OK, while I am not going to now start all my posts with a disclaimer, I am going to with this one. I am in no way, shape, or form trying to say or imply anything here other than Bee and I come from very different worlds and many of those differences enhance our relationship. Not trying to imply that all white people come from middle class, predominantly white suburbia. Suburbia is wonderfully mixed, for the most part. At least the metropolitan Detroit suburb where I grew up and the one I live in now is. Not trying to imply that all black people live in the ‘hood or that they are “ghetto.” White people live in poor urban neighborhoods too.
I’m also not trying to imply all men are driven by the same testosterone impulses such as the one troll Christelyn quoted in Swirling (a fantastic book if any of you haven’t heard of it…), whose position is that men just want women to “Feed us and fuck us and shut up until it is time to feed us and fuck us again.” Some men LIKE having intelligent discussions with their mate and actually want a mate who will enhance our lives (a phrase I got from one of the BB&W readers), and not settle for merely energy (food) and physical gratification. Not trying to imply that women just want a man for whatever stereotypical reasons that they want a man for. I suspect many women also want a mate who will enhance their lives as well, someone with whom they can become something greater than the sum of each of the individual two parts.
Every relationship has elements of “different worlds,” unless you are in a relationship with your identical twin. Just the whole “Venus and Mars” element between men and women can give relationships wonderful elements that require growing, learning, compromising . . . . One Monday I asked a colleague how her weekend went. She said, “It was nice. I hung out with my boyfriend and I watched some football with him even though I don’t necessarily like it. But we snuggled. And he later went shopping with me even though he doesn’t necessarily like that.”
Different worlds. Compromise. End result is time spent just enjoying each other’s company, and just being together. Nice. Bee and I do that as well. She has sat and watched football with me too. I have taken her out shopping even though I would rather . . . be watching sports. (Although being dragged out shopping does make for a nice excuse to be holding her hand, which feels really nice. Sometimes she will even caress my hand, which feels even nicer). The biggest thing that I wanted during both of those times, though, was just to be with her and I was.
So Bee and I come from very different worlds and we feel that those differences make us a stronger combination than if our experiences were exactly the same. First I believe that a person is the sum total of all his or her experiences. Therefore, every new experience we have adds to us. Also, two people in a relationship grow together and share each other and all of what and who they are. Therefore, being with someone who is wonderfully different makes you become so much more as well. We love to joke and laugh about ways that we are different – whether they are male/female, black/white, or urban/suburban. As I have mentioned, Bee lives in a very rough neighborhood of northwest Detroit and still lives in the same house she grew up in. I grew up in a very white, middle-class suburban town and now live in a town that is a bit more culturally diverse but is still a middle-class suburb. Interestingly, it is just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan which is very culturally diverse, yet more upper-class and very, very liberal.
One evening Bee and I were returning from a dinner out. I was walking her to her front door when we heard “Bang… bang….. Bang-bang-bang!” The gunshots came from a couple of blocks away. As my eyes grew wide, Bee calmly said “I guess I had better get in the house.” Suddenly, more shots rang out. “Bang… Bang…. Bang…. Bang!” By that time my eyes were as big as saucers. Again speaking very calmly, Bee said, “You should probably get out of here.” I swear I turned and SPRINTED for my car in the driveway. It seems like I may have dove through the window too but maybe not since it was rolled up. We laugh about this frequently, but the surprising thing about this happening was not that the violence was so close, but that she was so calm about it and so used to this type of thing happening. Believe me; I never heard gunshots in my neighborhood growing up. I could be out after dark riding my bike around. Bee is used to an environment where this is relatively common. Learning to live in that world is certainly a new experience for me. It saddens me that people have to live so close to violence and that its presence has become routine for them. I have this conversation with my students when I tell them that I worry for their safety and that I want them to be careful. I do not live in the same world as they do. This is always a very good, frank discussion; especially with my seniors because they have enough maturity to have this discussion without thinking it is funny as so many of the freshmen do. It is a strange idea for me that kids cannot safely play in their neighborhood. Bee’s son can only play in his fenced backyard. The neighborhood park? Forget it. Different worlds. Learning to understand Bee’s world, however, has enriched my understanding of Bee herself.
Men and women are from different worlds as well. It took a long time for Bee’s Mom to meet me. At first I thought to myself “Hey, she isn’t interested in meeting me – to each their own,” until one day Bee made a comment about how badly her Mother wanted to meet me. She told me her Mother hadn’t met me yet because she needed to know hours ahead of time so she could be sure “she had her hair fixed and her makeup on.” When I responded how that didn’t matter, Bee laughed at me and said “You REALLY don’t understand black women, do you?” Ahhhhhh . . . I guess not. I WANT to . . . .
Another of those differences (in general… certainly there are women who do not fit the following… individuals are individuals) is in the understanding of the purpose of shoes. Most men have three or four pair and can get by just fine. Dress shoes. Casual shoes. Athletic shoes. And old beat up pair we mow the lawn in. Bing….. Yet I am sure I have never met a woman who had less than 10 pair. At the far end of that extreme are the women who seem to have the “shoe gene” – including my Mother, and my niece. I don’t get it, but then again I am male so I won’t ever understand it. And just as bad is the shoe element where some women will try on each other’s shoes to “see how they look.” NO self-respecting guy says “Dude . . . those are adorable…. what size are they? . . . Oh, can I try them on? It may only be one woman in ten who will do that, but NO man would. Maybe it is more a teenage girl thing than a woman thing, because most of my observations are from witnessing this in the high school. Ladies, help me out here!
So different worlds, different cultures, different experiences are a good thing. A really good thing. Learning about others is very enriching. Relationships are enhanced by having unique things to share with your significant other. It boggles my mind to think that someone would want someone exactly like them – except for genitalia. Embrace Differences.