Can Cohabitation Make You Poorer?

Or are poorer people drawn to cohabitation?

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 report, more than 18 million unmarried U.S. couples live together.

23% of all cohabitors are 50 years old or older.

50% are younger than 35.

Although it’s becoming more common for unmarried couples to live together, U.S. cohabitors total only about 7% of the population.

As of 2016, 14% of Americans ages 25-34 were living together.

The Financial Implications of Cohabitation Among Young Adults,” published by the Journal of Financial Planning, makes several assertions about debt, money, and the link between cohabitation.

You can read more hereContinue reading “Can Cohabitation Make You Poorer?”

Work is not a Marriage

We need work, but we also need something more.

In Houston, we have a name for roads that run parallel to freeways: we call them feeders.

Non-Texas folk might call them frontage roads, or may not even have them at all.

Freeways are always highways, but we have a few highways that aren’t actually freeways.

It all makes perfect sense.

I usually take the feeder instead of the highway because I hate being in a rush. I pretend that they’re safer, even though I know that they aren’t.
When I commute for tutoring, I have to make a left turn from the feeder road onto Dairy Ashford Street.

I hate that intersection because although there are three left turning lanes (two mandatory and one optional), people in the second lane keep going straight instead!

Those who turn left from the third lane are almost caught in a head-on collision with the second-lane folk who decide to keep straight.

It’s happened to me more than once.

The first time it happened, the driver barely missed me. It happened so fast.

The second time, I was furious.

The next time I took that route, I chose a different lane.

Work (and marriage, I imagine) can be like this.  Continue reading “Work is not a Marriage”

Love Is Not a Marriage (…continued)

Legitimacy is important.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted marriage or children.

Marriage was the aspiration of insecure women with little ambition. I was sophisticated, and metropolitan, and evolved (Whew! Lol, right?).

More than that, I didn’t think someone black would ever love me, truly.

I was weird and prude and unconventional. And not in the interesting way, not in the compelling—I need to know HER—kind of way. I was militant, but no one knew it. Committed to the idea of heritage and legacy and building healthy, stable, strong black communities.

Legitimacy is important.

Some days I feel married. Not necessarily on the happiest or most blissful days, but on the days when we struggle to communicate, to make eye contact, or to truly hear each other. It isn’t the stress of falling apart, but the conversations afterwards. The rose, bud, thorns. The “who messed it up” and how did we get off track moments.

I felt married last winter when we debated sleeping in the UHaul because our savings ran dry and we’d been rejected from apartment after apartment. We stayed one too many nights in a hotel and needed a more permanent, less expensive solution.

I felt married on his birthday when he came over at 7:30am on a Saturday so I could run with him. It was November in Chicago, November winter, and all he wanted was for us to run together. The struggle.

I felt married when I got sick this summer. It started as a sore throat and then migrated to my back. Eventually it was difficult to even turn my head.

Driving was excruciating, as was reading, writing, eating. Everything, really. He met me at work and drove me to the hospital. He had to help with most of the forms because of my pain. I was scared, but he was even-keeled and comforting. He told me silly stories to keep my mind off the pain.

I felt married when we set up a date to do our taxes together. Forms were everywhere (some still back in Chicago). We’d given each other reminders. Emails, texts, notes around the house—even though we lived together.

Legitimacy is important.

I still believe that marriage should always follow love (although it doesn’t necessarily precede it). I believe this whole-heartedly, although I understand in ways that I never dreamed I’d understand a) that we can’t always marry the people we love, b) that we shouldn’t always, c) and that love in itself is not a marriage, no matter how much we might wish it.

Marriage, I imagine, requires something much, much more.

He’s more self-assured than I am, more capable. He’s happy with little, likes wood, and earth, and setting down roots. He sees beauty in things that

I find mundane and dilapidated. He can look at something, anything really, and instantly imagine what it could be—not what it is, not what it’s always been.

I’m not optimistic. I worry. I plan. I harbor resentment. I revisit; I think through.

I struggle with joy and staying in the moment—not rehashing what I should’ve said or should’ve done or didn’t do.

I worry about my weight, my work-life balance, my impatience.

Love is not a marriage. It’s sky rockets in flight. It’s no one, not even the rain, has such small hands.

But marriage, I imagine, is a complicated melody a complicated fellow, he, I almost cannot sing it on key.

It’s surviving, mourning, worshipping, celebrating, forgiving, fighting, accomplishing, destroying, rebuilding, repurposing, undoing, untangling, bending, folding, washing, drying, saving, storing, falling, soaring, wishing, hoping, sending, saving, keeping, weeping, writing, working, finding, losing, struggling, choosing.

