Freedom: love haiku

you know that freedom 

is just another word for

nothing, everything

*

you see that freedom

is responsibility

not a way to run

*

you live the freedom

that your soul requires, but

you also like to hide

*

you know

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My Man Fast: Ten Days Without Men

I am taking a break from men, I said. A hiatus, a sabbatical, a cleanse.

For most of the last six months, I’ve been on a roll. For better or for worse, in recent times, more men have expressed interest in me lately than I can shake a stick at (and this is not my M.O., so it’s been strange, to say the least). The attention has been flattering and it has been humbling and it has been interesting; I can’t complain. But lately it’s been exhausting. Those among you who are hot commodities: my hat is off, I don’t know how you do it. For my part, the constant stream of attention from so many sources was overwhelming, and I decided, in the interest of my own sanity, that I had to take a step back.

So I did. For ten days, no contact with any of the men I’ve been in talks with, lusting after, or contemplating dating. The man fast was short-term, but its effect has been tremendous.

I cut the young one out completely. It was hard, because he was sweet and kind and terribly handsome (and he extended tremendous effort)! But it was also abundantly clear: he was not the one. When it’s clear that one is not the one, the only fair thing to do is let them go. It sucked, but it was the right thing to do.

The ex I adore but cannot get a handle on, I let him go, too. He’ll resurface, I am certain, but for now, he is out of the picture and I don’t need to think about him one way or another. 

The low-level friendcrush, man of my dreams, so close and yet so far, he of great flirtation and the ever-elusive withholding game? I’ve let him go, too. I remain open to the idea of him, but I am not investing any energy or effort there, for now. The ball is very much in his court. It may not be our season (we may not have a season); I will wait and see.

The fourth and final man who has captured my attention as of late has been out of town for most of the last two weeks, visiting relatives, offering a natural, and not unwelcome, reprieve. The interruption in this case would have been difficult to enact, but for this temporary fix: the short-term geographic cure. Like all things, the geographic cure will come to an abrupt end; this fellow returned a couple of days ago, and we have plans to see one another to tomorrow. I feel good about this, after a ten-day man fast, if you will. It’s been a full stop. No texts, no calls, no dates, no flirtation, no cutesy Facebook messages, nada. Liberating, and delightful.

It has offered the opportunity to not think about men at all, which has, in turn, afforded me the great liberties of time, distance, space, and perspective. It gave me clarity. It reminded me of what I want (with or without a man) and of what I’m looking for (in and from and with a man), of what I have to do and give. And I’m feeling good.

“I See Freedom Over My Head”: Meditations on Toni Morrison, the Civil Rights Movement, Youth Activism, and the Blarney Blowout

 Last night, I had the rare honor of being in an audience before three legends of African American art and culture. Toni Morrison, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Sonia Sanchez participated in a dialogue at my local university last night, on the topic of black women in the arts. These artists–a Nobel-prizewinning author and arguably the most important American writer of the twentieth century, a distinguished scholar and singer, and a poet and political activists–moved me to tears, to a crazy joy, to the pain and power of a certain heartbreak.

These women’s stories reminded me of the struggles that people in our nation (and beyond) have endured–and continue to endure–in the name of freedom. They reminded me of what it means to be human, to be part of a community, to live and breathe and labor on behalf of one’s people, one’s survival, one’s very salvation.

And I juxtapose this with the events that surrounded the university two days before, that of hordes of drunk students at an event known locally as the “Blarney Blowout”, an alcohol-fueled, Irish-tinged festivities which thousands of undergraduate students and their compatriots participated in, and which resulted in dozens of arrests. And the irony is not lost on me: the leaders of the civil rights movement, the activists and freedom fighters, the poets and the singers and the ideologues and the radicals were the same age as the young people who are creating mayhem in my streets.

What makes me angry, furious, even, is that these young people have no awareness of the extent of their privilege as college students, predominantly white, mostly middle class, untethered to struggles beyond their quests for public drunkenness.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind: college students are empowered to have a good time, and in this case, as obnoxious and belligerent as these young people’s behavior was, the police responded with undue and excessive force. This is never okay.

But I have a difficult time reconciling young people’s need to have fun with the global realities that are before us. The privilege that goes along with engaging in wanton acts of public drunkenness en masse, the entitlement that accompanies “rioting” in the streets at midday over one’s right to wear green and drink before noon, the gumption that is requires for young people to behave so obliviously, so foolishly, and so selfishly, over nothing, boggles my mind.

You are all a lost generation, Gertrude Stein is reported to have told Hemingway of the rising English language literati in Paris in the 1920s. And indeed, the notion that a given generation is “lost”, relative to the wisdom of the last, is so deeply vested in our culture as to be beyond cliche.

And I think on the majority of today’s youth culture, and I wonder. Perhaps I hold my younger brothers and sisters to an erroneous standard: it is always a vocal and dedicated minority who work to effect social change. And there are no shortage of young activists in the U.S. today who are thusly engaged.

But I think on Toni Morrison, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sonia Sanchez, and I am reminded: people died for the privileges these students so carelessly disregard, people fought and struggled and risked threats large and small for the freedom these young people bandy about like it’s meaningless. People–activists and scholars, the young people of the civil rights era–put their educations and their prospects and their very lives on the line–and these young people are engaging in wanton public drunkenness as a way to cut loose in ostensible celebration of their Irish heritage. The Irish, too, fought and struggled, historically, in their own land, for the freedom to exist and practice their religion and speak truth to power. The Irish, too, are in possession of a beautiful literary culture and artistic tradition and a complex political history on both sides of the Atlantic.

It’s almost like a revolution, one of my students told me after class yesterday, speaking of the so-called blowout.

But there is no revolution so weak and fatiguable as the one before me. I do not necessarily expect my younger brothers and sisters to engage in acts of political protest or civil disobedience or mass action in favor of the rights of the disenfranchised, in the interests of social justice, in demonstration of a commitment to a cause, however large or small. Nor do I suggest that college students should not be allowed to “have fun”, or that the institution needs to impede on student-generated attempts at enjoying themselves in anticipation of New England spring. But to behave in a manner at once so egregious and so self-absorbed, so disconnected from the broader world, so deeply repellent, is not only an embarrassment, it is also frankly dangerous.

For the freedom fighters of two generations ago, freedom was something they could see, taste, almost touch–just beyond the distance, in the words of the folk song–over their heads. For many of my younger sisters and brothers, the vision of freedom, of what it means and what it requires and what it counts for–is nowhere in the line of vision; it is not something we might imagine, it is nothing we can see. Instead, it is merely over our heads.