Most Sundays I just post a sample and let it speak for itself. This time, I wanted to tell you a little more about why I wrote this book. I had a couple of creative inspirations, as I mentioned in a previous blog, and this book came out of me and poured onto the page in less than a week because of that inspiration. But in addition to the folks that helped this idea germinate, for a while I’ve observed something interesting: while some Black women have been bemoaning the lack of “good men” there is a segment who see that problem from a unique perspective–meeting men who are perfectly “good” but who think that by virtue of her individual success somehow, she would not consider them as partners. And of course, there’s always the segment of friends and family who are beating that drum as well and reinforcing the “scarcity of men” message, but particularly for women who are successful in their own right.
I have a friend who was planning to buy a house and her mother told her not to because then “men will think they can’t do anything for you that you can’t do yourself.” Her mother was basically telling her not to price herself out of the market! (She went ahead and bought the house, by the way).
Another variation on this theme comes when, like Ivy, a successful woman meets a man whose own success is comparatively modest and he starts hearing our society’s mantra in his head about men having to be the breadwinner and provider so the relationship goes awry either because he begins to feel competitive with his woman, or simply insecure. And of course it’s not always the man’s fault. I personally know a couple women who thought they were prepared to be in a relationship with a man with less than them, and who later found out that it was they who were hearing that mantra about men providing and they who came to resent their man for not being that person. One friend complained to me about her man not being able to cover the full cost of an expensive tropical vacation she’d planned for them.
Now, of course my little book doesn’t give any answers to this dilemma, but it was a lot of fun describing all the troubling questions that arise. Anyway, I hope you’ll check it out. And to help encourage you to do that, here’s a little snippet of ‘Ivy’s League’.
From ‘Ivy’s League’:
He was there for almost thirty minutes, standing by himself near the bar before Ivy noticed he was gone. And when she did, Eli watched her look frantically around the room like someone who had just realized they misplaced their car keys or phone. Then she stood and finally located him, her shoulders sagging in relief. Leaning over to whisper something in Ryann’s ear, she gave a brief wave to Bernie and the other guy and then headed toward him.
“What’s the matter?” she mouthed when she was directly in front of him.
Over her shoulder, back over at the sofas, Eli saw Ryann shake her head and roll her eyes.
“I’m tired, Ivy,” he said loud enough so he could be sure she heard him. “It’s been kind of a long day.”
“Okay, so let’s go. Why didn’t you say something?” She took his hand and after one last wave in the direction of her friends, they left.
In the truck, Ivy immediately slid her shoes off her feet and curled them beneath her, using her coat as a blanket and resting her head on his arm. Eli’s minor irritation grew. He needed her to recognize his mood and respond to it; he didn’t want to have to tell her he was feeling crappy. As unfair as it was, that was what he felt like right now—and if Ivy wasn’t half-drunk and hadn’t been spending all her time with her friends she would have detected his mood ages ago. Because that was the way Ivy was with him—attentive, nurturing, intuiting what he wanted in and outside the bedroom.
In just a matter of weeks, Eli was strung out on that, and on her. He wanted her all the damn time, and it frustrated him that in watching her with her friends tonight, he realized something—it wasn’t the same for her. She had a complete other life without him in it. If he wasn’t there, she would find a Bernie to fill his slot in an instant.
“How much did you drink?” He was picking a fight and he knew it. But if he was uncomfortable, he was damned if she wasn’t going to be uncomfortable too.
“I can’t even remember. We started early, like I told you. Ugh. I better get lots of water in me tonight.”
“Right. Because I don’t want you hung over at my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner.”
At that, Ivy sat up and looked at him. “I’ll be fine for tomorrow. All I need is a lot of water.”
“Because you’ve done this before, I guess.”
“Done what before, Eli? Gone out with friends and had a couple too many. Yeah, I guess I have. But only very occasionally. Unless you forget, I have Jaden most of the time, so it’s not like this is a habit or something.”
“And what about that Bernie guy? Him hanging on you like that, is that a habit?”
“Eli.” Ivy’s voice was firm and she sounded completely sober all of a sudden. “Stop it. What is it? What’s really going on?”
