Stuck (Part II)

I sat and stared at that piece of paper for hours before I finally worked up the nerve to use the telephone number written on it.  Even though I give guys a lot of lip about relying heavily on text messages, it seemed like a text would be less awkward than a phone call.  And, so… I sent a text.  Just told him my name and that the doorman gave him my number and because I didn’t know what else to say, I wrote: “Um… I’m not sure what else to say, lol… :-)”

Then I waited.  But I didn’t have to wait long.  He wrote back almost immediately.   His response: “Lol, well, there’s nothing much to say obviously I’m interested here a start my name [his name]”

Hmm…

See anything wrong with that message?!  Mega typos or… just poor grammar?  Either way, my nerves were completely grated.  In the first message.

Most of you don’t know me personally, so you wouldn’t understand why this was such a major disappointment.

Allow me to reintroduce myself.  “Hello, my name is [Me]… and I am a grammar snob.”

Here’s the thing about texting and email communication and even Facebook status updates and tweets… all these media that require writing uncover the closet illiterates very early on in your relationship. I assume that before the days of the Internet, it was conceivable that you might meet someone and never discover that they couldn’t write until after you’d already fallen for them and by then their writing challenges would be secondary to the love you might be feeling. But these days, particularly when you are dating online, these issues present themselves a lot sooner, resulting in interesting questions.

Questions like what job/career could you possibly have if you can’t even string a few words together to construct a simple sentence? Most jobs (except maybe those that involve manual labor?) require some sort of facility with email, which means you’d have to be able to at least write in a way that sort of makes sense. But maybe some employers have lower standards than I have for my employees… Maybe?

I didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak. (That’s a “Daddyism” a.k.a. Shit My Dad Says.  I’ll frequently share Daddyisms as we go along.) Because I’m in a place where I’m trying new approaches to dating, I figured that perhaps I should try to give this guy another shot. Maybe he was just distracted and that’s why his message made no sense.

But… No.

I continued to exchange messages with him and they were progressively worse than the first (if that’s possible!). It got to the point where I had to read messages a few times before I could even get the gist of what he was saying. It was awful. And I was embarrassed for him. Illiteracy — even functional illiteracy — is one of my deal breakers. And, so, despite My Buddy’s (the doorman) effort, there can be no love connection between me and the cute guy from the building.

Eventually, we moved from text to telephone and the conversation wasn’t forced. He is much more article verbally than he is in writing (thanks be to God!), so we were able to make small talk and that was cool. He asked if I’d like to go for happy hour one day, which is one of my most favorite activities, so I agreed. There’s no date set in stone, but I’m always down for a drink with a guy who seems cool. That said, that’s as far as it will go.

My friends will roll their eyes when they hear this story. Sure, the guy was cute and made decent small talk, and maybe to others (perhaps even to YOU), grammar, punctuation (or lack thereof), improper word usage, and typos are minor. To me, they’re quite major. Even when I see my Facebook and Instagram friends botch there/they’re/their and to/too/two or here/hear, I’m driven to the point of distraction. I don’t know if I could accept it in my mate.

And there’s a life lesson here, too. Everyone… And I do mean EVERYONE… Including me, including YOU (yes, I know we’re perfect, but humor me here) has shortcomings. The man of your dreams WILL have shortcomings. There will be things he can’t/won’t do at all or things that he can’t/won’t do very well. Some of those things will be no big deal. Other things will totally set you off and jump all over that one nerve you have left.

Don’t let anyone else convince you that you have to deal with some stuff that you know you can’t stand. Get to know yourself well enough to identify your deal breakers and do not be shamed into lowering your standards for the sake of a full dating calendar. It’s okay to be discriminating and it’s also okay for you to discriminate based on things that other people find trivial. Those people won’t have to live with your partner, but you will. Keep that in mind…

Back to the cute neighbor. Even if he had been everything I wanted him to be, I’m not sure that dating someone in the building would’ve been the best move. I am ultimately looking for a partner but until then I am dating in the purest sense of the word, which means there are a number of guys in the mix. I’m not sure how homeboy would feel if he saw me getting dropped off by some other guy or even how I would feel if I saw him bringing another girl back to his place. It seems like that could go all the way south under the wrong circumstances, so I think things worked out for the best.

