regular school hours in order to “catch up” with my classmates.  I was in 5th grade and had missed the Baptism, Eucharist (Communion) and Reconciliation (Confession) sacraments that were administered in infancy and second grade.

I felt completely alienated.  Aside from culturally being different (having to explain why I used actual oil on my skin and washed my hair bi-weekly), I found it difficult to relate to their religion.  I had to attend mass two days a week.  It was humiliating to remain seated and not be allowed to receive Communion because I had yet to finish my religion classes that included those Rite of Passage.  My experience in other denominations was that everyone got to receive God’s body and blood…by denying me that privilege, it made me feel as though I was unworthy.  In addition, their masses had none of the “call and response,” animated preaching, or actual Bible-reading that I had grown accustomed to from my days spent going to the Pentecostal church with my mother or Solid Rock Church with Aunt Lynne (Shelby’s mom who I’ve always been close too).

To this day, many concepts in the religion still confuse me.  I’m not quite clear on what the heck that missalette was…it certainly wasn’t the Bible.  And why did I have to spend all that time praying to Mother Mary?  And some sins are worse than others?  Finally, why did I have to confess all of my sins to Father Mahoney, another sinning human…who did Father Mahoney confess too…cuz he’s not perfect, right?

Ultimately I became incredibly depressed.  Incredibly.  By the end of my 6th grade school year the school psychiatrist wound up having to come speak to me…and from then I became known as “that” girl…that had “issues” since I had to speak with the doctor.  It was a very dark time in my life and by the end of the school year my parents made an executive decision to pull me out (along with my siblings) and transfer us to local public schools.  After leaving, I thrived.

All of that to say, since then whenever I reflect on the Catholic church I’m haunted by those memories.  I remember how stringent the insitution is regarding their rules, sacraments and traditions and I haven’t held them in high esteem since.  Lent became thrown into that and it was something that I didn’t have a lot of respect for.   Until last year.

Last year Shelby and I were talking and she let me know what she was giving up for Lent.  I gave her an extreme side-eye.  She’s not Catholic (and to my knowledge never has been).  While Shelby grew up in the Catholic school system and had her own obstacles she had to deal with within it, she attended her family’s church on weekends.

“Cous.  Why are you participating in Lent when you’re not Catholic?” I remember asking her.

“But why not?” She fired back.

I was confused at this point.  “Huh?”  Why participate in another religion’s rituals and traditions if you’re not a member of that religion?

“I mean, sure I’m not Catholic but the purpose of Lent is to reflect on God and to draw nearer to him.  Regardless of who started doing it, a fast is a fast.  I need my blessings!”

Gosh, I love her!  Does that NOT make sense?

Immediately I felt a bit foolish for being so close-minded, especially in matters of spirituality.  While I chose not to observe Lent last year (mainly because it was already halfway over) now that it’s upon us again, I am looking forward to doing my part to form a better relationship with God and also to contribute to the world’s effort of everyone drawing nearer to Him in these troubling times.  Regardless of your own personal experiences with the rules of religion or the denominations that exist, there’s no denying that ignoring the desires of the flesh in exchange for feeding the needs of the spirit is for the better good.

Less of me, more of you.

Sidenote: I will be abstaining from social networking for the next 40 days.  Yikes!  🙂

I Talk To Much

Lol.  If you know me, then you know that already (so save your smart aleck comments that I’ve probably already heard a million times before).  I’m going with a different angle on this topic today…so pay attention!  🙂

Last night at work I almost got fired.  I didn’t do anything wrong per se, but did my manager see it that way?  Absolutely not!  See, what had happened was…

Basically there was a big miscommunication (I’ll spare you the details) in which I was made to look like a neglectful server.   When it was my time to speak up to give my manager some much needed insight, he didn’t give me my moment.  When I hurried after him amid a crowd of guests loudly questioning, “So are you going to stop to let me tell you my side?!  Right now you do NOT have all the facts!”  He abruptly turned on his heels to and went off on me.  “I don’t care what you have to say!  Your point of view means nothing to me!  I am the manager!  You are not!  If you do not like it, there is the door.  You can leave!”

I stood there silent…speechless…and fuming.

“Oh my gosh Ashley!  What did you do?!  What is happening?!  I can’t believe you just talked to him that way!” a couple co-workers whispered as they passed.  All I could do was shake my head as I made a mental note to begin job hunting this morning.

The longer the evening wore on, the more I tried to forget about it and just do my job, but it wasn’t working.  Every time I caught a glimpse of my manager my body would tense up…he had really hurt my pride.  “My opinion meant nothing to him?”  I found myself questioning my own integrity.  How am I supposed to work in an environment that I believe is clipping my wings and won’t allow me to fly?  I know it sounds kind of dramatic, but that’s just the way I feel.  I always compare stuff to my relationship with my father.  Would my daddy have talked to me like that?

