I’s Forty Now.

I can always conjure it up in my mind: Shug Avery running through the field next to her Shugfather’s horse and carriage calling out, “I’s married now!” thinking it would set things right with him and erase years of abondoned children, carousing, and the kind of sexual experimentation that went against her upbringing. Shug tried it, but it didn’t quite work in the moment. I’m no Shug Avery (yet), but I did just celebrate a milestone birthday and it may not erase everything that happened from 0-39, but it is a sign I may need to stop doing some things, do a few things differently, and start doing others. I’s forty now.

I was walking and thinking today. I thought about some behaviors I should definitely end and wondered about some experiences I haven’t had that I should definitely add to my bucket list. I compiled a short list in my head and will likely add to it over time.:

1. I need to buy better panties. Not that I was wearing someone’s great-grandmother’s bloomers with the ruffled elastic arond the knees, but at forty, I definitely need to make sure I stay in the pretty panty section and ignore the all-too-familiar call and draw of the four pack of cottony soft Jockeys hanging on the wall. I mean, I’m forty now, I need the special panties displayed in the bins that are 5 for $20. I think I’ve earned it. I’m moving on from the pack of four for $10 to the upscale draws that cost $4 per pair. Shoot, I’m feeling fancier just making this declaration. How can I really expect to enjoy forty if I’m wearing the panties of a thirty-nine year old?

2. I need to buy a bigger TV. For years, I said my 27″ TV was more than sufficient. I’m not one obsessed with the newest electronics, though I dig convenience and technology in general. I could see the picture, it was paid for, and just because it had the old school tubing and humongous back making it impossible to place it flush with the wall, I kept rockin’ with it anyway. A year and a half ago, I invested in a flat screen, thinking I was moving up the TV hierarchy. It is 32″ inches, which is better than a 27″, but it turns out it  is the same size TV most folks I know buy for their small children’s bedrooms. That makes me just a little ashamed of myself, so I’m thinking at forty, it’s time for a grown up sized TV on which to watch my grown up programs. Now, if I could just convince myself a one-time TV cost will not interfere with my shoe shopping hobby…

Forty3. I should invest in a few high end garments for my closet. Though I will never be too old for a fantastic deal or a quick outfit that probably won’t hold up past the night its needed, a good white button up shirt, a black skirt, some black slacks, and a black blazer all made from quality material are items any self-respecting forty year old should have in the closet. It is time for me to go into the grown up store and make things happen.

4. I need to schedule a mammogram. Forty became super real for me when my health care provider’s automated system called me early in the morning the day after my birthday to remind me it was time for me to schedule an appointment to have my boobs smashed between two cold hard plates while a stranger watches and takes pictures of my inner tit. Apparently, the proper name is mammogram. I know it will not be an amazing experience, but it’s necessary, boob health is imperative, and this x-ray is going to help me make stay close to my fitness plans. I just wish there was some sort of box I could stick my boob in instead, but alas, I’m on my way to get them squeezed, and not in the way I like.

5. I need a home bar stocked with high end liquor. When I was a kid, I watched many shows with characters who would come home, loosen a tie or take off some heels, then make a b-line to the home bar to pour a good drink from a fancy decanter. I always thought it strange because I grew up in a house with a mother who didn’t drink, but now, I dream of having such a well-stocked bar in the comfort of my living room. Top shelf alcohol, a cute rolling bar, and some pretty decantors to make me feel fancy are now on my Things To Buy at Forty list. I want to walk in the door and unwind like George and Weezy these days instead of coming home to a Capri Sun mixed with some $5 vodka. I have to do better.

6. I need to buy a grown up bed. When I bought my first bed, I was so proud of myself. I got it at a legitimate furniture store, it wasn’t crafted from wood slats and cinder block, and I even had to work a little overtime to pay for it. What I didn’t consider while I was congratulating myself on my new bed was the fact I needed a mattress and box spring to accompany it. Now strapped for cash after buying the actual bed, I had to find myself a cheap mattress and box spring. I asked around and called a few folks and was referred to a local furniture store that sold what I needed for  little money. It was in my price range, so I went for it. That was about twelve years ago. So, for the longest time, I was sleeping on a bed probably made to last no longer than two  years. At least I can say I got my money, and probably someone else’s money, out of it. When I moved from my last place, a friend and I threw the mattress and box spring down the stairs and giggled at the destruction. This time, I will buy a grown up bed that costs a grown up SALE price, and I will sleep well and bask in my forty year old woman-ness while experiencing the comfort of my purchase. It is the least I can do for my reputation as a respectable adult and for my 40 year old back.

Forty feels good so far. The past 18 days have been filled with some interesting ups and downs (mostly ups), but I know the privilege of this age is coupled with a responsibility to be better and live better and I plan to do just that.

