Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coming Clean With E. Lynn Harris...Again

E. Lynn Harris...again

I'm currently reading the second novel in the Raymond Tyler series that began with Invisible Life. I remember a friend of mine giving it to me to read back in the Summer of 1997. It blew my mind. Every Black man I knew was gay according to that book or leading a secret, double life. I trusted no one. It was funny and it was sad, but it also did Black woman a favor. It opened our eyes and gave Black men going through this "invisible life" a platform to speak about it to those that were important to them.

My friend also handed me the second book in the series, "Just As I am" , but for some reason, I never finished it. I couldn't figure out why. But as I perusing the book store several weeks ago looking for subway train reading material, I saw Harris's book and bought it, trying to remember why I put it down in the first place. It was considered a better read than Invisible Life.

As I began to pour through the pages, I became familiar with main characters once more. Nicole Springer and Raymond Tyler, once in love but broken apart by Raymond's bisexuality. Throughout the book Raymond's character is described as handsome, smart, with a baritone voice that melted anyone who heard it. All of sudden I found myself back on my former college campus. All the characters in the book were people I personally knew. On my way to work, I slammed the book into my carrying bag and subconsciously vowed not to open it again. It was hitting far too close to home for me. I was worked up. Why?

I knew a Raymond back in school. I don't know if he was bisexual or not, but the pain he caused me mimicked the one Nicole the character in the book felt.I loved him so much, I know he knew, but whatever his reasons were, he did not feel the same. I never accepted that fact. How could he like me enough to be my friend but not see all the wonderful things in me to love me romantically? From that time until now, I literally stopped putting any effort in my appearance the day I realized we would never be. My confidence and self-esteem had never recovered. I would never be pretty enough, light enough or good enough for him. I really believed that. I knew deep down inside that he couldn't help how he felt, that it was not a reflection on me and that I couldn't fault him for it, but I did. I was so angry and defensive. Part of me still is. And just after years and years Nicole didn't get over it, neither did I. I also related to the pain and relationship Nicole had with her fairer skin mother. The words were all too real for me and I couldn't deal with it, I realized at that moment why so many years ago, I put the book down. Homosexuality, bi-sexuality, the reality of down-low brothers, skin color issues, interracial dating- these are all hot button issues that many people in the Black community have a hard time dealing with and talking about and that includes me.

Now, almost 14 years later, unlike the characters in the book, I'm still in the same place. As weird as it sounds, I'm determined to finish the book so that I can get on with my life. And I hope that E. Lynn Harris has the characters I so closely identify with do the same. I'm ready to get over my "Raymond", I'm ready to love my "Kyle" completely and I'm ready to accept the beauty of my ebony skin regardless of others and forgive those who were cruel to me because of it. I'm ready to accept my mother's relationship for who she is and move forward. Well, maybe. But more importantly, I'm ready to face the truth. Because that is what E. Lynn Harris's books specialized in. Not letting us hide behind what we are ashamed of and don't want to feel, but be truthful and proud of who we are.

I'm sorry I never got to finish his book and I'm sorry I never saw him the several times he spoke at my school because I'll never get the chance to thank him. I've been hiding my feelings for so long beacause I was embarrased by them. But it's time to come clean. Finally.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It Ain't About Looks, Honey!

It ain't about looks, honey.

While at work one day, my two male bosses started a conversation about a personal friend who worked in another department, whose personal life they found to be hilarious and worrisome.

It seems the man, in his late thirties, had recently applied to have his live-in "girlfriend", and I use that term loosley, a medical beneficiary. It seems the young lady, in her early twenties, was pursued by this gentleman for quite some time, yet she never gave him the time of day. However, over the last 3 months, the young lady, lost her job, her apt. and was pregnant. The father of her child? Nowhere to be found. In steps her would be suitor. He puts her up in his house, pays for everything and to make sure the baby is taken care of medically, he makes the mother a beneficiary on his insurance. Mind you, this man has NEVER been with this woman.

While I was being told this story, my female boss was also in the room. She and I looked over at each other, thinking the same thing, except she said it out loud: "That girl must be really, really pretty for the guy to do all of these things for her".

"No way", stated the younger of male bosses,"she isn't really". My female boss and I were dumbfounded. I interjected at that point.

"Well, maybe she isn't your taste of what is considered beautiful or pretty, but she HAS to be, otherwise this guy would not be doing this". I stated flatly.

My older boss laughed and the younger one joined in. They both gave a smirk "Should I say it?" my older boss asked the younger one. The younger boss shrugged. "Look," he continued, as if choosing his words carefully,"it does not matter if the young lady is good-looking or not. What matters is if she has the body type that is atractive to men. Once a man gets it into his head that he wants to be with her at that point, he'll do ANYTHING it takes to achieve that. So if she looks good in the face, that's just a bonus. It just depends on if she has a great, proportional body, that's it. If she does, she then has the power, thus what this young lady is able to get away with."

Wow. That was all I could think. My female boss and I were shocked into silent thought, letting what we just heard settle into our minds. We were just let into an old boys' club secret. The "power" we had over men wasn't what we looked like in the face, but how shapely we were. Big, small it didn't matter. Oh, you have to have a great backside too, they conveyed. As long as its somewhat of an hourglass figure, someone will do ANYTHING to be with you, including WAIT and take care of you & your unborn child. So ladies, if catering to a man's ego is half the battle, creating the illusion(unless you already have it) of the hourglass figure is the other. And we've all seen it. The "Why-Is-He-With-Her Girl". Well, now we know. Forget her face, how she dresses and how uncouth her manners and dialect are and focus on the body package. If she's got a bigg butt or tiny waist or big breasts, that's why he's with her! That's what he likes. Everything else is aesthetics. Now there are still going to be materialistic, shallow men out there, but a man with testosterone running through his veins will always go for what he truly wants, not just what looks good on his arm(those relationships never last, look at almost any Hollywood marriage based on looks). And that's the guy we truly want anyway.

I don't know about you, but the treadmill is looking really good right now, can't wait to have my body and confidence back!