Tag Archives: Love

Ocean of Emotion

Ocean of Emotion

I don’t think Frank Ocean’s recent revelation about his first love is the ‘coming out’ story we’ve tried to make it.  I’ve maintained since the first time a woman’s love pulled at my own heartstrings, that sexuality is more fluid than fixed.

Frank Ocean’s is the first voice you hear on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch the Throne’ album.  He’s a rising star.  So when I read his tumblr post yesterday morning, I knew right away it would shake things up in the hip hop world.  Folks talked themselves in circles and worked themselves into a fury trying to define Ocean:  oh, so that n*gga gay now; he’s bi; he’s on the down low.  I don’t know if he is any of those things, but either way, I don’t think that was the point of the post.

Frank’s  “thank you’s” speaks to the complexity of human emotion.  His letter was a love story, not one of homosexual discovery.  That the object of Frank’s affection was a man isn’t inconsequential, I can admit that.  I understand how difficult it is socially and culturally for a young Black man in the hip hop world to admit feelings that his contemporaries would probably never admit to themselves, or find the courage to share with the world.  Frank took a tremendous leap to let a piece of his truth live.

The intimacy shared between Frank Ocean and his male friend is more layered than the one-dimensional identity public opinion is trying to force.  Frank’s letter offers a more interesting take on love, namely that it isn’t picky about social variables.  It doesn’t take race, religion, income, gender, or political affiliation into consideration when it settles in.  When it hits you, it hits you.  And there’s nothing you can really do about the feeling, or that you felt it.  Frank said it beautifully:  “By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.”  Yep, that’s how it goes.

The implications of same-sex attraction are always the hurdle.  But the attraction itself usually happens naturally.  And if you’ve never had one before, then your opinion lacks credibility on what it is, or what it feels like.  No one gets to decide for all of us what is and isn’t “natural.”  You just don’t.

Frank Ocean’s personal testimony is powerful because it’s so basic, and so common to the human experience.  Cats fall in love.  And for whatever reason, sometimes the cats they fall for can’t handle the pressure.  Frank’s story didn’t have to be activist to resonate.  It was a love story.  It was just a dude exposing his truth with personal freedom being the ultimate end.  That’s what makes the story all the more engrossing and courageous.

Frank’s letter and the reactions to it, also expose a few blind spots in our perceptions about sexuality and intimacy.  Attraction, in my experience, hasn’t been just about gender.  I accept that for most folks it is.  But sometimes gender is merely a variable, like good skin or pretty eyes.  Sometimes you fall for the person first, and his or her gender is an afterthought – a bridge you’ll cross when you come to it, if you ever have a need to.  Sometimes the love is all that matters.

Frank fell for a person who couldn’t fully reciprocate.  For Adam and Eve, or Adam and Steve, rejection is hard to take.  But four summers later, Frank had grown strong enough to share his secret and strong enough to move through it.  He’d grown strong enough to show, through his experience, that people are just people.  We have emotions and feel things we don’t expect.  But whether we expect them or understand them, doesn’t change the fact that they are.  They just are.

The ocean of emotion is vast.  If you find love out here – if you find someone who makes you feel genuine love and affection – you don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.   I’m grateful to Frank Ocean for being an ambassador of this idea.  I’m proud of him and I love him for his honesty and vulnerability.  In telling his story, he gives voice to many people who’ve experienced the same, but never had an ally.  Now they know.  People are just people, and we feel what we feel.  We just do.

 


Love

...or it should be.

They say it doesn’t anger or boast; it isn’t selfish or spiteful.

They say all human interaction is driven by one of two emotions – love or fear.

Today we celebrate the former.  Even if you happen not to have live-in-lovin pseudo-scheduled at your crib tonight, chances are someone loves you nonetheless.  Your friends do; your family does.  We can celebrate love how ever it presents itself, no? And we can be fortified by it no matter who gives it, right?

bell hooks said love is an act of will:  “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  Love is action, selfless action.  It takes work and commitment to interact with folks from a position of love, as the act of loving is often tested and challenged and stretched.  But if it’s real, then it’s resilient.  And, like a good spanx, love snaps back.

