Dear Hip-Hop: we’re breaking up. And it’s definitely Drake’s fault.

16/11/2015 § 1 Comment

No Drake, you can't have my number.
image via.

**Disclaimer: I’m about to liberally exercise the f-word and talk about sex, which is somewhat out of character for me on here.  If that’s not your thing, I would encourage you to skip to my next post.  No hard feelings.**

Dear Hip-Hop,

What’s good?  I admit it’s been a bit since we’ve spent quality time together, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s just so much music out there and TBH, I’ve been feeling like maybe we’ve drifted apart recently.  And that maybe (PROBABLY) this time its for good.

How did we get to this point?  This new song by Drake, honestly.  You know, “Hotline Bling?”

Yeah, I’m not sure why his phone blings instead of rings either, but that’s not my main concern here.  Neither are the old man dance moves.  First, I want to ask for a bit of clarification as to what Drake is actually upset about in the song.

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out
Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out
‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more
Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor
Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before

Ok, there’s a lot here I want to unpack, but first, is Drake essentially upset because a girl he used to only talk to in the middle of the night — only talk to in order to coordinate sex, mind you, (only mean “one thing”) — is now out on the prowl herself?  Okay.  Okay, great.  So, it’s totally okay for him to only talk to her for sex (in a purely transactional matter), but it’s not okay for her to go out and get in the mix on her own.  And its especially not okay for her to hang out with girls he’s unfamiliar with.  Have I got that straight?

These days, all I do is
Wonder if you bendin’ over backwards for someone else
Wonder if you’re rollin’ up a backwoods for someone else
Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else
You don’t need no one else
You don’t need nobody else, no
Why you never alone
Why you always touching road
Used to always stay at home, be a good girl
You was in a zone, yeah
You should just be yourself
Right now, you’re someone else

And this person she’s “become” – it’s not really herself, because if she was being herself, she would sit at home and wait for Drake to return to town and then be available only to him, right?  Wait, sorry — only available to him in the middle of the night. Because that’s what good girls do?

Ok, glad that’s clear.  My next question is, where does a barney like Drake, who looks like the guy who would offer to do your Algebra 2 homework JUST to get your phone number, exactly get off?  I’m supposed to believe he has so much swag he’s owed this girl’s sexual freedom?  Or even receive a vote on how she should live her life?  GTFOH.  For real.

Hip-hop, this is why we are breaking up.  You used to be exciting.  You used to be soulful.  You used to be angry.  Now, you’re just….Drake-ified.  And the sexist tropes you continue to trot out make it really hard to even casually listen to you.

It’s because your words have power, even if the mouthpieces are whack as hell.  Hip-hop, think of all the people listening to you on the subway, in the car, at home.  Think of a generation of men repeating over and over to themselves that a girl isn’t a good girl unless she stays home and waits to service me sexually, on my terms.  Think of a generation of women, singing along, quasi-endorsing that this is an okay way for men to think about their sexuality.  Because when you say things, either out loud or in your mind, they affect you — your thoughts, your mood, your state of well being.  It’s not a blatant indoctrination, but it just keeps creeping in and I really think it’s affecting the way that we relate to each other, as human beings.

Now, I hear your protestations, hip-hop.  Drake isn’t all that bad!  He was on Degrassi Jr High!  He had a cute Bar Mitzvah video!  And his song isn’t that sexist!  Maybe he also realizes he is really REALLY lame and maybe there was more to the relationship than we are hearing in the song!

Okay, well, as a bookend, let’s take the other hip-hop/r&b artist in the top 5 this week on the Billboard Hot 100: The Weeknd, and his song The Hills.

I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, yeah
I only fuck you when it’s half past five
The only time I’d ever call you mine
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, babe

I’mma let you know and keep it simple
Tryna keep it up don’t seem so simple
I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you
And you gon’ have to do it at my tempo
Always tryna send me off to rehab
Drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf
I’m just tryna live life for the moment
And all these motherfuckers want a relapse

Full confession: yes hip-hop, I love the music the Weeknd makes — THE MUSIC.  It’s dramatic and interesting and it makes me feel like I either want to punch someone in the face or rip all their clothes off.  I fully appreciate the novel quality of his art.  It really does makes me feel something.

