At 10 yrs old while preparing for my first communion, I remember being taught the story of Eve the Temptress and how, with the simple bite of the fruit, she corrupted Adam with her feminine woes resulting in their expulsion from the oasis that was The Garden of Eden. What was it about Eve that made Adam succumb? This story deeply affected, disturbed, and fascinated me all at the same time, for a very long time. In some ways it was, and still is, the reason I question the intentions of every woman I have ever met. This biblical story was not the only red flag that warned me. I know of a whole generation of men, from puberty to adulthood, who tout women are the basis for their perpetual state of guardedness. Yet, in many cases, the gospel they quote is the contemporary version sung new jack swing style by Bel Biv Devoe, “NEVER TRUST A BIG BUTT AND A SMILE, THAT GIRL IS POISON!!!” While not all of us were aware of BBD’s biblical reference, we knew from that day on, we had heard the word and would be forever faithful followers of it.
This biblical cautionary tale and all its attempts at warning us as men of our own self destruction from temptation that was named “Her” as she was the source of human original sin came back to me as strong as when I had read the story for the first time as a child, while having a conversation with a longtime friend, I extended an invitation for him, his wife and two lovely daughters to attend the seventh annual MIH Heatwave barbeque. The event is by far one of the most anticipated summer gatherings of young Black professionals in New York City. Those of a certain ilk, flock to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for beautiful people, libations, and good finger lickin’ eatin’. Sweet memories are made each year as folks share laughs, camaraderie and witty conversation. As I described the mise en scène, he was gung- ho, echoing my excitement with each detail I relayed about the beauty that was and would be at the MIH Heatwave 7.0. In fact, he couldn’t wait to bring his family to share in the afternoon of summer goodness. My boy was there right along with me. He wanted his family to join us in the atmosphere of friendship and fun that was going to take place at the event. Knowing he had never been to the event, I gladly provided him with all pertinent information. To seal the deal, I forwarded him the full email invitation with pictures from last year’s gathering. I did not, however, anticipate his reaction to the invitation pictures.
Below are excerpts from the e-mails that transpired from there (names have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent and not get my boy in any trouble with his wife)
“K’s” email began, “As a young married man with a family, still virile might I add, this would not be something I would voluntarily come to with my wife and my daughter.”
He went on to say that, they would have a good time, but he himself would not. He continued, “This is something I would go to with you, Cous Steph and/or Mike. Not the sort of thing I take my family along to. And if I have to explain this even more,” he went on to say, “think about it in the terms of that I would have to behave myself.”
“K” thanked me for the invitation then ended with, “Appreciate your freedom now my friend. When you settle down like me, these types of events will be no more.”
This deeply disturbed me to the point that I had to take some time for his words to sink in—which they never really did-- before I responded with;
“NAAAAAH, it’s just good folk enjoying themselves. I have a few friends who are bringing their families too. Just a cool Sunday activity for the family with great energy and no type of disrespect. In addition, this may or may not be of interest to you, but there is a very large following of mixed individuals who will be there. I think that would be great for your girls to experience so they can see adult reflections of themselves in a positive setting. Dude, you're my guy and I'd like to chill with you and La Familia. I understand everything you've said but I'd truly appreciate it if you reconsidered.”
K's Response was, “It would work if Julie (his eldest daughter) was here but she is in Cali with the mother-in-law…sorry my man, ain't gonna work. Gonna probably take them to the beach instead (or maybe the botanicals, hmmmm…”)
I was saddened to hear that he wouldn’t make it. The conversation did not settle right with me. I was reminded of the opening scene in “Hitch.” In the scene, Hitch's longtime friend and brother-in-law are playing pool, the friend begins to pontificate about the shallowness and pathetic nature of single life and how being married with child is the true definition of success. Mere seconds later, Hitch’s friend suddenly changes his mind after two gorgeous women walk into the club. He stares at the women, the corner of his lips almost drooling with saliva.
Hitch turns to him and says, "Do you want me to go get them and bring them over here?"
The friend tries to contain and compose himself but instead stutters, "NO No Nooo Nooooo, doonnn ddooonnn't don't do that!"
Hitch retorts, “Are you saying you don't want to talk to them, because you can't go home with them?"
The friend pleads, "Hey, what do you want from me? I'm just trying to keep my head above water," with such piety as if he would sink and drown in Hades’ pool just for looking at the women.
