I Am Not A Threat

On Friday, April 29, 2016 I performed a Spoken Word piece while doing a reverse strip tease. Here are the words and my attire in asterisks.

*Pasties & Thong*

My body generates judgment
My body generates assumption
They say, Jet would kick my ass
They say, Jet can be intimidating
They say, I don’t want to piss that guy off
They say all of these things just because they see my body
They say all of these things without saying a word to me
Perhaps I have resting asshole face when I’m in deep concentration
When they complain to my Manager, I’m told maybe it was your tone of voice.
(What can I do if I have the deepest voice in the room?)
When they complain to my Manager, I’m told maybe it was your body language.
(What can I do if I’m the biggest person in the room?)
When they complain to my Manager, I’m told that I can be intimidating.
(What can I do if I’m the blackest person in the room?)
They see the color of my body and they judge me to be an aggressor
What they don’t know is that I’ve spent years in anger management
You see, when you go through a lifetime filled with people attacking you because your body looks small and weak and then they fear you because your body looks big and strong it fucks with you. What if I wore a pretty wrapping on this body?

*Dons shirt, tie, & blazer*

Underneath these threads, they still see my body and my skin and they proclaim surprise.
They’re surprised that this body is intelligent.
They’re surprised that this skin is eloquent.
They’re surprised to see this human display an act of kindness.
Why? Why are any of you surprised at this skin?
Sting once said that the songwriting of Jimi Hendrix was “surprisingly adept”. Why was he surprised?
Why are you surprised at this skin? Do you not see my pretty clothes? We bought these clothes off the same rack! Why are you surprised when I’m not “urban” or “ghetto” as you’ve seen on the videos? AM I NOT STEREOTYPE ENOUGH FOR YOU?

*Dons jogging pants & black hoody*

How about now? Does this body make you feel comfortably uncomfortable knowing that all of your assumptions were right? Do I look like I’m up to no good? Does this body, this skin look like a threat to your purse or your family?
I am not a threat.
I am love.
I am the love that gives until it’s gone.
Don’t be the follower of myopic masses that assume the worst without even understanding why. I am not a threat.
Remember THAT when I smile at you on the street to relax YOUR fears.
Remember THAT when I play with puppies on the street as I know THEY won’t fear me. Remember THAT when you assume that I’m dating all the ladies when most of them admit to finding me intimidating. I spend more time alone wishing they weren’t afraid of me than out on the town like everyone thinks.
I am a human being.
I am subject to the human condition just like everyone in this room.
I experience hopes, fears, love, and pain.
I am not a threat.
The real threat comes from any assumptions made about my body or my skin.

Toxic Words

Dear Internet, Please stop blaming the calendar year for the events that displease us. “Fuck 2016” is the equivalent of blaming the inanimate bed upon which you’ve stubbed your toe. While you’re at it, please stop speculating on what the cause *might* have been before the toxicology report is complete. I get it, we all want/need answers and/or a villain (George R. R. Martin is not the author of any of these events, BTW). As humans, we need to direct (or misdirect) our anger in order to cope. I’ve spent enough years managing my own anger to truly understand this. Because of that, I know that such practices are toxic and they don’t help us to heal.
Internet, I’ll never tell you how to grieve. Do/Say/Act in whatever way you choose to process all of this. I’m just warning you to look out for toxic behavior. EVERY New Year’s Eve party has the same proclamation. “THIS YEAR SUCKED, NEXT YEAR WILL BE GREAT!” Think about it, if you say that shit every fucking year, in retrospect, you’ve never had that great year due to such a toxic proclamation. It’s not up to the number on the calendar to determine greatness. That’s up to us. We determine the greatness of the day/week/month/year.

What does it mean to say, “there are no bad days?” It means that the concept of good and bad are subjective. There are no good or bad events until we attach meaning to those events in order to label them based on our scope of experience. Good to me is bad to them. Bad to this team means the championship for that team.

Before you write off the idea that words have power is Hippy Dippy Granola talk, here’s a social experiment. Find a friend to complete this 60 day exercise with you.

Person A: List 10 things for which you’re hateful. List every irritant, agitation, pet peeve, and general grievance you can conjure. Make a list of the hateful 10, first thing upon waking, and keep a daily journal. Write how long it takes you to write your list, write down all of the standout (not good/bad, just memorable) experiences each day. Do this for 30 days.

