In association with XemSays.com and Emerald Eye Entertainment
Xem VanAdams Presents…
The iPhone Group Chat Live: Washington, DC
LOVE, DATING & RELATIONSHIPSBETWEEN MEN
Over the past three years, I have spent countless hours throughout each day engaged in a series of group text message and screen-cap exchanges with my two good friends, NATE @psycho_gemini and DUANTE @4theloveofdevious.
Discussing a variety of issues associated with our dreams, aspirations, spirituality, favorite music, news headlines and other people’s online mess, the three of us always return to the ins and outs that frame our dating or relationship experiences. In the winter of 2014, we joked one morning about how funny or odd it would be to see other people’s reactions if they were to ever read a leaked copy of our uncensored, iPhone group chats. We made the collective decision to someday film ourselves actually talking to one another as openly and freely on camera as we do via cell, daily. Then, a few weeks ago, the three of us attended a happy hour event in Silver Spring, MD to kill time before we arrived at the Tori Kelly concert. Duante randomly suggested it would be a good idea to add other individuals to our videotaped chat session. He wanted to incorporate guys who would possibly challenge the similarities in our perspectives and points of view.
After careful evaluation, we decided that MATTHEW @jaiden_elijah, BRANDON @bgldnboi and CHRISTOPHER @me_poppa, would make great contributors to our candid conversation. On Saturday, July 11, 2015, the six of us convened in Northeast, Washington DC to openly discuss love and dating within our community.
Filmed by Joshua Cristos and his Malak Media Group team, the six of us engaged in a 30-minute conversation that tackles a variety of issues. Through a series of direct questions and bold responses, this group successfully addresses the relationship dynamics that exist between men.
Join us during the summer of 2015, as this special Xem VanAdams video segment is released exclusively via youtube.com/XemVanAdams, XemSays.com & XemSays.tumblr.com.
Please follow the Xem VanAdams social media networks to guarantee that you are one of the first individuals to be notified before the link to this special presentation appears in timelines and forums across the World Wide Web.
Many people spend forty hours each week strapped to a swivel office chair that is positioned comfortably behind a cubicle or a cherry wooden desk of some kind. Between taking calls, inputting computer data, running reports or managing a staff that completes all of these tedious tasks, your job has become an intricate part of your life. You either love what you are paid to do from nine to five everyday or you’ve grown to loathe everything associated with your title, position and responsibilities. However, you’ve become very comfortable or complacent in the routine of each day. You don’t have to consciously think about what needs to be completed first thing in the morning. Your boss no longer has to remind you about turning in certain files after lunch, or remembering to shut down your computer and lock your phone at the end of the day. When you are in the office, you pretty much do whatever you want because you’ve been employed with the same company for years. No one of authority addresses your attitude, mood or demeanor and that’s precisely why most of your co-workers can’t stand you.
For quite some time now, you’ve been allowed to get away with being less than professional. Everyone who works around you has become increasingly bothered by your behavior. The things you say out of your mouth and everything you do during office hours has become so normal to the higher ups that they basically allow your actions to slide. As a result, you’ve become the topic of lunch hour conversations for seven of your most annoying, in office habits….
7. PROLONGING GROUP MEETINGS – You are the only individual who sits in the back of the team room and actually responds to the boss when he asks if anyone can share a story or give an example of a situation that supports a statement he has made. You see meetings as the perfect opportunity to ramble on and on about how things use to be when you were hired before all of the new people came on board. Very little of what you have to say in meetings is concise or even relevant to the topics that are being presented. Your entire point and purpose in raising your hand is to verbally remind everyone that you have some level of seniority or advanced experience.
6. YOUR OFFICE PARTY CONTRIBUTIONS ARE ALWAYS BASIC – As much as you love to brag about your seniority on the job, you never like to bring real food or necessary items to the holiday parties or other company events. While everyone else makes homemade pasta, grilled chicken, baked cookies or a special seven-spice punch, you’ll bring straws – a pack of 20 for a staff of 53. Even when it’s your turn once a quarter to contribute to the Friday staff breakfast, you’ll simply stop at Dunkin Donuts to purchase one, twenty-five count box of munchkins. You’re the first person in the office to pile your plate with everyone else’s homemade dishes. However, when it comes to contributing food items that most of the other staff would eat and enjoy, you choose to bring the flimsy, white, dentist office cups.
5. YOUR GOSSIP HAS CREATED A LOT OF OFFICE TENSION – Since you’ve been working for the same company for so long, you seem to know the personal and professional business that’s associated with the admin, supervisors, newcomers, janitors and support staff. Although you don’t maliciously cause drama by sharing people’s business with others in the office, you certainly don’t stop yourself from gossiping either. Since you spend more time walking by everyone’s cubicles than you spend sitting at your own, you tend to catch the tail end of personal conversations. Anything you hear, whether it is accurate or only the partial story, you take the information and tell it to anyone willing to listen. If you see Tony tap the vending machine with his fist to help Janet retrieve her soda that was stuck, you’ll begin telling others that they’re dating. Your mouth and half-truths are always found at the center of controversy that ignites between your co-workers. When people approach you to ask why you said certain things about them, your first and immediate response is always, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Where did you hear that?”
4. YOU DON’T RESPECT THE OFFICE CLOCK OR OTHER COMPANY POLICIES – As far as you’re concerned, everyday is casual Friday and your ‘lunch hour’ is merely a title that has little to do with a set, 60 minute time period. Despite the fact that you work in a fairly business-casual environment, the outfits you decide to wear to work are always inappropriate. You will come into the office on Monday wearing thong flip-flops and a wrinkled, graphic tee. Sometimes, your explicit body art and other piercings are blatantly on display. You have violated the dress code so often that for you to actually be dressed appropriately for an office environment would appear abnormal to the other staff. Meanwhile, though a five-minute grace period is in effect to give employees time to return from their hour lunch break and settle down, you return to your desk at your own leisure. Often times, without notice to anyone on the administrative staff, you’ll leave for lunch fifteen minutes early and return thirty to forty-five minutes late. Not only do you return from lunch way beyond your scheduled period, you’ll also then sit at your desk and carry on the cell phone conversation that contributed to your lateness.
You’re loud, laughing and talking to the top of your lungs. Never mind the fact that cell phone usage is only permitted outside, in the break room or in case of an emergency – your desk is used as a phone booth. Your co-workers know the intimate details that surround the lives of your family and close friends because they’re exposed to your “personal” conversations on a regular basis.
3. YOU THINK YOUR POSITION IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT IT REALLY IS – Sweetie, though you’ve been employed with the same company for three years, you have never been promoted beyond your entry level position. You hold the same title as all of your co-workers who were newly hired or brought on board permanently after completing a temp assignment. However, you make it your business to send out mass emails and other memos that detail what others in your same position need to have completed and processed by certain deadline dates. You’ve taken on this self imposed leadership position over individuals who have completed higher levels of education than you’ve achieved. These same co-workers have also garnered just as much experience working at other companies. You wear your job title on your sleeve, but you aren’t willing to actually do the work that is attached to your position.
2. YOU’VE TAKEN CREDIT FOR TASKS YOU DID NOT COMPLETE – Often times, it’s other staff members who have had to show you how to use the new programs, software and other equipment. You’ve grown so comfortable with the tools and resources that were used years ago, that you’ve never adapted to the system updates. As a result, you’ve been unable to effectively contribute to the projects that have been assigned by the higher ups. However, you’re the first person to volunteer to turn in the completed projects, as to receive credit for the organization and presentation of each assignment.
1. YOU IGNORE ALL HAPPY HOUR INVITATIONS & OTHER OUT OF OFFICE ACTIVITIES – You love being the center of attention inside of the office, but you’ve made it perfectly clear that you don’t want anything to do with your co-workers or boss after work hours. When everyone is going out for cocktails and wings on a Friday evening to celebrate someone’s promotion or new job offer, you’re the first to say, “oh…I have a doctors appointment”, or “wait…I have to pick up my son from daycare”. Everyone knows that you’re lying to simply get out of attending the out of office functions, especially since you don’t have children. Even during times when everyone has donated a dollar or two to purchase a wedding gift or flowers for a co-worker who lost a family member, you opt out of contributing anything. You don’t enjoy socializing with your co-workers outside of the office, but you will certainly make their lives a living hell while on the job.
As you pack your bags at the end of each day and unplug the portable heater that’s not allowed and hidden beneath your desk, you don’t even realize that you’ve alienated everyone sitting around you. You’ve become so set in your poor professional ways that much of what you do and don’t do in the office is acceptable as far as you’re concerned. The vice president of the company thinks the world of you and his supporting staff simply follows his lead. As a result, you’ll never be reprimanded for your bad office habits and that’s the only reason your co-workers need to hate your incompetent guts.