Just last weekend, I celebrated my birthday with a group of folks who, at one time or another (including now), couldn’t be gathered in the same room together.  But time and love heals.  And as a result, I was treated with the best rendition of the Black version of Happy Birthday I’ve ever heard.  Thank y’all for that.  🙂

I’m convinced that if you lead with love, you’ll get it back.  Treat each other right, and love one another.  Because, yeah, karma can be a bitch.  But she can also be the homie who shows up to your party with good liquor and barbecued brisket.  It all depends on where your heart’s at.


For Goodness’ Sake

I’m no stranger to cynicism about many aspects of life, and I don’t mind making light of matters folks consider sacred.  What keeps me from being completely jaded about living, however, is being conscious of and receptive to the notion of goodness.   For me, goodness is defined by selfless acts of kindness and decency, intentional efforts to renew the human element and re-create the human connection.

I firmly believe that no one has to do anything they’d rather not do.  Sure, life offers incentives for folks to make this choice or that choice, but altruism is never really a given.  You can’t rest comfortably at night assured that someone would help pull you up if you ever needed it.  You can hope, but there’s no guarantee.  I know people who make an active choice every day to not give one solitary fuck about their neighbor.  You’re lucky and/or blessed if said reality isn’t one to which you can relate.  Be grateful if you know more than one person who’ll answer your call in the wee hours of a random night.  Because you got yourself something special.

It is true that no man is an island, but that fact has never stopped one from believing he is the exception to the rule.  See Exhibit A below:

Tony Montana was a beast, wasn’t he!?

…And I suspect that not too deep down, many of us want to feel this grandiose just once in our lifetimes — living so large and so insulated that we buy allllll the way into our own hype.

But Tony was wrong, and his bellicose celebration of “me” ended badly, if you’ll recall.  It’s hard to navigate this minefield known as life without trusting, depending on, and loving another person.  People need people; we need each other.

Goodness acknowledges that fact — that we aren’t alone in this world.  It bridges disparate interests, personal problems, issues, and biases.  It allows me to see  you, to see the dignity in you, the light in you, the hope in you.  It allows us to connect.

One of my best friends is moving out of her home this week.  When she moved in six years ago, she found that the previous tenants had given her her first housewarming gift — a bottle of Stoli chillin in the fridge.  She plans to pay the gesture forward, leaving a bottle of something nice and a note to welcome in the new energy.  Hopefully, whoever takes her place will carry the torch of Morocco by engaging in reckless intellectual debauchery, and enjoying great times with great company.  Hopefully, whoever got next will continue the tradition, lengthening the chain of human connection one link and one bottle of liquor at time.

I flew to St. Louis last week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family who, I’m grateful to say, have also become my own.  On my first flight, there was a little boy, Liam, whose first birthday happened to be that day.  Because the family had to travel, his parents provided Rice Krispy treats for everyone on board, so that all of us could share in celebrating their son’s first year of life.

Liam ‘s parents didn’t know us, and we didn’t know him.  But we clapped and cheered for him nonetheless as he deplaned.  And he smiled for us.  At this early stage, Liam knows little about the difficulties of life, and that’s cool.  What’s cooler though, is that he now knows the feeling of collective goodwill.  Liam may be only 1, but even he got how good the spirit of human connection felt.

Goodness is about being selfless for a moment.  It doesn’t require that you give over every dime in your pocket, or every morsel in your fridge, or every second of your time.  Rather, it is reflected in the effort you make to remember someone’s name, or the details of your friends’ stories.  It is reflected in opening the door for someone, or sharing your umbrella in the rain, or looking a stranger in the eye and acknowledging her presence.  It’s reflected in calling your Granny regularly, despite your “busy” schedule.  And it’s reciprocal too —  the law of humanity, the universe, your God, your Creator — will see to it that the goodness you give also gets back to you.