Person B: List 10 things for which you’re grateful. List every pleasure, joy, peaceful experience, and general happiness you can conjure. Make a list of the grateful 10, first thing upon waking, and keep a daily journal. Write how long it takes you to write your list, write down all of the standout (not good/bad, just memorable) experiences each day. Do this for 30 days.

After 30 days, trade assignments and do what the other person was doing.

Do words turn to thoughts that turn to actions? After this 60 day exercise, let’s have a conversation about whether or not words have power.

The next time you (I) fall in love…

Dear Jet,

If you’re reading this letter that Past Jet wrote to you, then it may already be too late. You fall in love too easily. To be clear, you make excellent choices in the quality human beings you’ve chosen to give your heart. But, far too often, you’ve given that heart so freely and with such intensity that you may have created a whirlwind. Her head may be spinning. Everything that I’m about to tell you is based on past experiences. This isn’t about focusing on past mistakes. This reminder is about learning from your personal history.

In the beginning, you’ll want to give her everything. You’ll write her poems, buy her flowers, find songs that are just for her, and you’ll also give her your willingness. You will make yourself available in any way feasible. Because of your rule of relationships (never start any romantic habit/gesture that you’re not willing to maintain for the life of the relationship) you’ll only do the aforementioned activities if your heart leads you down that path. But, pump your brakes. All of those are beautiful gestures, but have you asked if those are the gestures that she wants? Do those gestures have the same emotional weight for her as they do for you? If you’re unsure of the answer to that question, then drive slow.

Imagine running down the Walgreens Holiday aisle on February 15th and buying all the red V-day things. Then imagine dumping all of those things on her doorstep when she’s not home. That would seem like some stalker shit, right? After the stories friends tell you about the lameness of the average dude, by comparison, a few romantic gestures can feel like that Walgreens dump approach when you display affection.

Dude, it’s like you have this habit of asking your new love interest to bend over so that you can stitch your Peacock feathers onto her bare backside with a needle! “See! Don’t you see how much I dig you! I’m so willing to give all of me!” *Boom* Jet, don’t try so goddamned hard! I’ll spare you the list of names, but I will give you a time line. Roughly every 12-18 months, you meet “her” and begin to believe in magic again. You start getting stupid as fuck and all dumb in the eyeballs, seeing her and becoming less responsive to your other lovers. But, this letter isn’t meant to reprimand you. Past Jet wants to give you a new course of action. So, here are 7 things (in no particular order) I want you to do/remember the next time you fall in love.

1.) Be the Peacock, but don’t encroach on her emotional space. Strut with humility and be your beautiful self. Give her a chance to see the real you underneath those feathers instead of figuratively pushing into her field of vision. If she sees you, great. If she doesn’t see you, keep it moving, that’s not her.

2.) Don’t lie to yourself about her perfection. She’s a human being. She’s just as flawed as you. At the same time, don’t look for her flaws either.

3.) Re-read the Four Agreements. When you turn into a dumb bunny in wuv… twu wuv, you forget the four pillars of sanity and a drama-free life.

4.) Pay more attention to her actions than her words. She will do the same when she receives your messages, trust.

5.) Speak to her about how the two of you define Polyamory, how the two of you define terms like Primary Partner or Anchor. Don’t go past the second date without having this conversation.

6.) Look at your time together through several lenses. To date someone for 12 months when she lives over 500 miles away is very different than that time you dated your neighbor. To know someone for 8 months, having only gone on 12 dates, means you’ve only gone on a date about every 2.5 weeks. Unless you’ve been on the phone every night like an eighth grader, you probably don’t know this woman very well. Remember that you don’t truly know a human until you’ve seen some range of emotions. Anger is very telling. Have you seen her angry yet? She doesn’t have to be angry with you, just annoyed at something. Until you see her explore some range of emotion (not just anger) you don’t know her. Don’t start thinking about moving in together or buying rings and shit. Calm down. (Note: Knowing basic trivia like middle name or her cousin’s birthday doesn’t mean you know her.)

7.) Your parents have an adorable “how they met” story. Your mom had a crush on your dad from the moment that your mom’s friend introduced the two of them. Your dad asked your mom to move in after he got tired of walking to the corner store to call her from the pay phone. Fast forward 50+ years later, they’re still together. Yes, that’s a cool story, Bro. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to have a similar destiny. The Universe doesn’t owe you a storybook relationship.

