Friday, December 31, 2010

Can't Buy Me Love

This week, our backcountry couple shops for bridal couture before searching Sooner country for Beau's estranged kin.




Really? Beau, what do you think?

Looks ... like a $3,000 wedding dress.

That’s all? But the sales associates just said—

Yes, I heard. Isn’t that exactly what they said about the last six gowns you tried on, though, Barbara?

But they seem to really mean it this time, Beau.

It’s a sparkly piece of white body icing, babe ...

[... I’d look “magnificent” and "stunning" in that.]

Besides, it's out of our price range.

You can't put a price tag on love, Mr. Jangles!

But you can certainly slap them on this rhinestone tiara and pair of sequined slippers you picked out to complement the dress, right?

You’re taking some of the magic out of this, Beau.

Well, Ms. Ovaltine, we vowed to find you a one-of-a-kind wedding dress, and I must say, I think we’ve found it!


Huff ... Come on, that’s what every bride-to-be comes into these shops asking for—something “unique,” something “them.”

[... When in reality they all leave with some variant of the same twelve archetypal dresses bridal shops across the country have hanging on the racks.]

I disagree!

It’s Joseph Campbell meets David’s Bridal: “Vera Wang with a Thousand Faces.”

Excuse me for interrupting, but I just felt compelled to run over and tell you how absolutely breathtaking you look in that dress!

You really think so?

Uungh, That lady’s been crisscrossing the viewing area nonstop for the past hour telling people how amazing their dresses look.

I swear half the employees here are just paid to restock garter belts and flail about fawning over all the customers.

I think this dress is the one, Beau.

So, let’s wrap it up?

Pssht! Heck no—just let us take down the serial number. We can have an exact replica shipped from China for a tenth of the price.



... Beau!

I’m just saying ...

Any luck reaching your cousin, babe?

Nah, he’s not picking up his phone. Let’s just go hit up Bricktown.

I don’t understand: You call your cousin a week ago telling him you’ll be in town this week. You text him yesterday, and he says he’ll see you this weekend.

And now today, Saturday ... nothing?

It’s a complex situation, Barbara: the black male psyche—all that jazz.

Give me some credit, Beau—I am a therapist. And, besides, I grew up around black males in St. Lucre, my home country.

OK, allow me to rephrase: the black American male psyche.

Please, oh great Sigmund S. Homeboy, enlighten me.

Well, Fox, like me and my other male cousins, grew up the son of Baby Boomers ...

... Taught that he’d achieve even more than his parents who, having grown up in the segregated American South fifty years ago and having survived either the draft or the fighting in Vietnam, had themselves made remarkable achievements—as well as earned a theretofore unheard of degree of financial stability (for blacks).

Remember you once asked me why so many American black folk work in the public sector?


Well, for my and Fox’s parents, becoming a teacher or a nurse, working for the government—these were their only real employment options in the American South.

That’s why so many black folks from my parents’ generation and earlier flocked to D.C.—for the government jobs.

And here I was thinking D.C. was some sort of Graceland for Marvin Gaye fans.

As my cousins and I grew up, our parents did respectable work, owned homes, were on track to secure stable retirements.

But they wanted more for us, those things that had always been out of reach for them: the six-figure, private sector paychecks; long-term financial investments; sustainable wealth.

What, uh ... happened?


I mean, uh ... Wow! What a unrealistically high mark for parents to set for their children ...


... Eh, hem

Babe, it’s not that our parents’ sights were set too high, and it’s not due to any shortcomings on our parts.

But for many black American males of my generation, the tenuous promise of upward mobility simply didn’t exist once we finished school.

I mean, look at my sister, my various female cousins—heck, look around at any administrative or office setting, a wide array of professional fields, and you’ll find black female employees.

Then look around for the black males, and where are they working? Restaurants—in the back, cooking, usually—janitorial and groundskeeping staffs, security.

Heck, if the Dotcom bubble hadn’t burst, I’d be on the design team of one of the world’s premiere theme parks now rather than working for a small town newspaper.

I’d won a competition that typically secured an internship, but due to the economy, fewer positions were being offered that year.

But, come on, everyone, black and white, had to deal with the economic downturn, babe.

True. But how many smart, energetic white guys of our generation do you think went on job interviews with private sector employers after college, and were told straight up they had the skills the company had been looking for, but then would receive an application rejection letter the next day?


Exactly. Fox simply got tangled in the same situation the rest of my black male cousins and I faced after school: Equally qualified, least desired.

Look at my employment history, for crying out loud: Business-to-business salesman, working for commissions only; Lifetouch Studio photographer; Wendy’s fry cook; factory worker—all these positions I held after finishing college or while enrolled in graduate school.

In Fox’s case, for all his verbal posturing about having to “work a show” or his pursuing “various business opportunities,” it’s still unclear to my family and me what exactly he does for a living.

... He’s ashamed.

Right, and why is that?

God bless our parents—Lord knows their hearts are in the right places—but some of them, even now, can’t climb down off their well-to-do high horses.

You know, boy, when I was your age, I earned almost twice as much as you do now—adjusting for inflation.

Yeah, and even working the same level of job!

And with half the education you have, to boot!

Aunts and uncles, with all due respect, back in your day, my current job responsibilities would have been split between all three of you, and frankly, you all still would have been complaining about the amount of work you were being asked to do.


And given the work ethic of many college students in the groovy-era 60s and 70s, my college degree—with the number of credits that were required to attain it and the level of course work I put into each class—would have honestly taken you all ten years to achieve.

Baah! “Work”—what does this boy know about work? Back in my day BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH ...

... And so it goes.

But, Beau, I don’t understand. There are programs in colleges and universities across the country specifically designed to recruit black male students, keep them engaged in learning, and foster their professional development.

That’s true. And these programs are very recent developments, several of them just now getting off the ground, which means that much of an entire generation of black males—including Fox—has, in a sense, missed the boat.

Given unequal access to employment opportunities during tough economic times, several black males our age have had to content themselves with working lower paying jobs.

And, as a consequence, enduring the condescension of the previous generation, even members of their own families.


End of the line, folks! Watch your step as you exit the riverboat!

Honestly, babe, I could go on and on about how this socioeconomic dynamic has alienated black men from black families, led to identity crises in black boys of the upcoming generation, left black women in a bind between the positionalities of support-giver, bread-winner, single mother, and/or—

Yes, babe, I know. And I’d love for you to continue telling me all about it—at some point. In the distant future.

But, for now, let’s go grab some dinner, k?

Word ... My boy DeAndre manages the kitchen at a local bar and grill. I’ll give him a call and—

How about some Thai food, instead?

Oh, no doubt. This guy, Jamal, I went to college with works the door at this joint Mai Thai a few blocks down—

On second thought, lets just get something delivered to the hotel.

OK, that works. My boy Antoine delivers pies from this great Italian place up the street. He’ll get us the hookup.




Yo, ‘Toine, what’s the deal, son?

I think I need a nap.

New comic next week, January 7!

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