Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Somewhere Over The Meno-Rainbow

It arrives like clockwork, around 2:00 am, with the speed of a bullet train. Next thing I know, I’m flying out of bed, tearing at my clothes like I’m on fire, because that’s what it damn sure feels like. When it ends, I’m drenched in a cold sweat, groggy, sitting on the toilet naked, and hoping I can return to sleep unmolested.

It appears I’ve bought a ticket on the bullet train to menostop.

I have no idea why they call it menopause – my “meno” ain’t “pausing.” “Pausing” implies that it’s going to resume at some point in the future. Nope, my “meno” is hitting the brakes. Hard. I guess this is my belated forty-fifth birthday present.

When it first started, I wanted to blame my husband, BMNB. He is his own nuclear energy plant. The man has an extremely high metabolism, and he kicks off a lot of heat when he sleeps. Could meet the electricity needs of a California prison, that BMNB. I just assumed it was because it was summer, I was sleeping too close to him, and I was heating up because of him.

But BMNB was out of town all last week, and these bullet train hot flashes continued in his absence. No one to blame but myself and my aging infrastructure. Maybe I can do like the State of California and issue infrastructure bonds for my aging body. To pay for a tummy tuck and a lifetime of Botox and Restalyne.

When I could no longer blame it on BMNB, I had to ask my sister, who is, shall we say, somewhere over the meno-rainbow and damn happy to be there.

“Are you having mood swings?”, she asked.

“How would I know? I’m a b***h all the time,” I replied.

“Do you have this urge to choke the living crap out of people?”, she asked.

“Well, not everyone, just the stupid people. But I never had much patience for stupid people to begin with.”

“Sounds like you’re transitioning,” she smiled through the phone.

“Well, when did you start your, uh, ‘transition’?”, I asked.

“When I was about 50.”

“BUT I’M ONLY FORTY-FIVE!!!,” I wailed, as if that was going to stop the hands of time.

Time waits for no one. And now I’m going up in hormonal flames like a freakin’ Roman candle every morning at 2:00 am.

I, too, want to be somewhere over the meno-rainbow, blissfully beyond the need for feminine products, assuming my brain doesn’t get singed from these hot flashes first.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

MySpace: The Skank Archives

I feel sorry for the MySpace generation. They live as if they’ll never have children. Or grandchildren for that matter.

My introduction to MySpace, which I refer to as “The Skank Archives,” came when I visited my sister-in-law’s home and saw my nephew and his friends huddled around his computer, staring at a MySpace page much the way our people probably huddled around a hearth telling stories in the 1800’s.

If the photo they were oogling had been a story, it would have been rated “R” for mature audiences.

Some young lady had posted a photo of herself in a bikini top that barely contained her “assets” and a bottom that pretty much showed off her bottom. She looked as if she were auditioning for a “Girls Gone Wild” video. The boys were smiling, snickering, and laughing. She was one of my nephew’s MySpace friends, or whatever you call them.

“Nephew, that girl’s a skank,” I told him in no uncertain terms. “No woman who respects herself puts that kind of photo on the Internet for the world to see. She is NOT dating material. Don’t bring her home,” I told him, my threat trailing off as my husband pulled me out the door.

And I meant every word.

I hate to say it this way, but here goes: Back in the day, one’s youthful indiscretions remained pretty much secret, except for the occasional slip-up of a drunken aunt or uncle. Save a Polaroid taken without one’s knowledge, most of the errors of our youth weren’t archived for the world, or our children, to see down the line.

Not this generation. Not only do they chronicle their youthful indiscretions, but they archive them on MySpace, Facebook, etc. Don’t they know that these web pages are archived, ostensibly forever? For their children and maybe their grandchildren to see one day?

Ah, children and grandchildren. No one will judge you more harshly than the fruit of your loins. That’s why, as you grow older, you close ranks with your friends who do know of your youthful indiscretions in a silent, “If your kids ask, I won’t tell if you don’t” pact. The things I know about my friends’ youthful indiscretions in high school and college remain archived in my brain, to the extent that I still remember them, only to be retrieved upon pain of torture by the Taliban (I have a low pain threshold.), precisely because they know of mine, too.

But the MySpace generation? They’ve archived their youthful indiscretions for easy access. A Google search by their grandchildren will retrieve evidence such as that young woman’s (skank’s) photo. Try having THAT conversation with your grandkids:

“Grandma, what’s a skank and why did they call you that?”

Oooh wee boy, wouldn’t want to have THAT conversation with the grands. But there’s a whole generation who is going to have to have that conversation in, say, 2040.

