Taking it slow...

QUESTION:'s my dilemma. I met this guy [recently] When we met, I was under the impression that we were fostering a friendship hence I worked very hard on maintaining the bounderies between a friendship and romantic relationship. I respected his wishes and the only feelings I allowed to progress were of caring and respect.

Here is the dilemma. Four months into our budding friendship, this guy tells me he loves me--twice. The first time he said this I thought maybe it was a slip of the tongue so I ignored it. I attempted to bring it up to him and he acted as though he did not know what I was referring to. Then, the next night we talked again and he stated he loves me again then hung up. Now, at this point I am panicking--big time. I did not know what to think and I did not want to make more out of it than it was. At the same time, I had to know what was going on. Therefore, when we talked again, I brought this issue up. At first he stated that he did not want to answer any of my questions so I may as [well] not ask them. So I did not push the issue. I dropped it. Then he went on to state that he did not want to talk about what I wanted to talk about. So I did not push the issue. I dropped it and attempted to change the subject. Then he stated, "I know what I said and you know what you heard." Still, to respect his wishes, I did not push the issue and proceeded with changing the subject. After that time, I felt him growing a little distant and aggravated with me. I am not one to express myself verbally so I sent him an e-mail and advised him of my reasons for wanting to take everything slow.

From what I have gathered from this GENTLEMAN thus far is quite impressive and very FOREIGN to me. Very foreign. To be straight forward, I question where this GENTLEMAN came from. We have great conversations, we are not sexually involved, he always ask about my day, he encourages me, has a great sense of humor, and to top it off, he is very intelligent and caring. Yet, he has been hurt, and so have I, in the past. I am afraid that if I do allow myself to give into this wonderful man, then I will not be able to appreciate him. It has been a very troubling trend in my family for broken women to attract wonderful men and stomp all over them. I desperately want to break that cycle in respect to my relations with men.

However, I have never seemed to attract a strong, Black man that is honest, has integrity, self-respect, hardworking, genuine, not into being a player, a good father and friend, and going somewhere in life. To top that off, he has said that he loves me. I have fantasized about a man of his caliber saying those beautiful words to me and when it finally happened, all I could do was stand there with a blank face and devoid of emotions and feelings. I want to take it slow for his sake and mostly for my sake. If I ever hurt this man in any respect, I don't think I could live with myself. It is odd that most of the slick, deranged, and counter-productive men have garnered my interest instantly. However, the man of my dreams is standing right here in my face and the only excuse I have is that "I am taking it slow..." What is wrong with me? Am I going crazy?

GARLAND: I don't think you're crazy at all. There is nothing wrong with taking ANYTHING slow when it comes to a developing relationship. If ANYTHING - most folks go too fast! They start dropping the word 'Love' too fast, they start hopping in the bed too fast, and they start having babies too fast! Keep taking it slow.

I think its a little odd though, that this guy was so hush-mouthed when it came to talking about the fact that he said he loved you. This is probably nothing at all, maybe its just a "Garland thing" (which means little to anyone except for me) but if a man tells a woman he 'loves her' then he should speak up about it! It shouldn't be something he's scared to say, or timid about, or trying to whisper! He should SHOUT it out - unashamedly! Proud! Fearing NOTHING! It shouldn't be something thrown calmly and quietly into a conversation about doing one's laundry. And then when asked about it - he shouldn't dodge it like a bullet! He should stick out his chest and wear it like a badge of honor! If this guy is still timid about using 'The L word' because he was hurt in the past - then he still has some healing to do, and he shouldn't use The Word 'till he can say it loud and proud!

My little issue aside - I'm happy for you both. I think taking it slow [and communicating the whole way] will lead you someplace very positive. You say that you both have been hurt before... honestly, almost EVERYONE has been hurt before and I'm sure that in most of those breakups where violence and criminal activity DIDN'T take place, they made us stronger and better in future relationships. And, as far as the romantic histories of the ladies in your family goes, use their actions as a road map for WHAT NOT TO DO! When you see yourself doing things they've done, or saying things they've said, or acting the way they've acted - STOP right in your tracks, back up a little and go in a different direction!!!

Keep taking your time, you and him are on no one's schedule but your own!

Thanks for the E-Mail and let us know how things develop!!!

