Why can’t we be “authentic” friends?

At the beginning of this year, I decided to evaluate my friendships. I picked out all those friends that have remained true to me and decided that I would plan activities on a regular basis and the ones that made the most effort to show up, have a good time and leave the negative at home, would be the relationships I fostered the most. This has helped me to identify the superficial from the authentic friendships. Keep in mind that this is my own personal criteria and everyone differs on what they feel constitutes a real friendship. Let’s face it, not all friendships are going to be deep and meaningful and realistically we can’t expect that from everyone. However, I do feel it possible to have more than one friend that I can call “authentic” and my goal is to build a support system with others who feel the same way.

A common aspect of all friendships that I hear on a regular basis is that the majority of us lack trust in one another. I have heard many comments about how hard it is to find a trustworthy friend for men and women alike; that ride or die friend that will be there through thick or thin. We all have that one friend that we know we can count on to support us, not judge us or compete with us. All of us claim to have that one “real” friend, that elusive friend that just seems to be on the same page with us and there to motivate, not discourage. So if we all have the same complaint, then why is it so hard to have more than one meaningful friendship?

It is time for my two cents on this issue. First and foremost, it is hard to identify a good friend when we make little time to interact socially beyond Twitter, Facebook and texting. I am guilty of this myself, so I cannot point fingers, but I do feel that utilizing these as social outlets is a detriment to our relationships. It is just too easy to simply post and follow each other via our phones as opposed to making a personal call or scheduling a time to meet one another. I often find out about my friend’s ailments. troubles and accomplishments via one of these methods and instead of calling to offer support or congratulate, I simply post a response. We cannot get rid of technology and I feel it can even be useful if utilized in the right manner. So why not send a personal text to that individual or have an e-card delivered directly to them as opposed to just being one of many posting on their Facebook or re-tweeting? I believe that even if you are on the go a lot, which most of us are, we can still make time to send a simple message saying hello to one another. I also believe that life is just not that busy to where you cannot make an effort to attend events with your friends or loved ones. I am working on this myself, so I understand all too well how this cop-out is used on a regular basis. Yet, if I expect to receive support, I have to lend it as well. If you find this is one-sided, that is probably not the relationship you want to foster.

I also believe that our values can get in the way of our friendships. There are many of us trying to climb the corporate ladder, be the perfect significant other or the perfect parent. With all this need to succeed and be perfect, we forget to focus on the simple pleasures in life of just being and enjoying everyday occurrences. Life constantly gets in the way and many of us hate to admit that it is a struggle and can be found only sharing the triumphants with one another and not the trials. We try to put on airs for each other, thus preventing authentic relationships. By this, I mean if we are too busy with the superficial then how can we expect the authentic to occur? My pet peeve has always been someone calling themselves a friend, yet they only allow me to see one side of themselves. In my opinion, these are classified as superficial and while there is no need to really disassociate oneself, it is probably not a relationship that would classify as an “authentic friendship.

There are many of us who spend the majority of our day in an office for a company that fosters disloyalty. It used to be common to be part of an office atmosphere that encouraged camaraderie, where employees felt secure and equally challenged. However, in companies these days, morale is often low or non-existent and employees are used as pawns to serve a purpose for the company. You would think that some of our best friendships would derive from the business place, and some have, but the overall consensus is that it is a ‘every one out for themselves’ type of mentality. Therefore, most of the day is spent “watching your back”, dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, so that you can maintain your livelihood. One of the main reasons I chose to leave Corporate America is due to this very reason and the exhausting process of battling someone trying to constantly tear you down while attempting to remain professional and keep your job secure. Insecurities are a natural part of life, but when they affect your relationships and everyday life, it is time to evaluate yourself and work to overcome these issues. It is not your coworker, friend or family’s responsibility to help you feel secure enough to function everyday, it is your responsibility.

