Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Al Reynolds, A Model Idiot

Well, I'm glad that's resolved.

Tea Party candidate Al Reynolds, who is seeking election in downstate Illinois' 52nd District, unleashed upon the world his theory on why African-American men are disproportionately represented in prison and underrepresented on college campuses. In a forum that was ironically sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Champaign County NAACP, Reynolds stated:

"I've been in the city and the dichotomy of the women and the men in the minorities, there is a difference in the fact that most minority women, either the single parent or coming from a poor neighborhood, are motivated more so than the minority men," Reynolds said, when asked what he would do to increase diversity at state colleges. "And it's a pretty good reason. Most of the women who are single parents have to find work to support their family. The minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It's easier. We need to provide ways that are more incentive, other than just sports avenues, for the men for the minorities to want to go to college and get an education and better themselves before the women have to support them all."

Reynolds comments, although severely generalized and bigoted, do contain some hard truths that the black community has been struggling to address since the dissolution of the family unit (which has its roots in the 400 years of chattel slavery in the Americas) and the introduction of the drug culture into urban areas in the late '70's and early '80's. Consider this. Over one fourth of children in the United States lived with a single parent in 1996. Of this 25%, 84% were headed by women. In the black community, 57% of single-parent households were headed by women as opposed to 22% of white families and 33% of Latino families. There is a definite dearth of black males in our homes. We know that this is happening but why is it happening?

In the American penal system, 1,384 per 100,000 men or 1% of the male population is imprisoned in federal or state facilities. On average, 4,789 per 100,000 black men or 4% are in jail. Compare this with 736 per 100,000 white men and 1,862 per 100,000 Latino men. Of the 249,400 serving time in state prisons for drug offenses, 112,500 or 45.1% were black compared to 51,800 (20.8%) being Latino and 65,900 (26.4%) being white. Looking at these numbers at face value, which I'm sure is Mr. Reynold's forte, one would glean that African-American men chose drug sales and trafficking as their occupation of choice. However, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is the fact that, before the mandatory minimums and three strike laws and disparity in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession that we saw in the 1980's, black men in college outnumbered their counterparts in prison by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. The pink elephant in that same room is the fact that in the period between the years 1985 and 2000, the amount of tax revenue spent on corrections as opposed to higher education has seen a dramatic increase. The increase in state spending on corrections was nearly double that of the increase for higher education ($20 billion versus $10.7 billion), and the total increase in spending on higher education by states was 24 percent, compared with 166 percent for corrections. A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust documented that after adjusting to 2007 dollars, the increase was 127 percent for corrections compared to 21 percent in spending on higher education. Mr. Reynolds failed to report these statistics in his forum comments.

As a very good friend of mine acutely noted when we discussed this story, it's not like black men are going, "wow, I really want to go to college but selling drugs is so enticing!" I can personally attest to that not being the case. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that, although not financially or socially stable by any stretch of the imagination, emphasized the importance of education over all other things. I grew up without my father in the household but my grandfather and his older brother played the role of the flawed, yet strong male figures in my life. I understood at a very early age that there was no future in drugs and that sports was a hobby, not an occupation. Many of my peers were not so fortunate. Their way out of our shared urban hellhole was either going to be through sports or through the streets. There was no gray area.

Education was not a viable option, especially when most of our textbooks were hand-me-downs from the 80's and many of my peers were 2-3 grade levels behind in reading, math, and science (I didn't realize how deficient I was in those areas until I got to the Honors Program at DePaul). At that point, it's not a matter of doing what's right in society's eyes but a matter of survival, pure and simple. Not everyone had the fortune of being supported by the government for the first 18 years of their life like Al, whose father was a career enlisted man. Even if my peers had the "privilege" of obtaining a college education as I did, exploding levels of student debt coupled with the current tenor of job market makes activities such as drug dealing and playing professional sports more enticing and rewarding career options compared to sitting in a cubicle at an office building typing on a blog as I am doing right now. Is this the American Dream that I was told obtaining higher education would afford me?

