Monday, November 10, 2008

Black Women, Are You Ready to Feel Flawless?

This essay is contained in my new book, and can be read as a sample chapter at my new website. I'm delighted to announce that The Sojourner's Passport site has launched! You can visit it at

Everyone, I can't thank you enough for your ongoing encouragement and support; I truly appreciate it. Your support is what made this possible. And here's a special shout-out to my web designers at Educo Web Design. They're nice people to deal with, and they do outstanding work!

Peace and blessings,
Khadija Nassif


This comment has been removed by the author.
Khadija said...

Welcome, Lisa!

Thank you for starting off this conversation. I knew that it would be an extremely difficult, emotionally-loaded topic to discuss for many of us. But it's an important one. On so many different levels.

If we, as Black women, are SERIOUS about taking our rightful place on the larger GLOBAL stage, more of us are going to have to "step up our game."

We're going to have to reject what my older relatives called a "take low" mentality & reach for greatness in ALL avenues of life!

Furthermore, I believe that popular AA culture's elevation of coarseness over refinement is harming our collective interests. It's not a short leap from rejecting elegance as a "White" concept to accepting truly demeaning & degrading fashions. It's all connected.

Who EVER decided that elegance is a "White" thing? That's a crazy & self-hating idea.

The other thing to consider for you parents out there: If you REALLY want your little people to be prepared for the very top of what the world has to offer, your children need to learn how to be comfortable in the world of formal events. And it's easier to learn things as a child; as opposed to having to unlearn years of unhelpful habits. You don't want your kids sticking out in a bad way in their future roles as adults.

This concept of personal grooming & self-cultivation applies on sooo many levels. I see it on the underclass level of my mostly Black clients in court. They haven't learned (and see no need) to control their facial expressions while they're in court. They have all sorts of mannerisms that are totally counterproductive to whatever point they think they're making.

They act like Jerry Springer's audience. This is NOT helpful. I've watched individual jurors close their minds after seeing neck rolls, waving hands, and grimaces.

I'll say this the blunt & ugly way: At least the White underclass criminals I've represented generally had the common sense to at least try to fake looking & sounding like gentlemen. Instead of scary stereotypes from a hip-hop video.

There's also a mass self-worth issue underlying much of this. As Black folks, we generally don't admit that we really don't feel that we're up to the challenge of GLOBAL standards. So, instead, many Black folks look for hip- or humble-sounding excuses for not even trying to be competitive with others.

We invent cute phrases for NOT cultivating ourselves like "keepin' it real." Well, what exactly is "real"? Why is it that the only things that seem to count as "real" with us, are the things that bring you down, and NOT the things that elevate?

The other component of the current status quo is simply not knowing. Like I mentioned, I had inklings that something like what you described was going on in other people's families, but I never knew the inside scoop on that process. There are many, many Black women who never knew that any of this was going on.

Lisa, thank you for being so generous with the details of your upbringing! I truly appreciate it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


Greetings, Khadija!

{thumbs up}

I noticed some atrocious typing in the comment I just submitted! *LOL*
I'd like to re-submit my comment.

What an excellent discussion for us to have, particularly in light of the world attention upon Michelle!

If I can add a little texture to this from my personal history....

The disclaimer I will offer is that I am a preacher. My father has done well financially but I live a simple and modest life. I am NOT "jet set".

As a little girl, I remember that the "training" began when I was in pre-school. I started pre-school at the age of 3 and was in kindergarten at the age of 4 since I attended a private Jewish school.

At ages 4 and 5, we are taught how to stand properly, how to sit in a dress, gown and pants, and how to walk elegantly. We were taught how to adjust our stride depending on the clothing that was being worn.

We were taught how to CORRECTLY hand our coat or sweater to the staff, and how to use all utensils at the table in a formal place setting. Of course, we were also being coached in proper diction. Wardrobe was not really being introduced at that preschool/kindergarten phase since the moms were responsible for our "look" at that age.

I did not have a tailor appointment until I was 6 or 7. At that point, I started learning a little about how clothing should fit my body.

You are correct in pointing out that as little girls, we ARE being taught how to exit and enter a limo, how to be photographed with our parents at events, how to greet dignitaries at events by title, and how to shake hands.

At age 5 and 6 and 7, we were learning about world cuisine. We were told the names of different entrees we were eating at different restaurants that we would go to with our parents.

By the age of 8 of 9, we were being taught how to master the CORRECT angle to hold our heads when walking. (This is a continuation of the training that began in preschool/kindergarten.) "Carriage" is a word we heard CONSTANTLY at the age of 8 and 9. By this age, I was studying the violin and composing simple pieces so I began learning about different composers.

We were also being coached about which mannerisms were coarse and inappropriate...rolling eyes, pursed lips, hissing, sucking teeth, clicking the tongue, tilting the head to show disagreement, hands on hips when talking, touching people to get their attention, etc....

When we were very young, if we were attending a formal event with our parents, the limo would arrive early. We would be coached by our parents so that we could learn to enter and exit CORRECTLY in our long gowns. After we got older, there was NO need to have the limo arrive early for "rehearsals". *smiles*

By the age of 12, we were being introduced to different types of wines...nothing too complicated...just the basics...scent, texture, types of grapes, etc...

By the time I reached the 6th grade, I had already traveled around the world and was speaking in two languages. Being world-traveled in childhood is a norm.

As for the "training" that is received in fine dining, some exclusive schools do NOT have cafeterias! The children eat in a formal dining room at lunch time with china and a formal place setting. Every day!

At home, we HAD to dress for dinner every night. This doesn't mean we were in dresses but we were always presentable. No play clothes at the dinner table! No one had uncombed hair at the dinner table. Yes, we changed out of school uniforms into play clothes and then changed out of play clothes into clothes for dinner. This is all part of training children to transition their appearance for different social settings later in life.

I know people who think church clothes are worn to ANY dressy event! I know people who wear their work suits to after five events. Just because so many others are "untrained", they feel it's okay to be inappropriate as well.

I have a stylist and she decides on "my look". You mentioned the necessity of a signature look and yes, THAT is very true. The stylist helps to "develop" your signature. All items added to the wardrobe should be consistent with the signature.

The stylist will give recommendations about which heel height works best with different pieces. Some women only wear the heel height that they can walk comfortably in!

It's important to learn to walk in many different heel heights. Some women will say "those shoes hurt my feet"! If there is pain when walking then that means the construction of the shoe is INCORRECT for your foot shape. It doesn't mean the heel height is causing pain.

My stylist is also a clothing designer. Michelle's stylist is also a clothing designer.

I suggest that if you hire a stylist that you hire a person who is a clothing designer so that she will CREATE your look.

I also suggest thar you choose a stylist for a long-term relationship. I have had this stylist for almost ten years.

All stylists are NOT white elderly ladies from the upper classes, either. My stylist is a foreigner. She has styled Alfre Woodard and Desmond Tutu. I really liked Alfre's "look" so I started asking people "who is styling Alfre?"

By word of mouth, an appointment opened up and I met the stylist. She knows I am not wealthy. She was VERRRY happy to have an up-and-coming black preacher as a client. If anyone THINKS that it costs a fortune to hire a stylist, it really doesn't! It just depends on how much work that stylist is going to do for you and which countries you want her to buy your fabrics from. If all of your fabrics are American, it should cost MUCH less to have your wardrobe designed for you.

If the stylist knows you don't have a HUGE budget, she will offer you the donated fabric left over from items made for her wealthy clients! *LOL*

If a blouse I have on looks a bit like that gown Alfre wore on the red carpet...well....*LOL*

Some stylists have a specific client profile; they design for tv anchors or they design for actresses or they design for dignitaries. Some do not! You have to decide to make an SOUND investment in yourself...that's the bottom line.

Sorry this is soooo long. I hope I said something helpful!! *LOL*

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Khadija said...

Hello there, Lisa!

I know the feeling. I'm constantly finding new typos in my posts. LOL!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! I saw it earlier, but I had to digest it because I was so overjoyed. It is so affirming and validating to me.

I had an odd combination of influences while growing up. Some bad some good. I attended a lot of magnet schools and at different intervals from the 6th grade to the 11th who taught us about various forms of etiquette.

The funny thing is that as I got older people, even people from the jobs I had called me dull because I wasn't loud and didn't mimic their mannerisms. I had a bad habit of taking any job just to get money instead of enhancing my career path.

My personal style I think is classic with a bit of romantic and glamorous thrown in. I never went designer label crazy because - what's the point when I can't afford it?

I am very wary of trends. I prefer and when I can afford to look for well made high quality pieces. This earned me the nickname "little old lady" by some of my female co workers, some older women swore that I would be rich one day, and then there were some not so nice names I was called by some men, but I am sure now they were DBR.

But at the same time I have noticed that some other people make positive assumptions about my background because of the way I dress and of course who doesn't love compliments- especially from men. Perhaps I should more proactively use this to my advantage in the future.

I am an avid tightlacer (which gives me another headache dealing with people who don't get that). I have been corsetting for about 3 years and while I have never had a stylist I have had to have items altered because of this.

Thank you Rev Lisa - that is good to know about the stylist. I had no idea that they would work with you. I had considered talking to a stylist because although I feel I have good taste, I want to step my game up to a serious level.

The concept of "feeling flawless" is so funny because I would have a beauty crisis starting about a few years ago and I would tell people "I need to feel pretty."

So I started doing things to indulge my pretty. From getting chemical peels -I just had my first TCA last month for my birthday because I am a firm believer in aging prevention, facials, pedicures, and I will travel to the ends of the earth to find a fabulous natural hair stylist.

I live in the deep South and it seems like once someone has learned the basics that's all they care about. I need someone who continues to learn about the latest techniques cutting, coloring, and skin care.

I recently fell out with a hair stylist in FL who I flew in especially to see on my birthday bc she felt that since I had no gray, I shouldn't have a base color in my hair. My point is when a girl wants a tri-color foil that is what she wants.

At any rate I still have conflicts when being that good to myself. My mother and other family members used to drill the word selfish into me, usually for manipulation purposes when she wanted me to do something and I wanted to do something for myself, but I still hear it in my head.

It also doesn't help that other people feel free to chime in about me indulging my pretty with comments about my ability to afford Which they don't really know my situation- I am concerned about money, but I am not going to do something that will financially break me. That triggers my guilt.

And I end up on this self neglect/binge cycle with taking care of myself. I either veer into neglect for months and then swing into a binge cycle of indulgence. It is silly in my mind when I think about it, but the fears/concerns feelings feel so real.

I can remember having these sessions with my therapist about taking care of myself in this way and she would encourage me saying the more you do it the easier it will become. You have to behave your way through it.

Then there is my fear of being called vain. A few years ago before extreme makeover became popular I started thinking about having some cosmetic procedures done.

I have researched so much that I know exactly what I want to have done and how. My background in art helped me to analyze my face and body. I went on tons of consultations and I told the docs I want to be prettier. Take what I have and enhance and I pointed out all my areas of concern.

I am not a believer in aging gracefully and letting nature take its course. I believe in prevention. I am not against getting older - I just don't think that I ever want to look it. Or at least not look as much of as some others allow.

In my heart I don't think that it is wrong to get breast implants at 70 or a facelift at 40 (the windtunnel look is avoidable), or the Brazilian butt lift if you want a little extra.

Especially since for me I have not ever been/felt like a pretty girl growing up. I was always the smart and resourceful one. Like an ox or tool or something. Now that I am in grad school I am learning that I am not the only one. :) My daddy made me feel pretty, but that ended when he died.

But me being me- when I am excited about something I gush. Again I was shocked at the responses. I was called high maintenance. People wanted to know why. Then there was the God made you this way being thrown in my face. Stories of women who now have third bosoms on their chests, facial paralysis, and who have died in the OR were trotted out.

When my then spiritual advisor learned that I had implemented phase one of my plastic surgery plans by flying to Mexico (I lived in california at the time) and had some initial dental work done you would have thought that I had murdered 10 children. I was told I was trying to win a rigged game.

Not only that, but there was sabotage. I had just had my teeth whitened (after I found out that they have to file your teeth for caps) and people were like here try this brown Thai tea, have some herbal raspberry tonic- when I would specifically say that I can't have any heavily colored foods or drinks beforehand.

My rationale was that if I get something done now - I can feel pretty longer and have better results as I age versus waiting until I have to have something done.

There are some women I have met who see things like this as just regular maintenance and they look fabulous.

But now I regret not having anything done when I had the money and opportunity to do so. Now I just have a packed suitcase full of recovery supplies that may expire any day.

Anonymous said...

Rev Lisa Re: shoes

I love high heels. I have always loved shoes. I agree that you can wear a very high heel if the shoe fits well.

My problem is that I have very narrow feet and shoemakers don't make fashionable shoes in narrow sizes anymore.

I had problems finding shoes as a kid bc my feet were so narrow and now as an adult even high end department stores have phased out cute shoes in narrow widths.

Anonymous said...

I like this post. I have recently gotten sick and tired of black jilbabs.
Not that I'm against them on principle, I have a few nice ones although my "everyday" ones got quite shabby.
I'm not even one who ever thought they were religiously mandated--it was just EASY to throw one on and go out the door!
These days I'm working on improving my sewing skills ()which for the moment are basic) so that I can design and make more of my own clothing. Shalwar khameez and the like are beautiful but I want some western-style clothing that is modest AND stylish.
When I get a bit better I plan to make a business out of it--I'll be sure to give you the info insha'allah in case you'd be interested! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yay! I'm glad to move on from the Obama or political discussions! lol Yay!

@ Khadija

"I've also been taken aback by how so many Muslim Black women choose grim and drab fabrics and colors for their hijabs. Judging from the behaviors and reactions I've observed at some mosques, I suspect that many Muslim Black women especially like hijab because it gives them an opportunity to hide. It gives them an opportunity to opt-out of caring about their looks. It gives them an opportunity to gracefully lose when compared to other women."

I have a couple of responses to this comment please and thank you:

1- I half to disagree with you to some extent here becuase I have personally attended Khutbahs (sermons) Halaqahs ( scripture studies) and lectures where Scholars and Amirahs are preaching based on Qur'an and hadith that:

Islamic modesty is THE modesty--in that any other definition of "modesty" that falls outside of the Islamic one is NOT modesty but the culture of Kafirs ( meaning infidel-gentiles etc their wording not mine)

Salafi's are NOT the only Muslims who preach that womens dress must be

thick--including in scorching heat
plain preferably with out colors, or accessories that will attract attention to you
no make up
no perfume
no jewelry
plain dark or light colors

2- I personally stopped listening to the Muslims who taught this crap becuase at one point I stopped feeling feminine as a result of this. But I personally know many sisters who have completely let themselves go not out of sheer laziness but really depression. Wouldn't you get depressed if your clergy was constantly telling you you half to be ugly in order to be loved or accepted by G-d?

@ Lisa

What you describe of your childhood is so similar to what I'm striving hard to create for my family.
I'm finding that when I was a SAHM it was easier for me to take care of myself becuase I wasn't spread so thin. I find it difficult to maintain what your mother did when you have infants, toddlers, or pre-schoolers underfoot! Plus working full time and going to college full time? I'm hoping that once my daughter hits 5 or 6 I can get a handle on my personal appearance.In the mean time, I'm working on my weight!

I thought that apart of a parents job was to teach your children how to dine? I know before we were allowed to dine out in restaurants, we had to prove to my parents that we were both well mannered and obedient. If we did dine out and we didn't demonstrate it, our dinning privileges would be revoked until we got our act together?


Khadija said...

Welcome, Aphrodite!

1-Ignore the haters.

2-I must admit that I am generally against most cosmetic surgery. I feel that, similar to space travel, people have forgotten that surgical procedures are inherently life-threatening activities. These activities are NOT to be undertaken on a whim. Until things happen like the Challenger explosion, and Kanye West's mother's death, to remind us. My bottom line with cosmetic surgery for people who AREN'T burn victims, etc. is "Are you willing to risk dying for this?"

3-There needs to be balance in all things, instead of extreme cycles. It sounds like the neglect/binge cycle is, at least partially, in response to the haters. It's better to make self-care a part of one's regular routine. Also, there's really no need to let the haters know about anything that you're doing for yourself.

4-You go, girl!!!

Welcome, Forever Loyal!

The existence and availability of some really spectacular-looking shalwar khameez is what 1st made me question the motives of the grimly-dressed hijabis.

It's amazing what can be found in most Indian and Pakistani stores. Some of those saris, etc. are literally breathtaking in terms of color and fabric! Why in world would any Western Muslim woman settle for looking like a gray tent when these other clothes are available? There's something up with that. Something internally messed-up.

Welcome, Sister Seeking/Miriam!

We'll have to agree to disagree about certain points. Although I DO agree with you that many of the Muslim Black women who dress themselves like gray & black tents are actually depressed.

However, I don't put this totally on their male relgious instructors. There has to be something internally lacking with these women to make those messages appealing in the first place.

Let's be real. Most people are NOT going to willingly sacrifice a huge treasure (real wealth) for anything. That's why the "give me literally ALL your money in tithes" message is generally NOT appealing to the rich. However, the poor can more easily stomach these sorts of messages, because they don't have much to give up in the first place.

Beauty is another form of treasure. The same way affluent or rich people are NOT going to give away ALL of their money in tithes, women who feel beautiful generally will NOT totally dismantle their beauty.

Women with a healthy sense of their beauty will be willing to tone down their looks. Similar to the way the affluent and rich are willing to give some of their wealth away as tithes.

I submit to you that these women were willing to tranform themselves into gray tents because they didn't feel that they had any real beauty to give up!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


@ Aphrodite

You said:
Thank you Rev Lisa - that is good to know about the stylist. I had no idea that they would work with you.

