I’m that black girl who can’t dance. Don’t look at me with that shock and disappointment in your eyes. And I hate to say it’s universal disappointment – like, every group of humans on this planet feels deflated by the fact that I cannot booty pop or drop it like it’s hot to save my life. I’ve already had 2 white people admit to me this year that they thought I would be able to dance because I’m black. I appreciated their honesty, but I had to let them down gently with a demonstrative two step. You know, that Grandma shuffle – kind of like an arthritic cha cha slide. That is what I do. You’re never going to see me on Britain’s got talent as part of some multi cultural hip hop break dance collective. Ever. There will be no dancing at my wedding unless I marry a Nigerian and have a money dance because frankly, I will unashamedly and awkwardly shake till I drop for some extra cash. (I mean that in the most benign and un-gutterish way folks.)
Somewhere deep inside of me, I know there is a Shaniqua fighting to get out – she can twerk, she can do migraine skanks, diabetes jives, or whatever new dance move they’ve managed to concoct in Peckham. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately actually) my Christian upbringing and attending a majority white private primary school have suppressed Shaniqua right down to the depths of my body so that she lurks just behind my right kidney, and she ain’t never coming out. Nope, never. Well, not in public at least.
So I don’t go clubbing and if I end up at a house party it’s definitely accidental, so I’ve kind of managed to keep my lack of coordination on the down low. Unfortunately sometime around 2010, some dreg of humanity decided to invent this phenomenon called Zumba. Why oh why, I will never know. It has left my dysfunctional limbs naked and bare, exposed for all to see, leaving a pile of disbelief and mockery in it’s wake.
My first, and only experience of this devilment they call Zumba was on a university placement in Yeovil. For those of you who don’t know where Yeovil is, I congratulate you – may you continue to avoid that town for the rest of your life. Amen. If by some unfortunate turn of fate or trial sent to test you, you end up living there, do NOT go to Zumba at the local gym unless you are one of Beyonce’s backing dancers. I arrived at the class, innocent and unsuspecting bait only to be devoured by a barrage of impossibly difficult dance moves that involved me wiggling both my thighs, gyrating my rear end, and waving my arms around like some kind of air traffic controller on speed, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. All this with fairly inappropriate bashment music in the background. There I was, looking like some kind of stiff Backstreet Boys extra with Sean Paul in the background mocking me – “Shake dat ting gyal, unnu betta shake dat ting..”. And I don’t know how to shake my ‘ting’. It was just a travesty of existence. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so uncomfortable. Which double tripled my resolve to never go clubbing – the thought of a crowd of people all doing zumba like things in the dark and strange men possibly attempting to touch me absolutely petrifies me.
More recently, my friend invited me to go to ‘Cubatone’ with her. “Ha, I thought – you can’t fool me Zumba demon. I know Cubatone is just another word for Zumba – you can change the name, but under the fancy terminology is just another hour of embarrassment and mental strain as I try and learn the latest complex thigh gyration”. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.
I can sing though, and I used to be able to run really fast before everyone had their growth spurt in yr 8 and left my 5 ft 2 body searching for an air pocket on the tube instead of someone’s armpit. Those are the things that allow me to keep my black girl card. There are just some things people expect you to be able to do. How much must it suck to be that Chinese person who got a D in GCSE Maths? It must be super annoying when everyone expects you to be able to do complex equations when you’ve barely got past long division.
One of my favourite authors says “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Assuming I can dance makes one story the only story. You haven’t heard my story. Assuming a woman doesn’t like football makes one story the only story. Assuming that men are emotionless sex fiends makes one story the only story. Assuming that all fat people hate their bodies and want to lose weight makes one story the only story. There are so many stories we create for people instead of taking the time to listen to their story. I know I do it all the time….but I hate it when people do it to me. There isn’t some genetic predisposition to singing or dancing lurking somewhere inside of me, so take the time to get to know me and understand my story. I hope I can start being better at listening to other people’s.
Are you a fellow black girl who can’t dance? Let’s form a support group. Or an Asian who hates Math? Or a white person who runs super fast? What are some things people expect of you that you just don’t live up to?
Now this blog post probably isn’t going to be funny. I like to inject a little sarcastic humour into everyone’s lives, but this topic is sensitive and serious. Any writer that can make rape ‘lol’ humorous and not be handed a trophy for insensitive toilet specimen of the year, probably deserves a medal. In my opinion, the only people who are ‘allowed’ to make jokes about rape are people who have been raped. And I haven’t. So I have no humour credentials here folks.
