I Found Love On A MTA Bus…

BusI never saw her get on the bus.  It just rolled on down North Ave on its way to Harford Rd. The fumes irritated my nose and the shoddy suspension made my empty stomach queasy. The bus was packed tight on a Monday morning and I stared out of the window thinking only of how much I hated public transportation; its smells and passengers.

It was 1986; a transition period in my life and I was in the midst of an existential crisis. My mind fluttered back and forth between how and why I was occupying space and time and contemplating my few but significant shortcomings.

The carriage stopped around Greenmount Ave where most of its riders exited.  And as the bus thinned,  its then nearly hollow shell revealed a curious creature. She wore a tight short skirt and off-white boots decorated with paisley – a subtle nod to her favorite artist.

Her hair was tight, lips painted red, makeup neatly, tastefully applied. Her shit was together. The fitted skirt revealed womanly curves though one could easily tell that she was just a girl.  Legs smooth as frog skin.  Her plump, sweet lips clung to a face far too serious for her age and framed by dangling gold hoops.  She looked out-of-place on the MTA bus and nothing about her spoke of Baltimore. I peeped that from the start.

I wish that this was the part of the story where I could offer a tale of love-at-first-sight. One where we looked into each other’s eyes and saw our future. A story of rapid pulses and beating hearts. But I can not. The truth of the matter is that I saw chocolate thighs and she…well, she saw nothing.

I moved closer. Perhaps to get a better look, a whiff of perfume. I didn’t talk to strangers then. Not usually. I had no pick up lines at the ready. Two seats away I sat innocuously; eyes fixed firmly on her paisley ankle boots. My eyes worked their way up from ankle to leg to thigh and hip. And at the risk of sounding crude…noticed that she had a nice ass. A really nice ass.

Now normally, that would be the extent of my mental escapade. I’d admire a pretty girl and entertain a fantasy or two. Shyness was always difficult for me to overcome. But I noticed an “in”…a gateway to introduction. She and I happened to be gripping the same text-book. And I thought, “Surely it can’t get any easier than this.” So I spoke, “Excuse me. Did we have assignments to complete from that book”? Her reply was a cold, “yes.”  There was no look of “oh are we in the same class” or “I’m glad to make a new acquaintance.” “Yes” was all she said and she continued her blank stare out of the aquarium-like window of the MTA bus. I swung, I missed, I felt dejected.

I thought myself a charming fellow but she remained immune to my charms for a while. Yet I remained obdurate in my backdoor approach. Overtime, in class, I earned her trust and friendship. I finally smashed it half-way through the semester.

I still remember the first kiss. The sound of her voice when she first said my name. Walks to the corner store. The first time she used profanity. Me showing her my small slice of Baltimore. Getting off the bus at Lexington Market. Extravagant lunches at Burger King. Late night phone calls when one of us would eventually fall as sleep. Not wanting to be the first to hang up the phone. Painful times.  Fun times. Confusing times. Events and emotions that proved to be the genetic code of love and the foundation of our union.

Me and the girl from the bus played house. We made babies. We were the architects of dreams. But there never was a love-at-first-sight moment. No fantasy tale to tell. No eyes meeting and locking among the throngs of miserable faces on the MTA bus. Love is what you make of it and we chose to make something special.

I tricked MTA girl into loving me. Taught her how to love me, really, as she taught me to love her. 26 Valentine’s Days have come and gone. 26 Valentine’s Days have added 26 strong blocks to our foundation. And now, in retrospect, these 26 Valentine’s Days have given me a newfound appreciation for public transportation.

 

Work, Life, Tech Balance

Today I finally did it. I misplaced my smartphone and I was lost in space without it. My family found great amusement in the fact, but I did not. I first discovered Biggie (the name of my iPhone6 Plus) missing when I dropped by Starbucks for an oatmeal and latte. Standing in line, I reached into my pocket to retrieve my device and my hand emerged covered in lint sans phone. Panicked, I dashed to my car thinking I left Biggie sitting on the seat with the doors unlocked only to find that the phone was not there. Then I remembered that, in my impetuous exit, I left the phone charging on my nightstand next to the bed. I grieved. Boy did I grieve.

Me and Biggie
Me and Biggie

I struggled to scrape together enough cash from the car to afford an oatmeal (no latte) and knowing that I had a $23 balance on my Starbucks app sent me into a momentary depression. I wanted that  grande triple-shot Cinnamon Dolce latte.