It is a MYTH that stylists will only work with the super rich. Stylists are human beings and they will work with people they like. They don't HAVE to have the money either so their choice to take a client ISN'T monetary. They are usually wealthy and they design clothing because they absolutely love it. Just as an artist loves to paint or sketch, a designer loooves to create!

Stylists do not pass out business cards, however. They aren't listed in the yellow pages. *smiles*

They take a new appointment because someone mentioned a new client to them and when they had the TIME for an opening, they decided to meet that person AND SEE if they liked that person.

Stylists will not want to work with someone who is not COMMITTED to a standard of excellence. In their minds, it is a waste of their time to take on a client with a mediocre mentality. They want to engage with women who want to BECOME fabulous and LOOK fabulous.

At my first appointment, she told me to wear a unitard so she could see every inch of my body. She asked me to walk, talk, sit, turn, stand, open the door, make gestures as though I were in the pulpit. She scribbled notes. She wanted to see how I move my body and how comfortable I am with myself. She took my measurements (no, my body IS NOT what I hope it will be by next year) and she took polaroids of "problem" areas so she could keep my entire body in sight as she was deciding on my look and designing items. She also made a mold of my feet.

You DO NOT have to have the perfect body for a stylist to work with you.

We discussed my self definition. We discussed what my style goals were, what I wanted to accomplish with my body and what I wanted to achieve with my beauty and what I wanted to project to the world.

You need to be able to express what you WANT. Few black women seem to be able to say what it is that they truly want!

The stylist needs to understand WHAT you want to achieve by working with her so that the relationship has a purpose, a clear focus, and a destination in sight. It is not about the type of money a potential client has; it's about relationship.

Stylists want to work with interesting and engaging and loving people. Don't WE ALL want to have that day-to-day as we work on what we love?

As for hard-to-find shoes... the stylists have electronic catalogues that aren't even available to the public. They have long-established relationships with shoe designers and can find ANY size if it exists in the world.

Narrow sizes are VERY common in the world of anorexic models on the catwalk who have skin and bones for feet.

The highest height I have worn was a 4 1/2" boot! And people said I was tall before I pulled out the 4 1/2-inchers!! *LOL* I do that very rarely...

@ SisterSeeking

Don't put off carrying about your appearance. It gives your children a BAD example to follow. My mother's hair was NEVER uncombed. Ever. My mother was NEVER in tatters, never in anything wrinkled. She had three children. She had a career. She had domestic help so THAT IS what makes the difference. I totally feel you!! It's not the same equation if a mom has NO domestic help, a career plus school full-time.

Commit to one thing at a time...healthy hair and skin...great hair cut. Do not wear sweats and tennis shoes as casual wear. It's for work outs only. It's an awful, awful habit to start. What is wrong with a flowing shirt and slacks to feel comfortable? Why does SLOUCHY have to become the definition of "comfort"? We have to change our definitions if we want to CHANGE our standards.

I do not wear jeans...I have YET to see a black woman in jeans who is not objectifying or fetishizing herself. "They are sooo comfortable!" I hear sistas say. I can get comfortable WITHOUT fetishizing myself. We need to examine the ways that we have over-sexualized ourselves as a NORM and then justified it by telling ourselves that THE ONLY way we can feel comfortable if we fetishize ourselves in our clothing choices.

I really feel sistas need to stop putting PRIMARY focus on how we are defined by others and what others are saying about our priorities and decisions!

This is the reason why MOST black women are in mental bondage to the NORMS that exist in the socioeconomic class they affiliate with.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

The Original Wombman said...

Thought-provoking post Khadija.

I'm not really sure how to feel about it after reading it, though. Looking flawless and developing a signature style requires money. Right now, I'm making the sacrifice of being a stay-at-home mom--we are not wealthy by any means and there are simply no extras. My husband works lots and lots of overtime which means that most of my time is spent dealing with children--young children at that. Some days, all I can manage to do is to get a shower and put on clean clothes. I'm still carrying around my pregnancy weight, hoping that as the children get older (and I stop nursing), my metabolism gets back to normal and I can find a chance to seriously work out and lose the weight. I can't say my self-esteem is at an all time high right now but what I can say is that money is tighter than it's ever been and so there is no extra to develop a signature look or really to do much except look clean and neat. I'd love to spend a hundred dollars on a cute hairstyle that would last a week tops (like I used to as a single woman) but it's just not practical now.

So, anyway, all I'm saying is that I like the message of your post today but I think there a real barriers to achieving flawlessnes--how do you maintain a feeling of flawlessness when you just can't afford the things that would make you feel flawless?

Khadija said...

Hello there, Lisa!

{excited waving}

Again, thank you for sharing "inside scoop" details of how these things work. Unitard? Photos of problem areas? Yep. These people are SERIOUS.

Thank you for also pointing out that women need to figure out what they want to accomplish with their style signature. Like so many other Black women, I also don't know what I want to achieve with my signature "look."

That's why I'm doing a lot of research before I figure out my next move. I don't know if I'll hire a stylist later on. The first step is to figure out the basics of this field, and the sorts of choices/goals that are available in terms of different "looks."

I've just started reading 2 books to begin my research. Brenda Kinsel's Fashion Makeover: 30 Days to Diva Style. And The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia. [I really looove]

Welcome, Chi-Chi!

It is still possible to feel & look flawless on a tight budget. The barriers to feeling flawless are mostly mental. Feeling flawless on a tight budget is just less convenient & requires more resourcefulness on the part of the flawless woman.

If you don't already know, learn how to sew. In the interim, find an inexpensive neighborhood seamstress. My mother made the strapless formal dress that I wore to a fraternity "sweetheart" ball in college. She made it from a pattern she bought & adjusted in minor ways. THE DRESS WAS DAZZLING. Mom even let me borrow her jewelry for the event. LOL! I was quite pleased to outshine 95% of the other girls present at the ball!

It's much more convenient to simply be able to buy stuff outright; but it's still possible to be flawless on a tight budget.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Lisa that's a great idea! Focus one cosmetic item at a time.

I was thinking about having my hair braided but I've got to find some one who can do with out pulling my hair out.

Before I had Amina I was a BIG Mary Kay fan so perhaps once I finish this legal studies diploma ( hopefully by end of year) I can put some money away to buy some skin care products.

I'm not sure that I can afford to have my nails, and hair done BUT I'm thinking about creating a mini salon if you will in my bedroom.

I'm glad you started this discussion Khadija.

Getting some good ideas!

: )


@ Chi Chi

If you feel your self-esteem is declining, that is your inner voice telling you that YOU need more self-care and more attention to self.

Most black men I speak to at church say that their NUMBER ONE complaint about their wives is their lack of attention to their appearance. Most do NOT even tell their wives they want to see improvement.

Maybe some stay-at-home moms often become lax about how they present themselves because they are alone for most of the day. I don't know.

Looking good to leave the house reflects a mentality that we have to look a certain way to be APPROVED of by others. We should have a standard of defining ourselves TO OURSELVES.

I look polished because THAT is my self definition. I dress the same way INSIDE my house as I do when I leave the house!


It is a MYTH that it takes money to look flawless. Black women need to tell themselves: Mediocrity is NOT a norm.

A fabulous haircut does not cost a fortune. Anyone who says so is lying.

Flawless skin does not take HUGE money either. It takes attention to diet. I don't spend money on skin products. My stylist told me to drink water with herbal supplements mixed in. That is ALL I do. No night creams, none of that!

Beautiful feet don't cost a fortune either! I soak my feet in heated olive oil. One large bottle costs $8 at the grocery store! Mix with water.

Women who say they don't have the money to look good are making excuses.

Look at it this way....a pair of jeans can cost anywhere between $60-$150 these days and I know sistas who have five pairs of jeans. FIVE pairs...okay that's $300 to $750.

That investment could have been used on items that add elegance to the wardrobe. Plenty of high quality items can be purchased off-season.

If a sista can spend $70 on a pair of blue jeans then she can spend $70 to find a cashmere sweater on sale online...IF SHE DECIDES TO!

There are black women I know who spend TEN HOURS a week watching reality shows on television...every week! They could spend THAT time researching off-season items online. Where there is will, there is SURELY a way.

The "I have no time" excuse must cease...sistas use that for why they haven't been back to school, why they haven't researched a second career, why they aren't in a relationship.

Bottom line: We MAKE TIME for what matters.

I hear some sistas saying they have NO MONEY to improve their wardrobe and yet...I see that they own a satelite dish! I see they spend $800 a year on cable service!
(I don't even own a tv.)

I have never spent several hundred on a hairstyle that would last one week. If some ladies do that, then okay...their choice...these SAME ladies will probably claim they have no money to hire a stylist though!

I am not saying YOU do those things...I don't know you...but what I am saying is that we have to set a higher standard.

It may take BABY steps to change our standards...but they must change...they must rise.

It's okay to start with small goals.

You say you don't have time to work out... just doing sit ups will help. Some moms need to put their toddlers on a different schedule but they don't want the hassle of doing that so they keep things as they are...chaotic rather than efficient.

My friend has small babies and claims she has NO TIME to comb her hair. Please. Okay no, I am not a new mom but I know that the babies ARE NOT wide awake for 24 hours a day! She hasn't scheduled things correctly to MAXIMIZE the day.

You DO have 30 minutes a day to carve out and take time for sit ups or pilates...even if you have to do that ten minutes three times a day.

You have to decide you are worth it...because you are, Chi Chi! You are!!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

The Original Wombman said...

I agree that there is an element of making excuses but recently, I've seen my grocery bill go up about 40%. I do *most* of my clothes shopping at the thrift store which turns out to be more cost effective than sewing or knitting, believe it or not. (I can't even imagine paying $70 for one pair of anything. That could probably clothe our whole family for one season. When it comes to frugality and *thinking hard* about where to put money, I've been there a long time. I'm still dealing with a post-partum body AND nursing. We need to acknowledge that genetically, we're different. Lisa, I am not kidding, I drink more than 64 ozs or more of water daily just to keep my milk production up. For a long while, I ate a diet that included no meat, eggs, or any other animal product. And I still had acne. I thought it was incredibly smug when folks would say things to me like, "Oh, drink more water" or "cut this out of your diet". The system I was using that was keeping the acne at bay was about $50. Last month, I realized that I either kept that or stopped contributing to my sons' 403B. So that skin care routine is on hiatus In the meantime, I'm fiddling around trying to find something that works. My hair has been constantly falling out and I have scalp issues--but I can only afford to go the dermatologists that my health insurance covers and even at that I struggle to find a time when my husband is home so I can go because 1) there's no one to babysit and 2) we couldn't afford it anyway.

Anyway, enough about what I'm going through. What I'm trying to point out is that these are not necessarily excuses. This is the reality right now. I think the focus of your post is a bit too heavy on they physical things we do to feel fabulous. Especially when thinking in terms of people who have *never* had any parent say that she is beautiful and when the media reinforces the fact that she is not indeed flawless.

I'm asking, with no extra money and when you're already as spent as you can possibly be, when you've made changes, shuffled schedules, cut things here and there, when there's no more to do, how do you develop that feeling of fabulousness? I'm talking this is the one nice skirt I have that fits and the one blouse I can wear that I can nurse in . . . they're not flattering, I know, but it's what I can do right now as I strive to come into my wealth . . . what can I do without making a single purchase to feel flawless? When I'm having a major acne breakout because my period's coming? When I didn't get any sleep for the whole night because the baby's teething? Not excuses, just the practicalities of a person's situation. It's next to impossible not to experience a slip in how you feel about yourself when all these things come into play. Especially in this economic debacle. Also, when I was childless, I had no inkling of what it would be like. Sure I could do sit-ups but who is going to keep the 3 year old from pushing the 10 month old down or keep the 10 month old from putting things in his mouth? I had gotten into a nice workout rhythm when I had one child and now with two, I'm right back at square one. You want to do emergency preparedness? Takes money. Money here is money not there.

Anyway, to answer my own questions: One thing I have been doing is getting up a full hour and a half before my household. I write in my journal. I make affirmations. I meditate. Some days one of the boys will get up and interrupt but most days, I'm able to spend some time with myself. I am able to stem negative thoughts about myself and affirm what is just naturally beautiful about myself. I remind myself why my postpartum belly looks the way it looks (and give thanks for my kids). This practice more than any stylist or any thing else has helped me to feel a lot more flawless than I had been feeling. I'm aiming to get up maybe 2 hours earlier

I don't dispute, you can at least look put together. No excuses there. Shower. Brush teeth. Comb hair. Keep nails neat and short if you can't manicure. Keep clothes clean and in good repair. Find that one thing that you can do to keep yourself feeling happy--for me, it's soft feet with a fresh coat of polish. Nobody see my feet in the winter but . . . it's cheap and easy.

But sometimes, really, that's the very most you can afford to do. When the times are hard, how will you and how do you maintain your flawlessness? Your elegance? Your grace? You?

Just to post this I've been juggling my 10 month old just trying to get my thoughts out . . . about to go find out what my 3 yo is doing quietly in his bedroom. LoL . . . oh boy.

The Original Wombman said...

One more thing . . . on the negative side you can call things that keep you from doing something excuses. On the positive side you can call them challenges. I had been getting down on myself about making excuses ("I, Chi-Chi, do not make excuses" and that has always been a source of pride--after all, I put my self through college and graduate school) until I realized that these are my circumstances. That's reality. And my circumstances present a challenge. Spiritual fitness, though, helps you 1) to change how you look at it, 2) to think of creative ways to overcome challenges--even if the steps you are taking are minuscule (and nobody but you notices) and 3) make peace with your circumstances till you can change it.

Saying I can't do it now because of x, y, z is *not* the same as making excuses. It's the mindset that determines if it's an excuse or a challenge.


@ Chi Chi

Thanks for giving a shout-out for the new moms by sharing your story. I believe THAT really does add a layer to the conversation.

The post focuses on outer presentation and external self-definition... but NOT in isolation of having an the inner core of self worth rooted in a spiritual identity.

It is ASSUMED that this blog forum attracts women who already have understood the need for a spiritual foundation.

I can not speak for other women... but as far as I am concerned... acquiring material things CAN NOT enhance my self worth at all.

Clothes don't make me "feel" anything because there is nothing emotionally that I derive from garments. Maybe some women do derive something emotionally from a fur coat or a new dress. I've never been that way.

When I put on something fabulous and exquisite..that is just a COMPLEMENT to what I know that I already am. It does not MAKE ME fabulous or exquisite.

If that stylist had perceived that my self-esteem was in the toilet, she would NOT have worked with me, she would have recommended a therapist!

Why? Because people who THINK self-worth is fostered in ANYTHING external will always be fragmented people. Nothing will alter their self worth UNTIL they decide to repair their relationship with self.

When Khadija mentions this standard, it is with an expectation that we have each established a core spiritual foundation that undergirds our self-definition.

You said:
When the times are hard, how will you and how do you maintain your flawlessness? Your elegance? Your grace? You?

Right now, where does your worth come from?

This is a question EVERY woman must answer honestly.

Women will answer that question online one day but DEEP DOWN, their answer is very different.

In my spiritual foundation determines my self-validation AND my self-care. I serve Jesus Christ and so my self-identification is rooted in the definition God has given me of myself. God has said to me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I believe God.

If I am without ANY clothing, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made.

When a woman deeply BELIEVES in her worth, that belief will radiates more than make up EVER WILL.

Some acne is caused by stress, you know.

You have mentioned in other conversations...and Khadija mentioned this too...that so many black women were not told that they were beautiful.

To those women I must say: you must tell YOURSELF.

Yes...I know it is easier said that done but resigning onself to low self esteem will only produce an inner death. The "I don't feel I am beautiful because I was never told" group must make a choice. To live or to die inside...which is to learn self love or to die without it. There is NO in between...

The final point you made is sooo very true...there are EXCUSES for not doing xyz and there are REASONS for not doing xyz. I agree!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

DeStouet said...

"Feeling Flawless"...I like it!

Khadija, this was a wonderful post. It took so many of the things we have already discussed to another level.

I take very good care of myself even when I do not want to, although I do give myself permission to slack sometimes.
I was born with some great attributes which I do get from my mother side of the family like my porcelain skin, pitch black wavy thick hair, killer smile, broad shoulders which always get me compliments whenever I wear something shoulder less.

Even though I am a naturally beautiful women, as a child I received the wrong kind of attention and did not know how attractive I was until I was 16 years old.

I was involved in many physical altercations with other young girls as a child because of a stupid stereotype but proved them all wrong.

As far as a signature style, I am my own signature. I can wear almost anything and look fabulous in it. Most of the time, I wear items that others will NOT and am able to pull it off.

I do not think I have a style; I am more like a cross between Saul Williams & Jill Scott with a sprinkle of Erykah Badu. I look better in colors but do find the more weight I gain the more I wear blacks & browns but that only lasts so long, before I am back to dressing in all colors of the rainbow again.

Where I am going in life does not require me to hire a stylist but I am going to be sure to discuss with my children (as I always do) some of the things that were discussed here because it is very good to know.

I've been to many formal functions and my oldest daughters have attended a few as well and have never felt uncomfortable any place (and have been to a number of upscale functions) because I am very observant, plus when it comes down to it, many of those people can not look at themselves in the mirror without an intense urge vomit. I am not making an excuse, just stating why I do not feel bad if I do not know something, and have to be taught it.

I will admit this post made me think more about my husband than myself. I tend to be a very selfish person and not care about how others view me, including my husband. And although we have a very active sex life -very- I will rise to the challenge and work on keeping him in mind more during the day, and see if I can't get dressed a little bit more for him.

It will never be for me (he knows that) but he will respect & appreciate my efforts, which in return will probably earn me additional "brownie points".

Anonymous said...

Peace and blessings:

@ Chi Chi

I just wanted to say that I could personally relate to just about everything you wrote, and feel the same way you do as well.