On to the next one…

Pilates was not the “cake walk” I expected

I called up my friend, who is a very talented dancer, for a bit of advice. I wanted to know what kind of dance class would best limber up my very stiff and puffy body. “No doubt about it,” she said. “Pilates is the way to go. But, start off slow because – though it doesn’t feel like it at the time – your whole body is getting a workout. If you don’t feel it that night, you’ll feel it for sure the next day.” She spent about 15 minutes singing the praises of Pilates, and ultimately convinced me to give it a go. I hung up the phone and signed-up for a six-week class at a cute little yoga studio in my neighborhood.

The class started on a Tuesday at 7pm. I arrived at the studio with about five minutes to spare. I changed quickly in the sparsely decorated dressing room and ducked into the back of the class. I looked around. All types of people were in the room. There were a few women in their 50s, a pregnant woman, and several other women from mid-20s to mid-30s. When our instructor walked in, I was genuinely surprised. Her name was Julia and she was squarely in her 50s. I’m thinking to myself, if this old bag can do pilates, then I can certainly handle anything she can throw at me. I run, I sweat it out in Zumba … this Pilates thing is just a bunch of stretching.  It will be a piece of cake! To start the class, Julia explained her experience with Pilates. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” she says. I look at her hard… I’m thinking that after 25 years of doing this, her body should look A LOT better than it does. Maybe pilates won’t give me the kind of results I need to see…

Pie and lattes?! Sign me up!

“We’ll start with ‘The 100’,” she says.  “Turn onto your back and lie flat. Put your feet up into the air and your arms straight back. Now, with your feet in the air and arms straight back, lift your head up off the floor and flap your arms vigorously for a count of 100.” No sweat, I think. But, I don’t even get to her count of five before my head falls back to the ground with a thud. I see stars. I’m panting already. WTF?! This is not a good sign! “This is one of the basic warm-up moves in Pilates,” she is saying. Warm up?! If this is the warm-up, what’s the workout gonna be like?!

At this point, my arms are lying flat by my side and my head is lolling to the side like a ragdoll. I look up and Julia is standing over me. Her pink legwarmer is right by my mouth. From here it looks like cotton candy. I want to bite it off of her. “Are we having trouble here?” she asks. Um, I’m half dead, lady, so yeah… I’d say we’re having trouble! I want to scream. Instead, I say, “No, just taking a break,” and immediately raise my head (with strength that I get from where?) and start pumping my arms like a fiend. “It’s a little early for a break,” she says, shaking her head with a “tsk-tsk” look. “After you get rid of some of the… ‘bulk’… that you’re carrying and strengthen some of those muscles, you’ll be able to do this exercise without stopping,” she quips with a syrupy sweet (super-fake) smile. Man, eff you, too, I think. Just when I think that I can’t take another minute of “The 100”, Julia screams out “Two more!” with a glee that sounds slightly psychotic.

By the time the class ended and I made my beeline for the door, Julia had asked us to roll like a ball, suck in our stomachs so that our navels touched our spines, and to throw our legs over our heads. After I slipped out of my (very sweaty) Lycra and back into my street clothes, I headed for the reception desk. The young crunchy kid behind the desk was eating hummus and pita and chitty-chatting on the telephone. “Um, excuse me,” I say. She puts up one finger to tell me to hold on for a minute. I twirl my hair while I wait for her to wrap up her trite conversation. “Yes?” she says. Whatever happened to “how can I help you”? Kids these days, man! Anyway, I say, “What’s your refund policy?” She smiles a knowing smile and says, “After the first class, you are able to recover 90% of your tuition. Each additional class that you attend diminishes your refund by an additional 10%.” Hmmm… “I’d like a refund please,” I say quickly. We complete the transaction and I am out of the door. So much for this grand plan. That sh*t was HARD! I’m going back to Zumba! And, in the meantime, Miss Julia can kiss my “bulky”, fat, jiggly, arse.

Balotelli, Smart, and Me: Racial Slurs Hurt (and they can also GET you hurt!)