The question is, when is sex actually rape?
Chris Brow hit the headlines once again, this time not as an abuser, but as the abused. Weird thing is, HE doesn’t seem to think he was abused.
The Guardian writes:
“He lost his virginity when he was eight years old, to a local girl who was 14 or 15. Seriously? “Yeah, really. Uh-huh.” He grins and chuckles. “It’s different in the country.” Brown grew up with a great gang of boy cousins, and they watched so much porn that he was raring to go. “By that point, we were already kind of like hot to trot, you know what I’m saying? Like, girls, we weren’t afraid to talk to them; I wasn’t afraid. So, at eight, being able to do it, it kind of preps you for the long run, so you can be a beast at it. You can be the best at it.”
Um. Yeh. So I am really disturbed that he finds this funny. Now, an article I read over at Clutch magazine about the same issue (see link below), basically insinuated that this episode is probably the root reason for Chris Brown’s obvious life issues. I’m not sure about that either. There are just so many unknowns in this case. And the law seems pretty murky on this issue as well. I’m no law expert, but from what I understand, and I’m sure one of you can correct me, statutory rape is different from other forms of rape. Statutory rape is when one of the participants is under the legal age of consent. In this case, both participants were under the legal age. There’s also something commonly known as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ laws, when both participants are teenagers. In this case, the age gap between Chris Brown and the 14 yr old is probably too big to be regarded in that light. Chris Brown seems fine with it, he indicates that it was consensual, and he doesn’t seem to believe that he has any lasting issues from the incident. Is it our place to tell him that it was rape and that he’s severely damaged if he seems to be dealing with it just fine? Modern psychology tells us that he must be messed up for sure, but modern psychology also tells us a lot of poopy things that make no sense whatsoever.
On the other hand, even though we don’t know the emotional and sexual maturity of the 14 yr old, I DO know what I was like when i was 14. Folks, 8 and 14 is a stonking massive big age gap . When I was 8 I knew what sex was functionally, but I definitely didn’t understand what sex was. When I was 14, I was still pretty naive about sex but I knew a truckload more than when I was 8. I never, ever, looked at an 8 year old boy when I was 14 and was sexually attracted to them. Probably not even an 11 year old boy. In fact, at 14, I think I pretty much was only attracted to teenage boys the same age as me, or J-Boog from B2K (don’t judge me). If my 14 year old daughter came home and told me she fancied one of the 8 year old lads from the local primary school, I think I would internally combust, and repeat over and over to myself “Oh my goodness. My child is a paedophile. What on earth am I going to do?”. I think most of us would be at least slightly disturbed by this, right? Right?!
I’m pretty certain that a 14 year old having sex with an 8 year old boy is rape. Why? because rape has everything to do with power and consent. An 8 year old boy in a Western society almost definitely does not have the emotional and mental resources to understand the ramifications of sexual intercourse, and therefore cannot consent to it. The 14 year old girl is in a position of significant power in comparison to the boy, both physically, sexually and emotionally.
What’s sad, is that our conversation around sexuality, rape and manhood has probably left many young men proud of experiences that may have significantly damaged them emotionally. Women are taught that their sexuality is something to be somewhat ashamed of – we’re supposed to be pure, virginal, and ‘give’ ourselves away to a deserving Prince Charming. Men are supposed to be virile hunters, amassing as many points on their sexual score table – almost like their sex lives are some sort of PSP game. Although the culture is changing – I don’t think being a virgin at my age is seen as ‘good’ anymore, probably slightly weird but possibly admirable – I definitely think if I was a man I would be subject to a lot more ridicule.
This needs to stop. Little boys need to be taught that their emotions are just as important and valuable as little girls, even if they choose to express them in a different way or not vocalise them as often. Fathers need to stop congratulating their sons on having as many girlfriends as they can, and sewing their wild oats. Real men are responsible. Real men are kind to their own hearts, and understand that just because they have different genitalia from women it doesn’t mean that the sexual act has no impact on them. But real men don’t just materialise, they are molded. It doesn’t always have to be from a father (although that is ideal), it can be from a mother who takes time out to talk to them, and who places positive male role models in their son’s lives. Or from the romantic relationships they enter with positive women who allow them the space to grow.Or even from life experiences. Most certainly from a relationship with God. So many men unfortunately, don’t have these opportunities to be molded, so they just make the best of what they’ve been given.