But these lyrics?  I can’t.  I’ve seen concert footage of Abel (The Weeknd’s government name) leading hundreds of people screaming about how they will only be calling at 5:30am, and it makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think about people walking around humming the hook — which is catchy as hell, I admit — and what that might be doing to the way they feel about their relationships.  And I’m a reasonably confident, self-assured adult — can you imagine what these words are doing to younger, more malleable minds?  Are you surprised there are sexting rings in high schools?  You shouldn’t be.  You’re only supposed to touch me, not feel me.

But wait, I hear you complaining hip-hop: isn’t this what the modern age of relationships is?  Isn’t it actually so evolved of us to liberate sex from commitment and empower everyone to do whatever we want and hook up with people at all hours of the night?  Sorry, I’m really skeptical.  While it’s a modern notion to treat sex and relationships more casually, I’d argue it’s probably less evolved.  A lot of people are unhappy, unsure and lonely — even if they are having A LOT of sex.  We haven’t figured out how to feel about these arrangements — much less how to feel GOOD about them, and so we get songs from Drake about being upset some girl isn’t willing to exclusively give him…casual sex? What?

Hip-hop, I am tired of you using sex as a commodity.  A commodity that men own and women spitefully keep from them.  A commodity that men are owed and should receive whenever they decide they want it, however they want it.  A commodity that when spent by women is magically transformed into something slutty.  How are we supposed to teach our little girls to feel good about sex — when sex is the safest and most accessible it’s ever been in human history — when Future is writing bars like “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops”? (Side note: Which is a 10-word masterpiece of materialistic, emasculating, slut-shaming misogyny, when you think about it.) (Side note to the side note: Future, do you need a hug?)  The point is, if we keep treating sex like it’s nothing, how equipped are we to handle it when it is something?

You’ve let me down, hip-hop.  You’ve grown fat and lazy and you make me feel rotten.  Where are your songs about actually connecting with someone?  About love?  About respect?  About ANYTHING remotely happy?  Why, hip-hop, have you allowed yourself to become so one-dimensional?  And where the hell did Common go?  And while the circumstances I just described aren’t entirely your fault, hip-hop, this is a boundary I can easily draw for myself.

So, it is with regret (?) that I inform you that we are breaking up, hip-hop.  It’s not me, it’s you.

Well, it’s you and Drake.

Hold Fast. Let Go.

14/11/2012 § 10 Comments

As I mentioned last week, I still have yet to return home due to damages my apartment building suffered during Hurricane Sandy.  I have been removed from my normal routine and neighborhood, but I recognize that compared to some, I have lost very little.  I am very sorry to have been an absentee parent these past few days, and I wanted to let you know that your emails checking in on me have been a particularly bright spot for me in this stretch of time.  Thank you! xo

That said, I have found these past few weeks difficult.  Personally, when I feel like I have a sense of control over things, I feel the most secure.  Having to leave my home has forced me to cede a certain amount of that control, and that has been disconcerting.  But I believe that this also speaks to a larger concept that I have struggled with throughout my life: the concept of letting go – the process of detaching myself from an outcome, a routine, a person, or a relationship that I have invested my time, my money or my heart (or even all three) into.

In the early post-Sandy days, I realized that I was hanging on to a lot of frustration at being displaced and also at not being able to do anything about it.  It bled over into other areas of my life, causing me to feel sullen and wanting to retreat – all because I felt like I had lost my sense of control over my living conditions.  That’s it!  I hadn’t really lost anything at all!  Well, maybe aside from a few trips to my local — yet overpriced — bodega.  And maybe my perspective.

