Black Woman Blogging

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Malia's Hair is Off Limits! So is Sasha's!

I read a snippet of a New York Times article in which there was criticism of the hairstyle Malia Obama wore to Italy. Twists, to be precise. Said twists were criticized as not befitting someone representing the United States abroad.

Hold up. Slow your roll, America. You don't get a say in this. Neither Malia nor Sasha "chose" to represent the United States in any way, shape, or form. And their hair, and how they wear it, is off limits. Back the eff off.

I was hotter than a hornet reading this. The whole black woman's hair thing? That's personal with me. We black women have more than enough issues and neuroses about our hair and how we wear it. It is not open to debate within wider circles, especially when there's a child involved. The choices we have, other than wearing our hair in its natural state in twists, dreads, braids, cornrows or afros, are painful -- chemical relaxers, also called "creamy crack," and searing hot straightening combs. If Malia has chosen to forgo chemical or heat straightening for her natural locks, that's nobody's business but her's and her mama's.

As a child, I was what was (and probably still is) called "tender headed" -- I had an extremely sensitive scalp. And I don't have naturally straight hair like my mother and my maternal grandmother did. I have your average, nappy black hair. So imagine the terror my mother went through trying to comb the long, kinky hair of a crying, screaming child. She gave up. My first grade photo shows me with three huge lumps of uncombed hair on my head with a braid coming out of each. Making me scream just for vanity's sake was just too much for my mother to bear.

Finally, a friend of my mother's stepped up and straightened my hair with a hot comb, out of pity for me and my mother. After that, my mom would send me to her regularly, and then to another woman, because I would still cry and scream. As I got older, I took over the care of my hair, with one exception -- my mother would straighten my hair with a hot comb. Problem was, my mother had three other daughters who also had kinky hair. My mother ended up doing a lot of straightening until my older sisters got old enough and started going to their own hairdresser -- I assume that was because either they paid for it or my mom got to the point where she could afford to send them. My mom straightened my hair every other Sunday during my adolescence until I went off to college. And my hair was not short -- when washed and dried, it looked like a Chaka Khan 'fro. When straightened, it was down to my bra strap. It was a lot of work. And there was the occasional ear burn from a hot comb that slipped from my mother's tired hands. My mother should have won a place in heaven just for dealing with the kinky hair of four little black girls.

Ever since college, I have chemically straightened my hair with relaxers, and I hate it. I still have a sensitive scalp. Just last week, after avoiding my new stylist for six months, I went to get my hair "relaxed." There is absolutely nothing "relaxing" about getting your hair relaxed if you have a sensitive scalp. I always burn. Always. Given that chemical relaxers are a derivative of lye, the danger of a chemical burn is real. Ten seconds into the process, I knew my entire scalp would be engulfed in chemical pain, and it was. First, there was the unnatural coldness of the calcium hydroxide on my scalp, which then slowly turned to a searing chemical heat. None of this was my stylist's fault, since she's relatively new to me -- if you scratch your scalp or have a sensitive scalp, you are bound to burn unless you "base" your entire scalp first, and that's still no guarantee that you won't burn, at least not for me. It was a race to the sink to get that stuff of my scalp. Tears filled my eyes, and scabs later formed on my scalp where I burned, but my hair looked fly. Still does. But when I was getting it "relaxed," I swore at myself and to myself that I would put down the "creamy crack" forever. The daily ease of styling straightened hair, however, is addicting.

I would not ask any little black girl (or grown black woman, for that matter) to risk chemical burns or getting her ears burned with hot combs for vanity's sake. Straight hair for black girls should be a choice, not a dictate, and not some concession to national opinion as to the proper way for a young black girl to wear her hair. For anyone who hasn't endured chemical burns or heat burns to the scalp to pass judgment on Malia for wearing her hair in its natural state is plain and simply wrong. If I were her age, I wouldn't straighten my hair, either. I still have fantasies of getting dreads or just shaving it all off (it's now down to my bra strap yet again -- must have been the six months off without a relaxer), but BMNB has a thing for long hair and looks like a lost puppy every time I talk about changing it. Ah, the things we do for love.