Mr. Reynolds' comments, though mingled with truths that even President Obama admits the African-American community needs to aggressively address, lack insight and understanding into the issues that have created the environment where black men are absent from our homes and our colleges campuses and are present in ever increasing numbers in our state and federal prisons. I am sympathetic towards the laissez faire economic policies and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" social beliefs that color Mr. Reynold's political beliefs. However, even through a fog of Libertarian utilitarianism, I can recognize that there are some causes which elude our perception on the issue of black men in American society. There is 400 years of chattel slavery followed by 100 years of Jim Crow law that effectively curtailed opportunities for African-Americans, especially black men. There is the covert racism that took the place of the overt variety after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where equally qualified black male candidates were passed up for white and black female candidates. There is the introduction of crack cocaine into the black community and the subsequent War on Drugs, which both increased the levels of violent gang violence and effectively criminalized and imprisoned otherwise non-violent offenders. There is the development of ESPN, MTV, VH1 and other purveyors of 24 hour sports entertainment where huge amounts of fame and fortune flowed to black faces on stage, on the court, and on the field from the majority white faces that watched in amusement. All of these revelations disproportionately affected the black male.

It all boils down to believing that you have an opportunity to do something better with your life and having the reasonable expectation that you will have the resources necessary to achieve that something better. Sadly, for black men, reasonable expectations for success have been narrowed to the myopic fields of sports/entertainment and illicit black market activities. Now, with the election of our nation's first black President, young black men have a new role model to look up to and a new career option to pursue. The election of President Obama is not the death note for underfunded, failing inner city schools. Having lofty goals is only one half of the equation. It's all about opportunity. Al Reynolds of all people should know that. Life, Liberty, Opportunity is his campaign slogan after all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Black Friend: African-Americans, Democrats, and the 2010 Midtern Elections

Black voters unite! The Democratic Party is once again in need of your blind faith and loyalty towards them to avert a collapse of historical proportions during November 2nd's midterm elections.

In a November 25th, 2010 piece in the Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington, who I had the "pleasure" of having as a professor at DePaul University, details how key Democrats in Chicago and all across the country are depending on the traditionally Democratic African-American vote to carry hotly contested local and statewide seats. Illinois Democrats are hoping to recoup the 800,000 voters in Cook County alone that sat on their hands during the February 2010 primaries after a monumental turnout in 2008 for the election of our nation's first black president.

Toni Preckwinkle, the former 4th ward alderwoman and current Democratic nominee for the embattled position of Cook County Board President, has started a grass roots get-out-the-vote campaign to make sure that black voters turnout in record numbers on November 2nd and turnout to vote for Democrats. In addition to working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to shake black voters out of their "midterm doldrums", Preckwinkle is also sinking $400,000 of her own campaign funds into motivating African-American voters in an off year election. Preckwinkle, whose victory next Tuesday is as close to an assurance as any other contest in the country, realizes that widespread Democratic losses in the President's home state will greatly undermine the ability of President Obama to govern nationally and make her job as the future chief executive of a county with more fiscal resources than some countries increasingly difficult. "Republicans around the country are going to use this as a bat to beat the president up with for the next two years. Furthermore, from my perspective," she added, "if we don't have a Democratic governor, I am not going to get any help as president of the County Board."

In addition to matching Precwinkle's donation, the SEIU is also contributing additional cash resources and in-kind donations such as a $128,000 radio ad buy. On Election Day they will dispatch 4,000 workers -- 2,000 paid operatives and 2,000 volunteers -- to beef up voter turnout in traditionally black enclaves on the south and west sides of Chicago. The efforts by Preckwinkle and the SEIU mirror efforts nationwide to bolster African-American turnout at the polls. This comes at a time when there is heavy anti-Democratic sentiments permeating throughout the electorate especially amongst Latino voters. Research sponsored by the SEIU showed that Latino voters are "mad" when it comes to the lack of progress made on promises made by then candidate Obama. "They're mad at the Democrats for not producing on immigration reform. They're not going to vote for Republicans, but they're not going to come out," Preckwinkle said.