A “Thirst Trap” is created when an individual uploads a scantily clad photo of themselves online with the purpose of drawing attention to their face or body parts — but at the same time appearing to be oblivious to the actual surface intent of the post. Often times, the bait is laid before a large group of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat and tumblr users. Usually, the subject is standing half naked in their bathroom mirror beneath a pointless caption that reads, “God I’m glad you allowed me to see myself for who I truly am”. Clearly, the focus of the selfie is to show off one’s thick thighs, abs or barely covered bulge. However, pairing God and his “glory” into the upload is a calculated attempt to convince the viewing audience that they themselves should feel guilty for now staring at the subject’s body instead of embracing the ridiculous, non-related message. Those unaware of the key elements involved in luring the attention of internet voyeurs, often fall prey to the scheme by then liking or commenting the pic, and later following the person highlighted in the photograph. Male celebrities including, The Game, August Alsina, Lil Fizz and John Legend have all recently used the power of social media to trap the thirst of their adoring fans.
However, if you are going to follow in the footsteps of these studs, stars and heartthrobs, there are 5 things to keep in mind as you set your own, online thirst trap…
FRAME YOURSELF ENGAGED IN A NATURAL ACTIVITY – One of the best ways to capture the attention of onlookers, is to position yourself involved in a daily routine. One of the easiest and most conventional methods of framing yourself in a very common scene is to stand in the kitchen pretending to cook first thing in the morning. Everyone subconsciously pairs the act of preparing breakfast, with the cook still wearing the very skimpy loungewear that they slept in the night before. If you are standing in front of the stove, wearing nothing but a pair of thermal bottoms and holding a spatula over the skillet, the scene appears to be very natural. It then makes sense to the viewer why you would be photographed while adorned in these clingy, paper-thin long johns — revealing your personal, side order of pancakes and sausage links.
CREATE A QUICK, ONE-LINE CAPTION – In setting the perfect “thirst trap” it becomes your job to convince your viewers and followers that the focus of your photo is totally different than the obvious intent. If you’re going to post a photo where you’re turned to the side and wearing a tight pair of jeans, shorts, compression pants or even underwear, it’s obvious that the viewer is supposed to focus on the plump, round shape of your squat heavy cakes. Right? However, in your attempt to appear oblivious to the display of your backside, your one-line caption should comment on a different object or thought associated with the photo. Your caption could say something trivial like, “so glad I’m still able to fit into my favorite pair of jeans”, or… “did not think Id be able to stand up straight today after the terrible fall I experienced yesterday”. Somehow, your caption has to allude to the fact that “you have no idea” that people would actually be looking at or commenting upon your real, intended focus of the “thirst trap” photo — that backside.
HIGHLIGHT SHAPE OVER SKIN – One of the best ways to garner the surface attention of your intended target is to be sexy, without crossing that line of appearing sloshy. You want to place the attention of the social media voyeurs on the feature that you’re most proud of or the body part you’ve been focused on the hardest during your workouts. Instead of simply posing in the mirror wearing no shirt or no pants, select a clothing item that will cling around the form of your pecs or massive thighs. Sometimes, the allure of someone’s body is when the viewer is able to imagine the skin beneath the outer layers. Remember, the purpose of a thirst trap is to present an image or photo that isn’t blatantly sexual. If you choose the perfect garment or accessory to bring attention to your favorable parts, you’re able to show off those curves without appearing desperate for public praise.
LOOK AWAY FROM THE CAMERA – Thirst Traps are best achieved when the subject appears to be completely naive to the fact that their photo is being taken. Sure, you’re intentionally wearing light gray sweatpants to show off your eggplant and a pair of NIKE or ADDIDAS flip flops to highlight your recently pedicured toes. Of course you’re aware of the fact that meat lovers and others with foot fetishes are going to be sent into frenzy once the pic is uploaded to instagram or tumblr or facebook. However, it becomes your job to divert your visible eye line towards another subject. Be sure that you’re staring down at your dog that is hopping up onto your left leg or stare straight into the open refrigerator as if you’re really looking for something good to eat. Never actually be captured staring at the body part or object that is being used to seal the voyeurs gaze.
BE SPORADIC & SPARING — It becomes very important that your intended audience not become use to seeing you half dressed, half naked, barely covered or exposing yourself on a regular basis. The visual trapping loses its power and shine once your followers become use to seeing the same lame photo posted every other day. You have to be willing to switch up the order, style and routine of your postings in order for your trick to actually work. The sitting on the side of the bed with white sheets ever-so-slightly covering your frontal area photo, only works when it’s posted first thing in the morning alongside your regular quotes, memes, dinner plate pics, close-up selfies and fully clothed, active shots. Uploading and sharing the same, “look at me naked” pic everyday or even once each week can become overdone and tired.
The modern day selfie, avatar or default pic is designed to highlight an individuals more attractive, physical features. Often times, social media networks exist as the platform where people set the bait – featuring themselves in their most edited and filtered forms. Posting a photo online where one is clearly drawing attention to their skin and other surgically enhanced body parts has become a normal part of marketing and pop culture. Some people abstain from engaging in the strip, snap and upload activities, while others continue to successfully draw the attention of new and returning followers by setting their very own, social media “Thirst Traps”.
The ‘good guy’ is often the man who meets the conventional standards of success. He has built a substantial career, graduated from a four year university, owns a home, associates with the creme de la creme and honors the sanctity of his private life. His photos on Facebook are locked and inclusive of shots from family reunions, holiday gatherings and beach vacations with his frat brothers. His tweets are minimal and include nothing more than FourSquare check ins at the gym, grocery store or his favorite, chain restaurants. He ‘looks good on paper’, but isn’t necessarily the most striking beauty amongst a crowd. His outward demeanor serves proof that he was raised in a home where poise and decorum were valued and expected of him on a daily basis. The ‘good guy’ is a man who treats his friends like extended siblings, and his romantic interests like treasured jewels. He wears his heart on his sleeve, hence the reason it is often stabbed, misused and broken. Good guys spend a lot of time alone; guarded, engaged with themselves and saturated by their own thoughts. Most of these sensitive creatures have found the peace of mind that many others rigorously chase. They enjoy preparing dinner for themselves and spending an evening drinking wine in front of their flat screen. Good guys find solace in working out to build their bodies and reading a good book to fuel their minds.
Their most difficult challenge, however, is meeting someone of interest without losing themselves in the dating and relationship process.
Since good guys often spend a lot of extra time with themselves, it’s a big, personal deal when they open their hearts and home to the presence of another individual. They don’t usually engage in casual, physical encounters. In the event that someone entices their sexual urges, it becomes difficult for the good guy to win in the game of ‘friends with benefits’. His loins are attached to love. Physical acts that occur between him and a partner are valued as more than one, lustful night or an intense, sheet session. His feelings are intertwined with the lines of a cinematic love story. He falls hard. Unfortunately, our good guy is often hurt and disappointed by the back burner treatment he receives from those whom he makes a priority in his romantic life.
The good guy has a tendency to smother his partners with too much attention, too soon. He expects his lover to dedicate an immense amount of time to him; behind closed doors and publicly by his side as well. When he gets involved with someone, that individual suddenly becomes the object of his daily plans, downtime and desires. Many people are turned off by these behaviors.
The good guy must learn how to balance the intensity of his unyielding habit to fall fast. It becomes important that he not ignore all of the activities and personal interests that filled his daily regime before the new individual entered his life. Good guys must not surrender their personal time or priorities to immediately cater to all of the wants or needs of their partner. Once the good guy becomes so engrossed in who he is dating or romantically attached to, the good guy loses sight of what created his happiness and contentment while he was single and alone. This becomes detrimental to his mental and emotional stability.
If the other individual decides to leave or create distance in the relationship, the good guy is left having to rediscover himself. This process makes it even more difficult for the heart to then heal as a result of the breakup. Good guys don’t have to finish last. They simply have to remember to put themselves first while adding their romantic relationships to their already fulfilled lifestyle.
Many of us make the mistake of becoming so absorbed with our new lovers that we forget how to live our lives without including them in our thoughts or daily plans. Good guys especially must force themselves to still hang out with their friends and co-workers once they have fallen in love. The time they spend in the gym, at the mall, with their mothers or seeing a movie, must sometimes be considered ‘me time’. If the good guy isn’t routinely engaged in tasks that frame his sense of self, he isn’t able to maintain a conscious line between his romantic life and who he is outside of his relationship.
We all have a guy existing in our lives who is famous for sending that annoying and cliche, “HEY STRANGER” text almost immediately after he has bumped into us out at a party or has recently seen the attention we’re receiving from strangers in the comment section beneath our new, online postings. He is someone who we have been attracted to for a very long time – a guy who we’ve been texting, talking to, or spending on and off time with for almost a year. This man is fully aware of the intimate and romantic feelings we have for him. There have been at least three or four occasions where he too has expressed his mutual love or care. The issue, however, is that this guy has not made the necessary sacrifices or taken the appropriate steps to secure a solid relationship with us. He no longer makes a point to talk to us frequently. He isn’t affectionate unless we are actually in his presence. And it’s pretty obvious that he is still entertaining the company of people who he knows are interested in being more than simply his damn friend.
As a result of the months of inconsistencies, you haven’t cut him off completely, but you no longer initiate the communication or make advances to reassure him of your feelings. He responds to your calculated distance by making snide remarks saying – “I see your groupies leaving kissy faces under all of your half naked pictures”, or…
“I see you got yourself new, little dates, huh”?
