PAIN!!! Write it anyway.

Whether you write in a journal, for a blog, for poetry readings, creative gatherings, for your own pleasure, or for the masses, there may be times when bringing your deepest emotions to light becomes painful.  Write it anyway, the painful stuff is some of the best work, not just because dumping it on the page can help keep you sane, but because it may do  the same for someone else.  Don’t let painful memories or lack of understanding from others who fear exposure stop you.  Ultimately, it’s your story, and there’s a way to tell it tactfully.

Distance Lovin’ Part 5:

The grass usually looks greener on the other side when you refuse to water your own.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m pretty interested in this topic of people traveling abroad to find love and escape the dating drama that may have become common for them in their native countries.  According to the articles, blog entries, and videos floating around, black men are hoping to be treated like the Kangs they are in Brazil, white women are seeking boy toys in Turkey, Jamaica, and East Africa, white men have always had their pick of professional masseuses in Asia while a good number of Asian women have left Asian men behind for white men, and black women are being advised to set sail for Europe in search of natural-hair-loving white men who will treat them like Nubian princesses.

passport girl

My new novel broaches the subject of looking for love away from home, though without the increasingly popular interracial dating component. But there are so many facets to that component that can be explored.  These are only a few:

1. The potential stability (or instability) of interracial relationships founded on an assumption that options in one’s own racial group are substandard

2.  The fetishization that many people claim to experience when dating outside their race (It seems the men are less likely to complain about this than the women.)

3.  The role that prostitution plays in the exploration of “exotic” sexual experiences  (Is it wrong or should we give a damn what consenting adults decide to explore?)

4.  The unrealistic expectations that sometimes accompany the assumption that men/women from that country are more open to men/women from my country

5.  Acceptance of the fact that true love can spring forth abroad and outside one’s racial comfort zone

6.  The fact that everybody isn’t looking for a life partner, and that with honesty and realistic expectations, having some fun is okay

As I continue curiously peering into the lives of these Love Travelers I’ve realized that the white guy/black girl thing seems to be trending more and more.  While the experiences are certainly varied, many black women are finding themselves quite happy dating and having long-term relationships with white American and European men.   What’s up with that?

Fleace Weaver of explains the exploration of international and interracial dating in this video:


What do you think? Is setting sail for another country, culture, and set of mentalities the answer, or will humans be humans and essentially, eventually present the same old challenges?


The Blame Game | Does religion foster a sense of victimhood?

At times, I sit back and recall my days as a devout, nearly fundamentalist, Christian and lay minister. I consciously de-converted from organized religion 8 years ago, and I consider the effect that inherited thinking patterns had on my experience. One glaring element of my worldview was a strong sense of victimhood, though I wouldn’t have called it that back then. I’ve since unpacked it and made a significant effort to rid myself of it.

This did not come only from my upbringing as a Christian, but also from being raised the black female child of an addict father and a mother who grew up impoverished. I realize now that there was a bit of poverty- and inferiority-consciousness coming from several angles.

When you grow up in the kind of Holiness storefronts, Baptist chapels, and non-denominational Megachurches where parishioners now stand by with cell phones ready to capture the next shouting phenom for YouTube, ironically, you hear a lot of victim talk. You may be familiar with that cloud of struggle, negativity and complaints patched with a shallow “but-I-shall-overcome” refrain:

 -Life is chaos-

“Girl, these people at this job can’t stand to see me coming ‘cause they know I love Jesus. They tried to get me demoted. It’s always a press goin in there for this ‘lil bit ‘o money. My lights bout to get cut off…yeah, and my daughter no-good boyfriend got arrested again… But I’m yet holdin on.”


 -The devil is always trying to get me-

“I can’t leave the house yet. The devil is busy—he done hid my car keys!”


 -I’m unhappy and I must grin and bear it-

“This marriage must be my cross to bear. God only approves divorce in cases of adultery and abuse. As long as ‘he be pleased to dwell’, and our life isn’t in danger I can’t leave him. I’m still believing God will save him one day.”


 -It’s us against the world-

“We are God’s chosen few, and the world hates us for it!”


In this spiritual twilight zone, religion thrives on getting you to believe that there’s something wrong with you, that you need something outside yourself to make you “right”, that you are worthless without devotion to ground you and keep you connected to God. You are sinful and insignificant in and of yourself. And everyone, including Satan, is ALWAYS after you.

Head in Hands

You are one of very few spiritually awakened people in a dying world, a world which is always looking for a reason to persecute you. (How ironic that this thought pattern can be so humble and so arrogant at the same time.) You “die daily” with Christ, or whichever venerated prophet of your religion suffered greatly for the cause. You are a constant victim, a target, a living martyr, and martyrdom is noble.

