Monday, June 2, 2014

Summoning The Courage To Write About Dr. Maya Angelou (The Greatesst Lesson I Learned From Her)

A friend of one of my Facebook friends posted that he saw no sizable difference in the number of comments from African-Americans and whites about the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou and concluded that, based on the number of comments, she meant no more to African-Americans than she did to whites.

What the person failed to take into account was that maybe we African-Americans were just stunned into silence.  Perhaps we could not find the words to express how we felt.

I know I couldn't.

What can any writer write about one of the most gifted writers of our generation?  What could any one writer say that hasn't already been said by the obituary writers, friends, family, and luminaries? 

With that in mind, I wrote nothing.  That is, until I summoned the courage to write this entry and share the greatest lesson Dr. Maya Angelou taught me and perhaps others.

Dr. Angelou's quote about courage being the most important virtue because, without it, you cannot practice the other virtues consistently, has been repeated a lot lately, as well as some of her other memorable lessons:  "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time," and "People may forget what you said or what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

However, the most important lesson I think Dr. Angelou imparted upon all of us is one that she didn't speak, but instead lived:  You don't have to be just one thing in this life.  You can be many things.

How often do we limit ourselves, or allow ourselves to be limited, thinking trite aphorisms like, "Jack of all trades, master of none," or walking away from something we love because we don't have the requisite 10,000 hours supposedly needed to master it?

What if Dr. Angelou had settled on being only a cable car conductor?  Think of all the other gifts she possessed and bestowed upon the world -- writing, dancing, singing, acting, directing, writing music, teaching, and being a civil rights activist and friend to the likes of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, James Baldwin AND Oprah Winfrey!  And she could cook, too!  Oh my, what a life!  She lived many lifetimes within one lifetime.  Why?  Because she didn't limit herself to being just one thing.

I've always had a penchant for doing many things and, combined with being a Gemini, that has caused me to be branded as uncommitted, flighty, indecisive, and a "master of none."  But Dr. Angelou was writing music and working very late in her life.  She did not let her age limit her creativity and curiosity.  Even at an age when, statistically speaking, she probably didn't have 10,000 hours to master one more thing, she never stopped doing the many things about which she was passionate.  Her refusal to recognize limits on what she could be is the greatest lesson to me and, in my view, to the world.

So summon up the courage to do all the things that interest you, that fuel passion within you.  Don't care what people think.  So what if you don't master any -- you're not being graded!  Dr. Angelou believed that courage is the greatest virtue because you could not practice the other virtues consistently without it.  I believe that courage is the greatest virtue because you cannot be your most complete and realized self without it.

Thank you and Godspeed, Dr. Angelou.  And thank you, Stanford University, my alma mater, for providing me the opportunity to meet Dr. Angelou.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Different Kind of College Commencement Address (People Don't Get What They Deserve)

Here's one of many reasons I will never be invited to give a college commencement address of any kind.

If I were going to give a college commencement address, it would simply be this:  The lyrics to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' "People Don't Get What They Deserve, " especially the chorus:

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
People don't get what they deserve

Cruel, eh?  Not really.

The lyrics to the beginning of the song sum up nicely the beliefs that many middle class, working class, and poor parents send their children off to college with -- work hard, do well, and you will succeed and prosper.

Not so fast, says Ms. Jones and the Dap Kings.  That equation doesn't necessarily add up in today's world.

With the wealth gap widening, the student loan debt burden breaking the backs of our young college graduates before they even drive off campus for the last time, we do a disservice to them to allow them to think that things will work out just as we were taught.  That was then, this is now. The ratio of what they owe to what they will earn is vastly different from when we Baby Boomers graduated from college.  Mind you, I'm not trying to create an existential crisis for the Class of 2014 -- indeed, without a college degree, they'd be more screwed -- but I'm honest enough to say that their newly minted degrees may not take them as far as mine did in 1986.  If, by chance, their degrees do take them far, there are equal parts achievement and grace fueling their success.