CHUCK: Wow. Um, let me take a minute. Here we've got a guy who blurts out "I love you," and quickly denies it, like he's divulged some government secret, and a woman who approaches an attentive, intelligent man with as much caution as she would a minefield. What the hell is going on, people? Sometimes personal relationships are as hard to understand as fractal mathematics.

The key to what's holding both of you back is your personal histories. He allowed his declaration of love to stumble out like it did (TWICE!) possibly because he didn't know that you'd reciporocate. Or maybe because a man's not supposed to "tip his hand" like that. And you admittedly have been hurt before, and possess that suspicion that certain women have for guys who are not shady, unfaithful losers. Together, you seem to have enough baggage to fill a cargo hold.

Against all these negatives, though, I'm glad that you guys are trying to find a way to be together.The fact that relationships may have gone bad in the past is no reason to assume things always have to be that way. Be patient and give each other time (even if he tells you he loves you again), and you two may be able to stay together. Keep us posted.


"Gaydar" Signals

QUESTION: One of my best girlfriends has wanted a good, strong man for several years now. After dozens of losers in recent years, she's found this guy that seems to be really nice. The only problem is that I'm 95% sure he's on the down low. The GAY down low! When we first met him he gave off a real strong gay vibe and all of us assumed he was just a new friend that happened to be gay. Then we discovered that she was DATING him! We didn't say anything. But now I've run into him several times in public and each time he was with one or more guys that all seemed to be very effeminate. What should I do? Is she blind or am I out of my mind?

CHUCK: Before we start, let's define our terms:

Gaydar (n): an alleged mental process that permits individuals to determine, from certain fashion and behavioral clues, the sexual preference of another individual; used primarily in urban areas; rarely 100 percent accurate

Your friend's new man has evidently pushed your gaydar into the red.You haven't said exactly what it was that has convinced you that he's gay, other than his "strong gay vibe." Does he watch Gilmore Girls? Does he like drinks with umbrellas? Does he have more than one Sylvester album? Okay, enough. I'm kidding. Are you completely certain that he is a homosexual? He may just be displaying what we used to call "tendencies." As I said in response to a post a month or so ago, it's almost impossible for person to prove that they are NOT gay. Regardless of what in their lives, whether they get married, have a kid, etc., if someone's determined to think of them as gay, there's nothing that they can do. Think about that. You may be wrong.

If you remain determined that your friend's man is gay, feel her out about it. If you don't want to ask her directly, do it backhandedly ("Hey, don't you think that some of Tony's friends are gay?"). Let her response guide yours. If he is a homosexual, bi, etc., your friend could not know, or she could be in denial. In which case, all you can do is point out your suspicions. The ultimate choice is hers.

GARLAND: Does anyone remember a few years ago when "On the Down Low" mean a man and a woman were sneakin' and freakin' behind everybody's back? You know, when you could say stuff like, "Kevin and Tonya have been hookin' up on the down low for a while now..."

Anyway, I digress. I've actually kinda' seen this before... okay, who hasn't? But with the people I saw this happening to, I didn't know them well enough to say something to. One of the guys under suspicion, eventually got dumped by the girl and she gave some other excuse for dumping him. I still don't know whether he was or wasn't and I don't know if she knows either. With the other couple - they got married and still are.

I'm all for subtlety if this is truly your friend and you truly think that she's either blind or dumb. I'd lay down a few hints, kinda like Chuck said - the downside to this is you could be wrong and it could back fire in your face. Casually mention this guys tendencies that raise suspicion and see how she vibes with you. Maybe you'll strike a cord. Maybe not.

But I strongly recommend that you look carefully at your evidence against this guys 'straightness' - there might be a heterosexual explanation behind it. It doesn't sound like it to me... but that's me! So, my answer is - No, you're not out your mind and Yes, you're friend may be blind. But she may CHOOSE to be blind. She may be at the point where she's willing to settle for whatever has come her way. Approach her carefully.

Best wishes to all of you.


What Could Have Been

QUESTION: I was dating this man for almost a year and we stopped seeing each other for mutual reasons. He started dating this other woman five months after we stopped seeing each other and they were married three months later. They have been married for two years now and have a set of twin daughters. He seems very happy. When we were dating he always said he didn't want kids, neither did I. But seeing him now, as a father, I'm wondering if I made a mistake in letting him go. Maybe we could have had kids together, maybe it would have worked. I've wanted to talk to him, just to say hello, but he doesn't return my calls or E-Mails. Tell me why he won't speak to me. Why does he act like I don't exist anymore? He used to love me.

