Black Woman Blogging

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hitting the Reset Button

Memorial Day is a wonderful time to take stock -- of the lives lost in defense of our nation, of what we have, of what we've accomplished thus far this year. It's also a good time to hit the reset button of our lives.

I know that I, like many women, slide into schlumpadinka-ville during the winter months. I dress for warmth, not for style. I don't pay attention to my hair. I eat comfort food, not healthy food. Nail techs would run from me in horror if they saw my feet. Exercise regimen? As if.

But all that self-denial in pursuit of warmth and comfort takes its toll. Most of the cute summer clothes are not in my size. I'm out of breath just taking the stairs. My hair looks like a cross between Sasquatch and a drunken Diana Ross. And nail techs would still run from my feet.

So it's time to hit the reset button.

Sure, I've got a lot going on -- I'm getting involved in local politics (as an activist), BMNB and I are still in adoption mode, and our house looks like nuclear winter on the inside. But I read O Magazine's column by Donna Brazile this month, and in it she said something that got my attention:

You can only go as far as your body will take you.

I hate to go all Oprah on y'all, but that was definitely an "A-ha" moment for me.

I've always counted on my intellect, but if I don't take care of my body, my intellect doesn't matter. It's hard to express deep thoughts if a stroke has altered your speech. It's hard to run around after children if a heart attack has slowed you down. I don't even want to go there.

So I'm hitting the reset button. I'm rededicating myself to eating better, exercising, and taking care of myself. I pulled out the Weight Watchers materials, and although I'm not ready to rejoin the group, I am ready to start being mindful of what I put in my mouth. I want to run a marathon one day, God willing, if my body will take me that far. I want to run after the kids BMNB and I have yet to have.

Now, if I can find a nail tech who won't run from my feet . . .

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Fill, Baby, Fill!

BP, you done gone and made BMNB mad. And that ain’t easy.

You see, BMNB was born in Mobile, which, if you haven’t noticed, sits on the Gulf of Mexico. And while he’s spent most of his childhood and adulthood in California, Mobile and the Gulf Coast are and always will be home to him. Both Dauphin Island and Daphne were on our short list for places to retire.

But, BP, you done gone and f*&^%# it up. And now BMNB is mad.

Mad because he doesn’t eat seafood from anywhere else BUT the Gulf. I’m serious. We went to dinner in Florida as part of a job interview for me, and he barely spoke to anyone at the dinner table because he was face-down in Gulf seafood. His mother used to have Gulf fish Fedexed to California on dry ice. We attended an event in Denver where a woman from Mississippi had flown in fresh catfish from the Gulf area, and BMNB parked himself by her vat of hot peanut oil, waiting for each piece of gulf catfish to come out, perfectly seasoned and cooked. Why? Because seafood from anywhere else, to his palate, “tastes funny.”

That’s how much BMNB loves the Gulf and its seafood.

So for him, to think that his way of life – even from thousands of miles away – is going to be changed forever because of something a FOREIGN oil company did and is still doing?

He’s hot. If he had his way, they’d be making barrier islands from the corpses of BP executives.

So, long story short, BP, you need to “fill, baby, fill.” And fast. And to those who think we should trust profit-driven corporations when they give us their estimates as to the damage they’ve done in catastrophes like this, I hope you’ve learned that the people who most have the interests of the environment at heart are those who come from or live in that environment and not those who just come to exploit it. All of BP’s previous efforts at containment were probably motivated in part by a desire to preserve the well instead of kill it, if you ask me. This is just another lawsuit to BP; it isn’t personal to them, like it is to the Gulf Coast guy I’m married to.

If I were you, BP, I’d get that well plugged quick, fast, and in a hurry. And if you see a deranged black man coming at you with a weapon in one hand, a fistful of oil-soaked shrimp in the other, and an angry look on his face, that’s my husband and you better duck.

And he ain’t too happy with the federal government’s response, either.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

There Will Be Threats

Yesterday I celebrated by seventh wedding anniversary. I was trying to think of what I’d learned in the year since my last anniversary, and it's this: There will be threats.

I’d always thought that the threats to my marriage would come from within: Infidelity, boredom, incompatibility, an attraction to Halle Berry (not mine), you name it. I never took seriously that there would be threats from outside of our marriage. Why would anybody want to wreck someone else’s marriage or wreak havoc within it?