You roll your eyes and laugh to yourself in response. In your mind, you know that you aren’t phased by the public attention, but the fact that he is affected by the assumption that you’ve moved on, makes you feel accomplished.
When you first met this guy months and months ago, he made you feel that he was open to the possibility of a solid relationship. The two of you actually went on a series of dates together that eventually turned into regular, face-to-face interactions. There was even a period of time when he would stay at your place for days and cook, lay around, give you the keys to his car to run errands and even offer to pay for everything. The beginning stages of the relationship felt really good.
Now, this man only seems to give you attention when it’s convenient for him – like, it’s 8:45 on a Sunday night and he’s driving home tipsy from some rooftop, day party. You haven’t seen or heard from him the entire weekend, but now that he’s mildly intoxicated and aroused, he’s texting or calling asking if he can come over. You respond with a bold, “HELL NO!” — and out of nowhere, he starts crying. It’s clearly the alcohol, and you know it. Now you’re receiving a series of apologies and the, “I’m so sorry for not treating you the way you deserve to be treated” speech — more of his pointless, “I really do love you. I care about you so much. Please don’t do this to us”, lyrics.
You are sitting on the opposite end of his emotional outburst somewhat feeling guilty about your attempts to create distance from him. On the contrary, a part of you feels overjoyed by the fact that the plotting and your actions to take control of this situation have brought this man to his knees. You’re feeling vindicated of all guilt after thinking about the ways in which this man has kept you dangling on a rope for so long. However, the other side of you that loves and misses this man wants to immediately forgive and reassure him that you aren’t going anywhere.
AVOID MAKING THIS SAME MISTAKE FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME…
Guys are very much governed by the instinct to avoid loss. When they see how desired you are by other men when the two of you happen to be out at the same party or they’re reading flirtatious comments beneath your newest selfie, it can create a sense of panic. Many of the actions guys take or impulsive decisions they make to FINALLY HIT YOU UP, stem from a desire to own and hold on to people or things that he believes increases his personal value.
He sends that “HEY STRANGER” text as a selfish ploy to keep you grounded and isolated in his life. He is well aware of the fact that the only reason he hasn’t seen you or heard from you is because he hasn’t made an attempt to do so.
No, he isn’t willing to give you the love and affection that you deserve, but he also doesn’t want you seeking that level of attention from someone else.
When a man begins crying and pleading for you to not leave him, after his behavior has forced you to walk out of the door, it’s because he is scared for the first time. However, he isn’t scared of losing you as a person as much as he is afraid of losing someone who he felt belonged to only him. Its his desire for ownership that has taken over his emotions and psyche. During all of those days and weeks and months that you were calling and texting and reaching out to him constantly, he had no reason to fear the thoughts of your absence. This man genuinely felt that he no longer had to put forth effort to maintain your attention because you were not ever going to move on from him. His recent goal has been to say or do just enough, the BARE MINIMUM, to convince you to stay put… and for the most part, you have.
So — NO, you should not take him seriously at this point, for it is merely his ego that he is protecting, and NOT your heart or your desire to exist in a committed relationship alongside him.
There is something very attractive and quite appealing about a guy who carries a little extra bulk in his upper body — obviously heavy below the waist as well. He’s not huge and blubbery or obese with triple chins and gigantic thighs that rub together when he walks. However, he may have chipmunk cheeks, a few extra flabs on the sides and a nice, rounded belly. His meaty physique matches his semi masculine bravado. He walks with dominant force and commands the attention of his lovers. The oak moss notes and herbaceous blends of his various colognes linger in your clothes hours after one of his teddy bear hugs. And while he is fully aware of the fact that his physical form is chunkier than some other men in your life, he doesn’t stress himself about dieting or working out religiously to fit the social mold. He’s proud to be a formidable, card-carrying member of #TeamThick.
He is considered to be chubby, but strong. His strength comes in the form of his ability to be comfortable with the extra skin he is in. He isn’t embarrassed about his weight and therefore exudes a confidence that contributes greatly to #TeamThick’s sex appeal. People are drawn to his self-assured personality, for it’s his optimism that encourages his friends, associates and dates to live a fuller life. Contrary to popular belief, thicker dudes are often happier and more confident in themselves than their svelte and more muscular counterparts. They aren’t overly concerned about maintaining chiseled pecs and hard biceps in order to garner public acceptance. As a result, the upbeat, positive energy that these men exude day to day seems to attract the attention of those who are looking for “more to love”. Being slightly overweight in this day and time no longer classifies an individual as being unwanted or undesirable.
More people are actually beginning to seek thicker men as potential boyfriends,
and here are FIVE reasons why…
THICK MEN LAST LONGER IN BED – Recent scientific studies have proven that overweight men who have plump tummies also maintain a female sex hormone that floats through their bodies called, Estradiol. The hormone actually works to slow down the process of reaching an orgasm. This means that when thick men are engaging in sexual intercourse, they are able to perform longer than slimmer men without reaching their climax as quickly. If your sex drive allows you to go non-stop rounds in the bedroom, your thick man will more than likely be able to keep up with you. However, you may simply need to climb on top midway through so he isn’t doing all of the HARD work. (pun intended)
MORE UNDERSTANDING & ACCEPTING – Dating a chubby or heavier man can work wonders for your self-esteem. Most often, a guy who has battled with his own weight and body issues isn’t going to criticize you or the other people around him for gaining a few extra pounds. Thick men aren’t necessarily monitoring your food portions or calorie intake if they aren’t measuring their own. You can feel free to eat your entire meal while out at dinner and then raid the cabinets for goodies and snacks while the two of you are lounging around the house after your night out. He is never going to question your cravings or make you feel bad for filling out in certain areas.
MENTALLY HEALTHIER & HAPPIER THAN MANY – While it is certainly true that bigger people suffer from bouts of sadness, insecurities or depression as it pertains to their physical body, a lot of thick men are rather confident in whom they are as a whole. Thicker men aren’t necessarily spending their days judging themselves or others for shallow reasons. They’ve more than likely experienced periods in life of being the one who was victimized, teased or taunted for surface reasons. As a result, their sense of happiness stems from now focusing on the more organic elements that create their every day. These men are as active and on the go as their more toned friends or muscular associates. Thicker guys are simply happy to be in the presence of others who love them and enjoy spending time tasting the pleasures that life has to offer.
HE’S A CUSHION – Both physically and emotionally, a thick man will bring layers of comfort to your life. Not only does his soft body provide the best comfy, cuddle moments, but a thicker dude is willing to open his heart to romance and other relationship opportunities with less force. He realizes that he doesn’t have the ideal, gym body and he knows that you have looked beyond that fact to truly connect with him. As a result, your teddy bear wants nothing more than to make you feel as special and chosen as you have done for him.
UNDENIABLE SEX APPEAL – Quite simply, the draw of a thick man is his plump, protective, physical shield. He isn’t toned, but his body shape is typically that of a traditional, alpha-male. Being in his presence can make his dates and other romantic partners feel safe, guarded and free. Over the years, his sex appeal has developed from his ability to highlight his most positive and attractive features. Aside from his handsome face and somewhat silly personality, a thick man is often dressed well, groomed appropriately and always dashed in an alluring scent. He does exercise once in a while, travels when he can afford to and volunteers his time to coach a community football team or to work in his church kitchen on Sunday afternoons. He can be spontaneous, humorous, seductive and in charge of the life he lives.
To have a bulkier, chubbier man on your arm is to exist in the company of someone who is going to take care of your emotional and physical needs, first. He isn’t going to make you feel insecure about your body, your interests or your unyielding desire to make the relationship last. A physically heavier man will embrace your desire to have him all to yourself, as he is just as committed to keeping you in his life for the long haul. Your attraction to him as a person will make you second guess why you ran after the conventional, tatted, bearded, gym bunny types for so long. And while your friends may taunt or tease you for now being a “chubby chaser”, I guarantee that seeing your happiness will have them all standing in line to secure a man of their own from the sexy roster that comprises, #TeamThick.
People tend to enter into new, random relationships thinking they truly know the other individual if they’ve spent the night at the persons house six or seven times and happened to be sitting in the living room that one day the individuals mother stopped by to drop off a case of water. We get lost in the idea that we’ve officially met the family following a quick wave and pass through — therefore, securing our position as the new love interest. Realistically, a lot of teenagers, young adults and grown folks especially, prematurely enter into romantic situations hoping that a title and an update to their Facebook relationship status will cure their insecurities or loneliness. It seems that once some people establish a mutual attraction, they become all too willing to bypass the necessary process of learning who someone is beyond the first few table conversations that were had at TGIFridays. We fool ourselves into believing that if we’re able to sit on the phone with someone for five hours the first night of meeting and six hours the next, then somehow it’s destined that a strong bond will bloom. And while most people want to fall in love and build a life with someone special, three weeks may not be long enough to determine if your idea of “special” matches what this other person is willing or capable of offering.