Over-Activism

For three or four days, I was heavily engaged in conversations about the ridiculous Donald Donald SterlingSterling debacle. I engaged in verbal conversations and argued, advocated, and admonished via Facebook about various aspects of racism, racial discrimination, being recorded unwittingly, “chick on the side” status, lawsuits, bans, and fines. I was pretty tuckered out after a few days, so I had to bow out of any further discussions to assure my head wouldn’t explode prematurely (yes, it will probably happen one day anyway).

While the exchange of ideas about Sterling was going on, I was tapped on the shoulder by other tweets and Facebook status updates and reminded that I should stop talking about the racist NBA franchise owner and instead turn my attention to the over 250 girls who were the victims of a mass kidnapping in Nigeria. So, I took a break from racism in America and took time to talk about these babies, the danger they are facing, the cruelty of selling bringbackthem for about $12 apiece to a bunch of creepy grown men, the lack of respect for girls and women, and the seeming inaction of various entities in facilitating the search and rescue necessary to bring them home. I was at the height of my tirade when I was reminded that I’m still supposed to be indignant over the disappearance of a whole plane full of whole people, irate over the lack of equal pay for women for equal work, furious with the Supreme Court for the way it seems to be chipping away at Affirmative Action, sad over the loss of life from the South Korean ferry that sunk, vigilant about conserving water for the drought here in Northern California though a lot of that would be solved if we weren’t still routing so much of our water to Southern planeCalifornia, worried about the plight of black youth in America while daily crying over Trayvon Martin, and a whole bunch of other tomfoolery that plagues my life and the lives of those around me. All I am really trying to do is figure out when I’m supposed to sleep, eat, or work if I’m expected to spend my every waking moment fighting causes, signing petitions, weeping openly, and going into verbal tirades based in righteous indignation. The truth is – I’m tired.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m being pursued, arrested, charged, tried, and imprisoned by the Care Police; those folks in social media, in one’s family, and sometimes, right in one’s home, who are constantly telling everyone where there concerns should lie. If too much focus is in one area, members of the Care Police force will swoop right in to tell others they shouldn’t be talking about reality show stars’ adult film forays but should instead be worried about global warming and all the hungry children in some third world county. They will remind folks they aren’t really as black or as conscious or as down as they could or should be because they are wondering if the missing white girl of the day has been found instead of worrying and wringing their hands over the missing girls in Nigeria. It doesn’t matter that one is capable of being concerned about ALL the girls, the new social networking requirement indicates one must comply and show verbally and/or written forms of their concern for the cause du jour, according to the Care Police official agenda. With all these spoken and unspoken expectations, it’s is amazing if one can complete any task from start to finish when her care rations are so thinly spread.

To maintain my sanity and to feel like my level of concern is relevant and my resulting actions effective, I’ve learned to break away from the self-righteous grasp of the Care Police and develop my own ideas about how to deal with the craziness of the day. Social helpactivism starts in the home. One doesn’t need petitions, picket signs, and scathing emails to get that started. Take up the cause of being aware before obsessing over everything else. Ask the question, “Am I meaningfully connected to those close to me? Do I help my friends and family?” Starting there and THEN working one’s way outward to the more far reaching issues of the world is the most reasonable plan of action. It makes no sense to first worry about what happened abroad or in the next state over if one’s best friend is suffering. Though ALL these issues matter, starting where one can do the most to help is the best way to influence people and circumstances.

My toddler niece was scheduled for a surgical procedure today and another young relative of mine is in a hospital now getting a picc line that will hopefully be the cure for what ails him. My friends and family are concerned, anxious, and worried. How can I overlook that and spend the majority of my time with my mind on Nigeria, South Korea, racist rhetoric, and everything else crazy happening right now when the people I love the most are close enough for me to help RIGHT NOW?

Make no mistakes about it; I absolutely care about kidnapped girls, disappearing planes, ferries sinking, and wealthy racists with influence over the well-being and progress of black and brown people. I will always rage against the tomfoolery of the day, be it local or international. However, I realize what I do to counteract those things means absolutely nothing if I step over my sister laying in the street to get to my flight to go fight trouble outside my home. Who am I if not the keeper of those I proclaim to love?

It is no easy feat to get past the pressure of those ever-diligent Care Police officers, but once one is aware of her purpose and the place where her care can be placed most effectively, it is simpler to drown out the self-righteous rantings and get in where one fits in. My best fit is right in my own home first.

 

Lupita For the Win…Or Something.

PeopleSo, I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and saw actress, Lupita Nyong’o, made the cover of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People edition. I glanced at the picture, smiled because I think it definitely bodes well for her, and kept scrolling. The next day, a Facebook acquaintance posted People’s article about Nyong’o with a caption that said, “Black Women FTW (For The Win).” Though I certainly think pulling the cover of People’s famous issue is a wonderful move for her career, I am unable to concede Lupita’s present popularity trickles down to the average black woman like me and I don’t believe I need it.