I feel sorry for Chris Brown, because I just don’t think it’s possible that he’s escaped from this experience completely mentally unscathed. But then again, I’m not Chris Brown – which is why this situation isn’t as clear cut as maybe we’d like it to be.
When is sex rape? And why are men so hesitant to admit that they’ve experienced dome kind of sexual abuse?
But she ain’t messin’ with no broke….you know the rest. One of my good friends, who shall remain nameless, is someone who appreciates the finer things in life. Her cat, a pedigree Russian breed of some sort, only eats turkey from Marks and Spencer’s. Well, apparently so – I’ve tried to explain to my friend that cats are like children. If you starve them, they will eventually will eat what they’re given, but she insists on pandering to his upper middle class cat palate.
They say that pets tend to mimic their owners, and my friend definitely doesn’t mince her words when it comes to her standards in a prospective partner. As far as she’s concerned, if you’re not earning 40K plus, you can bounce. Yup, hit the road Jack, and come back when you’ve dug yourself out your overdraft. As she explains, it’s not that you’re not a nice person- it’s that she’s aspirational, and wants to better herself, and if you’re stuck in a job that’s only giving you 40K, then clearly you and her aren’t compatible in terms of aspirations. She doesn’t need your money, she’s making her own – but she wants to be with someone who has the same ideals. Frankly,I don’t wholly disagree with her. No woman wants to be with a man who can only afford to buy Christmas presents from New Look at the age of 28. There’s only so much cheap polyester a women can take before she gets chronic eczema.
There’s been a push recently in the black community especially, to encourage professional black women to date the ‘blue collar brother’. Every film with Gabrielle Union (popular American black actress) has the same plot. It goes something like this:
Gabrielle (or insert other bougie black girl name), is a 29 year old corporate exec/lawyer/doctor/teacher/white collar professional, doomed to a life of perpetual singleness due to in part to her ridiculously high standards, and in part to the general shortage of eligible bachelors worldwide. She’s a daddy’s girl, went to the best schools, has supportive parents, a nice house of her own and a circle of friends/sisters/cousins who are continuously trying to get her to relax, let go and find a man.
Cue bad restaurant date with fellow corporate executive/lawyer/teacher who she finds out is secretly a husband/father/fraudster/two timing rat. As she sits on the side of the road weeping at this travesty of an evening (why is her car always missing in this scene?), along comes Tyrone. Tyrone is the local bus driver/handy man/ jack of all trades with a good heart, a gold tooth and no university degree. He dries her tears with his mechanic hanky and tells her she deserves love, even if love doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Gabrielle finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of love, infatuation, cheap dates, polyester dresses, conflict wit her own inner snobbery, alienation from some other bougie black people, encouragement from the black bougie people who aren’t snobs, and eventually ends up marrying Tyrone. They live happily ever after. The end.
So is it wrong to require a man do earn as much or more than you? And is the issue really money, or is it class? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the latter. I think most people need to be with someone who they feel they can relate to, and someone who can understand them. I wonder if my friend met someone who was a struggling author but was amazingly funny, treated her like a Queen, she would reject them in favour of Wiz Khalifa. I don’t think she would… Having said that, I’ve seen people who have professional jobs/middle class backgrounds marry people who have more traditionally working class jobs/backgrounds and it works out well for them. Love doesn’t have a price tag, or a particular accent or degree classification. Personally, I’m honestly not that bothered if a man earns less than me. If all goes well this year (please Jesus), I’m going to have a decent career. Now, doctors are NOT ballers, but we ain’t exactly broke either. To expect any man I dated to earn more than me would probably be a bit much. Having said that, I don’t think it’s wrong for my friend to have her 40K limit. Everyone has their standards. Some guys, won’t date women who they rate less than a 7 in terms of attractiveness. Some won’t date a woman that can’t cook. I like geeky guys – if you’re not well read, I’m probably not attracted to you. Nothing personal. If you have a degree but you’re not well read, I’m equally as uninterested, it just so happens that people who are well read usually (not always), have degrees.
Traditionally, women have always required men to be able to demonstrate that they can provide, which is why the courtship rituals we have still hint at men paying for dates, buying gifts etc. Times are changing, with women being more able to financially provide for themselves, but I still think many women want to be able to feel like the man COULD be the main breadwinner if he wanted to be, even if he doesn’t have to be.
On the flipside, I know men who have point blank told me they are uncomfortable with the idea that I’ll earn more than them and wouldn’t want a relationship where that was the case. Now to those men, I say your loss sucker *sticks out tongue*, but again, their frail and pathetic egos are perfectly entitled to their medieval standards :-). (Yes, I am particularly scornful of men like that). I’ve lived in a house where my Mum has a more high powered job than my Dad, and they don’t care. It doesn’t change the relationship – my Dad is secure enough in his manhood to support my Mum in whatever she does.