My advice: Live like you’ll have to explain your life to your grandkids. And if you don’t want to explain something, don’t do it. Or at least have the good sense not to post what you did on MySpace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Peace Perimeter

I made the mistake of asking. It was all my fault.

I asked one of my relatives how some of my other relatives were doing. What a can of worms I opened! Tales of self-centered, irresponsible, janky, triflin' adult behavior from folks old enough to know better flowed. I learned more than I needed to know.

I spent the rest of my afternoon in my backyard garden, too mortified and aghast to do anything else but seek refuge in compost and perennials. Why did I ask? People don't change overnight, if at all. Their patterns of poor choices persist until they decide to change or they die. They don't care who they affect with their lousy choices. Until they change, they're like an albatross on the spirit of those who, by family ties and by having made better life choices, are duty bound to watch out or care for them.

It came to me between the roses and the lantana. I had to create my own spiritual Green Zone. A Peace Perimeter, if you will.

From now on, I won't ask about janky, triflin' people, whether they are related to me or not. I'll just try to remember to pray for them. And I won't let others tell me about their janky, triflin' exploits. I'll just say, "No thanks, I don't need to know. Please don't share."

You have to guard your spirit. You really do. I lost most of that afternoon in the garden trying to regroup when I had other things to do, like clean out my refrigerator and cook for the week. From now on, when I'm in my home, I won't deal with janky, triflin' people or their exploits. When I'm out and about, I'll excuse myself from conversations about them.

I will steadfastly guard my Peace Perimeter.

Do you have a Peace Perimeter, and, if so, how do you guard it?

Friday, July 18, 2008

And the Croix de Estrogen Goes To . . .

Today is Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. Tomorrow is my dad’s 83rd. Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison and ultimately received the Nobel Peace Price in 1993. My father served a 24 year sentence of his own, but the best I can do for him is to award him my own prize: the Croix de Estrogen.

You see, since my father married in 1952, he has never for an extended time lived without a woman. He lived with my mother until her death in 1998, except for a few brief, shall we say, “time outs.” However, my father spent 24 years living with five women – his four daughters and his wife. At one point, all of his daughters were of menstruating age and his wife was menopausal. That in itself was a special form of hell.

But my dad earned his sentence. I’ve heard stories of how he was quite the Lothario back in the day before he married my mom. If I recall the family lore correctly, he met my mom while he was hanging out in a parking lot, watching two women fight over him. He walked away with my mom.

A while back, our local paper ran a series of stories on the African American night life in Sacramento in the 40’s and 50’s. There was mention of a popular African American club, the Momo Club, and a wildly popular exotic dancer who worked there. Lo and behold, there was a quote in the paper from one of my aunts talking about this dancer and how popular she was. I asked my dad, “Hey, Dad, did you know this lady who danced at the Momo Club?”

He replied: “Know her? I used to date her.”

Huh? MY dad?

So, my dad, who was wildly popular with the ladies in his own right back in the day, earned his sentence in estrogen hell: Four headstrong, intelligent, smart-mouthed daughters who don’t take no tea for the fever. And boy, did he ever have a time with us speaking to him as only daughters can to their fathers:

“Daddy! You need to put some lotion on them crusty feet of yours. You’re grossing me out.”

“Daddy! You know that tie don’t go with that shirt. You need to change.”

“Daddy! I can see your boxers through those white pants. You need to change.”

“Dad, you need a hair cut. You starting to look like Huey Newton ‘bout the head.”

“Daddy, you need to cut them toenails. You lookin’ like The Brother From Another Planet.”

And on it went. Not to mention what my mom dished out, especially when he came in the house sweaty after having mowed the lawn or worked on cars:

“You stink, old goat. Go take a shower.”

I think that when my sisters and I were all of menstruating age (and, as nature would have it, often at the same time monthly), my father would have easily switched places with Nelson Mandela. However, he happily went to the grocery store and picked up our feminine products. At the time I thought he was, well, mental, for taking on such a task. Inevitably, he would pick the wrong product for one of us, and that particular PMS’ing daughter would let him have it:

“Dad! You KNOW I don’t use these. You need to take them back.”

“Okay.” And he would gladly return to the store and correct the error.

It wasn’t until I was older that I came to understand the wisdom of his ways. I asked him why he didn’t mind going to the store (sometimes repeatedly) to buy feminine products for his daughters. His response: “When your daughters are using feminine products, that means they’re not pregnant.”

