Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

I guess it’s time to lay down the law for you about the stages. As I said, this book is going to be a process. The stages, how can I explain, about three years ago after I met Flip I began to realize something about myself. I also recognized things about other brothers, but it doesn’t make any sense to give you those details. If I maintain my focus a more concise outline will be developed.
I was having a conversation with this sister at an art gallery about some of the pictures, a conversation that eventually turned into a discussion about men and women.
“Terrence right? That’s your name I don’t want to call you out of your name,” she asked. I’d attempted to get her attention several times before I finally introduced myself. Her comment about a picture of an African mask painted on the face of a man dancing in the center of a group of people, gave me the perfect opportunity to talk with her.

“You can call me Tee.”
“Alright Mr. Tee.”
“Funny, you must be a comedian, cause that was too funny,” I said
“I get it, the picture. It’s as simple as looking at a man in a car. Men wear masks, in a day to day masquerade.”
“Good, I’m glad you get it, because it’s obvious that what you’re getting is wrong. It’s not about men masquerading as a statement. The masquerade is a part of everyday life. Look at it again.”
“What about it? Look at the picture, that’s what it’s saying. Sure you can extend any kind of interpretation to a picture but this is clear, it was painted by a woman,” she said.
“That’s a picture of a man with an African mask. Afikpo to be exact.”
“Don’t tell me you know something about art.”
“Just what I learned in college. Besides that I never pass judgment on anything.”
“So I’m passing judgment?”
“Kind of. I mean it’s obvious you have beef with men.”
“Obvious how?”
“Your perception of the picture, it’s biased. From something that happened probably.”
“I don’t even know you and you’re trying to read me? I guess you must be the comedian, cause what you’re attempting to do is a joke.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes, really.”
So we’re standing in the gallery walking and talking. I grab a cup of juice as we pass the refreshment bar. I pour her a cup also to be courteous. She accepts the cup and we continue to speak.
“Thank you. That was considerate and it was probably part of a mask that you’re wearing.”
“Come on now, a brother can’t give you anything without you expecting him to ask for your phone number?”
“No, a man can’t just speak with a woman. He eventually gets to the point were he wants to call her later.”
“That’s pretty sad that you stay on the defensive,” I said.
“You’re trying to read me again, which means that I must’ve hit a nerve.”
“Anyway, Adrienne what is it that you do for a living?”
“I work with autistic children.”
“Wow, what kind of art do they do?”
“It was a joke. You’re uptight.”
“Don’t start.”
“Okay, okay. I was just saying uptight because of the way you responded to the joke. You must be laid back or you wouldn’t be having this talk with me. Most women would have walked away assuming that I was trying to run game.”
“Now you’re generalizing. You must’ve had something happen in your past also.”
“Yeah, but haven’t we all?”
I asked her if she wanted to sit down. We found two oversized, handmade chairs. They almost looked like some kind of hard wicker furniture. The pillows had been painted with kinte designs and other small prints. When we sat on the pillows, a puff of air came out.
“Excuse you,” she said laughing.
“Adrienne don’t you think that’s kind of childish?”
“Now who’s being uptight? I was just trying to lighten the mood.”
“It’s light enough, we don’t want to get too comfortable right?”
“Right,” she took a sip from her cup and held it in her hand as she sat back in the round chair. She snapped her fingers to the music playing throughout the gallery.
“Do you know who this is?” she asked.
“It’s a collaboration of Puerto Rican singers and musicians. So, are you dating anyone?”
“That was straight to the point. What, no small talk since we took the time to get nice and comfortable? And just like I thought, you spoke to get me interested enough to ask for my number.”
I sat up in the chair as much as I could. “Well I figured I’d get this thing started in the right direction, no need to play around. Let’s really talk. I’ll admit it, I did have an alternative motive. Can we get past that though? I won’t front, you’re attractive-”
“And you want to get to know me beyond my looks? Is that what you were about to say?”
“You got me. Alright let’s just talk, cool?”
“Cool. What would you like to talk about? Don’t try and get too deep.”
“What do you think a man desires the most?”
“That’s rather deep don’t you think?” she asked.
“No it ain’t too deep, I think it’s a good question.”
“Besides cars and money I think a man desires his freedom.”
“Freedom, is a good one. I’ve never heard that one before.”
“A man desires having his cake and eating other pies. You know the cliche’”
“I do indeed, but I think freedom has more to do with a desire to be respected.”
“A man’s kind of respect is detrimental,” she said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“A man desires the respect of his peers, whether those friends are good for him or not. That’s what a man desires.”
“And what’s wrong with that,” I asked.
“To gain that respect, brothers lose their conscience. You understand what I’m saying?”
I sat there and actually thought about that for a few seconds. I came up with several senseless rebuttals to that statement over the course of my talk with Adrienne, but that notion, that men purposefully lose their conscience, stuck with me. We sat there and spoke for almost a hour and a half.
