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Monthly Archives: August 2015

I was 24 the first time it dawned on me that I will never be cool. I don’t mean cool in a general sense of course, but cool in the way that all people want to secretly believe themselves to be: in a way that says I exude attitude and mystery everywhere I go and you can’t help but want to follow. When I was a kid, I knew that when I grew up I was going to Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Denzel Washington and Andre 3000 rolled up into one human being–it was going to be against the law to be me.

No matter how old I got, I always clinged to the belief that at some point I would pull it off eventually. My arms just needed to be a little bigger, I just needed to be a little taller, my beard just needed to connect a little better, my walk had to be just a little more evocative, my one-liners had to be just a little cleaner and sharper; I just needed to be a little more believable. At 24, I accepted that I was who I was and I could be bummed about that or I could embrace it and make it work for me in any way possible: I’ve been trapped somewhere in between these two options for the past two years. Nobody wants to believe they aren’t cool in that old-fashioned Hollywood way but the majority of us just aren’t and, for me, the internet was the first thing to let me know this harsh truth.

When I was a junior in high school, I joined Myspace and my entire reality would shatter before my feet. Before social media, I had no real perspective on my self or my place in people’s lives: I got along with most people and as a result, I considered them all to be close friends of mine. I can look back at this and see how stupid it was but I fancied myself important purely out of my commitment to being incredibly friendly. Then Myspace and the “top 8” came into my life and nothing was the same. The top 8 became my judge and jury, the only authority that could tell me my fate; more than the fact that I was in nobody’s top 8 at first, I was mad at myself for how much power I gave it over me. It meant everything, it dictated my behavior for the rest of high school–be it trying to hard to be friends with people or living with even more resentment–and it was my nightly obsession.

My one saving grace was message boards: more specifically the Simpson’s message boards I was a member of. They ultimately became the friends I always wanted by giving me a safe space to be a true dork, while also putting me onto music, movies and books that would change my life. I had finally achieved a comfortable online existence and tried to use my new knowledge and online confidence in my actual life. I don’t know how successful it truly was but I felt cool and maybe that’s good enough, or it was at least.

Someday we’ll tell our kids that twitter used to be really fun. They’ll laugh and laugh and laugh and you’ll laugh with them because it sounds just as ridiculous to you, even though you know it was fun. Twitter was the heir apparent to the internet message board in a way neither myspace nor facebook ever tried to be; it was fun, goofy, insightful and full of community in a way that was inviting. But then attention became the new preferred currency and being right on the internet was the best high you could get without actually using drugs. Either you were doing the “reading” or you the one being “read” or “blooped” or “dragged for filth”. Corporations took advantage of our lust for attention and used our own hashtags to sell shit to us and then people started getting famous for their tweets which made a whole bunch more people try to get famous for their tweets the same way. Suddenly, this place full of flawed but personable people became a shark pit and what’s most annoying about the whole thing is: nobody actually cares about learning or growing on here. The idea of being the smartest, loudest, funniest, most correct person all the time is so intoxicating for a lot of people that they don’t even bother actually trying to be any of those things. They just declare themselves as such and move on.

I’ve been trapped in this web myself from time to time and I’ve broken out because honestly fuck all of it. Whatever good comes out of it seems to be more of an outlier than the standard. I came to be obsessed with the internet because I was a lonely, uncool kid trying to find some self-confidence and knowledge; ultimately, it turned into all the things I was running from: high school, parental figures, the real world, jobs and people who’d never love me.

In a way, I feel like we let the internet down. This was supposed to be a place for the real people to express themselves and seek a refuge from the depression of real life but where there are enough people, there’s enough confrontation and brands there to sell you shit and turn you into a product for consumption. The internet is not your friend, it doesn’t love you and to be honest, it has no reason to. We take everything wonderful and turn it into trash. Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to destroy this thing and build something new and better, but then I remember that that would just be another excuse to destroy something beautiful by indulging in our worser selves.