I’m Black.  I haven’t shared my photo, but in case you had any doubts, I am a Black American woman.  Now I am very comfortable in my skin and I celebrate my identity.  I love being Black.  But my feelings about my identity have evolved over time.

I grew up in Washington, D.C., which is also known as Chocolate City.  But in the Maryland suburbs situated just outside of the city, which is where I grew up, there wasn’t much diversity in the 80s.  Often, I was the only black kid in my class.  It was never really an issue for me.  I always loved school and I thrived.  But I was also somewhat of a “mascot” at school.  I remember my mom commenting about how popular I was.  “When I walk into the school, everyone knows who I’m there to see.  They all know who you are,” she bragged.  Even as a child, I knew that I wasn’t popular because of my glowing personality (’cause it DID glow, even back then!).  When you’re the only black kid in the class and one of only a few in the entire school, you’re difficult to miss.  Of course everyone knew my name – I stuck out like a sore thumb.

It’s hard being the token black kid.  You wear the weight of the world on your shoulders.  You field ignorant questions, asked “innocently” and you’re not supposed to show anger or aggression in response; you’re just supposed to shrug it off and forgive the ignorance, pretending to be grateful that people want to learn more about what makes you different.  I’m sure some of the dumb sht*t people said was well intended, but as the old folk say: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions, so… there’s that.

I was in the second grade when I was called a nigger for the first time.  I was involved in a fierce game of kickball during recess.  I wanted to pitch, and this little boy with white blonde hair who had designated himself the “captain” of our team looked me in the face and said, “We don’t let niggers pitch.”

I was floored.

The boy, Vernon, was popular.  My best friend, also white, was his “girlfriend”.  When Vernon spit the slur at me, I ran to tell his grandmother, who volunteered at our school, and she let him have it.  I felt somewhat vindicated, but then I told my best friend how embarrassed I was that he’d said it.  I expected her to side with me, but she didn’t.  My world was rocked.  In addition to my embarrassment, I felt betrayed.  It was a sad day.

My parents were fitful when I reported the incident to them.  My father was unsurprised, but nevertheless wanted to kill the kid; my mother was shocked and devastated that I was dealing with such a heavy incident at such a young age.  She had hoped I would be protected from that ugly word for a little while longer.  It came before she was ready.  My feelings were hurt.  I cried.  But, surprisingly, I didn’t hate Vernon.  I was just confused as to why someone would dislike me because I looked different from them.

It’s been almost 30 years since that incident happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I vividly see Vernon’s round face, his pale skin, colorless hair, and ice blue eyes staring at me with contempt when he called me the n-word.  I’m not hurt by it now, but then… then, I was devastated.  I recall quite clearly the feeling I had when he said the word.  It was as though I’d been punched in the gut.  I couldn’t breathe, then I felt hot, and finally I, literally, saw red. I’ve been called a nigger a few times since then, unfortunately, but none of the other incidents hurt quite like the first time.  Vernon popped my n-word cherry, so to speak. Thanks, kid.  Hooray.

So, that’s why I immediately felt like a knife had been driven deep into my chest, opening an old wound, when I saw the story about soccer player Mario Balotelli yesterday.  Balotelli, a striker for AC Milan whose parents are Ghanaian, was taunted with racial slurs by the opposing team’s fans.  Apparently, the slurs were so hurtful, this man broke down and sobbed on the sidelines.

Balotelli, reduced to tears after being reminded, in the worst way, that he is black. (via SportingNews)

Balotelli, reduced to tears after being reminded, in the worst way, that he is black, and that black is somehow a “bad” thing. (via SportingNews)

Now, who knows whether this incident was Balotelli’s first experience with racial slurs (although I doubt that he’s managed to escape other incidents during 20+ years on this Earth), but what we do know is that he was hurt enough to be reduced to tears on the field, which is MAJOR for an athlete since sportsmen are typically known for their bravado and masculinity, making such an emotional spectacle extremely rare.  Sure, he’s European and maybe they’re more in touch with their feelings than American athletes (I’m aware that this is a stereotype and major generalization, but just go with it), but this is obviously a big deal since it’s reached us across the pond.

