I live in Anacostia, a neighborhood in the southeastern quadrant of Washington, DC. It’s a community that, like many people in it, straddles the poverty line and the working class, where the spirit of Frederick Douglass sits in a beautiful house perched high on a hill overlooking the city and the people under it live in a flux of contradictions between the regality of the history and the barrage of modern-day hotmessness. I absolutely love it: good, bad, super ugly.
The most interesting conversations have sailed through my open windows all summer. Now that warm weather is clutching at waning moments, the folks in my complex are kicking it into high gear before their shenanigans are confined to neighboring apartments, thereby depriving the rest of us an opportunity to overhear every, single gory detail of their foolishness. Unless, of course, you have the privilege of living right next door to one of the offenders.
Most recently, two young ladies took center stage under my bedroom window to engage in a mind-numbing squabble about some dude named Diontay who, so far as I could tell from their bickering 1. can lay some serious pipe, 2. has the benefit of two chicks arguing over him and 3. is living pretty high on the hog because of numbers 1 and 2. Their exchange was overloaded with empathic insults and threats of bodily harm, but it was what they were arguing about that was more telling than how bad one was going to eff the other up because she wouldn’t leave him alone.
“Bitch, I bought him that car! I pay the note!” Girl A shrieked down the sidewalk as a burly friend dragged her away from the altercation.
“But he stay with me every night. But he stay with me every night. But he…” repeated Girl B belligerently, index finger jabbing and slicing the air with every word.
By now, I’d taken the liberty of peeking through the blinds. If I couldn’t fold my laundry and listen to Miguel in peace, I figured I might as well take a quick look at the show outside. And it was sad. Because really, what these two chicks were getting ready to rip each other apart about was something neither one of them should have been doing anyway, and that’s financially taking care of a man neither one of them was committed to and, from the sounds of it, going to stop sharing any time soon.
My mother taught me a lot of things about guys that I suspect she had to learn firsthand. I don’t know much about my father—and that’s probably for the best—but I hear he’s got the gift to smooth-talk a multitude of women at any given time. Considering two of the nine half-siblings he created are less than a year younger than I am, I’d say that sounds about right. (You do the math. Emory thought he had hoes in different area codes way before Luda did.)
That’s probably why my mama insisted I have more respect for myself than to give up my body to just any ol’ knucklehead who nibbled on my sweet spots and whispered a few cheesy compliments in my ear. She told me not to rely on a man for anything I could do for myself, from changing a tire to balancing a checkbook. And she regularly warned me that trying to keep a guy content with material things and all kinds of special favors was only going to leave me broke, busted and disgusted, as demonstrated by the ‘hood heartbreak unfolding under my window.
I listened, for the most part, until I fell hard and just had to underscore her warnings with my own experience because, like a true hardheaded Taurus/Gemini, I couldn’t be warned that the stove was hot without touching a burner for confirmation. It was fine during the relationship. All pink ponies and pretty rainbows because I was helping my bay. We were gonna get married, we were gonna have a family, we were gonna frolic through a lifetime of conjoined bliss.
Then he dumped me, and I had to see him walk around in clothes, Timbs and sneakers that I’d bought for him and go on a date with the next girl. I’d paid some of that dude’s bills when I barely had enough money to cover my own. You know those moments in the Bugs Bunny cartoons when his face momentarily turns into jackass head? Yeah, he-haw indeed. Mommy was right. I was, however, able to breathe one sign of relief: My infatuation once inspired me to buy that man a Movado. I was beyond thankful that I had at least that little piece of good sense to repossess that bad boy before the relationship imploded and get my money back.
Women are nurturers by nature, and when we care about someone we want to take care of them, help them, see them comfortable and happy. But some of us are just steady trying to win the affections of a man by giving up parts of ourselves: our bodies, our energy, our money. Some of us learn once, some of us never learn. Matter of fact, the holidays are about to be winning season for plenty of Diontays out there. But inasmuch as we give of ourselves and our checking accounts, we need to look out for number one. I’ve seen guys pick up their mistresses in vehicles purchased for them by their wives, girlfriends, or at least their favorite baby mama. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time I hear about a woman—or two—scorched because she had been some undeserving man’s benefactor.