“I really need to be getting on Tee.”
“Hey, maybe I can call you some time?”
“See, all of this genuinely nice conversing and where did we end up?”
“I just thought we could carry this further some other time.”
“No I’d rather not. It was nice speaking with you though. You have a lot of insight. But I can kind of gather that you are still trying to find something. It’s in your eyes.”
“In my eyes? I was always told that my eyes were heavy, not deceptive.”
“The eyes are the soul and it’s awfully hard for them to lie.”
“You’re reading me this time,” I said.
“Just like you’ve been reading me this whole time. Don’t think I didn’t notice,” she said as she stood up and began to walk away.
“Maybe you can take my card and-”
“Don’t play yourself.”
“That’s cold sister. That’s real cold.”
After she walked, I stood there for a minute and took it all in. Staring into her eyes made me want her. I had done everything right but still being at Stage One I didn’t have my routine down. I was still a young twenty-six years old, hitting three hundred in the minors, trying to step up to a major league sister who had just struck me out with a serious change-up pitch. It caused me to recoil and crawl back into my shell. I had to reevaluate and see if I had indeed lost my conscience. That’s when I came up with the stages. Sitting at home doing a recount of the afternoon forced me to write down a few things. The first thing I wrote was:
At some point a brother realizes that he wants more out of life than just a quick piece of ass. It’s better to know the women that you sleep with. They don’t have to be the marrying type, but you have to like them a little.
I looked at what I wrote and saw it as good. I called it my revelation, the words that would make me more efficient in all of my endeavors. Those words not only held truth in dealing with women, but they also applied to life. You can’t really enjoy what you’re doing if you don’t like it at least a little. I called up Flip and told him about what happened.
“Ay Flip, what’s up?”
“I’m chilling. What’s the word, how was the gallery? Did you hook up?”
“Yeah I hooked up alright. She was tall, caramel skin, soft full lips with shoulder length hair.”
“What? She was? What is she now?”
“Still the same I guess.”
“When are you two going out?”
“What? You didn’t get the digits?”
“On the real Flip, she wouldn’t even give them to me. She read my ass like a book.”
“Like that?”
“Just like that. I didn’t even come close at any time. We sat and talked for almost two hours-”
“Two hours? Damn what were you doing, telling your life story?”
“It was just good conversation man. The whole thing made me reconsider what I’ve been doing.”
“Which was?”
“Slippin man. I’ve slept with any and everything. Didn’t matter if I liked the woman or not. I just wanted to hit. You know what I’m saying?”
“I feel you. But what are you really tryin to say?”
“Maybe you have to kind of like the woman. I may have been wrong all this time. Don’t get me wrong the sex is all good, but what happens, if something happens?”
“Like what?”
“Disease, pregnan-”
“Don’t tell me you’re not wearing condoms with these girls, don’t tell me that?”
“Hell yeah I’m wearing rubbers, I ain’t stupid. I’m just saying what if.”
While I was talking to Flip, I had another revelation. I wanted to get off the phone to write it down but I figured I would try to remember it for later. But this current thought would become known later for me as Stage One, the place in a man’s life where the person didn’t matter just the sex.
“So you’re saying you are going to chill out a little?”
“I didn’t say all that. I’m just going to change my style.”
Flip understood everything I was saying. While this was a big discovery for me, I knew at twenty-three he had already made it to the level I was just reaching.
“And how are you going to change it up? What can you do any different?”
“From now on any woman I sleep with has got to have potential. She has to be someone I enjoy spending time with.”
“So you’re on the verge of settling down?”
“Are you listening? No, I’m not settling down, just stepping up. I’m going to make sure the women I mess with have got it on the ball. I’m still gonna do my thing, I’m just gonna make sure I have a better selection.”
“I’m still listening Tee.”
“The first thing I’m gonna do is leave them clubs alone that only fill up on payday and welfare day.” We both laughed.
“We shouldn’t have been at those places anyway,” Flip said.
“I’m not saying something is wrong with them. I’m just starting to realize that quality women are a rare find in places like those.”
“Especially here in San Diego. Now if we drove up to L.A. more often, it would be on.”
“True. Look here Flip let me get back with you.”
“I might come through later,” he said.
“Alright, peace.”
I picked up a pen and wrote in my journal:
There are different levels to this relationship thing, Stage One being the very bottom of the totem pole. I mean, who would have sex with every lady they meet? You got to have some class. I’m no longer at Stage One. I will never sleep with anybody that doesn’t stimulate me mentally, as well as physically again.
After I wrote this I looked at the other entry and realized that the two should be switched. At the age of twenty-six I realized that there was more to life than just sleeping around. There was sleeping around for the right reasons.
Stage One and Stage Two, the foundation had been laid for my philosophy. All I had to do was have the other two stages revealed to me so I could write them down. They would come, but it would take time and I’d have to keep my eyes open to what was happening around me.

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