The thought of traversing the entire day without my phone delivered chills up and down my spine; while the thought of challenging my family’s proclamation that I am addicted to my phone gave me the energy and the courage to head to the office with Biggie left at home.

Friends…it was a rough day. When I wasn’t working on my office computer or handwriting notes, my hands were confused. They seemed to wander aimlessly to my pockets or rested on my head, hips and chin. You see, I love my phone. Not in a weird object sexuality disorder kind of way. It’s a far different situation than the dude caught on video sticking his pecker into the exhaust pipe of his car. No my friends; my phone keeps me connected and aids in being productive. I talk to it and it to me. It is my window on the world.

I nearly missed an appointment because I wasn’t near my computer to receive the appointment reminder. During that appointment, I was concerned that I couldn’t be reached by the office or my family. Most of my communication during the day is via text message or Face Time.

I had no mobile access to Face Book, Twitter, Instagram or any other network. I couldn’t  even take a selfie. I grew concerned that Biggie was cold and alone. I worried that I was ruining the battery life by having it charging all day.

“This is silly”, I thought. So I capitulated and proceeded to take my daily walk across campus; soak in some sun and enjoy my lunch break outdoors. My wife Angela constantly says that I am “missing out on the world.” I paused on the Syracuse University Quad and took a seat on a bench next to Hendricks Chapel. There I sat in the world…bored to death. No news to read. No messages to respond to. No pictures to take. No status updates. My attempts to connect to the world around me were futile. I saw a squirrel carrying some nesting material. Ok…cute. I watched people walking across the Quad. Some snapped pictures of campus art and iconic buildings while others multitasked walking and texting. And others simply talked on their phones. I was the only one on the Quad without a phone. A colleague approached and asked, “Why do you look so vexed”?  Was it that apparent? I told her about Biggie and, in return, received a rather pathetic look. One of pity and bewilderment.

After work, the loss was noticeable in the car. No bluetooth connection phone. No bluetooth connection audio. A lonely commute.

I arrive at the gym and it it immediately dawns on me that I have no music for my workout. Unable to tune out the world around me, I was force to listen to the  bone-headed conversations of gym rats and, what’s worse, forced to listen to the local classic rock station being piped in on the YMCA’s audio system. Just not in the mood for Judas Priest.

Once home and reunited with Biggie, I was greeted with several missed calls, messages, notifications and reminders. It was if the entire day had passed me by.

I deny that I am tech addicted. There is an article a day written about detoxing from tech, tech addiction as a sign of depression, the ills of being tethered to tech, and other nonsensical b.s..  I see it as a necessary and essential part of being connected to my ever expanding digital world and an important tool in managing my work day. With my pocket computer, I can set the temperature in my home, check my retirement savings, send a kiss-face emoticon to my wife, manage my company’s social media, and check the latest political headlines in just a matter of minutes. Do I need better balance between work, life and technology? Probably.  But it’s not so bad when I can seamlessly attend to them all with one device.

Tonight, I’ll give Biggie a nice screen cleaning and put him to bed early. It’s been a rough day for the both of us.

Empty Nesting in Paradise 

   
With one child out of the house and the other at a 3 week residential camp, my wife, Angela, and I decided to give the empty nest a spin around the block. 

We put the dogs in boarding (not our favorite thing to do), packed our bags and headed to the sunny Carribean. The islands of Turks and Caicos to be exact. 

The flight from Syracuse to New York’s JFK was short and uneventful, albeit very early. You can imagine how early we had to get up to catch a 5:32 AM flight.   The flight from JFK to Providenciales was full if kids and a bit noisy. No problem because paradise awaits on the other end. 

We selected the Seven Stars Resort as our temporary abode. 

  

  
Seven Stars has spacious suites, two restaurants, a heated salt water pool, and lovely grounds with spectacular views of the ocean. 

  
A snorkeling excursion and a trip to Iguana Island was in order. These mini monsters moved in packs, waiting for tourist to drop some junk food. Naughty humans.

  
Favorite place to eat off property was Grace’s Cottage. A quaint little restaurant nestled among plush tropical foliage. The Safron Seafood Risotto was out of this world. Angela also enjoyed her sea bass. The chocolate souffl√© was killer. A must-try if you plan to visit. 