And at that, he deflated. Eli’s heart contracted with a strong emotion he recognized all too well. Except this was stronger, deeper than anything he’d felt before. This was so strong, so deep he could almost feel it choking him. She knew him. She knew him. It had been no time at all, and she could read him like a book.
“Bad day,” he managed. “That’s all.”
Ivy reached out and touched his cheek. “Sorry to hear that, baby,” she said, stroking him there. “Want to talk about it?”
Eli told her about the check bouncing and about the overdraft, about his fears for the winter and about Zion’s school fee. On any other day, he might not have thrown that part in, but what the hell? The weight of it felt like too much sometimes, and Ivy was always there, wanting to lighten the load.
“I’ll take care of it,” she said unexpectedly.
“Take care of what?”
“All of it. I’ll loan you some cash until you clear things up, and then …”
“No. I’m not letting you pay my son’s school fees. My bank fees.”
“I’m doing neither of those things. I’m loaning you some money for a couple weeks, and that’s all.”
“What’s the difference?” Eli snapped, his voice sharper than intended.
“The difference is I’m not giving you something you wouldn’t otherwise have, I’m just helping you stop the bleeding until you can catch up with the person who put you in this mess.”
“And if I don’t? If they don’t pay me right away? Then I’ll owe you.”
“And wouldn’t you rather?” Ivy challenged. “Wouldn’t you rather owe me than Woodmore? Than the bank?”
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t.”
“Then you’re an idiot,” Ivy said. This time she was the one who snapped.
She pulled away, leaning against the passenger side door rather than on him, and neither of them spoke for the rest of the way to her house, which was saying something since the ride was not a short one. Once there, Ivy got out before him, walking barefoot to the front door and letting herself in, leaving it open for Eli to follow.
He had spent many nights here before, and was familiar with every room now, but tonight it felt foreign. Its … niceness was an affront. The high ceilings he admired, the granite countertops in the kitchen and pristine floors throughout were all trumpeting his failure and crying out her success. Eli dropped his overnight bag at the foot of the stairs leading to the second level, considering whether he should stay.
“Do you want one?” Ivy was standing in front of her Viking refrigerator, holding a bottle of water up to him.
“No thanks,” Eli shook his head. “Look …” he began. In the kitchen, her back to him as she stood in front of the open fridge, Ivy froze, waiting. “I think I’m just going to head out. I need to be alone tonight. Tomorrow I’ll just come before dinner to get …”
“No.” Ivy turned and shut—no, slammed—the refrigerator door.
It was Eli’s turn to freeze.
“You’re staying here,” she said. “That’s what we planned and that’s what we’re doing. I’m not letting you go off somewhere and lick your wounds because you had a bad day and God forbid, I’m in the financial position to help. No, Eli. We are not doing that. You’re not leaving.”
He gave a brief laugh. “Ivy, what the … what’re you going to do? Physically prevent me?”
She came from behind the kitchen counter and stood in front of him. “Of course, I can’t do that,” she said, and her lips were trembling.
Feeling like an asshole, Eli put a hand at the side of her face. “Look, don’t … don’t cry or anything, a’ight? You just don’t understand, Ivy. As a man, I can’t …”
“Stand the idea that I might have something you don’t? That I can help when you need it? No, I don’t understand—you’re right. What if the situation were reversed? Would you want to help me?”
“Of course. But that’s what a man is supposed to do!”
“And a woman is supposed to be her man’s helpmate.”
Eli exhaled and ran a hand over his head, removing his knit cap and resting it on the foyer table. His coat he removed and hung in the coat closet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ivy’s shoulders relax now that she knew he wasn’t leaving.
“C’mon,” he said, taking her hand and grabbing his bag. “Let’s just go upstairs and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”
By her slight hesitation, Eli knew that Ivy’s impulse was to insist that they stay and talk it out. But it didn’t matter how long they talked, or what she said. He wasn’t taking her money. To do so would make him feel small, and that wasn’t what he wanted to feel with her. That was too much like the place he’d been before.