Also this week, Marcus Smart, who plays basketball for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, was criticized for pushing a fan who called him – surprise, surprise – a nigger.  I’ve got to say, I’m never one to encourage physical altercations, but “nigger” is a fighting word, plain and simple.  If you are Black, if and when you hear it, you WILL be taken to another level and all bets will be off.   So, I freely admit that I do not fault Marcus Smart for reacting the way that he did.  He will now have to face consequences and criticism for his actions, but at the time, he did what he felt needed to be done. *tsk tsk* me if you want, but I can respect that and I can relate to it, too.  Had I been strong enough to fight Vernon back in the day, we’d have tussled.  Trust and believe.

Hours after the Balotelli incident occurred, there is now some question about whether the taunts were really the driving force behind his emotional outburst.  But regardless of whether the whole situation really brought a grown man to tears, why would the Napoli fans think it was okay to hurl racial epithets at someone anyway?  People deriding your differences instead of celebrating them are hurtful, especially when your differences center on your identity.  One cannot change being black, nor hide it (in most cases), and it’s particularly frustrating when people hate you for things beyond your control.  As such, racial epithets can cut like a knife.  They can break you down, and frustrate you enough to make you cry… or fight.  I get it, and 7-year-old me gets it, and I need for you to get it, too.

Dear White People (and others):

If you don’t want to face any potential repercussions, physical or otherwise, that you may experience as a result of using then n-word, then simply remove it from your vocabulary.  It’s never okay to use it.  Not even as a “joke”, not even in the heat of the moment, not even amongst friends, not even ever.  The “why” is irrelevant, please just don’t use it because we said so.

Regards,

Black Folk

People: Black folk, White folk, and other folk, please remember that words hurt.  Use your mouth to speak LIFE to each other, not to kill, steal, or destroy the self-worth of another human being.  Know that a word – ONE WORD – can reduce a grown man to tears.  And also know that if you use a (certain) word with the wrong person, it can also get your ass beat.  Take heed and govern yourselves accordingly.  Please.  Life is just too short.  Let’s be nice to each other while we’re here.

HAIR: 5 Tips for New (or Frustrated!) Naturals

I have been natural for almost five years.  In January of 2010 I decided to stop relaxing my hair. The last time I’d seen my natural hair was when I was 12. A full 19 years had passed since my hair had been allowed to just be. I had never considered that I could wear my hair natural.  I always thought it would be too kinky, dry, unruly, unprofessional to wear in public, and never thought I’d be able to swing it at work.  But in 2009, when I relocated to New York, I made two close friends and they both had natural hair that they completely ROCKED! Going natural was a HUGE decision for me. I was one of those women who had a standing appointment with my hairstylist for a relaxer touch-up every six weeks – without fail. But one day, inspired by my natural friends and the other fly naturals I’d encountered in NYC, at my standing appointment, I made the decision to just get a deep conditioning treatment in place of my relaxer.  My stylist was stunned, but she did what I asked.  Seven months later, after struggling with two textures for too long, I went in to the salon for a deep conditioner and chopped my hair off instead.  I’ve been natural ever since.  Looking back on it, I only have one regret: that I didn’t do it sooner.  I LOVE my kinks, curls, and coils (I have about a million textures going on in my hair)!

The natural hair thing is definitely a “journey” and I’ve learned so much along the way.  I have gone from a TWA (teeny-weeny afro) to a huge head of fluffy hair, and people often ask me how I did it.  I have so much to say about this aspect of my life that I could, literally, write a book about it, but – to start – here are a few tips aspiring naturals (or frustrated naturals) might find helpful:

1.    Develop a regimen that works for YOU.

A hair “regimen” is your own personal hair care procedure. The bad news is: when your hair is natural, it requires quite a bit of attention and care.  The good news is: simple is always better than complicated.  When I first went natural, I watched about 200 YouTube videos – tutorials, product reviews, regimen recaps, etc.  I’ll admit that the tutorials were helpful, but in the end, those vids turned me into a product junky.  If I could get back all the money I’ve spent on hair products over the years, I would be a rich woman.  Maybe there are some people who’ve got the discretionary income to drop a couple bills per month on hair products, but I don’t.  And if I’d been paid for all the time I’ve spent on my hair care, I could retire about 30 years early.  There could be some folks who have nothing better to do than sit around and play in their hair, but I do.  So, after A LOT of trial and error, I found a regimen that works for me.  It’s quick, and the products are simple and – best of all – cheap!  You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money on your hair for it to look good. Following someone else’s regimen won’t necessarily solve your problems. You’ve just got to figure out your priorities, budget, and hair type and work around it until you find the thing that works for you.