  
The empty nester thing was pretty cool even if was just a dry run. Good bonding time and an opportunity to define who we are as a single couple. 

  

Throw Back Thursday: Stoner Shaggy

You remember this dude and his “meddling friends and dog” don’t you?  Let’s face, what they didn’t show us kids on screen was that this chicken-hearted, lanky, slacker was a first class pot head.  As evident by his insatiable appetite and chronic munchies.  And what’s worse is that his dog suffered from second-hand smoke.  He too had uncontrollable munchies.  Created in 1969 by Hanna-Barbera Productions, the Scooby-Doo cartoon and franchise has enjoyed significant longevity.  It’s not because of the cuteness of Scooby or the interesting, spooky mysteries that the teens solved each week.  I think it’s because a lot of us wanted to be Shaggy.  Or was it just me?  You kind of secretly wanted to lay around, solve a few mysteries, smoke weed, and eat anything that wasn’t nailed to the table, didn’t you?

Shaggy always had the munchies
Shaggy always had the munchies

We should have predicted then that marijuana would move from counter-culture nuisance to mainstream recreational activity.  We aren’t quite there yet, but the movement is growing and gaining steam.  Cannabis prohibition began in the 1920’s and was heavily regulated as a drug in the mid 1930’s.  Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books legalizing marijuana with Maryland, Minnesota and New York joining the ranks in 2014.

There is no real point to this post other than to say that Shaggy was harbinger of the socialization of marijuana in mainstream America.  Shaggy was the star of the show.  I can’t even tell you the other dude’s name.  He was flat and insignificant.

Side bar:  I was always more attracted to the bright and nerdy Velma than I was the pretty Daphne.  Not sure what that says about me other than I like smart, nerdy women.

Velma & Daphne
Velma & Daphne

It will be interesting to see how our culture continues to evolve around the legalization of marijuana.  Perhaps one day in the near future, some brave city will erect a statue of Shaggy, or Cheech & Chong or Jeff Spicoli or Smokey from Friday or Jeff Labowski or Harold and Kumar or…

The Road to 50: Heat Check

Limp Noodle

There’s a term that sports announcers like to use when referring to a shooter’s hot streak – the heat check.  The reference relates to the next shot that a shooter takes to test just how hot he/she is.  I too have a “heat check”.  It happens when I reach for my wife Angela under the covers to see if I can generate a physical reaction.  An equipment check if you will.  A good portion of the time, I am less interested in intimacy at the moment and more interested in the equipment appearing in good working order.

Virility is a major concern of men over 50.  We are far more concerned with having strength, stamina, energy, and a strong sex drive than we are in the degradation of youthful appearance.  The heat check, for me, is a way to gauge my virility.  Lately, I find that recovery from vigorous workouts is taking a bit longer, my energy is down, and I think about sex far less than I ever have.  And I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a concern.  This is my new reality.

MenTalk

It’s a concern of many men but we just don’t talk about it.  When men talk about sex, the conversation is full of half-truths and gross exaggerations.  Rarely does the discussion center around issues or concerns.  I had a recent conversation with a friend who shared some of the same concerns and described experiencing similar psychological and physiological changes.  It was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in the journey.

The saying is that men think about sex every 8 seconds.  While that claim has never officially been proven or disproven, I can guarantee you that it is a lot.  At least in our teens, 20’s and 30’s.  My friend pointed out that if we had focused our thinking and directed our energy on other things rather than the thought and pursuit of sex, we might be brain surgeons or astrophysicists today.

holding-hands-

When the fellas get together to talk about sports, their golf game, careers and family life, here’s what we are NOT talking about:

Andropause – the male version of menopause.  Yes, there is such a thing.  Also referred to as “aging male syndrome” (AMS), andropause happens roughly the same time that women experience menopause: somewhere between the ages of 35-70, but most commonly experienced in the early 50’s.  In its simplest form, AMS is the decrease of the male hormone testosterone.  Symptoms include a loss of energy, lower sex drive, decreasing strength and endurance, mood changes and erections that are less strong.  All difficult things to discuss with your homie.  I can imagine the conversation, “Hey Joe, how’s it hanging?”  “These days it’s hanging low and a little depressed.  How about you?”  Crickets.