Another major issue I believe that prevents us from having the friendships we desire is due to the fact that people have the wrong motives for friendships. A friendship is not a one-sided event, it cuts both ways. If you fail to listen to others and only like to hear yourself talk, then how can you expect to have an authentic relationship? Do you really think someone wants to sit there only listening to you all day and not being heard themselves? The world should not only revolve around you at all times. Sure, there are going to be several moments that are all about you but there needs to be a balance where everyone feels respected and appreciated. Most of us find that we encounter people who are completely self-centered and socially ignorant. They lack the basic social skills to interact with others in a positive give and take manner. I call these type of friends the “leeches”. These are the friends who drain you mentally because they are only in your life to meet their own needs. The weak ones prey off your strength, the superficial ones are there because you have something they want and the two-faced ones like to smile in your face while they secretly despise you. I cannot tell you how many people I have cut off due to this leech mentality. If the friendship does not make you feel good, then it is not a friendship and you honestly have no obligation to uphold the relationship. If I dread you, then why should I entertain you? You should not have to change who you are for a friendship, the chemistry should come naturally. If it does not, let it go.

With all this being said, if you do not mind having only one authentic friend, then do not feel the need to change this aspect of your life. However, I know better and I know for me, there are a lot of people who have the potential to be a great friend as I am now finding out. I made a new year’s resolution to slow down and make time for all those I care about. I also know if I take the time and nurture my friendships, I can incorporate this into relationships with my family as well. I have decided to stop hiding behind my phone, Facebook and Twitter. Believe me, there are many who are going to remain a Facebook or Twitter friend; meaning no expectations whatsoever will derive from our relationship. However, if I title you as a friend, then you can best believe that it comes with expectations and that I will uphold my end of the bargain by being an authentic friend in return. Nothing will ever be perfect as we are all flawed, but true friends will accept each other, flaws and all.

Until next time, keep on keeping on being the best you that you can be!

~Mara Prose

“Characters Unite” Hines Ward Documentary Project

I love the Good Morning America and Today show. I am an avid viewer and it is the first program I watch everyday. This week, Hines Ward was a guest on the show. He was there to promote an upcoming documentary he is a part of called “NFL Characters Unite” www.charactersunite.com. This documentary will air this month on the USA network so be sure to check your local listings and tune in and watch it. I encourage you to take the time to read more about it and support another worthy cause that has the same premise as “Dark Girls” but from a different point of view.

Let me give you a little background on Hines Ward. In case you do not know who he is, he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a wide receiver and previous MVP. And for those non-football fans, he was even on Dancing with the Stars, lol. His was born in Seoul, Korea to a Korean mother and an African-American soldier. He has a fair complexion and he shared his childhood issues on the Good Morning America show of how he was discriminated against by more than one race. He did not fit in with other African-Americans because of having a Korean mother and was taunted for this fact. He also did not fit in with other Koreans because of the African-American side to him. He admitted that Caucasians often did not know how to deal with him either due his biracial background. Therefore, growing up was filled with heartache, confusion and a feeling of isolation for this now successful football player.

On the show, he had a teen accompany him from Clairton, PA by the name of Carlton Dennis. Carlton too has felt like Hines Ward all his life, as he is from Trinidad. Often called Mexican and ostracized by his own African-American race, Carlton was on the verge of self-destruction. Hines brought Carlton back from the brink of disaster and took this teen under his wing. Carlton has since turned his battle into a testimony. Carlton has now partnered with Hines to bring attention to the bigotry and hate that are still so very prevalent in our society. Carlton has even taken to the stage at his high school and created a song he wrote with Hines that addresses these issues.

Hines has not only contributed his presence and story to this documentary, he has also formed the Helping Hands Foundation http://www.hinesward.com/helping-hands-foundation.php. This foundation not only works to improve literacy to help children achieve success later in life but it also actively addresses biracial discrimination; a direct tribute to Hines’ mother.

Now for my two cents. I encourage you, just as I encouraged with “Dark Girls”, to support this documentary. I also would like for you to support his foundation. Contribute funds, take the link and distribute to your church, co-workers, family and friends. If nothing else, watch the gut wrenching videos on the Characters Unite website that provide glimpses of so many teens feeling the same pain as Hines, Carlton or myself for that matter.