My conversation with “K” also reminded me of another scenario that occurred with another attached friend. I took “C”, my good friend, and his now wife then girlfriend, “J” to the launch of another friend’s weekly event. “C” and “J” were excited about the night and trusted in the fact that I always came through with a good party for all to enjoy. We walked through the huge curtains that separated the front from the actual club and entered-- what was for me a beautiful sight as a single man-- a room filled to capacity with some of the most beautiful women I have ever encountered. The ratio was three - to- one with most of them being oh so friendly (YAY FOR ME!).
After about 45 minutes of great music, good people, old and new friends, “C” walked over, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "We have to get the FUCK out of here."
I asked with concern, "Why? Did something happen?"
"This is just too much for me” he said with a look of desperation on his face.
I burst out with laughter, unable to contain myself. I then looked around the room and eyed all those cool people, gorgeous women, and one lady in particular, that was giving me the sexy eye. Reluctantly, I scouted out my friend, the promoter of the event, to tell him we were leaving. As I let the words spill from my mouth, the look of shock hit the faces surrounding us in unison.
The promoter, with that same look of shock, posed the question that was stamped on everyone’s face, "Why? This shit is crazy tonight." Before I could say a word, "C" stepped in "It's my fault he has to leave. I'm here with my girl and just can't be in a room with this many gorgeous women."
Everyone in earshot broke out into laughter as they puffed up with pride taking my friend’s anxious comment as a compliment. "Dude just chill, have a good time," they advised.
"I have to get out of here. What can I say I'm just trying to keep my head above water" (There goes that line again)
Being the good friend that I am, I forgot about my own pleasure and took them to another party with less of an offering of goodies for us (ME) to enjoy. This wasn't the first or last time that situation happened with “C”. Just a few weeks ago he turned down another one of my invitations, This time it was to attend the Triple 5 Soul rooftop party with his wife (in short, imagine a massive rooftop filled end to end with the, greatest yearly gathering-- second only to the MIH barbeque,--of black folks in New York City). This event was foregone amongst numerous other soirees in between for the same reasons listed above by “C”, “K”, and a majority of my other married male friends as they justify the need to sacrifice a good time to keep their sanity and morality.
I started to wonder what or who was the problem for these married, in most ways, good men. They believed in the sanctity of marriage. Each had made the commitment and, to my knowledge, had never strayed from their vows. So what was it about being around other women that put such fear into them? I’ve heard the complaint from married men in many forms but the gist of it is, when they go out with their wedding rings on women go through hell and high water to try and turn them into her new married trophy piece (which, even in a kind of twisted way, was the topic on a Humanity critic’s post recently. Please look past his reasoning to his friend’s insight and you will understand the point I have heard time and time again). That’s it. Eve lured Adam. Women are the reason why good married men cannot be around other women and weak married men cheat. However, get a woman’s side of the story. Most will declare that men are hardwired whores who cannot pass up an opportunity to stick it in any hole that will drunkenly give it up.
If my friends are right,
I guess the secret of a happy marriage for men is as long as you don't hear, see, or speak anything related to other women, you can live the dream.
Is that what I have to look forward to when I actualize my Cosbiesque future? A married life filled with me just trying to keep my head above water to protect the illusion?
This is where the fear for me sets in. I am the product of a single parent home, even though my father was in my life, he wasn’t with my mother and for that, I was always at a loss and in a perpetual state of longing for what I saw every week on all my favorite sitcoms. From Family Ties with their matured hippie parents raising a family and accepting their children for whomever they chose to be, even if it was an uptight, conservative, capitalist Republican to my all time favorite and the one show in a lot of ways I mirrored my life and future dreams after – The Cosby show. Every Thursday I sat in front of my TV and watched what a real family was suppose to be - two loving married black parents raising children in a home filled with love, Art, music, support, passion, nurture, positive reflections of black, success, pride, and the list could go on for pages of all the things I got from it and wanted for myself. Don’t get me wrong I was blessed as a child with a mother and extended family that went above and beyond to give me everything a child could want and desire.
It was just that I always watched this show with an underlined anxiety. Could I be my own version of Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable? Could I be a good husband? Father? Black Man? Even though I hadn’t had one in my own home to show me how to be all those thing? With every relationship, I question my ability to be half the man I talked about being. I love the dream I’ve created and the future I want, but as my friends seem to give me more and more reason to question the true strength and love of their marriages all I am left to do is question the strength of my resolve to be the man I dreamed about being every Thursday at 8:00pm for eight seasons through each and every syndicated rerun I’ve watched since over and over again.
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~we’re the warriors they write epics about~