Erectile Dysfunction –  While not a direct result of aging, impotence can come with age due to increase risk.  It can be caused by mental, emotional, or physical factors.  It can also be a side effect of certain medications or excessive drinking.  Concerns about developing ED could lead a man to perform the occasional “heat check” on his wife.  How do you even start a conversation about this with another dude?  It’s easy actually.  Just ask. “Yo, how’s your sex life these days?”  And hope that he is completely honest with you.  According to the National Institute of Health, 5% of 40 year-old men suffer from ED.  So if you’ve just finished a full-court basketball game with the fellas, bring up the issues of ED, and they all say there is no issue…the shortest person on the court is lying.

Attachment – Here’s an interesting one.  Apparently, as testosterone levels decrease and oxytocin levels stay the same, men tend to attach more to their partners after sex.  Testosterone can drive sex and interest in sex while oxytocin (the love hormone) is responsible for bonding partners and children.  A 2012 study that increased oxytocin in monogamous men found that they were attaching themselves more to their partners after sex.  So the conversation after shooting hoops goes something like this, “Yo, want to grab a brew or something later?”  “Naw man.  I think I’m going to stay home and cuddle.”  Crickets.

Recovery time – It used to be that the amount of time that you needed to recover for round two with your babe was about 15 minutes or so.  That was in your 20’s.  According to the Male Health Center, the “refractory period”, the time it takes to achieve another erection, can take 24 hours or more for men in their 50’s.    But if you’re like me, you don’t even want to think about it until next weekend any way.

The Premie – A University of Chicago study showed that 31% of men in their 50’s experience premature ejaculation.  There are two primary reasons for this: anxiety and penis-centered sex.  Penis-centered sex puts more pressure on the male organ than it can handle.  Actually, that sounds kind of fun, huh?  Anxiety comes with concerns over performance.  The pressure is daunting and can lead one to “fire one off” well before he or his partner is ready.

The possibility of interesting and helpful conversation exist if we would assiduously share our experiences and concerns with one another.  One thing’s for sure, I’m not telling you mine unless you tell me your’s first.

The Road to 50 – Who’s Joining Us

Turning50

 

Now that turning 50 has taken root in my thoughts, I can’t help but wonder who else is in the same boat as me.  Luckily, the advent and subsequent popularity of social media has created an unprecedented network of peers.  I can watch high school friends, childhood friends and family members age right along with me.  I can get all up in your personal business…and I do.  I can see who’s trying to keep fit, eat healthy, and evolve their personal style.  I could develop comprehensive peer-to-peer benchmark reports from Facebook data alone if I wanted to.  But you’re already in the boat with me.  It’s not terribly exciting data.  I’ve spoken with many of you and received your comments on the last post to know how you are handling the big 5-0.  So my mind has turned to more trivial matters.  Like who are my peers in Hollywood and media?  How are they holding up?  Are they aging gracefully or getting some custom maintenance?  If I were single and on the market, who could I dupe into going out with me?  How do I stack up physically with the dudes?  Let’s take a look at who will be joining us in Club 50 in 2015 and play a little Could I Date Her/Could I Take Him:

Baltimore native son Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January
Baltimore native son Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January

Baltimore native sun Muggsy Bogues turns 50 in January.  Muggsy and his Dunbar High teammates stole plenty of joy from us Walbrook Warriors.  I thought we had a pretty good team back then but we could never get past the Poets.  I’m not quite sure what he is doing with himself these days, but Muggsy is looking older than 50.  I expect more from a former athlete.  Could I take him?  Physically, I think I can take Muggsy if I can keep him from going low.  At 5’3″, if he gets me around the ankles, I’m done for.

Diane Lane turns 50 in January
Diane Lane turns 50 in January

Actress Diane Lane hits 50 in January.  She is still in great shape and doesn’t appear to have augmented anything.  But what do I know.  Could I date her?  I think so.  I’m charming, well traveled (in the eastern United States), and she looks like she might enjoy a glass of fine wine, something that I’m great at pretending to know a little something about.

Sarah Jessica Parker turns 50 in March
Sarah Jessica Parker turns 50 in March

The star of Sex in the City will reach the half century mark in March.  Always the style icon, SJP keeps it together.  She must eat like a bird and train like an athlete to keep that shape.  Could I date her?  Probably.  She’s married to Matthew Broderick…what more do I need to say?