When Halle Berry “won” the Academy Award for best actress, I sat in my living room clapping confusedly and wondering how and why it happened. She graciously accepted the award, spoke of how honored she was, and called the names of the black women who paved the acting road before her. It was a really historical moment, but the next day at work, nobody cared about Halle’s win. My boss didn’t treat me differently, my coworkers didn’t throw down any rose petals to cover my path, and I still had to do the same work I’d been doing for years. What it boiled down to was  that award was really only a benefit to Halle. It didn’t really work for me despite my black woman status. The same thing applies to Lupita.

A wonderful reminder and living example of black women’s beauty, Lupita’s presence has been a welcome change from the status quo of celebrity black beauty. With her dark skin, short natural hair, and slight frame, she is showing mainstream America a display of beauty black folks have always known existed. I see Lupita every day. In the grocery store, at the hair salon, in my workplace – everywhere there are beautiful black women who live outside the small parameters of the definition of beauty we never created and by which we  should not have to adhere. All heights, body types, skin tones, hair textures and colors,  clothing styles, etc…are represented whenever I leave the house and every last one of these women possesses that same type of unfettered beauty Nyong’o exudes on each red carpet she graces.

So, since I’ve touted the goodness of Lupita and her People Magazine cover, it probably sounds like I think she is helping to expose the mainstream world to the beauty of black women thereby making all our little black lives better, but I don’t think that’s the case and even if it were, I wouldn’t care. Though I believe her presence has sparked some previously uncommon conversations among some, I do not believe her success is a win for black women overall. For me, to concede that would mean black women have just been sitting around for  years waiting for mainstream America (white folks) to think we’re pretty, to value our beauty, and to recognize it in the media and on the runway and I just don’t think that’s true.

Beauty among black women is not new or rare. It is a staple of our makeup. We were beautiful as rulers of nations, as slaves oppressed by the indecent and hateful, as maids and nannies caring for white children while sending our own to babysitters, as teachers, attorneys, lawmakers, cooks, and any other profession. That beauty did not need, and still doesn’t need to be validated by white folks. It is real and always will be. So, to me, Lupita’s popularity and visibility on the red carpet and runway isn’t a win for black women, though I love seeing here there. It is a win for everyone else who refused to see our beauty and is now faced with its reality. Now they know what we always did.  You’re welcome.

 

 

Will Moo for Marriage

free milkA few days ago, I had a conversation with my mother about unmarried couples living together. She immediately poo poo’d the idea and gave me the typical, “Oh, no. A woman shouldn’t move in with a man. Then he will never marry her. Why buy the cow…?” I put up a quick protest, but the thought of arguing any further made me tired. The milk and cow argument is old and no matter what kind of facts one may have to refute it, those who subscribe to traditional ideas of relationships and gender roles generally shut down before there is a chance to present a logical counterpoint.

I mean, we’ve all heard it, right? A mother, grandmother, aunt, or good friend tells another woman what she should and should not “give up” sexually in a relationship lest the man take complete advantage and cease to think of her as long-term relationship material. “Dress down, pants up” is what my grandmother always said and it seems to be the general rule to which women are expected to adhere. Prim, proper, pious, pent up, and pitiful is the way to go if a woman wants to marry herself off – at least, that is what the popular school of thought says.

I have never liked the cow saying. What woman wants to be thought of as a big, fat, boxy, and sometimes smelly, cow? Who wants to be a lowly heifer slowly moving along with the sole purpose of providing nothing but fresh milk to the masses? On a more serious note, I have a problem with the way the saying implies a man is buying something when he marries a woman and he is ultimately paying for the right to access her vagina with his marriage vows. I mean, is this really how we want relationships to be? I can’t even conceptualize relegating myself to a vagina for sale to the highest bidder willing to pay with a lifetime commitment to monogamy with me. I would like to think a life with me would be worth a whole lot more than some sex.

I also have a problem with the saying because it implies sex is really some gift women give to men for marrying them as opposed to it being a mutually agreed upon and enjoyable experience. Granted, there are men who want sex and nothing more and are willing to be dishonest to get it. I certainly do not refute that. However, there are women who want the same. Women who are not sitting at home on a Friday night hoping, wishing, and praying for a nice man to come along and marry them so they can finally use their vaginas for something other than a place for their panties to live during the day.sausage

I’m not advocating a whole bunch of random sexual encounters based strictly on physical attraction and availability, though I’m not exactly knocking those either. I just have trouble understanding and finding it acceptable the way women’s bodies and their decisions about those bodies are held to a higher standard than men so they never have to really be held accountable for what they do because, after all, they really are just men but a woman should know better.