If you aren’t struggling, then you aren’t doing something right. If your life isn’t a struggle, a climb up the rough side of the mountain, that’s a sign that you’re in cahoots with Satan. After all if Satan saw you as any kind of threat, he’d be on your heels at every turn, making you late for church, causing your boss to hassle you, or hiding your car keys.

Struggle becomes a way of life and something to be proud of.

So it’s no wonder that this same mentality of acceptance of victimhood and passivity weaves its way into the romantic lives of those who possess it. Men and women hide behind their holy books to avoid taking initiative to improve their lives, to avoid making demands in their relationships.

Some put up with downright abuse, because “God hates divorce”.


Others refuse to speak up when they have unmet needs because they believe “love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “love your neighbor (wife, husband, child, etc.) instead of yourself. They live on the back burner…then secretly resent being overlooked.

Then there are those oddballs who have somehow come to the conclusion that God only approves of vanilla, missionary-style sex. (LOL!  I’ve actually found myself in this conversation.) Their passion wanes, their beds grow cold, they go months at a time without even a little spice. And they still don’t take action! Now, in eleven years of intense scriptural study, I never came across a biblical Kama Sutra. And I can tell you, if had to keep my legs shut, chomp at the bit and wait years for God to send me a mate, and I finally got the chance to walk across the threshold into natural bliss, I’d enjoy it in WHATEVER position I wanted! But I digress.

After unpacking this element of victimhood and passivity, I realized that I had to learn how to be happy. I’m still learning. I had to take more initiative in my life, and that included taking steps toward a more balanced mental state. I asked myself:

“Do you even know how to be happy?”

“Can you accept your current position, flaws included, as meaningful and good—no doom and gloom? Do you know how to acknowledge the difficulties of life without wallowing in them? Can you take the initiative to use the resources that you already have rather than constantly begging God for a fix, rather than struggling through everything and waiting for happiness in the sweet by-and-by?”

“Do you realize that positivity, peace of mind, beauty, fun and enjoyment, flirtation and the dancing of masculine and feminine energies, laughter—all those things are supposed to be the rule, not the exception? Goddammit, your name is Joy (not Job). Pick up your mat and walk! Get down off your cross and live.”

At some point, the prospect of leading a life full of optimism and growth became much more appealing than existence as a self-absorbed victim. I started to understand why the Joy of the Lord is said to be our strength.

I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the process.


Distance Lovin’ Part 4: These Black American men are sick of ya’ll women! Are there better pickings in Brazil?

frus womanBack in 2006 Essence Magazine published the article, “Blame it on Rio” which examined the phenomenon of Black men traveling to Brazil to find love and/or sex. Seems that the article provoked some strong responses.

On one hand, many black women were offended by the idea that some black men would feel the need to escape to a foreign country to find viable mates. Many Black men, on the other hand, saw no problem with regular travel or even moving to some other country where they anticipated that the pickings of female fruit would be easier. In many ways, it turned into one of those Black Man against Black Woman B.S. Fests that annoys the hell out of me. So I’m not attempting to revive some tired, useless Battle of the Sexes debate, okay.

Here come the Sistas again, cryin bout them other bitches “taking” our men.


I’m interested in encouraging some reflection, and it’s all about examining expectations.  I saw a video on YouTube called Frustrated: Black American Men in Brazil, was produced by Al Greeze in response to the Essence article. He wanted to give the Black men in question a chance to explain this phenomenon in their own words and to provide a counter to the seemingly one-sided and judgmental tone of the Essence article.frus women
While watching Frustrated, I had the same initial reaction that I had while watching the other videos featured here in the Distance Lovin’ series—“Who the heck cares! Variety is the spice of life. Travel is an enriching experience. If people can find a little extra happiness abroad to go with their exotic foods and the extra stamps on their passports, good for them.”

But then that sad, pathetic music became more and more noticeable. The movie opened to sad, pathetic piano music. The introduction was accompanied by sad, pathetic piano music. It was the ominous kind of tune you’d expect to hear in a documentary about cancer patients fighting for their lives, abused children slipping through the cracks of the Child Protective Services system, or insidious chemical companies dumping toxic waste into poor people’s drinking water. It wouldn’t stop! Then, finally, at about 8 minutes, 37 seconds the tune changed to something a little more upbeat. (But it crept back in and out at key moments throughout the film.)