It is so obvious this issue is redundant not only in the African-American community but in all communities. It is a basic lack of cultural understanding and the unwillingness to open ourselves to diversity. How long is it going to take for us to realize there is no longer a pure race? How long before we stop immediately labeling people and just get to know their backgrounds, who they are and provide acceptance? How about this even, if you cannot accept someone for who they are, just leave them the HELL alone!!! It is so basic and simple to me. Leave people alone!!! We were never meant to like everyone, understand everyone and we do not even have to accept them but we damn sure better start respecting the differences that exist.

If you are too lazy to learn the cultural differences between you and another, once again, you have that beautiful thing called freedom of choice, which basically allows you to keep it moving!!!!!! Let me repeat that so I am clear. Keep it moving if you are too lazy to embrace diversity!!! It is fine to live in a world of illusion created all your own but it becomes an issue when your lack of reality causes harm, hurt and emotional distress to another all simply because you believe that ignorance is bliss.

It is far past time for us to promote basic humanity. It angers me that we still have to call attention to these issues. And to my African-American brothers and sisters, remember that those of us who are racially mixed did not ask to be born that way but these onslaught of documentaries show that we are not going to be made to feel embarrassed by it either. Also, remember that the majority of us are not only proud of being African-American but we are also going to embrace, promote and be proud of that other culture that is a part of us. Like it or not, being African-American is not all-encompassing and the majority of us have another culture that deserves attention, appreciate and respect.

I am very proud of being part Native American, truly!! No, my Native American heritage is not far down the line or claimed because it sounds cool. I have a mother, aunts and uncles who were born and raised on the reservation. Yes, they grew up there and I still have family there. My mother made it very clear at a young age that our heritage was important on both sides. I remember her assisting me with book reports not only on African-American culture but also on my Native American background. I am instilling these very same values into my own two children and I have a husband who has studied my Native American background more than I have.

Once again, thank you to Hines Ward for opening this dialogue again for me and enlightening me with an entirely new cultural experience and perspective as opposed to simply the light-skinned versus dark skin issue.

Until next time, keep on keeping on being the best you that you can be!!

~Mara Prose

“Dark Girls” Premiere at The Fountain of Praise

I had the privilege of viewing the documentary “Dark Girls” by the multifaceted filmmaker Bill Duke and I cannot express enough how moved I was by this movie. This blog will not be a critique because I will never critique anything that is meant to call attention to a subject matter that needs to be challenged!!! Plus, I believe it to be imperative that we stop criticizing and simply support!!  Anyone that has the courage, the genius and the perseverance to produce material that is meaningful to them should never be shunned. Yes, I choose to support every worthwhile project out there with my whole heart but hey,I digress, that is another blog. LOL!

This movie told the story of my brown skinned sisters plight dating back to slavery days of feeling inferior because of their color. They have been called mud ducks, tar babies, and and some have to endure the insult of supposedly being pretty for a “black” girl.  It is disgusting, hurtful and very sad that after over two centuries, not much has changed. The movie included many different perspectives and candid dialogue about light versus dark skinned african americans. These feelings, ideals and hurtful comments are often instilled in us often birth by our own family members. I want you to see the movie, so I will not give you a synopsis beyond that but I will give you my perspective because after all, this is my blog!!  Ha! http://officialdarkgirlsmovie.com/

I first heard about this movie several, several months ago. As an aspiring writer, it has always been in the back of mind to devote one of my novels to just this topic. When I received the email from my home church, The Fountain of Praise, in Houston, I emailed and reserved tickets and sent out invites to my friends. There was no way I was missing the opportunity to hear such a powerful message, to gain a better understanding and support an issue that has also caused much hurt and pain throughout my entire life.

However, my hurt is a different hurt altogether. My hurt and pain stems from being the light skinned sister who was the supposedly the house nigger during slavery, whose skin color supposedly makes other races more comfortable to be around than my fellow brown skinned sisters and brothers. I am the cliche often referred to and desired in today’s trashy rap songs. Let me say this, there are two sides to every story and I am anxiously awaiting Bill Duke’s next documentary “The Yellow Brick Road” which hopefully tells my side of the story.