Iron Man's 50th is in April
Iron Man’s 50th is in April

I wish I could turn 50 like Robert Downey Jr.  I admire his style.  Always dapper.  And some killer eye-wear!  The one-time drug abusing bad boy of Hollywood has really turned his life and career around and I respect that. And he is in fantastic shape.  Could I take him?  Doubtful.  He’s probably learned some fight techniques during his Iron Man training that my Cherry Hill, Baltimore hustle, Bruce Lee movie osmosis thing can’t keep up with.  Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give it my best shot.

Dang Gina! turns 50 in April
Dang Gina! turns 50 in April

Comedic genius Martin Lawrence joins our club in April as well.  From stand-up comedy to television to box office Hollywood hits, Martin Lawrence has experienced great success.  I don’t think I ever admired his fashion style though.  Nothing wrong with it.  I just prefer a more classic look.  Can I take him?  Yes.  Looks like success has made ol’ Marty Mar a little soft.  Plus, when has a comedian ever scared you?  I could take him while even having consumed a couple of Vesper martinis.

The CNN anchor is 50 in May
The CNN anchor is 50 in May

CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield is beautiful, stylish, and appears to be defying age.  Qualities that you need if you are going to have longevity in television broadcasting.  Let’s be honest, no one at Syracuse University cares about what I look like sitting behind my desk or behind a radio microphone.  The pressure on women it the television broadcast industry is palpable so she has to stay on top of it.  Could I date her?  Yes.  I just need an “in”.  Broadcast media is my “in”.  After a couple glasses of wine and a lengthy discussion on digital disruption of traditional broadcast media…BAM!…she won’t know what hit her.

The Walking Dead's Carol is 50 three days after me in May
The Walking Dead’s Carol is 50 three days after me in May

Melissa McBride, one of the stars of AMC’s The Walking Dead, will turn 50 three days after I do in May.  She’s in great shape and I love how she rocks the salt and pepper pixie cut.  It is most likely for TWD show but you get an idea of what she would look like if she decided to maintain a natural look.  Much like the way actress Jamie Lee Curtis did and does.  Could I date her?  Probably not.  I’m such a huge fan of the show that I would most likely trip over my words, geek out during a meeting, and mistakenly refer to her as Carol.  Immediate turn off don’t you think?

Dwayne Wayne joins the club in July
Dwayne Wayne joins the club in July

Kadeem Hardison, AKA Dwayne Wayne, is another of our contemporaries.  He turns 50 in July.  Over the years, the kid with the flip-up sunglasses has experienced some significant shifts in weight.  He’s rocking a natural salt & pepper look like us average Joes.  His personal style says that he maintains a deep connection to his hometown, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.  I can respect that.  Can I take him?  Yup.  Dwayne Wayne is looking a little soft these days.  Plus, he’s tall at 5’11”.  If I can get down around his ankles… game over.

Viola is 50 in August
Viola is 50 in August

No one’s spark is hotter than Viola Davis right now.  As she approaches 50 this coming August, her maturity as an actress positions her nicely for diverse roles.  She can take it from the matronly servant to the energetic power broker.  And she doesn’t look 50.  But you know what they say about it not cracking.  She has a beautiful smile and keeps the body tight.  Though my wife Angela says that she has never seen her in a wig that compliments her.  Looking good at 50 though.  Could I date her?  I don’t know.  She seems too serious.  I might come across to goofy and immature.  But if I can get her to sit with me on a park bench and talk about people as they walk by…I have a shot.

I know that I a lot these folks don’t keep regular schedules like we do and have plenty of time to work with personal trainers and have personal stylists, but they inspire me to enter my 50’s fit and in style.  Fit at 50.  That’s my goal.

 

The Road to 50 (Intro)

Road

 

Back in May of 2014, I wrote a somewhat humorous post on the angst of turning 49.  Some 8 months later, I now sit 119 days away from turning 50 and the angst is still very real.  Considering that most of my friends and associates are about the same age, this is a conversation that I have had on numerous occasions.  Inevitably, the “age is just a number” comment comes into play.  As does, “you are only as old as you feel.”  To which I say, “bullshit”!

Despite what nonsense people spout, 50 is not the new 40.  50 is 50 and it has a psychological impact on you whether you admit it or not.  My mind is too curious to carry on about my day, about my life as if nothing changes when that half-century mark hits.  I want to know what to expect both physically and emotionally in the months and years that follow.  I hope that, in understanding the possible impact, I am better able to deal with the change in life.  The Man Up blog will chronicle my journey of discovery and neuroticism, my thought process and emotional vicissitudes from today until May 20 (the 50 mark).  I hope you will join me and share your experiences as well.

