In this blog entry, I’d like to talk about a topic that’s infamous in many relationships these days. It affects everyone involved in the same way but not equally. If we look back at the makeup of the household, things, have changed quite a bit since the 1950s. Whether we look at the marriage relationship or the dating scene to just being friends or lovers, things they have all changed. The purpose of this post is not to beat up on anyone; it is something rather close to me, so I wanted to talk about it briefly because it is in the book.
I don’t remember the first time that I was remotely interested in family dynamics. I do remember that I never thought about it as a kid. Kudos to my family because it wasn’t something that we thought or talked about, it didn’t seem to matter to us adults and kids alike. Growing up on my end was my mom, grandmother, and my brother along with a host of amazing cousins, aunts and other relatives with a few males sprinkled in here and there. Growing up in the city, one of my friends did have a dad, but it didn’t register that I didn’t. Again, we were kids with nothing on our minds but being kids and exploiting the bounties of the inner city of New Orleans. Growing up back, then life was what we’d call, “Sweet.” No, literally there were sweet shops, fresh produce, candy for $.1 what could have been better? Maybe nothing or maybe if my grandmother were to give me the cursorily $.25 without me having to lift it out of her purse could have added a smile to my face.
The family dynamic growing up for me consisted of grandmothers, mother’s, aunts, and the random neighbor or any number of old ladies were the backbones to what society was from my point of reference. As long as you had one of these or all of these, life was good no matter how bad it was. What was not part of my youth was a male figure. Don’t get me wrong there Kevin who was the boyfriend of my mom who did what he could with two young boys, but honestly, we were happy with hanging out with friends shooting marbles so missing a male wasn’t in our lexicon. The only male references in the home that I knew of was our best friend’s dad. Man, he was good, fair, and mean almost all at the same time. Most of our lives were spent without them, and that didn’t bother us.
After all, judging from my friend’s dad, who wanted someone yelling at you anyway? We already had that from other adults so why add another one who could with a belt. Yea, back then you’d even get whipped by the barber. Thomas and that damn leather strap of his – somethings you never forget. So to add a new person would have been the death of something good because dad’s meant rules. Again we didn’t miss what we didn’t have, and that’s not really the point of this blog post, so I’ll move on.
So what the heck is this all about you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s all about a piece called “I Got Your Message.” I Got Your Message talks about dealing with “Baby Mama Drama” from a male’s perspective., I had never heard the term ‘baby momma’ until I was in my late twenty’s. The phrase didn’t exist in my upbringing at all until it hit me over the head and broke me into pieces. Once I awoke, I found myself laying there with concussion-like bruises in my life with a hole where my pride used to be. I couldn’t think, talk, or work my way out of it. I had a baby’s momma. Growing up, the community is where a child was raised, which had nothing to do with money. Wow, how times change and the tragedy is my upbringing didn’t prepare me for what I was about to encounter.
Okay, let’s fast forward a few years to the almost present day. I Got Your Message talks about a single situation where a couple with a young child has made plans for a family outing with their young son. The only thing standing in their way is a court case that he has to deal with. The case is a small custody/support case that he doesn’t seem too worried about. It involves his ex and their son together. He doesn’t seem to get that she’s a tad vicious, so he underestimates the gravity of his situation. This is familiar to me, so it’s easy to write about. The concept for this piece came from a guy that I met one day at the mall. I don’t know him, but I have seen him a couple of times. On this day, he had a lot on his mind, so we stood around his area for about 45 minutes talking about his life and his trials with his kid’s mother. Shockingly he didn’t even know that he had a kid because the young lady had moved away and never said a word to him. That sparked suppressed anxiety with me from my past experiences. He had clearly been taken advantage of, but the truth isn’t in what is right it is in what the judge feels he wants to do at that moment – well if you don’t have an attorney anyway.
So after talking to the guy, whose name I don’t even know, I decided to write this piece but not about who's right or wrong but about the relationship that is being affected by this. This affects his new relationship, and that’s the one he needs most but doesn’t know how to express it to her.
The scene starts early one morning after the couple plans a family day that afternoon after his court case is done. They decide to take their son to the zoo for an afternoon outing during the workday while other kids are still in school. They thought that their young two-year-old son would have a blast at the gorilla enclosure without having to fight for the best spot along the walls and fences. He arrives at court early and decides to sit alone as he plans out the day in his mind. The docket is called early, and the docket dwindles quickly leaving time to actually hear the case to which he figures what harm could come of this. That’s a day saved from coming back he tells himself. I’m laughing because I’ve been there myself, and of the two times this happened to me the outcome was different and eventually worked in my favor, so I’m good.
Things quickly go south for him as the waters shift, and he recognizes that he is in an ocean without a life vest. The severity of the case hits him, and he finds himself agreeing to things that he can’t uphold. He is outraged and telling the truth though she’s a little vindictive, so her story sounds polished and typical of a man. The judge sided with her and taps, once, then twice, then a third time holding him in contempt. There are no cell phones allowed in the courthouse, so not only is he being held but the plans that were made aren’t going to happen. Damn, what do you do?
The fact that he’s taking care of the kids half the time means nothing to the judge. She played the victim far too well for the judge to know what to believe. After all, there have been too many who look like him who have been less than honest and have become absent from their children’s lives, so I almost get it, but I don’t. My first time in nearly sucked the air from my body. I learned then that truth means something only to the holder of that truth. To the rest of the world, you’re just a casualty of a bad situation. When you’ve spent half of your existence, spending all of your time and money to be the best damn dad that you can be, and none of it matters because of how someone may feel in a moment. It takes you lower than most things in life except that you still have to reconcile the fact that your relationship with your ex, who you are raising a child with has sank to a new low. “How can she do this to me,” you ask, but there’s no answer because you’re no longer you to her and whatever you used to have doesn’t mean anything, it only means that the fight has already begun and you’ve lost! You were late to the contest, thinking that compassion and truth would win over, and it feels like you were ambushed because you were. You didn’t know that this tiff would become a battle.
