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.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 14 – Know Your Worth

11/03/2013 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Know Your Worth

Harry Winston’s rough stone expert Daniel Frey examines a 426-carat diamond called “The Unnamed,” in 1956.  At the time, the stone was the ninth largest on record and at a price of $8.4 million dollars, the largest diamond sale to date.  The stone eventually went on to become the Niarchos Diamond.  You can read about the stone and Harry Winston’s plans to cut and sell the diamond here.  Photograph by Ralph Morse for Life Magazine.

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others
until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”
-Malcolm X

Day 14: Know Your Worth
Recently, in the context of witty cocktail banter and getting-to-know-yous, I was asked to name my biggest failure. While the answer that bounded forth – not being born an heiress – was technically true (apologies to Mom and Dad), the question stayed with me in the days after and I noticed that I was searching my soul for a deeper answer. As I sorted through all of my shoulda, coulda, wouldas, I realized that my biggest shortcoming was not a test I failed or a school I didn’t get into or a bad investment choice. Rather, in my heart of hearts, what I considered to be my biggest failure was something I had repeatedly done to myself within the context of my interpersonal relationships.

For some people, it seems practically second nature for them to identify their needs and then ask for them to be fulfilled. They ask their managers for a raise because they deserve more pay for their contributions at work. They ask their partners for better communication. They ask their friends for help through a difficult time. These are people I tend to envy because historically, it’s proven difficult at times for me to identify, let alone voice, the things I need.

This lead to spending a considerable amount of time in relationships, both personal and professional, where I wasn’t receiving what I needed, but I was hesitant to speak up. But why? Why did I accept something that was unacceptable, when I knew deep down that I needed more? Why did I always try to love – or work – myself through the subpar environment, hoping that fate would finally deal me a more favorable card? And while the relationships I speak of in this context were all very different, each with different circumstances and players, and occurred at different stages of my life, I don’t think that it was simply a random result of bad luck. While I can’t explain to you why others treated me the way they did, I definitely believe one of the reasons I kept sticking around has to do with what I thought I deserved.

Self-worth can be a tricky thing to monitor. It’s not like there’s an index that you can check every morning to see how it happens to be fluctuating or a bank account you can easily transfer funds into when you’re a bit low. Instead, I find my thoughts about my own value are most frequently triggered by negative experiences or conditions, and it is my response (or lack thereof) that has a direct impact on my internal barometer.  Taking ownership of my self-worth, instead of appraising myself in relation to how others treat me, has been a remarkably empowering process.

Today, I want us to work on valuing ourselves. Everyone deserves all the happiness and love and friendship and success that their hearts can hold and that you shouldn’t accept anything less.  No matter what you might have experienced in the past, you are worth someone’s very best today. But also remember that this probably won’t happen if you just sit there and wish for it. So when that internal voice points out that your needs aren’t being met in a personal (or professional) relationship, you owe it to yourself to honor that feeling and to clearly ask for what you need, as difficult as that may be. Speak plainly and calmly and choose a time to broach the subject when you feel your audience is receptive. Avoid blaming; instead, talk about how you feel now and how you would like to feel in the future.

There is a very good chance that your partner/father/coworker/friend has no idea what you’re missing, and would do whatever they could to make sure you received it – but if you don’t give them that chance to meet you halfway, they very likely won’t. I’m definitely guilty of this. I can’t tell you why in the past I thought that my partners should intuit what I wanted and needed out of a relationship, but I can tell you that when they didn’t read my mind (surprise, surprise) I would get frustrated, and that frustration would silently fester until it ripened into resentment — a stealthy silent killer of intimacy.

Consequently, you’ve got to be patient, but honest. Granted, it takes time to change behavior, but if after you’ve clearly communicated your needs you find the other party unwilling – or perhaps unable – to rise to the occasion, you have to admit that to yourself and remember that you deserve exactly as much success, love and support as you need.  Just because you aren’t currently being fulfilled, doesn’t mean it’s your fault or what you deserve.  There is someone somewhere who will happily provide exactly what you want and need, and you’ve got to value yourself enough to make yourself available. Deciding to stick around, unsatisfied, means that you are closing yourself off from finding that happiness and I’m definitely hard pressed to think of anything less charming than that.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 18 — Date with Great Charm

18/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Mariemont High School Prom, photo by Francis Miller for Life.

