My Birthday Isn’t Just About Me

June 22nd rolls around once a year.  The Third Macedonian War ended on this day.  Galileo was forced to recant by the Church on this day.  King George V and Queen Mary were crowned on this day.  Germany invaded Russia in World War II on this day.  FDR signed the G.I. Bill; “Pistol” Pete Maravich, Clyde “the Glide” Drexler, Kurt Warner, Donald Faison, Champ Bailey, Carson Daly, Randy Couture and one half of the tag team “Natural Disasters,” John “Earthquake” Tenta, were all born on June 22.  Sadly, George Carlin, Judy Garland, Darryl Kile, and Fred Astaire passed away on this day.  As the title of the post says, June 22 isn’t just about me.

But I’m not here to compare myself with some of the best in their fields.  Champ Bailey was the premier shutdown cornerback in the NFL following Deion Sanders and before Nnamdi Asomugha.  Warner has 2 NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl title (with my hometown St. Louis Rams).  George Carlin and Fred Astaire were household names.  Right now, I can’t compare to that – nor should I try.  What I can try to do is express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for how fortunate I’ve been not only to get another year, but how I managed to get through all of these years.

Quite frankly, I have the best family and friends I could have wanted.  When I was a big bundle of nerves before a job interview, my good friends helped keep me calm and relaxed and prepared.  Before I knew what friends were, I knew what family was.  I was fortunate to grow up in a tight-knit extended family – my family were my friends and I learned a lot of what I knew about friendship as a kid came from my fantastic family members.  I knew what it was to be loved and how to not just receive love, but to show others when you care about them and give them love.  As a kid, I thought that was how most people were raised.  As the old man I am now, I’m well aware of how rare my family is and how fortunate I am to be a part of it.  My birthday is about them, because I’m not who I am without my colorful, great family.

I can’t forget about my friends, new and old.  I can say that I have been friends with a guy for 20 years now, which blows my mind when I think about it but speaks volumes to how important my friendships are to me.  Again, I’ve been fortunate to have met the men and women I consider friends.  Good friends help you find yourself, and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am now without the great people who gave me the pleasure of their friendship.  I have planned to write a book about my family’s funny stories, but my short story, “The Chronicles of the Black Pack,” is based on my friends.  Anybody who has seen me and my friends sit around and kick it can read any part of the Chronicles (all 6 parts are on this blog) and picture my buddies and I doing and saying the same type of stuff.  Without my friends to bounce ideas off of and ask questions to, I’d likely be a lot more ignorant than intellectual, both literally and figuratively.

Fortunate.  Blessed.  Lucky.  However you say it, those words describe me as I look back.  In the past 7 years alone, I’ve done a lot of walking around solo in rough areas, traveling, exploring, and encountered so many colorful characters in the world…and haven’t had anything too bad happen to me.  It could have been bad – I know people who’ve been robbed walking the streets I walked, or there are plenty of memorials and shootings in a spot that I’m around, for example.  I’m just happy I could see another year and that my year went well.  This was the year of the drive, because I certainly lived on the road (mostly I-55).  And for all of my interstate driving I’ve never had a problem on the road, and I know people who have had serious accidents on the highway.  Again, I don’t care how you say it, things could be much worse for me and I’m happy with how things have turned out.

Hopefully I have made my loved ones proud.  To me, it all begins and ends with family and friends, which is why my birthday isn’t just about me.  It’s about the people who have helped shape and mold me into the man I’m growing up to be.  Those of you who are reading this, know that you have my gratitude for being in my life, even if it was for just a season.

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About That Father’s Day Hate…

Yesterday was Father’s Day, which I consider to be the “as long as you’re helping a kid grow up you get saluted” holiday.  Single mothers get the shout out on Father’s Day (which I’m not against but I don’t really do it – I understand that single mothers play a dual role, but they are mothers.  They have a holiday already.), uncles, cousins, mentors and “father figures” get the shout out on Father’s Day, and finally the dads get their shout out.  You know what apparently comes with all of the shout outs?  A lot of dad issues come out on Father’s Day, with people angrily tweeting, Facebooking, talking, writing, blogging, and the like about how they don’t like Father’s Day because of the bad dads out there (theirs included, I imagine).  There are a ton of terrible fathers out here.  Some aren’t bad people, just immature to the situation.  Some are legitimately bad people.  Some are bad baby daddies, where they don’t take their responsibility to their child.  Just as important to acknowledge are two things – there are plenty of good dads out here; and there are also plenty of bad moms too.