Here’s where we get into the actual meat of this piece because this is where things begin to get hard relationally. As a woman, you know whether your man is a dead beat or not. You know what he does with his time and who he is. You also know that you don’t have time to be caught up in any kind of drama. So you think about it and ask yourself, “Do I want to be with this man this bad?” When you’re a man caught up in the situation where you know that you are letting your woman down because your ex is causing issues it puts you into a position that you can’t get out of and no matter what is being said you have no defense. You are used to being judged not by truth, so you feel it when someone else is expressing theirs. There’s no, your truth or my truth I’m talking about the period, point blank truth. Just one truth because at the end of the day theirs not two or more, truth isn’t multiple choice. Is the font color in this writing black or not? There are no options. It might look gray if you’re color blind, but it’s still back despite what you want to tell yourself. Speaking from experience, it makes you feel quite small. After all, she didn’t ask for this, and this isn’t something old that came about before her. This is new territory for both of you.
Here is an excellent example of having a voice but not being heard. Having gone through the questions that you can’t answer only amplifies the noise in your head. Difficult circumstances force you to choose, and although we know what we believe to be right, sometimes the evidence is stacked up against us. Relationships are hard; they are not meant to be something that's like a walk down the beach. Cutting your teeth in a new relationship when there's a third party who seems to cause so much adversity makes the decision to stay or to leave forgivable. It means that sometimes those decisions can be made in error. With I Got Your Message there are three people involved. The first and most obvious the male who's at the center of it all and is merely trying to do what in his mind is the right thing, but it gets him caught up. You have the second person who could be feeling as though she is in a very compromising position. She has to look out for herself, and so far this man is carrying around a lot of baggage which only enforces that the evidence against him looks pretty convincing.
She has so many questions to answer for herself. What does her friends tell her to do? What does she want to do? What about her son? Should she continue to be in this situation with her son’s father or break ties now?
Unfortunately, none of these questions are answered in the piece. We only get a side view of what he’s going through. He’s being detained over something that should have been nothing according to him. Meanwhile, his plans with his current girlfriend and their son are being affected. As he reconciles his situation, we get a glimpse of what he thinks about during his lockup. His thoughts tell us what and who he’s thinking about as he recounts moments shared with her. Being locked down, there is no phone policy so he can’t call her. He technically hasn’t been taken to jail; he’s only being detained, so he begins to write a letter to her titled, “I Got Your Message.” Hence we are seeing and hearing what he wrote to her in his letter. He begins by recounting words that she’s asked him many times before. In his mind, they weren’t as significant then as they are now. He tells her emotionally, “I’d rather be with you than any other,” which answers questions she’d asked many times before that he took for granted. All of the previous arguments seem to find their place resonating with him as he replays nights hanging out with friends, coming home late. He tells her that he’s not perfect, he says, “I should have been there and it feels like I’m failing you … being trapped in this box has made me realize”.
In I Got Your Message, he repeats the mantra that he is looking into himself to root out things that should no longer be there. In doing so he’s not acknowledging the phone message that she left at the beginning of the audio, he’s referring to her message. Her message about moving on and buying a home of their own, moving away from their current life into a place where they can start fresh. He is hearing her as he imagines her in that ‘Black Dress’ and how beautiful she is when she wears it. He gets that she is insecure at times because he sees his baby’s mother more frequently than she’s comfortable with. He’s trapped in the middle of trying to be the man for his new family while being connected to his old one. Not that he sees his ex on a personal level, but as he tries to work things out between them to exclude the courts because after all, they are both parents. He wants them to raise this baby in a way that they can all be about the kids and not about the hatred that exists in so many situations. He wants a community.
He admits to her that he was scared about buying their first home, thinking that any sight of prosperity would only hurt things with the already fragile relationship with his ex which would keep him from seeing his older son and being a father to them both. He tells her, “Baby I should be there … I got your message!” He’s still trapped somewhere in the middle of wanting to be a dad to both of his boys and trying to find balance in the relationship as a whole. He knows that “sometimes you have to be shocked into allowing faith to guide you.” He’s ready to take the necessary steps. He tells her about the day and how things went just to be connected to let her know that he see’s it now.
So let’s wrap things up. Looking at the third person in the situation, I’m excluding the children entirely and more focused on the adults. The adults each have decisions to make for their own lives, and each has to make the best decisions that they are capable of. The real point is that they are making the decisions independently much of the time vice making them together. You’d expect the guy and his ex to do this but what if they came together for the betterment of the child. What kind of family unit would that be if they resolved to be in each other’s lives as friends, co-parenting a child who needs both parents - community? Likewise, what if he and his new girl talked more openly about things? Not that either of them is hiding anything, but they are both usually making decisions on their own also although it could affect them both equally.
“Sometimes, we don’t take the time to reconsider our position after we’ve made a decision.”
He’s got two kids by two different women, and none of them are on the same page. His short time spent in jail does teach him to cherish the little things, to change what he can and to value what he has, especially his freedom and his ability to make better choices. He says to her, “When I get out I’m going to spoil you, doing things that you never thought I’d do,” which suggests that he’s getting it. He’s still nervous because he’s got to deal with the fact that she may not forgive him for being in this position in the first place. Is it his fault, I’d say no, but I’m a man, so I am entirely biased but is it his fault?
If you were in this situation, what decisions would you make? Stay or leave?