The Bar-Napkin Poet
LOOKS LIKE: He lives in a cardboard box
SOUNDS LIKE: He’s whining, whether he’s reading poetry or not
YOU KNOW IT’S HIM: Pretending to read Mao’s Red Book.
You see this brother at all the poetry readings, cultural convocations and Afrocentric happenings. He’s draped in kente cloth and walks with a cane that he calls a “verb stick.” When asked his name, he’ll say “I am called Talib,” except that he hasn’t legally changed his name, so his Mama, when she calls him up from the basement for dinner, addresses him by his given name: Rufus. He can be seen at the open mic functions sitting in a corner jotting down profundities on a napkin, with just enough poetic flair to get you to pay for the room. Nine months later, you’ll be at open mic, knocked-swole and angry, with your new girlfriend Riki in tow. You will raise your bastard child as “gender neutral.”
LOOKS LIKE: A mailroom clerk
SMELLS LIKE: Dirty khakis
YOU KNOW IT’S HIM: He’s driving your car.
Like the main character from Herman Melville’s short story of the same name, Bartleby is railing against The Man by refusing to work for The Man. Scratch that. He works—kinda works—the system, if you know what I mean. He works, but just hard enough to keep a gig but not hard enough so anyone would notice. He’s nice enough, if only he wanted something out of life. He goes to work (late) and becomes what people pejoratively call the “goldbrick-on-shift.” He sometimes does enough work to get by, sometimes not. Sometimes, he lacks drive and just settles into a mailroom gig, where he can nap between mail runs. He often just keeps a job long enough to collect unemployment. He works fast food sometimes—which is a laudable, honest vocation—and will sometime get promoted to key manager (aka Straw Boss). He’ll keep that key for 10 years or better until finally someone asks him why he doesn’t try to get promoted. “I prefer not to,” he says.
…and the list goes on, and it doesn’t get any better, right? So by looking for an eligible black man toting a brand-name education or an advanced degree (if earning potential or whatever is to be our measure for eligibility) they are effectively chasing a minority within a minority because we think that most black men are all out stealing hubcaps, sucking on neck-bones, chasing down white women or, as magical as Negro men want to be, maybe all three at once. Eligible black men, we think, can have their pick of educated black women (assuming they even date black women), as if merely having a job, an education and a pulse makes a woman “wife material.” While there may be a lot of women available to black men, MOST are not women you would want to spend your life with. I’m twice divorced, currently single and not taking applications because no qualified applicants have come down the pike. They are mostly variations on a few themes:
LOOKS LIKE: She needs some sleep.
SOUNDS: Angry. At everyone.
YOU KNOW IT’S HER: She’ll tell you.