So, in the spirit of honesty, and bearing in mind that I will never be asked to give a college commencement address, not even at a diploma mill college, here are the lyrics to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' "People Don't Get What They Deserve":

When I was a child, I believed what they told me (every word)
To each one shall come what each one shall earn
And if I worked hard, nobody could hold me (hold me)
And cheaters will fail, that's what they all learned (cheaters never prosper)

There is a man who is born with a fortune
A hard days' work he's never done (livin' on easy street)
He lives from the sweat of other men's labor
And he sips his champagne and lays in the sun

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
People don't get what they deserve
People don't get what they deserve

There is a man who lives like a saint
He works from daybreak to late in the night
He's never stolen, he's never been lazy (not a day in his life)
To feed his children is always a fight (work work work)

I try to do right by all of God's children
I work very hard for all I could afford
But I don't pretend for one single moment
That what I get is my just reward

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
People don't get what they deserve
People don't get what they deserve

Congratulations, Class of 2014!  No, I really mean it.  You can listen to the song above.  At least it has a good beat.
When I was a child I believed what they told me (every word)
To each one shall come what each one shall earn
And if I worked hard nobody could hold me (hold me)
And cheaters will fail, that's what they all learned (cheaters never prosper)
There is a man who is born with a fortune
A hard days work he's never done (livin' on easy street)
He lives from the sweat of other men's labor
As he sips his champagne and lays in the sun

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
(People don't get what they deserve) x2

There is a man who lives like a saint
He works from daybreak to late in the night
He's never stolen, he's never been lazy (not a day in his life)
To feed his children is always a fight (work work work)
I try to do right by all of god's children
I work very hard for all I could afford
But I don't pretend for one single moment
That what I get is my just reward

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
(People don't get what they deserve)
When I was a child I believed what they told me (every word)
To each one shall come what each one shall earn
And if I worked hard nobody could hold me (hold me)
And cheaters will fail, that's what they all learned (cheaters never prosper)
There is a man who is born with a fortune
A hard days work he's never done (livin' on easy street)
He lives from the sweat of other men's labor
As he sips his champagne and lays in the sun

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
(People don't get what they deserve) x2

There is a man who lives like a saint
He works from daybreak to late in the night
He's never stolen, he's never been lazy (not a day in his life)
To feed his children is always a fight (work work work)
I try to do right by all of god's children
I work very hard for all I could afford
But I don't pretend for one single moment
That what I get is my just reward

Money don't follow sweat
Money don't follow brains
Money don't follow deeds of peace
(People don't get what they deserve)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Feeling LIke a Stranger to My Happiness (Happy Anniversary, BMNB, and I Want to Be a Dapette)

I'm a huge fan of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  On this day, my eleventh wedding anniversary, their song "Stranger to My Happiness" sums up how I feel.  Not Pharrell Williams' "Happy," but "Stranger to My Happiness."  Here's why.

I've finally gotten to the point in my life where all the pieces seem to fit together pretty well, and what doesn't fit, I've discarded.  Changing jobs was a huge part of this happiness that I haven't felt in a long, long time.  I don't wake up dreading going to work, I don't hold my breath until the weekend comes, and I'm not sour and cross with my long-suffering husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB).  My stress level is much lower, I sleep better, I feel better.  I haven't felt this happy in a long time.  I have, in fact, been a stranger to my happiness.

We don't realize that when we're stressed out, we stress out the folks around us.  We take them through the same changes we're going through, and they didn't sign up for that.  I just assumed that my more-centered, Teflon-spirited better half was immune to what I was feeling. He wasn't.  Needless to say, he's happier, too, because I am.  If you're stressed out, take a moment to consider how you're affecting the people around you, and take another moment to figure out how you're going to change the situation.

I've also given achievement a hiatus, if not a permanent injunction.  After a lot of reflection, I realized I've felt like I'm an underachiever, having not lived up to the expectations I placed on myself and allowed others to place on me because of the opportunities I've had.  My dad, in his twilight years, still longs for me to be the trial lawyer he thought he was raising and paying for college and law school for.  Friends often say, "I thought you'd be on the bench by now."  Old friends are surprised that with my credentials I'm working for the State of California, not even the federal government.