Most sexual exchanges require two people. There are some exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, two consenting folks get together and decide to share their bodies with one another. Unfortunately, what should be a simple verbal and physical contract has more fine print than the contract for any vehicle I have purchased. For the man, he is just agreeing to spend some time feeling great, nothing more, and nothing less. A woman, on the other hand, is making countless life decisions when she decides to sleep with a man. In her mind, she sees plans, actions, consequences, and ways to gain redemption should the whole thing go south. She has to consider her reputation, how much the man likes her, how many dates they’ve been on, if any, how often he calls as a measurement of how interested he is, or isn’t, whether he will deem her a ho, lose all respect for her, and never call again as a result of having sex with him, if she will end up in the “smashable only” pile with the other half-discarded/on-call vag’s that came before her, etc… It all seems like too much. He’s wondering if he has some unexpired condoms and she is contemplating her entire life’s reputation and relevance. This can’t be right.

From early on in life, girls are told they shouldn’t “give up the goods” because men won’t respect them if they do. At the same time, boys are told they should get as much sex as they can from as many women they can get it from because other men will respect them as much as the amount of sex they can get. Is anyone else seeing the problem here? From a young age, women are expected to place their value with not having sex and men are taught to garner their self-worth from how many women with whom they have sex. How exactly is all this supposed to work?

Even the way society describes sex as “scoring” for men and “giving it up” for women are indicators it is usually a lose-lose for women before anything happens. I wonder if there will ever be a time when teaching boys and young men they can’t ever get back what they give out sexually and they should respect their bodies will be the norm the way it is told to young girls and women. I doubt it will ever be the norm, but I can dream.

I realize this may shock some, but women love sex. Unfortunately, our societal norms of values and morals lend to the school of thought we don’t enjoy it, don’t really need it, and really only do it to keep our men happy. However, this isn’t true. It isn’t really that women don’t like sex. It’s that we aren’t really allowed to concede we do without fear of being misjudged, erased from the “good girl” column, and rewritten in the “side piece/used up” column instead. Will there ever be a time when women won’t have to hide their sexuality? A time when they can cop to being sexual beings without fear of ruining the rest of their lives as a result? Is our milk all we really have to offer?

I guess in this day and age, the only option for women is to connect with men who have a realistic understanding of women and recognize the unfair double standards under which we live so he can see past the stereotype of the buttoned up prude and learn to respect the real woman underneath the buttoned up surface. This is definitely no easy feat, but it is well worth it if it means a woman can take off the cow costume and simply wear herself.stab

 

Fat-tastic?

FAT

I hate shaming. If it wasn’t against what I believe, I would spend time shaming shamers so they could see how wrong and stupid they are. I am especially incensed by the constant barrage of verbal, written, and pictoral attacks on women who dare live their lives being bigger than a size 6 as well as the patronizing perspectives that call them “brave” and “unique”, as if good looking and sexy plus sized women are a rarity.  This whole one standard of beauty thing gets beyond old and I consider myself part of the growing resistance fighting this mistaken concept. However, in all my anti-shaming rantings, I find I am conflicted when it comes to what I see as the lack of balance between loving one’s body in its current state and pushing for a healthier body that may involve a little weight loss.

In scrolling through my Facebook timeline recently, I came across a friend who was lamenting what she took as society’s attempt to force her to whittle down her full-figured body via exercise and healthy eating. She boldly stated she loves her body, including every fat roll, and would never be deterred by anyone trying to force her to change it in ANY kind of way. Honestly, I found her conviction about the matter somewhat inspiring. I believe in her love for her frame and I definitely support the idea of being self-confident about one’s body regardless of its size. However, I also had a problem with her rant, which leads to the conflict in my head; somewhere along the way, in our quest to encourage women to love their bodies, big or small, we have failed to address the health issues that can be attached to obesity.

I can never be convinced we are all meant to be thin and I know thin is certainly not an FAT2automatic implication of fitness. However, what I do believe is we are all meant to be fit. Clogged arterties, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, etc…are all often weight-related and no matter how much sexiness one thinks she embodies, if those fat rolls are causing long term health issues, they need to come off through healthy eating and exercise. And this is where my quandary makes an appearance. How do we strike a healthy balance between encouraging women to love their bodies no matter what but to understand the relationship between obesity and overall health enough to know better food choices and purposeful body movement on a regular basis are imperative? We certainly cannot afford to continue to be dishonest with ourselves in the name of upholding our beauty. At least, I don’t think we can do so and WIN.

The very lovely plus sized fashion blogger and vlogger, naturallyfashionable. Check her out at www.thenaturalfashionista.com
The very lovely plus sized fashion blogger and vlogger, naturallyfashionable. Check her out at www.thenaturalfashionista.com

When I read that status update on my timeline, I wanted to applaud AND shake my head at the same time. Though I didn’t think it was my place to comment on it in that space, I wondered if she understood the misleading message in her efforts to promote self-acceptance. As often as we talk about big body beauty, we should talk about health and fitness. We should talk about exercise and foods good for these beautiful big bodies. And this doesn’t mean one has to try to chisel herself down to a tiny size to make the fit team. It simply means one has to consider her health and fitness status and find a way to make her good body image meet up with that healthy lifestyle. The two can coexist.