Over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Love Is Not A Marriage

We dreaded it. From the moment the words slipped from his lips there was gnashing of teeth and long-suffering: Mandatory team-building.

Sweet Christmas.

They told us to bring snacks and wear comfortable clothing. They told us to be prepared for inclement weather and outdoor activity. They didn’t share what the activities were or what kind and how much food to bring.

She brought an entire watermelon.

The largest, biggest, greenest one she could find. When we saw her we snort-laughed.

Hiking first. Rock climbing second.

She had to decide.

The moment was upon us all. Would she bring it with her? Would she hike with it? Climb with it? Would we have to help her carry it? Actually haul it up the mountain?

The struggle.

Love is not a marriage.

I’ve always been naive about relationships, partnership, and love. I didn’t date until years after college, but even then I hated the superficiality and insincerity of it. I wanted something permanent, something real. If there was no potential for marriage, dating was purposeless and pointless. First came love, then came marriage.

I believed whole-heartedly, I still believe, that marriage should always follow love (although it doesn’t necessarily precede it). I believe this whole-heartedly, although I understand in ways that I never dreamed I’d understand a) that we can’t always marry the people we love, b) that we shouldn’t always, c) and that love in itself is not a marriage, no matter how much we might wish it.

Marriage, I imagine, requires something much, much more.

He thinks I fell in love on the first date, but it was actually somewhere between the second and third. It happened on the phone as I was fighting sleep and productivity.

I didn’t think someone black would love me, truly.

Friends I knew found me weird and prude. Nonconventional, but  not in the interesting way. I was militant, but no one knew it. Committed to the idea of heritage and legacy and building healthy, stable, strong, black community. But no one had ever been willing, and I had never met a partner (one I could imagine or one that imagined me).

I wasn’t sure that I wanted marriage or children. I wanted to learn languages, visit places I could hardly pronounce (and learn to pronounce them). I wanted to have my worldview flipped, shaken, and stirred.

Marriage was
the aspiration of insecure women with little ambition. I was sophisticated and metropolitan and evolved (Whew! Lol, right?).

Love is
What Dreams May Come. It’s sounding your barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world. It’s losing and sinking and shredding and climbing, and feeling absolutely and completely overcome.

Marriage is
surviving the birth of children, or their traumatic and untimely death, or the struggle of not being able to conceive together. It’s growing in faith while your partner loses hers. It’s deciding on churches or abandoning Church. It’s choosing schools, choosing neighborhoods, choosing communities. It’s choosing cities and choosing institutions.

Whose family will feel neglected? Whose family will feel ignored? Do you agree with his parents’ values? Do you want them to help raise your children? Can you survive mental illness? Will there be infidelity?

Detachment? Addiction?

What happens to a dream deferred? Will she lose her voice? Her purpose?

Her mind?

Who will he become when he loses his mother? Who will you become, in response? Are you capable of being each other’s partner? To comfort without enabling? To construct without undue criticism? From outrage to reform?

What if one day he just decides he doesn’t want this kind of life? What if she never changes, never grows, never matures?

He thinks I fell in love because he’s handsome and funny. “Girls just like my face.” But the truth if I can understand it, if I can articulate it, is that I saw him as a husband and father first, and love came second. And for me that was significant because I had neither the time nor the inclination to be anyone’s wife or mother.

We sat across the table telling stories. I hated horror but loved sci-fi. He spent the first half hour trying to explain that I couldn’t do both; there was too much overlap. He wanted sustainability. He hated shortsightedness. It’s why he chose to bike, to give up meat, to run, to make art, and to work with children.

We should be infinitely concerned with what we leave to those who come after and infinitely grateful to those who came before. Everything is art; everything is sacred. When we deny this, we corrupt. We pollute. And we destroy.

If we ever have children, they will love him more than me. And I’ll be jealous at first, but I’ll understand.

He taught me that we can create joy by harvesting information. Information can fundamentally and completely change our lives.

Love is not a marriage. 

It’s sky rockets in flight. It’s nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

But marriage, I imagine, is planting a tree while building a house while untangling the roots while creating a garden. And watching the seasons change and the plants bloom and die and bloom and die and choosing to water, replant, and prune over and over and over and over and over and over again.

What Is Love?

(Nobody, not even the rain has such small hands)

I didn’t know if I believed in faith.

It seemed rather convenient and opaque. It seemed woefully insufficient and simultaneously vague.

I had an intellectual appreciation for its usefulness, but an (unintentional) emotional detachment.

Almost ten years ago I became a member of a multi-ethnic, intentionally diverse, community church.