It’s true, it would be nice to have an emotional anchor. It would be nice to embrace romance, love, trust, and passion with a partner that “gets you” (whatever TF that means). But, the truth of the matter is that you can’t just go out and pick “her” up at the Gently Used Partner Dealership like some goddamned object. Further, you can’t “find” her like Indiana fucking Jones while ruining artifacts of ancient cultures. The Universe is not conspiring to bring you two together. The Universe gives not one fuck about the dating habits of humans any more than it cares about the sexual mating habits of Bonobos. You’re on your own. If you happen to meet someone that happens to meet you and that spirit of reciprocity shines in all of your interactions, great! The important thing (for your sanity) is to not expect that to happen. Romantic love and romantic partners are not promised to us.

The truly important thing is to be open to love.
She will see your open heart.
Be accepting of who she is
and she will walk right in.
There is no pre-conceived mold
into which she must fit.

The next time you fall in love,
learn from your past experience
without reliving your past traumas.

Kiss her like every touch on her lips will be the last
and be completely present with her.
Be cool.
Ice cold.
Warm center.
Open heart.
When you feel her reciprocity,
then the dance can start.


Past Jet

Revitalization Through Dance: Energy For A Busy Life, Part 5/7

I’m a dancer. It’s taken me a long time to be able to say that with confidence. I’ve been a model since I was 12. Over the years, I’ve been a rapper, choreographer, poet, actor, nude figure model, and most recently (2010) I began performing burlesque. I would often refute the claims of people that called me a dancer. I described my performances as posing with a well timed striptease in sync with the music. As I’ve challenged myself to perform to different songs (and in different comfort zones) over the years, I’ve come up with a two-pronged approach to burlesque rehearsals. I run through my number while marking the place and time for costume removal. Then, I run through the same number with no costume removal and only dance steps. I do that as a reminder that I’m on that stage to have fun, entertain, tell a story, and create something memorable for the audience.

People have asked me, “where did you learn to dance?” In the basement. Some have assumed, “of course, you’re classically trained, right?” Nope. Growing up, we never asked where someone learned to dance, we just asked, “where you from?” In Detroit, many of us learned our moves by watching The Scene. If you weren’t raised in the D, here’s a seven minute documentary from YouTube. The picture isn’t great, but you can still make out the dance moves.

We went home after school, turned on the Scene and danced in our basements and living rooms. We mimicked dance moves and added our own flavors to create individual style. We would compare notes in playground dance battles to see who was the freshest. My boldest attempt came in the second grade when I tried spinning on my head and fell on my ass. I kept the dancing low key after that. Because I was the quiet one in the neighborhood, when I did break out and dance a bit, all eyes were on me. People just stared because of the rarity of my exhibition. It made me self-conscious and I would always lose my step. The first time that I didn’t lose my nerve and kept my moves tight was when I was one-third of the Hip Hop Trio New Twist! Yes, I was a rapper circa 1993. I was the Mellow MC. (I can’t type that without laughing.) For our first time on a stage, at a talent show, I choreographed our routine. We came in 3rd Place out of 20 acts! It was a proud moment, but it was also a new comfort zone – being on a stage. What’s more important, I felt energized!

Fast forward about four years when I was living in Atlanta. We drove to Birmingham for a business conference and we were at a Sports Bar (that happened to have a DJ and dance floor) when something happened. I wanted to dance with this attractive woman in our group. But, I still had the fear of all eyes on me from being the quiet one in the neighborhood. Then, it hit me… “I’m in Birmingham and I’m never going to see 90% of these people ever again! Fuck it!” I danced with such freedom that I floated. When I came down, everyone was giving me props. I was so high from the dance. I felt energized.

When was the last time that you danced? Not in your living room, not in your car at the traffic light, and not in the aisle at Safeway (all acceptable places). When was the last time that you went out and danced? I ask my class the same question, periodically. When was the last time that you went out (specifically) to dance?  What if dancing could save your life? Do you think I’m being dramatic? If you want a great way to train your brain and keep it sharp, learn some technical dance steps. Will such brain training stop one from dementia in old age? Perhaps. I’ve never read a study that provides irrefutable evidence to corrobroate such a claim. But, what could it hurt to train your brain and keep it engaged? The last time that you danced, I’m willing to bet that it was just what you needed. I bet your spirit was moved. I bet it was cheaper than therapy. I bet you felt energized. I bet your busy life didn’t feel overwhelming. I bet you were able to keep going when your favorite jam came on. Well, that’s why I dance.

Since that night in Alabama, I never hold back if eyes may be on me. My motto is to “Dance as if everyone is watching and make eye contact as you work it!” If you agree, wear this with pride!