Maybe lol.

But darn it, my daddy is the only one that can get away with that bullcrap!  This manager of mine is not my daddy!

So later that evening a friend of Kenny’s (my cousin) came in.  He works in the finance sector and was out with his team enjoying the night.  We struck up a conversation when somehow the subject began resting on the topic of the workplace dynamics between the big boss and his favorite employees.  Long story short, the friend made it very clear that I must wear the mask.

“You the only sista’ up in here, tryin to climb up and get your money.  It’s SO important that you tell these boys what they wanna hear.  You can be 100% right yet they are convinced you are 100% wrong.  You have to be able to say, ‘No problem sir,’ ‘I’ll get right on that,’ or EVEN ‘Yes, I apologize.  I know that was my mistake.’  I’m out here, chuckling at all their corny jokes making them feel like the best thing out here.”  He continued.  “I work with a few sista’s and we all play the role.  You can’t be outspoken and say what’s on your mind.  You will get nowhere.  They don’t like that.  You have to be fake.  Have too.  And when you see those extra dollars on your paycheck it will be worth it because these lonely old men will be in a dirty hotel room with some prostitutes.”

I laughed at his easy-going, practical advice and deep down I know that he is right.  The thing that gets me stuck however is the high price it’s going to cost me.  I pride myself on being a straight shooter, making sure people are aware of where they stand with me.  That fake mentality is everything I’m not about.

Can I do it?  I don’t know yet.

Is it smarter for me to do that?  Depends on what one views as being “smart.”

How important to me is it that I remain true to me?  My late grandfather, Papa, was known to say, “Integrity is everything.”

Sigh.

Thoughts?

Daddy, Your Baby Girl Is OKAY!

This transition in NYC has been BY FAR the most challenging that I’ve had in a long time.  People keep asking how do I like it/am I going to stay/what’s next/etc.  My response is always, “I’m literally taking it day by day.”  Some days are great, others are okay; occassionally I have bad days and on these days I get especially homesick.

One of those occassional days was about two weeks ago.  I don’t remember what specifically happened that day, other than I was feeling especially emotional and wanted nothing more than to wake up and drive to the Insurance Warehouse and spend the day working and talking/gossiping with one of my best friends, my dad.  I wanted to talk to him about work, a new business I’m in the developing stages of and vent to him about all the things that have been on my mind.  But I couldn’t.  I wanted to hear his ridiculous jokes/stories and watch him burst into a laugh that’s louder and more obnoxious than mine ever could be, but I couldn’t.  And at the end of the work day if I’d stayed in the office late, I wanted to go next door and grab him his pack of beer and watch him drink some of it while we chatted about randomness for another hour…but I couldn’t.

But I could do one thing.  And that one thing was send an email that did all of that.

So I sent Dad a SUPER long email about all kinds of stuff.  At one point I vented about how I’d been feeling about NYC (on that day in that moment)…

NYC is not what I thought it would be.  I don’t LOVE it.  I don’t even like it.  I merely tolerate it for the life experience I’m gaining from it.  Everyone needs to leave “home” at some point in their life and see what the rest of the world could possibly be like…you tried Chi-town, I’m trying NYC…I don’t know if I can last the 6 months you did though…I’ve met some cool people and have begun to go out and find things to get into.  Despite all this I miss the comforts of home.  Everyone says it takes a full year to get settled in but honestly, I don’t have the patience for a year.  I’m not with that.  Lol, you know me!  Right now I take all of this day by day, literally.  For all I know come September I could be thinking opposite and be ready to live here for the next couple of years.  But what if my mind remains where it is?

Unfortunately, that email got Daddy all worried and concerned.  As a result he responded with tons of positive energy, encouragement and love.  Today I’m not feeling like the spirit of the email that was sent.  I’ve been on an excellent high streak and have been making some serious moves in a positive direction.  Some great connections are being made and I’m pretty optimistic for my future.  I believe in me.  Whenever I even think to feel slightly down, I remember these important words he shared with me…

I don’t remember if I told you this—-back in the day—-I must of had at least 20-30 jobs—the way I figured—-I must be getting closer—cause there ain’t many jobs left—lol——this was my TRIAL & ERROR period of my life….Don’t rush it—it is closer than you think…..Well, enough of my rambling….I’m very proud of you….and I love you DEEPLY—-you will always be my LITTLE GIRL, you best believe…….and with this final point….this is all I want from you……BELIEVE IN YOURSELF…….this is the only GIFT I want from you….Believe in You……

Daddy, your baby girl is okay thanks to his email and support because I could not do this alone!

But you know what, deep down I think he already knows I will be.

I love you.