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, and I’m happy to report that he is happily remarried and no longer surrounded by menopausal or menstruating women. I award him the first (and only) Black Woman Blogging’s Croix de Estrogen for all his years of service to attitudinal, PMS’ing and menopausal women, all of whom were in his family.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela. And Happy Birthday, Dad.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Tried To Make Me Go To Weight Watchers . . . .

"They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said 'no, no, no' . . . "

Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

I am the Amy Winehouse of Weight Watchers. Like rehab for her, it just doesn’t stick for me as of late.

Let me first say that it’s not Weight Watchers’ fault. When I first did Weight Watchers, right before my wedding, and followed the program diligently, I lost seventeen pounds within three months. But for Weight Watchers, I wouldn’t have looked as good as I did on my wedding day. Well, but for Weight Watchers, a slammin’ makeup and hair artist, and good lighting.

Whenever I have stuck diligently with Weight Watchers for more than a month, I’ve always, always seen results. But since then, I just haven’t been able to make it stick. Or rather, stick with it. And just as Amy Winehouse probably blames the people in her life, her success, etc., I blame the things going on in my life – the moves, the job changes, family demands, finances, etc.

I also get resentful when I run out of points. It just seems perverse to me that really obese people get more points than I do. I need them more. They have more fat reserves than I do. Why do they get more points? Heck, if you put me, an overweight-heading-into-obesity person out in Death Valley with an obese person, the obese person would probably survive longer. More fat reserves. It just isn’t fair.

During my third go-round with Weight Watchers, I made the mistake of joining with two of my sisters and my nephew’s girlfriend. The mistake was that I was no longer anonymously accountable for my Weight Watchers’ sins. Because I coerced them into joining, I now had a group to which I was accountable which I couldn’t brush off when they asked me, “How’d you do this week?”

Big mistake.

Now, I’m back at my worst weight ever, short of breath climbing the stairs, with a cholesterol count that is out of this world. And I can’t bring myself to slink back in to yet another meeting, although I’ve absolutely adored all my Weight Watchers meeting leaders (all three of them – two in the Sacramento area, one in Aurora, Colorado) and know they would welcome me back with open arms and no judgment.

I’ve even convinced myself that Amy has a far greater need to be in rehab than I do to be in Weight Watchers – losing her voice and her career. Truth be told, however, we both have equally strong reasons for going to our respective programs – our health.

So as soon as I muster the courage, to borrow from an Amy Winehouse song, “I’ll try to make me go to Weight Watchers without saying, ‘no, no, no’ . . . . .”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Days of W(h)ine and Nuts

Not a good week for political surrogates, this past week.

Former Senator Phil Gramm thinks we’re a nation of whiners, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson wants to cut Senator Obama’s nuts off.

First things first: If I am indeed a whiner, then pass me a big hunk of cheese (preferably Brie) to go with this whine. Gas at $4.51 per gallon is not all in my head. Nor are rising food costs, even at reliable ol’ Winco. And don’t get me started on my tax bill and my feeling that professional, childless couples shouldn’t have to subsidize people who had more kids than they can afford via the current income tax system. I was totally down with Steve Forbes’ flat income tax proposal. If everyone knew from the get-go that they had to hand over 15% of their wages to the government, we’d all plan accordingly. And better.

Second, it was sad to hear yet another politician get caught on yet another “hot mike.” But Rev. Jesse Jackson on Fox News? Come on, now. When you’re a liberal on Fox News, every mike is a hot mike, even if you’re not wearing it. He should have known better. Just plain stupid.

Even more sad was watching his son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., having to denounce his own father. “Strong words,” BMNB commented upon hearing Jesse Jr’s tirade. “No,” I responded. “Strong words would have been Jesse Jr. saying of his father, ‘My father would be better served addressing the most recent product of HIS nuts, i.e., my illegitimate half-sister, than concerning himself with Senator Obama’s nuts.’”

The good things that came from all this? McCain now gets it that even if we’re not in a technical recession, we’re pretty much in a recession anyway because that’s how people feel. And Obama’s stance on personal responsibility and black fathers does not require the acquiescence or approval of the old guard civil rights leaders like Rev. Jackson. That he can deliver the hard truths – truths that even Dr. King would probably feel obliged to deliver had he lived to see what’s going on – signals a change in African American leadership.

So, here’s to w(h)ine and nuts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Can't We Just Kick This Old School?

“Can’t we just kick this old school?”

From the movie “Juno”

My niece tells me that my husband and I are the youngest “old school” people she knows.

We take that as a compliment.

My husband, BMNB, and I, think a lot alike. Blame it on our parents.

My husband’s parents are from Alabama, while my dad is from Arkansas and my mom was from Sacramento. When you have at least one southern parent, you’re bound to be “old school.”