2.    Be gentle.

On the natural hair journey, it’s important to be gentle to both your HAIR and YOURSELF.  If you want healthy hair, you should treat your hair as carefully as you’d treat your favorite silk blouse or most expensive cashmere sweater. Hair is a delicate fiber. If you don’t care for it properly, hair is prone to break, snag, etc., and you’ll have to be extremely careful with it if you want a healthy full head of hair. My advice is to be gentle with it.  Never brush or comb your hair when it’s completely dry. Cover it with something silky or satiny when you sleep.  Protect it when it’s cold outside. These are just a few things to consider when it comes to being gentle with your hair.  If you simply keep your hair protected, you’d be stunned at how much length you will retain and how quickly it will grow.  But the most important thing to remember on this journey is to be gentle with YOURSELF.  Patience is indeed, a virtue.  Your hair WILL grow, but don’t compare your growth to others.  Don’t get frustrated with yourself or your hair.  Your hair is an extension of yourself.  Embrace your hair and, in turn, embrace who YOU are.

3.    Remember that curls don’t come in a jar or bottle.

Once I finally nailed the regimen that works for me, I was stunned by the attention my hair got.  A day didn’t pass without me receiving a compliment from someone about my hair.  When my hair was relaxed and freshly done, I often received compliments on it.  It was so thick, people thought it was a wig!  But those compliments did not compare to what I heard from people about my natural hair.  Once, a woman on the subway turns to me  “I want my hair to look just like THAT,” she says while pointing at my wash and go.  “What did you do to get your hair that way?” she asked me.  I started to explain and she says, “Wait!” and pulls out a notebook.  She wrote down every word I said.  She wanted to know products and techniques.  I started off with this disclaimer: “I will tell you what I did, but I can’t promise your hair will look like this if you do it.”  My wash and go is mostly the result of my natural curls.  The products I use only enhance the curls and coils that I already have.  If you don’t have the same curls and coils, the products I used on my hair will not help you to get them. It took me awhile to understand this, but curls and coils don’t come in a bottle or a jar.  I mentioned before that I watched a TON of YouTube videos when I first went natural.  The reason I became a product junky is because every time I saw a video that made me envious of someone else’s hair texture, I went out and bought those products hoping my hair would turn out similarly.  But it didn’t.  My hair can only do what it was made to do and no potion in a bottle is going to change that.  The sooner you learn your hair’s texture and learn to love it instead of fighting against it, you’ll become a lot less frustrated with your natural hair.

4.    Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

The key to healthy and beautiful natural hair is moisture.  When my hair was relaxed, I was terrified of water because I didn’t want my hair to revert.  What I’ve discovered since going natural is that my hair absolutely LOVES water.  I mean, it gets happy when the first drop hits it. So what do I do?  I use water-based products every day.  I also mist my hair everyday with a water/coconut oil spritz that I make myself.  My hair soaks it up!  Maybe your hair doesn’t need or want water everyday, but I would strongly suggest at least applying a water-based product to your hair at least a few times per week to quench those thirsty curls.  The more moisturized your hair is, the less likely it is to tangle and break, resulting in optimal length retention.  Moisture also makes your hair look healthier and feel healthier.  Bottom line, dry natural hair is simply no bueno.

