I can’t imagine, even in this hysteria over the scanty supply of single Black men, that any sister’s best bet for a relationship would be with a dude in prison. I just can’t. Barring him being a hubby or a serious boyfriend prior to his incarceration, there is nothing—not his golden-throated promises, not a miraculous behavioral transformation, not even his physical Idris Elba-esque magnificence—that could make sense of picking up a boo thang serving hard time in the pen.
I’m open to dating someone who’s gotten his act together post-release (and I’m not talking about two weeks after he hits the outside, either), but an inside man? No thanks. That’s just me, though. Because last week, news was electric with stories about Tavon White, the gang leader in a Baltimore jail who had 13 female corrections officers smuggling drugs, cell phones and other contraband in so that he and his cronies could continue to run their enterprise out in the liberated part of the world.
This guy was behind bars pulling in—according to his own braggadocio—$16,000 in a slow month. That’s an insult and a bummer. But the real kicker is that, detained and all, homeboy fathered five children with four of those women. (Yeah, somebody double dipped.) He’s been locked up since 2009. For attempted murder. And four women in positions of professional authority were so swayed by whatever the heck they were so swayed by that they risked their health, safety, careers and reputations—because their names are sure ‘nuff blasted all over the internet—to not only participate in his criminal underdealings but have babies by him.
Two of them even got tattoos of the man’s name, one on her neck. Lord Jesus, there’s a fire. I wring my hands in despair.
At this point, we could argue about better prison controls, the corruption of the corrections system, the misappropriation that allowed an inmate to operate a full-blown criminal enterprise from the discomforts of his danky little cell. But I want to know what kind of psychological superiority this man is outfitted with to make him able to pluck out women just vulnerable enough to go along with the go along and become his willing assistants.
There are so many questions, not the least of which is what these crestfallen gals will tell their poor babies when they get old enough to wonder about their daddy and what kind of remix their mamas will put on the story to make it seem like they weren’t all the way crazy.
I suspect, to a degree, they were under the influence of the bad boy syndrome. Depending on where you grew up, how you were raised and what kind of men you had in your life (if you had a father figure in your life at all), some of us have been more susceptible to it than others. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I went through that phase. If a dude looked like he could and would beat the brakes off of somebody and had attitude oozing from the top of his fitted to the soles of his Timberlands, I was all in. (Double that if he was from Brooklyn, Queens or Jersey.) There was magnetism between the quintessential church girl who didn’t so much as cuss and them block boys that my mother side-eyed on the street and re-warned me about when we got into the house.
I discovered, quick fast and in a hurry, that I wasn’t built for that life, though. The phone calls that paused to allow an automated voice to announce I had a call from a correctional facility, the letters asking me to put funds on books when I barely had gas money for myself, that didn’t move me. I also learned that, at 22, 23, my heartstrings weren’t strong enough to be committed to somebody who, by their own repeatedly foolish decisions, got knocked over and over and over again. I guess I wasn’t built ride-or-die tough.
Every so often, one of those young men will call me from the institution that’s incarcerating him somewhere in northern Pennsylvania. He’s ashamed of himself now, embarrassed to admit that, at 33, he’s an oldhead in an inmate population comprised of dudes that were just like him 10 years ago: loud, obnoxious and drunk off their own testosterone. And I empathize. I really do. But at the same time, I’m glad to be his girl friend, not his girlfriend. I hope these ladies learned their lessons, too. But I have a feeling that, given the dramatic circumstances, that bad boy love runs a little too deep to be gone so soon.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.