As my former professor aptly noted at the end of her piece, "In desperate times, Democrats always turn to black voters." What black voters (including myself) should keep in mind before asserting their irrational tribal loyalties and requesting a Democratic ballot at their local polling place is the effect that the policies of the Obama Administration have had on the African-American community in particular. While roughly 14.8 million Americans or 9.8 percent of the populace finds itself out of work, an astounding 16.1% of blacks find themselves unemployed compared to 8.7% of whites and 12.4% of Hispanics. 9% of African-Americans in the United States own a home. A nearly equal number, 8%, find themselves without a roof over their heads after losing their homes to foreclosure. According to Neighborworks America, African-Americans and Latinos are 75% more likely to face foreclosure than their similarly situated white counterparts due in part to their disproportionate acceptance of subprime mortgages with their higher hidden fees. This comes amid news from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that 1 out of every 34 Americans that earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing in 2009. Things aren't just bad for black and brown folks. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined -- except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

Some of the same people seeing dramatic leaps in their already substantial personal fortunes are the very people who were bailed out by the Obama Administration just months earlier. Just in case you forgot, the Obama Administration absolved Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of their underhanded machinations by supporting and expanding the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) originally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3rd, 2008.

As Ross Douthat iterated in a New York Times piece on October 25th, TARP may have been necessary at the time of its implementation to stave off double digit unemployment levels and sure up vital industries but the fundamentals of the policy still paints a picture in the mind's eye of Americans that screams of exceptionalism and crony capitalism between our government and Wall Street that has done irrevocable damage to the reputation of both establishments. Paul Krugman, also in an October 25th New York Times piece, takes an opposite course and asserts that the inadequacy of the initial stimulus, and not the passage of the stimulus itself, is the reason that Democrats will see a backlash during this year's midterm elections. "What we do know is that the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn’t passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed." Krugman goes on to say that voters turning on Democrats this election cycle will likely have the effect of voting to make things worse.

At least the Democrats and their fear mongering sycophants in the media are in synergy with their election tactics that reek of hypocrisy (How are Democrats scaring voters with constant reminders of the policies of the Bush Administration any different from Republicans scaring voters with references to socialism and terrorism?).

One Democrat that's not in lockstep with the Obama Administration's strategy for November is Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank T. Caprio. Caprio, ahead of President Obama's scheduled fundraising trip to the Providence Plantations, let the leader of the free world know what he can do with his endorsement. “He could take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I’m concerned." Caprio is locked in a hotly contested race with former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an Independent and John Robitaille, the Republican who is behind Caprio and Chafee in recent polls. Former senator Obama and former senator Chafee are particularly close from their days on Capitol Hill. Caprio characterized the relationship between Obama and Chafee as "Washington insider politics at its worst..." and accused the president of using the state of Rhode Island "like an ATM machine." Caprio doesn't look like he will give in and start drinking the Democratic establishment Kool-Aid a week before judgement day. He is firm in his belief that his politics, and not his party affiliation, will be the deciding factor when voters go to the polls on November 2nd. “I will wear as a badge of honor and a badge of courage that he doesn’t want to endorse me as a Democrat because I am a different kind of Democrat,” Caprio told radio station WPRO-AM in a morning interview.

So, the Democrats are in trouble and, to no one's surprise, they are running palms up to the folks who have been disproportionately affected by the policies of the last two administrations for help. Having already thrown in the towel on Latino voters, the Democratic machine is looking to it's traditionally reliable enclave of black voters and suburban white female voters to mitigate what could potentially be a colossal loss for Democrats nationwide if Republicans score major wins in Illinois' senatorial and gubernatorial races. While it is natural for people to gravitate towards what is familiar to them, in this election cycle more than few elections before, it is pivotal that voters put their political loyalties aside and vet the candidates based on their plans to create jobs, curb wasteful spending, sure up social security for future generations, craft an immigration policy that is fair to citizens and immigrants alike, hold pollutors responsible for environmental damage, and end the discriminatory and demeaning policies of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and opposition towards gay marriage amongst many, many other pressing issues.