So here’s my first gripe: This supersized portion of doom and gloom accompanies far too many discussions about Black Male-Female relations, the state of the Black Family and such. Most of the other Sex/Love Tourism videos that I’ve viewed examine the very real issues of loneliness, frustration, and deteriorating relationships that prompt people to search abroad for a mate. But they all seem to suggest that these things are part and parcel of the human experience and that it probably won’t cause our undoing overall.

frus mad black womanBut when it comes to us Black folks, Lawd anything that takes us outside the realm of traditional expectations could, apparently, bring us to our knees. Or to our stomachs, because we’re already on our knees, right? Maybe with one more push we’ll just evaporate into thin air.

We’re already so much more likely to be uneducated, uncultured, unemployed, poor, obese, sick, diseased and without good healthcare, imprisoned, financially illiterate, just generally illiterate, divorced or never married to begin with, the product of single parenthood, parenting single, or likely to become single parents eventually, on drugs, raised by somebody on drugs, robbed by somebody on drugs, shot by somebody selling drugs… Whatever the atrocity or misfortune, we are most likely to suffer it.

We get a steady diet of statistics that prove our supposed inferiority. And it’s not some grandstanding Klansman or Fox News anchor giving them to us. It’s CNN. It’s NPR. It’s W-something-something-something, your local news station. It’s our community leaders and folks who are on the front lines daily trying to help others get ahead. It’s our own brown-faced beauties, in whom we take so much pride, shoveling the Pitiful Black Folk statistics down our throats from the anchor’s desk daily.  This is news, important stuff going on in the world of which we should be ever aware, right? And the numbers don’t lie, right?

Well to answer those questions with another question, I’m going to take it back to a little Pentecostal church I attended as a girl. We sang a song there in which we asked, “Who’s report will you believe?”

The realities of our existence surround us daily. Sure, we have to have awareness of our challenges, inasmuch as that awareness helps us to create solutions. But we have to be so careful not to internalize this information to the extent that it becomes our expectation of ourselves, our definition of ourselves.

Because what we think of ourselves is what we will get. And numbers do lie, it just depends on who’s calculating them and for what purpose they will be used.

My point: discarding this hefty layer of doom and gloom removed an unnecessary distraction so that I could clearly see the other very intriguing points touched on in the film. And I now have more questions:

1a. Why are so many of these men finding themselves in relationships with women in America who are too materialistic? Are there no other women to attract, no other qualities that they are capable of evoking in a woman?

1b. And why are so many of these women finding themselves surrounded by men who don’t measure up to their standards? Are the standards fair and balanced or based in fairy tale logic?

1c. When one finds oneself in a repeating cycle such as this, isn’t SELF the common denominator?

2.   What exactly is a woman’s place, other than the place where her natural talents and spirit guide her? Is it better for a couple to follow prepackaged gender roles or for them to do whatever works in their own unique situation with honesty, mutual respect, and zero concern for outside opinions? Isn’t the overall balancing of energies the most important thing?  When will the stupid power struggles stop getting in the way of meaningful human interaction?!

3.  What part might the church be playing in this phenomenon? So many women are being taught that the only type of man worthy of their prize is “Boaz”, who will come riding in on a white horse dressed in an Armani suit.

He’ll leap out to open every door you plan to pass through before whisking you off in his Range Rover where he holds your hand the entire ride. He will, of course, have a PHD and will be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or wealthy businessman, because he’s a man of excellence, and that’s the only way to be excellent. He might show up well after you reach menopause, but it will be well worth the wait. You will still be a virgin, right? …No, masturbation counts also… Jesus will be your man ‘til then.

4.  Why is the quest for companionship always met with so much shame and blame? Blame what on Rio?  This sense of scarcity that so many love-seekers are feeding into–is it a reality? Or does the answer lie in expectations?

Maybe you have some answers to my questions or a few intriguing questions of your own. Let me know!


Wanna Write?


Since I began sharing the news of my first book with my family members and friends, I’ve heard several of them say, “That’s something I hoped to do some day”.  I anticipate that I will hear this regularly as I meet and engage with more people on this writing adventure.

I’m convinced that everyone has some amazing story to tell.  Whether it is the story of your grandfather the Tuskegee airman, your neighbor who hid the fact that he was a serial killer from everyone around him, your mother the high-priced escort, or your own triumph over adversity–there is something you know about that somebody would want to read about.

How do you get started?  How do you find time?  How do you know if you’re doing it “right”.

I say, stop.  Make time.  Just get it on paper.  Worry about the formalities (spelling, grammar, complete sentences, story structure) later.  Then, when you feel like you’ve squeezed the sponge of your inner thoughts dry, do your research.