After I had my c-section, it took me 5 months to just bend over to touch my knees. I had problems with my c-section, and I tried to bend over early on, but I couldn't do it.

I'm not trying to use having a pregnancy or postpartum body as an excuse but there are certian realities that come with that territory for real.

I'm personally skeptical of women who at three weeks postpartum look a woman from Glamour magazine. Something just ain't right about that. At three weeks of postpartum, I could barely walk, and was exhausted from sleep deprivation.

I will concede with Lisa's point that we all have 30 minutes a day BUT some times that is NOT always the case.

All I can say is, I'm doing the best I can do.

I'm always clean, neat, and presentable--I'm not always in a position to put on a full face of make up or curl my hair.

If I could afford hired help, heck, I wouldn't work! LOL LOL

Even when I home-school I'll half o work! LOL LOL And all families that home school know thats an automatic financial strain but our prayer is that our child's education will be worth it.

G-d knows best.

My daughter beating me down with this brush while I'm trying to type so have a good night.

Thanks for the constructive feed back.

: )

Anonymous said...

One more quick comment:

Chi Chi I LOVE your blog.

Right up my alley!

: )

Daphne said...

Ouch, Khadija, lol!

Seriously though, I appreciate your candor - in general, and specifically on this topic.

You touched on some things I've been thinking about, but haven't really acted on. I've heard it said that how one dresses affects how one behaves, and I think there is wisdom in that.

My family was working class, so I didn't get exposed to the training that Lisa referenced. My mom still raised us to have pride in our appearance, even though it was usually for church on Sunday. As I got older, and became responsible for my own style, I got lazy (especially in college). I've also gained a considerable amount of weight since college (I'm 31 now), and frankly, used that as an excuse to slack even more. Although I look "good enough," I can feel that I'm not looking my best. Time for a change! In baby steps, lol!

Thank you to Lisa for providing her perspective as well. Like others, I didn't realize that having a stylist didn't cost a fortune. It's time for me to do some research as well, and write down some goals in this arena!

I also appreciate that you didn't let the men slide on this issue, either. I've read articles or posts on other sites where the women are admonished to step up their game, as it relates to appearance. At the same time, there's the implication (sometimes a direct message) that women should immediately overlook a man's image and focus solely on his character. Um, okay. If I take care in my appearance, why shouldn't my man? Surely there are men of good character who also care about how they look. But that's a whole other talk show, and this ain't my blog!

Thanks for this post. I needed the proverbial kick in the pants.

Khadija said...

Let me reiterate a few points that Lisa made in one of her comments.

Lisa said,"The post focuses on outer presentation and external self-definition...but NOT in isolation of having an inner core of self worth rooted in a spiritual identity."


Lisa said, "It is ASSUMED that this blog forum attracts women who already have understood the need for a spiritual foundation.


Let's be clear. I am NOT at all talking about using material things as magic totems to acquire status or self-respect.

At the extreme end of the phenomenon, I am talking about how Black women's exteriors generally do NOT reflect any real self-regard. In the milder version of this phenomenon, I am talking about how most Black women's exteriors do NOT come near the level of their interior selves.

Lisa said, "When Khadija mentions this standard, it is with an expectation that we have each established a core spiritual foundation that undergirds our self-definition."

Correct. With this blog, I made the conscious decision that I am NOT going to spend a lot of time talking about remedial matters. This is because I assume a certain baseline of spiritual and emotional competence on the part of the readership. To put it bluntly, this blog is NOT "special ed."

In the context of this post, this is why I'm not spending any time at all talking about base, tacky, or demeaning fashions. I'm assuming that none of the readers attracted to this forum would be involved in anything like that.

Those of us who are moving forward are "moving on up" far, FAR, FAR above & beyond "the Eastside." We're taking our rightful place as world-class, platinum-standard, women.

Welcome, DeStouet!

I'm happy you mentioned the effect on your husband. This is important.

Let me pose a question to the married/partnered women out there. I don't expect anyone to answer it here, but I do believe the question merits some contemplation.

Is the way you look now more or less the way you looked when your husband/partner was courting you? Or has there been a DRASTIC, LONG-TERM, SUSTAINED decline? Is your current look what your husband/partner signed onto when he/she chose you? If not, could an outside, neutral observer fairly describe what has happened as a "bait & switch" situation? If so, is this fair to your husband/partner?

DeStouet, it's good that you're willing to learn the rules of formal events. It's not a good thing for us to model being inappropriate at these events in front of our children.

Welcome, Daphne!

You said, "Ouch, Khadija, lol!" Believe me, you're not the only one who feels mildly stung. I was horrified when I realized that I had failed in my college-age vow! I spent many awkward minutes thinking, "D_____. Where did I go wrong?!"

Well, I'm working on it.

About the men: I find the modern American trend quite amazing: The notion that somehow slovenly, marginally-employed/unemployed/unemployable men are entitled to high-functioning, accomplished supermodels!

I was always irritated by this scenario when it played out on Negro sitcoms like "Martin," "Bernie Mac," etc. You will notice that the crude, street Negroes on these shows ALWAYS have tv wives that are several levels out of their league. Not only are these tv wives model-gorgeous, but they are always highly accomplished women.

I find it quite telling that the street Negroes on tv do NOT select their female peers---you don't see them married to "Sheniquas."

This mentality seems to have carried over to the real world where slovenly men somehow feel entitled to approach accomplished, flawless women. And have the nerve to be offended when they are rejected out of hand (as they should be).

Of course, part of this is because too many Black women have embraced a "race to the bottom" where they are willing to take up with just about anything. I was always amazed when I worked in child support courtrooms. I was amazed at how many seemingly normal, employed Black women would sleep with (much less get pregnant by) Black male bums who looked like they lived on skid row.

For example, one of the first few things I check about a man is his fingernails. I don't understand how it is that so many Black women allow men with long, yellowed, or dirty fingernails to run their hands over their bodies. Or, God forbid, allow these dirty hands to do even more intimate things.

A slovenly man can hide in a business suit. But checking for seemingly "little" details can tell a LOT about a person. I've dated an electrician. That's how I found out that there are special soaps in Home Depot-type stores that men who work with their hands can use to remove the grime from under their fingernails. I have NEVER dated a slob.

Being a flawless woman or impeccable man is NOT about money.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Daphne said...

I find it quite telling that the street Negroes on tv do NOT select their female peers---you don't see them married to "Sheniquas."

Preach! I'd only add that this phenomenon is prevalent in TV across the board, especially sitcoms. Unfortunately, I think too many people are believing that TV = reality, which is easy to do these days. There was a movie blog I used to frequent, and there was a discussion on the "slacker guy hooking up with a beautiful, accomplished woman" trend, and why you rarely see the reverse trend on film. It was an interesting read.

For a book recommendation - I've also heard that The Science of Sexy by Bradley Bayou is a good read. I've not read it myself (just ordered it), but it might be helpful to other ladies. I'll check out the other books you recommended as well, Khadija.

focusedpurpose said...

Khadija, i LOVE this post!


...somewhere i read that there are no ugly women, only lazy women. i truly believe this. i don't mean this to offend.

in all honesty i must confess that i had at one point in my life chosen to be lazy. it was easier to NOT do the work. on the other side of the experience i learned valuable lessons. 1) i must never entertain depression/down days for longer than two days. shake it off! three is my favorite number but that is too many days in this instance. lol! 2) when i feel hurt, sad, misunderstood or any of the other range of emotions that i have sought refuge from in food before---i have learned that i must instead deal with the issue head on. an unhealthy relationship with food creates a whole other batch of "issues".

additionally, i think it a sound practice to take care of yourself first. i have noticed that quite a few black women take care of themselves last. in quite a few instances, by the time it is their turn to receive that much needed care, they are too exhausted. i am thankful to my mother who made a point of rising early to take care of herself and put herself together before she dealt with her children and husband. it has always resonated as a sound practice. to this day, i emulate it. taking care of me is not a luxury, it is a necessity. my mother also taught me that manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, etc were not a luxury. as a result i refuse to compromise in this area now. (i have had to learn to not compromise. at times it feels like folks resent the nerve. in truth, it requires on-going practice.)

i have a signature look and fragrance(s). i think it best described as understated classic elegance. i tend to be a minimalist, though i do love silk/wool/cotton shawls and wraps that provide color.

i am relentlessly disciplined in order to maintain my size six frame. i don't deprive myself, i just regulate myself:-) moderation is key! if it is rich, chocolatey, creamy or decadent, i will only have a bite. (or two---no more than three:-) why do i love stuff like this so much??!!?

gathering my girlfriends to hike/walk and talk has been a pleasure and means to an end. it is a two-fer in that it allows us to catch up and exercise simultaneously. the fact that women tend to be competitive works for us and not against us on these outings. (i never understood competition between women when it seems to boil down in the end to preferences. ok, a whole other Oprah, i know:-)

in closing, recently i had an experience where i was accused of thinking that i was "all that". when i was younger, this accusation used to anger me. that one and the white business! at this point, i have heard it so often that i evenly replied, "yes, you are right, i do." she seemed taken aback by my response, like she didn't know what to say next. so i asked if she wanted to know a secret. i proceeded to tell her that she was all that, too, and all she needed to do was think it, believe it and act on it. there was need to separate me from my all that, she had her own.

we are all "all that". we just need to believe it and work it. which is why i believe there are no ugly women, just lazy women that are not willing to do the work.

a side note:

a guy friend told me that he is attracted to fit women because their fit bodies are only an indication of their disciplined fit minds. i found that interesting. although, i have personally met physically fit, mentally messy women so it does not always ring true. however. i do believe one can choose to be spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically fit. which brings us back to not being lazy and doing the work.

thanks for another great post and allowing me share sis.


Khadija said...

Hello there, Daphne!

But the question is, are accomplished, flawless White women seriously expected to take up with slovenly White male slackers? NO.

Furthermore, there's a world of difference between an employed slacker & the types of individuals that far too many Black women take up with. "Slackers" aren't in & out of prison. "Slackers" also don't shoot 7-year old children in the head.

Additionally, I find it fascinating that nobody expects non-Black women to take up with Black male criminals/bums. The "weep for/take up with the po' BM convict/skid row bum" arguments are reserved for Black women.

Thanks for the book reference! Please come back & let us know whether it's worth buying after you've finished it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Focused Purpose!

Thank you for your kind words about the post. I would amend the quote you shared to read: "There are no ugly women, only confused, oppressed, depressed, unaware, or lazy women."

And thank you for reducing the post to one short sentence! You did this when you said, "taking care of me is not a luxury, it is a necessity." YES!!!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

focusedpurpose said...


i like your amended quote better, it has more of the human factor.

i think the original is from Helena Rubinstein who founded what became later a cosmetic giant. don't quote me, though. i am speaking off the top of my head.


Anonymous said...

Khadija: But the question is, are accomplished, flawless White women seriously expected to take up with slovenly White male slackers? NO.

Furthermore, there's a world of difference between an employed slacker & the types of individuals that far too many Black women take up with. "Slackers" aren't in & out of prison. "Slackers" also don't shoot 7-year old children in the head.

Additionally, I find it fascinating that nobody expects non-Black women to take up with Black male criminals/bums. The "weep for/take up with the po' BM convict/skid row bum" arguments are reserved for Black women.

Khadija, HELLO! That's all I could think when I was reading what you posted! HELLO!

Why is it when someone, even a black someone, wants to introduce me to a guy they try to show me what was scraped from the bottom of the barrel of life?

I always say 'Heck to the No!'

Anonymous said...

Khadijah: I find the modern American trend quite amazing: The notion that somehow slovenly, marginally-employed/unemployed/unemployable men are entitled to high-functioning, accomplished supermodels!

I was always irritated by this scenario when it played out on Negro sitcoms like "Martin," "Bernie Mac," etc. You will notice that the crude, street Negroes on these shows ALWAYS have tv wives that are several levels out of their league. Not only are these tv wives model-gorgeous, but they are always highly accomplished women.

I find it quite telling that the street Negroes on tv do NOT select their female peers---you don't see them married to "Sheniquas."

This mentality seems to have carried over to the real world where slovenly men somehow feel entitled to approach accomplished, flawless women. And have the nerve to be offended when they are rejected out of hand (as they should be).

Khadijah Preach this from a mountaintop because it's just that true and I do NOT embrace that!

DeStouet said...

Khadija said: "In the milder version of this phenomenon, I am talking about how most Black women's exteriors do NOT come near the level of their interior selves."

Now this is an excellent interpretation of some of the behavior I currently participate in, and have watched other women do as well.

You're correct, my exterior (extra weight) is no where close to the person I am inside. For a while, I thought I would be able to go to the next level with an additional 88 pounds on my '5 6" frame. Until last year, I realized it was not going to be just wasn't going to be possible.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a lot of unhealthy & negative emotions thoughts ideas behaviors ways all built-in & circulating through out this additional flesh, at least for me it is this way.

I believed and tried to convince myself that I would be able to heed the call of being a writer despite making some drastic & necessary changes in my diet.

Time to woman UP!

Khadija said...

Welcome, AK!

Yep. As Black women, we have to get this situation back into its proper alignment. Among other things, this means that bums/criminals are to be rejected out of hand! Also, anybody who's trying to push a bum/criminal off on us needs to be harshly scolded!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

*Special Readers' Alert*

I've just had a very productive email exchange with a reader. She has encouraged me to share with the wider audience what I just explained to her. Okay. Here goes:

I knew when I started this discussion that it would be a very difficult one to have. Let me finally say some things that I had refrained from publicly saying earlier in my pursuit of being diplomatic & respectful of where everybody is "at" in their lives:

I've defended MANY men, including ex-husbands, in child support courtrooms.

Rev. Lisa talks to MANY men, including husbands, as a minister.

Even though we are unmarried, we've had the experience of talking to VOLUMES of men/husbands about various matters, including this issue. Over a period of YEARS. This has given both of us the opportunity to talk to husbands in marriages that are in various stages of falling apart.

Rev. Lisa has very gently & diplomatically given the warning about how disappointed many husbands are when their wives let themselves go. I have gently asked some follow-up questions to reinforce that point. We are trying to be extremely compassionate in giving these gentle, diplomatic, sotto-voiced warnings.

Let me repeat part of a tv sermon that a local Black megachurch minister had preached. He was talking about a woman who had come to him for pastoral counseling. She was speaking in reference to both her & her husband when she said: "We haven't had sex in 6 months. I just haven't felt like it."

The minister shouted in his sermon: "NO. That lady needed to understand that SHE hasn't had sex in 6 months. And that her husband hasn't HAD SEX WITH HER in 6 months. He's doing somebody else!" The minister went on to warn the married couples in the audience (both men & women) "Y'all better ACT like you 'feel like it.'! Or your 'boo' might make other arrangements!"

From what I've seen, I believe this minister spoke the harsh truth. Many men will NOT directly discuss sexual problems with their women. Nor will they directly discuss their displeasure with their wives' physical deterioration. They will simply make other arrangements on the side. Period.

From what I've seen, when a woman lets herself go, SHE IS RISKING HER MARRIAGE.
I am NOT saying this to justify men cheating. I'm just saying what I've observed from representing very large numbers of husbands/partnered men over the years. Men are visual creatures. This is harsh, yet simple, reality.

A very small percentage of men deeply love their women enough to overlook serious, prolonged deterioration without straying. But that is NOT the norm.

Why would a woman put unnecessary pressure on her marriage by letting herself go?

How does letting oneself go benefit the wife?

There is also the simple observation that whatever you were doing to attract someone is probably what you'll have to KEEP doing to keep them.

A woman letting herself go is putting unnecessary strain on her marriage. She is also making it harder for herself to find another man if her husband leavees her. This is harsh reality.

I KNOW that this is a touchy subject. I KNOW that people will feel defensive. Please KNOW that Rev. Lisa & I are saying these things to help Black women. Sometimes to help in ways that might not be readily understood from a distance. [Although, I'm quite sure that MANY of you in the audience already saw this particular angle to the discussion without me having to say all of this out loud.]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Daphne said...

Additionally, I find it fascinating that nobody expects non-Black women to take up with Black male criminals/bums. The "weep for/take up with the po' BM convict/skid row bum" arguments are reserved for Black women.

True. I suppose I'm getting the phenomenons confused then. Thinking about shows like Martin and Bernie Mac - weren't the men in these types of shows generally employed? That's different from black women having relationships with convicts and the like, yes?

Although, I'm quite sure that MANY of you in the audience already saw this particular angle to the discussion without me having to say all of this out loud.

Agreed. I'm not married, but I've heard this advice more than once. I accepted long ago that men are visual (heck, I'm a woman and so am I). As an overweight woman in the process of losing weight, I know that obtaining a healthy weight widens my pool of quality men that will be available to me (in addition to freeing me to do other things, such as additional travel). It's nice to believe that men only look at what's inside, but that's not reality. Black women, given that we're disproportionately overweight compared to other groups, have done ourselves a disservice by not addressing it.

DeStouet said...

Since men will be reading this exchange, I must give the flip side:

Many women including married women have NEVER had an orgasm...never. I attended a church marriage seminar for 15 weeks, and it was about 13 couples in attendance. Well one week, the men and women would work together and the next we would go into our separate rooms.

Out of the 13 women, 11 had been faking orgasms. 11 women had admitted to faking orgasms in order to please their husband because they were also not comfortable discussing sex with their husbands. Or felt that their husbands were too selfish to worry about pleasing her. And about 5 of the women in the room was overweight. The other 6 women were beautiful women (although all of us were) but the other 6 maintained their desired weight.

Men, sex does NOT start in the bedroom.

Men you have to kiss your wives shoulders, her back, the back of her knees, and neck.

Men you need to find out what pleases your wife sexually.

Men not all woman can have a orgasm from sex, there are women who can only have an orgasm by oral sex.