GARLAND: Thank you for your question. I hope my answer helps.

You say, "he used to love me..." There, you may have answered your own question.

This man probably did love you, and you may still hold a small, but special part of his heart. However, the larger portion of his heart may [and should] belong to his wife and little girls. That's most likely the reason he doesn't talk to you anymore. God knows I hate to use cliches on people, especially movie cliches, but I think one of my favorites is appropriate here: In the movie "Magnum Force" Clint Eastwod says, "A man has got to know his limitations." And this is true with your ex too. He has to know his limitations, and he probably does. You, and his old feelings for you are probably outside of his limitations, and he doesn't want to push his luck. Calling you and talking to you may just be a temptation he's not willing to face. He may be afraid that old desires might creep up and jeopardize the stability he has with his wife and kids.

You also say something that I have to pull you on: You admit that you're having a slight case of the "would'a, should'a, could'a's" but you claim to only call him up wanting to say, "Hello." Is this REALLY the case? I mean, are you JUST wanting to say "Hi?" I think it may be best for both of you to stay out of touch right now, especially because he's probably trying to do right by his wife and girls. Don't take his non-responsiveness as an insult or a rebuff. I think you should just look at him as a guy that took the line in his wedding vows, "forsaking ALL others" seriously.

Take his silence as his respect for his wife AND you. Some low-down guys would call you back to see if they could get some "for old times sake" lovin' from you, behind the wife's back - disrespecting YOU and her!

CHUCK: Is there any one of us who hasn't experienced the slightest twinge of wistfulness over an old flame? Even if it's just to imagine how our lives would have been different if we had stayed with a certain person. But I think that it's best to keep these kinds of thoughts in our imaginations, and not allow them to take hold in the real world.

Based on your own account, the reasons for your breakup were mutual. The time wasn't right for either of you then. Apparently, your ex found someone who he was ready to make a commitment to, in terms of marriage and fatherhood. Good for him. Some guys take forever to get around to doing that.

As charitably as I can say it, the reason that your ex-boyfriend acts like you "don't exist anymore," is because, for him, you can't. As a general rule, married women do not care for their husbands to continue their acquaintances with ex-girlfriends. At least that's my experience. Even a woman who trusts her husband explicitly would prefer him not to be around someone who might tempt him to stray. And any committed husband is not going to intentionally put himself in situations that would make his wife uncomfortable.

Actually, I think it's probably not healthy for you to dwell too much on what you had, and could have had with this man. In keeping with our usage of cliches this post, "that ship has sailed." The same way he found someone to change his views and make him happy, you're gonna find the same thing. Trust me.


Okay... but what about this?

COMMENT / QUESTION: An interesting comment with a question was left on the last post "Definition of a Bum" and I wanted to reply on the post screen.

-What about the times when the definition of a bum is not so plain? What distinguishes a "bum" from a dude who's down on his luck for an extended period of time, or are they one and the same?

GARLAND: I think this is a very good question [not that any questions are bad, but...]

I certainly feel for guys that get down on their luck. With the economy the way it is, with jobs sometimes hard to get and keep - I certainly don't consider men that have fallen on hard times, BUMS. I just don't. And I'm not totally against a man asking his girlfriend for A LITTLE help once or maybe twice (especially if he's gone to his 'boys' first).

I think a decent man would be pretty reluctant to ask his lady for help, because that is just the nature of a manly man. But if times are REALLY hard and the wolf is at the door, the need for a few hundred dollars here or there over a month or so might make all the difference. But I think a decent guy will go out of his way to make his girlfriend feel comfortable about giving him some cash - maybe signing a promissary note and maybe giving her his gameplan to get a new job. A decent guy will be very humble when asking, he'll be appreciative when receiving and most of all HE'LL PAY IT BACK WHEN HE SAYS!!!

Not to keep beating up on the young lady that left the last question... but a guy that is down on his luck, and having a brief period with little to no income - will NOT want to go out and be treated by his lady every weekend; he will NOT waste $2000 of his lady's money running his mouth on a cellphone; he will NOT spend time running around the country prentending to look for jobs; he will NOT use his woman's money in hair-brained get-rich-quick schemes and most of all he will NOT get mad at his lady when she mentions his repayment plan!!! THIS KIND OF MAN IS A BUM!