I advocate a positive attitude about oneself and am guilty of not following my own advice in that area. In my mind, I am constantly battlilng between feeling good about my body as it is and not becoming complacent when I still have much work to do in the fitness area. I still fall prey to the prevalant standard of beauty and sometimes forget to appreciate my body in all its current “bigness.” But as I work on getting my mind right, I will also continue to work on getting my fitness on track, even if my big body doesn’t become a small one. I owe myself that much. We all do.

 

DIVERSIFYING THE RIGHT WAY

Diversity is like a super buzz word uttered by folks from all sorts of backgrounds and professions. Stockbrokers advise everyone to “diversify” his/her portfolio, workplaces like to have “diversity” workshops to teach employees to respect and interact with all sorts of people, and I live in a country known as a “melting pot”, a cutesy term for “diverse location”, which I don’t think is the best description, but I digress. Diversity is a topic that comes up regularly in all sorts of environments and most folks seem to be all about it – until it comes to a woman’s appearance. braids

In fairly recent times, I’ve read responses via social networks, heard forums made up of single men, and listened to the rantings of all sorts of self-righteous women talking about how black women don’t love themselves, don’t value their natural beauty, and have fallen prey to the white standard of beauty because they wear makeup, enjoy a false lash every now and then, and the worst of all; because they opt to straighten, color, or weave their hair.

In all fairness, I will agree there are some black women who are afflicted with a growing self-hatred that leads them to attempt to alter everything about their physical appearances. Some of them try to counteract years of systematic degradation that implies they are not beautiful through the use of health and beauty aids and a good piece of Brazilian hair. And though this is a reality for many, it is not a truth for all black women.

Though I certainly acknowledge the presence of the aforementioned women, I do not believe they are a representation of all black women at all. What folks often fail to consider are the sistas who simply want to diversify. Remember earlier when that word was positive? Yeah, it kinda loses its support when it comes to the way sistas want to look.

I absolutely love being a black woman. I love my brown skin, melanin privileges, rounded nose, full lips, kinky hair, and strong curvy body.  I also love false lashes, makeup, nail polish, and every now and then, a really cute wig. Am I ashamed of my natural appearance? Not even a tiny bit.  And I definitely don’t use any of these accessories as a way of hiding who I am. I use them to enhance my appearance and sometimes, I use them to DIVERSIFY.locs

Contrary to those who insist any type of makeup or hair change is a way to cover up those attributes one finds shameful, I actually see them as a way to take beauty and make it bigger. I am pretty sure I am not alone in this thinking. I mean, who is it that grants a certain group of folks the power to determine a woman hates herself because she dares seek out a hair color, style, texture, or length with which she was not born? Is there a committee? Do they all meet once a year for a conference?

Something about the idea of a woman seeing me with a big ol’ weave of kinky hair on top of these locs and deciding I must hate myself and the way I arrived from the womb makes me irritable. The unfair, illogical, and overly generalized ways in which we judge one another are ridiculous and need to stop. If we truly want to ride the diversity wave, we can’t stop it when it comes to makeup and hair weaves.

As it stands, weaves really aren’t my thing and I have no interest in cutting off these five year old locs, but there may come a time when I want a little something different and if and when that time comes, I will absolutely not allow anyone to question me or my level of comfort with my blackness based on some hairstyle choice. India.Arie said it, so I won’t bother repeating it, but folks really need to understand personal style diversity and self-hatred do not always go hand in hand. Wearing a weave does not mean I hate my kinky existence any more than wearing glasses means I hate my eyes for their lack of perfect vision. I do not need educating or setting straight. I just like to keep my look interesting.kinky weave

I am all about loving myself and any kind of campaign, mantra, social group, etc…that encourages a healthy dose of self love has my support, but these rushes to judgment based on how a woman wears her hair and makeup has to stop. Folks are so unfair to one another and so quick to put each other in boxes that just don’t fit. If I can diversify the way I invest my money in the interest of a better future, I should be able to diversify the hair I wear while doing it. It’s only right.