5.    Werk it… with confidence!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, figuring out your natural hair takes a lot of trial and error.  You will try things and they won’t work.  You will try some other things and they’ll be a success.  I promise you will have some bad hair days along the way.  But be gentle with yourself when this happens.  The wonderful thing about natural hair is that it’s a lot easier to play off a bad hair day.  Many times the public will be totally in the dark about your hair “fails”.  Your hair might not turn out the way you pictured it, but nobody else knows that… so just go with it!  You can try wraps, hair jewels, hats, headbands, scarves, chandelier earrings, makeup, etc., and they can all add that extra flair to your hair.  But the most important accessory of all is confidence!  No matter what your hair looks like on any given day, remember you are beautiful… and you better WERK!

Black History: Gabby Douglas – Not just another annoying teenager

Today is February 1, which marks the start of Black History Month. Even Google came to the party, kicking off the celebration with a Google Doodle of Harriet Tubman on its homepage.  Woot!

Now, in my opinion, Black history should be celebrated and acknowledged 24/7/365, but I’m also okay with paying special attention to the contributions of black folk during the month of February. Of course black folk would be relegated to the shortest month of the year, but, hey, I’m going to make the most of it.  This month, I’ll be highlighting black folk who have made us proud.  I can’t promise I’ll write about someone every day this month or anything, but I’ll def share my thoughts on a handful of special people as the month progresses.

And, without further ado, I’m starting with Gabrielle Douglas a.k.a “The Flying Squirrel”. She might seem like an unlikely choice, but she’s on my mind because, tonight, The Gabby Douglas Story aired on Lifetime, followed by a documentary-style special about her family life. I was at home on a Saturday night, engaged in the arduous process of washing, deep-conditioning, and then 3-strand twisting Sasha (my hair). I saw someone post about the movie on Facebook and I had nothing else to occupy my time while I detangled and twisted, so I tuned in.

The movie was very… Lifetime-y. (If you’ve ever watched a Lifetime movie, then you know exactly what I mean by this.) That said, I was impressed. Not that Lifetime thought enough to make a movie about her (they make movies about all sorts of randos), but that they made an entire night out of her life story. That’s pretty dope. And her accomplishments are worth fussing over. She’s a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, having been the first American to win both the team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics. She’s also the first African American or woman of color of any nationality to win the all-around. That’s a pretty big deal for anybody, but is especially impressive because she did it all by the age of 17. I know what I was doing when I was 17 and… well… it wasn’t that.

Gabby is a tiny little thing with a huge smile. When I watched her talking after she’d won the medal, it became very clear that she’s just a typical American teenager – she clearly had no media training in preparation for her instant celebrity. But that’s what was so refreshing about her. She’s just a regular kid who worked hard and her work ethic combined with her raw talent made her better than everyone else. In. The. World. Not too many people have had that kind of success. And that’s why I was stunned when the public started criticizing her for her hair. At the time, I found it unbelievable that anyone allow her hair to overshadow her performance at the Olympics. But people are dumb. And very, very superficial. I mean, here we go back to the politics of black hair.  This child was working her ass off on balance beams and bars and stuff and she was also expected to maintain a flawless hairdo in the process?  I mean, yes, her hair looked cray cray.

(No, actually, it doesn’t. *side eye*)

BUT… I know what my hair looks like after one of my halfhearted workouts, so I can only imagine how busted I’d look if I was working as hard as she did to win a gold medal at the freaking Olympics.  She showed them all, though, when she got herself a good (and expensive) weave.

Then she slayed in this:

Yassss! Gabby slays. Do you hear me?! SLAYS!

And, then, well… then, there wasn’t anything left to discuss other than her ability and she got the attention she deserved.  Like hanging with Barry and Shelly (the Obamas, duh!), and Mama Oprah.  Yes, lawd!

In the end, I’m proud of Gabby and what she’s accomplished. I regularly complain about how much I hate teenagers, but — would you look at that?! — here’s one I actually admire. His wonders never cease.  Bottom line, Gabby Douglas deserves shine.  She didn’t only make Black history, she made American history.  She actually seems like a reasonable role model for the next generation, and I’m excited to see what she does next.  Whatever it is, I pray that it won’t involve drugs, erratic behavior, or sex tapes.  *fingers crossed*

BET’s Being Mary Jane — Another “broken” black woman on TV?

