What you need to know about that Saturday morning: I’d just finished a rousing round of quality time with myself. Look at me. Brave enough to allude to what I was doing but too prudish to spell it out. Walk with me here. I promise it has a point.
Anyway, there I was. Grinning, radiant, and ready to tackle the weekend. I slid open my phone’s screen for a quick morning scroll, only to find the last face I expected to see. Smack dab in the middle of my YouTube feed was the man who made me swear off men. Was this an episode of Black Mirror? Because I swore the same smile that convinced me to have drinks with him all those months ago sneered through the screen with smug judgement.
“How’s not going back to my hotel working for you now, Butterfingers?”
Back in college, when I would proclaim myself “getting thick” when the scale tipped 105 pounds, I received two formative insights about my style.
The first, from a rockhead boy I wanted desperately to love me. A boy who once, as I sat on my twin bed post-coitus, looked at my hips and declared “You know, sitting down, you could trick somebody into thinking you were thick.” Tells you everything you need to know about my self esteem at the time. Point being: his compliments came few and far between.
Anyway. I’m sure I was in some combo of a sweater, button-up, and low rise bootcut jeans—all from Express, thank you very much—he looked at me and said “You look good in the preppy/work clothes look.”
We live in a—categorically—absurd world. Where adults film themselves run-skip-jumping down the street for TikTok. And people surgically alter their faces because an AI-generated filter gave them an eyelid lift they really liked. Yet we can’t approach low stake activities—repeating outfits, eating alone, learning new physical skills as an adult—without blanket permission from strangers.
Please normalize this so I don’t feel weird.
What if you decided the thing, whatever it may be, is worth feeling a little weird? And you simply accepted it as the cost of doing what’s good for you?
When the tide turned on Love Jones? Can’t say. Just that it started as most terrible things do. On Twitter.
I’ll back up for the uninitiated.
Love Jones, the 1997 rom-dram-com starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long, was long hailed as a standard-bearer for onscreen black love. Carried by the leads’ sizzling chemistry and a soundtrack produced to get you laid, it often rolled off the tongues of Xers and Xillennials when asked their favorite movie.
Not to mention its…efficacy in the dorm rooms of black college students. “Come over and watch Love Jones“—predating Netflix and Chill by a decade.
So, what happened? The same thing that happened to everything we enjoyed before The Internet—see: symbolism, satire, and seduction. We sucked the joy right out of it.
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“When I’m consuming the internet, it feels like the agency dial has been turned to zero. Culture isn’t just in my mind, it’s steering my thinking. And as I spend more time online, I’m getting better at ascertaining the internet’s opinions instead of developing my own.”
For years, literal years now, I’ve struggled to effectively communicate my #1 problem with Internet Culture. I’ve said some version of “I need to hear myself think!” to friends over drinks as I explained leaving Twitter, but their polite smiles and nods left me feeling more like the Red String Conspiracy Board meme—or worse, a loathsome Free Thinker—than a reasonable adult asking reasonable questions about how we spend our time.