Men sex in the bedroom is NOT all about you. Never has been Never will.

If not, women will go find that plumber when she is backed up or a maintenance man when she is in need of real repairs.

Evia said...

Out of the 13 women, 11 had been faking orgasms. 11 women had admitted to faking orgasms in order to please their husband because they were also not comfortable discussing sex with their husbands.

ESSENCE magazine did a poll about 10 years ago and discovered that approx. 70% of sexually active bw had NEVER had an orgasm.

One elderly woman at my church who'd been married for twenty-something years said she didn't have her first orgasm until she was in her 50s and had an affair after she and her husband had separated. She said she had faked orgasms too for all of those years and when she finally had one with her lover, she said she thought at first that she was dying because the feeling was one she had NEVER had before. LOL!!!

Or felt that their husbands were too selfish to worry about pleasing her.

I have a close girlfriend who got married when she was about 20 and she says she's never had an orgasm, and when she tries to talk to her husband about it, he tells her that he is quite satisfied and complains that he doesn't know why it takes her so long. He puts the blame on her and that's the end of that.

I told her I wouldn't tolerate it. She's unhappy in the marriage, but they have children and she doesn't want to leave him for that reason. She is quite attractive and is a wonderful woman, so she'd have no problem getting a lover, but she says a new man would probably be just as selfish as her husband.

So this is a two-sided situation. The men are not pleased, but the women aren't either. If a man is pleasing a woman, she will **WANT** to have sex. She'll never say NO unless she's sick or something. If a woman is finding excuses not to have sex, it's usually because there's nothing in it for her. Y'all women know I'm telling the truth. LOL!

If a lot of women were to tell their husbands the truth about this issue, there would be a massive wave of murders in this country. I know for certain that if there were upscale clean, discreet places **well-publicized** where women like her could go and get their swerve on--once a month or so, a lot of married women and other ones too would be FLOCKING there. LOL!

tasha212 said...

First of all, let me start with the topic of the post. When I was growing up, I was exposed to formal events with my parents. My sister and I participated in many pageants in which we were taught how to walk, and carry ourselves. How to hold our heads high and speak and address adults in public. I was taught how to eat and how to use all the utensils.
My sister and I were debutanes when we got older and were taught everything from proper diction to how to waltz. In my younger days, I rejected many of these lessons as "bourgie" and in an effort to "keep it real" acted like I hadn't been exposed to any of these things. I have since realized how valuable these lessons were. Not knowing the rules limits you in many ways. However, I think that adults can learn these rules. If you're intelligent, then you can learn anything that you put your mind to. I have decided to teach my future children the things that my mother taught me, that I rejected for so long. To be honest, I don't know where she learned them from because she grew up in a poor working-class family.

As for maintaining one's physical appearance, for most of my life I have been satisfied with being just good enough. I never felt pretty as a child, adolescent, or young adult. It wasn't until a few yeras ago that I felt pretty at all. So, I did what alot of sisters do, I concentrated on intellectual and academic pursuits and let my appearance become secondary. The extra weight doesn't help. But I have resigned to get it together by my 30 b-day (I'm about to turn 29). I accept that it has been my failure to maintain my appearence that has probably limited my potential for finding a quality man that meets my physical standards. I usually attract nice guys who are either too big or have some other kinda physical problem that can't be ignored. I realize that I'm gonna have to step up my game if I want to attract more attractive men that I'm interested in. I must admit that it is partial laziness that has kept me from doing so thus far.

As for the recent discussion about men being visual creatures, I agree wholeheartedly. My mama always told me to be careful the things you do to attract a man because that is what he is gonna expect from then on. Alot of women dress really nicely when dating and trying to "catch" a man and then fail to maintain this once they get the man. I think also that alot of women underestimate the power of sex in a relationship. You should know your man and his needs. You can't start off having sex say 3-4 times a week in the beginning and after kids and a couple of years decide that you don't feel like having sex anymore. And then be surprised when he's getting it from somewhere else. NOT THAT THIS REACTION IS ACCEPTABLE, BUT LET'S BE REAL. Men hav needs and women do too, if we'd be honest with ourselves.

I agree with your point as well that many women are dissatisfied with the sex too.
Many of my girlfriends complain about a man not knowing or caring about what a woman wants or needs. Many men are selfish in the bedroom. I think that in a relationship, the lines of communication should always be open. I think that each person should take the time to get to know the other person, inside out so there will be no confusion as to what this person wants and needs. Alot of people, both male and female fail to do this before jumping into serious relationships.


@ Khadija

I speak with soooo many "emotionally divorced" men who are married. They love their wives in a historical context but they are STILL having sex outside of their marriages. There are men who are having "maintenance" sex with their wives BUT STILL going outside of their marriage for "exciting" sex.

These are terms I learned from the men ..."maintenance sex"...

A woman's outer appearance, to some degree, reflects the level of self-respect that she gives to herself. This is not true in all cases since there are many woman who have an outer package that does not reflect their inner emotional condition.

A wife's lack of attention to her outer appearance reflects a lack of respect for the expectations that her husband IS ALLOWED to have about the standard of the family. (This doesn't excuse the men!) A couple SHOULD reflect a consistent each other and to society.

I had a post at my blog about childbearing and I mentioned that SOME women are not told that they can choose not to have children. Being married IS NOT a reason to discard wise family planning. Some women just get don't even plan their children once they are married. They have a wait and see attitude about family size. IN THIS ECONOMY?!

My cousin choose to have four children under the age of 5. She was married so she just didn't think she NEEDED to plan for the future when it came to getting pregnant. Her family planning was: "Oooops, another baby. Oooops, we're pregnant again. We'll manage."

No, it's NOT just the wife's responsibility! But the wife tends to take on the GREATEST emotional weight of child rearing and certainly takes on the GREATEST physical toll of child rearing.

If I am bearing more of the TOLL then I am going to step up and think long and hard about HOW MANY babies is "enough" to complete my family.

Every woman does not EFFECTIVELYmanage herself AND her household with four children under the age of 5. My cousin is probably a person who WANTED many children but really did not have the ability to effectively manage HER appearance, HER home's appearance and also be a mommy. She failed to admit this to herself and took the "we'll manage route".

I understand pregnancy is difficult on the body. I told my cousin once, "YOUR BODY may be going through many changes but his body is not! His body is the same and his body still has a need for regular sex."

I don't have to tell you that she's now DIVORCED. Her husband is involved in the children's lives still and he always will be.

Now, she's got four children and realizes that MANY men...especially in this economy...are not clamoring to marry a woman with four children who are all still in the home!

Her husband is now in a relationship with a never-married flawless and professional sista. That lady is polished and fabulous! Sadly, his ex-wife USED TO be...before he married her.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!


@ Destouet

Thank you for sharing the flip side! {high fives}

I will tell you that...because of the scarcity of black men and the prevalence of "nothing but a black man" mindsets among black women, MOST black women will not start cheating when they are unfulfilled sexually.

Most black women are conditioned to think that they should settle for less-than-happy lives.

I know that is very sad but it is also very true. It is a norm for far too many black women to live with unhappiness, and I wrote about this in the post, "Disbanding The Cult of Pain".

There was a prominent and wealthy black man in a church I used to attend. His wife AND his mistress attended the church. He met "the other woman" at church. The wife knew about her. Once, he collapsed in church and I ran to him and BOTH women surrounded him, checking on his condition. This acceptance of man-sharing among black women is NOT hardly uncommon. He cheats and they are willing to SHARE rather than being alone.

The thing is... a woman who has a high standard set for herself will be LESS likely to feel desperate to keep a man at ALL costs.

Khadija is right...there are PLENTY of men in the church who show up every Sunday with their wives and children in tow who are in sexual relationships and their "I have no time to care about my looks" wives are gullible enough to convince themselves that husband is going to abstain from all sex for six months to a year due to his undying love and adoration...just because she's not in the mood?

As I have said before...
I hereby revoke ALL admission tickets to Fantasy Island!!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Khadija said...

Hello there, Daphne!

The Martin(s), Bernie Mac(s), and the "take up with the criminal/bum" are simply milder & more extreme versions of the same underlying phenomenon: The idea that Black men are entitled to have standards and Black women AREN'T.

Women are visual creatures too, but most of us have been socialized/programmed to cut men more slack in this area.

Hello there, DeStouet!

Thanks for mentioning the flip side of this. However, from my perspective:

Women's sexual dissatisfaction is not about poor techniques. Techniques can be practiced and adapted for each woman.

The underlying problem is that these women married/chose to remain married to men that they can't talk to about important things (including their sex life). A related underlying problem is that these women married/chose to remain married to men who are too selfish to care about satisfying them in bed.

If the woman allows it, sex WILL be all about the man's pleasure.

This is another point where the "wait until marriage" concept's potholes become exposed. If you wait until marriage, you won't discover these things until you've committed to the man.

However, let's be real. Most of these women had premarital sex with their current husbands. This means that these women gained advance warning that these Negroes were sexually inept & selfish, AND MARRIED THEM ANYWAY! Who's fault is that?

Welcome, Evia!

Yes, it's a 2-sided situation. From my perspective, the underlying problem (as I stated in my response to DeStouet above), is that so many Black women settle for less. They settle for men that are sexually selfish. They settle for men that they can't talk to about important things (including sexuality).

These women have free will. If they choose to continue to settle for less, that's on them.

Welcome, Tasha!

You are not alone in needing to work on some things. I'm in this category too. That's why I wrote this post. I wholeheartedly agree with what DeStouet said earlier: "Time to woman UP!"

Hello there, Lisa!

Yes, I've also talked to many men who love their wives "in a historical context" while cheating. I've noticed that these men tend to compartmentalize their emotions. They really get it in their minds that "x" is separate from "y." It's a self-serving frame of mind, but I see it all the time.

Many of them are also resentful of the perceived "bait & switch" aspect of this. The thinking is that surely their wife "knows better" because she DID BETTER when they were still dating. How did it suddenly become okay to let everything "go" once they got married?

Like I said earlier, this puts unnecessary strain on a marriage. Why do it?

Yes, Lisa, the reality is that Black women have been programmed to settle for less in relationships. No matter what dimension of the relationship is under discussion, including the sexual dimension.

BW settling for jailbirds has helped spread AIDS among Black women. I've talked to BW who claim to really believe that their men were celibate while imprisoned. Right.

BW settling for man-sharing has helped spread AIDS among Black women. I've talked to BW who don't require boyfriends that they know are cheating on them to wear condoms. Sure. It's your party, you can die if you want to.

BW settling for baby-daddies instead of husbands has spread illegitimacy throughout the AA collective. Many of us are still trying to pretend that having a majority of bastard children among our collective is the same as if these kids had been born within marriages. Right.

All of this has to stop. Now. Fantasy Island needs to be nuked. Before it's too late.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Daphne said...

The Martin(s), Bernie Mac(s), and the "take up with the criminal/bum" are simply milder & more extreme versions of the same underlying phenomenon: The idea that Black men are entitled to have standards and Black women AREN'T.

Thanks for clarifying this, Khadija. I wholeheartedly agree.

Women are visual creatures too, but most of us have been socialized/programmed to cut men more slack in this area.

Exactly. Other women looked at me as though I'd grown two heads when I've mentioned this before. They think women are biologically wired to be less visual, and I disagree. I figure, if nature is all about balance, why would men view potential mates based on certain visual cues, but women would not?

DeStouet said...

Khaidja said: "The underlying problem is that these women married/chose to remain married to men that they can't talk to about important things (including their sex life)."

I said: On the other hand a lot of these women are in fact raising the children that we all would like to see being raised & reared in society. Exposing children to nature, sound & art. Spending time loving and nurturing their children. Maintaining their home. Preparing suppers from scratch. That is the flip side.

Nothing is perfect, not even all of the things that make up a, communication, attraction, interests. Some of the women who are NOT having orgasms are otherwise happy in the home. No major complaints except that husband is selfish in bed.

Conflict Indeed.

In marriage, when there are two people making decisions which will determine the future, if everything else is good & decent, the women are normally "happy".

In the same way that many of these married men who go and seek sex other places, with other women, are otherwise happy in their home.

As you mentioned this is a communication issue. Nothing that can not be solved with simple communication by both parties.

Khadija said: "However, let's be real. Most of these women had premarital sex with their current husbands. This means that these women gained advance warning that these Negroes were sexually inept & selfish, AND MARRIED THEM ANYWAY! Who's fault is that?"

No fair. Going into a marriage with a checklist of everything that has got to be perfect is a new concept for black women. And if there are some real emotions going on between the two while dating, there are some things that are overlooked (like sex) with the hopes of getting better later.

So, while that is the truth, it's not that simple when you add emotions & some of his other pretty nice qualities together in the kettle.

Now and days, women have a checklist of characteristics & traits that her partner must have before getting married. Good sex is probably on the list. That's cool, however, for a while there were couples who were jumping the broom because they loved one another. That is not the smartest way to do things now, but it was for a while.

So, women would get married hoping that the things she overlooked would improve. For many they never did. But what do you do when everything else is going so good for you?

DeStouet said...

Lisa said:

"I speak with soooo many "emotionally divorced" men who are married. They love their wives in a historical context but they are STILL having sex outside of their marriages. There are men who are having "maintenance" sex with their wives BUT STILL going outside of their marriage for "exciting" sex."

I said:

If a married man is having "maintenance sex" with his wife and still going outside of his marriage for exciting sex, he is being greedy. This has nothing to do with his wife or how she dresses. Nothing.

Khadija said...

Hello there, DeStouet!

It seems to me that you're reading things into my comment that I didn't say. I never mentioned a "checklist." I never mentioned "perfect."

I'm saying that when women who have had premarital sex with men, and therefore have discovered that these men are sexually inept AND selfish, have been given advance warning of a SERIOUS problem.

Like I said before, from my perspective the core problem isn't the bad technique, it's the selfishness. If these women choose to marry a man who has demonstrated that he is too selfish to concern himself with learning how to give them pleasure, that was their choice. These women don't get to "play the nut role" later on. Accountability applies to everybody in a situation.

It's kind of late in the day to be complaining about this years later when the woman knew about this problem walking into the marriage. She signed on for that particular problem. A woman insisting that her sexual partner cares as much about her pleasure as she cares about his is NOT demanding "perfection."

And no, I don't think it's reasonable to expect something like sexual selfishness to improve. That's magical thinking. Why would the man concern himself? Especially after the woman has validated his selfishness by marrying him ANYWAY.

It's as magical as a woman believing that a boyfriend who was cheating on her is suddenly going to stop just because she married him. If she marries him anyway, she sent him the message that apparently the cheating was okay with her. If it was really a problem for her, she would have dumped him.

By agreeing to remain with him under these conditions, the woman has removed any slight incentive the man might have had to change his ways.

It seems that you're also reading things into Lisa's statement that I doubt were there. Nobody here is justifying men cheating. What I am saying, and what I believe Lisa is saying, is that women can't afford to be complacent about certain things.

NO. The ultimate responsibility for keeping marriage vows is up to the 2 married people who made them to each other. However, it's foolish to do things that increase the odds of something going wrong. It's foolish to invite trouble into one's marriage.

For example, it would be absolutely foolish for a wife to agree to have an unrelated woman move into her home. [Unfortunately, some folks have female relatives that are also not to be trusted. Was that Lauren Hill?]

This does NOT at all justify the husband cheating in such an instance. However, I'm sure we can all agree that bringing another woman into one's marital home is inviting trouble.

Well...I'm saying that it's been my observation that a wife letting herself go is also inviting trouble.

Why is there such an urge to defend things that are less-than-optimal for women? I ask the question again, how does "letting onself go" benefit wives?

Is the defense urge about the idea that a woman has the right to let herself go? Okay, fine. The same way a woman has the right to allow another woman to move into her marital home. That's folks' perogative as well. I'm just saying that there are real-world risks associated with these choices that wishing won't make go away. Women are perfectly free to make these choices at their own risk.

Why do this? Why defend this? How does this benefit women?

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


@ Destouet

From what I have been told "maintenance sex" is "I'm not sexually attracted to her but I am relieving stress by having sex with her."

Other men say "maintenance sex" is "I'm having sex with my wife so that she doesn't start wondering if I am having it elsewhere. It's gratuitous sex so she will feels the marriage is fine since we are having sex."

The married men I have spoken with over many, many years say that their wives' neglect of her appearance is their NUMBER ONE complaint. It doesn't mean they don't have other complaints, or that there are not other reasons that will cause them to disconnect from her and seek excitement elsewhere.

Child rearing is NEVER EVER an excuse for neglecting the husband sexually or emotionally. It isn't.

Again, I have to say that women need to think LONG AND HARD about how many babies they should even have!! They need to consider the time and effort it takes to maintain emotional and sexual intimacy with their partner PLUS maintain the house (if they are stay-at-home moms) PLUS maintain themselves.

No, this doesn't mean the men are off of the hook.

But IF that husband leaves the relationship, it will probably take him LESS TIME to be in another relationship than it will be for the woman who is with children to find nother quality relationship. Married men CAN pick up and split...they can start over MUCH faster and much easier.

Any women who can't see that haven't seen too many broken marriages and watched WHO was able to pack up and split and end up in another relationship within six months' time ....and WHO remained unpartnered longer (uaually it was the frumpy ex-wife with the children in tow). I've seen this scenario over and over and over...

What keeps surprising me is that these women who REFUSE for years to prioritize the sexual and emotional needs of their partner ...their husbands are saying their wives look like a hot mess in the house MORE OFTEN than not...and when these wives get dumped, then they run to church and start saying they are the ones who have been wronged?! I don't get it...

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

@ Khadija

If I were to marry, I would have NO desire or intention to have sex with my prospective husband before marriage. If he turns out to be a selfish sex partner...well...I already know how I will get THAT "situation" in order!! *LOL*

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Anonymous said...