As Laura Washington stated in her piece, Preckwinkle and the SEIU are launching their grassroots voter turnout effort with the campaign message: "Hate vs. Hope." and the strategy: Convince black voters that Obama's credibility and success depend on winning Illinois. Many African-American voters, my mom being one of them, view President Obama as an extension of themselves and view his poll numbers not just as a barometer of how the nation feels Obama is doing on the job but also as a barometer of how the nation views African-Americans. For a small sub-segment of people, their views on President Obama's job performance may be a cryptic way of expressing their general feelings towards black culture. However, the recent Harris Interactive Survey showing that 63% of Americans have a negative opinion of the job President Obama is doing is not tinted solely by race or ethnicity but by the broader disillusionment that many Americans feel about what candidate Obama promised and what President Obama and his majority Democratic Congress have delivered. Toni Precwinkle, the SEIU, and other key Democrats would like to reduce the electoral equation to the least common denominator of race because they can bypass rational thought and win the votes necessary to remain in power. It would be a travesty of historical proportions to sit idly by and let race baiters play to our primitive, reptilian, tribal brains instead of doing the hard mental work that sustains our representative form of governance and, most importantly, the privilege of voting for subsequent generations.

The debate that we are currently having is integral to the health and maintenance of a strong republic. The folks on both sides of the aisle, Democrats specifically because they are currently in power, are concerned with maintaining the status quo in state and national legislatures because the status quo works for them. The status quo does not work for hardworking Americans that find themselves with burgeoning debt, without adequate employment and health insurance, and who see the American Dream slipping away with every choice they have to make between buying food or paying the mortgage. As Ross Douthat stated in his Times article, "So it’s a healthy and necessary thing that our first post-crisis election has been defined by a groundswell of anti-bailout outrage. This no doubt seems unfair to the politicians who may lose their jobs (or have already lost them) for doing what they felt they had to do. But it would be an infinitely worse sign for America if the present backlash hadn’t materialized at all."

President Obama boldly stated that change had come to America. Going to the polls on November 2nd and sending shockwaves through Springfield and Washington, D.C. by vehemently rejecting the status quo -- now that would be change that you could truly believe in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rock Out With Your Cock Out!

"(My reputation) has always been important to me," Favre told ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen. "That was one of the first questions I answered when I signed here (in Minnesota). Sure it is important to me; it has always been a concern." That's how good 'ole boy Brett (don't call me Bret Michaels) Favre addressed the media when he was asked how all the flip flopping on retirement would affect his legacy in the long run. Who knew that those same questions would surface after Favre was discovered to have been rocking out with his cock out -- literally.

The future first ballot Hall of Famer, who recently became the first player in NFL history to reach the 70,000 passing yards and 500 touchdowns plateau, allegedly sent inappropriate messages and pictures -- including a reported set of nude photos -- to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger while Favre was on his first post-retirement unretirement narcissistic sympathy tour with the New York Jets.

The league is in the process of investigating the allegations against Favre. Chris Mortensen, during ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown", said that the league's investigation could wrap up in four to six days, and there is a good chance that Favre could face a suspension under the NFL's strict personal conduct policy that saw 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season for inappropriate behavior with a college student in a Milledgeville, GA. bar and former Super Bowl MVP WR Santonio Homes, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers and currently with the New York Jets, suspended for the first 4 games of this season for violating the NFL' substance abuse policy.

"My main focus is the New York Jets, they are a tough team; as good as they are, that has been my focus," Favre told ESPN before his Monday night return to the Empire state. "I hate in any way if this has been a distraction as I said Thursday --we are here focused on trying to beat the Jets." The Vikings went on to fall to the Jets 29-20 due in part to a 4th quarter interception thrown by Favre and returned 26 yards by Jets defensive back Dwight Lowery.

Favre, who was experiencing noticeable pain in his right elbow after throwing nearly every pass during the game was diagnosed with right elbow tendinitis and didn't rule out the possibility of missing 1-2 games to let it heal. "I don't want to play just to play," Favre said. "It's kind of a funny injury. It could flare up and get worse." This is the same Favre who, in the same press conference, called tendenitis "a wimpy injury". Makes one ponder if Favre is offering to voluntarily sit out a couple of games to end his NFL record 289 consecutive starts streak on his own terms rather than having any potential punishment doled out by Commissioner Roger Goodell be the fait accompli for the tremendous record.