 

 

 

 

What I Know, 2013

So, it is a new year and it’s fair to say my life learning is not limited to a 12 month span of time, but is instead perpetual. However, at the beginning of a new year, I like to reflect on the previous one to think about what I learned, and in some cases, relearned. Here is what I know from 2013:

  • Logic is worth using even if no one else around seems to be applying it. In my 2014ongoing quest to keep my life as simple as possible, in light of the outside complications I cannot control, I have found my relationship with logic to be paramount. Though life and those who live it are generally multifaceted and somewhat complicated, I find when logic is lacking, there is probably an untruth or some kind of deception in the mix. Statements that make me squint and cock my head to the side are generally calculated as grade A horse manure in my mind.
  • Respecting differences is not an implication of a lack of moral fiber. These days, folks seem to consistently confuse the ability to respect varying ideas and opinions with a lack of one’s own moral code or some mission to be as politically correct as possible. For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I disagree with lots of schools of thought but can still manage to respect the perspective. How can I ever expect others to be receptive to my views if I can’t provide the same open mind? To listen with respect is about being a decent person and an excellent communicator, not about compromising one’s own views to appear understanding.
  • One doesn’t have to show folks who already know him/her how smart he/she is. Sometimes people can’t help but try to impart every little piece of wisdom and insight they have accumulated over the years in one conversation. Look, if you’re smart and knowledgeable about certain subjects, chances are, those who know you best are already aware of your intellectual prowess and probably partly like you because of it.  Instead of always trying to share, consider listening more often. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when your input is requested.
  • Life is fleeting. Though I have been hip to the shortness of life for a very long time, whether one lives to be 90, or succumbs as an infant, I am constantly reminded how true it is and how important it is to build and maintain healthy relationships with those who matter most. Minor disagreements and arguments about anything nonessential are far from worth ending a relationship. One of the best parts of relationships is the opportunity to create and build on something unique with a friend or family member. Ruining that opportunity of pettiness is destructive in the long run. It’s far better to cherish time with loved ones by enjoying the moments than it is to bicker and gripe about matters that won’t even matter past the end of the conversation.
  • You don’t have to eat everything on your plate. – I suppose this can be figurative and literal. In my ongoing battle against my disobedient midsection, I have learned I am never required to eat it all. Sure, as children, we were told we couldn’t have dessert if we didn’t eat ALL our dinner.  Also, not scraping a plate clean and eating every single morsel was always considered “wasting” in my childhood home. These things considered, adulthood has told me it is perfectly alright to leave some food behind, particularly if I am full. This not only helps one’s attitude about food, but it spreads into other areas of life.
    One simply cannot do EVERYTHING. There will be some parties, trips, dinners, career options, potential romantic relationships, etc…that may present themselves as opportunities.
    Sometimes, regardless of how amazing it sounds, how awesome the opporunity may seem, or how little whatever the item or activity is may be discounted to fit into your budget, it’s time to push away from the table and possibly save that chance for later. Sometimes, it is time to reflect and connect to what matters and pushing away from the table provides the clarity to do so.Undoubtedly, I will learn all sorts of new perspectives and ideas over the next 12 months. I just hope I have the wherewithal to apply what I need to live my best possible life. Raising my glass to 2014.

 

That’s Really How You Phil?

So, this happened –>http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/19/showbiz/duck-dynasty-suspension/ . Phil Robertson, a pivotal member of the Duck Dynasty show, did an interview with GQ during which he was really candid about his thoughts on gay folks, folks who whore, folks who cheat, folks who steal, folks who don’t worship properly, and, of course, black folks.  Because no tirade would be complete without some sort of out of pocket statement about the blacks.  Now, a bunch of folks are upset.

A&E is upset about Phil’s disparaging comments about gays, The NAACP and The Human FieldworkRights campaign were upset about the comments on gays AND black folks. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin are upset because of what they see as hypocrisy from political leftists and intolerance of expressed opinions that do not seem to go with the mainstream. Well, I figure, why let these folks be upset alone? I think I will join them and take my ire up a notch as well.

As a black woman, I suppose most people will think I am upset with Phil for his comments about black folks and how growing up in the Jim Crow south, he never “with his own eyes” saw black folks mistreated (maybe he was using loaner eyes while his eyes were out for repair). After all, those black folks had no time to be angry because they were far too busy hoeing the fields while singing and being happy. And, to be honest, what black folks don’t like to do back breaking work all day as indentured servants while crooning a little ditty? I mean, I can hardly write this without jumping up from my chair, dancing a quick jig, and singing about how great it is to be black, female, and equal. But, I digress. No, I am not upset about Phil’s comments. I haven’t ever watched Duck Dynasty, but the commercials alone let me know he is someone whose opinion is completely irrelevant, though I know there are many folks who probably share his sentiments. What has me a little annoyed are folks like Jindal and Palin who think those who are offended, A&E included, are unfair and hypocritical in their offense. To that, I have to say there is a reality with which folks have to deal when it comes to the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech DOES NOT mean freedom from consequences. Sure, everyone can say what she likes, but what makes one think she does not have to deal with the repercussions of her words? This Duck Dynasty nonsense and the conservatives referring to  the pushback as “intolerance” haven’t a clue. Then again, if folks who think like Phil had their way, this little brown woman wouldn’t even be able to read so I could make this point. I have had a few jobs in my day and not even on the most menial of them was I free from parameters on what I could and could not say at work. I didn’t always like it, but I ultimately understood the job was not mine, but simply an offer extended to me by the business that owned the job. That idea made it easy to choose my words carefully because the thought of damaging my pockets just for the right to say something rude, disrespectul, or incendiary for incendiary’s sake just never seemed worth it to me. Technically, I can always say what I like, but I know I can also be fired if what I say appears to veer away from the ethics I agreed to uphold as an employee. There has to be some accountability in there somewhere.