Just a note: If, prior to marriage, a man has demonstrated that he is willing to go out of his way for you, is willing to make (reasonable) adjustments to his behavior to please you, and is willing to exert real effort to please you, then he has demonstrated desirable character traits.
If he has always been kind, reasonable, generous, and confident without being obnoxious in all other aspects of your relationship, then you can trust that he will be the same when the relationship becomes sexual.

DeStouet said...

(Disclaimer to married women - If you are overweight, have pulled a "bait & switch, or just are not taking great care of yourself, please do so.)

I'm not defending anyone. Just giving the flip side from the point of view of a wife & mother who has attended a few marriage retreats & seminars to know about the flip side of this issue, if men are going to be reading this exchange.


"And no, I don't think it's reasonable to expect something like sexual selfishness to improve. That's magical thinking. Why would the man concern himself? Especially after the woman has validated his selfishness by marrying him ANYWAY."

Because sex is suppose to get better over time. This is not not magical thinking. If two people are getting married and she has never had an orgasm, she hopes to eventually have one with her husband. Plus, it would be nice if he continues to engage in foreplay with her from time to time.

I brought up the checklist because as more career women speak on why they choose not to get married, they have a checklist of things they require from men. Great sex has been mentioned more times than I care to count. Marriages are becoming more like business contracts.

We will disagree on the whether it is about techniques or selfishness.

Khadija said:

"Is the defense urge about the idea that a woman has the right to let herself go?"

No! But, respectfully, you & Lisa are two women giving advice on marriage and the two of you have never walked down the aisle. I am reading both of your responses and "Womanning Up" at the same time. But there are some things that you are NOT taking into consideration because you can't. I am simply pointing those things out to you.

Since you posted this, I have not read a single comment from a women who said, I will not try to do something --or this is what I already do. Everyone seems to be one board.


If a man is having "maintenance sex" with his wife and having sex with other women on the side, he is committing adultery. The reasons that he is still having sex with his wife, matters to me not.

BTW, I am NOT talking about women who flat out refuse to do anything about her looks...ever. And I don't think this is what this post is about. As you pointed out, this is not a "special-ed" class. Although, I am talking about some of the mothers who feel that they do not have enough time for themselves to keep up their appearance most of the time. And they are devoted to their spouse, home & children.

With that being said, there is NO excuse for a man to bail out on his wife & children. None. But the fact is that they will regardless of...

Anonymous said...

"BW settling for jailbirds has helped spread AIDS among Black women. I've talked to BW who claim to really believe that their men were celibate while imprisoned. Right."

I want to share the following with you all. It is an article written by Richard Morin and published in the Washington Post newspaper on 3-9-06.

Answer to AIDS Mystery Found Behind Bars

By Richard Morin
Thursday, March 9, 2006; Page A02

It is one of the most puzzling mysteries of the AIDS epidemic: Why did blacks, in little more than a dozen years, become nine times as likely as whites to contract a disease once associated almost exclusively with gay white men?

Two researchers say they found the answer in an unlikely place: prison.

Blacks and AIDS
Roughly similar rates to those of whites for men and women.

• Black men are seven times as likely as white men to develop AIDS.
• Black women are 19 times as likely as white women.

About This Column
Richard Morin is a senior editor at the Pew Research Center and former polling director at The Washington Post. For more about these and other studies, go to the Pew Research Center Web site.

Rucker C. Johnson and Steven Raphael of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley analyzed census data and a federal database containing detailed information on about 850,000 men and women who contracted AIDS between 1982 and 1996.

They discovered that the surge in black AIDS patients -- particularly women -- since the early 1980s closely tracked the increase in the proportion of black men in America's prisons, which by the 1990s had become vast reservoirs of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The percentage of prisoners who were black increased from 40 percent in 1982 to well over half in 1996, according to government data. At the same time, get-tough sentencing policies more than doubled the prison population, producing even more infected black men who passed the disease on to black women after they were released.

So powerful is the relationship between race, prison and AIDS that it almost completely explains why half of all new AIDS patients in 2002 were African Americans even though only 12 percent of the population is black; in 1982, African Americans made up less than a quarter of new AIDS cases. The link remained strong even after researchers controlled for factors associated with AIDS, including the use of crack cocaine, Raphael said.

Part of the reason for the rapid spread of AIDS among African Americans is that so many black men spend time behind bars, Johnson said. About one out of 12 black men are in jail or prison, compared with one in 100 white men; at current rates, a third of all black males born today will do time.

What explains the black-white prison gap? Raphael said the question is beyond the scope of the study, but other researchers point to poverty, a lack of opportunities, racism in the criminal justice system and the lure of the "thug life."

Whatever the cause, the AIDS gap is not going away. Other studies suggest that half of all prisoners engage in homosexual sex. But safe-sex programs, key to controlling AIDS in the gay community, are unwelcome inside prison walls.

In fact, "it's illegal to distribute condoms in prisons in all but one state" because lawmakers fear it would encourage gay sex, Johnson said.

Khadija said...

Hello there, DeStouet!

You've got it all turned around. I'm NOT giving advice on "marriage." Certainly not on successful marriages. I can't speak to that.

I'm giving advice on DIVORCE. Specifically, for those women who want to maximize their odds of avoiding divorce. From representing large numbers of men, I DO know what ingredients go into many men's side of the situations leading up to divorce. Wives' perceived neglect & actual complacency about the matters we're discussing are the most common ingredients to the divorce recipe.

And NO. Everybody is NOT on board.

You are reading the public exchanges here. You are NOT reading the emails that I'm getting. Furthermore, even some of the comments here are justifications of why folks "can't" do any better than let it all "go."

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

Khadija said:

"Furthermore, even some of the comments here are justifications of why folks "can't" do any better than let it all "go."

I don't believe that for one second and if that is the case, there is no helping those folks, is there?

Question... Are you suggesting that because someone makes a comment about why they do certain things they will NOT make the necessary changes that is required of them when they're ready? Or because it doesn't resonate with them at that second, they will never get it?

Most people are very skeptical about new information when they first receive it. Give them time. The ones who were meant to get it will.

Speaking for myself, what I learn and read on your blog is just part of the whole picture. It's not the end or the all. (I'm not saying you are not aware of that)
It is very valuable information & tips that I may need along the way. If I can't use them I can pass them along to other black women.

However, If I do not understand something the very first time around, if I challenge something the entire way through, or ask 1,000 questions, and come back and ask 1,000 more, or if I list one hundred reasons why I can not possibly do "such & such" do NOT ever count me out. Or believe that I am NOT on board.

This comment has been removed by the author.
Khadija said...

Hello there, DeStouet!

My perspective is different than most other people's. Everyday at work, I'm looking at the wreckage of the various issues that I discuss on this blog. That's why I have a sense of urgency about certain things.

When I was assigned to work in child support courtrooms, I did many (opposing) depositions of these sad & angry dumped women. I've watched them come to court proceedings ALONE, while my clients have long-since found new girlfriends to have at their sides. What Lisa described is correct in terms of how much easier it is for men to bounce back & find new partners after a divorce/break-up.

I have no idea what people are taking away from these conversations. I can only surmise. It's been my observation that what people speak publicly is the upper limit of what they hope/expect to do. What they really do usually falls quite short of their public pronouncements.

In this context, that means that if women are justfying why they "can't" do any better, it's probably safe to expect that they have no intention of even trying to do better.

I don't see many happy people in the court system; it's filled with people who are extremely unhappy for a variety of reasons. So, no...I haven't acquired expertise on what works. However, I have noticed patterns to certain problems over the years of dealing with large numbers of people.

One mental habit that a percentage of the client population has is that they're soooo emotionally invested in "defending" their point of view, that they miss the larger point of whatever's going on.

Sample client conversation:

Client--"That cop was wrong!" Me--"Yeah, but do you understand that it was NOT a good idea to yell out 'F____ you!' and kick the side of the police car?"

Client---"You're not on my side." Me---"It's my duty to tell you the truth about your case, NOT only what you want to hear. The same way when I see my doctor, I want her to tell me the truth. Not happy talk unless it's actually true."

Client---"You don't understand because you've never been arrested." Me---"This is true. I don't understand this situation the exact, same way you do. That's an advantage for the purpose of me telling you what does & does NOT work in court. I'm not emotionally caught-up in this the same way you are. I'm looking at this from a distance; and looking at it in reference to what has happened to very large numbers of people who tried different strategies in response."

Because I'm saying that it was NOT a good move to yell out & kick the side of the squad car does NOT mean that I believe that the police officer was correct. It also does NOT mean that I'm siding with the police against the client. I'm simply pointing out practical realities about the situation.

Because I'm saying that it's not a good move for a woman to let herself go, does NOT mean that I have no empathy for the difficulties involved. It also does NOT mean that I'm necessarily siding with the men in these situations. I'm simply pointing out the practical realities of the situation.

In this context, I have to ask some of the women writing me the following question: What is more important to you? Asserting your right to let yourself go, and recognition of all the valid reasons you have for letting yourself go? Or is it more important to you to maximize your odds of avoiding KNOWN problems that lead to divorce?

As I said in the original essay, the main point of this is about the connection between our outer appearance and our inner selves & sense of self-worth. However, these issues have real-world consequences that impact other areas of our lives. Including marriage.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


@ Khadija

I agree with you.

Stating what I have been told by married men about WHY they have filed for divorce and WHY they are married and having sex outside of the marriage IS NOT THE SAME thing as giving marital advice. I am stating the reasons that are given in counseling.

I do not CONDONE divorce but I do believe that I have listened to some VERY VALID reasons for terminating a marriage over the years and years of being in these conversations with dissatisfied married people.

I don't think that men who initiate divorce are bailing out on their children. I see that they are cutting ties to the marital relationship with the wife, realizing that a civil relationship must exist in order to co-parent the children.

There are MANY contracts in a marriage - some spoken and many unspoken.

Any person who THINKS THAT it is okay to violate the contracts is living in Fantasy Island about the possible consequences.

Anyone who thinks that it is OK to justify being slack in prioritizing the sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy necessary for a healthy marriage is just misguided.

This notion that ONLY a mother can give counsel to a mother or ONLY a married woman can give counsel to a married woman is ludicrous. I know some addicts who think that ONLY ex-addicts can tell them how they should get clean and sober.

And anyway that's besides the point...

This post is not even about setting a HIGH STANDARD to keep a man or to have a man or anything pertaining to that.... it is about having a HIGH STANDARD as a reflection of greater self respect, and it is also a direct result of strong self-esteem.

I personally have NEVER met a woman who has an "I don't care much about the standard reflected in my outer presentation" mentality who did not have some deeply-rooted self-esteem issues.

How we present ourselves to our spouses or even to ourselves IS A STATEMENT.

Every person reading this is making a statement TODAY and EVERY SINGLE day with their outer presentation.

Everyone could look in the mirror right now, this very moment...and looking from head to toe, just write down honestly:
What statement AM I making?

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

DeStouet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeStouet said...

Khadija said:

"It's been my observation that what people speak publicly is the upper limit of what they hope/expect to do. What they really do usually falls quite short of their public pronouncements."

I said: Reading blogs & listening to educated insightful women give their opinions and take on different matters is great. However, I walk into most situations with the understanding that most people are NOT going to get the message.

With that being said, your blog is not for the faint of heart. If a woman have found her way to your blog and have the stomach to still read it & later ponder on what you have shared with us --she is not only one tough cookie but probably about her business as well.

Anytime you share something with us, I am assuming only the best of us will get it. This isn't anything personal but I've met plenty of people who are only concerned with making it through the day. Your blog mentions nothing of the sort. My reason for saying we are on board.

And when I mean we are all on the same board, I could easy say "we are on the same page". I do not mean we must all must dress, laugh and talk alike or come to the same conclusion at the same time, or agree with one another all of the time. Just the understanding of the work that needs to be done internally and then acting on it.

The sample conversation you shared was about an idiot. I don't believe that any of your dedicated readers are idiots --at all.

Personally speaking, I am extremely emotional & passionate woman, that does not mean I will not get the message when I am suppose to. If I can overcome a past like mines, and still shine, I'm thinking I can rise to any other challenge.

As far as the main point of this essay, I gave the flip side because in this patriarchal society all any man has to do is ask. Then & only then should he be given an excuse for cheating(not saying this is what you were doing).

The greatest sin between man & women is that we've stopped communicating with each other. We are literally enemies who have to rely on Cosmopolitan magazines and Maxim to get to know the other. {SMH)

Anonymiss said...

As I type I'm working on my self-esteem. I've been working on my self-esteem since last year and I'm becoming much better.

I'm now able to say "I love me" and "I'm attractive/pretty." It felt like a breakthrough to finally embrace myself. I always thought it was conceited of someone to acknowledge their assets and appreciate their beauty.

I did grow up in a house where my dad always said I was beautiful but he also treated my family and I like dirt. Beautiful people aren't treated poorly (that's how I felt then) so because of how I was treated at home, school, and by the media, I felt poorly, therefore I looked poorly. What's the point in trying to look nice when you don't feel right about yourself?

I just became sick and tired of feeling bad about myself so I decided to change my attitude. I'm still in transition to greatness so it'll be a while before I undo the 20+ years of damage.

What also kept me from dressing nicely was money (now I know better) and the attention I got from men. I've never been a fan of gawking and street harrassment. Some friends tell me that I'm overreacting and should take "lovely lumps" and "You've got a fat ***" as compliments. I grew up and have lived in areas where it seemed as though it would kill some people to act decently. I felt like "going invisible" with drab and oversized clothes would keep me from being annoyed by perverts and insecure women that liked sizing me up. But then some people are just too aggressive.

I normally take care in my appearance, but I still struggle with ignoring unwelcomed attention from ill-mannered men and women. I cope by wearing shades and keeping the headphones of my iPod close to blaring.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Anonymiss!

You said, "I'm now able to say 'I love me' and 'I'm attractive/pretty.'"

YES! YES! YES!!!!!

I'll raise you one "attractive/pretty": You are BEAUTIFUL! You may ask how can I say this when I've never seen you?

I can say this because I've seen how "professional beauty" operates up close & personal. Unless a woman is literally an ogre, she has the ability to be head-turning beautiful. I know. One of my law school study-partners was a professional model/stewardess. She was regularly invited to the Congressional Black Caucus yearly bash by various Negro male politicians. A male R&B celebrity escorted her to law school functions.

She had men (of ALL races, etc.)LITERALLY jumping out of the CTA buses, cabs, and out of their expensive cars in the middle of downtown traffic trying to talk to her! If I wasn't a secure person, it would have been a serious ego-bruise just walking down the street with her. I actually had to practice getting out of the way of the man-stampedes that would break out around her in public.

However, I would also visit her at home AFTER she had "taken her face off" (which is how she referred to removing her make-up). At which point, she was an ORDINARY WOMAN. Still an attractive woman, but an ordinary woman and NO LONGER a goddess.

It's amazing what flattering choices in hairstyle, make-up, and clothes can do for a woman. My friend had acquired expert coaching in all of these areas. That's how she made the leap from being just one of many attractive women to being a "goddess" in public.

So, without seeing you in person, I can't tell whether or not you can transform yourself into a goddess like my law school friend. But I DO know that you have it in you to be head-turning beautiful!

Please also realize that you CANNOT predict the reactions of DBR individuals of either gender; so there's no point in allowing them to push you into a self-made prison. DBRs STILL wouldn't be satisfied even if you somehow became invisible. They still wouldn't be satisfied because they want to kill your spirit.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Some more thoughts from the email conversations with readers about this post:

I really hope that the audience will take the time to watch (at minimum) the first 5-10 minutes of the interview in the top video clip.

It's important to note how Ms. Deneuve's facial expressions, gestures, voice and mannerisms are controlled and consistently ATTRACTIVE without appearing controlled.

Even when she starts off the interview chuckling at the host. She doesn't throw her head back & cackle loudly and uncontrollably. Her facial expressions are consistently attractive; even when disagreeing with the host. Even though her mannerisms, voice, etc. are controlled, there's still a certain amount of warmth that radiates through Ms. Deneuve's responses. Whether this warmth is sincere or manufactured, I don't know. The point is that controlled does NOT equal robotic.

Popular Black culture encourages & approves of all sorts of coarse, uncontrolled outbursts by Black women in public settings. These uncontrolled outbursts are NOT a good look for the global stage.

Another thought: Other popular cultures have always made room for beauty and its care. I've been favorably impressed by some of the natural, Ayurvedic hair care products that I've found in Indian/Pakistani stores, such as amla herbal hair oil. Of course, hair & skin health are also heavily impacted by nutrition. It's all connected.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Wow this conversation has really changed.

I will say thanks for the info on the shoes.

Umm I used to be one of those ladies who hoped that it will get better too.

The story about the 80 something year old woman was funny and yet not so funny.

Some of the information is really overwhelming.

I think I am going to embrace my inner cat lady.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Aphrodite!

Sex does not improve when one partner DOES NOT CARE about the other partner's needs or wants. And really, let me just rephrase all of this the blunt way because what we're talking about is dissatisfied women.

Sex does not improve when a woman cannot talk to her partner about her wants or needs. How is he supposed to know what she wants if she doesn't communicate this to him? Telepathy? How is he supposed to know that she is not satisfied if she's faking orgasms?

Of course, there's only value in talking IF the man actually wants to please the woman & actually cares about pleasing the woman. From what I'm hearing, there are many Black men who don't care. At all. I have no idea why women continue to have sex with men like this. Or even crazier, marry such a man.

Sex does not improve with this type of sexually selfish man. Why would it improve if he's happy to "gets his" & roll over to go to sleep? From what I hear, there's really no point in discussing alternative techniques that might please the woman, because such men are usually unwilling to do anything EXCEPT "get theirs."