I literally couldn’t wait for the season premiere of “Being Mary Jane”, BET’s new one-hour drama series starring Gabrielle Union.  This summer, I watched the two-hour pilot/movie that BET aired and was so excited to see a young professional black woman on TV dealing with “real life” problems on a prime time television show.  I usually can’t do BET because, in my opinion, the programming has been crap.  What they did to “The Game” is a travesty.  And, so, when I watched the BMJ pilot and actually liked it, I was thrilled to be able to support a BET show.

It’s not often we get to see a fly Black woman anchoring a TV drama.  When Kerry Washington first showed up on our television screens as Olivia Pope in ABC’s hit-show “Scandal”, Black women everywhere did a collective happy dance.  We were doubly-ecstatic because the show is penned by Shonda Rhimes of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame, so there was a black woman behind the curtain writing a role for another black woman who took center-stage.  Initially, I was just as excited about “Scandal” as everyone else.  If for no other reason than to see a black woman “handling” her business on television, displaying intelligence and sex appeal in one very sharply-dressed brown body.  That said, I quickly lost interest in the show.  Why?  Because of her dysfunctional-ass relationship with Fitz, the show’s very-married President of the United States.

Image

(One of “Olitz’s” steamy scenes.)

At first, I was attracted to the rapid dialogue of the show, and over-the-top story lines of the “cases” that Olivia and her Gladiators “handled” every week.  But then, I couldn’t get past the fact that outside of the professional realm, Olivia was a basic side-ho.  I also couldn’t stand the hundreds of posts flooding my Facebook and Twitter feeds, hyping up this crazy-ass relationship.  People were “#Team Olitz” (an annoying combination of the names Olivia and Fitz), and swooning over the steamy love scenes in the Oval Office where this woman was banging someone else’s husband.  These same Facebook friends posting these pro-adultery posts are the same ones quoting the Bible on any other day.  I was shocked that women who claim to have morals in tact conveniently disabled their moral compasses for an hour every Thursday.  Isn’t it ironic?  Well, I’m sorry, but homewrecking hos get no love on my TV, so as much as I wanted to support Kerry and Shonda, I started changing the channel.

Fast forward to July when the BMJ pilot debuted.  I was happy to see that Mary Jane was family-oriented (even if her family presented with some extremely stereotypical issues), career-driven, and frustrated with dating.  These are all things to which I can fully-relate.  I especially understood the pressures she was under to be all things to all people.  She felt the need to be Superwoman and had no one with whom she could curl up next to after she took off her cape for the day.  I get that, and I think many other black women know just what that’s like.  We’re all forced to be so strong and to appear that we have it all together at all times.  We can’t afford to show any cracks in our veneers  because everyone is expecting us to be half a woman anyway, and so we overcompensate, which can be totally exhausting.  We’re afraid to show people that we’re vulnerable because we’ve been told all our lives that we are supposed to be strong.  And so many of us are the proverbial backbones of our family and can’t afford to take a break from saving everyone in spite of ourselves.  We are constantly putting everyone else’s needs before our own, and when we do take the focus off others and instead choose to focus on ourselves, we feel selfish and guilty.  It’s a terrible conundrum.  I felt her pain, her frustration, her loneliness, and her guilt.

So when the season premiere of BMJ aired last week, I was there for it.  I set a reminder on my phone and tuned in to BET to check it out (since I never watched BET, I had to Google to figure out which channel it is!).  It started off well, and I was sucked right in.

And then, things went south.

Mary Jane, on top of her other personality quirks (and we all have them, so no judgments here), is knowingly involved with a married man.  So… that went from sugar to shit in just under 60 minutes.

And here we go… AGAIN.

Now we’ve got yet another otherwise positive black female character sleeping with a married man.  Mind you, during the pilot movie, Mary Jane discovers that Omari Hardwick’s character, Andre, is married and she’s devastated because she mistakenly believes she’s finally found a man who’s worth her time.