As I’ve gotten older, the holidays have become less about gifts** and Black Friday sales (I don’t yet have little ones so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it).  I’ve grown to love the holiday season because this is the one time of year when folks seem to reflect on how good life can be.  You look around and you’re surrounded by people you love, and who love you for no other reason than the nurtured connection among you.  The concept of “family” gains new meaning and new significance because you’re blessed to have the one you were born with, and also, the one you chose.

While in St. Louis, the family got a visit from a Godmama that they hadn’t seen in two decades.  The air in the house was thick with anxiety and emotion, but whatever had caused the initial separation had no place in the reunion.   Misty eyes and warm smiles spoke life to everyone’s appreciation for the opportunity before them — to simply share with each other moments so special.  Although I was an outsider to this history, it was easy to get caught up by the goodness that brought an extended family back together.

In that spirit this holiday season, give a gift that lasts long after the “season of giving” is gone.  Give love, man.  Give respect, sincerity, and genuineness.  Give trust and honor.  Give happiness and joy, and make yourself available for them too.  Give you, man — the authentic you.  Do it for Christmas, and then do it everyday.

It might hurt you Scrooges a little at first, but it gets better as you get better.

…and if you’re really good, you might get to be bad.  In all the right ways.

**However:  Blair, if you’re listening, that Mercedes Benz G Class would be dope with a lil purple ribbon on it, and a fresh new pocket square in the glove compartment…  I’ll take it in black, please.  


Love on Top

When Beyonce Knowles revealed in the most spectacular way the news that she and Jay-Z were expecting a little one, reactions from the people were varied. Y’all can be mad funny actin sometimes…

In my house, there were smiles and squeals of joy for a happy couple. A happy, married, Black couple — a singer and a rapper, no less — who shared with the world news of the little life their love had created. Across the twittosphere, there was the snark and irreverence that we’ve come to expect. But also, there was glee and hosts of folks congratulating Bey and Jay, knowing full well that neither Bey nor Jay would ever even read their lil tweets o’love and congratulations. Those people didn’t care though. They seemed genuinely happy for these two. Genuinely happy for the seemingly solid relationship they’ve built and reinforced through creating life together.

Look how she looks at him. He's the only one she sees.

The “great reveal of 2011” was definitely a dope moment. In the beginning, I wondered why Beyonce The Silhouette Knowles would perform at the VMAs in all those clothes. Why wasn’t there more pyrotechnics and wind and more hair slinging? Why was she goin hard, but not nearly as hard as we’d come to expect from ol Bey?

Then she dropped the mic. And rubbed that belly, and it all made sense. And to top it off, there was the expression on her face.

This, my friends, is elation. You can’t take it away from her, and you can’t keep us from feeling it through the screen.

And there was Jay’s reaction, too.

Peep the salute.

This, my friends, is pride. Not braggadocio for a material thing whose luster will fade in time. This is Man acknowledging and affirming his Mrs., and their young’n.

As far as we know, Jay-Z and Beyonce have been together nearly 10 years, and married for 3. That’s married. Not engaged. Not something similar to marriage, but married. Wedding rings. Vows. “…forsaking all others” and shit. So there’s something to be said for that kind of longevity between two über-stars. Their star power individually is eleventybillion volts. Thus, sharing that kind of power could have spelled disaster early. But it didn’t. Because people who want to be together will eventually work it out, becoming a far more formidable force together, than they would be apart. Nothing’s perfect but its worth it…

I don’t usually get caught up in who’s marrying who, and who else is having Lil Wayne’s baby. But I admit to loving these two, and to loving watching their relationship flourish. They’ve been so private for so long, which probably is why they’ve been successful and seemingly happy as a celebrity couple. We don’t know everything, and we don’t need to know everything. We can share in their felicity, but we don’t have to live vicariously through them. For this reason, that they shared such an intimate gift so publicly felt like a *Jigga Salute* to fans, who have respected their space and rooted for them from afar.

Finally, let me disabuse this chauvinist assumption that Bey is now in the clear because she done landed herself a good, rich man. Lest you forget, like Shawn Carter, Beyonce Knowles is a brand. An enterprise. She was on her way before she began a relationship with Jay-Z, and her stock will likely continue to rise for as long as she does what she’s done to make good on her own name. See that?