There are SIX main reasons why people are willing to bypass the process of truly learning someone’s character and jumping head first into a new relationship…
BOREDOM & CONVENIENCE – Most people simply aren’t honest or clear about why they want a boyfriend in the first place. Too often, “having a boyfriend” in the minds of some, presents the opportunity to be driven to amusement parks, taken out to dinner and photographed in couple-pics that can be uploaded to social media. Relationships that are formed quickly and exist out-of-nowhere are sometimes used as a hobby. One or both individuals find that they have a lot of free, alone time to spare between their long days and lonelier nights. Adding a boyfriend or girlfriend into the daily routine is seen as a way to guarantee company during various personal and leisure tasks. If these two individuals know a lot of the same people or are already engaged in some of the same extra curricular activities, to them, it may really make sense to get together based solely upon their social connections.
There also exists this present day obsession with being deemed as the next online, “power couple’. Everyone wants their relationship to be visually seen and publicly hailed as the second coming of “Bey & Jay”. It simply becomes something cute-to-do for two people who photograph well alongside one another or who look good together on paper to conveniently slap that TITLE onto their misguided intentions.
RACING AGAINST THE CLOCK – As we continue to age, individuals begin to panic. People start examining their lives and personal accomplishments. Life begins to feel heavier and less eternal as we celebrate each birthday. Once people begin to hit their 30’s, the assumption that romantic love and a family unit aren’t going to happen, can become a frightening thought. These thoughts of, “everyone else has someone. why not me?” – can force an individual into attaching themselves to someone who under most circumstances, they’d never entertain. It’s a race to secure romantic love before our looks fade or we become less desirable to the same or opposite sex. After all, we are socially conditioned to believe that love after 30 is damn near impossible.
REBOUND – Individuals who find themselves most comfortable existing within the confines of a relationship aren’t usually willing to remain single long enough to give their hearts room to heal. Being single makes these types of people feel extremely lonely, insecure and afraid. In an effort to patch these empty feelings, attaching to anyone “half decent” and “cute” has become a routine. And especially for guys and young women who have never lived alone; having someone to lie with every night and to share their home with everyday becomes a safety net. It honestly doesn’t matter in some cases who the person is…as long as “somebody” is around.
FILLING A PARENTAL VOID – Some people prematurely enter into random relationships subconsciously in search of a mother or father figure. If an individual grew up in a household where the father was absent or the mother was always in the street, that person could potentially seek parental nurturing in their lovers. The lack of parental stability within the household where they were raised has left a void. In turn, these particular individuals look to others to play the role of the leadership figures they longed for as children. This is usually the saddest and most unfortunate reason why people latch onto relationships in their journey to cope with the world as adults. A lot of responsibility is placed on the lover, and it begins to create a major strain. A boyfriend cannot exist as a father figure and a girlfriend isn’t a mother. The relationship titles and duties aren’t interchangeable.
PEER PRESSURE & FAMILY INFLUENCE – Sometimes, we simply become overwhelmed by the constant questions from those closest to us regarding WHY we aren’t actively dating or involved with someone special. We get tired of being the only one to attend holiday dinners alone, or having to arrive to our company holiday party without a plus one. Even when the questions aren’t being thrown at us, it’s the constant feeling of being that ONE who is always “single”. We begin looking around at our friends, our cousins, god sisters, co-workers and siblings – thinking, DAMN! AM I REALLY THE ONLY ONE ON EARTH WHO ISN’T MARRIED OR AT LEAST ENGAGED?
And that pressure can definitely force people into searching for love and then settling for what comes the easiest and the quickest.
DESIRING INTIMACY & AFFECTION – Contrary to popular belief, everyone isn’t sleeping around with everyone. Some guys and girls truly can still count their sexual partners on one or two hands. In an effort to keep their body count low, you’ll find that certain folks get into relationships in order to feel that they’re engaging in sex with someone they know and feel comfortable with – if even on the surface. It makes some people feel better to be able to say that they’ve only had sex with the same person for the past few months to a year. Hopping fast into the new relationship then presents the opportunity for unlimited cuddles, kisses, hugs and booty without the guilt of sharing ones body with multiple partners.
Jumping into a relationship before truly knowing someone personally, learning them mentally and understanding who they are emotionally is truly a mistake. The first few weeks or month of the new relationship may be filled with passion and thrills. However, that level of excitement will only last for a short period of time – most often igniting the end of the quick pairing. It is very rare that these random, three-week, turnaround relationships survive the long haul. When the bond isn’t based on true love, the relationship has no real basis to exist or to survive.
As adults, we often find ourselves embarrassed to admit we are jealous of the fact that one of our closest friends is randomly spending increased time with someone whom we casually introduced them to. One of your associates doesn’t have plans one Friday evening after work, so you invite them to join you and one of your best friends for happy hour. The evening begins with a flow of tequila shots and rounds of half-off, cocktails from the bar. As the evening progresses, the three of you decide to check out one of the downtown clubs that is launching their seasonal, “First Friday’s” event. Since you are the one most familiar with the clubs location, you volunteer to drive. Your friend and associate leave their cars parked outside of the bar. The three of you arrive to the club, dance the night away and end up staying out together until two-thirty, early Saturday morning. You’ve had the least to drink, so you’re automatically elected as the sober driver amongst the group. Your friend and associate are sprawled across the backseat together, but not totally passed out. The two of them are laughing at one another, singing to the top of their lungs, yelling jibberish out of the back windows and simply enjoying the last moments of your night out together. You make the decision that your friend and associate are not sober enough to drive their own cars home. As a result, you hop on the highway that leads straight to your house. Later that Saturday morning, you’re preparing breakfast in the kitchen as your friend and associate are recovering from hangovers on the sofa and couch in your living room. The two of them are exchanging words and quick phrases with one another about the fun you all shared the night before. You overhear them asking one another about their jobs and relationship statuses – sort of the things that never came up in conversation at the bar or the nightclub. After breakfast, you drop both your friend and associate off at their cars. You casually mention that the three of you should definitely get together sometime soon for ROUND TWO of what was certainly a good time had by all. Your friend and associate agree. The three of you go your separate ways and don’t see or hear from one another for the remainder of the weekend.
SO YOU THINK…
On Monday morning, you log into your work computer at the start of the day. The first thing you do is check your social media pages simply to see if there are any new photos or status updates that have been posted by the people you’re closest to. The first picture you see posted at the top of your Facebook feed is a shot of your best friend and associate sitting at the bar the three of you attended on Friday night – the same bar you introduced them to for the first time. You realize that they’re both wearing different clothes than the outfits that they were wearing Friday night. Then, you look at the date and caption beneath the picture. It’s marked for Saturday night. Your best friend and associate went back to the bar together without texting or calling to invite you along. Immediately, you catch an attitude. In your mind you’re thinking, “when did they even exchange phone numbers?” – “why did my best friend above all people not ask me to come with them?” – “what the hell?! I’m the one who even told them about the new bar!”
When you ask your best friend why you weren’t invited to head back to the bar on Saturday night, your friend dismisses your inquiry by simply saying, “you know how you are. You wouldn’t have wanted to go drinking two nights in a row.” And in your mind, you know that your best friend is being honest and factual, but it still irritates you that you weren’t at least given the option to decline the offer. As the next few weeks pass by, you find yourself growing increasingly annoyed by the fact that the two individuals you casually introduced, are now regularly hanging out with one another, without you.
You find yourself beginning to remove yourself from associating with both your best friend and your associate. You intentionally avoid liking their status messages or photos on social media, and you refuse to reach out to either of them to invite yourself along on their now, weekly outings. The one or two times that the associate or best friend have asked you to join them, you’ve been too “in your feelings” to accept the offer. A part of you is jealous and bothered by their newfound friendship, but you’re also feeling embarrassed that their relationship is making you feel like the outcast. You have not expressed your resentment, hurt feelings or annoyance with either of them.
You should not be embarrassed. Your feelings are valid and quite normal. Often times, when our close friend begins hanging closely with someone new, it does tend to make us feel replaced. We begin to assume that the new bond is more important or more significant to our best friend than the relationship we’ve developed with them over years. We begin to wonder if our friend is having more fun with the new individual. Those thoughts then put us into a space of feeling insecure, questioning our worth and doubting the position we presently play alongside the friend we’ve known and loved since what feels like forever.
It is so important, however, to remember that real friendships FRAME our lives. The frame is rarely broken or replaced. However, within that frame, the picture is constantly changing. Sometimes, the picture requires a scene that illustrates your best friend sitting in the corner engrossed in family problems, relationship issues and financial debt. You may not be included in that particular scene right away because your friend is choosing to handle their personal issues alone. Another scene may require that your friend be painted in the center of the picture with a love interest sitting beside them. You are included in this scene, but positioned far off to the right of the portrait. You are positioned as being present, but only when called upon as needed. And in the scene where your friend is learning to explore the world outside of their comfort zone with you, the picture may be painted to include your friend standing outside, alongside a new individual who looks totally opposite from you.
It simply becomes necessary that you remind yourself that you are a part of the FRAME. The frame keeps the illustration solid and standing. Regardless of how the picture changes in your friend’s life, he or she will always need you and call upon you to help them keep the picture in place.
You do not have to always be a part of the scene or illustration in order for your presence and friendship to be known or embraced.