The same way my brown skin sisters have hated their color, I have hated my color. I am very fair skinned, my skin is hard to tan and my hair is naturally curly. When it is relaxed, it is as straight as a caucasian’s and referred to as “good hair”, a term that makes me cringe. I have felt more discrimination from my own race, than I have from any other race. Much to my surprise, this was also brought out in the documentary where brown skin women felt there skin color was more celebrated by other races than their very own. I have a hard time understanding this ignorance.

For a good part of my life, I hated my skin color, was tired of attention being brought to my light eyes and spent years hiding my shape. I always felt like a piece of meat when I walked in the room, just waiting to either be slaughtered by my sisters or devoured by my brothers. I so wanted for everyone to get to know me but I was too busy fighting sisters who chose to try to jump me without even knowing me, ignoring brothers who were just in my face for the wrong reasons and hiding everything that made me a beautiful, BLACK woman. There are not many outside of my mother and sister who know this about me, not even my closest friends. I can recall spending most of my time downplaying my looks in order to help my sisters feel better about themselves and help them understand that I did not consider myself superior. I remember one friend who hated me on sight at first, telling me she specifically hated me because I was light skinned and had long hair but once she got to know me, I was ‘okay’ for a light skinned girl. Isn’t that sad?? I was just ‘okay’ but yet, I forgave her and still called her a friend regardless because it is ingrained into me to treat everyone as equal.

This so called slave mentality is absolute bullshit. I don’t want to hear that it is lack of education because we now have the internet damn it and you don’t have to attend a university to simply become educated in the fact that it is INSANITY to have such a divide in the black, African American, whatever race you want to call us. Let me tell you, I am so sick of being hated on before you even get to know me. I hate the assumption that I feel I am better than a brown skin sister because I am light skinned. I hate everyone assuming I am creole and that is why I am light skinned. Uhhh, I am mixed with Arapahoe Native American and proud of it. My grandmother on my father’s side was very, very fair with coal black hair and blue eyes and I have been told I take after her. So you see, I am hated on without anyone even taking the time to know my story.

That little girl who craved acceptance, hardened over the years and grew into her own. I celebrate everything about myself, not because I am light skinned, not because I have that cliche lool, because I am a beautiful, BLACK woman who knows who she is, where she is going and I set my own rules. I no longer worry about being hated on for my looks because that is their problem, not mine. This crutch in the African American society does not exist to me. It is just an excuse to be lazy and not work to embrace your uniqueness, your beauty, your flaws and end this nonsense. If you are not accepted at work because of your skin color, go find a different damn job. If you are passed over by a brother because he preferred a lighter skinned woman, hell, you didn’t want his superficial ass anyway. If you want straight, long hair, weave it up and keep it moving!!! No, we have no more excuses for this and the last time I allowed this to affect me was in my early 20’s. I remember going to a new hairstylist who I had spoken to on the phone.  Over the phone, she was sweet and kind but the moment she saw me, she was rude, surly and downright nasty to me. I complained to her manager and remember being so hurt at first and then I got angry.  I vowed that this would be the last time this crap was going to affect me and it never has since then.  I pride myself on being nothing but transparent and real. If you can’t handle who I am, we have this lovely thing called freedom of choice that allows you to get the hell out of my face and stay out of it.

Yes, I had to see this movie! Is this the end of my blogging about this topic, nahh, but thank you Bill Duke for opening a dialogue concerning this issue that plagues our community. I took my mother and my girlfriends with me because it meant that much to me. I will be supporting Bill Duke by sending a huge donation to help him as he used his own funds to finance this movie. I gave this movie a standing ovation at the end of it that night I watched it but even at that, I am still saddened. I am sad because when I left, the divide was still there. It was a small dent in a universal problem that needs to be stopped and stopped now. I have a daughter with my skin color that I am raising to simply start off where I am now, confident, accepting and open to all races. I never want her to feel better than anyone for any reason other than the fact that some people are just bad news and mean nothing but harm. Today, when I say I am stuck up, it means I am stuck with my head lifted up to the sky towards the Lord who guides my every step and thought. No, I am not perfect but I am persistent in working towards the greater good and that includes this issue among many.

Until next time, keep being the best you that you can be!!

~ Mara Prose

***Since the posting of this blog, Dark Girls has premiered on Oprah’s OWN network****

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