I'm also pondering the effects of ole # 4's aw shucks country boy attitude on our collective perception of the superstar. Like it or not, we've all been brainwashed and conditioned into thinking that grandpa Favre is a guy from a bygone generation, with his Southern sensibilities, petting his dog in the back of his Ford F250 twin cab, getting ready to play a pick-up game of football in the ole sandlot with his eclectic group of pals in a fresh new pair of real -- comfortable Stranglers...I mean Wranglers. Brett is a guy just like us, a guy who has problems choosing which 50" plasma screen TV to buy at Sears and whether he should come back and take the $16 million salary that his employer is so eager to give him that they sent 3 of his favorite co-workers down to his farm on a Gulfstream G5 private jet to escort him back to the office in mankato, MN. Well, it turns out that the living legend is no different than us mere mortals because he too is not immune from the compulsion to furtively send pics of his wanker and sext (that's sexual text messages for the uninitiated) to female co-workers, a phenomenon brought on by developments in modern cell phone technology and social media. Like most people his age that are relatively new to this age where everyone can star in a reality show whether they know it or not, Favre was lulled into the foggy, bottomless abyss of perceived anonymity and privacy.

As much as Favre has held the media and the collective adoring masses of sports fans hostage for parts of the past three offseasons, it should come as no surprise that a person in the media would smear # 4's face with some of the same egg that we've all been saturated in for taking part in Brett's conceited, self-indulgent 3-ring circus of contrived uncertainty. Lost in all this is the effect that these embarrassing revelations are having on Brett's wife Deanna. She has made no secret that she has sacrificed her own happiness and that of her family to support her hubby's career for over 20 years and would like her man to come back home to Gulfport, MS. and return the favor. Besides the shame and embarrassment of finding out that your spouse has been leaving Tiger Woods style voicemails for a former Florida State Seminoles cowgirl who looks remarkably like a younger, thinner, tanner you, I'm sure that it didn't help that these revelations came to the surface during the month of October. It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Deanna is a breast cancer survivor.

We all make mistakes. We're all human and fallible after all. The vast majority of us have the benefit of being able to make our mistakes in relative anonymity with only the fear of backlash from our immediate circle of friends and family. I'm in no way sympathetic to Brett's public shame because he has courted public attention with countless commercials and tear filled press conferences. I also have no sympathy for Jenn Sterger, who is obviously looking to cash in on the multi-million dollar world of TV and magazine interviews, book deals, and reality TV appearances. Sterger rose to fame after she was shown on national television during a 2005 Florida State vs. Miami football game. On seeing the shot, announcer Brent Musburger commented that "1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State." There are women who face quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace on a daily basis. They feel demoralized, defeated, and trapped. They have to decide which is more important -- their pride or their careers. Fortunately for Sterger, she does not have that unenviable choice to make because she has no pride and, what residual pride she does have, is currently being auctioned off to the highest bidder. I guess that's the "right resolution" she was alluding to in her press release.

My sympathy goes out to every person who went out and bought a pair of Wranglers from Target or a plasma screen TV from Sears because they trusted Favre and identified with him. My heart goes out to every person walking around in a Favre jersey who, male or female, will constantly be asked by groups of drunken frat boys such as myself to "show us your dick" from now until Favre goes to the golden training camp in the sky (which will incidently be the first training camp that he's attended in quite some time). I'm truly sympathetic towards Deanna Favre who has stuck by her man just like the old country song implored her to; ever present in the luxury suites cheering on her husband even as she underwent painful, crippling radiation treatments. Deanna, if you'd like to get back at Brett I'd be more than happy to send you pics of my penis.

Brett, your consecutive starts streak is impressive, if not for the quantity of games, definitely for the grit and determination it took to play in some of those games, and will never be broken. Peyton Manning, who currently holds the second longest consecutive games streak in the NFL, would have to play every game until 2016just to tie the record. You own ever major NFL passing record and you're a multiple time league MVP and a Superbowl champion. With all great athletes, with the exception of Barry Sanders, it's a difficult decision to hang up the jock strap, shoulder pads, and cleats and walk off into the uncertainty of retirement. In the real world, you know, the one that the rest of us endure as much as survive on a daily basis, when you're old and start doing things like, I don't know, showing your dick to other people, we usually take away your driver's license, lock you in a nursing home, and give you a little Dixie cup with pills in it everyday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. just before Jeopardy comes on. As much as this option is enticing, fortunately for you it's not feasible in your case.