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You should be allowed to tell the people you love to get a divorce. That should be something that is deemed ok if the situation calls for it. But you can’t. Society says your goal in life is ultimately to get married and spawn children, and if you’re a woman, that’s pretty much all you’re supposed to want in life. So people get married and just try their best to tolerate each other until the sweet release of death. Hopefully you get some good anniversary cake in the meantime.

The first time I knew something was wrong with my parent’s marriage, I was a junior in college. In hindsight, I should’ve known the whole time but then again I am a goddamn scholar when it comes to looking at things in hindsight. It was one of the many fights my parents were having in which my mom was really intensely focused on her shop and traveling back and forth to Nigeria to maintain it and make more money on the side and my dad was being a control freak that doesn’t know how to handle not being in the loop of things or being supportive even when things are inconvenient for him. This is what a lot of their fights are like and honestly, most of the time, they’re really just fighting the same fight they’ve been having since I was a kid. But does time my dad was particularly pissed off over everything and was having such a bad attitude that they had stopped speaking while she was in Nigeria and when she came back, I was the one who picked her up from the airport and as we drove back to her shop, she just let it out. Everything she’s been holding onto for years, she unleashed on to me in this vulnerable moment that I’d never seen from her. It was heartbreaking and I couldn’t handle it.

I couldn’t handle it, ME; even in this moment of my mom’s testimony of grief, like a true child, I couldn’t help but make this about me. I didn’t say anything out loud of course but internally I was so distraught: my mom was tired and done and I just recoiled into a 7 year old who just realized that he didn’t want his parents to get a divorce. “Just realized” of course because when I was young I thought it might be cool to have divorced parents. My best friend James’ parents were divorced and my only thought process about the whole thing was “how cool, he’s got two houses and two christmases”. I was the type of kid that prided himself on not being emotionally attached to my parents. It was bullshit and I would learn that both in that moment with my mom and the first time I lived in a new city without my family, but as a kid I thought, because I was a latch key kid and because I was grateful that my parents didn’t try to accompany me on field trips or participate in PTA, that I was especially self-reliant. Yet there I was, a 21 year old turned into an emotional wreck because mommy and daddy might get a divorce, life makes fools out of all of us.

That moment passed, they didn’t get a divorce and everything stayed the same. My parent’s increasing exhaustion of each other could not be trumped by their comfort with the routine they’ve kept going. My sisters knew more about what was going on with my mom before I ever did, mostly by virtue of being women and my mom feeling that it’s more appropriate to have these discussions with them in order to prepare/warn them about the world they are entering as women. I don’t really get let in like that because it is considered not my place a lot of times, my only job is to not have the bad habits of my father. I wish I could be let in, I wish we had a home where things were more transparent, instead we hold everything inside until it boils over in a tirade. Our family crest should be: keep it on the inside until it explodes.

My parent have had intense, one-off fights since I can remember. They’ve gone to war over seemingly mundane issues but were really sparring battles over power and control. My father cannot handle not being in control; it fills him with fear and insecurity and he releases those emotions under the guise of anger. He does this to everyone. He acts aggressive and pretends to intentionally push people away but really he doesn’t know any other way to express himself and he also hates being alone. In my 26 years, me and my father have never had a personal, vulnerable, honest conversation. His culture and upbringing is not founded on that: he is a man and every decision he’s ever made, no matter how much he hates it , he’s done because it’s a man’s job to do these things. My mom also wants to be in control all the time but she’s more open about when she feels fear or insecurity. She is a fiercely Christian woman woman, both my parents are but my dad treats church like comfort food and my mom treats church like it’s water and like it’s her escape.

Church is also another factor in why both my parents are here. Divorce is still stigmatized and the other Christians will convince you of every reason why you should endure being miserable to fulfill God’s will or something. “Don’t get a divorce! It’s against God. Just endure it; curl up in a tiny ball for multiple hours a day if you need to. The bright side is you’ll be dead sooner than you think and you can find peace with God n them.”