Dinner and a movie have been done since the beginning of time. Nothing says, I lack romance more than a last minute dash to TGIFridays and then taking your date to a crowded theater filled with other losers who couldn’t think of anything creative to do. And while opening a box of store bought chocolate may put a temporary smile on your partners face, there’s nothing unique about offering candy or flowers to the one you love on the day they are most expecting to receive them. Sure, the gesture is nice, but you never want to send the silent message that you’re too lazy to put forth real effort.
If you are lucky to spend Valentine’s Day with someone who truly cares about you, that individual is quietly hoping that you’ll invest thought into creating a special memory as opposed to simply making an expensive purchase. February fourteenth is designed for Cupid to shoot his arrow into a sea of hearts – igniting waves of desire, affection and renewed attraction between couples in love. While Valentine’s Day has easily turned into another commercial celebration of giving and spending, intimacy still reigns as the supreme gift. The best way to impress the one who means the most to your life is to create a moment where the two of you are truly enjoying each others company.
Start planning early. Avoid having to rummage through the retail aisles of cheesy, leftover, singing cards or sales bins filled with cheap teddy bears and those nasty candy hearts with the little “I Love You” messages carved at the center.
CREATE AN IN-HOME GETAWAY – Money may be tight right now and you cannot afford to take your Valentine on an expensive vacation. The two of you have been talking about getting on a plane and flying to some remote, tropical island for months. While it isn’t in the budget to getaway this winter, bring paradise into your living space. Instead of giving your Valentine a cliché’ Hallmark card, have a mock flight ticket sealed in an envelope and taped to the front door. Decorate your house or apartment with little palm trees, bamboo, a plastic children’s pool filled with sand, two beach chairs, a big, crafted sun hanging from the ceiling and maybe a stuffed parrot or two stashed in the corners of the room. Turn the bedroom into a luxury, hotel suite; complete with all white sheets, matching pillowcases, white towels and a room service menu. The room service menu should include all of the specialty food items and drinks that you’ve either prepared yourself or picked up from various cultural restaurants in your city. Do a mix of Caribbean, Jamaican or Hawaiian inspired dishes. Serve the drinks in real or plastic coconuts. The two of you can change into your bathing suits and sip your cocktails inside of the makeshift pool. Fill your bathtub with warm water and add a few drops of blue food coloring. Make the entire night feel like an escape from the mundane of your everyday lives.
GIVE A HARD COPY PHOTO ALBUM – In this day and time, all of the photos we take, copy or save are digital images. It’s very rare that we can actually place our hands on all of the pictures that we’ve taken over the years. Gather all of the special couple shots that the two of you have saved online or stashed in desktop folders and print them out. Create an album that displays the chronological order of your relationship – from the first time you both posed together for an iphone pic to the most recent capture taken on New Years Eve.
CREATE AN AT-HOME SPA NIGHT – Sometimes, our Valentine may feel that we only touch them or show physical affection during or immediately following sex. As a result, create a series of treatments that will allow you to physically come in contact with various parts of your Valentine’s body. Purchase an Aveda facial mask, body scrub, foot cream and massage oils. All Aveda products are natural and designed to not irritate or breakout sensitive skin types. Use this spa night to also groom your partner. If they have body hair in areas that you’ve desperately wanted them to get rid of, this presents the perfect opportunity to shave or Nair those crevices while your Valentine lays back and enjoys the pampering. Take your time. As you are applying the facial mask, body scrub or other massage oils, it’s important that each body part is receiving equal attention. Try to not solely focus on the “private” areas. Once you are done massaging your Valentine, cover them in clean, white towels that you’ve heated up in the dryer. Have white tea lights lit and placed in as many obvious places as possible. Simply allow them to relax.
MAKE DRINKS AND TASTE TEST – Getting tipsy with the love of your life can lead to all types of fun. The two of you can purchase different types of alcohol, fruit and flavorings. With two different blenders, each of you creates 2 or 3 specialty drinks. Write down the ingredients and give each of your cocktails a name that somehow pertains to your relationship – preferably a title that relates to something funny or secretive that only the both of you understand. Spend Valentine’s night sipping from one another’s cups. Get drunk and then, get naked.
PURCHASE A TWO HOUR LESSON IN SOMETHING OUT OF HIS OR HER COMFORT ZONE – One of the best ways to reignite the passion in a relationship is for one partner to introduce the other partner to something unfamiliar to them. Especially if you have experience in a certain task or activity, a two hour lesson will allow your partner to step foot into a world where you can be the guide. Search for locations where swim classes, ice-skating lessons, samba sessions for beginners or even basic painting instruction is being offered. Engage with your partner by assisting them with the steps that they may be having the most difficulty executing. And if professional lessons aren’t being offered in your area, simply secure a location and YOU act as the instructor.
SHOW THEM A POST CARD IMAGE IN PERSON – Most of the time, between the bustle of our days and the heaviness of our nights, we miss the beauty of nature that exists directly outside of our windows. We see gorgeous sunsets in pictures, but it’s rare that many of us experience them firsthand. Scope out a location where you and the love of your life can easily look at the stars, watch a sunrise, see birds flying, hear the ocean moving or witness the sky turning into a blanket of orange, pink and deep red clouds.
DO A HOME THEATER & WATCH OLD MOVIES – Instead of piling into an overcrowded AMC, turn your couch into plush, VIP seating. Replace the Valentine card with little, red, tear-off movie tickets. Purchase paper buckets from the grocery store or a Bed, Bath & Beyond. Fill the buckets with homemade popcorn. Buy tall paper cups, plastic tops and straws. Fill those with your Valentine’s favorite soda or fruit drink. Choose one or two movies that the both of you can enjoy. And for nostalgic sake, try to get your hands on the first movie the two of you ever went to see together during one of your initial dates. You’ll win points for remembering. If you really want to impress, try renting a projector that will allow you to play the movies on one of the white walls inside of your home.
CREATE A “DAY IN THE LIFE” GROUPON PACKAGE – Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, present your BAE with 7 to 10 Groupon’s that pertain directly to their likes, desires or something that works in their favor. For example, for $3.00, your Valentine can ask you to wash the breakfast dishes before 10:00am. For $2.00, your Valentine can request that you vacuum the inside of their car and take it to be washed before noon. For $1.50, your Valentine can have you rub their feet and massage their ears before 6:00pm. The catch, however, is that once the time you come up with expires for each groupon, the request or service is then null and void.
PLAN A SCAVENGER HUNT – Even if you do decide to purchase an expensive gift for your Valentine, make them search for it in a hidden place. Begin the scavenger hunt in the front seat of their car. Let each clue reflect a place, idea or thought that is especially pertinent to your relationship. Place the clues in red envelopes spread throughout the neighborhood or inside of the house. Put numbers on the front of each envelope so in case your Valentine stumbles ahead of the hunt, you’re able to keep them on path. The clues don’t have to be intricate, but a sentence or phrase that will make perfect sense once they read it; i.e. “that time I came home in the middle of the day and found you napping in the oddest of places” – then your Valentine would look underneath the dining room table for the next clue. LOL!
OFFER YOUR VALENTINE ONE NIGHT WITH THEIR CELEBRITY CRUSH – Physically transform yourself into the actor, actress, singer, athlete, reality star or performer that you know your Valentine is most attracted to. Recreate one of the signature looks of that superstar and even try to emulate the voice, and mannerisms that makes that celebrity so appealing on the surface. Once your Valentine is convinced of the switch, strip down and allow your Valentine to call you by that celebrities name in the bedroom. People often say, “if only I had 15 minutes with ___________!” Well, let your Valentine act out on you all of the fanciful things they would do if given that golden opportunity.
Valentine’s Day can be as fun and creative as we make it. There’s no need to follow the trends or fall into the cliché’ of giving candy, roses and cards. Show the one you love that you think enough about them and the relationship you two share to reach outside of the conventional box. Be original in your approach to sealing this Valentine’s as the day he or she will remember most at the end of this year.
dedicated to our untold stories and shared experiences.
It was November. The fabric of the fall season had sewn itself against the backdrop of Northeast, DC. Sharp winds streaked across my windowpane, blowing dead, crinkled leaves against the early morning air. I was stitched between the tattered comforts of my worn mattress and the dingy, white, twin size comforter that had held me for the past fifteen years. The walls shook between an echoing of metal, clapped against cup-shaped, cast metal. It was one hard, resounding hit after another. The church bell hung inside of the tower directly across the street from my second floor bedroom. It wakes me at 6am everyday. As the striker hits back and forth on the flared, thickened rim, the wind recites, ‘ding-dong-ding-dong’. A heavy banging swings into the softening horizon. Rays of purple and yellowish sun rise beneath the arch of the clouds. Orange squiggles of light begin to dart between the two beige sheets that my stepfather has draped along the plastic rods on my window. It’s another, dreadful Monday. I knew that everyone in school would be talking about homecoming weekend. My best friends would verbally lash me for skipping all of the festivities and events. The day would somehow feel like my burial. I’d need a miracle to simply get through it.