She does what she’s done to make good on her name.

Beyonce is just about as self-made as her man. They are equally yoked. Even if there’s a hundred million dollar difference between them, she’s still in the hundred million dollar club. In other words, Jay may wear the pants, but she wears the pumps. It’s a perfect match. In fact, I don’t know that any other romantic situation is possible for these two. What single woman (I mean “single” woman as opposed to “harem” of women) could capture the attention and affections of a rapper mogul, but a femme mogul-in-the-making? Perhaps Kim Porter knows. Perhaps, but probably not.

Beyonce doesn’t “need” Jay-Z to take care of her; she doesn’t “need” any man to. She acquiesces because he captured her attention and affections too. Folks criticized “4” for being…I don’t know…I don’t know what folks expected it to be. What it sounds like to me, though, is a familiar Beyonce meme: celebration of womanhood. “Girls Run the World” sends a powerful message about the strength of femininity.

My persuasion can build a nation…

Boy you know you love it how we’re smart enough to make these millions/strong enough to bear the children/then get back to business.

I love that.

But “4” also succeeds in celebrating grown ass decisions about love and happiness. “I Care,” “1+1,” “I Miss You,” “Best Thing I Never Had,” and “Start Over” lead us lovingly into “Countdown,” “End of Time,” “Rather Die Young,” and finally, “Love on Top.” “4” definitely feels like Beyonce’s baby. And parts of it feel like a love letter to her husband. It really seems fitting that the only entity able to eclipse the Knowles-Carter shooting star would be the little fella or the little lady they created together. Talk about Love on Top.


How We Love

…is a song by Gretchen Parlato, introduced to me by the only person for whom I’d pass up an evening with Quentin Tarantino’s record and red wine collection.

How We Love is but one verse and one refrain.  If it speaks to you though — if it addresses how you love your Love, one verse and one refrain is all you need.

If it speaks to you.

When I was a kid, I usedta lie in bed at night listening to my walkman, hoping one day I’d know the kinda love that Boyz II Men and them usedta be singin about.  Back then, I liked the songs but I couldn’t tell you why.  They definitely made me feel a kind of way, but I wasn’t sure why or how or what about.  I remember hearing Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” and asking my mama if folks really sang about what they felt or if it was all made up, just something to record so the people might like it, and buy it.  I grew up concerned about whether or not the cats from 2 Live Crew really were like dogs in heat, freaks without warning?  Did they really prefer their ladies face down, and ass up?  I wondered:  what about her face, Uncle Luke?  What’s wrong with her face?

In all fairness, I can’t compare cats famous for “Me So Horny” with a tender songstress.  It’s condoms apples and oranges; it’s wrong.  It’s just wrong.

Today, many years removed from wishful thinking about love, what I can comfortably speak to is the redeeming, the spiritual, the fortifying power of love, and of love songs.  Unfortunately, much of what’s currently marketed to mainstream audiences has little to do with love.  Mainstream music created after the New Jack Swing era and the R&B roaring nineties is almost completely devoid of real feeling.  It processes virtually every emotion through the filter of sex.  In 2011, love equals sex after someone pays consistently for both the dinner and the movie; and tenderness is sex set to the soulful sounds of your dopest Trey Songz mix.   Y’all be makin love faces nshit.  Good ol love faces.  That’s tenderness, right?

I roll my eyes at so-called Songz, but I get it.  I get what y’all get out of it.  I need more though.  I need a girl with a voice like Gretchen Parlato’s.  To sing the single verse and the single refrain.  Because I feel that she felt “slowing down creates such a beautiful melody/sounds up in the sky all realize/that you and I will go on and on/and on and on/and on…and oh how you love me/oh how we love.”  Yes, yes.  We will go on and on.  I feel it too, girl.  I don’t just get it.  You see the difference?

Listen:

Most of what speaks to me is old.  Like 60s, 70s, and 80s old.  Because them hairy chested, big bearded cats like Teddy Pendergrass and The Whispers understood love (which also could have been substituted for sex, but done so with much more class than these contemporary cats can muster).   And they sang it from the soul.  I don’t know if y’all know Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes like that, but you should.  “I Miss You” is so motherfucking soulful.

