Saturday, March 11, 2006

Baby Boy

I am busy. In the middle of reading. Goal is to finish 2 books this weekend, plus an application for a mini-job. So only one brief observation.

Earlier I was talking about feeling like I am an emotinal wet nurse to all the black women that are around. After looking at and tiring of people typing in ebonic code I started to see why my female friends were having a problem finding mates and father figures for their children.

While I was shopping with my mom for drapes (I am not really domestic to tell you the truth, but I went along because I like to look at beautiful things with my mom), there was a discussion on 92Q concerning men being "moma's boys" and how prevalent it is. This all transpired as we drove from Walmart (I bought some deep dish bowls, two coffee cups, some of that new citrus orange blue beaded exfoliant shower gel and looked at the rose bushes that I plan to plant in the back where there is more sun. Walmart roses never die, just clip and they regenerate -- no real smell though) to JC Penny's at Rivergate mall. We were driving up a side road that is perpendicular to Gallatin Road, but adjacent to the mall’s back entrance and turns into a ramp for I-65 North, which is a freakin horror show due to construction, when the DJ blurted this out. This is the same DJ that had pictures of Tyson Beckford at a gay club and started to say that Tyson was/is gay. Big fuckin' deal I thought.

Now I am in the car with my momz and we get the moma's boy debate while I am looking for curtains. What is my life turning into? But slowly I am starting to see that coming back South means that it is turning into something that I have been subconsciously running a way from for 15 years. It is this world of black and white that makes it weird for a black guy to play rugby in West End and not basketball at Hadley Park. And there is the world of men and women, that makes me impotent because I am not married (this was the same in Stuttgart offices, but not Cologne). I must go to the mall. If I want to be a man then I have to manage an Arbies or sell cars and have a kid.

But back to the radio . . .

the points of view were as followed:

DJ: You women hold on too tight to your sons! How are they going to learn to be good husbands to their wives if they don't let go?

Woman #1: This is a big problem out here. My husband is a moma's boy and . . .

Woman #2: dido

Pause: I play my Milton Nascimento CD for a little while

Man #1: I don't have any problem being a moma's boy.

This is a true cultural phenomenon that people in the black community fall into but don't want to say anything about. 2 things come to mind. First, when I was running around with my East Indian friend who lived in NJ by way of London, I was amazed at some of the things he said about women and his family. We compared notes all the time concerning the place of women in his family and the place of women in mine. It was very interesting. At that moment I realized that the situation of my family was much different than his reality. No time for details, but his father was the center of the family and his relationship to his mother and sister were very different. For me it was my maternal grandmother.

The second thing that comes to mind is Hilton Als and his book The Women. It captures something about community, mothers, women (Bajan women and church to be specific) and the types of social roles men may or may not play. For Als, if you are effeminate and single then you are regulated to the realm of women in his society and family. To reduce the label to a more tangible metaphor, you become a "spinster", a male Reverent Mother that does not challenge the order of the universe, because you are not really a man anyway. And that is where you function.

Now, this is the problem I have with the radio and the DJ. He is not having a constructive discussion at all. The focus is running up and down a cultural nerve that needs to be pressed not eradicated like a dentist with his tools. We need a psycho-sexual acupunturist in this Cumberland River city immediately, cause there is something going on here with black men and their relationship to the world and I can’t put my finger on it. There was no discussion about "why" this "mama's boy" social structure is taking hold. There was no comparison between today and the past -- men like my grandfather versus men like the ones my friends complain about. Those men that are drug dealing, 38-years-old and got 11 kids. The DJ only made an acknowledgment of a problem, then the act of shaming. Fuck that! I changed radio stations. I did not want to hear more. But before I could reach the button, my mother made one final response.

DJ: This is not good for men and their future relationships with their wives.

Mom: People should be thankful. It means that the men will love women.

Interesting. Wonder what Freud would say?

Often I wonder if Freud is for Negroes.

Back to Milton Nascimento.


Anonymous said...

There so many angles to come at the issue. At maybe the highest level, spiritually (or something), it's just a beautiful thing, two human beings connecting and loving one another in the midst of the existential melodrama. Bang, end of story.

But psychologically: face it, something happens with those men who never cut the apron strings, who call their mother every day (sometimes several times a day!) and come running if she stubs her toe. I felt that "psychological" thing happening to me in my early 20's an took a good hard look at my relationship with my mother. And pulled back, way back. To tell the truth, I think we both grew up, discovered new inner resources, found an independence and emotional wherewithal to do things and become people we never would have otherwise. Oh, and my partners appreciate the emotional availability and the fact that they can be my priority and not a woman living in another state who, anyway, has her own man.

Kai in NYC

Littlemilk said...


I think I pulled away when I left for college, but my mother has a way of extending the umbilical cord, even to the extent of a transatlantic relationship (I gave her my cell number in Germany . . . my conversations were similar to the conversations of Corbin Dallas and his mother in The Fifth Element).

I think the thing for me is that I became an insulin dependent diabetic in my early 20's and before that I went into the hospital for malaria. Both experiences made my mother and father very nervous. My mother more so, so I can't get from under her worry. I think that is common for a lot of diabetics. I remember hearing that from a friend in high school who was diabetic and his mother was always worried about what he was doing (we were drinking and running around).

But on other occasions I look around and see that my cousins are in small town relationships where being available for the family tasks assigned by their mothers (or sometimes fathers) keeps them near the hearth. They are needed to take care of the elderly or make sure a bit of property is weeded and maintained. Some rely on their mothers. May it be a Vietnam Vet or a neighbor whose son is an alcoholic the blocks where my grandmother lived are rampant with relationships. Mostly of the elderly, but sometimes grown men. It is very, very interesting. But I have say that is changing and the culture of my grandmother's old neighborhood gets more thugged out.

So coming back home I feel like I am being asked to have some of "these" relationships in certain ways. Certain things I embrace, like working on my mothers garden for this coming up year. Others are a bit nerve racking, like always being asked to go to church and endure the line-up of church mothers with unmarried daughters. But it is not overt, it is very subtle and subliminal and I wonder if one can every ask a certain question about ones family make up directly.

Most of the people in my family don't really respond.

Then I feel all theory ladened and too subversive for my own good.

But all this is starting to dissipate as my health comes back stronger. I wonder, because it feels like a wasted year, but in the end, it was just the rotting away of many relationships that were not good for me.

And, it was the end of being exotic 24 hours a day in Germany where no one was really interested in me, but the "idea" of me being African-American which meant I could not be too much else.

Home was a good cure for the exotic. But all this baby boy culture may be a side effect. I wonder if I am thinking about it, or if I am acting out, if I am worried about other perceiving my situation as being baby boy syndrome when I have established some boundaries with family that the outsie world can't see.

You know?

Am I a scrub?