My first book, Pretty Little Mess:  A Jane Luck Adventure, began as a journal entry.  I figured my grandkids might be intrigued to find it and learn a little more about Granny Joy one day.

I was used to ranting in my journal about things, just dumping my thoughts on paper as quickly as possible in whatever form they emerged.  I made time to do this, because I could see and feel the positive results of this form of purging every time I wrote.  It provided immediate release.  I was less angry, sad, or frustrated.  Seeing my thoughts on paper highlighted flaws in my thinking that I otherwise would not have noticed.  Journaling provided hindsight.  It wasn’t until after I got it all “out of my system” that I started researching the ins and outs of proofreading, editing, and publishing.

If you have something to say, just give yourself an hour to sit down and write whatever comes to your mind.  It may be hard to stop.  You may look up and find that several hours have passed.  And you may need some Kleenex.

See, I think a big part of the reason people don’t journal or tell their stories is that the page (or screen) is like a mirror.  When you sit down with your raw thoughts, the lights are bright, the mirror is right in your face, and you can hide nothing.  You can try to run or distract yourself, but the truest thoughts will flow.  It’s your choice to let them… or to save the writing for “another day”.

Distance Lovin’ Part 3: Cougars on the prowl for Dark Meat abroad

Was Stella a sex tourist?

Just what are people doing in life, huh?  Have you realized just how big and wide this world is out here?  Do you know the types of things people are getting into???

In case you haven’t heard, Sex Tourism is alive and well in many parts of the world.  Unfortunately, it often involves young people and children who are being trafficked against their will and sold to nonchalant, grown, and more-than-willing customers.

But those aren’t the only players in the game. For some time now, women (typically middle-aged, middle class, white women from the West) have been taking time out to get their grooves on abroad with men who they consider to be exciting and “exotic”–African, Jamaican, Turkish, South American, etc.

Many of these women are more than willing to play sugar mama to some young, virile stallions with long rasta locs, or washboard abs, or nice dance moves, or a combination of these and a few other key assets.  The men, understanding this very temporary arrangement for what it is, accept the women’s gifts (they oftentimes have no shame asking for more).

Now, you can judge me if you want to, but I personally don’t believe in throwing around a whole lot of criticism for what consenting adults decide to do in the privacy of their bedrooms, hotels, parked cars, office closets, or airplane lavatories.  As long as everybody’s up front, knows the game they’re playing, there are no hidden quaaludes involved, and nobody has any naive expectations of happily-ever-after, I couldn’t (and I mean could NOT) care less.

But some insist that this is a form of exploitation and victimhood.  Self-exploitation.  Exploitation of the women who have naive dreams for love in exchange for money. Exploitation of the young, often economically disadvantaged men who supposedly don’t even realize they’re being “pimped” by someone or something. And I can agree in assuming that this type of activity contributes to the deterioration of self-worth and family at a time when fortifying the minds and bonds within Black and Brown communities the world over seems more important than ever. It’s a feeding frenzy, no doubt, but some of the prey are latching onto the backs of the predators and taking a ride…

Why don’t you watch this vid and let me know what you think.  And try to be civil. Those YouTube comments can be harsh enough.  Sheesh!


Distance Lovin’ Part 2: Happy Ending Massage – For Women

I’m including this in the Distance Lovin’ series because 1) the idea of women paying for sexual pleasure is, to some, a “foreign” idea, (lol! … nevamind me…)  2) because this topic involves traveling outside one’s home or the confines of a relationship for romantic/sexual pleasure, 3) because there are some out there who will travel a bit far and wide for a “release”, 4) because this was just too interesting for me to wait to include it in some other series, and 5) because some women look for this very kind of thing to include on their list of travel adventures.

man_massage_girl-300x212Happy ending massage for women. Is this real? Is this therapy? Is it insured? After all, some providers cover Viagra and Cialis under special circumstances, right? But even if IBX, Aetna/Humana, or Cigna won’t cover it, for some women it is the prescription.

We’ve come a long way from the days when doctors diagnosed sexually deprived women with “hysteria” and created machines to help them climax, by appointment only.  Adult toy and silicone manufacturers the world over are deeply indebted.