So, America, you don't get a vote, a voice, or nary an opinion as to how Malia and Sasha wear their hair unless you're willing to take a straightening comb to your own hair or let some relaxer sit on your scalp until it burns. I hate to go there, but this black women's hair thing? As they used to say in the '90's, "It's a black thing, and you wouldn't understand."

Oh, and do NOT touch our hair without our permission. We HATE that.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why a Dead Kennedy is Worth More Than A Living Schwarzenegger

Like many Americans, I mourn the passing of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. Like many Americans, I celebrate his life, mostly because I knew -- I ALWAYS knew -- what he stood for – working people, children, education, the disabled – and he never wavered in his commitment to these people and causes, even if he couldn’t get everything he wanted in the legislation he sponsored on their behalf. He deserves to be remembered as the “Lion of the Senate.” My hope is that he is welcomed into heaven by his family, that they are all young and healthy again, playing touch football and just being the Kennedys. I hope his brothers John and Robert welcome him with open arms, saying, “Well done, Ted. You carried on for us. Well done.”

Unlike Ted Kennedy or the Kennedys in general, I can’t even begin to tell you what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stands for, because it appears to change depending on the political winds. Despite his body-building moniker, “The Austrian Oak,” Governor Schwarzenegger, unlike Senator Kennedy, doesn’t appear to be very oak-like when faced with the winds of opposition, perhaps because, unlike an oak, he isn’t rooted in any particular belief system or values. He professes a love of California, but what exactly does that mean? Senator Kennedy loved Massachusetts, but he appeared to love his causes and his country as much. What cause does Governor Schwarzenegger love other than the limelight and being married to a Kennedy? Memo to the Governor: A sense of purpose does not occur by osmosis or marriage.

Does Governor Schwarzenegger wake up each morning knowing what he’s fighting for? Does he have a vision for California that exceeds his next political ambition or his term in office? Does he know what he wants to be remembered as fighting for? Is there any particular group – the working class, educators, children, the disabled, any group at all? – that can say, “Governor Schwarzenegger stands for us, and we can count on him to do so no matter what?”

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Whom, exactly, does Governor Schwarzenegger serve?

I never had to ask that question with Senator Kennedy. Because his agenda was clearly defined, it is more likely that others will come behind him and carry the torch, just as he did for his late brothers, to honor him, just as he honored his brothers.

That is why a dead Kennedy is worth more than a living Schwarzenegger.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


BMNB is out of town for a conference until Friday. I am completely out of whack.

When I was single, I never depended on the rhythm of someone else's life to set the rhythm of my own. It kind of creeps up on you when you're married, and you don't realize it until your spouse is gone for a significant amount of time.

When BMNB worked in the Bay Area and came home on weekends, I carried on as if I were single. I handled the bills, the dog, the cleaning, etc. Weekends were our time to catch up, and I didn't like wasting them on trivial stuff I could handle by myself.

But now that we live together full time, my what a wuss I've become! I'm spoiled, and I admit it. I am used to waking up to the sight of a handsome, naked man getting into the shower. I'm used to having someone to cuddle with when I come to bed, no matter how late. I'm used to having someone make up the bed shortly after I get out of it. I'm used to someone making my eggs for breakfast. (To my credit, I make my own coffee and toast.) I'm used to someone emptying and filling the dishwasher, taking out the trash, putting the garbage cans on the curb for garbage pickup, and picking up the dog poop. I'm used to someone dealing with service providers -- the water man from the city, the plumber, the contractor. I'm used to someone else being "The Verminator" and dealing with killing flies, Black Widows, and whatnot.

All of BMNB's daily routine triggers my own. Without him, whatever there is of my daily routine goes down the toilet. I sleep late, eat crap for breakfast, don't make the bed, and run the dishwasher when the dishes start to smell. But for the fact that our garbage can is rank, I would put off taking it to the curb for garbage collection until BMNB returns.

I can't wait until he returns, if for no other reason, to get back on track.

I'm spoiled. I admit it. You're probably wondering what I add to this marital equation, right?

Well, I cook. Okay, I cook when I feel like it, but I do a pretty good job when I do.