Listen:

you can look at my eyes and see/ that a great big man like me has been/cryin,cryin,cryin/cryin my soul and heart out to you…

Like, I miss her for him.

My folks listened to a lot of The Stylistics, The Spinners, The Whispers, and Heatwave.  I came to more diverse soul music a little later in life, largely thanks to @shutupandsing — the only person for whom I’d pass up an evening with Quentin Tarantino’s record and red wine collection.  Because I’m convinced hers is slightly mo’ betta than his.

Although I grew up sort of  ’round-about knowing Aretha Franklin, I was really introduced to the Queen of Soul around 4 years ago.  And I challenge you, too, to not feel this.  2:51-3:30, specifically.

Listen:

And if you don’t feel it, you are in fact soul-less.  Some people just are.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Or maybe it is.  No judgement.  But probably, there’s judgement.

One day during one of those sessions where there’s music and smoke and cold, cold wine, I wished to redo 1974-1978.  I wished to be part of one of those basement parties with the blue lights, where brothas and sistas rocked big ass afros, or sistas worked a feathered Farrah Fawcett better than Farrah herself did.  Indeed, one of them joints where Black 80s babies were likely conceived.  I imagine Soul and afro sheen to be the most salacious of aphrodisiacs during that era.  And in all seriousness, how were you not givin it up whilst slow winding in the almost-dark as Cameo’s “Sparkle” spins?

Listen for yourself:

I get particularly amorous around 2:12, and it only gets better from there.  The brotha sings, “you make me wanna love you.”  Yaaaaaaas…

I think what I hate most about contemporary music is the way it dismisses love, or dilutes it to get to the sex.  You’re right, love is not a necessary component of sex, but love is intimacy.  It’s those moments when time is defined succinctly as either sun-up or sun-down, because the minutiae of minutes, seconds, and hours are trite compared to what goes down between them.  Without question, intimacy makes sex so much more than “love” faces.  It makes music so much more than verses and choruses, and life much more than “day in and day out.”  Intimacy gets all up in your shit.  It’s when head and heart unzip breeches and unclasp brassieres, and feels nothing like regret the morning after.

I love love, and I love love songs.  I’ve tried to give you a lil taste here.  But there’s one song in particular that has always risen a bit above the rest.  Its lyrics are outrageous, as are the cats’ mustaches, but the sentiment is fucking perfection.  The song is “Say Yes” by the Whispers.  My parents LOVED this song, and so do I.  Listen closely for the following lyrics:

  • I wanna soak into you like rain/make love until my energy drains/and as lust erases all shame/you’ll scream my name/out of pleasure not pain/if you just say yes

AS LUST ERASES ALL SHAME!!

  • …ooh like raindrops on a flower/come bathe in my love shower/then let me blow/your body dry/kiss the tears from your sexy eyes…

LET ME BLOW YOUR BODY DRY?!  Say word.  Blow it dry??

  • I wanna build/you a dream home/made of love not just wood and stone/give you the deed to all that I own/give you love beyond limit/give you babies in our image…

Give you the deed to all. that.  I.  own.

Listen:

Now, if any regular somebody carried on like this, I’d be mad skeptical.  We don’t love this way, nor do we talk about love this way anymore.  But we should.  We definitely should.

As an epilogue to this great literary work, please find LTD below.  And simply let it play.

You’re welcome.

With love,

M.A.G.


In a Sentimental Mood

...come on and go with me. come on over to my place.

I’m lovin expressions of love.  Not so fond of those grocery store red roses in cellophane wrapping, and the shitty chocolates that most cats will buy their ladies today.  But I do love the sentiment behind it — the “thought that counts.”  Of course, what you do on Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be limited to Valentine’s Day, but that’s a lesson for another day.  Because even if you aint shit the other 364 days of the year, Valentine’s Day is your yearly reminder of how to be a decent significant other to somebody.