This is what it means to NOT CARE AT ALL about the woman's needs. Even when such men are pressured into trying other techniques/practices, the woman is left unsatisfied because they DON'T CARE about the woman's needs.

And such men resentfully view any technique/practice that might meet her needs as JUST ANOTHER TIRESOME CHORE THAT'S TAKING UP HIS TIME. Because all that really matters to such a man is "getting his." And if the woman is left unsatisfied after he "gets his," he feels that this is HER problem. This is what it means to not care at all about the woman's needs.

Why would a woman continue to have sex with this type of Negro?

Given that most couples have premarital sex, why in the world would a woman MARRY a Negro like this?

This type of scenario is a serious problem. One that is not going to magically go away. For a woman to knowingly marry into this mess with the expectation that things will automatically improve is the height of magical thinking.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Before anyone writes in with explicit sex tips and I have to reject their comment: DON'T DO IT. This blog is NOT the forum for that sort of discussion.

In any event (as I've said before), from my perspective the underlying problem in the above-discussed scenario is the lack of communication and the lack of reciprocity that so many Black women settle for in their relationships. These relationship deficits play themselves out in a variety of ways. This is just one.

Peace and blessings.

Evia said...

In any event (as I've said before), from my perspective the underlying problem in the above-discussed scenario is the lack of communication and the lack of reciprocity that so many Black women settle for in their relationships. These relationship deficits play themselves out in a variety of ways. This is just one.

Exactly, Khadijah. All roads lead to **lack of demanding RECIPROCITY** when we talk about black women getting shortchanged because this is standard operating procedure for many bw. Many bw don't believe they have choices or FEAR acting on their choices. Therefore they don't make demands on others, whether men or even other women sometimes. But this is the main reason why I continue to remind them they do have choices in men.

I would say to any women: if you believe that you are a quality woman (as I do) and if the man in your life is not doing his utmost to please you after you communicate to him what you need, LEAVE him! Of course, you should give him a chance to meet your needs, but if he doesn't, you are only going to go downhill and get more miserable as time goes on. Cut your losses and get out now!

I realize that many folks would disapprove of my attitude about this, but if ANY man doesn't do his utmost to please me in any department of my committed relationship with him, I'm making plans to leave him OR I'm getting "mine" somewhere else. He may not know that, but that's what's going on with me. However, I make sure to let him know that--not in a threatening way, but I still let him know that I'm never going to sacrifice myself. I am NOT a self-sacrificing mammy.

I've always made it a point to tell a man upfront what I needed--that is, IF I knew what I needed. If I didn't know it upfront, whenever I found out what I needed, I communicated it to him, so he was the first to know. LOL!

You may not be speaking from actual marital experience, but I am--since I've been married most of my life. I agree totally with you. What is the point of any relationship if it's mostly one-sided?

It's a part of my lifestyle to maintain my appearance & figure, and I'm a mother. My mates have been very supportive of our having a certain type of lifestyle and they've helped to create and support the lifestyle. The quality men I've chosen have been more than willing to do that. They have also had the capacity to inject much quality into the relationship and lifestyle, just like I do. That was one very important criteria in my selecting my 2 husbands. They had to have the capacity to be broad-based.

When a woman wants to get married, I think it's so important for her to figure out her man selection criteria. She may deviate from the criteria to some extent, of course, but I think she must stick to the MOST important criteria. My husbands met my baseline criteria plus brought more than I even expected.

Stylewise, I make it a point to wear upscale artsy, trendy clothes sometimes in the vivid colors that my husband loves. I certainly get his attention! LOL! I can make these items myself because I can sew, knit, crochet, and do needlepoint very well. I know sewing is a dying art among many women these days, but I've made it a point to learn how to do things like that and others. The women in my family all sewed. I think bw need to learn these skills and teach their daughters and sons how to do these things. My sons can operate a sewing machine well, crochet, and do needlepoint--though they don't let their friends see them crocheting or doing needlepoint. LOL!

The fact is that many quality men are very attracted to women who have broad interests and activities and/or are broad-based in their outlook on life. Many quality women seek the same in a man.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Evia!

You said, "All roads lead to **lack of demanding RECIPROCITY** when we talk about black women getting shortchanged because this is standard operating procedure for many bw."

Exactly. Many BW knowingly buy into situations that are guaranteed to shortchange them, and then want to play "victim." Ummm...NO.

And the bit about marital experience...{exasperated sigh} Like I said earlier, I'm speaking from the experience of talking & listening to literally hundreds (if not thousands) of divorced & divorcing men over the years. I was NOT discussing good marriages with them, we were discussing the sequence of events that led to their particular divorce. I have not been talking about healthy marriages, I'm talking about the road to divorce.

As far as this angle of the conversation, I am warning women about the common ingredients in the divorce recipe from the men's perspective. Women can FIND reasons to reject the information if that is their wish. That is their choice. I have done my duty to my conscience by passing the information along.

Some of this is also a matter of mutual accountability, common sense, and doing unto others as you would have done unto you. I would be an extremely angry camper if I married a man who was "Bond. James Bond"-together while courting me, and then he morphed into Fred Sanford (from Sanford & Son) after I married him. Especially if it was his intention to remain in Fred Sanford-mode over the long run.

In the real world, ALL choices have risks/price tags attached to them. Fantasy Island needs to be nuked.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

There is a major difference between women just letting themselves go (watching television, gossiping, and eating bon-bons all day) & not being able to find the time to do much more than shower & throw on something during the day because of her emotional investment in her children.

It is not the same.

If a woman is at home taking care of her children & making sure that her home is kept up to par she is doing something commendable & praiseworthy. If the husband of this kind of woman can come home to well mannered, intelligent children and can brag to his fellows about how his wife is such an amazing women who manages his home to perfection but either cheat on her or have "maintenance sex" with her he's selfish.

If you are NOT a mother, than you have NO idea the things that is required of us. Parenting books are filled with pages and pages of information on how to be a great mother. Being your child's first teacher. Focusing on your child's individual needs. Many mothers who buy into this philosophy have traded in themselves for their children. In their eyes, it is a fair exchange. One with great rewards. (I can't buy into this philosophy although I am very emotionally vested in my family because I am also very selfish.)But I know plenty of mothers who do.

In my opinion, this is not a woman to cheat on, divorce or have "maintenance sex" with.

As far as men & women talking and communicating, every couple I've met, who've been married forever has said the same thing when asked the question, "What is the secret to marriage?"


That is why couples like that are far and few in-between (plus a few other things.)

So, I don't buy into the notion that any of this is common sense, personal accountability or the golden rule because when applied to this issue, we are not taking life into consideration.

With all of the information & knowledge being pumped into us life still happens, circumstances change and man & woman are still suppose to communicate with one another. With all of our planning, and attitudes of "what I would do if..." life still happens.

As Lisa said, "Most do NOT even tell their wives they want to see improvement."

But they should.

DeStouet said...

And if we are going to play the golden rule, common sense, and personal responsibility card here, we must apply those rules both ways.

Assuming that the readers are not familiar with marriage & divorce...a man and woman are suppose to give their all --or at least their very best before walking away & calling it quits.

So they can be confident in their decision to walk away. Knowing they have tried everything in their power to make the marriage work.

With that being said, if it should be common sense for a woman to know that her husband has a problem with the way she now carries herself; it's should be common sense for him to say something to her. That is common sense as well.

The golden rule of treating others the way they want to be treated, also means that you communicate with your partner your needs & wants as they arise. If the shoe was on the other foot, a man would want a woman to tell him what she desired before going outside of her home to find it. This is treating others as you want to be treated as well.

Mutual accountability is also being accountable for cheating on your wife or just having "maintenance sex" and not telling her why you stopped being happy at home first.

Khadija said...

Hello there, DeStouet!

I'm not going to spend much more energy engaging you with this topic. You sound heavily invested in justifying why wives let themselves go. You also sound heavily invested in believing that people are somehow justifying men cheating. Even though this is not true (which has been repeatedly explained), that is your perogative to hold onto this erroneous belief.

I will say this to the audience at large:

What shocks me about some of the emails, etc. that I'm reading is to hear Black women who sound like they & THEIR CHILDREN can least afford it be so dismissive about doing what they can to protect their marriages. It's amazing to hear so many seem so willing to take chances with the life circumstances of the very same children that they use as an excuse for why they can't do any better.

It's one thing to take the "I claim my right to be frumpy for years in a way that my husband NEVER bargained for, even when I know that doing so will put extra strain on my marriage" position when one is financially self-supporting and without small children.

It's something totally else to take this posture with small children and no source of income other than one's husband.

I would prefer for as many Black children as possible to grow up within intact marriages.

It is common knowledge that in the event of a divorce, most children remain with the mother who's standard of living drops dramatically after divorce. Which means that the children's standard of living drops dramatically. It is also common knowledge that children seeing their father on the weekends pursuant to a visitation order cannot compare to living with him in the same home.

It is also common knowledge that whatever pressures a married mother was operating under originally become greatly multiplied after her husband leaves her.

I believe that a woman keeping herself reasonably together (relative to how she looked when courting) is a small price to pay to maximize the chances of having her children (and herself) avoid being involved in a divorce.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

The Original Wombman said...

I was not really going to contribute to this conversation again but thought maybe I should after what DeStouet said. I provide my husband and children with a loving, warm home. My husband *never* worries about his next meal or about having clean clothes. I devote 99% of my energy to taking excellent care of his children, including teaching them and exclusively nursing the baby who has *never* had a bottle (I'm not knocking bottle feeders but if you have ever nursed you know what kind of commitment it takes). He comes home to a tidy and orderly house where he is not asked to do much except yard work. I accept full responsibility for the household.

Looking at pictures of me pre-marriage, it's clear, I've put on some weight, not quite as fashion-forward, etc . . . you might say I "let myself go". But the fact of the matter is I'm upholding this household. If my husband doesn't respect that and respect me enough to *at least* let me know that my look bothers him AND THEN offer to take over some of my responsibilities so that I can have THE TIME to spend a day at the salon, a day going from store to store doing clothes shopping, soak my feet and do a facial and THEN offer some extra money so that I can hire a stylist, but make-up, accessories, etc. well, then, what can I say or do? I'm trying my *best* within my means (time and money and energy) including making sure to be the best lover I can be.

Now, if were talking about absolutely not caring and not trying and not being concerned, that's an issue of self-esteem which probably wasn't all that intact before marriage and certainly wouldn't have been helped by having kids and he should have known that.

But if we're talking about not being as stellar as one was pre-kids as an indication of willingly letting oneself go, I take issue with that. Most mothers I know are doing the best they can in hopes of doing much better when the kids don't need them as much and when there's more time/more money. We are not sitting around eating bonbons wearing rollers for spite or because we just don't care. Most women enjoy being pampered and looking as fabulous as can be.

It's not making excuses . .. it's everyone in the marriage partnership modifying and communicating their expectations given the challenging and absolutely life-altering circumstance of having young children.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Chi-Chi!

What you're describing is reasonable. If I read your statment correctly, you're saying that:

IF your husband expresses displeasure with your current appearance, AND is willing to do what needs to be done to facilitate you taking better care of your appearance, THEN you are more than willing to work to get yourself back to a condition that does not bother him.

This is mutual accountability & cooperation. This is reasonable.

What is not reasonable is for women to assume that it's automatically okay for there to be a drastic & prolonged decline in their appearance. It is not reasonable for women to angrily assert that this won't have negative consequences for their marriage.

What was the saying? "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." Why put unecessary stress on one's marriage? It makes more sense to be proactive about protecting whatever one has.

Instead of looking for ways to discount the warning, perhaps it would be helpful for some women to spend a day in one of their local child support courtrooms. Before it's their turn to go to such a place.

These are public proceedings. These proceedings might be eye-opening for women who are inclined to remain on Fantasy Island. Who knows, maybe it could encourage some Fantasy Island residents to make some changes that would reduce their odds of ever having to go to a child support courtroom. For the sake of their children, one can only hope.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


@ Khadija

You are really bringing it!!
{3 snaps in z-formation}

Most of the men that I have spoken with do not tell their wives that they are dissatisfied with their appearance...but when a woman has a HIGH STANDARD she has established for herself...then NO ONE needs to tell her to maintain it.

If she is SERIOUS about making excellence her trademark, then she will tell HERSELF to maintain high standards.

And more...she will tell herself to ELEVATE it.

I mentioned that ALL stylists do not have only super rich clients. How did I find out? I took the time to investigate.

I hope no one leaves this conversation you have started thinking that being flawless and having a standard of excellence has to do with having money!!

Above all else, excellence is a MINDSET!

This is why we see magazines scoffing at female celebrities who paid big money for outfits that look horrible on them! Money doesn't PRODUCE an appearance of excellence. Excellence is a mindset.

A woman who identifies herself with excellence will embrace that in ALL aspects of her self-definition.

As you know but many do not, I have a son. I did not give birth to him. Another woman birthed him and did not properly care for him due to her addiction so he was abandoned in the streets.

While I am blessed to have been given a son, I am NOT ONLY Petey's mother. That is not THE ONLY aspect of my definition.

Since I am not only Petey's mother, that means my self-definition does not begin and end with being Petey's mother!

It means that my standard of excellence is NOT compartmentalized!

I don't pat myself on the back for striving for excellence in JUST ONE area of my life.

A woman CAN BE a devoted mother and woefully neglectful in the area of meeting the sexual and emotional intimacy needs of her own life partner.

There are always going to to be costs and CONSEQUENCES to bear for the priorities we establish....and those we do not establish.

If I could tell you how many black women sat in front of me enraged and crying when their marriages collapsed and how much they wanted me to start condemning their husbands for leaving the relationship...I try to help them to understand that it's not about a husband ending a marriage because his wife doesn't comb her's about something MUCH MUCH's about the disrespect that it being shown to one's partner when we do not care enough to demonstrate high standards in all areas.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Anonymous said...

Hi Khadija,

"Of course, there's only value in talking IF the man actually wants to please the woman & actually cares about pleasing the woman. From what I'm hearing, there are many Black men who don't care. At all. I have no idea why women continue to have sex with men like this. Or even crazier, marry such a man."

I think for me I just didn't know any better. I feel that I have always been clear about my expectations, but you hit the nail on the head when you said the men don't care.

I grew up with my cohorts talking about sex freely whether they were doing it or not. There was tons of sex education. I went to a progressive school where we talked about AIDS/HIV and I went to school with kids who were openly gay, bi, and transgender. It was no big deal.

Then I got out in the real world and discovered everyone wasn't like that.

I have had all manner of negative responses to me being 'open' and I have yet to meet a BM (although I no longer look at them a potential partners anymore because of this) that feels that he doesn't know a woman's body better than she does. I think some take the Mandingo hype waay to seriously.

It also didn't help when sometimes I would mention this to other women (usually older) and they would make general statements like: sex is better when you're in love (assuming that I wasn't) or outright saying that sex gets better with time, or that I have unreasonable expectations. I have even had other men say to me "Well, you know, you just have to accept people [men] as they are."

So I kept on going for a while hoping that it would get better. Trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Then I just stopped and became celibate. The risk cost analysis wasn't right and wasn't worth it to me.

And men do a bait and switch too. They can present themselves one way when they are not that way at all sexually. But I guess its like you said- it is on the woman if she continues.

I don't know what would make a woman marry such a man, but when I became celibate I vowed to never fake it again and I knew that marrying such a man would make me bitter, evil, spiteful, and hateful within a marriage. There is no way I could hold that in. I was already frustrated and enraged. I don't see how a women could take that for years and decades. I would feel so used after being with men like that once. There is no way I could do it year after year.

I am just overwhelmed listening to the responses of the married women with children. That level of work sounds like a raw deal. There is no way that I can do it. I have to have friends, outside interests, travel and pampering. I would kill myself if I had to face all of that.

"If my husband doesn't respect that and respect me enough to *at least* let me know that my look bothers him AND THEN offer to take over some of my responsibilities so that I can have THE TIME to spend a day at the salon, a day going from store to store doing clothes shopping, soak my feet and do a facial and THEN offer some extra money so that I can hire a stylist, but make-up, accessories, etc. well, then, what can I say or do?"

Maybe this needs to be an understood requirement. Housekeeper who also does some cooking, more childcare assist, and extra funds. Anything less would be a deal breaker for me.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if that is a reciprocity issue within a marriage?

It seems like women are doing all this work at their expense/to their detriment without the extra needed support to go the extra mile and take care of themselves in this way.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Lisa!

Guuuurl...I was waiting to see if/when you were going to pull the "I'm Petey's mom card." LOL! It really shouldn't have to come to this. And this aspect of the dialogue illustrates another important point for "civilian" audience members to see.

You said,"If I could tell you how many black women sat in front of me enraged and crying when their marriages collapsed and how much they wanted me to start condeming their husbands for leaving the relationship...I try to help them understand that it's not about a husband ending a marriage because his wife doesn't comb her's about something MUCH MUCH's about the disrespect that is being shown to one's partner when we do not care enough to demonstrate high standards in all areas."

I think it's good that you pulled the veil back on your daily work. That's what I've been trying to do also during this conversation. Most women only see their individual divorce or that of a close friend/relative. We (unfortunately) get to see hundreds/thousands of divorces up close because of the nature of our work.

Unlike the general public (i.e. "civilians"), you & your fellow pastors know that women aren't always the victims & men aren't always the villains in these scenarios. People who work in the court system know this also.

It's good that the civilian audience also got to see some women's inappropriate reactions as well. Including some women who can least afford it! You see, when somebody shares information with me that might help me AVOID SORROW IN MY LIFE, I catch the clue & take the hint. And thank the person. I don't debate with the clue. I don't look for reasons to discount the hint. I don't focus on whether or not the hint is fair as pertains to gender relations.