While lying flat on my back, I saw shadows of tree branches quilting patterns along the ceiling. My mother would say it was the lord’s way of blessing our home at the beginning of each day. When we were children, she told us that the shadows were God’s arms and every room would be protected. Growing up, my mother instructed me to say my prayers whenever the shadows began to tap the listening walls. Without moving, I silently recited the same prayer I had been sending since the seventh grade. “God, its me…Elijah. Please, make me like all of the other boys.”
I’m counting down six weeks, three days and eighteen hours before Christmas vacation. The date is marked on my calendar of famous writers; highlighted in the same month that features my hero, James Baldwin.
I peeked across the room to make sure that my older brother was still buried in his bed. There was a half hour left before the force of Jelani’s clock alarm would yank him from beneath the sheets. Thirty peaceful minutes gave me just enough time to do what I always do when I first wake in the morning. I turned onto my left side to face the wall; making sure that Jelani would only see my back if he were to get up early. Placing my right hand on top of the blanket, I quietly slid Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’ novel from inside of my pillowcase. It was the only copy stocked in our school library. A peering glow from the sunrise provided just enough light for me to travel between the lines of Baldwin’s infamous tales. His words made me think of a far-off day when I wouldn’t have to bow my head beneath the clouds. There would be no shame. No threats of having sin beat from my body. No one to forgive me for being black, feminine and frail.
My unclean thoughts could somehow fill the daylight and swallow up darkness. A place that had no language of rights and wrongs. Where I longed to be. I was so captivated by how ‘Giovanni’s Room’ detailed the social and romantic relationships between men. I would lie here for a moment, waist deep in helpless desires. My loins began to stretch. I had no power over this longing to feel and experience nakedness. A freedom illustrated between these pages. Since starting high school three months ago, I’ve read all of James Baldwin’s essays. My English teacher only required that we journal our thoughts and other findings from ‘Notes Of A Native Son’. However, I’ve begun to lose myself in Baldwin’s entire collection of work. He and I both paint the world with words.
I do not like being the first in the bathroom every morning. The cold licks my hideous skin, spreading across the unsightly pimples that are forming on my cheeks and my chin. My bare feet chill into clenched numbness against the freezing tiles on the floor. Standing in the bathroom mirror also forces me to see everything I hate about my face. Maybe Monday wouldn’t be so bad-looking had I not skipped my haircut on Saturday. I intentionally missed my appointment over the weekend to avoid the awkward, barbershop conversations. It’s uncomfortable having to change the topic whenever my barber begins to ask about the football game I clearly didn’t watch and whether or not I have a girlfriend.
I half sat and half leaned on the sink while brushing my teeth. I missed my father. Though most of my childhood memories include him nodding on the stoop outside of our house, he was always the first awake and walking around downstairs in the mornings. Even though he often reeked of whisky, I was too young to realize that he was an alcoholic. Some nights, my mother would yell for Jelani to help her drag my father from the curb in front of the church. Since he was always sitting there when I arrived home from school, I guess I thought his job was to guard the building. Whether my father was sitting outside at night or slouched across the couch in the living room, I always felt protected when he was around. I remember that he would carry me on his shoulders as we walked to the corner store on Saturday afternoons. He always wore the same pair of burgundy corduroy pants and a mustard yellow T-shirt. If it were cold outside, he’d throw on this worn, black leather jacket that smelled like mothballs. I’d hold mother’s grocery list in my fist, while gripping steadily the sides of my father’s head. He always bought me a twenty-five cent pretzel stick from the plastic jar that sat beside the register. He’d pull me from his shoulders as soon as we walked through the front doors of the store. My father would sit me on top of the counter and hand me two quarters from his sock. I’d pay the man with one and shove the other in my shoe. For years, I watched my father pull his dollar bills from inside of his sneakers whenever he needed to pay for anything. I guess I figured that’s where I was supposed to save my money too.
We’d leave the corner store, and my father would carry the see through, plastic bags back to the house. He’d then have a tiny, paper bag stuffed inside of his leather jacket. When I asked him what he bought, he told me it was his medicine. I remember a time when the brown bag fell onto the kitchen floor as my father lowered me from his shoulders. Glass shattered and dark liquid began seeping through cracks in the tiles. My father insisted that he’d clean up the mess, but my mother still began to cry. It was the first time I ever heard my parents screaming at each other. My mother would only shout in church on Sundays. And my father only yelled the time he caught me playing with Janna’s Cabbage Patch Kid. He yanked it out of my hand and said, ‘only sissies play with dolls Elijah!’
‘Get out punk. I need to take a shit’, Jelani shouted in his abrasive tone of voice. Even though I wasn’t finished getting dressed, I’ve learned to not argue with my older brother first thing in the morning. My stepfather will only defend Jelani, and my mother will argue with my stepfather for taking sides. Standing up to Jelani ruins the start of everyone’s day. Instead, I gave myself one final glance in the mirror, grabbed my navy, paperboy hat from the sink and began to walk out of the bathroom. Jelani slammed the door as I stepped away, hitting me in the lower back with the brass knob. A stabbing pain shot down the inside of my left leg. Gripping the top of the bannister, I fought back tears. Anger combined with helpless fury welled up in me. I grabbed my navy pea coat and grey, wool scarf from my bed. On my way leaving out of the front door, my stepfather yelled from the dining room, ‘why your pants so damn tight, Elijah?!’ I stopped and looked at him, very quiet. My stepfather had hardness about him. He chiseled his way through life, grunting his dissatisfactions. He rarely spoke two words to me, unless it was to criticize the way I walked, who I hung around, or even how I dressed. I placed my paperboy hat on my head and replied, ‘my pants aren’t tight…they just fit.’ My stepfather swallowed a fork full of scrambled eggs and then said, ‘well, your brother doesn’t wear his pants like that.’ Silence falls again. Before I could respond to yet another one of Glen’s comparisons between Jelani and I, my mother began to walk towards me from the kitchen. She was a sanctified woman who did everything she could to make life easier for me. My mother had a Cinderella soul. She was carrying my lunch in a white, plastic, grocery bag and wearing her sweet, nurturing smile. My mother shouted, ‘have a glorious day at school Elijah!’ Glen let out a huge grunt as he fell back into his chair. My mother then handed my lunch to me and wrapped her arms around my body. This was her way of defending me against my stepfather’s verbal lashings. I faked a smile as I turned away from my mother and walked out of the house.
The leaves created a natural quilt pattern that layered the ground in various shades of red, yellow and green. Adam was waiting for me in front of the church. He stood on the main sidewalk directly across the street from my front door. When I reached the pavement, I paused and looked in Adam’s face. He had clear, dark brown skin. His face was angular and his slanted eyes set deep within their sockets. He and I stood 5’10, shoulder to shoulder. The brown pea coat that Adam was wearing blended with the canopy of trees that lined the walkway. Adam and I called one another brothers, as we practically grew up together. His mother moved the family to our neighborhood when we were both five years old. We’ve attended the same schools since Kindergarten.
I was still wearing my make pretend smile. ‘What’s wrong Elijah?’ Adam asked. Adam knows my moods, even when I’m silent. He and I got to be, for each other, what the other missed. Adam had two younger sisters and always wanted another boy around. I had Jelani, but hadn’t felt close to him since my father passed away. I continued smiling and responded, ‘everything man. It’s everything.’ I put my hand on Adam’s back and nudged him to walk down the street alongside me. I didn’t want my mother to see me upset, as I knew she was watching us from the front window. Adam and I began to make our way down Branch Avenue. I explained to Adam that it was becoming extremely difficult to ignore Jelani’s bullying. Combined with my stepfather’s nitpicking, I told Jelani that it felt as if I was living with vultures. They both seemed to circle around and close in on me at the worst of times. It was as if they could sense my spirit dying, but circled lower to eventually feed off of me. Adam was already familiar with Jelani and Glen’s preferred way of living. He had been at my house enough to witness their ignorance towards everything and everyone that didn’t fit their one-way mold. Me included. Adam put his hand on my shoulder as I told him that I couldn’t wait to graduate and move out of the house. He reminded me of our lifelong pact to travel far away from Washington, DC. Our plan is to room together as freshman at whatever college or university that grants us both full scholarships. Adam said, ‘but in order to get to that point Elijah, you have to somehow fix your mind to get from one day to the next.’ Adam and I were both fifteen, but he spoke about life as if he had lived once before. ‘You have to avoid thinking too far ahead. Face the day’, he declared.
As Adam and I approached the bus stop, a group of boys stood clustered around the corner storefront. Most of them were dressed in dark sweatshirts, jeans and Jordan sneakers of some kind. I recognized one of them. He comes over to the house often to play video games with Jelani. I don’t know his name, but I definitely remember the face. He squinted while staring at Adam and I place our book bags on the ground. I slightly tilted my head back and chin up, to greet him like I usually do. He tossed his fist in the air and tilted his head as well. Now, all of the boys were looking at me. There was a stitch of silence amongst the group of boys before one of them blasted from the background, ‘you know that faggot?’ The group erupted in laughter. They playfully beat each around the shoulders. I leaned towards Adam and whispered for him to not turn around to face the boys. Adam prided himself on defending me. He wasn’t afraid to fight and he didn’t care about getting hurt in the process. Before Adam could utter a single word, loud music roared behind us. As I then turned around, I saw Jelani parking my stepfather’s pickup truck in front of the store. Jelani and I made eye contact. He turned his gaze towards the driver side door as his friend approached the truck. ‘I think it’s really foul that your stepfather lets Jelani drive his truck and he never offers you a ride to school.’ I responded, ‘It’s cool. I wouldn’t have anything to talk to him about in the car, anyways. Id actually rather catch the bus with you.’