Be grateful for the forgiving and gracious nature of the feminine species.  Because even if you select from the Valentine’s options at CVS, she’ll still appreciate it.  Of course, you can do better, but at least you did something.  And that probably carries enough weight to get you a good kiss, a lil bit of tongue, and a few brushes up against her booty.  However. Aim higher and you just might be in for a long night, and breakfast in the morning.  A little bit of effort can yield glorious benefits.

Because I’m a giver and shit, I’ll share a few tips for setting the stage for a sexy evening.

  • Buy flowers.  Or pick em’.  But do have them and ensure that they are gorgeous and fresh and free of filler — toss that baby’s breath shit and the extra greenery.  Choose an exceptional flower and you won’t need the extra distractions.
  • Be creative.  I think cats wrap themselves in I aint got no money, or me and my girl don’t need no gifts bullshit because they still don’t get that it’s never really about the gift, or the coins you spent on it.  A unique expression of your affection may not cost you much more than time.  And you can give that.  —  Don’t be no fool though, Tiffany’s will go a hell of a lot farther for you than a homemade card.
  • Respect the element of surprise.  There’s no substitute for opening the front door to a room filled with candlelight and rose petals, and the right song.  Except maybe if it’s the bathroom door, and the tub’s overflowing with bubbles.  Yeah, make that happen.
  • The “mix tape.”  Fuck whatcha heard about romance being corny and/or dead.  It works. Sifting through your life’s soundtrack, plucking out the song that best describes that dope ass feeling you felt that time with that person requires a certain level of engagement and attention.  And she loves that.  Trust me, she loves that.  Besides, the music and that memory will last well after the chocolates are stale and the flowers have died.  And that stuffed animal is more or less in the way of your real, adult life.
  • “Turn off all the lights, and light some candles instead.”

I feel like every blog worth its arrogance has a Love Song List as its rite of passage.  In keeping with tradition, here’s my offering.  You’re welcome, mufukkas.

1.  Garden of Love – Raheem DeVaughn

2.  Adore – Prince

3.  Sparkle – Cameo

4.  I Wanna Be Closer – Switch

5.  Superhero – Esthero

6.  Hey Now – Carl Thomas

7.  Easy Conversation – Jill Scott

8.  Love TKO – Teddy Pendergrass

9.   Send It On – D’Angelo

10. Submerge- Maxwell

11. You Move Me – Cassandra Wilson

12. Closer – Slum Village

13.  Reasons – Faith Evans

14.  Lay Your Head on My Pillow – Tony! Toni! Tone!

15.  The Look of Love – Isaac Hayes

*Feel free to edit accordingly, but do apply liberally.*

Happy Valentine’s Day, yall!


It’s My Motherfucking Birthday.

Older, better, wiser.

At 1:26p.m., I officially turned 30. It feels good, real good. Jacques bought me a drink. Dry, with a twist. Jacqueline made it expertly, so I only needed one. My Facebook page has been nonstop with the selfless goodwill of people who didn’t have to care to say “happy birthday”, but did. My heart is full. With happiness and gratitude and love. I honestly don’t want for anything more.

I’m not in any way afraid of “after 30”. And I don’t believe it’s all down hill from here. On the contrary, this is like the youth stage of fine wine. This is the launch pad; It only gets better from here, baby.

I feel like the “getting to know me” work of my 20s paid off. I feel like going forward, it’s about refining and refining and refining to make an elegant, one-of-a-kind piece. Today feels like the first day of that.  Only on a grander scale — a “no ceilings” kinda life. No boundaries, no “you can’t, you couldn’t, you probably shouldn’t.”

I’m usually a, “no,no. You go ahead” kind of person. I’m learning that it’s ok though to take a “fuck you, it’s my turn” approach from time to time. And so I look at what happens after the pomp and circumstance of today’s occasion, and I can’t help feeling like, in general, it’s my turn. Get out my way; greatness is motherfucking afoot.

And she turned 30 today. At 1:26 p.m.

In the spirit of Aquarius, I wish a very Happy Birthday to the fine folks who share this special day with me.

Y’all be good, now. You know how we do.