I want to make this quick because know that I give B. and HOV a whole lotta grief. I want it to be clear that I am equally able to give the duo a whole lotta lovin, too. In the last hip-hop concert I attended, Jay-Z landed at Louisville Gardens where the predicable lot of players, pimps, prissies and punks all showed up in their Sunday best to come bounce and hop to the beats. Moreover, the last drag show I performed was to Beyoncé’s ‘Suga Mamma’. While I find B.’s lyrics wholly problematic- the eventual topic of this Valentine Day’s rant- I can not resist the unbridled energy she brings to her entertainment, which gets me real bodied each and every time. Sit back and watch as I drop to my knees, arch my back and shake it like an alley cat!
“Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable”
One of the greatest criticism Gen-X folk have of video-game kids these days is their shortened attention span. An evening spent with a house full of college seniors during a recent visit to my alma mater reminded me of my age. Two of the four roomies competed on their large flat screen with the latest competing video game formats. Indeed, I am so lame that I cannot even remember the names of the two boxes with which I gave it a good ole college try, boxing and batting in front of a screen with some random wireless apparati. E-mail had just come into widespread play my senior year at the same school, yet here I stood dumbed by the access to technology that these kids enjoyed today. Yet on the same evening, an elder alum- a true gen-Xer, abruptly removed himself from the fun and games, muttering something about how these guys couldn’t pay attention long enough to have even a decent conversation.
‘You must not know ‘bout me/I could have another you in a minute/Matter of fact he’ll be here in a minute, baby’
Happy Valentine’s Day, B. Hopefully HOVA has managed to stuff your mouth with another diamond, like in the video ‘Upgrade You’. Upgrade? Indeed, B. said: Audemars Piguet watch/Dimples in ya necktie/Hermes briefcase/Cartier top clips/Silk lined blazers/Diamond creamed facials/VVS cuff links/six star pent suites.” There is an apparent ignorance in offering free advertisement to designer brands that do little more for her than feed spiritual emptiness, because one will never be satiated with these possessions. My criticism mirrors LL Cool J’s: “That seems to be enough to satisfy your needs, but there’s a deeper level; if you would follow, I’ll lead.” Beyoncé, Kelly Michelle, Fantasia, Rhianna and all those R&B, hip-hop chicks can’t get to any deeper level from the soldiers they beg for from hood boys in “wife beaters and jeans.” Has it ever occurred to these women why we use the term ‘wife beater’, or has the video-game generation stamped its ok on domestic abuse?
Behind L.L.’s smooth rap, in soft voices the R&B group Boyz to Men croon ‘This is more than a crush’. Together these brothers talk about fantasies, revealing a vulnerability unknown in this day and age of DMX thugs, Rick Ross Hustlers, and 50 Cent P.I.M.P.’s. These brothers don what radical feminist writer/professor bell hooks calls the ‘hard pose’. And it’s not that I believe that these brothers are incapable of feeling and expressing care. Yet, there is a clear conspiracy around regressive gender roles, where at best roles are reverse, and power is never challenged. In the Beyoncé Experience concert, she appears on stage in a sultry pose, smoking a cigarette and whispers: “Damn, that was so good, I wanna buy him a short set” What’s this? Oh, I love you baby, so let me buy you something. Is B. the new James Brown? Macking niggas and pimpin’ hoes!
A visiting artist in residence at my college once said that when she was a little girl, she saw a nasty word spray-painted on the wall of some uncared for public space in her neighborhood. She understood that the word was nasty when all of the grown folks made clear to her that she was never to say the word aloud because it was dirty, as were the people associated with it. As she grew, and learned more about ‘those’ folks and even more nasty words, she noticed an intrinsic link between that initial dirty word, and money. She saw that the compromises people would make for this dirty word were only paralleled by what folks would do for money. Even worse was what they would do for both, which was often tied to either giving or depriving someone of one or the other. However, the word was so dirty, like Voldemort that one only need insinuate its presence and someone would attempt to harness and control it. By the time she grew up, she only knew this nasty word to describe what she had between her legs, and the feeling she’d get when letting someone have some.
Pink chaddis from The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women
Saturday was St Valentine’s Day. In the recent past, conservative, ‘hard line’ Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists like the Sri Ram Sena here in India have advocated banning this holiday because ‘Love’ in their understanding, is sacrosanct with their understanding of religion, which apparently significantly less disparate than most believers profess. Leader Pramod Mutalik even said that Indian women have should not even go to bars. In Mangalore in January 2009, Sri Ram Sena fundamentalists chased down and beat women visiting a local pub simply for being there. Two years ago in Kahmir, a group of veiled women mobbed local shops, confiscated and burned alleged Valentine’s Day cards and trinkets. The adhoc vigilante group was lead by Asiya Andrabi who proudly boasted: “These Western gimmicks are corrupting our kids and taking them away from their roots.” Today blokes like Pramod Mutalik are receiving gifts of pink underwear to from activists ready to match their avid cynicism.
We live in a world were the love ethic is under attack from all sides, not lest of which is its commercialization and commodification, or even distillation down to the romanticized romantic view. Indeed, the significance of today is so convoluted that one can see how it would be easier to just buy something and be done with it.
My man and I are entering our seventh year, and there’s no itch. There is plenty of passion, understanding, and giving—all the sites of care seem to be covered. Care is all about expectations. Negotiating our expectations has been the name of the game, and therefore dialogue has allowed us to make it this far. For B. and much of the video game generation, lyrics like “I can have another you by tomorrow”, replace actual attempts at the necessary concerted patience and dialogue needed to sustain any relationship. Without the basic understanding that our relationship is irreplaceable, I can only suppose that we would have settled for purple labels, Hermès and Cartier fashion statements in lace of affection. I would be quite disenfranchised in this relationship. Yet, as Beyoncé points out elsewhere, ‘a little sweat never hurt nobody,” Indeed, “I ain’t worried doing me,” because the love that our patience is allowed to cultivate is worth more than all the cocoa and precious metals that Switzerland stole and coerces from the Gold Coast still today.
I am content that I stuck around even through the disagreements and sometimes all out fights. It’s fortunate, I suppose, that I am dissatisfied with the instant gratification like “that rock on ya finger is like a tumor/You can’t fit ya hand in ya new purse.” Tobacco offers a similar instant gratification and causes equally dangerous forms of cancer—tumors as large as fists! I saw one tumor so large that it would not even fit in a Birkin bag.
On this and past Valentine’s Days, I am sending sweet love to my first and truest Sweetheart, Ms. Alice. Since I can remember, she has brought me a box of chocolates, hugs and kisses. And my Granny never expected anything in return. Sometimes she would sit and watch as I ate the whole box all by myself, not even taking one for herself. In elementary school, we traded tiny cards and small chalky heart-shaped candies with cupid messages. Years later, Bex, another sweetheart and dear friend from college, continues to send me these tiny cards with cute brown smiling faces. Inside she inscribes a note to remind me that time and distance have not wrecked our bond. My Sweethearts’ consistency and sustainability have me all in a tussle. I am loved and much is expected of those in this predicament. There are no excuses for acting unloved, satiated with material possession. Neither of these sweethearts “ever for a second get to thinkin’” that my ambitions begin or end with pussy and money. Happy Valentine’s B., I hope your man bought you something you like.
// Notes from the Road
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