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Jean Grae Speaks to Your Concerns

by Jean Grae
Illustration by Kristen Radtke

Jean Grae Speaks to Your Concerns

Jean Grae
3 Snaps

Dear Jean,

My neighbors are building a fence, and the way the property line is drawn, their fence will have to cross over into my yard a little bit, so that one of my avocado trees will now hang over into their yard. The thing is, I love these avocados! I live on guacamole all summer! But now I won’t be able to eat them unless I go over to my neighbors’ yard and ask for them, which seems awkward. Plus, I’m sure they’ll be eating some of them, too, along with their yappy little dog and their (very rude) son. I don’t understand why the fence is necessary in the first place! They have plenty of privacy! Why do people need fences? But it’s probably bothering me too much. I mean, it’s just avocados, right? Am I being ridiculous? What can I do?

Across the fence,
Guacamole Lover
Pembroke Pines, FL

Jean responds:

Hey GL,

Did you know that Jason Mraz is an avocado farmer and supplies Chipotle with their cados? Well, I do. I have never brought that up without it being super awkward, so thank you for sending this question in. I feel so powerful right now. Listen, it’s reasonable to be sad about this. Those jammies are expensive and delicious! Here’s the deal. COMMUNICATE. It’s the golden fucking ticket to everything. You definitely don’t have to kick it with Yappy Pup and Rude Junior… and, of course, don’t just show up and be like, Gimme my cados, fam. I’m sure y’all can come up with some sort of free cado-sharing system. Maybe you can offer them your sweet, sweet guac recipe. Maybe y’all will end up being cool. Who knows? The goal here is to “focus on the robbery, Thurgood.”1 Do what needs to be done. Then you’ll be sitting there eating your summer guac, all “OK. OK. OK.” Like Denzel. Fences. Boom.


 

Hi Jean!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot: It’s hard to think of older black women in my life whom I admire and who don’t overwork themselves by juggling career pressures with community work and family obligations. How would you recommend that we, as black women, work toward balancing our lives?

Cassie O.
Philadelphia, PA

Jean responds:

Hi Cassie.

O-h, shit. O-verwork, indeed! You see what I did there. This past month, I allowed work stress to overwhelm and ruin an important family moment. It sparked what is now the first realistic routine of balance I’ve ever had: Making time for myself, my mind, sleep (whaaat?). Making time for those I love and those who love me. Making time is huge. Making guilt-free time is even humongouser. It’s the work of not feeling guilty, or like failures, when we’re not doing two thousand things. We’re not here to save the whole universe. (I mean, we will anyway, but only if we’re well rested, hydrated, and feel like it.) We are here to save ourselves so that we can create a universe full of beautiful things. The first beautiful thing inside that universe has to be us.

This would be a good superhero: a black woman who shows up to epic battles, powers a-blazing… and saves only herself. I’m here for that shit. I mean, maybe she could go back and save people. Or just decide which epic battles coincide with her sleep schedule. Or not.

Cassie, we gotta take more naps. Math is the key to the universe, but so are naps.

Naps, wine, skin routines, water, and self-honesty. Stretching. Stretching too.

 


Hello Jean,

I’m a man and I’ve started dating another guy, but I don’t yet know how we fit together… sexually. We’re both pretty masculine/butch men who have never had sex with men. How do we figure out what our roles are? Which one of us is a top? And if one of us is a top, does this mean that one of us has to be a bottom? Can both of us be tops, or both bottoms, to share the load?

Kareem
Minneapolis, MN

Jean responds:

Kareem.

Ohh [claps hands and jumps up and down], I’m so excited for you and this new time in your life! AIR HORNS, AIR HORNS! Sorry for being loud. I get excited when people are exploring new possibilities. I absolutely did not start singing “A Whole New World” just now. Nope. So. What to do? EXPERIMENT. Try this! Try that! Try everything! See what makes you feel good! See what doesn’t makes you feel good! Aaannnnnd [drumroll] be vocal. Be vocal and be fucking honest. I’m not a believer in just “going with it” to please anyone, or to not hurt feelings. Be mindful of emotions, especially in intimate moments. Also know that what might work for you both in this Erotic Discovery Zone doesn’t have to determine the kind of lover you’re going to be in the future with anyone else. It will open doors to things, but that’s really the deal. Just be open to being open. I am winking at you not subtly at all. Have a BLAST!


