Author has the audacity to write truth about men

June 29, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Into the battle between the sexes -- black men and women, specifically, but everybody else is included too -- leaps Valerie Shaw to drop some literary bombs of her own. But don't expect any black male-bashing from her.

Call Shaw's book, "Himpressions: The Blackwoman's Guide to Pampering the Black Male," the brothers' revenge. Shaw is no Terry McMillan. The "Himpressions" author does not see women as perpetual victims of scheming, conniving, worthless men. Shaw had the audacity to write a truth that men -- of all races -- have known for some time now: that in the love sweepstakes, nice guys not only do not finish last, they don't even place. The fact is, they can't even move for being trampled and crushed by those women stampeding to get at the heels.

Sitting in the back of the Vertigo bookstore in Washington, Shaw was holding court as a group of four men and seven women clustered around her. Dressed in a yellow and black jumpsuit and looking much younger than her 52 years, she railed against what she calls the FAAWABA (Ferocious African-American Woman with a Bad Attitude).

"FAAWABAs avoid me like the plague," Shaw said. "They insist there are no good men. There are good men. It's just that the rotten ones get all the attention. We have not given nice brothers a chance."

To illustrate her point, Shaw told of one young man who visited in a shoeshine and repair salon she owned in Los Angeles. He was quiet, drove a Volkswagen and was ignored by women who patronized the shop because he wasn't a flashy dresser.

"He was the nicest guy in the world," Shaw remembered, and apparently quite rich. He just didn't flaunt his money, until one day when he drove up in a Rolls-Royce and "was dressed to the nines," Shaw said. "And the women went crazy."

It is Shaw's mission to end such foolishness. She wants WAAWABAs (Wonderful African-American Women with a Bright Attitude) and nice guys "to find each other." FAAWABAs and men who are dogs should "be buried in the same hole."

Such radical notions have made Shaw a pariah to some women. She was booed off the Montel Williams show. (Can there be any greater endorsement for her book than that?) One woman approached Shaw with a nasty query as she held a midnight book-signing at the post office in the days when she had to self-publish her work.

"What do you mean writing a book about pampering black men?" the woman snarled. "You should write one about pampering black women." The indignant damsel then climbed into her Lexus and drove off -- alone, Shaw couldn't help but notice.

Is the book that offensive? Only if you buy into the "woman as perpetual victim" school of thought, which Shaw rejects. Her comments on the subject are not only cogent, but evenhanded:

If I had a dollar for every woman I've met who has been hurt olied to, I'd hold the keys to Atlantic City. The same applies to my good Brothers. We've all been down that road.

Further, in addition to being victims, most of us have been victimizers.

OK, maybe not yesterday. But remember that super-nice guy, the smart one who helped you with your freshman algebra?

How many dates did you break with him after the football star hinted that he might be free Saturday night?


I'm also fond of this particular passage, as regular readers of this column may guess:

Without assigning blame, I'd just like to point out that somewhere between our own bad experiences and all the bad news bombarding us, we have bought into the stereotypes about Blackmen, and we have sold them short.

Blackwomen have fashioned for themselves a manless matriarchy, and a Brother doesn't have a chance.

(Most Sisters today have stopped breathing life into their relationships. They are merely "waiting to exhale.")

Women who read the title of Shaw's book and think they are getting something similar to Shahrazad Ali's "Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman" will be in for a surprise. You won't find Shaw urging men to slap women around during a quarrel. Quite the contrary, Shaw urges women to spot such men early on and dump them immediately: When Brother-Dog kicked the cat before we so much as left the flat for our first date, couldn't I see the next foot would be on me?

And those taken aback by the "p" word -- pampering -- also need not be alarmed. While Shaw lists "101 Ways to Pamper Your Blackman," she also has a list of "102 Ways to Pamper Your Blackwoman."

Shaw's book is written with wit, style, grace and, most important, balance -- like the true Libra she is. Anyone giving it a read will be pleasantly surprised.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

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