There's more to life than the law brass ring.  It took time, reflection, and my career coach, Jennifer Alvey, to help me figure that out.  Now, I'm tailoring my career to the life I envision for myself at this stage of my life.  I don't want to keep achieving or attempting to achieve career success at the expense of time with my husband, connection with family and friends who have patiently waited for me to mend my neurotic ways, and fun.  The things I really enjoy?  Gardening, low-cost  home redesign (I'm a Home Depot and thrift store junkie!)  reading, hanging out with family and friends, listening to music, and writing.  Instead of trying to shoehorn those vital, spirit-building activities around my work, I'm doing it the other way around.

So, on this, my eleventh anniversary, I thank BMNB for hanging in with me and sticking it out through the hard times.  We've struggled with money, family members' health, clients we wanted to throttle, pets dying, and our own aging.  I know there are many struggles ahead, but for right now, I'm just enjoying this state of happiness with him that  I've been a stranger to, of my own making, no less.

That said, I want to be a Dapette.  Not because I'm trying to add another achievement, but because, as you will tell from the video posted above, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings know how to have a good time.  Ms. Jones has survived cancer (hence her bald head), and with an undefeated spirit and a voice that would make James Brown shout from the grave, she rocks her bald head AND their song, "Stranger to My Happiness."  I'd love to be one of the Dapettes, the background singers who make the song rise even higher.  I'd be happy just to lip-synch with them and dance to the music.  More than anything, I want whatever it is that has made Ms. Jones not only a survivor, but a happy fighter. Her music and her spirit remind me so much of my mother.

So, if you're reading, Ms. Jones, Dap Kings and Dapettes, I'm ready to go on the road . . . .

Happy Anniversary, Black Man Not Blogging.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Non-Black Biological Mothers of Biracial Black Daughters: How to Build Your Daughters' Hair Esteem

It has happened twice in my life, once when I was in my early twenties, the other last week.  The first time, I was so taken aback that I didn't respond.  Last week, I did.

What is it, you ask?  It was the following:  Having a non-black woman who was dating a black man say to my face, "I hope our kids have MY hair."  In both cases, the women were Latina.

The first time it happened, I was an exchange student in Spain speaking to one of my fellow Stanford exchange students.  She was dating an African-American Stanford student who was on the football team.  While discussing her boyfriend, and while wearing a sweater I had loaned her, she made her remark.

I was stunned.  So stunned, I didn't respond.  If she didn't want her children to have her boyfriend's hair, what did that say about what she thought of her boyfriend and his hair?  Better yet, what was she thinking saying that to my face and my very visible African hair while wearing my sweater, twirling the ends of  her long, straight brown locks while saying it, no less?

The second time was last week.  Yet again, another Latina dating another black man said the exact same words: "I hope our kids have MY hair."

This time, I sprang into action, thirty years wiser.

"Oh, no you don't.  You don't get to say that, and you don't get to think it.  You don't get to make your daughter feel bad about her hair just because it isn't like yours.  You're going to be her mother and you don't get to do that."

What I was too polite to say was this:

If you're thinking you can sleep with a black man and have kids with straight hair, you're fooling yourself.  You need to prepare yourself to send that daughter out into the world with some hair esteem, no matter the texture of her hair.

And so begins this blog entry to non-black biological mothers of biracial black daughters:  You decided to marry or sleep with a black man; you don't get to make your black daughter feel bad about her hair because it isn't like yours, precisely because you are her mother.  Her feelings of self esteem and hair esteem will depend on the words that come from you, especially since she carries your DNA and probably looks like you.

I began a frank discussion with the offending woman and another woman who is a non-black mother of a biracial black child.  Here's the jist of what I had to say:

1.  Your frustration with styling her hair is not her problem; it's yours.  You don't get to degrade her or the texture of her hair because it is harder for you to manage than your own.  Your job is to make her feel good about her hair, no matter its texture, because the world is gonna do a number on her and she's going to need all the hair esteem she can get.  Even if you don't feel that way, fake it until you make it.

2.  You don't get to call her hair "bad hair" or "good hair," even if black folks do.  Especially if black folks do.  I don't allow the use of the terms "good hair" or "bad hair" in my home.  We can discuss texture differences, but I don't allow anyone to put value judgments on texture in my home.  I refuse to perpetuate that.