The last time I went home it dawned on me that my parents probably shouldn’t be together anymore. They have run this marriage through its course and now they seem to be hanging in because it’s easier. I’m hard on my dad but honestly, I think this would be good for him too. Embracing and confronting loneliness will make anyone a more stable person. More than likely though, this passive-aggressive march to the grave will continue and all I can do is hope they find a ray of sunshine in their life of drab grey.

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I am in a room in my parent’s house. For brevity purposes, I’ll call it my room but it is not really mine and it was imperative of my parents to remind me of this at opportune times. This room is my home and my prison; a safe space at one moment and hell in another. It is fall, school has been in session for a few weeks and it is a dry, humid night in Tallahassee, Florida. I am writing in a composition notebook furiously, illegibly and incoherently: it is all earnest, dramatic emotion and self-indulgence in the way only teenagers can be. The world was out to get me and my only weapon were my words and my only support was the loud, fast, aggressively emotional emocore music that I’d been obsessed with.

When you’re a kid all you want is escape. Everyone and everything around you is dismissive towards you and ultimately interested in teaching you how to comply and how to follow orders. I grew up in a town that alternated between too humid and raining, where hanging out in an empty parking lot with friends was a reasonably good Saturday night and where the only thing that will ever matter in this life is what was happening at that very moment as far as we were concerned. I listened to a lot of rap but for all of rap’s brutal honesty, nothing I was exposed to identified with my embarrassing, navel-gazing immature ideas of being heartbroken as a teenager. At least not yet, that would come later, but at first it was all white sensitive males making power pop and punk-lite records about nostalgia, past mistakes and Salinger.

Emo is full-stop white dude tunnel vision and self-aggrandizement. It is almost comically open about feeling every kind of feeling and treating them all like scripture. It is self-involved in a way that is irresistible to a teenager that cannot see outside of themselves and to an adult that wants to remind themselves of those self-involved days every so often. You never forget the records you first obsessed over. The CDs you wear out until they can’t be played anymore, the lyrics you memorized like it was bible study, the way they made you feel every time they came one. I feel no shame in being obsessed with any of it. It all served a purpose. I knew every cringeworthy word on those Taking Back Sunday songs, I had my mental dictionary updated for every new Dashboard Confessional song I heard and I gleefully jumped into The Cure wormhole and wrapped myself in its esoteric grandiose.

A popular theme in a lot of this music (and music in general) is death. The ultimate go-to for every pedestrian poet: death is a game in this context and an excuse to bloviate in hyperbolic terms the tragedy of one’s own existence. Not to say that everyone is doing it for that purpose: depression is rampant in art and death is a valid focus and is capable of being used for genuine introspection. It’s also so tried and true that every artist thinks they can make death sound revolutionary. The ultimate protest to an unjust, ugly world. Sunny Day Real Estate made it sound like such a seductive choice and Nirvana made it feel like a sweet relief.

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: A man stops and yells at officers as they make their way through the crowd to help a person who needed medical attention near the intersection of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue as protestors walk for Freddie Gray on West North Avenue and protest around the city in Baltimore, MD on Tuesday April 28, 2015. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

BALTIMORE, MD – APRIL 28: A man stops and yells at officers as they make their way through the crowd to help a person who needed medical attention near the intersection of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue as protestors walk for Freddie Gray on West North Avenue and protest around the city in Baltimore, MD on Tuesday April 28, 2015. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The romanticization of death is a luxury and a privilege. It’s easy to fetishize and create a fantasy out of death when it’s not a real part of your life. In rap music, death is either expressed through hopelessness about the situation and life that you’ve been cursed with or it’s a tool used to shield the fear you walk with every day. What’s more gangster than convincing people you aren’t scared to die? It’s a lie of course, but you hold that front in the face of an unforgiving world. Death is at your front door and it can consume you or you can use it against others. The bands I obsessed over in that room didn’t know death in that way. Some of them were depressed and some knew what loss was, but by and large, death was foreign. It was foreign to me too: as a black kid in the suburbs, I got the sane luxury of finding the romance in death, using my depression not to search inward, but to make myself the hero of my own tragedy.