Day 18: Date with Great Charm
Dating: the inescapable social custom most all of us go through to find a mate.  In this era of and sexting and status updates, the world captured in the photo above can seem like light years away.  While I’m definitely not advocating we all go back to the 1950s, I do believe dating has definitely lost a bit of the charm it once had.  We will have to take it upon ourselves to spark something of a revolution.  Below, a few humble suggestions on how to be a dater with great charm:

The Ask

  • First and foremost, make clear that you are asking for a date.  Obvious?  Count how many times you’ve heard: “Well, I’m not sure if it’s a date…”  A charming dater will make sure the datee knows they are being asked out.  It makes the datee feel more secure and frankly, more desired.
  • Make concrete plans in advance.  When a charming dater asks someone out, they have a plan in mind.  They don’t vaguely promise to text them next Friday to “figure something out.”  This is apt to make a datee feel like a lower priority.  If you can’t be bothered to think of what you’d like to do with them, why should they wait around until you figure it out?
  • Give notice.  A charming dater will give their desired datee a few days notice, so as not to disrupt plans already in place.
  • Anyone can ask.  Men are not always required to ask, and if a lady take it upon herself to ask, the same rules on clarity, plans and notice definitely apply.
  • Make a personal gesture.  Asking in person is best, followed by a telephone call…where you actually talk to the person, no messages left on their voicemail, please.  Your charm diminishes inversely if you rely upon: texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, and all other forms of social media.
  • Accept or decline promptly.  Period.  And thank them either way.
  • If you accept you go.  Barring any serious emergencies, you should go on a date you have accepted, even if Brad Pitt himself appears on your doorstep.  A charming datee honors their commitments.  And Brad will wait because you’re obviously that fabulous.
  • Have high standards.  If you receive a request that falls short of the above, ask for a revision.  They will either respect you for having high standards or think you a pain in the ass and lose interest.  I humbly suggest that someone who considers these tiny requests too onerous will likely prove not worth your while in the long run.

The Date

  • Be on time.  No matter if you are arriving to pick them up, or being picked up, or meeting there.  Being prompt shows respect.
  • On a first date, avoid the topics of religion, politics and past relationships.  A first date is for figuring out if you actually like the person, and you’ll have plenty of time to discuss such matters at a later time…if the date goes well.
  • No introspective soliloquies.  You already know all about yourself, a charming dater will want to find out what makes their prospective partner tick.  Ask thoughtful questions, listen, and remember.  Conversely, your prospective partner should be doing the same to you.  Beware dates who can only talk about themselves.
  • If it is not a love match, be gracious.  Even if you don’t sense any chemistry, you can definitely be polite and have an enjoyable time.  They might prove to be an excellent friend or know someone you might be better suited for or be a good business contact.  At any rate, burning bridges is for short-sighted, uncharming people
  • Whoever asked, pays.  However, this rule has one gender-specific corollary for hetero dates: in general, a gentleman pays — but the lady should always go for “the reach.”  I agree it isn’t fair, but it is social custom.  If you feel strongly about it, there’s no need to adhere to it.

The Close

  • Always leave them wanting more.  Do you best to end the date on a high note.  First (and even second) dates don’t need to be epic 18 hour affairs.
  • Positive affirmation.  If you had a good time, let your date know.  Similarly let them know if you’d like to see them again.  A charming dater affirms that they enjoyed the evening because it will reinforce the fact that they are interested in the datee, leaving no vagaries to be endlessly dissected at brunch the following morning.
  • Sexytime is at your discretion.  No hard and fast rules here, as I’m definitely not a priss.  I’m not against a first date kiss or three, but I might caution against first date sexytime though.  I believe that relationships are defined by early actions, so if you sleep with someone early, your relationship might end up revolving around sex.  If that is what you want, go forth.  If you want something more, be purposeful in deciding when to make the love.

For the Veterans

  • If you make it special, they’ll feel special.  Long-term relationships can easily fall into a rut, but you can recapture some of the magic by applying some of the tips I mentioned above.  Call your partner at work and tell him you’ve made reservations at his favorite restaurant for Friday.  Ask her about her day and really listen.  Bring flowers.

What are your dating rules?  How do you make or keep it special?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 14 – Write Love Letters

14/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Waverly Place, New York, 1968. Image via the George Eastman House.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you are having a wonderful day filled full of all sorts of love!  The city felt quite festive today, with lots of flowers and balloons on the subway.  Always nice to see New Yorkers excited for love.  We’re not quite as cynical as movies would have you think!

Day 14: Write Love Letters
On a day that celebrates affection, today’s tip for a charmed life suggests you make record of your love in a concrete manner.  Nothing is more romantic, more touching or more timeless than the art of writing love letters.

While momentous when said the first time, it is possible that “I love you” can sometimes become something of an aside, a routine.  When you write down how you feel about someone, it allows you to explain all that your “I love yous” have symbolized: how much you admire them, how much you respect them, how much you desire them.  Things they might have felt (or maybe not!), and things they should be told.

A few guidelines:

  • Love letters don’t need to be novels — if you’re feeling exceptionally stuck, try starting out with short notes.
  • You’ll always get bonus points if you deliver your love letters in an original way — I like tucking them inside the book you’re reading, attaching them to your bath towel so you’ll see it in the morning, or sending them in the mail to your office.
  • Lastly, I will admit that this post was in part inspired by the letters of Clementine and Winston Churchill, but I don’t want you to think that this only can be applied to romantic relationships.  Some of my favorite valentines of all time are those sent to me by my friends and by my parents, in fact — hearing that my friends and family care for me is something I could never tire of!

Taking the time to tell someone how much you love them only opens you up to receive more love.  It is classy, it is fabulous, and it is charming.  Could there be a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

See also: 28 Days of Classy & Fabulous: Be Your Own Valentine (2011)

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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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