You know what I don’t see on Mother’s Day?  People talking bad about their mothers who abandoned them, people saluting single fathers for their dual roles they have to play, or shout outs to general “mother figures.”  I’m sure it happens, but it’s not nearly as prominent as the bad dad talk.  It’s an easy card to play – the numbers are out there on absentee parents and it doesn’t look good for the guys.  It’s an easy bandwagon to jump on.  For many of the angry people, it’s also right in step with how they feel because of their personal experiences.  If your dad left you, Father’s Day very well could be a bittersweet (or just plain bitter) day.  But there was (and have been) plenty of negative comments about Father’s Day, even directed towards those who were celebrating their Father’s Day.  I imagine it could get downright annoying to check your social networking sites and see all of these people saluting their dads and all and you think to yourself, “I never had a dad.  This is just another day for me.”  Maybe it leads to lashing out at others.  But that’s not what Father’s Day is about.

Mother’s Day gets all of the love and we know there are some terrible, horrible, no good mothers out here.  We all likely know some bad mothers and bad fathers.  So why use Father’s Day as the lashing out holiday?  It’s about saluting dads, not talking shit about them.  And I want to salute three new dads I know, because they remind me that we’ve got plenty of good, caring, positive fathers to hold up as examples.

The newest dad is a cousin of mine, and seeing his life change as he went from bachelor to married with child was nothing short of spectacular.  Not only did he step up and make the life changes he needed to in order to be a good husband, he really got excited about getting himself ready to be a dad.  When I first saw his son I was whispering because he was asleep, and my cousin told me that it’s louder inside the womb than in the house.  My first thought was, “He read the baby books!”  That was when I knew he took the process seriously and seeing him with his new family brings a smile to my face.

A friend of mine in Memphis had a kid in the fall and he still sends me texts about how being a father dramatically alters your worldview.  His son is “little him,” and he’s mesmerized watching a smaller version of himself learn how to move around, communicate, and interact with the world around him.  He’s been married for a few years, but being a dad really seemed to change him for the better.  He made sure to keep on doing his regular routine but he made some major adjustments to it so that he can be there for his son, not just provide for him.

My last dad to salute is another Memphis buddy of mine.  He’d been married for a few months when they had their little girl, and I noticed the change from fiancee to husband but I really took notice when he went from not-daddy to Daddy.  The word is responsibility, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not just taken responsibility to be a good husband and father but he wants to.  It’s not done begrudgingly, but with a smile.  All of these guys were happy to become dads, not sad, and they certainly show it.  So kudos to you three and to all of the other dads out there doing the best they can with what they have.  Being a parent isn’t easy and it’s easy to forget that, especially as we are still maturing (or aren’t parents ourselves).  I propose for next Father’s Day, we hold a campaign to reduce the Father’s Day hate.  It might not successfully reduce the hatred, but by highlighting some of the good dads we know, it might broaden people’s horizons about what kind of men are being good fathers.  The truth?  All kinds of men are being good fathers, and we should spend time saluting them rather than throwing shade on the dads that never were dads.

You Asked For It – One Big Head, One Little Head

I asked yesterday on Twitter for something to write about, and this was the first response –

@SYM1DidIt small penis, big ego.

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to say about this.  My first thought is that it doesn’t quite make sense; it’s normally the guys who are packing who have a bit more of an ego.  The thought comes – why would a guy with a little fella have a big ego?

There are a number of possible reasons – he might not be aware that he’s got a small one and so he’d have no reason to entertain not being a bit more egotistical, for example.  This does lead to a couple of other questions – what’s “small,” and what did she mean by “big ego?”  I should have asked her, but I think I have the right idea for the latter.  The former I also think I have an idea on, but it’s not entirely clear.  For example, are we talking about length, width, girth, a combination?