The past couple of years have been a hard one for this country and for Black people especially. There is news of black people being murdered by the state, by self-proclaimed vigilantes and by each other at a constant rate. A couple years ago, a gunmen unloaded at an elementary school and we as a country decided this was a price worth paying if it meant no regulation on our guns. A couple months back, 9 people lost their lives inside of a church; it was supposed to be their safe space and under the protection of God. There have been too many deaths to name and many more will probably come.

In the midst of this, one of the things making my skin crawl is the casualness with which we share videos of Black men, women and children being murdered on camera as though it’s the latest viral cat video. The news of murdered Americans is already becoming numbing to us and now we’re trying to make ourselves numb to the actual sight of their death. When this is not happening then the lives and bodies of these once alive, loved human beings are being used as mascots for the agendas of various people for both good and bad reasons. Whether it was intended, their death is now romanticized in service to something bigger. So it goes.

There is no romance in death: there is only the fact of it and the inevitability that we will all be there. As I’ve gotten older my thought process has grown but so has my depression. I look back and reflect on the boy in that room who couldn’t wait to escape from it all with fondness and I roll my eyes at his self-obsession and his fixation on death as being beautiful and poetic. He doesn’t know better; that’s usually how all the best romances happen.

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There are people who celebrate Christmas in order to remember the love, mercy and sacrifice bestowed by the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, my Christmas is the day new pictures of Rihanna at a Carnival emerge. I sit by the lights of my macbook with gleeful anticipation for said pictures because unlike actual Christmas, Rihanna will never let me down and will always give me more than I deserve.

Fun fact: those “I met God, she’s black” shirts were created after the designer saw a picture of Rihanna in a Carnival outfit. It’s true. You just read it on the internet.

I like to imagine Carnival Rihanna as a specialty version of regular Rihanna: like when characters in Dragon Ball Z do the fusion dance to combine into one character, or like Mecha-Godzilla or Jem. If Rihanna had happy meal toys, Carnival Rihanna would be one of the toys and it would be the one that everyone had to keep eating over and over to get.

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What is it like to be in Rihanna’s presence during Carnival? You’re breathing her air and seeing a woman does is giving me heart palpitations through a computer screen in real life. What do you do? Would you panic? I’m pretty sure I would panic. What do you do when she starts whining? Do you call yourself an ambulance? I would literally have to walk around with an IV in my arm the whole time. What if she decided to whine on you? I’m pretty sure you would combust into pieces like Malfunctioning Eddie from Futurama. I saw a photo where Rihanna whined on a gentleman and it looked like HE WAS ON HIS PHONE. THAT IS THE MOST BLATANTLY DISRESPECTFUL THING I’VE EVER HEARD OF. DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING TO YOU RIGHT NOW. ENJOY IT. PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND EXPERIENCE A THING THAT’S HAPPENING TO YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW.

What happens to a penis that’s been twerked on by Rihanna? Does it grow like the seeds buried in the ground? Is it like the sunrise or the brightest glow from the moon but in your penis? Is it more powerful than it’s ever been? Is it like a baptism but for a penis? Would your penis be eligible for submission to the Smithsonian? Do you think people can sense that something has changed about you post-twerk? For example, let’s say Rihanna twerked on me and I went to a bar the next day: would I become a magnet now? Would I just be the center of attention for some unexplainable reason anytime I enter the room? If Rihanna twerks on you (man or woman), I’m pretty sure you could just use that line to hit on anyone. I mean really think to yourself and question whether you would turn down someone who was good enough for Rihanna to whine up against. Don’t deny yourself that adjacent glow, treat yourself.

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The possibilities are endless with Carnival Rihanna and for that she is due all praise.

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