An Apology

I want to write a formal apology to my first, long-term, serious, romantic relationship. We met in college. We’d met our first year at school, but we started dating our sophomore year. I was immediately attracted to her. My current partner says she was the prettiest girl on campus. I’m saying that to brag, but, really, who’s counting? She was funny and interesting. We had common interests, common political leanings. She taught me to appreciate the depth of the Beatles’ oeuvre, and I introduced her to the magnificence that is David Bowie.

She studied Chemistry. That was her passion. She was wicked smart, but she was also dedicated. She would spend hours in the lab pushing herself to understand the material more. The thing is, she also took courses in sociology, political science, and literature. Sorry, she excelled in such classes. Like I said, she was wicked smart.

Finally, she had a sparkling personality. I’ve already mentioned that she was funny, but she was also kind and exuberant. It’s not quite right to call her active – she was book worm, but she had a joie de vivre.

Let me be clear, I am purposefully giving a positive portrayal of her. I am not trying to make her seem perfect. I just want to give a thorough impression of the positive and admirable character traits that she possessed. Our relationship did not last our undergraduate careers, but I feel safe in saying it was a relationship we can both look back upon and conclude that it produced some very fond memories.

Or, that’s what I thought. You see, I recently learned that I messed up. Look at this flyer:

This flyer was posted at a Wisconsin public high school. It is telling the boys in the school that they should not have premarital sex with their dates on prom night. Instead, these boys should protect the character of their dates.

You see, I left a very important part of our relationship out of my recap above. We never got married, but we had sex. Feel free to pause and compose yourself, dear reader. Trust me, my self-hatred is stronger than any shock, disgust, or disappointment you’re feeling toward me right now.

Go back and read about that wonderful girl that I dated in college. Go back and read about all of her positive traits. After college, she went on to complete a PhD in Chemistry, and she is currently a research associate at King’s College in London.

None of that matters, though. Does it? She’s broken. She’s ruined. I know that she is a separate human being from myself, and that she has gone on to live her own life since we broke up, but she’s a woman. I am the man. It was MY responsibility to protect her character, and I failed. She used to be bright and funny and exuberant. No longer. I ruined her. I’m not quite sure what she is now. I just know it is not good.

Arun, I am sorry.

To make up for my mistake, I promise to be a better person – no, a better man. You’re a woman, so you can’t be fixed. You are broken forever. I broke you. That is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. But I promise you that I will never do that again. Well, starting now, I promise that I will never do that again. I will never let my actions ruin the character of another woman again. I know I can accomplish this because I can rely upon the strength, courage, and determination that you used to possess – that I took away from you. This is my payment for my past offenses. This is the new me – the penitent man.

Death and Rihanna

Two very different topics for this post. The first topic is, I think, cool and important. The second is an otherwise pointless rant I need to get out of my mind by committing it to this blog. No, seriously, it is an incredibly pointless rant.

1. There is a project (with Kickstarter), called the Urban Death Project, about using our bodies after we die. I think it is a neat idea, and I wanted to share.

2. There is a post at HuffPo exploring if Rihanna’s new song Bitch Better Have My Money (aka #BBHMM) is a song about Reparations. You can find the lyrics to the song here.

Although my taste in music is relatively broad, it is mostly stuck in the 80’s and 90’s. As such, I will readily admit that I may be under-informed on the possible meanings of various lines in the song. However, I am baffled as to how someone could consider this a song about reparations.

If you read the piece at HuffPo, the author offers not a single line or quote from Rihanna making such a connection. The only people quoted actually talking about reparations are Azealia Banks and Ta-Nehisi Coates, neither of whom have any connection to the song. The connection #BBHMM has to reparations appears to be as tenuous as having a similar tone to the one Azealia Banks had in her recent interview with Playboy Magazine in which she discusses reparations.

If I prime you with a suggestion of reparations, lines like “Bitch better have my money” and “Pay me what you owe me, don’t act like you forgot” could be seen as connected to reparations. However, if you just read the lyrics without prompt, it is hard to find such a commentary. Again, I am open to being corrected, but the song seems pretty straightforwardly about Rihanna asserting her position as a top female performer, demanding her money (respect and recognition) and warning other artists hoping to displace her in the pantheon of top female artists that they need to check themselves.

Such a reading of her song makes much more sense and seemingly better accommodates lines like “Ballin’ bigger than LaBron” and “Louis XIII and it’s all on me, n***a you just bought a shot/ Kamikaze if you think that you gon’ knock me off the top.” Or consider this line: “Every time I drive by, I’m the only thing you’re playin'”. Again, please correct me/inform me if I am missing something, but I do not see how these lines have anything to do with reparations.

Why has this article been bugging me so much today? Because the author sets the stage with these lines:

“I also think this song is a powerful and politically charged anthem calling for reparations owed by white America for the wrongs and the legacy of slavery. …I haven’t been able to listen to the track without considering the powerful implications it has for this particular moment in popular culture. We are living in a time where it is impossible to dismiss the legacies of colonialism, slavery and violence, which shape lives and worlds in the present.”

That’s some pretty highfalutin talk. I agree that the legacies of colonialism, slavery, and violence have shaped the world in ways that justify considering radical forms of reparation. I agree that popular culture can have an important role in larger social discussion of such topics. I just don’t see how #BBHMM fits this billing. To describe the song as “powerful” and “politically charged” does a disservice to songs that are actually, you know, “powerful” and “politically charged.” And let me be clear, I’m not trying to pass judgment on the quality of the song nor Rihanna’s ability as a singer. I’m just passing judgment on the author of the post for suggesting that this song is about reparations.

You know, as I’ve typed this, I’ve been thinking about the text the author received from her “close friend and hip hop scholar”: “Can we think of bbhmm as a reparations song?” Perhaps the author of the text has something completely different in mind. For example, if I got myself worked up while giving an impassioned defense of reparations, I could see how this song may be a bit cathartic, even if it didn’t quite capture my feelings. Perhaps this is what the author of the text meant by it being a “reparations song”. But, is this song “about” reparation? I just don’t see it. Please correct me if I’m wrong.