My buddy Bullwinkle has been in a state of the most exquisite misery these past few weeks, and all because of the church-going woman in the white dress.
"I love that woman!" he groaned. "Nobody knows how much I love that woman!"
Actually, almost everybody knows how much Bullwinkle loves that woman because he has talked of nothing else since the first moment he laid eyes upon her. The only person who might not know would be the church-going woman in the white dress, herself.
That's because Bullwinkle has never had the nerve to speak to her.
"Why don't you at least introduce yourself?" I asked.
"I wouldn't know what to say," he whined. "She is like a model. She is like a movie star. She is like a, like a, like a television anchor woman!"
The two of us were nursing a couple of beers at the Old Briar Patch, one of our favorite watering holes. I paid, because we'd have gone thirsty otherwise. Besides, I pitied the man. Love, as singer Lou Rawls once observed, is a hurtin' thang.
"I wish," Bullwinkle said in a voice laden with tragedy, "I wish that I really understood women."
Then he bowed his head, heaved a tremendous sigh, and let bitter tears fall plop, plop, plop into his beer.
This, of course, was my cue. I reached under the table and brought out (ta da!) "The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman."
Now, I suppose I ought to be honest here. "The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman" didn't really seem like the type of book that could help a guy like Bullwinkle get to know a gal like the church-going woman in the white dress.
Shahrazad Ali, the author, claims she spent five years researching male/female relationships and then spent another three years writing her book.
"I will tell the truth about her [the black woman's] condition," Shahrazad Ali promises grimly. "Inside information which has never appeared in print will be revealed with clarity and speed."
But in truth, the book reads as though she flew into a rage late one night and whipped it out in a couple of hours. My own theory is that some woman done her wrong and "The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman" is Shahrazad's revenge.
Still, people talk about this book and talk about it. The author has been on TV and radio and has made a nationwide tour in order to share her insights. And it has sold far more copies than it ought to.
So: "I'll try anything," Bullwinkle exclaimed, seizing the book.
But, Bullwinkle and I found the book unbelievably ugly.
Shahrazad divides black women into four categories: First there is "the lower grade" woman, whose hair will be "greasy with a few specks of lint in it," whose posture is "that of a toad", and who uses deodorant occasionally.
Next there's "the average" woman, who is "fairly clean," prefers to get drunk on alcohol to getting high on drugs, and "feels most comfortable cooking collard greens."
Then, there's the "high-class" woman who is college-educated and owns a credit card, but who also "is a rat who behaves like a dog, while purring like a cat."
Finally, there is the woman who steeps herself in African culture, wears her hair in dreadlocks that smell, has ashy feet, uses no deodorant at all and rarely wears underwear.
"Nowhere," cried Bullwinkle with despair, "nowhere do I see anything in here about gentle, beautiful, and intelligent women like the church-going woman in the white dress."
But Shahrazad Ali wasn't finished yet. She writes further that the black woman will have to be trained to obedience and respect and she advises the black man to be firm.
"Women will flail against the mere idea of suggesting that the Blackman defend himself physically against the verbal attacks of the Blackwoman," she writes. "But," she continues reassuringly, "this directive is not for mentally unstable Blackmen. It is for serious minded adult Blackmen who are in control of all their faculties."
I tossed the book into the trash.
Bullwinkle rose to his feet.
"Where are you going now?" I asked.
"I'm going to find the church-going woman in the white dress," he answered. "And give her some flowers. And do everything I can to let her know that this is one man who understands women at least well enough to know that the author of this book is seriously ill."
And with that, he marched out of the door.