50For a lot of men, the concern of aging isn’t out of fear of getting old.  It’s a fear of losing potency.  The image of ourselves that we hold on to is one of a strapping young, virile man with energy and stamina for days and it does not jibe with the image that we see in the mirror.  The number 50 is a marker.  A midlife marker that distorts our self-image.  We’ve likely lived more than half of our lives with key markers along the way: finishing school; getting that first career job, pair bonding, child rearing etc. Those markers are ones that we expect and plan for.  For many, at least for me, 50 represents the unknown.  How will my career wind down?  What will I do in retirement?  Can I retire the way I want?  Do I have enough resources?  Will I be alone?  When will I be alone?  When will I lose virility?  That thing about 50 being the new 40 is so untrue.  At 40, you still have relatively young children, a good 25 years or so of work ahead of you,  perhaps even another career move, and many more things to accomplish.  With 50, the window becomes shorter.  Younger, more talented people enter the workplace with highly developed skills.  Your years of experience in the new technology environment becomes less valued.  Technology itself begins to slip away from you.  Your music choices become more nostalgic.  People start calling you “sir”.  Dinner out starts at 6 o’clock.  You’re in bed by 9 p.m.  Multivitamins, Ensure and adult diapers are on the horizon.

50 one

 

50 represents change and, for men, change is not growth.  For men, change represents the loss of something.  In this case, the loss of time, the loss of virility, the loss of potency, the loss of effectiveness.  I feel like I can still walk up to a young Mike Tyson and kick his ass…in my mind.  But it doesn’t reconcile with my cracking bones, aching feet and arthritic knuckles.  Yeah, 50 is screwing with me.  I’m not going to lie.

For me, 50 is going to be a time of self-reflection.  From what will I derive satisfaction?  How can I be a better lover?  A better father?  A greater contributor to life, community, and business.  I will learn to live with a new reality.  Cope with the aches and pains and mood swings.

Quite a bleak outlook, I know.  I also know that we have advantages over our fathers and grandfathers before us.  We have better healthcare so we are living longer and healthier.  We have more tools in the tool box like the internet and access to research, studies and articles.  Greater income to do more things and acquire more shit.  We also have an openness and willingness to talk about how we feel and what we are going through with our partners and friends.

In the weeks to come, I will dive deep into the abyss to discover what lies ahead for me over the next 10-15 years.  Perhaps I’ll learn a few things that will help me cope and better prepare or discover the secrets to juvenescence.  Or consider it all rejectamenta and just drink more wine.

If you’ve already crossed that marker, I’d love to hear about your experience.  If 50 is staring you in the face, I’d equally love to know your concerns, if any.

Until next time Hominids…keep it on the good foot!

“Shut Up Before I Really Give You Something to Cry About”

Vikings RB Peterson

A recent exchange with a family member had me reminiscing about my childhood and how I was reared by extended family and…got me thinking about Adrian Peterson.

Peterson’s recent off-field activities have landed him in hot water with the law and on the wrong side of public opinion as it relates to child rearing.  His detractors emerged quickly as did his supporters.

The ass-whooping is lore in the black community and many of us have comical tales of having to procure our own switches and belts to aid in our corporal punishment.  There was something about having extra time to think about your transgressions and come to grips with your inevitable thrashing.  We have, over time, romanticized and accepted corporal punishment as a part of our hardcore upbringing.  If you’ve ever seen a stand-up routine from comedian DL Hughely and others, you have undoubtedly heard them joke about the subject.  Former NBA star, Charles Barkley, famously spoke out about the Peterson situation and claimed that it was an accepted fact that hind-parts were not off limits in addressing adolescent mischievousness if you were a southern black.

Spanking2

And it’s not just a black thing.  CNN reported that in a 2012 national survey, that half of women and three-quarters of men in the U.S. believe a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking”. But there are physical and emotional consequences with each swing of the switch.  In that same report, CNN reported that numerous studies showed detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development, increased aggression, a decrease in cognitive ability, and decreased levels of gray matter.  We aren’t simply beating the shit out of our kids, we are also beating the potential out of them.