Often, the Black women who are weeping & wailing about how their husbands were wrong to dump them are the SAME Black women who scornfully RESISTED various clues that were offered to them along the way. Pastors and court personnel see this particular pattern quite a bit.

The other thing you are correct about is that, in addition to having its own value, the appearance issue is a proxy for respect: self-respect & respect for one's partner.

Also, as we've both stated before, most men are NOT going to directly complain to their wives about this. How do you tactfully explain to your wife that her appearance has become a source of embarassment for you? How does a husband explain that "his boys" and other men are now laughing & winking at each other when they see his wife?

And then there are the direct affects. Quite frankly, I doubt that I could get aroused for a Fred Sanford.

Again, an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure. Since your pastoral counseling sessions are confidential, nobody can see that for themselves. In the alternative, I strongly urge all Black female Fantasy Island residents to spend a day watching the proceedings in one of their local child support courtrooms.

Hello there, Aphrodite!

Like I said earlier, I believe that these sexual issues are a manifestation of other underlying deficits in the relationship: lack of clear communication & women's failure to demand reciprocity. Yes, this is another example of a reciprocity issue.

Similar to the personal appearance issue, this is also often a proxy for respect: self-respect and respect for one's partner.

A LOT of Black women have settled for never experiencing sexual pleasure in their relationships/marriages. To me, that's simply crazy.

There's currently-mediocre sex that is improving because the partners are talking to each other, learning what the other person enjoys, and PRACTICING on improving the quality of their partner's experience during sex.

And then there is BAD sex that will ALWAYS be bad with that particular partner because of the underlying deficits of that particular relationship: it's somebody you can't talk to; it's somebody who's too selfish to care about your pleasure, etc.

There's a WORLD of difference between mediocre sex that is steadily improving because of partner communication, interest, and practice; and forever-bad sex because a woman continues to have sex with a selfish Negro.

Sex is just one of MANY important things that people should be able to talk about in their relationship. Of course, it's really awkward in the beginning for most people to talk about sex. But the awkwardness will eventually go away; and the benefits of a couple being able to talk about the sex that they are having is worth it.

I steer away from men who can't/won't talk about important things; the "silent approach" to important things only leads to trouble later on down the road.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Daphne said...

Sex is just one of MANY important things that people should be able to talk about in their relationship. Of course, it's really awkward in the beginning for most people to talk about sex. But the awkwardness will eventually go away; and the benefits of a couple being able to talk about the sex that they are having is worth it.

Thank you for stating this. A couple of months ago, I participated in a blogger's chat about dating, relationships, etc. There were several men and women, mostly black presumably, who also participated. The topic of sex came up, and whether couples or those dating should talk about sex beforehand. I remember one man who basically stated, "What is there to talk about? You just do it." He received much support with that perspective, from the men and women. In addition, there seemed to be a POV that talking about it meant only that you discussed the health issues surrounding it (i.e. STDs). My position was that if you can't speak candidly with your partner on the topic, if you can't share your needs, likes, and dislikes (in addition to the health issues surrounding it), then you probably shouldn't engage in it. It's funny now thinking back on it, as I recall virtual "crickets" when I stated my position.

Maybe I was wrong, but my feelings haven't changed. If my man and I can't discuss sex candidly, I'm not getting sexually intimate with him. I'm no longer interested in treating it like a taboo topic, never addressing the elephant in the room. I was raised to think of sex as taboo, even within the confines of marriage. Such a perspective hasn't served me well in the past, especially as a teenager and young adult.

I know this much - when I have children, my husband and I will speak as directly as we can on the subject. I don't want them to have a mental handicap on this issue, as I believe it causes more damage when it's not discussed in a forthright manner. Time out for dilly-dallying around it - too much is at stake to handle it with kid gloves.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Daphne!

You made a really important point when you said,"My position was that if you can't speak candidly with your partner on the topic, if you can't share your needs, likes, and dislikes (in addition to the health issues surrounding it), then you probably shouldn't engage in it."

EXACTLY! And if you have sex under these sorts of conditions, DON'T expect it to be a good experience! And DON'T expect it to magically improve on its own.

I can't remember who said this, but I heard somebody make the distinction between "high school sex" and "grown-up sex." "High school sex" is furtive, can only be done in pitch-black darkness, and filled with shame & embarassment. It's generally a really bad idea & a really bad experience.

"Grown-up sex" is openly-discussed with one's partner, and can be done in full daylight without shame or embarassment. This is generally a much better experience.

Unfortunately, it's quite clear that most Black people are having "high school sex." Even as [chronological] adults. Even years into their marriages.

Even until they die. What a shame. Each woman needs to ask herself whether or not this is what she wants for the sexual part of her life.

As you mentioned, part of it is cultural due to Black folks' mostly religion-based upbringing(s). The Black church & the Black mosque tend to be totally & defiantly out of touch with reality when it comes to sexuality issues. Even when their refusal to give candid, reality-based guidance leads to the literal death & destruction of their members.

Even with all of that, I've always believed that once you're an adult you are responsible for how you live your life. As a teenager I realized that parents are responsible for people being screwed-up as kids. But once you're a certain age, it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to remain messed up in the head.

So, even though my parents never directly discussed sexual matters when I was a teenager, I marched out and bought a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" to read up on the things my mother was NOT telling me.

When I was in college, a small group of friends & I sat down, bought various "The Joy of _____ Sex" books, laughed a lot, and discussed various things over pizza. There was one lesbian in the group, one guy, me, and another straight girl. We figured that we would discuss ways of approaching these conversations with our respective partners.

[The guy friend wanted to hear how other women felt about the various positions that he wanted to ask his girlfriend to experiment with. He seemed to be on a mini-Kama Sutra quest. We gave our various reviews: "That looks uncomfortable for the girl...Who in their right mind would want to do THAT mess?!...Now, THAT ONE might be pretty good...blah, blah, blah."]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

The Original Wombman said...

In response to Aphrodite who said:
"I wonder if that is a reciprocity issue within a marriage?

It seems like women are doing all this work at their expense/to their detriment without the extra needed support to go the extra mile and take care of themselves in this way."

Yes, there is reciprocity in my marriage at least. If you can't see yourself doing what I'm doing in terms of how you'd like to run your household, it's probably not for you. I can't see myself with young children still doing all the things I did when I didn't. It's just not compatible with the kind of mother I want to be. Also, I can't speak about any one else's relationship. We are building right now and the way we've decided to do that is for me to be a full-time mother/homemaker while my husband works long hours with plenty of overtime. In this way we are meeting our financial goals and providing the kind of care we want for our children. He sacrifices a lot and I sacrifice a lot. He's got a little pot in his belly and so do I. But in our minds and in our plan, that sacrifice is not forever. We are going to "get back". We are together putting in the work now. As such, he's not overly critical about my "look" and I'm not about his. (We both deal with acne too so I'm blessed in that he doesn't assume wrongly that I don't drink enough water, care for my skin enough or relax enough. )

There are many other aspects of me as a woman aside from being a mother and wife. But at this very moment, being a mother and wife is what consumes most of my energy, yes, to the extent that I can't drop everything to go on trips with my single friends or devote a whole day to a spa experience. I'm a pretty young mother and I enjoy life. I enjoy what I'm doing right now. That doesn't mean that I am not committed to excellence as a woman in all areas of my life. It just means that in this season of my life, certain things are taking a back burner (not completely neglected, please understand). Again, just because I haven't hired a stylist or spend hours thinking about my signature look doesn't mean I don't care about my marriage or I'm not committed to excellence. Which is what, at least to me, seems to be the implication.

Khadija, I thank you for this blog. Upon initially reading it you really encouraged me to step up my game a little because I could definitely see areas where I was slacking. It's been thought provoking and useful.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Chi-Chi!

You are welcome. The purpose of this blog is to encourage the renewing of Black women's minds, so that we may lift our spirits as well as our circumstances.

That being said, I do have to challenge a misperception (since some folks are working overtime to "get it twisted."). You said, "Again, just because I haven't hired a stylist or spend hours thinking about my signature look doesn't mean I don't care about my marriage or I'm not committed to excellence. Which is what, at least to me, seems to be implied."

THIS IS INCORRECT. This is a distortion of both the conversation and its motivations. I reject this as falsehood.

Earlier on, Focused Purpose reduced the entire point of the essay to one wonderful sentence: "taking care of me is not a luxury, it is a necessity."

Let me repeat the point of the warning in one sentence: Wives who let themselves go are putting extra strain on their marriages; in fact, they are RISKING their marriages.

What I believe has happened with some folks is that instead of facing this harsh reality, they are emotionally invested in denying reality---they are invested in feeling like it's "safe" for them to have let themselves go.

So, first they attempted to discount the messenger(s) as not being married and not a mother.

Then they attempted to distort the warning contained in the message:

Distortion #1-Responding as if repeating these divorcing men's complaints is the same as justifying men cheating. NO.

Distortion #2-Falsely claiming that describing the things that very large numbers of divorcing men have listed as their primary grievances with their wives is "giving marital advice." No, this is describing the road to divorce.

Distortion #3-Falsely claiming that people are implying that failure to hire a stylist or "spend hours" thinking about a signature look equals not being committed to excellence and/or not caring about one's marriage.

Distortion #3 irritates me more than the rest because it's a subtle effort to trivialize important matters. It's a subtle attempt to make this issue sound petty. I vehemently disagree, given the self-worth issues for Black women that underlie all of this; as well as the real-world consequences that we've been discussing.

I realize that it probably scares many women to have a threat to their marriage that they NEVER saw coming pointed out to them. It probably scares them to their core. Especially if the bulk of their self-identity is wrapped up in describing themselves as "a wife & mother." I realize that it might be more comfortable for them to operate in denial. That's fine. That's their choice.

I take exception at the point when women want to twist my words (or my intentions) to justify their state of denial. Which is what it feels like you just did with the part of your comment I quoted above.

This is not high school. I'm not a high school clique leader. Nobody is pressuring you, or anybody else, to do anything at all. You are free to do whatever you want, including nothing. Whatever you do is your choice.

The only duty I feel (to my own conscience) is to give the information; and when relevant to give the warning. People are free to accept or reject both. I'm not going to cosign what I believe to be falsehood (the notion that it's safe for women to let themselves go), just so somebody else can feel more comfortable with their choices.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

The Original Wombman said...

Hmmm . . . Khadija, it's not a denial I'm trying to make or even really an argument. I've never said in this whole conversation that it is okay to make letting yourself go a priority. I've never said that a woman should feel free to let her self-maintenance go to pot to the detriment of her marriage. I've never said it's okay to just let yourself go. I agree that every woman should treat herself and her spouse with the utmost respect by caring for herself. I don't know about the wives of these men you are speaking to but I do know about myself and many women that I am in association with working hard to build with their men. It is never that they just don't care about their look or are trying to be disrespectful to themselves and our husbands. Like I said, many like myself are eagerly looking forward to the day when our children are just a little bit older, when they can go a few hours without them so that they can return to the outward state of flawlessness that they once had. Many have made agreements with their husbands to do some "grunt work" which is not always pretty. Their husbands, in turn, are also doing not-so-pretty "grunt work". The ideal and drive to look and feel flawless never leaves a secure, well-grounded woman. All I've been trying to say is that sometimes, sometimes, it has to and does take a back seat (again, never completely neglected) for some time in order to achieve a goal. I understand the opinion that to some there's no excuse EVER to let your looks slip. Now, I totally commend a mother who can do all that I do and still look like a diva 24/7 on a shoestring budget. I'd love to meet her and get some tips. I'm not that woman and most days I'm completely burnt out with all my responsibility. I don't have any help and can't afford to hire any. Yet I still manage to look neat and put-together. Having a family is not a free pass to be nasty. I don't know how many full-time mothers there are reading this or responding to this but I do know that the ones I do know in real life, really do strive to be really great at everything they do--including not looking a hot mess. And I think in my earlier comments I pointed out that for many SAHMs, money is a very real issue in our lives as young mothers that keeps us from being able to afford things that would add to that flawless, polished look. Not that we don't feel flawless and polished inside. Again, when many of us return to work, and money is not so tight, there's the hope and the very real goal that we can include those things back into our lives. It's always on my mind, at least. So again, I'm not denying or trying to twist around words. I'm simply saying that there seems to be a refusal to acknowledge that there are challenges to being flawless physically 100% of the time in every season of one's life. I don't know the agreements these divorced men have made with their wives. I don't know their relationships. But I do know in the back of my mind at least that I have to keep myself together because people are people and people break promises. I wouldn't be surprised if in a lot of these cases, there was an agreement about "grunt work" where one party "forgot" about the agreement. And so again, I agree, looking good, keeping it together, should be a goal for every woman primarily for her own sake and for the sake of her marriage. I hope you can understand that I am not trying to refute or argue about that important point.

A funny point about men not communicating about their wives' look: in my case, I don't think there's need to worry because 1) I worry about it enough myself and and maybe moreso because 2) My husband is not quiet about what he doesn't like from my look to what I'm doing around the house. At my son's 2 week doctor's visit, I clearly left the house looking a hot mess feeling hormonal, teary and exhausted in every way. He didn't say a thing. Two months postpartum, he brought that very day up again letting me know I looked a hot mess but that he let it slide because of how I felt. Well, since then, even on my most awful day emotionally, I try. I at least try. Most days I don't achieve flawlessness like I'd like to but I am trying and I will.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Chi-Chi!

The only part of this where I'm specifically referring to a comment of yours is the part that I quoted. I never said that you said anything other than what I quoted from you.

This is one of those "if the shoe fits, let them wear it" situations. I'm generally NOT going to call out guests & readers by name, unless there is a truly compelling reason to do so. Doing this would be verbally abusing the guests and readers. For me to behave in such a manner would also be a violation of the trust that the guests & readers place in this forum.

I specifically responded to the part of your comment that I quoted because I felt it was the most subtle (and therefore most dangerous) of the distortions that have been put forward.

I have said this before in a comment to another post. Let me repeat it here. I believe in spiritual warfare. I believe that the negative powers that be are HIGHLY invested in Black women REMAINING wounded & broken. Wounded in mind, body & spirit.

The Enemy wants the masses of Black women to continue drowning in self-disrespect & a lack of self-worth. Therefore, the Enemy will oppose & disrupt ANY message that might interrupt the collective status quo of Black women's self-disrespect & lack of self-worth.

I will also note that the Enemy LOVES to see the relatively few existing Black marriages fall apart.

The importance of this is NOT about me, it's the MESSAGE OF UPLIFT that is important here.

The Enemy will seek to encourage Black women to DISCOUNT ANY & EVERY message of self-uplift. When somebody distorts and/or mischaracterizes an uplifting message, they are blocking the renewing of Black women's minds. Whether they realize it or not.

I trust that most of the audience members are savvy enough to recognize OVERT distortions or mischaracterizations. But I felt that Distortion #3 quoted above was more subtle, and therefore needed to be highlighted and objected to.

I'm not going to endlessly re-track through these comments. To continue to do so would be nonproductive. People know what they said. If the shoe fits, let them wear it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

First, I believe you are twisting MY words and I reject everything you said about the enemy. My disagreeing with you has nothing to do with me wanting AA to remain broken & battered. Nothing. If I ever disagree with you again, it will always be your opinion, not because I have another motive. Quote me.

Khadija said:

"What I believe has happened with some folks is that instead of facing this harsh reality, they are emotionally invested in denying reality---they are invested in feeling like it's "safe" for them to have let themselves go."

That's one way to look at it but not the only way.

What I think happened was some of the wives & mothers of children said there was a reason to place yourself on the back burner for a while. Not totally neglecting yourself but dedicating your time & attention & efforts to someone other than yourself.

And you seemed to believe that this should never be the case. A woman should always make herself a priority, always strive for excellence in this area. Not someplace where you should ever feel comfortable slipping up in.

We women who are married and dedicated to the caring of our children and upkeep of our homes said "if this is an area where our partner or spouse has a problem, they should let us know".

And you believed the husband should not have to ever say a word because we should always be on our "A" game.

That's the two sides. There were no distortions to the arguments, just two different opinions...women who believe there is a time to think more of others than ourselves, and women who believe there is no reason to ever do such a thing.

Nothing more. Nothing Less.

I said something about you & Lisa not being married or having children. The fact that I was wrong and Lisa has a child means nothing...I was wrong. It happens.

And since I believe men and women should be in the business of communicating their wants & needs to one another (even if it is about an issue they did not sign up for) it leads me to also believe that a man should speak to his wife about the way he feels if she is "letting herself go" before he begins to just have "maintenance sex" with her or begins cheating on her.

Since you do not believe that a man should have to communicate what he wants from his wife(in this area), and gave different reasons that he should not have to or may find it difficult to talk to her about such things, it does appear that you are defending men and their cheating.

One last thing, excuse me, if I strayed away from the original intentions and motives of this post. But that is where my faults end.

Khadija said...


Believe whatever you wish. Do whatever you want. Good luck & God bless.

Peace and blessings,

JS said...

This is a very touchy post!

I’m in constant battle with myself over my looks. There are days were I think I’m ugly. Other times I tell myself that I look at least average and would appear more attractive with weight loss, better clothes, makeup etc. Then I look in the mirror and magnify all the imperfections I have and tell myself to forget ever feeling attractive unless I get plastic surgery to look like a “dime”. It’s crazy!!

I didn’t always feel this way about my looks. As a youth I thought I was average looking consistently and cute when dressed up. I think everything changed when I turned 12. I didn’t get positive feedback from my peers or adults about my looks. Black boys called me ugly. Come to think about it when I was younger than 12 they called me ugly too. I don’t recall any male telling me I was cute as a youth and cat calls don’t count. My mother consistently tells me I’m attractive, though she would like me to lose weight. However, I brush these comments off because I feel she is telling me this to make me feel better.