That isn't to say that black folks don't do this still.  It's abhorrent.  That said, you, as a non-black mother of a black biracial daughter, don't get to do that, and you need to stop anyone from doing that in her presence.

3.  Get help.  If you don't know how to style black hair, get help.  If you see a black woman whose hair you like, ask where she gets it styled.  Ask the women in your boyfriend's/husband/'s/babydaddy's family to educate you.  And ask with humility and without disdain for your child's hair.  You come to this in a position of weakness -- you need to learn how to do your child's hair, and you're probably going to have to ask black women who may or may not be too keen on the fact that you took a black man away from black women (even if he didn't even like black women) AND can't do the hair of the daughter who resulted from your theft.  That said, a gift of flowers or some wine might not be a bad idea.

4.  You can't straighten your daughter's hair by pulling it back tight; you'll only end up pulling it out.  I've seen this time and again -- non-black mothers of black biracial daughters trying to fake the appearance of straight hair by putting tons of hair products and water in the kid's hair and pulling it back tight in rubber bands, barrettes, you name it.  Ever heard of traction alopecia?  That's when you lose your hair around the sides of your head from pulling it back too tight.  Don't do that to your daughter's hair.  Work with the texture she has, not the texture you wish she had, which leads to my next point:

5. If you don't know what you're doing, don't put any chemicals on your daughter's hair.  I'm talking kiddie perms, Brazilian blowouts, you name it.  These chemicals are usually some variation on sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide and can burn the child's scalp if left on too long.  I wasn't allowed to get a relaxer until shortly before I left for college; my mother didn't believe in putting chemicals on her daughters' hair when we were young.  She pressed a lot of hair for a long time, but to this day my sisters and I have full heads of hair and not a weave between us.  Thanks, Mom.

6. Instead of emphasizing what she can't do with her hair, emphasize what she can do with her hair.  There are a multitude of styles black women and girls can rock that people with straight hair can't -- braids, cornrows, twists, locks, pressed hair, relaxed hair, afros.  Make it fun for your daughter and change it up so she can take pride in her hair's versatility.  If you make getting her hair done a beauty ritual and add to it other beauty rituals like a mani-pedi, she'll feel beautiful all around.

7.  Use hair care products that are good for black hair and wash black hair less frequently than white hair.  I, for one, don't use Pantene -- it strips the crap out of my hair and leaves it feeling dry.  I've switched to Wen, which doesn't strip my hair's oils.  I've also heard good things about the Carol's Daughter line of hair care products.  I also don't wash my hair daily and neither do most of the black women I know because of the drying effect that most shampoos have on our hair.  Get advice on hair care products from your daughter's relatives on her dad's side of the family or from a stylist who specializes in black hair.  If you're in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend Miasha Helton of It's My Hair -- she has done segments on "Good Day Sacramento" on styling biracial children's hair. And finally:

8. Give your daughter permission to tell people not to touch her hair.  If she's outnumbered at school by kids with straight hair, her hair is going to be a curiosity to them.  That doesn't mean that she should be some de facto museum exhibit that they can touch and feel.  You need to empower her to tell people not to touch her hair just because it's different from theirs.  She doesn't have to be mean about it, but she shouldn't be subjected to unwanted touching because she's different and in the minority.  The analogy I make is that if you wouldn't touch Queen Elizabeth's crown, you shouldn't touch mine, and my hair is my crown.

With this, I hope I have empowered you to love your biracial black daughter and her hair, no matter it's texture.

Monday, April 28, 2014

No, Sir Charles, It Isn't a Black League; It's a Black Players' Association

In all the comments on sports shows about the alleged racist comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling (and yes, even old racists are entitled to due process, so until they're authenticated, they are "alleged" comments), the one that caught my attention the most was from Charles Barkley, AKA Sir Charles.  In making the argument that, if the remarks were indeed Sterling's then he shouldn't be allowed to keep his franchise, Sir Charles argued, "It's a black league."

Well, actually, Sir Charles, it isn't.  The players' association may be black, but the NBA is not a black league.  It is a majority white-owned league with a majority of black players.