I clean out the fridge, pay the bills -- okay, I pay them online, but still -- grocery shop, plan the menus (when I cook) and walk and care for the dog (who is senile and suffering separation anxiety). Oh, and I can shop like a MF. This came in handy big time when BMNB had to go shopping to get clothes and shoes for his trip. He hates shopping and he sucks at it. I, on the other hand, take to shopping for others like a paratrooper dropped behind enemy lines. I accomplish my mission and get the hell out. BMNB likes that about me.

I keep the hardwood floors looking pretty spiffy. Does that count?

Oh, and I garden. The trellises, flowering vines, rose bushes and veggie garden? All me. BMNB waters. He's more of a "mow and blow" kind of guy.

I'm organizing the closet. I've put up shelf dividers and boxed and labeled most of my shoes (BMNB is still at a loss as to why women need so many shoes. I told him shoes are porn for women.) Does that count?

No matter what, I miss BMNB and can't wait for him to come home.

What a wuss I've become!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Y'all Gon' Make Me Lose My Mind . . . .

Y’all gon’ make me lose my house
Up in heh, up in heh

Y’all gon’ make me starve my kids
Up in heh, up in heh

Y’all gon’ make me really flip
Up in heh, up in heh

Where’s my gun? Where’s my clip?
Up in heh, up in heh

- a parody of “Party Up (Up in Heh)”, with apologies to DMX

I try. I mean, I really do try. When famous African Americans do some really dumb stuff, I try to have an open mind and judge fairly. I have been trained to do this by my parents, who always believed that we should judge our own fairly because no one else would.

But I’m really having a hard time judging California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, and all the other California legislators for that matter, fairly. In a time when general fund state employees and many other state workers are dealing with three furlough days a month, I find it hypocritical at best that Speaker Bass and other legislators would give some legislative staffers raises. Are the Speaker and the legislators really that politically tone deaf to what is supposed to be a budget crisis?

Now, maybe I don’t have all the facts. Maybe these salary increases resulted from promotions, not raises. I hope that’s the case.

But if it isn’t the case, between the Governor setting out layoff scenarios of up to 20,000 state employees and rank-and-file state workers finding it hard to cope with close to a 15% pay cut, I’m surprised that more state workers haven’t gone postal on our legislature and our Governor. Now, as an officer of the court, I can’t encourage or condone violence, or, in the case of state workers, even striking, given the terms of our union contracts. But, to borrow from Chris Rock, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t understand it.

You can only push people so far before they lose it. I mean really, really lose it.

Do they not get that some state workers might lose their homes behind these furloughs? That there are state workers who are now patronizing food banks in order to feed their children? That most state workers aren’t making $60,000 a year?

I’m surprised that some single parent mom state worker, trying to feed three kids and buy back-to-school clothes on $25,000 a year as an Office Assistant before furloughs, hasn’t tried to stalk the Governor at his public appearances or tried to “meet” him at the Executive Airport as he slithers, uh, I mean, flies, back to Santa Monica. I couldn’t condone it, but I would understand it.

Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in heh, up in heh . . . .

I’m surprised that some state worker hasn’t put a “Thinking of You” greeting card at the bottom of her cat’s litter box for a week, retrieved it with gloves, and popped it in an envelope and mailed it to one of the legislators who gave their staff raises. I couldn’t condone it, but I would understand it.

Y’all gon’ make me go all out, up in heh, up in heh . . . . .

I’m surprised that thousands of purple-shirted state workers haven’t stormed the Capitol chanting “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in heh, up in heh,” armed with brown paper lunch bags filled with dog poo to be flung at their state leaders. I couldn’t condone it, but I would understand it.

Y’all gon’ make me act a fool, up in heh, up in heh . . . .

I’m surprised that the Governor and legislators haven’t been egged at their fundraising appearances back in their districts. I couldn’t condone it, but I would understand it.

Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool, up in heh, up in heh . . . .

I wouldn’t be surprised if, should the Governor make his annual appeal for state employee contributions to the California State Employee Charitable Campaign (CSECC), state employees were to give their contributions directly to CSECC charities, wipe their behinds on their CSECC forms, and send them directly to the Governor. Asking for charitable contributions from the very people whose salaries you cut by almost 15%? Crazy. Yep, I couldn’t condone it, but I would understand it.

