The Black Man's Guide to Life

A righteous Black man ain't perfect, but he does his best.

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increase your pleasure.

8)…And Learn to Love Safe Sex

In 2010, the rate of new HIV infections for Black  men was 103.6 in every 100,000. That’s seven times higher than that of White men, twice that of Latino men and three times as high as Black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We shouldn’t need to say more, but clearly, some brothers haven’t gotten the message. Condoms are sexy; they add to the level of trust between you and your partner, who will know you care enough about her and yourself to make sure you’re both protected. Never ever skimp on this detail.

9) Settle Down (When You’re Ready)

You mastered the art of procuring late nights and early mornings and (hopefully) come through unscathed. Now what? Don’t be the proverbial 40-year-old at the club, chasing booty you’re old enough to have created. “We have to put more thought and more feeling into how we navigate the dating pool,” says Jozen Cummings, who writes about dating for the New York Post and the blog Until I Get Married. “The idea of taking advantage of the dating pool and the numbers is just wrong. We don’t date numbers.” That’s a good thing, because ratios don’t tell you anything about a woman’s character or the compatibility of the couple. They won’t speak to your, or her, maturity level or lack thereof. And what they won’t tell you is how to break your old player ways. Remember our point about honesty? It applies to strictly physical relationships, and it applies here.Compromise. It’s a huge word for somebody who’s only known the freedom of being able to do what he wants, when he wants and how. But there’s enjoyment in knowing how to give up a sliver of that freedom to accommodate someone else and receiving the same thing in return.

Be patient. Sometimes she’ll zag when you zig. Sometimes you just won’t get it no matter how much you try. Those are the moments when the fight-or-flight response tilts way to the right, but if you’re with the right person (key caveat there, bruh), you’ll see the value in Otis Redding’s maxim: Try a little tenderness. Be easy for a minute and hear her out, or give her the time and space to figure out how to best communicate with you. Again, rewards abound. By no means is that a comprehensive list of all the tools you’ll need to make it last forever. But it should help in the event you do bump heads with someone you actually want to hear say more than your name in a low, throaty groan.

10) Know That Fatherhood=Our Greatest Gift

When my youngest son moved to Connecticut with his older brother and me, I asked him if he was happy about the move. “Yes, Dad. Because I get to be with you.” And with that, everything about my adult life until that point—the incessant work on my career, the struggle to foster a sense of identity and discipline in two Black boys, my frustration with it all—was validated.

Brothers, you will never, ever do anything more rewarding than raising your children into healthy young men and women. Too often, discussions of Black fatherhood devolve into cursory recitation of ugly stats. What the statistics ignore is that the data doesn’t mean ALL Black fathers are deadbeat losers. The number of single dads with custody of their kids jumped by almost 400,000 between 1999 and 2009. It’s time for the narrative that brothers don’t hold up our end of the parenting bargain to change, and we have to be the ones to do it. “The biggest barrier we face is overcoming the stereotype that we’re not involved, and that we don’t participate. But this is not the only story,” says Frederick J. Goodall, founder of MochaDads.com, a blog and resource website for Black  fathers. Because of the absence of so many fathers, Black men who are parenting need to be more visible in our communities to help many of the children who don’t have male role models. The positive benefits to our community are immeasurable, as is the joy in hearing words such as,  “Because I get to be with you” from a child’s mouth.

Check out the National Fatherhood Initiative and All Pro Dad for resources. And that man in your life who needs a little chin check when it comes to his own daddy duties? Be man enough to give it to him.

Keith Reed is a senior editor at ESPN The Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @k_dot_re