Because they can. Or they think they can.

BMNB and I endured such a threat to the peace in our marriage since our last anniversary. Someone we’d invited into our home used our conversations and confidences and passed them along to someone else so that someone else could in turn manipulate us.

I felt used and betrayed. But a bought lesson is a learned lesson.

The sad thing is that now BMNB and I aren’t as open about having people, family or otherwise, in our lives and in our home. BMNB isn’t the most warm and welcoming guy to begin with, so if he has an inkling that you’re trying to be in our space to do us harm, you don’t get very far. I, who have always been the more friendly and chatty of us two, have become more closed off and aloof, too. Since this was a family member who caused us problems, I don’t extend myself to family members I’m not absolutely sure are in our corner. As far as I’m concerned, you’re either on our team – meaning you want our marriage to succeed – or you’re not, plain and simple. And people who aren’t on the team aren’t allowed in my life or in my home.

We’re also a lot more circumspect about the people we do let in our lives. BMNB doesn’t like nosy people who just want to come over to see how we’re living. I, on the other hand, can’t stand people who don’t have shit who want to come over and criticize what little we have. Between the two of us, we don’t do a lot of entertaining at home.

BMNB believes, moreso than do I, that for people you don’t trust, you create an “information vacuum.” If he doesn’t trust you, he won’t discuss his personal life with you in any way, shape or form. His feeling is that if you’re going to talk about him, you’re going to have to make stuff up because he’s not going to give you information to use.

And I’ve learned that there are a lot of unhappy people out there who take joy in stealing yours -- people who don’t work on their issues and instead want to inflict themselves and their issues on you. Shit stirrers. Those people are not my fault, and they’re not your fault, either. Unless you raised them, you didn’t cause their issues. I know I didn’t. And it’s not my job or yours to fix them. I’d always been more logical than intuitive on this point, believing that if someone caused me harm, I must have done something – intentionally or unintentionally – to elicit their response. I now appreciate that there are people out there who will go out of their way to wreak havoc in your relationship and your life for no reason related to anything you’ve said or done to them.

As we celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary, I marveled at the fact that, despite the outside threats to our marriage, it has endured. I don’t even fear Halle Berry anymore.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Little Girls: Put A Leotard On It

I've been following the dust-up in the news about the 7 year-olds dancing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" during a dance competition clothed in, well, "costumes," to put it politely. First, everyone was disgusted at the inappropriate clothing and too-adult dance moves. Then, the dance moms fired back and, with an assist from Whoopi Goldberg on "The View," took viewers to task to question themselves if they saw something that was inappropriate -- this was a dance competition, after all, so if they read more into it, well, shame on them.

Hmmm. So, in the interest of trying to inform myself, I viewed the video on YouTube as well as Beyonce's video for "Single Ladies." I think the little girls' dance moves were better than Beyonce's -- I don't think Beyonce can do a pirouette. But I don't think this was age-appropriate dancing for girls their age.

Therein lies the problem. Little girls shouldn't be dancing like grown women, or dressing like them for that matter, even in a dance competition. Here's why, or at least one man's take on this.

I spoke to a trusted male friend of mine, Trevor, who just shook his head when discussing the video of the little girls dancing. Trevor is absolutely certain that the choreographer of the girls' dance had to be a woman. No man, especially a man with daughters, would have allowed his little girls to dress and dance in that matter, in his opinion.

Now, what I'm going to paraphrase from Trevor's remarks is controversial, so don't blame the messenger.

"Women don't understand how men think, otherwise they wouldn't let their daughters dress and act in certain ways." Trevor went on to state that men are "hard wired" to think sexually and are visual beings. "A normal guy can look at those little girls and take a step back, remember they're little girls, and treat them accordingly. The problem is that a lot of guys aren't normal. For them, if you act like a grown and sexy woman, they're going to treat you like a grown and sexy woman -- like an equally sexual being. And that's okay if you're a grown woman and you make that choice knowing there's a chance that someone will treat you in that manner. Little girls don't understand that and don't understand the consequences of dressing and acting in a sexually suggestive manner. That's why parents have to step in and draw the boundaries for what's age appropriate for their young girls." Trevor's concern was for how those little girls might be treated off the dance floor for what they did on the dance floor.