These thoughts are not healthy. I will have to take baby steeps in this area starting with weight loss, improved diet, better grooming, and more flattering clothing.

Khadija said...

Welcome, JS!

This is a very touchy & difficult subject to discuss. Thank you for bravely sharing your thoughts with us.

Here's my take on this: Black women have the same range of beauty as every other race of women on this planet. The only reason why we don't realize this is the result of OPPRESSION.

Historical oppression. Oppression from others within the Black community. All of which leads to internalized self-oppression. Black women have the God-given right to be free of this oppression-induced lack of self-regard! After all, He made us like He made the rest of these other women.

It's not easy to come out from under any form of oppression. Especially when there are so many things in our collective cultural, social, and even media environment that are reinforcing the oppression. But we deserve to be free of this! We deserve to have our beauty appreciated & celebrated. This includes self-appreciation.

Baby steps are just fine. Onward to freedom & our rightful place in the world!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.


@ JS

Your honesty is refreshing and many women who are reading along can relate to the feelings you have shared.

My stylist had a looooong talk with me at our initial meeting. She wanted to understand how I defined myself.

She didn't ask whether my mother thought I was pretty or whether my father thought I was pretty or whether society ranked me as a beauty. She wanted to focus on what I believed about me.

As I mentioned in the comments, she also wanted to discuss what I wanted to achieve with my beauty. The ASSUMPTION is that every woman who steps into her office KNOWS she has beauty that exists.

I know that people say beauty starts from within...but it does!

I don't have the perfect body but my stylist asked me what parts of my body I felt were wonderful that she could accentuate in the designs she was creating and which parts of my body I was less impressed with so that she could downplay them...she wasn't saying "gurl do some more crunches at night!" or "gurl lose this right here!"

She just wanted to know...what is it you love about your body and what is it that you don't? She realizes that a woman has to embrace one can convince her that she's fabulous. She must convince herself.

Honesty is a beautiful quality and it seems that this quality comes so easily to you.

People spend a LIFE TIME in therapy to do what you have just done...which is to be transperant and courageous in their truth about where they are in their relationship with self.

Congratulations for showing that powerful example to all who are reading along.

What I love about my stylist's approach is that she does not ATTEMPT to define beauty for the clients. She asks THEM what definition they are working with.

I invite you to come up with YOUR OWN definition of beauty rather than taking society's definition and attempting to measure yourself from that. Since society's definition is a Eurocentric ideal, we all understand WHICH group will always miss the ruler if we use that to measure our worth or our beauty.

Change the definition IN YOUR MIND. Tell is_______
"Beauty is honesty and I possess it!!
"Beauty is transperancy and I possess it!"
"Beauty is integrity and I possess it!"
Continue with your list. Write that out and put it on a wall in your room. Embrace a definition of beauty that ELEVATES YOU and reflects YOU.

What beauty is to Halle Berry IS NOT what beauty is to me...and it doesn't have to be.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Lenoxave said...

Man Khadija! ooooooo we! You are trying to start SERIOUS trouble. LOL. On a serious note, you are SO on target here. I know that I have NOT been on top of my game either and I come from a family of vain people. Smile.

They taught me to put my best foot forward at all times and that there were "standards" when it comes to your appearance and taking care of yourself.

That's why when I went home for a visit, I knew they were going to lower the boom on my behind and this Grown Woman was scared as hell.

It was done gently, but I was reminded w/love that my standards had lowered and that I needed to step it up. I needed that swift and loving kick.

I'm on my way back Khadija!


Khadija said...

Welcome, SDG1844/Simone!

Yep. I AM trying to start something here on this blog---a waystation of the new Black women's Mental Underground Railroad. With stops along the path to mental freedom & abundant life everyday!

I'm delighted to hear that you're "on your way back"! I am too!

I've been very pleased with the mineral-based powder foundation that I've started using. I like it better than the liquid foundation I was using before. I was happy to discover that this brand of powder foundation is very light & not-cakey.

I'm gradually phasing in the changes that I'm making. I don't want to seem like a makeover project! LOL!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Beverly said...

I love this post! I needed to hear this. I have always emphasized my "inner beauty" over my "outer beauty." My outer shell DOES NOT reflect the beauty inside of me. It's not that I don't look beautiful; because I do; but in a very plain type of way. And my personality is anything; but PLAIN. LOL I've even had people say to me after getting to know me "you are so understated" or "you are such a beautiful person; but I'm not physically attracted to you" LOL This is a HUGE problem. I know that this is a problem. My goal now is to make sure that my outer beauty matches my inner beauty.

Also I want to say that the reality is that in the game of romantic relationships, women are judged by how they look. This is neither wrong or right. It is simply reality. When dating, it will be very difficult to attract and keep quality men if you have NOT put YOUR best foot forward. In simple terms, that means clothes, hair, makeup, etc. that flatter YOU.

When I lived in Los Angeles I always brought my "A" game. LOL Because I had to! When I moved to Atlanta, I got sloppy, gained weight etc. Now that I'm in Paris, I'm surrounded by beautiful women who are always bringing their "A" game. LOL It is encouraging me. But I also want to wholeheartedly agree with something that was said in the comments...something to the effect...okay, I will paraphrase..."Your personal appearance reflects your level of self-respect." I had never looked at it like this. I know that sounds weird; but really, I never put it into those terms. In my work, I am very careful about what I put my name on, especially my plays. They must be PERFECT. That has made it possible for me to earn a living as a writer and has earned me several awards. But I never held my personal appearance to that same level of excellence. Today, that will change. I have decided that I will reach for excellence in all areas of my life, including my personal appearance.

Thanks for the insight given in the blog.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Beverly!

Thank you for your kind words about the post & the blog. I truly appreciate it.

You've relocated to Paris! {3 z-formation finger snaps} Then you've seen for yourself how French women "do"! As you said, "Now that I'm in Paris, I'm surrounded by beautiful women who are always bringing their 'A' game."

I saw that for myself in France and I wasn't even in Paris----I went to Marseilles. Those women are SERIOUS about having, and keeping, themselves together.

And you've raised a really insightful point about the contrast between how many of us are with our work product versus how we are with our outer appearance. I never thought about it like that. I'm also extremely particular about anything I sign my name to.

I'm sure that you'll "represent" & do us proud in Paris! You go, girl! {raised fist salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

PVW said...

Some seems, though, as with everything, there are extremes.

I'm thinking of stories I have heard of and seen, of women who are so into appearances that they will sacrifice everything else.

A recent news story: people have been through tough times with the economy as it is, but they will not scale back or modify their current practices (to less expensive ones) and thus will be late on necessities.

I saw some discussion of folks buying into the bling, paying far more on personal appearance items than many other people, because they want to make sure others don't think they are poor, when in reality, they can't afford.

And then, the (white) women's magazines costing women lots in self-consciousness and superficial drama over whether they have the latest, etc.

And if they can't get what they want, that guy, whatever, whomever, they think, it must be the result of the hairstyle, the this, the that, the other. The industry does a lot to sell women some serious complexes.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Pioneer Valley Woman!

If I remember correctly,the expression regarding real estate is "Location, location, location."

Well, I believe the most important factor with these sorts of issues is "Context, context, context."

Healthy self-respect & self-regard as manifested by one's self-presentation has NOTHING to do with "bling." Let's not get this twisted. I mentioned in the essay itself that this has nothing to do with using material things as magic totems to increase one's self-esteem.

In terms of White women's magazines, White women are NOT living within the same context as Black women.

White women were never programmed to believe that they are inferior to every other race of women in terms of beauty. White women are were taught that they are the pinnacle of female beauty.

White women's context is not our context.

White women were never subjected to beauty standards (light skin, Caucasian features, Caucasian hair textures) that eliminate the vast majority of them from being considered beautiful.

White women's context is not our context.

White women have their presumed beauty publicly recognized, ratified, and treasured not just by White men, but by every race of men on this planet. Including legions of self-hating, White-worshipping men of color.

White women's context is not our context.

Between White women & us, which category of women is mostly downtrodden, self-hating, and self-disrespecting?

Between White women & us, who is in more need of lifting the value we place upon ourselves?

White women already have the dominant "spot" carved out for them on the global stage. Meanwhile, Black women have been shoved off of this stage for centuries. We've had our rightful place stolen from us. We've been programmed to be satisfied with watching from the back rows.

It is fitting and appropriate for Black women to take the necessary steps to regain our rightful place on the global stage. Part of this process has to do with our self-presentation. More of us need & DESERVE the benefits that accrue from "stepping up our game."

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

PVW said...


Well, I believe the most important factor with these sorts of issues is "Context, context, context."

Healthy self-respect & self-regard as manifested by one's self-presentation has NOTHING to do with "bling." Let's not get this twisted. I mentioned in the essay itself that this has nothing to do with using material things as magic totems to increase one's self-esteem.

In terms of White women's magazines, White women are NOT living within the same context as Black women.

It is fitting and appropriate for Black women to take the necessary steps to regain our rightful place on the global stage. Part of this process has to do with our self-presentation. More of us need & DESERVE the benefits that accrue from "stepping up our game."

My reply:

I agree, it has nothing to do with bling, but I was mentioning a cautionary note in light of some thoughts I had on the subject.

Of course, white women's issues are not our issues, and if anything, I agree, black women deserve to take the benefits of being at the top of their game, just like white women do, but without the neuroses that white women can develop in a society where they have been told (traditionally at least) that their looks are everything...

Khadija said...

Hello there, Pioneer Valley Woman!

Agreed. {smile}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

An insightful and timely post. Thank you. Found the following after a quick search of Amazon - love the Almost French book and just wanted to share the links to Brenda Kinsel's web page and blog. There is also a newsletter which is worth signing up for!



Khadija said...

Welcome, Clarice!

Thank you for your kind words. I truly appreciate it. And thanks for the website info.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Well, 30 min on the treadmill (not incl. 5 to warmup and 5 to cool down)
Eating my salmon and mesclun salad now.
Bought myself some pretty jewelry at the after-christmas sales.

And I have been making sure to (almost) never leave the house without moisturizing my face, grooming my brows and wearing lip balm.

I plan to get some cotton gloves soon and start wearing them to bed every night with a nice cream or oil (like I used to)

Happy self-maintaining, ladies! :)

Khadija said...

Hello there, Forever Loyal!

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about! {high-5 salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Each of your readers seek to excel at working what you've got and doing it well. I thought I would pass this resource along because knowledge is only useful if shared. The Suze Orman expires 15 Jan.

Flawless is facilitated by finance and using all available resources well to the best advantage. Here are a few links that are intended to assist with that.

Khadija said...

Hello there, Clarice!

Thanks for the info!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Even some w/Americans think the French are a little over the top. Ok, they are rather snobbish.

I do agree we all should do a self check before leaving our homes.

If one is living pay check to pay check they are not going to spend their last money on buying clothes and other accessories. Their children and living expenses will come first.


Khadija said...

Greetings, Lois!

What you're raising was covered by several comments during this particular discussion. Excuses about finances really don't apply to this issue. It's about being committed to making the most of oneself with the resources that one has.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of Yoda, "Do. Or do not." I shudder to think what the outcome would have been if our ancestors all looked at challenges and said "I can't."

Anyway, I have a post up at my blog for those who want to discuss "Flawlessness on a Budget"

You CAN drastically improve your presentation with limited $$.
I have some tips up and am hoping to get some.

Anonymous said...

I took a good look at my hands and realized they were not acceptably maintained.
I took my own advice and started scrubbing them nightly before bedand following up with moisturizer.
They are much improved.

Khadija said...

Hello there, ForeverLoyal!

YES! Now that's what I'm talking about! {raised fist salute}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Misty Knight said...

Again im on the late waggon on this one, but its a very fun post!

My Mom was a stickler for personal appearance, much to her dismay for some time she had a rebellious tomboy on her hands. However she did teach us about dining etiquette, manners, and posture! Lord O Lord did she get on me on my posture! whenever I'd Slouch she'd wack my back. Ive concluded that out of habit, I straightened by back so much, she's to blame for this arch that prevents my lower back from touching my chairs and bed!

She herself went to charm school after begging the Dean (Im guessing) for admission. I use to balk at the idea of being "prim and proper", but now I unconciously do so, and Im grateful for it. Of course I still have my tomboyish charm at times. But I always get comments about how mannerly, and "poised" I am for a woman of 24. I personally dont consider myself that "poised", but in comparison to some of my peers Im freakin Grace Kelly.

But I do agree with the notion that ones appearance can reflect thier current state of mind, or esteem. My teacher always said " a messy appearance, indicates a messy mind". I myslef have gone through some ruts, even when my then boyfriend kept asking me to "put a little effort into it" I was soooo outraged. I called him shallow along with some other explatives that I shall not repeat. Then my mother said in her oh-so-subtle way "do you need me to make u a hair appointment"?
Sometimes u dont even realize how far you've let yourself go until you FINALLY do something like get a haircut!
This summer when I cut my hair and a much needed waxing of the brows for my sister's wedding, after months of just washing it and sticking it in a hairclip. They both stared at me wide-eyed, cheesing at me saying "WOW ITS LIKE AN EXTREME MAKEOVER"!!!
Im like well damn how bad did I look?
The answer: BAD, very BAD!

Khadija said...

Hello there, Daniecal!

You said, "Again im on the late waggon on this one, but its a very fun post!"That's okay. There's no expiration date on these conversations. Readers are welcome to add their input at any time.

You said, "They both stared at me wide-eyed, cheesing at me saying "WOW ITS LIKE AN EXTREME MAKEOVER"!!!
Im like well damn how bad did I look?
The answer: BAD, very BAD!"
{chuckling} Once one gets into a rut, it's often hard to self-assess how deep one has gotten into the rut.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Chakka said...

It's wonderful to discover this post now that the First Lady is a flawless woman, and is also a Black woman. I am fortunate that my mother, who is a designer and seamstress, taught me about looking for quality and fit in clothing. Great article! I'm subscribing to your blog!

Khadija said...

Hello there, Freedom,

Thank you for your kind words; I truly appreciate it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Khadija

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your blog. I have spent the weekend reading with my mouth dropped open. I can assure you your efforts are not wasted. They are resonating all the way over here in the UK.

I am 46 and weep that I was sent out into the world without instruction. I was completely untutored. Needless to say I made many mistakes and knew not what to demand from the world. I don't blame my mother, she too was sent out without instruction. Her focus was always to keep us clean, tidy, fed and in fear of adults (I say fear because that was the sum total of her mode of discipline).

Your writing is beautifully challenging. You have presented ideas I have never heard anywhere. I only wish I was 13 not 46 right now. Never mind. One must begin where they are.

I had a very insightful hairdresser who once told me that she put her relationship with her husband before her children. Believe me this was an anathema to me because as a single mother I had spent all my energy on my children. To me a good mother was sacrificial. Her statement disturbed me and I did what many people do when confronted with something that threatens their psyche. I dismissed her statement as that of a woman who cared little for her children. No way, absolutely no way would I put any man before my children I argued. When I allowed my defenses to drop I had to acknowledge that it was she who had the beautiful home, happy children, a successful business and a loving and thoughtful husband. He simply couldn't take his eyes off her.

She wasn't affluent but one of her strategies would be to save a pound a day to afford a designer pair of shoes as a treat (beauty maintenance was a necessary part of her upkeep). I on the other hand made 101 excuses why I couldn't emulate her. Of course our circumstances were different. But you know even on my meagre state benefits I was able to make changes. It only happened when I changed my way of thinking.

My children are much older now and have revealed to me how important it was for them to see me looking fabulous. They too had an emotional investment in how well I cared for myself. They wanted me to look like I was a prize. I guess in some way that would mean they were too. I have learned (reluctantly) that investing my all in my children and house was not a good idea. They needed to see tangibly that mummy thought she was worth it.

Once again thank you for your generosity of spirit in challenging us to 'woman up'. I am in no doubt your words are helping those who might otherwise be sent out into the world without instruction.

Khadija said...

Dear Anonymous,

THANK YOU for your kind words and encouragement. It always makes my day to discover that somebody found something of value in the conversations here---that's why I do it!

Anonymous, we're in the same age group. I firmly believe that as long as one is still drawing breath, it's never too late to seek abundance. It's never too late to optimize one's lifestyle! Onward and forward to victory!

I hope you'll also check out the new site, The Sojourner's Passport, when it launches. I'll do a post here announcing when it's up and operating, with a link.

If you have time, I would suggest that you browse through the archives here. I'm going to leave this blog and most of the posts up. What I find is that often the conversations in response to the posts are more thought-provoking than the post itself. I've learned a lot from listening to readers such as yourself. Thank you for taking the time to give me some feedback; I truly appreciate it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

Khadija I thought you might like to see 'Catherine Deneuve talks to Kirsty Wark'

Kirsty Wark is one of the presenters on the BBC's Newsnight.

Thanks for the suggestion of catching up with old posts. And yes I agree that the conversations that take place after your posts are most enlightening.

Khadija said...


Thanks for the video link; I'll check it out!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Anonymous said...

hi. I'm so late on this, lol. I took the time to read through all comments and I get it, your message and the mothers/wives who are outraged that men can be so 'shallow' to care about looks. I'm a mother of two, 4yrs and 2yrs, full time work 8am-4pm and a postgraduate student, and I know how tough it gets. Finances won't allow me stay home or stop school because I'll earn more after my training.....and the children can be a handful....but I know the tendency to put children first or husband first but I have come to realise that I have to put myself first before children and husband. Grooming my hair, exercise, buying good clothing...these make me feel better, its not actually for my husband but I'll happily take the side effect of looking more appealing to him,lol. I get your points so well, is it fair for men to stray from a 'responsible good wife' no, but they do so even if you'll end up alone, isn't it better you are left as a good looking eligible divorcee then the alternative. thanks for this post, I enjoyed all the debate