So, this past week I have tried my best to keep in mind that this change is only temporary, to trust that I will be home soon, to embrace a new neighborhood and to be very thankful that I have the help of some truly lovely friends.  It isn’t every day that I get the opportunity to step outside my usual box and since I haven’t lived on the Upper East Side since 2008, I’ve spent a lot of time simply walking around the neighborhood.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting a few of my old favorite places like the Ralph Lauren mansion, Sant Ambroeus and The Frick, discovering new (to me, at least) gems like the Lexington Bar and Books and Creel & Gow, and I actually forced myself to get out and run in Central Park over the beautiful fall weekend we had.  Changing my perspective was hard work, but I’ve been feeling much, much better.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, there is something very, very easy – and very dangerous – in the refusal to let go of negativity.  It’s what a good friend described to me as being “comfortably sad.”  You get comfortable with being sad or frustrated, because you aren’t quite sure what it would feel like to try to let that go and move forward.  If you’re at all like me, that can seem a bit like jumping out of a plane without being completely sure that you’ve got your parachute – and your two backup parachutes, too.  But the thing is, if we hold on to anger or sadness or regret or pain, we prevent ourselves from moving forward.  We prevent growth.

This can obviously apply to personal relationships as well, and I know I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself.  Holding on to a relationship that isn’t really working or miring yourself in the pain of a relationship that has ended, can sometimes seem like the easier path – better the devil you know.  True, it is a way to avoid dealing with any new feelings or facing the fear of the unknown, but you’re also completely foreclosing your opportunity to be truly happy.  It isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong.  It is a painful process, but it’s nothing compared to the pain of a life spent unfulfilled.  I want you to know that you are worth that risk.  I want you to try to let go.

The first step, is knowing when to say when.  I oddly found inspiration in an old nautical term, illustrated in the picture above, from a 1940 issue of Life Magazine (which you can view here).  The traditional sailor tattoo “hold fast” written across the knuckles, is a good luck charm – one of many such symbolic tattoos worn by seamen throughout the years – to ensure the bearer’s steady grip as he worked onboard.  A “fast” refers to a line (or rope) that has been secured.  However, “hold fast” – or rather, it’s Dutch origins hou’vast or houd vast – also gave rise to the nautical term “avast,” meaning to cease, or to stop.  One term, two very different meanings.

What I chose to take away from this nautical history moment, is that the same hands that can hold fast to something – or someone – are just as capable of letting go.  And while there definitely are things in life that are worth fighting for, not everything is.  What I hope you’ll realize, is that there is just as much strength in the surrender.

Hold fast.  Let go.

The Mating Game, 1938

01/08/2011 § 3 Comments

Way to go Robert.  Way. To. Go.

This coming weekend I am headed up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to attend the wedding of two very special friends.  They are amazing people and a doubly amazing couple and I can’t wait to celebrate them.

Apropos of the impending nuptials, I wanted to share a charming little article from my LIFE Magazine collection on the very subject.  It seems in Detroit in 1938, young couples like Robert Cannell and Dorothy Frances Stark (pictured above), attended lectures and courses in order to figure out if they were suited to marry.  (When Robert wasn’t hitting Dorothy in the face with his badminton racquet, that is).  The main motivation for attending the classes?  “…the experience of two out of ten married friends who a few years ago were wed in a shower of glory, love and rice, and now are divorced, separated or miserable.”

Catch that?  The “two out of ten” part?  Wonder what they would think about our five or six out of ten situation today…?

The would-be couples attended group sessions with doctors, social workers and budget experts, and had private consultations with a priest, all in the pursuit of a “successful” marriage.  It seems the attitude in 1938 was that any problem could be solved, if you threw the right combination of scientists and religion at it.  The article is full of amusing euphemisms, as you might expect from a family magazine from the 1930s — my favorite example: “A great percentage of divorces are due to physical maladjustment often resulting from lack of knowledge or training,” under a picture of a gynecologist pointing to a large medical diagram of a uterus.  Sexy.

Concerned couples.  Seasoned experts.

Don’t they look happy?

Now, for readers who didn’t happen to be in Detroit (and for those of us living in 2011), LIFE generously included a questionnaire used in the classes that was supposed to give a clear indication of whether or not a couple would “make it.”  Some of my favorites:

  • Do you believe sexual harmony is necessary to happy marriage?
  • Do you love your fiancee more than your mother?
  • Will you live with your parents?
  • Do you attend church regularly?
  • Do you show your fiancee little courtesies?

If any couples out there are itching to take the full length quiz, I’d be happy to send it along.  I’m not sure on the shelf life, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that living with your parents is always a bad move.  Oh, and physical maladjustment.  Avoid that one at all costs.

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