Dear Jean,

I had a bad breakup a few years ago. I have recently decided that in romantic matters, I’ll be fine regardless of whether or not someone wants me, meaning that I’ll never be devastated by one person ever again. This attitude has served me well in some ways, but I feel like there’s no arc to my romances anymore since I have so little invested. How do I balance my desire for love and connection with my need for safety and protection?

Suzanne F.
Chicago, IL

Jean responds:

Suzanne, you made me pour a glass of wine before answering [long exhale].

First, love doesn’t build walls. Fear builds walls [showcase hands to America]. Protection isn’t synonymous with avoidance. Your safety IS important, but the biggest part of your safety and protection is acknowledging when you’re hurt and DEALING with it. You wouldn’t break an arm riding a moped, not go to the doctor, and just never get on a moped again. That wouldn’t solve anything. Thirteenth, being “fine” isn’t enough. You deserve more. You deserve to un-devastate yourself so that you can be available not just for romantic love but for everything.

You’re missing experiences that could make you soar. I don’t want you to fucking miss them. We all deserve great story arcs, fulfillment, growth, connections, and reciprocated emotional investments. I have been damaged, broken (emotionally, physically, mentally), and devastated many times. Vulnerability is hard, but it’s not a weakness, I promise you. Suzanne, we all have to heal and deal. That’s my campaign slogan. It’s a great slogan. I wish I could run for president in 2024, ’cause I know Kanye is gonna run and it’s giving me anxiety. In conclusion: Therapy is cool. Kanye is not cool.


Hi Jean,

Why do time zones exist? I’m having a hard time grappling with the concept. They feel hella arbitrary.

Jose Q.
Oakland, CA

Jean responds:

TIME IS AN ILLUSION, JOSE. A GODDAMN ILLUSION! THE PRESTIGE! A CHARADE! THE CHARLATAN OF THE EAST!


Dear Jean,

What do you do when you’re raised in an international cult and the cult leader is tried in criminal court on a number of heinous charges? My family is split between those who fervently believe in this person and a smaller number who choose to remain quiet. I belong to the latter group. What should I do?

Dalila
Bethlehem, PA

Jean responds:

Dalila,

Well, damn. My husband and I are obsessed with watching a lot of documentaries about cults. This is involved, emotional, and whoa. I’m going to say this, and of course you don’t have to take this advice from a stranger in an advice column, BUT… [clenches fists] I hope you do speak up.

Please speak. Please say something. Please find the strength for yourself, for anyone else who may not feel empowered to do so but whom you might inspire to also be strong. That’s how things change. With complacency and silence, people get hurt. People die. Not just in cults, but that’s how everything changes. EVERYTHING. E-V-E-R-Y F-U-C-K-I-N-G THING. Historically. Change the course of history. It’s worth everything. It’s worth losing things. I’m not fucking around with this answer. I was potentially gonna joke and ask you if the leader had a good cult ponytail, but I’m not gonna. I believe in you. Be strong. Be brave. SPEAK UP. Cut that motherfucker’s ponytail off in court.

1. Editor’s note: In Half Baked (1998), Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chappelle) and friends try to rob a weed lab, which is not at all like what you’re trying to do, Guacamole Lover. Unless this avocado story is a ruse to rob a cannabis dispensary? In which case… don’t. Also, don’t ever slip up and call weed “guacamole” to sound cool. Speaking from personal experience, people will think you’re corny. There are lots of other words for green stuff you can use: tree, grass, bud, herb, broccoli, cabbage, The Grinch, Ninja Turtle. If I were you I would try tennis ball or Saint Patrick’s Day party favors or go light.  
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