A couple of things also stood out to me.  I don't think that Sterling just woke up the other day in bed with his partially black girlfriend and became a racist.  If indeed he was sued twice for housing racial discrimination while he was the owner of the Clippers, why didn't the league question his ethics and morals then?  Even better -- doesn't anyone find it the least bit troubling that he's still married and has a girlfriend?  Last I checked, married is married -- until you're divorced, you're not single.  If Sterling is doing the humpty dance with his partially black girlfriend, isn't that adultery?  Oh, but no, that's just a man thing, easily overlooked by a male-dominated sport.

Anyhoo, back to my point.  The NBA is not a black league.  If it were, the majority of the owners would be black.  Instead, it is a white league with a majority of black employees, er, players.  This raises the question:  If, as Sir Charles asserts, over 70 percent of the league's players are black, why haven't they all gotten together and pooled their money to actually own more teams?  Why haven't they played for equity stakes in their teams?  I would think that if that 70 percent got together and decided that 70 percent of the owners were going to be black or there would be no NBA, there'd be a sea change.  Hell, what would happen if that 70 percent played to the end of their contracts, all walked away at once, and started their own damn league?

But no, instead, black players have not kicked down the door to majority black ownership using their own resources and market power.  And guess what?  When you don't own shit, you can't control shit.  Sterling might be fined or suspended, but I doubt that he'll lose his franchise.  Why?

Because there are probably more than a few NBA franchise owners who have said comments they'd just as soon the public not hear and are thinking, "There but for the grace of God . . . ."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pimpin' My Water

I live in California, and we're in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever.  I'm old enough to remember the most recent worst drought during the '70's,when my dad did his part for water conservation by putting a brick in the toilet tank.  Our governor has declared a drought emergency, halted deliveries of water to central valley farms, and asked consumers to reduce their water usage by 20%.  It goes without saying that when the governor is willing to suspend water supplies to the state's largest industry (and no, it's not film making; it's agriculture), we're in dire straits, indeed.

The price of fruits and vegetables is going to go up.  And Yours Truly likes homegrown tomatoes in the summer.  How can I have my summer veggie garden AND reduce my water usage by 20%?

By pimpin' my water.

Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I are pretty water conservative.  We don't run the washer or the dishwasher without a full load.  We rarely wash our cars at home.  Our lawn is watered by sprinklers on a timer, and most, but not all, of our shrubs are on drip irrigation.  We have low flow toilets and low flow shower heads.  Although our HOA told us we could let our lawn go fallow, BMNB isn't falling for it.  "They'll be the first ones to turn around and tell you that you better get your lawn green after you've let it die."  He'd rather take the hit and water the lawn instead of replacing it later on.

What's a homegrown tomato lover to do?

First, you start conserving.  I've put a 5 gallon bucket (You can get them cheaply at Home Depot) in my shower, and when I run the shower to warm up the shower water, the cold water goes right into the bucket.  I keep the bucket in the shower for any bodily runoff.  Between me and BMNB, we're averaging about 5 to 7 gallons or more a day of reclaimed water from the shower.  I take it an additional step by taking "sailor showers," which I learned from my dad, who served in the Navy.  As one of six kids, shower time was at a premium when I was small.  My dad taught us to wet yourself up, soap yourself down, rinse yourself off, and get out, all without leaving the shower running completely during the process. As much as I love long showers with continuously running hot water, a homegrown tomato lover's gotta do what she's gotta do.

After conserving water, you start pimpin' the water you have.  That reclaimed shower water?  I'm using that to water the shrubs that are on drip irrigation as well as the ones that are not, like my Heirloom and Fiesta roses and my Freecycle irises (I got them off of Freecycle).  So far, they're looking good.  I've told BMNB to turn off the drip irrigation.  Most of our shrubs are drought resistant -- sage, lavender, Nile lily, rock roses, jasmine, Shasta daisies  -- and can take reduced watering.  The magnolias on our lawn are a bit more temperamental, but they get watered with the lawn.  We're cutting back on watering the lawn, too, but not so much that it will die.