Brett, for the sake of your wife, children, grandchildren, fans and what's left of your pride and legacy, hang it up sport. It's time to retire. By the looks of it, your pecker already got the memo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fear of Flying

To most people that come into contact with me, I give the impression that I'm a very confident, self-assured person. I'm the quintessential Alpha male with a Type AB personality. I walk with my head high, shoulders back, and chest out. When I greet people for the first time, I look them straight in the eyes and give them a firm handshake (male or female). When I speak, people usually listen attentively because my words are sharp, direct, and delivered with the simplistic effort of one who gives profound thought to every syllable before speaking.

Like most people with a confident exterior, I am extremely introverted and insecure on the inside. This insecurity usually wields it's head when I am confronted by a person of greater intelligence and or by an argument that is more viable than that which I expouse. My latent insecurity is most visible in interpersonal relationships that I value, especially of the sexual variety with the opposite sex.

If Southwest Airlines knew how much personal baggage I had, they would start charging me fees.

I grew up in a home where my mom was either at work or at the local saloon partying for days on end with her fellow drug addicts. The one stable female presence in my life was my grandmother Ruth who, like her matriarchal namesake in the Bible, was loving, affectionate, and loyal. She died suddenly in 1993 from heart failure when I was only 9 years old. I have been searching for a female figure of that significance ever since.

I was a fat, pudgy kid in grammar school and was routinely met by the ire of the female students in my class. They routinely made fun of the size of my dairyair in proportion to the rest of my body. One memory that is indelibly etched in my consciousness is that of my first day of high school. It was my first P.E. class and, much to my dismay, the first class was swimming. To me, swimming was inextricably linked to being partially nude in front of the opposite sex. I implored the gym teacher to allow me to participate in the day's activities with my shirt on but she would have none of that. "Only girls are allowed to swim with their shirts on. You're not a girl, are you?" The irony inherent in that question was lost upon my gym teacher until, with much consternation, I took off my t-shirt and revealed man boobs that made the breasts on my female classmates look like bee stings. Adding fuel to the not so furtive fire was the fact that, to my misfortune, the male classmate to my immediate right looked like he had been lifting weights since he was aged 5. The girls in the class proceeded to point and laugh at me with an emotional disregard that only teenagers and sociopaths can successfully pull off . After surviving the constant abuse of my first quarter there, I transferred to a high school closer to my home. Transferring signaled a chance at a fresh start but, little that my feeble brain know, there were more tribulations to come. The damage had already been done and more was awaiting.

I went through high school in virtual anonymity to the opposite sex. Though I was a star varsity baseball player, I was no competition for the more glamorous and brash basketball and football jocks. I spent the rest of my high school career playing video games, listening to music, and playing paper football at the lunch table with my two equally anonymous compatriots. When my two best friends jumped ship and managed to get girlfriends, I was left alone to captain my ship on the choppy waters of seemingly perpetual virginity. I didn't make out with a girl until the last quarter of my senior year. Even then, I didn't understand what she saw in me; what I had done to facilitate this precipitous change in my fortunes.

When I arrived at college, it seemed that the word VIRGIN was written on my head in 72 point block letters. Girls mockingly threw their bras at me as if they were saying "we're doing all the work for you and you still can't score". A female upperclassman even slipped a mild date rape drug in my beer, stating in no uncertain terms that a unconscious me was more worthy of getting laid than a fully conscious me. I decided that it was time to remove the shameful yoke of virginity once and for all. Riding the high of having just been initiated into my fraternity after a long and arduous process both mentally and physically, I asked a fraternity brother that I was close to for the phone number of a girl that I had seen him take home from a house party. In what can only be described as a combination of desperation and a healthy dose of youthful naivety, I sent her the following text message: "You're so fucking sexy! When can I meet up with you?" After thoroughly vetting each other (and when I say thoroughly, I mean after a couple of days), I finally lured her to my room. With champagne in hand, I toasted away my virginity. I was finally a man.

