I headed to the cafeteria about 12:50pm, I was anxious, not sure why.
When I got to the area where we sit I noticed there were more people, more women sitting in the area. I guess that’s why I was anxious…the word got out. I got nervous so nervous that I walked past the group. I don’t know if I got caught up in looking for a seat or the numbers of eyes looking at me. Some of those eyes weren’t comforting, some of the glances had that latency of disdain. It’s going to be a long lunch, I know that look. Luckily the microwave was nearby so it appeared that’s where I was going. I heated up my food again…turned and saw them setting up the chair at the end of the table. It felt like I was being strapped to the electric chair but I was excited, my adrenaline was flowing…stay focused grasshopper.
Coming from the microwave, sitting down with my sirlion burger over rice I made the night before, ripping the little free packets of pepper, feeling eyes on me. I look up…one of my male homies is looking at me with the wide eyed, “dude it’s about to go down” look. I hear someone say, “That’s him.”
“So y’all think I’m looking for perfection?!” I jump right in.
The comments flooded in like I ripped duct tape off their mouths, “Mmm Hmm”….”Kinda”…”Get a white woman”….”Unrealistic”…”Go to Brazil” …”He must be muslim”…”Ain’t nobody perfect”
While the comments were coming back, I burned the roof of my mouth, shouldn’t have microwaved my food twice. “Men can’t handle a strong black woman.” one of the women throws out. That got my attention.
Most of the men roll their eyes or shake their heads…or both. “You mean an angry black woman.” I didn’t say that…it was someone else, male of course. I hear a lot of teeth sucking and the body language of the group was not that usual cool fun crew. It was suddenly contentious. I mean there was civility but this was no longer checkers or chess, this was a street fight. I’m in with both feet, “You think black men can’t handle a strong black woman, are you serious?!”
“Well,” same woman.
I respond, “Who do you think raised these men?! More importantly, in what society do you think these men were raised? Do you think this American society is kind to black men? Do you think we’re appreciated, honored, respected, or loved in this society?”
“Not really”…”No”…”Mmm mm”
“Oh you want a woman to submit…to OBEY,” a woman snaps “…men have dropped the ball.”
“Ooooooooh” chorus the men.
My homie gives me the “I’m your boy but you on your own” look. I felt like Malcolm X in the Audubon Ballroom. I respond, “No…not exactly but you can’t have two bosses. If I fight to exist, just enough to survive in this society, then why am I in a rush to come home to a strong woman that wants to fight?”
She responds, “I didn’t say fight.”
“Then what do you want to be strong for?…for me or for yourself? It’s my job to protect you and our family. I’m not saying to be weak and humble, I just don’t want to fight. If I make you the queen in my…sorry, OUR castle then why can’t I be the king?”
Feeling like I was responsible for this negative tone I try pacify the group, “Like I said, you can’t have two bosses. I’ll give you an example…a woman spent the night. Next morning… I’m washing her car while she’s in the shower. The night before, she mentioned that she was going to get her car washed in the morning after she left my house. I didn’t volunteer that night because I wasn’t sure if I’d feel like it but her dirty rims were bothering me so I washed her car in the morning. When she got out of the shower she saw me out back…drying her car.”
A woman in the group was like, “That’s what’s up.”
“Wait…that’s not the point I’m trying to make…wait for it.”
I continued, “as I was drying the car she leaned out the door and asked, How do you want your eggs? I didn’t immediately know what she was talking about…cause I didn’t know she was cooking, then realizing it I said, ooooh cool, scrambled baby…she grinned cause that was the first time I called her baby.”
One of my boys joked, “That’s pretty Smitty from Philly!”
That statement brought some levity but I continued in between chuckles…
“It was a quid pro quo yes but it was reciprocated. My point is…we didn’t discuss it, she didn’t feel like I’m “too strong” to be cooking for a man, it was just the roles we fell into and we were comfortable with ourselves doing what was natural.”
She continued, “Oh so you want the woman to cook?”
Now I’m kinda annoyed, “You’re killing me, NO she doesn’t have to cook but damn if you’re sitting there not doing anything while I’m washing your car, maybe I won’t wash your car next time…maybe there won’t be a next time.”
“I can wash my own car.” she is keeping it going.
“You know you’re making my point…right.” I quipped.
She’s not done fighting, “I’m just saying, I don’t need a man to wash my car.”
“Men have to feel needed…” stirring my now warm food.
“Cause I can get a man”
Now I’m pissed, “Yes anyone at this table can get a man, but can you keep him?!”
“Let me ask you, where has the new found strength in women gotten us, where are all the successful marriages with these strong women? All I see is broken families, ‘Me Too’ movements, child support payments, brunches and girls trips.”
I respond, “The problem with society’s strong black women is they want to wear the pants and also get the benefits of a woman when it’s convenient. They want a gentleman to treat them to dinner but want to make the same salary and not pay for the date. You can’t have it both ways.”
“Real strong black women don’t ever have to say they’re strong black women, you just know it.”
“My concern is that the gender roles are screwed up. Women have become so independent they don’t know how to be vulnerable. Men are dealing with a generation of women that have been raised hearing, “Don’t depend on no man, get your own” Fathers raising their daughters to be strong, almost like young men. On top of that, women are in the workforce dealing with leadership positions, that “I’m a BOSS” syndrome, so they get home and can’t or don’t want to turn that s#@% off…just my opinion.”
Another woman in the group said, “It’s hard to let your guard down sometimes.”
“Ok…but you’re sleeping with these men…but NOT letting your guard down?!…I’m asking.”
“Hey…NOT judging cause I’ve been the guy slept with! I’m just saying, don’t you think that’s backwards?! Society has hardened our women, some of you have masculine energy.”
One of the new women repeats a question from before, “What are you looking for?”
I’m not looking for a perfect woman I can live with
…I’m looking for a woman I can’t live without.”
“Preach brother Preach!”
We laugh until he someone brings up Gayle King and her insensitivity to the tragic death of Kobe Bryant.
“I’m done with Gayle King, I’m boycotting anything she is associated with…done.”