Men, would you date a women who told you that she wouldn’t be with you if you were earning under a particular wage? Would you date a woman who earns more than you? Women, would you date a man who earns less than you? Do you have a wage lower limit?
Peace guys x
I’ll never forget the day I went to one of my friend’s house for tea in primary school. It was a chilly September afternoon, perfect for forcing 8 year olds to play netball in the drizzling rain, with no jumpers to insulate them from practically sub-Artic temperatures. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure this was child abuse and a violation of my human rights. But moving on. Becky was the model pupil – conscientious, happy, rosy cheeked, brown hair cut in the standard bob. A generally inoffensive private school specimen; the type of person they put on the front page of prospectus next to the token Asian child, playing happily under a tree wearing their pretentious bottle green boater hats and blazers. But this isn’t about the ridiculous uniform stipulations in private schools across the UK (I had regulation green knickers in reception. Yes. Regulation. Green. Knickers.)
No, this is about discipline.
Now, being a 1st generation Jamaican child, I had an extensive knowledge of various forms of discipline, how to avoid them, damage minimisation, escape tactics etc. I knew that if you cried too hard at the beginning of a round of licks (spanking), you would be spanked harder for overreacting (my parents didn’t do this by the way, but I know people who had this happen to them). I knew (from personal experience), that grabbing onto the belt as it came through the air and then refusing to let go, would not end well for you, or your rear end. I knew that attempting to run was futile, because Jamaican mothers and Usain Bolt are pretty much clones of each other. I knew that wearing two pairs of tracksuit bottoms was a good idea, but 3 would be too much cushion, your parents would cotton on, and you would be told to remove them. I knew that Nigerian parents were even worse than West Indian parents, and so I better thank my lucky stars that our diluted Africanness had also diluted the intensity of punishment.
What I did not know, was that it was possible to threaten your parents with something called Childline. I thank Becky for the information she gave me that day. We were sitting, playing with some kind of 8 year old amusement, reading Mizz magazine or whatever nonsense that was banned from my house but Becky was allowed to read. The topic of discipline came up. Or in 8 year old speak “what happens when you are naaaughty”. We shared battle scars while trying on lipgloss, and somehow I let it slip that my Dad occasionally used a belt to punish me. Becky gasped. “He’s not allowed to do that! You can call Childline!” I knew what Childline was, it was the number children called who were being abused. I was confused though. I didn’t feel abused. I just felt Jamaican. In fact, I’m pretty sure Kesh (who’s (whose?) parents were Sri Lankan), had regaled me with tales of derring do involving some sort of implement that had been used to hit him.
So I did what any stupid 1st generation child does. The next time I got spanked for some misdemeanor, mid bawl I screamed out “You’re not allowed to do this, I’m gonna call Chiiillddllliiine!!”. All action stopped. There was a chill in the air. The smell of burnt rice and peas wafting from the kitchen caused my eyes to water even more. If either of your parents are from any country below the equator, I don’t need to tell you how that worked out for me. For my more melanin challenged friends, I’ll just let you know that I didn’t get to make that phone call.
Despite my run ins with the law, I think I turned out alright. I don’t feel any deep emotional scars from being physically disciplined. That could be because my Mum usually grounded me, and my Dad only occasionally hit me (which is why I remember most of them). Having said that, I don’t think I’ll hit my kids. I still don’t agree with children being allowed to talk back, assert themselves unnecessarily – I don’t believe in human rights for children; if you’re living in my house, you have the right to eat, sleep and give thanks. When David Cameron starts feeding you, he can start telling me how to deal with you…No, seriously, I do believe that children probably learn more from having to think about what they’ve done ,be isolated from their friends for a few days, have their reading books confiscated (this always happened to me :-() than associating anger with physical punishment. I think English culture has a ridiculous attitude towards children – I see kids kicking their parents, screaming at them, all sorts. I also think the traditional Caribbean mode of parenting can be somewhat ridiculous as well. We shouldn’t normalise child abuse. It’s not normal to hit your children with your shoes. Or (correct me if I’m wrong African peeps), insert ginger or pepper into your child’s orifices. I don’t know what sort of person I’ll end up marrying, or what culture/race they’ll be from, but I think it will be interesting to see how we discipline our kids. What do you guys think?