What exactly does it mean to be “old school”?

It means telling a young but wayward man in your family that he needs to get a job and stop living off his mother.

It means that you make children in your family respond to you by saying, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.”

It means you don’t negotiate with children. You listen to them, you consider their points of view, but when it comes to the important things in their lives, like education, increased freedoms, etc., you are, in the words of President Bush, the “decider.”

It means you don’t brook sarcasm from children. Sarcasm is for peers. We are not their peers. We’re their elders.

It means that you don’t let children tell you what they’re going to do, as in, “I’m going down the street.” It means that you make children ask you if they can do things, as in, “May I go down the street?”

It means that you aren’t afraid to snatch a child up in public, CPS be damned.

It means you try not to wear out your welcome. Don’t arrive too late, don’t stay too long, don’t eat too much. Well, BMNB has a problem with that last one.

It means you still believe in corporal punishment. As a last resort, but it’s definitely a weapon in the arsenal. As my late mother said to my brother when he told her not to whip his son (her grandson), “I’ll beat him AND you, too.”

It means you regularly invoke the words and phrases of the old school vocabulary and phrase book, oftentimes when talking about your own relatives: “triflin’,” “triflin’ negro,” “foolishness,” “hot mess,” “that don’t make no kind of sense” “lazy good for nothin’,” “sorry-ass,” and “ain’t got a lick of sense.”

It means you pull people you love to the side to “pull their coattails.” If you’re old school, you know what I mean.

It means that you don’t part easily with your money, no matter the sob story your loved one gives you.

It means you don’t give kids money for anything but their birthdays and Christmas; otherwise, they have to work for it.

It means living below your means, because you never know when The Man is going to act funky and make your job unbearable.

It means your spirit is older and wiser than your years would suggest. Or so you hope.

Here’s to all the old school folks out there!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Girl's Gotta Have Her Own Money

I was speaking with one of my nieces about one of my great nieces who is happily ensconced in another state, living with her sweetie. My niece then told me that my great niece didn’t have a job.

Whatchu mean she ain’t got no job?”, I replied. Yes, I can go from zero to vernacular in a nanosecond.

My niece assured me that, yes, she didn’t have a job.

“Oh, but see, that’s not acceptable. She has GOT to get a job. A girl’s gotta have her own money . . . .” And on I blathered, espousing truths I deemed to be self-evident.

One of which is: A girl’s gotta have her own money.

The landscape is littered with formerly happy girlfriends, spouses and, yes, lesbian partners who were bounced out on their tushes by their sole wage-earner boyfriends, spouses and lesbian partners with nothing to cushion the landing but cellulite. It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t painless. A girl’s gotta have her own money.

My mother, who was financially tied to my father because of me and my five siblings, always drilled into my and my sisters’ heads that we needed to “do for self,” “not depend on no man,” and “make our own money” so that we could be independent. So our futures would not be dependent on any partner.

I learned this the hard way during a brief period when I was unemployed. My temporary teaching job with a law school had ended, and I was working for a disreputable legal recruiter. I waited to be paid but was never paid for the work I did. In the meantime, BMNB was effectively the sole wage earner.

We were in Costco doing our monthly Costco run, and I came across a bag of natural almond candy that I wanted. It was $5.00. I asked if we could get it, and BMNB said to me with the solemnity of monk, “I don’t think we should be spending our money this way.”

A $5.00 bag of candy. A lawyer for a husband. And, as the earner of non-existent wages, I had no say.

Over a $5.00 bag of candy.

Let’s just say I had my Scarlett O’Hara moment right then and there: As God was my witness, I would never, EVER, allow myself to be in a position to be financially dependent on anyone, man, woman, or beast. EVER.

I brushed myself off and made my plan. I moved back to California, where I was and am licensed to practice law, leaving BMNB and my dog behind. My sister kindly took me in. Within six weeks, I had a job with a local law firm making double what BMNB made. I paid my sister all the room and board I owed her and continued paying her until I moved out.

I even resisted the urge to engage in payback when, as a strange twist of fate, I became the sole wage earner in the marriage while BMNB studied for the bar exam.

But I never forgot. I will never forget that feeling of financial powerlessness I felt in the snack aisle of the Aurora, Colorado Costco.

And I was lucky. If he had decided to put me out while I was unemployed -- out of the townhome that he owns in his name alone – I would have been in a world of hurt. I had no relatives and few friends in Colorado. I would have been landing on nothing but cellulite, too.

So, ladies, learn from my minor mistake. A girl’s gotta have her own money. Because you never, ever know what life has in store for you.

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