A decent man that is down on his luck, is going to be frugal with the money he is loaned; he is going to look hard and legitimately for work to get back on his feet; he is simply going to be appreciative of his woman's kindness, generosity and faith.

So no, a guy that is down on his luck is not the same thing as a bum. A BUM wants to stay where he is and a guy that is down on his luck WILL do something to better is situation.


Beef With the Ex

QUESTION: Chuck and Garland, judging from what I've read so far on this blog, I think I'm the first brother to drop you two a line. So I hope that's okay.

My wife and I just got a divorce last spring. We have two kids one 3 and one 8. I'm having problems with her and I don't know what to do about them. To start with, the divorce was her fault, she cheated and did some other crazy stuff and then it was over. I tried to stay civil through the divorce and even afterwards but she didn't make it easy. Now whenever I talk to her she likes to argue and blow things up, always in front of our kids. I don't want them to see us fight.

No matter what I do, she argues. I might call her and be polite and try to see how she's doing and she starts yelling and cursing, with the kids in the room with her. A few nights ago she dropped the kids off for my weekend and it was cold and rainy outside and I invited her in for a few minutes and she turned me down and said "no" like I was some stranger. As soon as the kids got in the house she drove off.

How can I get her to stop being so negative towards me and start treating me better in front of the kids?

GARLAND: Yeah – I think you are the first guy! So, THANKS!

In my opinion, I think you're still holding on too tight to the past. This woman is NOT still your wife. You start by saying, "My wife and I just got a divorce last spring…" First - she's not still your wife, and Second – the spring was almost a year ago, so just might not be the best word to use.

Calling to see how she's doing and inviting her in are just signs that you still want to be close to her, you still want to show her that you care about her and her well being. Unfortunately, the same doesn't hold true with her. Considering that you say she caused the divorce – she stopped caring about your well being long ago.

I'm sorry that’s the case. I'm willing to bet that she ended the marriage with her actions and you are the one carrying around the guilt. Am I right?

It's a crappy deal that you have here, but I think you just have to find a way, or talk to someone professionally that will help you find a way to cut your emotional strings with her. Yeah – I know you have kids, that makes it tougher, but you have to stop calling her to check on her and you have to stop inviting her into your home and you have to make sure you don't use your kids as a conduit to her. You sound like you still have a lot of feelings for her, but the solution to her negative demeanor lies with you. Don't give her an avenue to your feelings and she won't be able to hurt them. It sounds simple, but I know it won't be – please find a way to stop opening yourself up to her. Take care!

CHUCK: Our first question from a man, huh? The glass ceiling has been broken! Thanks for the question, brah. Hopefully, we can help.

People are sometimes given unrealistic expectations by the Media. For example, when celebrity couples get divorced, you always hear them say that "we hope to remain friends." And normal people actually think that can happen. Sometimes it's JUST NOT POSSIBLE. Not for Brad and Jen, and not for you and your ex-wife, apparently.

Unlike Garland, I don't necessarily think that you want to get back together with your ex. I hope not. Nothing you have described sounds like too much more than you just trying to be civil to me. And considering how your marriage ended, that you're even trying to remain civil is a credit to you.

I think the circumstances that led to the dissolution of your marriage may be the key to why she is so nasty toward you. If, as you say, things ended because of her cheating and bad behavior, and your children no longer have two married parents to raise them, she may be feeling guilty. And she may be turning the guilt and bad feelings she has about herself towards you. She probably thinks that if she provokes you long enough, you'll get angry at her, and then she will be the wronged party instead of you.

Don't take the bait, though. She is unhappy right now, and misery loves company. Try and talk to her, and let her know that you'd appreciate it if she didn't air her animosity out in front of the kids. Talk to the kids, and try to make them understand that the problems you and their mom are going through right now have nothing to do with them. Restrict your conversations with her to matters of necessity alone. And hang in there. She can't keep this chip on her shoulder forever.


Deadbeat Mom?