I don’t think the Governor and the legislators really get how close they’ve pushed state workers to the edge. You can only push people so far before some really weird and tragic shit jumps off. I couldn’t condone it, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t understand it.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Are You Having Any Fun?

I watched today as California's First Lady Maria Shriver eulogized her mother and carried her casket.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking: I didn't know women were allowed to carry caskets.

I guess if your mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, you wouldn't have grown up thinking you couldn't.

From Ms. Shriver's account, her mother, founder of the Special Olympics and a woman infused with the spirit of public service that is the hallmark of the Kennedy clan, was, above all, a mom. And it sounds like she was a fun one at that. Ms. Shriver spoke of how her mother wore men's pants, smoked Cuban cigars, cared little about how she wore her hair, played touch football, and came to pick up her daughter from school in a convertible while wearing notes pinned to her sweater to remind her of her to-do's. She was, in Ms. Shriver's word, an inspiration to women because she made them think they could indeed have it all.

She sounded like she was Katherine Hepburn, but with children. She sounded like the kind of woman you would have invited over for girl's poker night and a pitcher of margaritas. Like she was simply a hoot.

Say what you will about the Kennedys, but what sets them apart from most Americans is that they live with passion. Maybe it's because they supposedly live under some curse, as some have said; maybe it's because they know that life is truly a gift from God for an undetermined period to be lived in service to others. I don't know what it is, but they seem to live with passion -- for public service, for family and friends, for life.

Do you? I know I don't always.

I was thinking about this as I was cleaning out my garage and watching while a plumber was working on our water heater. By the way, if you have a Bradford White water heater, let me tell you now: Your water heater sucks or will soon suck. Our house is only three years old, we've been in it less than a year, but this is our second service repair on the water heater. Take my word for it: They suck. But I digress.

I was unpacking boxes of stuff we received as wedding gifts over six years ago and moved from Colorado to California without even looking at them or put in storage in California. I came across a box of glasses and stemware -- white wine glasses, red wine glasses, highball glasses, martini glasses. And that little ditty from the Safeway commercial came to mind:

Are you having any fun?
What'cha getting out of living?
What good is what you've got
If you're not
Having any fun?

It reminded me of how little BMNB and I entertain, partly because we have no decent furniture (two things we didn't really take care of in our thirties: Furniture and children. We're working on the latter. The former is from thrift stores), partly because we're not so good at it, partly because it's work. We forget how fun it is simply to be in the company of people we enjoy, people who really don't care if we've got great furniture or if we burn the steaks on the grill. (And if you don't watch BMNB, he will indeed burn your bovine and char your cow.)

Both of us are members of black fraternal service organizations, but with time and cross-country moves, we've inadvertently distanced ourselves from the bonds of those organizations and the public service we pledged ourselves to in college.

But we need to do more. We need to have fun. With people we like and who like us regardless of whether we live in a hut or a hovel. And we need to serve more.

We need to live our lives with the same kind of passion as the Kennedys, even if we don't have their money. We need to make the most of what we do have, enjoy it, and share it. Because when we go, I want our friends and family to say that we did indeed value the lives we were given and lived them with the same passion and purpose as Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

If my future daughters, my sisters, or my nieces want to carry my casket, so be it. They're more than welcome to wear pants while doing it. And if they have some margaritas afterward, I ain't mad at them.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

These People Look Familiar . . .

Oh, what a week it was. Judge Sotomayor is now Justice Sotomayor. Don't you love it? Laura Ling and Euna Lee were pardoned and returned home, thanks to President Bill "Big Dog" Clinton. (Note to President Clinton: I forgive you and Secretary Clinton for anything you did or said during the election that I found objectionable.) And Americans everywhere were voicing their opinions, loud and strong, against health care reform in town hall meetings.

But wait. Don't these angry town hall health care opponents look familiar to you? They look like the Tax Tea Party folks from earlier on this year, down to their very lack of racial diversity. Can't pick them out of a lineup, but they sure do look familiar.