Now, Trevor isn't one of those guys who think that women "deserve what they get" when the dress and act in a sexually suggestive manner. He believes that ""no" means "no"." But, he cautions, "That's the way it should be. That's not the way it always is. And grown women understand that and understand the risk they take when they dress and act in a sexually suggestive manner. It's unfair to little girls to make them think that dancing in that manner is just "dancing" and is without consequences. It's unfair to sexualize them without them being able to understand the consequences."

So there you have it. One guy's opinion.

Quite frankly, I thought the girls could have demonstrated their excellent dance abilities in a dance that was age-appropriate. And, if you compare what they were wearing -- bikini tops, short shorts, and knee-high stockings -- to what Beyonce wore in her video -- a one-sleeved leotard and panty hose -- it's Beyonce who actually looks more like she's dressed like a dancer. And more modest, too.

Maybe I'm just getting old. I thought little girls still danced in leotards.

And therein lies the problem. They should.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Free To Be Herself: Rest in Peace, Soror Horne

"I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else."

- Lena Horne at age 80

I was so sorry to hear of Lena Horne's passing this morning. But I had to smile, too, when I thought of her life and all that she'd accomplished. Despite all the obstacles and sleights, the degradations and denigrations, she still came out on top, with her dignity and pride intact.

Oh, what an example she was for all of us black women! We are all as free as we choose to be. Like Ms. Horne, we are each unique and there's not another one like each of us.

I remember in college one of my friends used to play Ms. Horne's version of "Be A Lion" from the Broadway musical"The Wiz" before she'd take her finals. She said it, and Ms. Horne, inspired her to greater things, inspired her to believe that she could overcome obstacles, including finals for a pre-med. She's a successful doctor now.

As for me, I took pride in the fact that Ms. Horne accepted membership in our sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, one of the nation's oldest black public service sororities, with a seriousness and dedication one would not expect from an honorary member. She didn't tout membership in DST as just yet another accolade; she wore it, extolled it, perfected it, and leveraged it on behalf of the good of others. She was a far better soror than I could ever hope to be.

Losing Dorothy Height and Lena Horne within the same month is a lot to bear. But to borrow from my own mother's verbiage, if I just "do like they did," I'm going to be alright. More than alright, come to think of it.

Rest in Peace, Soror Horne.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Pretty Damn Good Life












Last weekend, I started my Saturday in my garden with my great-nephew M. He stayed over the night before – I was at a campaign meeting and didn’t get home until 11:00 pm, so we didn’t see much of each other – but we started the morning together in my garden, with him clipping the flowers off of my collards and mustard greens (they’re bolting, but hey, they’re still good, fresh food) and me watering the seeds I’ve started for my summer vegetable garden. I pulled a carrot out of the ground, washed it, and we both ate it, remarking at how sweet it was and so unlike the slightly bitter carrots we get in the store.

After going out to breakfast with M and BMNB, we all went to “Clayfest” in Lincoln, which included “Camp Clay,” a free event where kids could get as much wet clay as they wanted to do with it as they pleased. As I was sitting at a table that sunny Saturday listening to M and BMNB playfully argue over what M should do with the clay, (I finally told BMNB, “Get your own clay!”), I thought to myself:

You’ve got a pretty damn good life.

Mind you, I didn’t say perfect life. What makes my life a pretty damn good one at this point is that I’ve let go of a lot of things and no longer allow the perfect to get in the way of the good.

Yes, my house is a mess and I have grain beetles in my pantry (Who knew?). I still haven’t unpacked and organized things to my liking. But my roses are in bloom and fragrant as ever (Heirloom and Fragrant Cloud, to be exact). I can pay my bills, even with this freakin’ furlough. I’m not hungry – in fact, I’m overweight. My husband adores me and I adore him. I live in a nice neighborhood where my neighbors share in lawn care duties and weeding of each other’s properties.

But I’ve let go of a lot.