I am also a tad miffed at A&E for stating they were “bothered” by Phil’s statements about gay folks but seemingly not bothered by his statements about blacks and how “godly” and chipper we were before all that equality gobbledegook came into play. Really, A&E? You all couldn’t even pretend to care? I mean, it’s what everyone else does. Come on and get with the politically correct program and make a tiny effort to shine us on. Sometimes, we appreciate that kind of thing.

I tell you who I am not upset with at all – PHIL. He is exactly who I would expect him to be, he spoke his mind, what little of it there is, and he was just being honest. Phil does not seem like the brightest bulb, but I will always support his right to make idiotic statements because the minute I protest about what Phil cannot say is the minute I start to lose my right to speak my mind. However, just as much as I support Phil,s rights, I equally support the rights of every viewer, offended party, TV network, media outlet, sponsor, and special interest group to protest Phil’s foolery verbally and in writing, pull their money from his show, write to the network, and suspend him for the words his employer felt misrepresented them. It is simply the way accountability works.

As this story gets bigger, I really hope Phil won’t become dishonest and pretend he is sorry for what he said. I think he should absolutely stick to his convictions because it is his truth and I appreciate knowing where I stand with folks from jump. However, as long as Phil opts to share those views with the public, he will have to accept the results. So, during this time of rest, reflection, and relaxation, I hope Phil takes a moment to draw some conclusions over a nice plate filled with his own well-seasoned foot.

 

Splitting Hairs

Natural3As a little girl, getting my hair washed, conditioned, blow dried, and styled was like living a mini nightmare. A tender scalp full of thick hair, a trip to the kitchen counter top, and a bunch of warm water mixed with shampoo still finding a way to seep into my tightly shut eyes was never my idea of a good afternoon. I would cry, my mother would fuss, and in the end, I would look what I considered to be pretty then easily fall into a coma-like sleep exhausted from all my tantrum antics. It sounds awful, but it was part of my childhood  and still a  part of my adult reality. During those hours between the kitchen and the living room floor between my mother’s knees waiting for her to carefully part, braid, and barrette each section of hair, I got my first experiences with beautification. My mother wasn’t just providing basic baby maintenance, she was showing me how to care for my hair, how to take pride in my appearance, and how to find my beauty. Sure, I cried myself sleepy, but when it was over, I felt pretty.  Now, it seems like there is some sort of ongoing effort to take away that experience little girls and women who look like me end up feeling as if there is something wrong with their pretty and that is something I just cannot accept.

Over the past year or so, I have read several articles, seen a few television news stories, and heard first hand accounts from black women who are suddenly being made to feel as if their hair in its natural state isn’t acceptable in the workplace or school. Too kinky, too colorful, too ethnic, too….black? I mean, blackness does seem to be the real problem at the base of everything. It is as if we cannot win unless we are weaved out , permed up, or wiggin’. To the masses who disparage us for our hair, we should strive to look more mainstream, which really just means less black and way more white. Recently, I have seenNatural1 stories about a little black girl who was expelled because she had locs (http://www.fox23.com/news/local/story/Tulsa-school-sends-girl-home-over-hair/sGcEwBSrm02W8ZSBNnGoXQ.cspx), a hairstyle against school policy, a young black woman who was terminated from Hooters, a place riddled with fake body parts, double stick tape, pushup bras, and body padding, for having blonde highlights her superiors deemed “unnatural” for a black woman (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-african-american-hooters-blond-hair-20131024,0,7218061.story?page=1#axzz2jDjCWRJq),  a woman who was told she should cut her locs or find somewhere else to work (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/new-company-policy-forces-woman-to-cut-dreadlocks_n_4159369.html), and heard a story from my loctician who sent her little girl to daycare with a perfectly lovely afro only to be admonished by the daycare provider to “comb her daughter’s hair.”

Natural2To me, this isn’t just a variety of unconnected stories, but an implication of a school of thought that continues to question beauty as it applies to black women and girls. Despite the various fabricated stigmas attached to locs and other natural hairstyles, people have to be able to see past it at some point and give reality a good look instead. An applicant or employee who has the professional experience, educational background, proper workplace decorum, and references to support being hired for a position or to warrant her educational pursuits in a school should be a shew in for employment, not a target for discriminatory practices.