I also reclaim any water I use to wash any laundry or CPAP equipment I wash by hand -- panty hose, delicate blouses, breathing hoses, you name it.  Not only do I reclaim the water they soaked in, I rinse each item over a bucket and reclaim that water, too.  I even reclaimed a tub of bath water and watered my front lawn with it.

The water that would have gone to the drip irrigated shrubs?  That's the water I'm using for my veggie garden.  I don't know if it's a one-for-one match, but I'm betting that it is.   I've always watered my summer veggie garden by hand, using watering cans.  It's easier for me to keep track of how much water I'm giving each row or type of plant.. BMNB could not get comfortable with the idea of using reclaimed water to grow the vegetables he would eat (I'm sure he thought of it as "booty water," since some of it rolled off our bodies in the shower), so I had to be creative -- pimpin' reclaimed water for use on my drip-irrigated shrubs, using the water I would have used on my shrubs to water the veggies, and cutting back my total water consumption as much as possible.

I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Does she love homegrown tomatoes that much?"

Yes, I do.  I really do. Besides, if I don't grow my own vegetables this summer, who will?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

No Experience Is Ever Wasted (Speed Dating for Book Lovers and My "Beloved" Moment)

No experienced is ever wasted.

~ Oprah Winfrey

Well, despite lots of preparation, attention to detail, and lots of publicity, no single men attended the Speed Dating for Book Lovers event I wrote about.  Not. One. Available. Man.

To be honest, I was mortified.  The worst had happened.  Well, not the worst -- I had been  having nightmares about potential damage to the African-American history quilts on display at our lovely venue, The Brickhouse Art Gallery, and that didn't happen.  So the second worst thing happened.  Epic. Fail.

I felt like I let the women who attended down. They were vivacious, beautiful, well put together, confident.  Many of them were understanding and lauded my efforts and encouraged me to try again, maybe on a day not so loaded with expectation and meaning as Valentine's Day, maybe with more outreach to guys.

My team, which included Black Man Not Blogging, The Outraged Citizen and his lady, The Lovely SJ, as well as The Writing Diva, the Single Parent Goddess, and Brickhouse Art Gallery owner Barbara Range, immediately got to work at 5:00 pm and set up the tables and the food with oh so much care and attention to detail.  The venue looked good and smelled good, too.  I carefully selected the songs on four separate playlists of old school R&B ballads and jazz, which I'll include below.  Black Man Not Blogging and The Outraged Citizen even dragged my dusty stereo system from the car, and Single Parent Goddess got both speakers working (she's a tech goddess, too.)

Yet. Not. One. Single. Man. Came.

After I had a little time to catch up on my sleep and put things in perspective, I asked myself, "If Oprah is right and no experience is ever wasted, what can I learn from this?"  It was then when I had my aha! moment -- that this was my "Beloved" moment.

Remember the film "Beloved"?  Remember how Oprah poured her heart and soul into the making of that movie, following on the heels of her success with "The Color Purple"?  Remember how it didn't do well at the box office?  I remember going to see it in a theater in Memphis, thinking that I wouldn't be able to get a ticket because surely in Memphis, a largely African-American city that was not too far from Oprah's birthplace (Kosciusko) and where she grew up (Nashville), this movie would be packed.

I was the only one in the theater.  Even the projectionist had stepped away from the movie projector.

I remember how Oprah took that disappointment deeply and personally and how it shook her confidence in herself.  It shook what she thought was her understanding of what people wanted.  And it definitely made her not as eager to work in film.

Similarly, I had put my heart and soul into this event, thinking, like Oprah must have thought about "Beloved," in relation to "The Color Purple," that this speed dating event would be as successful as the last.  Not so.

This was my "Beloved" moment.

Where Oprah and I part company on this same journey, however, is that I'm not going to allow this experience to shake me.  I'm really sorry for the women who attended, because I hate to waste anyone's time.  That said, I'm determined to learn from this and move on.

So, what did I learn from my "Beloved" moment?  Here goes:

1.  It's Never as Good as the First Time.  Sade never lied.  Just like "Beloved" was not as good as "The Color Purple," the second speed dating event was not as good as the first.  And it was unrealistic to expect that it would be because, like "The Color Purple" and "Beloved," these two events were two different animals, purple tulips notwithstanding.  Holding it on Valentine's Day put a lot of men off -- that day is just too laden with meaning and expectation.  The first event was held on a random date that had no meaning and, therefore, no expectations.