My feeling is this: If they don't want health care reform, they should be able to opt out. Really. Sign a waiver saying that they are waiving their right to any government subsidized health care whatsoever -- the so-called "public option," as well as Medicaid and Medicare. We'll put a special designation on their social security numbers, and their federal income taxes will be reduced accordingly so that they're not paying for "socialized medicine."

But here's the catch: They don't get to change their minds.

If they fall on hard times as seniors and don't have health care provided through their former employers, well, tough nuggies. They have just given the hospital the right to roll their broke asses right out of the emergency room. Oh, but get off the gurney, 'cause the hospital is gonna need it for the insured folks.

Can't afford their statins, their Aricept, and other old age drugs on their pension-provided health care? Well, no federal supplemental program for them. They've just become their own damn "death panel." They'll need to choose between drugs and that cat food they're going to have to eat, since they probably opposed defined benefit pensions and cost-of-living increases, too.

Get dropped from their employers' insurance because it's too costly? Well, better find another employer, 'cause they like how that whole free market works anyway, right? That's how THEY roll.

And when their insurance companies deny coverage and they -- what? -- want to switch to the public option because it does provide coverage, well, they'll have to suck it up. They didn't want that ol' Nazi medical plan, right?

And don't even think about getting federal money for Viagra, which I think shouldn't be federally subsidized under any measure. A limp penis, although sad (even sadder if you're on the receiving end, but I wouldn't know nothin' 'bout that), is not life threatening.

Quite frankly, I want these familiar-looking and probably broke-ass citizens to opt out and waive federal coverage and any benefits of health care reform. They're probably the same ones who will turn around, have no coverage, and roll up to the emergency room of my HMO, driving up my rates. If they want to be non-covered health care lemmings, I say, let them walk right off that cliff. As for me, I'm willing to pay what it takes to get everyone covered and give the real "death panels" -- the insurance companies -- a run for their money by competition with the government. Because we do like competitive free markets, don't we?

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Gift All Michael Jackson Fans Have

I was happy to hear that Katherine Jackson will be the legal guardian for Michael Jackson's children. I just hope she's able to keep Joe Jackson away from them. It's funny -- people cited her age and wrote her off as not the best choice to raise three small children. First, looks are deceiving -- Katherine Jackson looks good for a seventy-nine year-old woman. Second, women Katherine Jackson's age all over America are raising their grandchildren, some for reasons more sad than hers. Third, as Iyanla Vanzant says, there is nothing more powerful than a child of God with a made-up mind. Once Mrs. Jackson made up her mind to raise her grandchildren, game over. I wish her and her grandchildren well.

Thinking of this reminds me of two incidents I had with my great-nephews involving Michael Jackson and showing that he does indeed live on in his music. I had two 'tween great-nephews over a few weeks ago to spend the night, and both had Michael Jackson songs loaded on their MP3 players and were listening to them. They proclaimed themselves major Michael Jackson fans despite the fact that many of the songs they were listening to came out long before they were born. Since I believe in putting boys to work, I had them scrambling their own eggs for breakfast. It was cute to watch them scrambling their eggs and moving to the beat of Michael Jackson songs -- one was listening to "Billie Jean," the other, "Thriller," -- through their MP3 earbuds. Michael Jackson does indeed live on through his music.

The second involved my eight year-old great nephew, whom I sometimes pick up from visitation with his father. He had returned from New York state to visit his grandmother, and somehow we got on the subject of Michael Jackson. He informed me that he, like Michael, could stand on his tip-toes, although not at that moment because he was wearing flip-flops, and that he knew how to moonwalk.

I asked him, "How'd you learn to moonwalk?"

He replied, "I practiced. It's a gift all Michael Jackson fans have, you know."

I responded, "I was a Michael Jackson fan before you were born and I don't know how to moonwalk."

He replied, "Well, I practice. You can't moonwalk because you don't practice. You haven't been practicing, now have you, Auntie?" A smug smile crept across his precocious, cute little face.

He was right. Auntie had not been practicing her moonwalk.

And later that night, in the quasi-privacy of my kitchen, I practiced my moonwalk. And I almost got it. It's a gift all Michael Jackson fans have, you know.

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