And just what did natural hair ever do to anyone? Is its beauty too intimidating? Is the strength that accompanies a head of unapologetically kinky hair just too much for the office and the schoolhouse? Are folks afraid all the natural hair folks will form one big army and go around picking, twisting, and braiding everyone against his or her will? Why must we always be made to feel inadequate about the amazing way we were born?

I suppose there really is no way around this clear racial discrimination outside straightening our hair and avoiding any sort of hair color white folks deem unnatural for us, but where is the honor in that? We could provide ongoing education about our hair and how we care for it, but really, why must we explain ourselves, particularly to those who probably do not care anyway? Sometimes, this whole being black thing is some really hard work.

I realize I do not live in the kind of decent world that sees every woman’s beauty instead of creating one standard of it to which all women are to adhere, but that does not mean I will stop trying to create one. I will continue to share images and ideas about black women and our beauty that knock the traditional views of what pretty is and I will get up every day, look in the mirror at my full lips, round nose, brown skin, and five year old locs, and remind myself of a truth I already know; I am just as good for the workplace and the schoolhouse as any woman has ever been. I will never apologize for being natural me. No woman or girl should.

 

 

I Just Don’t Like You. That Is All.

We have all heard it, and most likely, we have all said it a few times; nice “girls/guys finish last.” And I FriendZonesuppose to the uninformed eye, it seems that way a lot of the time. We see a good friend who seems to have all the right qualities on paper linking up with some pathetic nare-do-well and we wonder how many “good” men or women were bypassed to get to the world’s worst boyfriend or girlfriend. I know I am guilty of this thinking from time to time, BUT it is time put it to rest. Friends and I have discussed this recently, and there are a few things single people need to realize about this relationship business.

Disclaimer: Because I am a woman and hear these complaints most often from men, I’m addressing them for the most part, but this is just as much for women because we are equally guilty.

  1. Being nice is a choice to live well, not a key to hearts – I see rants, memes, tv shows and movies in which men complain ad nauseum about how nice they are but still end up in the “friend zone.” I am going to shock the world by informing people being nice does not make you entitled to a show of interest, a phone number, a romp in the sheets, or a promise of marriage. Be nice because it is who you are. Be nice because you were raised well. Be nice because it benefits you as a person. Be nice because you enjoy it, but for the love of everything sensible, STOP being nice if  you are just doing it because you feel it will entitle you to a woman’s affections. Mastering the art of common decency is not an all access pass to every woman you decide you like. Get over yourself.
  2. No one owes it to you to like you back – After the initial indignation caused by rejection wears off, there are often laments about not understanding how a woman/man isn’t interested. People go through the checklist: 1) I’m NICE 2) I’m smart 3) I have a job 4) These are my original teeth 5) I have my own place to stay, etc…You get the picture. It is as if we are programmed to believe if we cover the basics of responsible adulthood, whoever we like will be obligated to like us back, but this is absolute manure. All these behaviors are part of being grown up, they are not guarantees for relationship action. Being smart, employed, and housed all while maintaining one’s original set of teeth has nothing to do with the presence of mutual attraction. Seriously, get over yourself.
  3. Disinterest in YOU does not equal interest in an abusive relationship – This is, by far, my favorite and the most commonly used flawed logic when one is rejected altogether or placed in the friend zone. A man expresses his interest, the woman passes on his advances but let’s him know she digs him as a friend and would love to maintain that platonic connection, but because he is convinced she is required to like him back, he automatically assumes she is not interested in him and all his “niceness” because she has her eye on a handsome man who will punch her in the eye, take all her money, and leave her pregnant with quintuplets while he is wooing his next victim. Really? Now, I will be fair and say sometimes scenarios like this happen, but logic should tell that man he avoided unwanted drama because the woman who likes that kind of man is probably not the type of woman he should have wanted to date anyway. Consider it a bullet dodging of sorts. But the majority of the time, the woman doesn’t pass on the man because she would rather be abused. She just plain isn’t interest. Maybe his breath stinks, maybe they have few or no common interests, perhaps she isn’t physically attracted to him. The reasons can be numerous, but whatever they are, she has a right to them and that “NO” doesn’t imply she would rather be slapped around, spoken to disrespectfully, or robbed of her hard-earned dollars. Really, everyone, let’s get over ourselves.

Despite our quests for rationalizations that fit our ideas, there are times people who we like  just aren’t going to like us back. No one likes rejection, but it is real and it happens to everyone in one area of life or another. The most important part is to avoid internalizing it and lashing out at a man or woman who is simply trying to make the most sensible decision for him/herself. If I am amazing in all the important ways, I maintain that whether the man I care for likes me back the same way or not. Someone else’s “NO” never changes my awesomeness and there is no way I should let it. So people, get over it and get back on the grind.