Sidenote: Yeah, I know.  Some of you will read this and think, “Pause.  From the beginning, pause.”  You should have tweeted me sooner.

Now that I think about it, I wonder just how many guys are aware of their size in relation to what a woman thinks.  Like the example above, if the guy is of average size but to the woman, average is small to her, then it could be an issue of perspective, in which case the guy would probably have no reason to think he’s small.

He also could very well be small, have accepted that fact and lived by the adage, “It’s not the size of the ship, but the motion of the ocean,” and been successful in his past.  If he knows how to handle himself, then why not have a big ego?

Size of the ship notwithstanding, I would say it’s close to common knowledge that confidence in the bedroom is preferred by both sides.  Some people like passive or submissive partners (I don’t get all that), but I surmise that in this day and age, having an ego in the bedroom regardless of what you pack isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless you’re all bark and no bite.  Isn’t that what the Beyonce song was about?

Sadly, the example I think the woman who suggested this topic had in mind was the bite-less dog.  The man who thinks he’s knocking it out the park when the poor woman feels like it’s a hot dog in a hallway.  He leaves thinking he tore it up, she leaves with a checklist of things she’s going to do tomorrow that she made while he was trying to beat it up.  He definitely would walk around saying, “I tore it up,” “I beat it out the frame,” and the like with many unsatisfied partners.  Much like the suckery we can’t have, men like this should be stopped.  Those are the only people who should be humbled by telling them to their face that they’ve got a little dick.

I do hope that those guys are in the minority and that in this case, we do not want diversity.  I really think issues like this are more about perception than anything else, but I once went to a bar on Beale Street to hear some music and went into the restroom and heard a guy come in loudly after me, “One time for the short guys!”  As a shorter guy, I said something like, “Yeah, that’s right!” and finished up my business.  The guy hollered out, “I’m talking about the short dick guys like me!”  I quickly yelled back, “You gotta make that clearer the first time, man!  Not one of y’all…”  I trailed off because he started telling a story.

“Man, I tell you it is hell to have a small dick.  One time, I was with this bigger gal and I’m going and she looks at me and says, ‘Is it in yet?’  I tell her, ‘In yet, I’ve been in for 10 minutes!’  She said, ‘Look you cracker, stick it in!”

You know what, I think that about sums this up.

Insight into the “Intellectual” Mind

Yesterday morning a piece from Brian Leiter’s blog came across my virtual desk, about the racial diversity in the discipline of philosophy.  I won’t yell and scream, but I do think if you’re interested in diversity in the workplace, look at the comments section of the post.  The main point of the brief post was a commentary by a philosopher who says he cannot recommend to his undergraduate Black philosophy students to continue pursuing philosophy.  With that as the background, the comments section ends up becoming, “What question do we ask?”  Is the pipeline problem (there aren’t many departments with a good minority student pipeline to get more minorities into graduate programs) really a problem or is it one of interest?

While some are asking about how to get after the “problem” (and like philosophers, a few asked if the dearth of Blacks in philosophy is actually a problem – which in itself is part of the problem), I read the comments with a leery eye.  As though this was another philosophical thought experiment, where the questions matter and the approach matters but the answers, while important, are treated like byproducts (not the intended products) of the thought experiment.  Nevertheless, one person described their experience during graduate school, which was laced with “questionable” moments from faculty, and while nobody wanted to discredit his experiences, there were plenty of people searching for data and they needed to understand that data collection includes his story, not just hard numbers.  Numbers do not tell the whole story (not all of the respondents will be openly honest if asked if their department treats them well for an official survey for many reasons – for example, they won’t bad talk their department publicly), and yet until the numbers reflect the structural bias that leads to the lack of representation that yields the current shit state of Black philosophers, this won’t get treated as a real problem.  It’s not either representation or institutional/structural bias, it is both.

Anyway, the point of this is that if you want to see how some philosophers approach concrete problems in our own damn field, check out the comments section of Leiter’s post.  Laugh when appropriate too – it’s…interesting insight into the intellectual mind.