Advertisement for the Barker Vibrator by James Barker in Philadelphia, 1906.
Victorian Vibrators, “The Doctor Will Please You Now” by Chris Wild on RETRONAUT

Ladies, now you can shamelessly get your jollies in a swanked out massage studio without anybody standing around calling you crazy. And if the typical masseuse is anything like the pro in this article — I Provide Happy Ending Massages to Women for a Living — you’d give up those riffraff, one-night-stands and questionable characters in favor of someone who’s guaranteed to know exactly what he’s doing.  (Sexually inept husbands may be a bit harder to shake, sorry.) You’d just have to pay for it… maybe.

I don’t know just how public or widespread this niche business has become, since I’ve just started researching it and my curiosity is only burgeoning.  I don’t know if most of these services are rendered sneakily behind nondescript doors at the ends of quiet alleys, or if providers are coming out of the shadows.

happy ending masseuse
I Provide “Happy Ending” Massages To Women For A Living By Bo Alexis, yourtango

Is this stuff even legal?  When I think of happy ending massage for men, I picture a bunch of drone-like, pre-pubescent Asian girls (probably being held against their will) in sleezy joints frequented by traveling soldiers.  You’ve seen those places get busted in the movies:  some girl screams, jumps off a guy’s back and makes a futile attempt to run away in nothing but booty shorts while cops swarm the place.  Okay, maybe they’re not all like that.

I get the sense that these outfits for women are definitely different.  Picture a cross between a Reiki studio, Aveda Spa, and a scene from “Hung”.  I could be getting carried away.

You shouldn’t take my word for it, I know very little.  This website – Her Private Pleasures – seems pretty informative.  And the New York proprietor/masseuse seems to have come up with a very clever way of getting around that legal issue:

[Important Information from the About page] “Her Private Pleasures is a part-time non-profit pursuit based on a passion for providing holistic alternative approaches to women’s personal satisfaction and well-being. The service is intended for like-minded individuals who believe in the benefits of such approaches. As a guest of the service, you understand I am neither a physician or a licensed therapist. Sessions are complimentary. Optional donations appreciated, but only if you feel the service you received warrants it.”

Come on, the least you can do is tip the guy.

Distance Lovin’ Part 1: Traveling for Love

Long Distance Dating: In Love, Will Travel By A. Pawlowski, CNN April 15, 2011 12:27 p.m. EDT

Okay, picture this: Your Boo lives in Florida and you live in Illinois. You’re running a successful business in Miami and Boo’s got a great job in Chi-town. Moving in together is not a smart option right now. This is going to be a long-distance love affair.

The two of you have decided to spend one weekend per month together. So you buddy up with the travel agent you know from the YMCA, or better yet, start being really good to that flight attendant friend of yours so you can use some of her buddy passes and get really good prices on flights. You’ll be racking up frequent flyer miles too, so that will help—anything will help. You’re a “Geographic Single”, and monitoring Google Flights for deals has become your number one side gig.

Does the thought of being separated by prohibitive distance and the effort required to be with your love bug make you squint your eyes in repulsion? Or do you think you could swing this kind of relationship?

People do it every day.

According to this CNN article – Long Distance Dating: In Love, Will Travel, there are lots of lovers out there who (for whatever economic, educational, family-related, or other reasons) live in different states or even different countries.

You may even know of a married couple who lives apart, and not because they’re separated or having a really bad fight. The article states: “Another label that has stuck is the ‘commuter marriage’, in which nonseparated spouses maintain households in different cities, often for job reasons. More than 3 million Americans are estimated to live in such an arrangement.”

For many, living apart is not necessarily a choice, but it doesn’t put a damper on their love. For them, the old platitude “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true. Having a great deal of time apart makes the time together that much sweeter and slows down the infiltration of that dreaded boredom that so many long term relationships often breed.

I’ve done long distance dating, and it didn’t work out—not because of the distance, but because he had an estranged wife who I didn’t know about (‘nother story, ‘nother day). However, as a married woman now, I have experienced many stints when my husband has worked out of town for several weeks or months at a time. And you know what? It’s the best thing for us. It was hard to handle in the beginning, but now I look forward to the “me time”.

There’s nothing like lying down at night and spooning with your honey bunch in your arms—but there’s also nothing like spreading out across a queen-sized bed, unencumbered by someone else’s knees, elbows, feet, or vibrating windpipe. And as the neat freak in the family, I can unequivocally say that having one less person in the house to clean up after certainly has its perks.

What I appreciate most is the quiet, the putting the kids to bed at night and having time to think, meditate, recharge, without anything or anyone else to attend to. Then, when hubby’s back, it’s time for a celebration! He has truly been missed, and the kids and I are happy to see him.

This is the kind of ebb and flow that would make some people crazy with loneliness or even insecurity. But for others, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. There’s more than one way to skin a cat!