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Societal Nature Vs. Human Nature

I’ve been trying to get out of the habit of citing human nature as the reason that some humans do certain things. For example, I don’t believe that jealousy is human nature. I do believe that society has conditioned us to believe that our chosen mates are possessions and if they were to receive a hint of flirting from another pretty face, then ooooooohhhhhh boy! Watch out! THIS ONE’S MINE! Whoa! Calm down. That’s not human nature, that’s societal nature. Perhaps our experiences have colored our view of what generates feelings of jealousy. But, despite those moment’s when toddlers identify a parent as “mine”, I don’t think that jealousy is innate.

In a recent conversation about plastic surgery, I was asked my thoughts on the matter. If someone had asked me a decade ago, I would have had a mouthful to share about all of my myopic judgments of assumed insecurities. That was then, this is wow and I have changed a lot! The truth is, I don’t give a shit about plastic surgery or the fact that someone has gone under the knife because… Well, that’s the thing you see, I don’t know the reason. Everyone has a different because and that makes it unfair to judge everyone the same when I know nothing about their personal history or experiences in life. I live in the militantly liberal Bay Area where many people feel their opinion must be heard without knowing all of the facts (or without considering sending their opinion through the proper channels). That tends to manifest in women getting shit for formula feeding over breast feeding without the giver of shit bothering to find out if the mother is having trouble producing milk. Sorry for the digression, I just wanted to drive home the point that some shit you heard on NPR or read in a book shouldn’t give you the right to go round telling people what to do, know the facts about the individual experience.

As a friend was explaining why she’d decided to have her breasts augmented, she casually brushed past an easy argument. “Yeah, yeah. Love yourself just the way you are and all that. But, not everyone is wired that way.” Now, she didn’t need to explain/justify to me why she decided to do something to her body. It’s really not my place to judge, comment, or give a shit about what another human does with their body. (Because it’s THEIR body, not mine.) I did, however, take issue with her argument that some are wired for self-love and some are not. I took special interest because I’m taking a Developmental Psychology class and we’ve been spending hours discussing what characteristics humans are born with and those they’re not. Essentially, we’ve been discussing the wiring. I’ll spare you all the Psych lesson as if I’m qualified to school you on the matter. I will point out that a baby human’s concept of the world is limited to the child’s mother figure. Within that microplanet of mother figure and child, securities (and of course insecurities) are created based on their interactions and developing trust. The manner in which the mother figure responds when the baby human is hungry or in need will shape the baby’s scope of trust for the world. The wiring is being installed. I’ve heard different ages for when a child develops their full personality (3 y/o?), when their brain reaches adult size (7 y/o?), and other statistics that I tend to take with a grain of salt. We all have character-defining memories (some conscious and some repressed) that have happened much later than the age of seven.  Some of those character-defining moments have short circuited our wiring for self-love.

I checked in with the Professor leading our lecture. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just mansplaining to myself that my opinion was right. What would the world of science have to say on the matter? On the matter of insecurities, we’re not born with them, we’re not wired to be insecure. The simple proof of this is the lack of evidence. They’ve tested children for every social ailment that’s a part of the human condition. There’s no empirical evidence to suggest that a baby has expressed insecurity. Societal conditioning and pressures are what create insecurities.

To be fair, some of us may be genetically predisposed to anxiety. Such predisposition, coupled with society’s nature to critique and judge one another can certainly create a shit storm of insecurities. So, I’m just saying that a refutation of self-love isn’t something that we’re either wired with or not. Instead, self-love or insecurities tend to manifest as a result of a cocktail of ingredients including, but not limited to, the love we received at home, the acceptance/criticism of our peers, our perception of images in the media, and the self-image of our peers. (If your BFF in high school, had high self-esteem and looked like your polar opposite, you may have internalized that.)

I think it’s important to reiterate that I’m not making a judgment on those that have had plastic surgery. I’m not suggesting that anyone’s body parts were surgically altered due to insecurities. Not only do I not know why people do what they do to/with their bodies, I don’t make it my business to care (unless I’m at work and they’ve asked me to care). Over the years many friends, lovers, and colleagues have had plastic surgeries. The reasons have ranged from Business Expense to Cancer to Graduation Gift to Post-Accident Reconstruction to Sexual Reassignment. This post isn’t about plastic surgery it’s about taking the time to remember what part of our thought process came from human nature and what part came from societal nature.