The first time I heard Alicia Keys, I was with my mother. She’s not half the music fan that her daughter turned out to be, but that didn’t keep Mama from getting wind of Keys’ first single, “Fallin,'” and playing it every. chance. she. got. In fact, she played it so often and so incessantly that if I never hear it again, I wouldn’t even be mad.
But there’s another song from that same debut album that I never tire of, “A Woman’s Worth.” Any girl can sing about the ups and downs of a first love, but the clarity and conviction that the 20-year-old Alicia summoned up to know her value, and demand that a man respect that reality, caught my attention and made it an all-time fave: “Wanna please wanna keep, wanna treat your woman right/Not just dough but to show she’s worth your time.You will lose if you choose to refuse to put her first. She will, if she can, find a man who knows her worth.”
It’s a message more of our girls need to be exposed to…..not accepting bare efforts minimum as they expend maximum attention when it comes to love and relationships. But instead, there is the growing mentality that women should go for ‘struggle love,’ a union that treats them like last season’s leftovers on a sales rack. Rihanna sang about “shining bright like a diamond,” but struggle love appraises that jewel of a lady as being no better than a cubic zirconia…..and then treats her like glass. I’ve admittedly been off the market for awhile, true enough, but when did a barrage of texts and emojis count as conversation? How did “Netflix and chill” move from a quiet evening with family to an actual first date?
That ‘fire sale’ approach and ‘take the crumbs or go hungry’ mindset is miserable enough, but marginal people using their fanbase and platform to degrade and threaten women is even worse. That’s what happened earlier this week when African-American rapper and producer Maurice Young, better known as Trick Daddy, made an expletive-filled video misogynistic rant and posted it on his Instagram page. He hasn’t had a hit in years and isn’t even the camera-friendly type, but that didn’t keep the self-proclaimed thug from stating his preference for “Spanish and white [expletives]” and how black women “ain’t achieving nothing,” aren’t “looking spiffy” and don’t have much of a skill set beyond frying chicken, so we need to “tighten up.” Self-hatred like Trick Daddy’s is a dangerous thing, especially when the women you come from also become caught in the crosshairs.
As a society and as a nation, we can’t stem the entire tide of ignorance and entitlement, but we all can do our parts: courting may be considered old-fashioned but dating should never go out of style. People who degrade others to make ends meet should catch scorn instead of new followers and yes, those of us with young people in our midst should model for them what out worth looks like, as both men and women.
Nia and Layla got a full-on demonstration of this when the second grader got a phone call from her friend James: “Hello young man, what’s your name?” Calvin asked during a break in the chat. “Hi James, you in Layla’s class? Good. You speak to her nicely and be cool alright? Cool.”
Our giggling daughters resumed the conversation, and time will tell whether or not our lessons are sinking in. But in the meantime, Daddy is modeling proper treatment and yours truly is helping to mold them into confident and capable young ladies. And yes, on occasion we all still rock that vintage Alicia Keys.