The beat of the morning was unsteady. A mutable rhythm seemed to pace throughout the room. My math teacher stood at the front chalkboard. She requested volunteers to assist with our test review. No one responded. Even though I knew the answers, it was a heavy feeling of embarrassment that kept my hands pinned beneath the desk. Constantly being told that I sound like a girl or speak too softly weighed down my desire to talk in class. I was the only ninth grader taking Algebra II Honors. Sitting in the back section of Mrs. Beechman’s room, I tried to bury myself behind the rows of upperclassmen. I slouched down in my seat while keeping my gaze lowered between the series of math equations in my textbook. Mrs. Beechman made a habit of calling on me whenever we would make eye contact. As long as she couldn’t see me, I figured I would avoid answering any questions in front of the entire class. The room was quiet. A slow tempo of warm air blew from the ceiling vent. Mrs. Beechman slammed her teaching guide on the front table and told the class to close our notebooks. ‘Fine! Clear your desks and take out a pencil!’ Mrs. Beechman shouted. ‘If no one needs the review, it must mean that you’re ready to be tested’, she continued. The room erupted in sighs. A gush of relief flowed through my body. A pop quiz meant that we would be instructed to work in silence.
I met up with Janna between classes. She walked down the hallway swinging that thick behind of hers. I swallowed my grape juice while Janna shouted the lyrics to some Kelis song. Her voice sounded like pistols. People stared at Janna. She would lock eyes with the other girls especially and give them that yes-bitch-I-know-I’m-cute look. Janna had a round face, penny size dimples, hazel eyes and perfectly white teeth. She was pretty and had already become the center of attention at school. The first floor was filled with maroon streamers, gold balloons, sparkly confetti and various championship banners hung from the ceiling. Our football team won the homecoming game over the weekend. The entire school was still hung over with excitement. I, however, felt as if I was being embalmed alive. My physical body was present inside of the school building, but I didn’t exist amongst my classmates. Janna and everyone else around me seemed to have found their place within the crowd. Janna’s big hair and beaming personality naturally made people want to gravitate towards her. Even the upperclassmen girls who were intimidated by her popularity, still waved when we walked by. ‘I know! Lets take a picture!’ Janna yelled, as we were walking towards the cafeteria. I told Janna that I didn’t want to take a picture, as I didn’t like what I was wearing. Janna stopped in the middle of the hallway, turned towards me and gave my outfit her classic, once-over. She pulled her crinkled hair away from her face, raised her left eyebrow and looked me up and down. ‘What are you talking about Elijah? You look handsome! Best dressed boy here.’ I had on a pair of dark denim jeans that were cuffed at the bottom, black utility boots, a white oxford shirt and the black suspenders that Adam bought me for my birthday the month before school started. I guess I was still reeling over the comments that my stepfather made about how tight my pants fit. I didn’t want to pose with Janna in the hallway; drawing added attention to my skinny legs. Janna handed her pink cell phone to her friend, Melissa. She then pinned me against one of the grey, metal lockers. Poking out her butt and pressing her breasts against my arm, Janna instructed Melissa to take a full body shot. Playfully, Janna snapped, ‘Elijah, you better smile BOY…or do something sexy. Don’t ruin my damn picture.’ The camera on Janna’s phone flashed twice. I tried to look comfortable while posing beside her.
Janna and I have been friends since the first grade. While Adam and our other classmates were playing kickball or tag on the playground, Janna and I would be digging to China near the steep hill. Our teachers in elementary school always paired Janna and I as partners for class field trips. She would split her ham, cheese and cracker Lunchables with me, and I would give her half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even when our seats would be placed apart from one another in the classroom, we’d still slide notes back and forth between the desks. Janna and I have just always been close. Whenever she meets new people, most of who happen to be other girls, she introduces them to me.
Now that Adam’s schedule has been changed, I felt awkward being the only guy sitting at a lunch table with Janna and her new girlfriends. They all talk to me, of course. However, I now wondered if everyone else in the cafeteria looked at me as being a sissy of some sort. At least when Adam would sit across from me at the end of the long, laminate table, it appeared as if we weren’t co-stars of ‘The Janna Show’. I was nervous about having to defend myself, again. Aside from Adam, guys in school never talk to me unless we are forced to work together on a science lab or other group project. The majority of my friends have always been females. I didn’t realize how different or weird it was until the boys in middle school began to tease me about it. Some of them would call me Elizabeth instead of Elijah. Janna would curse in response. She dared any of them to call me Elizabeth a second time, in her presence. She would pull her poofy hair into a thick bun and challenge anyone who made fun of me to also make fun of her. Janna has always been ready to defend me, especially if Adam wasn’t around.
From the corner of my eye, I could see Jelani standing against the floor to ceiling, cafeteria windows. His dark, masculine complexion and broad, vertical stance positioned him at the center of attention. He was posted up alongside three other juniors from the track team. I watched them with bitter eyes as they were laughing and pointing at the table of girls from my Creative Writing class. I hated the way Jelani treated other people, especially me. He doesn’t speak if he is walking with one of his friends. We at least played video games, watched television and walked to the store together when I was in the fifth and sixth grades. Now, I can’t even ask him for a ride home from school. Though my newspaper meetings end the same time as his track practices, he’ll say there isn’t enough room for me.
I’ve told him to stop pushing up on Janna. He makes repeated comments about her ass whenever he sees us walking together. His eyes always move over her body. Janna smiles and rolls her eyes at him, but I think it’s disgusting. It would seem that Jelani would look at Janna as his little sister or younger cousin.
As fourth period lunch ended, I could hear Jelani’s voice chanting above the cluster of other voices. ‘Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!’ belted from him as I walked beside Janna and her friends. The harmonized laughter from Jelani’s track teammates infuriated me. They were following behind us as the crowd dismissed from the cafeteria. I had never before expressed to Janna how irritated I was by Jelani’s advances towards her. I figured that she wouldn’t entertain his nonsense. Janna was a big flirt when she wanted to be. She dropped her purse on the floor and stopped in the middle of the doorway. She stuck out her tongue, rubbed her fingers through the back of her hair and started shaking her ass. Janna was wearing grey leggings that accentuated her full curves. Melissa laughed and started chanting in unison with Jelani’s clown posse. I darted ahead of them.
I loathed crossing the big, burgundy corridors that led to the gymnasium. This is the worst part of my day. An intolerable heaviness formed in the pit of my stomach as I slowly dragged my body down the long, dark, basement hallway. While captains chose the other, more athletic guys to join their teams, I was always the last pick. As beige, concrete walls frame my journey to PE, I can’t help but to want to skip class, again. I intentionally missed eighteen days out of forty-five during the last quarter. I also only changed into my gym uniform eleven of those eighteen days. Coach Miller gave me a sixty-five as a first quarter grade. Even though it’s considered passing, my mother was very disappointed. In the teacher’s comment section, Coach Miller reported, does not participate fully in class, attendance is unsatisfactory and does not present proper and appropriate class materials. Avoiding gym class in middle school was easy since I played the saxophone. Band was a year long, mandatory elective for all members. During the first week of this school year, I begged the ninth grade advisor to assign me any other class other than Physical Education.
Adam was already changed into his gym shorts by the time I entered the locker room. He was standing shirtless, bow-legged and barefoot, while shoving his jeans and boots into his book bag. Since the start of second quarter, Adam has been weight-training afterschool, three days each week. I could already see results in his upper body. Adam’s pecs were sitting at attention, his back looked wider and his arms were definitely thicker. Before we started high school in September, Adam and I spent the summer talking about putting on more pounds. We were supposed to start lifting weights together. I instead joined the school newspaper. As I sat down at the end of the wooden bench, Adam laughed and said, ‘I see that sixty-five got your ass in here this afternoon.’ ‘Barely’, I responded. Adam grabbed my neck with one hand and playfully pulled me backwards. He then leaned over me with his little smile and said, ‘well, you’ll enjoy these next few weeks of swimming bro.’ The heavy knot instantly grew larger inside of my stomach. I was going to have to stand barechested in front of my entire gym class. While swimming is one of the few sports that I excel in, I hated my puny body.
The white, drawstrings on my gym shorts were tied extremely tight. I would normally have my tee shirt tucked in to prevent my shorts from falling down. Standing half naked around the pool caused me to freak out! My heart was beating like a fist banging on a locked door. I could feel my fingers trembling. They were cold and clammy like fish scales. Adam stood directly beside me while Coach Miller called roll. As each of my classmates names were called, I couldn’t help but notice their bodies. I avoided making direct eye contact with any of them as I snuck quick glances of their torsos. I was still the skinniest amongst the group. This was the first time I was seeing the other guys in my gym class half dressed. While changing in the locker room first quarter, I always took my clothes off in one of the bathroom stalls to avoid moments like these. I couldn’t wait for Coach Miller to blow his whistle so I could jump in the water. I desperately wanted to hide.