The emotional effects are equally damning.  We don’t know how every swing of the belt, swat of the paddle or bare hand whacking shaped the relationships that we have, or don’t have, with our elders.  I often think about how envious I am of friends and associates who have very close relationships with parents, grandparents or other care-givers.  I wonder if my own relationships might be closer and more fulfilling had a different approach to discipline been used.

The day that the Peterson story broke, my social media timelines were flooded with comments like “I got my ass whooped as a kid and I turned out just fine.”  Hell, I think I may have written something similar.  The truth of the matter, though, is that we have no idea what or who we could have become had a different parenting approach been taken. For the record, I have no doubt that AP loves his children.  He just needs a different approach to raising them.

My own approach to child-rearing in general and, more specifically, disciplining, differs vastly from my own upbringing.  Love, encouragement, and currency has been the general rule of thumb in the Lee household.  And I suspect, indeed hope, that the yield will be long-lasting, love-filled, close relationships with my girls.

What do you think?  Does/did your parenting style differ from that of your elders?  Do you agree or disagree with the research?  Have a funny ass-whooping tale to tell?

In Full Panic Mode at 49

Old JoeAs of this writing, I am a full 457 days away from turning 50 and, if you can’t tell by this advanced obsession, it is not sitting well with me. I never thought I would be the type to over-contemplate the aging process. After all, I consider myself a man of science. I understand aging and its role in the circle of life. But it does bring about an internal dialogue that I find particularly disturbing.

This is not a happy blog post. It is one full of angst, fear and trepidation. There is no “grab-the-bull-by-the-horns” pep talk here. Doom and gloom are the name of the game and the sky is indeed falling.

The featured photo here is from a site that allows you to age your face. I chose a 30 year aging for laughs but, instead of chuckles, I damn near cried hysterically. This is how I know that when the big 50 comes 457 days from now, my wife had better be equipped with a jumbo pack of Kleenex.

The picture disturbed me because I still remember the reckless little boy that ran the streets of Baltimore with hair that made me look like a feral child raised by wolves. I remember the high school boy overly concerned about pulling off a preppy look. And Joe “Black” the afrocentric, kente cloth wearing, Haki Madhubuti  poem spewing rebel who was going topple the “man’s” social construct.  I remember them with vivid detail. What has become of those Joes?

What does 50 have in store?  How about 82? For more laughs (or torture) I calculated my life expectancy using the Social Security on-line calculator and discovered that, as of now, I can expect to live to be 82 years old.  Not that I want to live that long.  But it is only 33 more years or 396 months of remaining battery life.  I need a plan to prepare myself for 50 457 days from now.  What am I going to do to cling to my youth?  Have I made a difference on matters of which I have some bearing? Am I prepared to survive another 20 years? What will be my quality of life? Do I spend my final years selfishly or helping others? Do I chase the kids off my lawn while wearing boxer shorts, black socks and slippers or do I let them play? Do I drive around for 30 minutes trying to find the closest parking spot that I can? I can not stop these thoughts from haunting me during the contemplative bathroom moments.

I don’t quite know what I am going to do but I do know what I am not going to do:

  1. I will not celebrate with a party. I don’t think I will be in the mood to celebrate the final third of my life with people that just want free booze and food.
  2. I will not color my hair. I can’t think of anything more desperate and artificial.
  3. I will not grow “mitties” or “moobies”. If I have to perform 200 push-ups per day to keep the chest tight, I will.
  4. I will not let my stomach eclipse the view of my shoes. I pay enough for them and needs see them.
  5. I will not accept the AARP card. I’ll hold off for as long as I can or until the deals are just too good to turn down.
  6. I will not stop having sex.  Angela Lee…you can run but you can’t hide!
  7. I will not let my nose and ear hair grow to a length that can be braided.
  8. I will NOT wear dad jeans. Under any circumstances.
  9. I will NOT listen to classical music. These old ears will continue to rock out even if the volume has to be much lower than normal.
  10. I will NOT dine before 6 PM.  That is lunch any way you slice it.

Fretting these things can’t be good though. I realize that it is quite natural to want to preserve your youth in the face of decrepitude. Perhaps my biggest fear has nothing to do with physically aging but grounded more in the fear that I will cease to be useful. Cease to be relevant. I do think about and fear all of these things during the quiet times. But then I think that the zombie apocalypse will be upon us before we know it and this worry will all be for naught. They will surely need my expertise and leadership then.