I’ve let go of the aspiration that I will find my work thrilling and motivating. My job doesn’t excite me. The practice of law doesn’t excite me. I like the people I work with, I like most of the work I do, but I can’t say I went to law school to do what I’m doing or that it propels me out of bed in the morning. I’ve long stopped trying to live up to others’ career aspirations for me, too. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “I thought you’d be on the bench by now,” without anyone ever asking me, “Do you want to be a judge?” The answer is “no.” Quite frankly, I don’t know what I want to do, and I know that my civil rights forebears, like my late soror Dorothy Height, would probably be disappointed in my current lack of direction given all of the educational capital that’s been invested in me. But I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time. Although I’m sure this is my last attorney job, I might stay in it for as long as it supports the kind of life I want – the ability to put my family first without a lot of pushback, as in private sector legal practice. My job does allow me a great deal of flexibility, and I work in a very parent-friendly workplace, which gets me to my second point:

I’ve let go of the idea that there’s a perfect time to start a family. There isn’t. You just do it. BMNB and I have probably waited far too long, longer than most, but that’s been the tenor of our lives – we’re late bloomers and over-achievers, always trying to get our ducks in a row before we embark on something huge. But not this time. So we’ve started to plough ahead on the adoption front, and I’m excited and scared all at the same time. And I wonder whether I’ll even care as much about my career when we have kids in the house. My advice to anyone, whether you’re single, married, or just breathing, is that if you want kids, go make some or go get some. There is no perfect moment to start a family.

I’ve let go of the idea that I would be wealthy. Mind you, I wasn’t chasing wealth for the purpose of buying oodles of crap. I wanted to be financially secure in order to be free to do whatever the hell I wanted. And deep down inside, I think I expected that that was what others expected of me. But as I look down the dual paths of retirement planning and child raising/college saving, unless I become the Donald Trump of Placer County in selling real estate, the likelihood that I’m going to be wealthy isn’t very high if I stay in my current position. Mind you, BMNB and I make a comfortable living for two folks with no kids. But the idea that one day I won’t have to watch my pennies, invest and save aggressively, clip coupons, or shop meat sales at Safeway is gone. I’d rather be less well off and surrounded by happy kids. My definition of happiness has definitely changed.

I’ve let go of the idea that I’m going to be a size eight. Now, I just want to be healthy and feel good. I’ve got this one body (I’m starting to sound like a “Boniva” commercial here), and I’ve got to stop waging war against it. It serves me, and I need to serve it, no matter what size it is.

I’ve let go of the idea that I have a lot of time left to do the things I want to do. I don’t. Nobody really does. I was listening to Joan Rivers on “Forum” on my way to work, and she said that she lives well because she believes you only live once. As a Jew, she remarked that they believe in “heaven and hell, all right here on earth.” I’m one of those people who puts fun things off until I can pay cash and I constantly say, “We can’t afford that right now.” Well, to borrow from an old civil rights refrain, “If not now, when?” I’m not saying I’m going to run out and charge a bunch of trips and rack up oodles of debt. I am saying that I’m going to find a middle ground and plan for more fun. As nerdy as it sounds, I’m looking forward to studying places with my kids and then traveling to those places, like Civil War battlegrounds, Washington D.C., California missions, the Underground Railroad, and the like. BMNB and I love to travel, and I want to build more of that into our lives.

I’ve taken a break from achievement and gone off on a path of fun. Right now, I’m running a local political campaign and I’m having a blast! I’m using all of my skills – writing, organization, planning, creativity – to put together a winning strategy for a candidate I believe in, and I’m meeting all kinds of intriguing and passionate people along the way. I don’t know where this might lead down the line, but right now, I’m having more fun at this than at trying to figure out my career path.

We finished our Saturday with a trip to the library (M loves to read – gotta love that in an 8 year-old), two trips to Burger King (don’t ask), and an evening watching kid videos we borrowed from the library for free -- Shrek, Madagascar, one of those Narnia movies – while I crocheted an afghan for his cousin. The next day, consonant with Donkey’s prescription for a good sleepover, I made waffles – buttermilk waffles from scratch, mind you. I’ve spoiled M to the point that he expects waffles from scratch when he stays with us. But the smile on his face when he eats them is more than worth it.

Yep, I’ve got a pretty damn good life, and it took an 8 year-old to remind me of that

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