Wringing wet and funky with chlorine, I dried off while facing the lockers. My towel was wrapped around my waist as I slid my shorts off. I was afraid to peel my gaze from the cement wall. The fear of being seen naked or someone else seeing me, see them naked kept my eyes mounted forward. While Adam was rinsing off in the showers, some of the other guys walked into the aisle to congratulate me for swimming the fastest laps. It was the first time I had ever heard my name spoken inside of the locker room.
The remainder of the day felt like that moment between reaching the top of a roller coaster ride and dropping 144 feet into the depths of unknown territory. I was now tall. For once, I finally felt like all of the other boys in school. It made me wonder if God had finally answered my prayers by making me normal. I walked down the center of the third floor hallway with a gigantic smile on my face. Janna stopped me as I was headed to Spanish class and asked why I was grinning so big. I told her that I swam the fastest lap speed during gym. She jumped, brushed her hands through my wet hair and then grabbed me tight around my upper arms. Janna then shouted, ‘my winner…you Elijah, are MY winner!’ People were slowing down in front of Janna and I to see why she was once again yelling to the top of her lungs. Her enormous personality had a way of crowding open spaces. This time, the stares didn’t make me feel awkward or uncomfortable. In my mind however, I questioned whether or not this day would mark the beginning of my happily-ever-after. Had the listening walls finally heard my silent cries?
It was now four o’clock. Mr. Gibson ran afterschool newspaper meetings the same way he taught our last period, English class. Everyone sat around a semi circle of wood finish desks to toss ideas back and forth. It forces the group to engage with one another directly, I suppose. Aside from Mr. Gibson, I was the only other black sitting amongst seats that were filled by white students. I didn’t mind, for I rather enjoyed being the ONE everyone turned to for advice when completing sensitive article assignments. Since the majority of the student body was black, I did often wonder why I was the only African American student on staff. Mr. Gibson suggested I sign up to write for the school paper in the beginning of the year. He was impressed with my first thesis paper and said he enjoyed my unique, writing style. I guess he has become the only teacher I relate to outside of school. He took me to a journalism workshop in Georgetown a few weeks after I officially joined the paper. Hanging out with Mr. Gibson on a Saturday made me look at him a little differently than I do the other administrators. He’s only twenty-five, so our conversations reminded me of how Jelani and I would possibly talk to one another if Jelani ever spoke to me at all. I remember during our first staff meeting, the Editor-In-Chief of the paper assumed I would be interested in doing the sports column. She probably thought that black boys in Washington, DC didn’t enjoy life beyond the basketball court. I initially accepted the position, for I didn’t realize that I had the option to turn it down. Having no idea how I would cover games that I never attended, I later expressed to Mr. Gibson that I felt more comfortable writing editorial pieces. He spoke to the Editor-in-Chief days later. Together, they obliged my request.
An early fall sunset illuminated the tips of the bright red oak trees that framed my ride home. It was now a quarter after five. As I sat in the rear corner seat of the transit bus, I thought about Adam. He had been teaching me to take precautions when traveling the city alone. Adam insisted that I sit in the back row whenever we weren’t together. He said the back row provided the best view to see everyone. Adam said to never place myself where someone I couldn’t see would be able to watch me. I directed my gaze outside to witness the city get darker between each bus stop. I somehow didn’t want to go straight home. My mind wandered as I thought about James Baldwin’s adventures in New York City; the ones I had repeatedly read about. I recounted in my head the stories about him meeting other writers and artists in Greenwich Village. As I imagined living somewhere like Manhattan or Harlem, I envisioned myself sitting outside of a tiny café. I’d sip coffee beneath a white, bistro umbrella and people-watch between writing journal entries.
My daydream was then interrupted by the acrid smell of smoke. I looked up to notice three guys sitting near me in the rear of the bus. They all looked familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place their faces. The thicker one of the group had taken up two seats on the opposite side of the back row. He was looking at me from the corner of his eye and moving his lips soundlessly. The visible wear and tear of his clothing made me think that he had just left his job at a warehouse or something. I saw the other two staring at me from their seats as well. They kept tapping one another on the knee and motioning their fingers towards me. The bus driver peeked at me through his long, rearview mirror before turning into my neighborhood. It was then I realized that the guys were a part of the group that hung out in front of the corner store.
My stop was coming up. I wanted to ring the bell, but the muscles in my arms were frozen in fear. The thought of these guys following me off the bus made me wish I had Janna or Adam sitting beside me. My first mind told me to remain seated and simply allow the bus to roll by Branch Avenue. I figured the boys were getting off there anyways to do whatever it is they do on the storefront at night. If I got off at the stop after Branch Avenue, I could easily take the alley behind the church. Id cut across the street in front of Adam’s house to get home. Jelani nor my stepfather would care if I made it home tonight or not. However, I knew that my mother would be heartbroken. It was the thought of seeing her smiling face at the receiving end of this Monday that forced me to get up. As my mind raced between the ideas of being ambushed by the group and my mother finding my mutilated body lying in the street, I began fidgeting with my house keys. For a moment, I felt silly even having these thoughts about three guys I didn’t know.
I fearfully lowered my gaze to stare at my shoes. Though my tiny fists probably wouldn’t inflict severe pain during a fight, I knew the front of my utility boots could. Lifting my right arm to pull the bell, I stood and began walking towards the back door of the bus.
The boy wearing the black thermal shirt and black puff coat turned his head towards me. He was sitting in the seat directly across from the back door. His wicked gaze traveled from my shoes, resting on my book bag and up to my face. I caught only a glimpse of his eyes before turning to face the outside. I shuddered as I could see the window reflection of all three boys standing up behind me. I held tightly to the silver pole that was parallel to the back exit sign. My house keys were now clenched in my right fist. The taller, light skin boy had a devious smirk wiped across his face. He kept looking back and forth between the heavyset boy and me. Neither of them seemed too threatening. However, the guy in all black appeared to be someone who could be capable of anything. I recognized him as the one who called me a faggot after I spoke to Jelani’s friend at the storefront.
The bus finally stopped on the corner of Branch Avenue and Hampstead Road. As the backdoor swung open, I felt a brisk wind blow against me. My body filled with panic as I walked down the exit stairs. My throat tightened for a brief moment. I tried slowly to breathe-in the air that was smacking against my face. The tingling of pins and needles in my toes made it difficult for me to walk. I knew once the bus driver pulled away there would be no one to protect me. ‘Where’s your little boyfriend?!’, the one in black shouted. I didn’t respond. The two other boys laughed while standing behind me. He continued, ‘you heard me FAGGOT.’ I turned to face the group of boys and said, ‘I’m not that.’
A high-pitched squeak from the brakes on the bus drowned out whatever the boy in black said next. His eyes were cold and empty as he jumped towards me. He grabbed the collar of my coat and viciously shoved me to the ground. When my face hit the concrete, I heard a familiar ringing sound in the distance. It was a torn, chilling metal, clapping against the evening skies. Curling my body into the same fetal position that I usually sleep in, I covered the back of my neck with both of my hands. The thick lining of my coat seemed to cushion the heavy blows from shoes kicking and stomping my body. It hurt then it didn’t hurt. As angry hits then streaked across my face, I could still hear the chime of church bells in the background. Sharp knuckles pierced my skin causing blood to gush from my nose. I laid nowhere. Shadows from tree branches framed around me. My body was being protected. I wanted to scream for my mother, but I knew she wouldn’t hear me above this Monday night storm. It had come. It was doing its damage and then it would hopefully be gone.
The clouds would no longer cover my scars as dusk turns to dawn. I stumbled across Hampstead Road with my torn book bag still strapped to my back. The three boys had darted into the darkness. My foolproof plan to pray away my differences had been outnumbered. I was coughing and crying beneath the streetlights that lined Branch Avenue. The air was foul with the smell of mothballs and whisky; the same scent that stayed in my clothes for weeks after my father would lower me from his shoulders. I felt his presence in the series of short steps that led me closer and closer towards my front door. The dollar bills I had shoved deep into my left sock after buying snacks at lunch were now soggy and sticking to the bottom of my foot. It was as if my father was taking this walk ahead of me. A barrier of protection from the intolerable world. He spoke a silent language in my ear this night. Over and beyond the thoughts of what I would tell my mother or how Janna and Adam would react, I heard my father saying, ‘Get home, Elijah.’ Blood trickled down the side of my face, but I somehow wasn’t in physical pain. Shame fell away from my heart, even knowing that Jelani and my stepfather would see my wounds. I felt no more threats of having to defend myself against their verbal lashings or the physical blows from strangers. There was no need to be forgiven for my being feminine, soft spoken and frail. I began thinking about what Adam said to me in the morning as we walked down this same street. And he was right. I had to face the trials and tribulations of each day in order to celebrate the triumphs of tomorrow. There was no majestic place I could travel to escape my way of living. No faint ability to blend into the crowd. No miracle. No miracle on Monday.