I was in love (or so I thought) and blinded by the hormones and strong affections that I had for my new found girlfriend. As a popular song by the southern rapper Gucci Mane imbues, everyday was Christmas and every night was Valentine's. There's no part of her body that I didn't traverse and no venue that was off limits for our sexual escapades. There's nothing like walking in on your girlfriend being ridden by her ex-boyfriend like Sea Biscuit to permanently take the blinders off. It was as if I had stepped out of my body and right into the shoes of Luke Wilson's character in Old School minus the trip to San Diego and the hardcore porn. We lasted for another year after that but the resentment and distrust quickly snowballed into a level of toxicity that even the best relationships are unable to survive.

I had one meaningful relationship after that, which ended after just a year due in part to my insecurity and it's Siamese twin, irrational behavior. I relegated myself to a series of meaningless one-night stands with girls that I couldn't pick from a line-up if my life and those of everyone that I cherish depended on it. I didn't have to worry about being played because I was the one initiating and terminating the contact. It didn't matter what the women thought of me. They didn't really ever have the opportunity to know me beyond what I wanted them to know. I had finally achieved the leverage over the opposite sex that I always felt I deserved. The real D.Jones, the one that I always wanted to be had finally stood up. Revenge was sweeter than I had ever imagined.

Fate has a way of bringing out skeletons that you were pretty sure were encased in concrete and buried for all eternity safely below the Meadowlands like Jimmy Hoffa. Fate came in the form of a 5'8" Italian woman with curly red hair and a walk that makes grown men need a change of underwear. I knew the first time that I laid eyes on her what my intentions were and what my destiny would ultimately be. I don't believe in love at first sight and the concept of soul mates seems equally implausible to me but this woman must've been molded from one of my ribs (or vice-versa since there is a slight difference in age). She's beautiful, intelligent, funny, thoughtful, nuanced and passionate amongst other things. There are so many parallels between our adolescent and adult lives that an independent observer would swear that our respective existences were cut from the same cloth and then cast to the wind in different directions. As we've grown closer it has become evident that our fates are inextricably linked and that the trajectory of our relationship is trending upward. Unfortunately, as we've grown closer, the doubts that I had long since buried beneath a behemoth of one-night stands have emerged fully clothed.

In my mind, to find someone that you're attracted to and that is attracted to you back seems too good to be true so it must be. When will the other shoe drop? When will the table cloth be snatched from under the table setting, crystal stemware in tow? It's inevitable that the baby will be thrown out with the bath water, right? The funny (and humbling) thing is that she has the same concerns about me. Here's this young, tall, intelligent, upwardly mobile ex-womanizer attracted to a woman 6 years his senior. She's been burned in past relationship and, given the current tenor of her life, couldn't possibly survive another disappointment. Insert aforementioned questions about table cloths and baby baths here.

The great thing (and the thing that I respect most about her) is that she has a lot more faith in me than I have in myself, with extraordinary patience to boot. She knows that the connection that we have is real and has the potential to withstand the test of time because it is genuine. Now it's up to me to get out of my own way and fully embrace what I thought was an inch short of impossible, that someone actually, really, and truly likes me for me. Not the me that I caked on like foundation on a tranny for mass consumption, the innocent, flawed, vulnerable me - the me that was DeAngelo long before I was D.Jones.

That is the test for all of us in our lives. We've all been hurt, put down, trounced on, and thrown out like last week's leftovers. When that happens, it's easy to develop the scab of egoism to cover up the gaping wound in our self-worth. For me, that scab came in the form of finding women that were just as worthless in my eye as I felt I was to them. I was so afraid of being hurt and embarrassed the way I was in high school and college that I gave up trying to view women as anything other than a ticking time bomb ready to explode in my face. Whether in business, school, or our interpersonal relationships, when we become unwilling to risk failure, then failure is what we risk automatically. To paraphrase a famous saying by the late, great UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden, failure is never fatal but a failure to try might be.

Meeting il mio Italiana, as I like to call her, is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don't really remember the infinite number of days that passed before I met her and, now, I can't envision the days ahead without her. What would my life be like if I hadn't acted on that initial impulse to find out who she was when I first saw her at the water cooler, paralyzed by my insecurities and a pathological fear of rejection?

That is a possibility that I am unwilling to consider now and one that I will not under any circumstances allow to color our future.

Fear of insecurity and rejection, consider this post your notice of termination effective immediately.