It was situated in a racially segregated neighborhood in a racially segregated city, and its central pillar was reconciliation.
We were self-proclaimed followers of Christ who sought to reconcile those relationships that were broken—to combat personal prejudice within ourselves and to act against institutional bias within our church, city, and neighborhood.
I was new to faith, new to church, and new to the language of Believers.
It (both the neighborhood and the city) was categorized by violence, but was slowly becoming gentrified in specific and predictable pockets.
Conflict was slowly brewing between indigenous communities and recent transplants, those who were presumably ignorant of the distinctive, complex history of their new neighborhood.
I was attracted to reconciliation.
I understood it.
I knew what, in me, felt broken. I knew who and what was in conflict in the larger world.
Aspiring for reconciliation meant intentional community—making a commitment to identify and to resolve conflict among groups: men in conflict with women, “authentic” versus inauthentic Christians.
As a transplant to Chicago and a transplant to the neighborhood I had an intellectual appreciation for the struggle, but an (unintentional) emotional detachment.
The night was Chicago cold.
The breeze, the thickness of the chill, and the wind sent a shiver from the tips of my ears to the edges of my toes. We had walked for hours, walked for miles.
I had fallen in love within 48 hours, but I hadn’t said it.
I wasn’t romantic.
I wasn’t even passionate (not about love, at least). I was dogmatic and practical, rationalizing this new, first, unexplained, and unexpected love.
I was tired of walking, but knew we had to keep going.
We’d had a misunderstanding a few hours before—arguably, our first misunderstanding—and now as we walked, I counted the steps as my feet grazed the pavement. I listened for changes in his pace, in his posture, and in his tone.
It had been years since I’d left the church.
I’d transitioned from an inconspicuous atheist to a mild-mannered agnostic to an outspoken Believer, and back to an apologetic agnostic again.
In that ten-year span, I had committed to Church and made a commitment to a church—of my own volition and in my own time. I’d been baptized as an adult, for the first time.
Although I’d, thankfully, been overlooked by tragedy, I’d still been plagued with momentary crises of faith. I’d left the church, found a new one, left again, gave up on religion, and sought out God. I’d started, but had never finished asking, the questions I once had.
I didn’t know if I believed in love. Like faith, it seemed rather convenient and opaque. It seemed woefully insufficient and simultaneously vague. If love did exist, it would have to reconcile my faith in God and my disappointment in Christians.
It would have to reconcile my insecurity and my arrogance. It would have to cure cancer and bring back the 90s. It would have to fundamentally and completely change the world as I knew it. I had an intellectual appreciation for love, but an (unintentional) emotional detachment.
The pizza was cold now, but we lingered.
We argued about the difference between horror and sci-fi. He talked about loss and dependence on foreign oil. I made fun of his Christmas sweater and his dogs named Javelin and Biscuits. I talked about checkers; he talked about the art of losing gracefully.
He asked me about faith, and I felt myself wince—debating what was the most acceptable but non-descriptive digression. He was direct, almost curt.
Philly militant, Philly proud.
No, love wouldn’t cure cancer or restore my faith in God. It wouldn’t reconcile my insecurity or end systemic and institutionalized oppression.
But it wasn’t convenient, insufficient, or opaque.
I believed.

Work is not a Marriage

Even in the best circumstances, work cannot be our partner.

Work is not a marriage.

It wasn’t the first time my faith had wavered, but her death was the last straw.

I had lived there for almost twelve years. I had grown up there: seen my first snowflake, kissed my first boy, ridden on my first EL.

In twelve years’ time I hadn’t crafted the kind of life I’d imagined, but I had settled for it.

I was resigned to it.

I knew that I wasn’t happy, but happiness is for rich people.  Continue reading “Work is not a Marriage”

I Shoulda Been a Dancer

Save yourself. Dance!

I’ve always wanted to be a dancer.

Although I have no formal training, no actual training, and no actual talent, and although I never dance in public unless I’m purposely tipsy so that I can be confident enough to dance, whenever I hear a beautiful melody I create choreography in my mind.

Sometimes when I’m on the train or long-suffering through a 4-hr. staff meeting, I replay scenes from my favorite movie-dance-battles.

And sometimes, but only if I truly hate someone, I’ll imagine crushing them in a Michael-Jackson-style, leather-jacket-wearing, subway-station-mob-crowd, You-Got-Served! dance battle.

This is the complete truth.  Continue reading “I Shoulda Been a Dancer”

What Was God

You ask me what I will miss about the children I couldn’t teach…

The first time I heard
That my second grade

Locked himself inside his locker
To hide
From the voices
In his head

I snuck into the washroom
On my five minute lunch break

And wept.  Continue reading “What Was God”