2.  I Don't Understand Men and I'm Not Willing to Learn. Although I reached out to a lot of men, especially black men, for this event, I did not know how to market to them.  And, quite frankly, I don't know if I care to learn at this stage in the game.  No, I'm not bitter.  Here's the thing:  Had I charged for this event, and even if I had sold every ticket, the profit margin would have been pretty small.  I tried this event as a test to see if there was a market for it.  I believe there is, but it is a market that will have to be cultivated and created, especially in Sacramento, where a lot of folks are unfamiliar with speed dating.  Given the small profit margin, it's not worth it to me to learn how to market to men, especially black men, to make the event a success.  What I do know how to do is to market to women and to create environments that women like, which leads to my next point:

3.  The Part I Enjoyed Working on the Most Was Creating the Environment, Not Marketing the Event.  When many of the women thanked me for my hard work, my response was, "I really enjoyed putting this event together."  I did.  I enjoyed putting together the look of the event -- the tablecloths, tulips, candles, books, even picking the songs for the playlists and putting them in just the right order.  The women seemed to really like they way the event looked.  That's when it hit me:

4.  The Better Business Opportunity for Me Is Creating Environments That Women Like, Not Creating Events.  Why?  Because there's minimal business risk and a greater potential for larger profit margin for being paid for the service of making an environment look a certain way, whether its for an event or for staging a house to be sold.  When you're paid for a service, as opposed to being paid when people buy tickets, you make money whether the event goes well or, in the case of houses, whether the house gets sold. It's like the difference between being Levi Strauss or a gold miner -- Levi Strauss made money on selling jeans and supplies to gold miners, whether the miners made money or not.  The miners only made money when they struck gold.  I'd rather be Levi Strauss.

5.  Play to Your Strengths, Decide Whether to Work On Your Weaknesses.  I have been told time and again that I have an eye for interior design or, as I would call it, redesign -- taking what people already have and adding to it at a low cost to create a space they like.  At my old job, I "redesigned" a break room, my office, my co-worker's office, and two alcoves.  It's an expensive hobby if you decide to do it as a labor of love.  But one former co-worker told me she would hire me to stage her house when she decides to sell it.  When people admire what you do and talk about paying you to do it, that's God's way of telling you your gift is also a business opportunity.  That is my strength.  My weakness is marketing to men.  I've decided not to work on that weakness.  My intention is to go into real estate and staging because, at the end of the day, the decision to buy a house is usually determined by a woman, not a man, even if she's not the one buying it.  And I know how to market to women and create environments they like.

6. Instead of Hanging on to Your Idea of the Way Things Should Be, Make the Best of and Enjoy What Is.  My second biggest regret, after wasting all those ladies' time, was not spending time talking to all of them.  I was literally hanging out by the door watching and hoping for some men to come in, not unlike a child of divorce waiting impatiently to be picked up for visitation.  And, like that same child, I was crushed when it didn't happen, so much so that I missed out on the opportunity to talk to and get to know all of these fabulous book-loving ladies.  Luckily, some of them stayed, and they and the team -- Barbara Range, The Outraged Citizen, Single Parent Goddess, The Lovely SJ, Black Man Not Blogging, and myself, had a good ol' time discussing things we had in common -- ties to the South, growing up in LA (for at least two of them), and a whole range of topics.  Quite frankly, I had a better time talking to these folks then I would have had shepherding people from one table to the other during speed dating.  If I had let go earlier of my idea of what the event was supposed to be and had embraced what it could have been, I would have had a lot more fun, and so would have the ladies. 