QUESTION: I've got a problem with a deadbeat. Not a man, but a woman--my mother. I think my mother loves me, but lately I feel like she thinks of me more as her personal ATM than a daughter. The problem is my mother seems to have a phobia, something called "workaphobia." My mother only seems to want to work under what she considers to be ideal conditions, despite the fact that she doesn't have the best marketable skills and hasn't tried to seek education/training to obtain those skills. There's always an excuse for why she quits a job or doesn't start a job she's been selected for. Some excuses are valid, but some are pure bullshit. Plus, my attitude is that a lot of us work jobs we may not like, but realize that the bills have to be paid somehow.

What also makes me angry is that she won't ask for or accept money from my brother. I think her rationale is that he's not married like me, less mature, not as financially-stable, and doesn't have as well-paying a job. What she seems to forget, however, is that I have more bills and responsibility than him. I feel like I'm being penalized for being stable and mature.

I think my mother thinks I've forgotten where I came from, the ghetto. I'll
never forget my ghetto upbringing, nor do I try to hide it, because it's a part
of me, but it's also something I'm determined to do everything in my power to avoid returning to or raising my child in.

I've got a lot of anger built up in me over this situation, and I'm trying not
to let it erupt at the wrong time or under the wrong circumstances. I truly
want to avoid an argument with my mother, but at the same time I know we need to discuss this, because I've decreased my communication with her because of my anger over this situation. In what way should I bring up this topic that may be least likely to lead to all-out war between us?

GARLAND: Out of everything in your question, you know the one word that caught me? GHETTO.

You said that you came from the GHETTO and you were brought up in the GHETTO and its a part of you... As I see it, GHETTO is an interesting word. To me, GHETTO is all mental, it's a mindset, it's an attitude, it's a state of being. A lot of people figure that the ghetto is where the projects are, the tall overcrowded, poorly maintained low income housing of most big cities. Or the ghetto is the run down neighborhood with hookers, crack dealers, and liquor stores on each corner. But GHETTO is a mindset.

You can live in a million dollar home, surrounded by other million dollar homes and still have neighbors that are GHETTO... they carry a lazy, triflin', self centered, anti-social attitude with them. They carry a GHETTO mindset.

I'm afraid your mom might be GHETTO. She doesn't want to work, she wants to mooch off of your hard work, and worst of all, she's making things hardest on probably her BEST child. Unfortunately, a lot of mothers coddle their male children - they say to themselves, "society is so hard on black men." These mothers accept that their male kids might not be worth a dime, so they bum off of their "girls." And what better way to keep you brokedown like her, than to tug at your economic foundation? The monthly "hit up" for cash.

I think you should just cut her off at the ankles. When she calls with her hand out, just tell her, "No." And don't act like its a big deal, just say, "Naw, I can't help you out, Ma." If she gets upset, just act like something else is going on and say, "Hey Ma, I gotta run, I'll talk to you later." It probably wouldn't help you to explain to her that she's crappin' her life away. So, you can just be a gold mine that dried up. But keep in mind, she may NEVER lose her ghetto mentality... just stop promoting it with an open purse. Good luck!

Chuck: Nobody will hem you up like your family. They know that you love them. They know that you would be reluctant to sever ties with them. So some family members will take advantage of that emotional connection and generosity as long as they can.

Your mom probably feels like this: "I changed her diapers when she was a baby. I made sacrifices for her as she grew up. She shouldn't have any problem helping me." But that line of thinking doesn't get you very far with me. Because, A) You were a child. What was she gonna do, send you to the mines to work at eight years old?; and, B) She is a grown woman, who presumably has no handicaps to prevent her from earning a living herself.

Your mother probably has, at one time or another, realized just about everything you stated about her. But awareness has to be accompanied by a will to change things. A will your mother seems to lack right now. I would hate to think that it might take something serious, like a financial or health emergency to get her off her butt, but that may be what would have to happen.

If, as you say, you're becoming angry dealing with this situation, you need to confront her about it, before you lose it, and hit her with an outburst that may have lasting effects on your relationship. I would not just approach her cold, though. I'd wait until she made another request for money. The way you make it sound, that won't be long.
I would then tell her how I felt, emphasize my feelings that I was being used, and the different treatment I thought that my brother was getting.

I'm not going to lie to you and say that this is a discussion that you can have, embrace, and walk away from. It could get tense. It could get ugly. But you need to have the talk, regardless of how it ends up. Maybe the lack of someone to fall back on financially will force her to take more responsibility for her life. I hope it will.