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Married ten years to a Haitian woman, I could not help but see that the subject of racism had gradually become a source of alienation between us. I present her story here, in her own words, as a way to give voice to her concerns and, perhaps, to come to grips with my difficulty in more deeply sharing her experience as a woman of color.

It surprised me when my husband, Michael, an American, started to feel exhausted listening to tales of racism in my life as well as various run-ins with same in New York City. What do you do when your partner seems out of sync with a core part of yourself? I have been an active participant in trying to right society’s wrongs: fighting against the marginalization of the Palestinians, working to get out the vote in black communities and, as a judge in Haiti, refusing to accept the institutionalized discrimination against people without means. So, I initially tried to be patient with him, forcing myself not to scoff or roll my eyes at his Pollyanna-ish views but, after a while, the truth was undeniable: I was getting sick and tired of my husband’s so-called racism fatigue.


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I realized I was definitely getting older when my nasolabial folds started resembling crevasses so deep that my nose became an afterthought. Older, in my mind, did not mean old, although the distinction may be suspect. Being older only made me realize that I wanted to live a lot longer. Perhaps not as long as Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived past the age of 122, recently profiled in the New Yorker. But longer! Wondering if there was anything I could do to postpone my eventual demise beyond avoiding refined sugar and exercising every day, I flirted with certain cryonic alternatives but that seemed more on the road to denial than acceptance of the inevitable. …


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Erika said that “we needed to talk.” Worse words I cannot imagine coming from a girlfriend. She was breaking up with me. She hewed close to the line of “it’s not you, it’s me.” We had been together four and a half years, starting in college and continuing through our first jobs in the real world. She said that she didn’t have the chance to find out who she was, to develop herself more fully, to try things she never had. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I thought that I would never find anyone as good, as cool, as beautiful as her. I would never do better, of that I was sure. So, feelings of anger and humiliation led me down a path which, perhaps, many of you are familiar with when getting dumped. …


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There are so many misconceptions about me. Over the millennia, I have yearned for people to know who I am really am. But how can I feel close to my subjects when I am like a Mr. Potato Head, with people adding or subtracting features to fit their own tastes? So, I appreciate this opportunity to vent, to help me be the best God I can be.

Not Everything Happens Because Of Me

It used to please me that my subjects believed that everything happened through my Divine Will. But that’s always been a double-edged sword. It’s not my bad that human beings are slaughtering each other because they believe in different versions of me. Can you believe Shiites and Sunnis splitting hairs over their differences and murdering each other in my name? …


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We got engaged just to stop the nagging from our parents. Then, the incessant, insipid questions started.

Do you have a wedding date?

Who is going to throw your bachelor/bachelorette party?

Where are you going on your honeymoon?

When are you going to have kids?

All these questions were asked by friends and relatives with smiles so sickeningly sweet that you wanted to bitch slap every last one of them.

Barbara, my fiancée, being quite polite, managed to keep a smile plastered on her face for all these interrogatories, so much so that she feared the onset of facial paralysis. I, on the hand, began having trouble hearing what people were actually saying. It was as if their voices were being spoken underwater. Even though questions elicited a “Huh,” or “Could you say that again,” that did not discourage them from persisting in peppering me with their banal, bourgeois questions. …


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Loretta and Mick are driving down a lonely highway one winter night. The purr of their Tesla contrasts with the rat-a-tat of hail splattering against the windshield. On a moonless night, all they can see is a small patch of pockmarked road ahead of them. While driving, Mick turns on the radio but there is only static. Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, he whistles a Sinatra tune played at the cocktail party they just attended. An unlit cigarette hangs from his mouth. A few specks of dandruff nestle on the shoulders of his sports jacket.

The blackness of the night unnerves Loretta, sending goosebumps down her spine. She turns up the heater, the warm air feeling like an embrace. She starts sniffing, detecting a familiar aroma. She is about to ask him about it when…kaboom!…brakes screeching…Loretta screaming…the car spinning…airbags exploding…the car winding up angled on the gravel shoulder of the road. …


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The aliens descended to earth many millennia ago. They chose to live below ground to escape the chaos of the primitive species above. Their civilization beneath the Grand Canyon is one of many throughout the world. Their technology has advanced far past that of the human race, allowing them to be self-sufficient in all aspects of daily life.

However, for the first time, their children have been suffering from a disease of unknown origin. Several children have died, which has shocked their community. The aliens have always been disease free and death is a choice their people make based on creating physical room for the next generation. …


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I always thought that in a romantic relationship, you were supposed to make your partner happy. But that belief did not seem to work out particularly well for me. It created tons of pressure, which compelled me to put their needs before mine. While this may seem like a good trait, it actually meant that I was defining myself based on my ability to make my partner happy.

Years ago, I was in a relationship with a girlfriend who struggled with depression. I pulled out all the stops to help her: finding a psychiatrist who took her insurance, giving her self-help books, buying her a gym membership. But nothing really worked. I felt a sense of powerlessness, the opposite of how I normally perceived myself. I was angry at her for “making” me feel that way but it seemed wrong to blame a person who is suffering. While play-acting the caring boyfriend, I started to emotionally withdraw, though she barely noticed, being consumed with her own problems. I shared my distress with a female coworker who was very compassionate and supportive. …


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My earliest perception of being older occurred when I decided to take the big step, something I had put off for months: asking for the senior discount when buying a ticket at the Regal Cineplex in Union Square. I anticipated that the agent would be incredulous at my claim and demand proof off my bona fides. When this did not happen and the agent just charged the lower price, I felt discombobulated. Could he not see what I see when I look in the bathroom mirror? A frisky colt, wizened but certainly no geezer. Was this clerk playing mind games with me? How dare he! But, wait, I was the one asking for the discount. …


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I have heard far too many tales of how poorly men deal with ending relationships. It hurts seeing the pain such behavior causes. One particular client, whom I treated for many years, exemplifies the inner workings of the modern male narcissist. He asked me to tell his story publicly, not just as penance but to help women avoid the trap men set for them and help men mend their ways (as he hopes he has). The following are his words, unedited.

I wanted to go out so badly with Chelsea, but she kept saying no. She heard about my reputation as a player and wasn’t interested. But I eventually wore her down by sending witty texts and passing along interesting blog posts and snippets from Times articles. Finally, she agreed to one date, which led to many more. I made it a practice of being available to her 24/7 for any reason; complimenting her slender yoga-toned figure and natural look; and giving her excellent advice on how to deal with the sexism on her job in commercial real estate. I told her early on how I could see us getting married and having kids. She was so accepting of my idiosyncrasies like occasionally reading while I eat; always having to sleep on the right side of the bed; and not liking to travel. She tolerated my whining about the constant demands of my family for financial help. She watched out for my health, discouraging me from consuming my usual repertoire of junk food, helping me beat my Snickers addiction. Gentlemanly discretion prevents me from mentioning our sexual relationship except to say there were no problems there. …

About

Michael Sands

Challenger of assumptions. People worker. Recovering nihilist.

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