Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Black Table Syndrome

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by How to Rent a Negro, a hilariously satirical book about good intentioned but completely naive people who in an effort to broaden their own horizons, play into stereotypes and prejudice.

First, lets start with taking a look at your Facebook. Click on Friends and then scroll down your friends list starting at A, working all the way down to Z. Notice a pattern emerging? If not, you can stop reading here.

However, when examined closely you’ll probably see that the majority of your friends or co-workers share three or more things in common. Often these things are locale, age and race. I, myself am not immune to this categorization. When doing this exercise the majority of my “friends” on Facebook were of similar background. We can’t all possibly like the same kind of music and the same sports, can we? It’s creepy but true.

How did this happen? Surely, in the age of post-race America (sarcasm), we have progressed further than the “Black Table” in high school to a more collective and diverse peer group. The grim truth is, “The Black Table” still exists, as does the Jock Table, Popular Table and so on. And it isn’t just high school cafeterias where this is prevalent. Examine your own relationships, how diverse is your network, community, or place of employment? If everyone around you looks, sounds and thinks the same it is due time for you to expand your horizons.

Often times we are apprehensive about meeting new groups of people. This is the dilemma and plot in How to Rent a Negro. So frozen by fear and ignorance, people actually answered a fictitious ad that proposed to rent well-spoken African-Americans for parties, business events and social gatherings. Don’t let this fear paralyze you from creating organic relationships with others who don’t share your immediate background. Challenge yourself to try new things. Start by saying yes to the foreign, the strange and unfamiliar. As the old folks say, experience is the best teacher.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Man and His Barber

Having just watched Good Hair, the Chris Rock  documentary on the $9billion black hair care industry, I began to think about my own relationship to this very complex system.  Being a man of color, the need for hair care products is minimal. Shampoo, Sportin' Waves pomade, Luster's Pink Moisturizer, and a brush to keep the waves flowing.  All tools in my grooming arsenal, easily replaceable and cheap. The biggest expense and most valuable is my barber. Whomever it may be at the time; a cousin, neighbor, co-worker, friend (and that one time in 7th grade, my mom), regardless the end result the experience is the same. I always leave the chair feeling better than when I sat down. 

It has been well documented that barbershops are pillars in the black community. Bastions for lively conversation on politics, sports, women, fashion, etc, part debate hall, part sanctuary.  I can't recall ever having a boring time at a barbershop. Where else can you find businessmen, politicians, street hustlers and athletes alongside  common folk on a Saturday morning? More important than the atmosphere of shops are the barbers themselves. 

I've gone through plenty of barbers for a number of reasons, be it money or time restraints, location, or quality of cut. But the one thing that remains the same is that barbers provide more than just grooming services. And today's gentleman can learn a thing or two from todays barbers. Many times barbers act as stand-in therapist, a listening ear for things you'd otherwise keep to yourself. Their non-judgmental insight allows for an exchange of information that we don't readily share with our spouses or friends. Not all barbers possess this trait as some are prone to gossip but you know the ones that are. As a gentleman, discretion is key.

Another trait that is common amongst barbers that should be adopted by todays gentleman is the ability to perform ones craft exceptionally and consistently.  As a barber you can't have an "off day" like an athlete who has a rough game. No, we hold our barbers accountable to provide a superior quality of service regardless of time or energy. And if you've had the same barber for any length of time you take notice that he/she delivers, all the time, every time. The gentleman should hold himself to such standards as well. 

So take a cue from the person you've consulted before every big life moment. You sought out their services prior to the first date with your future wife and before that dream job interview you landed. They haven't let you down yet and as 21st century gentleman you can utilize their traits of discretion and consistency as your own.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Most Charming Man in the World

You've undoubtedly seen the Dos Equis commercials with a grey haired fellow whose lifestyle is so carefree, adventurous, and dangerous that he's been dubbed the Most Interesting Man in the World.
Surrounded by beautiful women, the Dos Equis man ends each commercial with a bit of gentlemanly advice.

What if I told you that such a man once existed. His name, Porfirio Rubirosa and his lifestyle is the stuff of legend.

Some gentlemen are scholars, others warriors, Porfirio Rubirosa was of a different breed. Meet the Playboy Gentleman.

Rubirosa, or Rubi to those in his inner circle, was a notorious playboy, dapper diplomat and nightlife personality. Without having ever held a real job, Rubirosa financed his jet setting lifestyle by seducing and wedding the world's richest women. His other interest included race car driving, treasure hunting and polo (the sport, not the brand).

The exploits of Rubi are plenty, and his charm irresistible to women. Honing his skills in Paris nightclubs while attending school, Porfirio returned to his native Dominican Republic to study law only to drop out soon after. The son of an army general , Porfirio used this connection to familiarize himself with the soon-to-be dictator "El Jefe" aka Rafael Trujillo. Taken by the young man's charisma, El Jefe appointed Rubirosa as a diplomat and ambassador. In a daring move that could have ended  his life Rubi successfully courted and wed Trujillo's daughter. This would be just the first of five wives.

With an insatiable appetite for new pleasures and thrills Porfirio soon grew bored of his current wife and set his sights on an even bigger catch. Thus came wife Number Two and soon after Number Three. Number Three proved to be the biggest catch of all, Doris Duke, heiress to a $100 million tobacco empire.

Able to speak five languages, fluent in three, and possessing impeccable manners, Rubirosa was a member in many elite circles. How many men can say they chased skirts with the Kennedy's and boozed it up with the Rat Pack?  After one exceptionally wild night out with the The Pack , Sammy Davis Jr., hungover and recovering the next morning saw the ever ready Rubirosa by the hotel bar looking refreshed as ever. When asked how he was still standing after such a crazy night Rubirosa calmly replied, "your job is to be an entertainer, my job is to be a playboy".

Always the opportunist and in need of financing after divorce from tobacco heiress Doris Duke, Rubi quickly wed his 4th wife, another deep pocketed heiress. Although his marriages to super-wealthy women suggest otherwise, Porfirio was not beyond having a rendezvous with a common girl.

His two criteria; she must be beautiful and a good lay.

Many women and even some men secretly hated Rubirosa. The ultimate hedonist, Rubirosa appeared to have it all. He led a decadent life without boundaries or consequences. International playboy or con man? Gentleman or gigolo? How could one man with such a checkered pass seduce, wed and discard women at will? Let's just say he had an "asset" that aided him in his conquest. Or as one of his victims remarked "the guy was hung like a.........

But as if often the case with individuals who live life in the fast lane, Porfirio died much like he lived. After a night of partying in Paris, Rubi took to the road and wrecked his car, dying in the crash. Even in death the guy had style, the car, a Ferrari.