7.  Tear Off The Band-Aid.  The event started at 6:00, and many of the ladies were on time.  I waited until 7:30 to call it off.  I should have called it off sooner, but I was just unwilling to accept that it was going to fail.  Black Man Not Blogging and The Outraged Citizen literally went trolling barber shops and coffee shops in search of men to bring to this event, to no avail.  Finally, The Lovely SJ gently said to me, "Just tear off the Band-Aid.  The faster you do it, the faster you'll get it over with."  Mind you, I'm old enough to be her mother, but she was just as calm and wise as my own mother would have been.  I called it off.  Which leads me to my final lesson:

8.  You Can Tell Who Your Real Friends Are By How They Treat You When You Fail.  Barbara, Black Man Not Blogging, The Outraged Citizen, Single Parent Goddess, The Writing Diva, and The Lovely SJ -- not a one of them said anything negative about this event as it was going down in flames.  Instead, they got to work behind the scenes, blowing up social media, trolling for men in barber shops and coffee shops, circulating and talking to the ladies I was too embarrassed to face, all to keep the event on life support for as long as they could.  No shade was thrown, no sand pitched in my face.  They knew that, with my obsessiveness and anxiety, I was at my most vulnerable, and they cocooned me in good deeds and kindness.  They are my friends and family and I love them deeply for treating me as they did.

9.  Heed the Need to Create.  I have a creative side that I have let languish, giving it life on and off over the years.  Working on this event made me realize that I NEED to create stuff, whether it's redesigning an office, putting together the look and feel of an event, or writing this blog.  It's something I just need to do, whether it makes money or not.  I need to create.

No experience is ever wasted.  I thank the ladies who came out and I'm grateful to my team of friends and family for their support.  BTW, the picture above is of the event, and that's me in the middle.  And below are the playlists I promised.  If you choose to download the songs from iTunes, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day,


Speed Dating Playlist # 1

"Blessed," The Emotions
"Portuguese Love," Teena Marie
"Wild Child," Tony!Toni!Tone!
"Holy Smokes and Gee Whiz," Tony!Toni!Tone!
"My Love Is Your Love," Whitney Houston
"You and I," George Michael
"I Apologize," Anita Baker
"Angel," Anita Baker
"Fire and Desire," Teena Marie and Rick James
"Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before)," Teena Marie
"Hollywood," Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
"Everlasting Love," Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
"For All We Know," Donny Hathaway
"A Song for You," Donny Hathaway

Speed Dating Playlist # 2 -- Double Takes

"Anyone Who Had A Heart," Dionne Warwick
"Anyone Who Had A Heart," Luther Vandross
"Stairway to Heaven," The O'Jays
"Stairway to Heaven," Pure Soul
"The Makings of You," Gladys Knight and The Pips
"The Makings of You," Aretha Franklin
"Look Into Your Heart," Aretha Franklin
"Look Into Your Heart," Whitney Houston
"Cherish The Day," Sade
"Cherish The Day," J. Spencer
"A House Is Not A Home," Dionne Warwick
"A House Is Not A Home," Luther Vandross

Speed Dating Playlist # 3

"Valentine Love," Michael Henderson
"Here We Go," Minnie Riperton
"Hope That We Can Be Together Soon," Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes
"Feels Good," Rahsaan Patterson
"Half Crazy" Musiq
"I've Got So Much To Give," Barry White
"How Do I Know I Love You," Howard Hewitt
"A Love of Your Own," Howard Hewitt
"Wildflower," Skylark
"My First Love," Avant feat. Keke Wyatt
"Natural High," Bloodstone
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," Boney James
"A Sunday Kind of Love," Etta James
"Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time," The Delfonics
"Maybe Tomorrow," The Jackson 5
"I"ll Be There," The Jackson 5
"You and I," Stephanie Mills
"Feel the Fire," Stephanie Mills

Speed Dating Playlist # 4

"Just To Keep You Satisfied," Howard Hewitt
"A Different Kind of Love Song," Pharez Whitted
"A Long Walk, " Jill Scott
"Inside My Love," Minnie Riperton
"This Woman's Work," Maxwell
"Mello Sumthin (The Hush)," Maxwell
"Never Keeping Secrets," Babyface
"Let's Wait A While," Janet Jackson
"Taking A Chance On Love," Gabrielle Goodman
"For The First Time In My Life," Gabrielle Goodman
"Heaven Sent," Keyshia Cole
"How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," Al Green
"Charlene," Anthony Hamilton
"Forever, For Always, For Love," Lalah Hathaway
"The Point of It All," Anthony Hamilton