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(Mary Jane and Very-Married Andre)

In the pilot, she breaks things off with him.  But in the season premiere?  She is confronted by his wife in a meeting during which she shows NO remorse for the relationship that she has had with this woman’s husband.  The wife asks her whether her husband has performed oral sex on her and, in response, Mary Jane doesn’t say “yes” or “no”… she says: “It’s required” with a very smug sneer.  Really, trick?!  I wish you would come at me like that.  Then, after she pretends that she’s going to leave the man alone, he confronts her in the gym locker room and, during their exchange, she spies a photo of his family (yes, there are children involved) that she herself describes as “beautiful”.  And, yet, she f*cks him in the public shower (after he removed her shower cap, which I found hilarious).

So, look.  As I said before, I am not here for hos.  And that’s when BMJ lost me.

I was profoundly disappointed by the turn the show took.  Discovering that a man is a cheater and then using that to become a better person yourself?  Well, that earns my respect.  So, had the show allowed Mary Jane to grow as a result of her experience, I would’ve been a proud supporter.  But to have her go from sidepiece-victim to sidepiece-sumbag turned me all the way off.

And then I had this realization: here we are with two beautiful, educated, professional, black, “independent” women as the main focus of two primetime TV shows and they are both reduced to f*cking married men.

This is problematic for me.  Here’s why:

I grew up in school districts where I was often the only black student in the class, and I learned that in those situations, I was the room representative for the entire black race.  What do I mean by that?  See, I realized that I might be the only black person that someone has the grace to encounter, so I determined that I had to be the best representation of who WE are that I can be.  We don’t have many black women on TV these days, especially not in dramatic series on major networks, and when we finally get the spotlight on us, this is the kind of garbage we put out there.  For those people who already believe in the stereotype of the Black b*tch/ho, we are affirming those beliefs by making them integral to “our” story lines.  Why is this necessary?  Both shows would be just as good without the “side-ho” twist.  Can we get one whole healthy black woman representative on TV?  Just one?  Apparently not.

A few minutes after the Andre/Mary Jane public shower sex scene aired, Madame Noire posted a Facebook comment that said “Lawd Jesus the ending of #BeingMaryJane… Do we have to care that Omari Hardwick’s character is married?”.  Lemme answer that for you Madame Noire… the answer is YES, we should care.  And with that little “tongue-in-cheek” thumbs-up to adultery, MN, we’re nurturing the next generation of homewrecking whores. Great. Just great.  Listen up, ladies who want to pretend men they’re sleeping with are not married, heed the warning of that great oracle of reality TV, Nene Leakes: and “close your legs to married men“.

And now, it seems that moral compasses will be switched off on Tuesdays AND Thursdays at 10:00 PM with two black female lead actresses leading the charge.  We’re f*cked.

Maybe someday I’ll go into why it’s ironic that Gabrielle Union is even playing a character who “has it all”, yet ends up dating a married man.  Or, you can do your own research and discover the irony for yourself.  Art imitating life?  Perhaps.

Oh, and that reminds me.  There was another “GTFOH” scene in the first episode.  Mary Jane, in addition to sleeping with Very-Married Andre, also rekindled her relationship with her college sweetheart, David, who is “affectionately” known as “Do Not Ever Answer” in her iPhone (we’ve all got one of those).  Look, we slip up and return to past mistakes — it happens to the best of us.  That said, not only is Mary Jane depicted as a desperate chick who is willing to do whatever just to have piece of a man, she is also willing to do whatever it takes to get a baby.  So, what does she do? When she and David finish doing the do, she secretly scoops the used condom up off the bedroom floor, takes it to the bathroom and uses a turkey baster to extract the sperm, puts it into a plastic container, and stashes it in the box of baking soda she keeps in the freezer.  This was a WTF moment for me.  Is it really that serious that you have to go around stealing sperm from old boyfriends?  That’s some trifling sh*t right there and shows that her judgment is clearly all the way off.

I’ve had fans of both Scandal and BMJ tell me that the characters are flawed and messy for a reason — because “real” people are flawed and messy.  Um…  *side eye*  So, these arguments actually bring me to my next thought: REAL people are flawed. A fictional character, which both Olivia and Mary Jane are, (Hellooooo?!  Is anyone home?) can be written any way we want them to be written. Since there aren’t a ton of black women on prime time TV, it would be nice if the ones we DO see weren’t all falling apart at the seams, which is what the mainstream thinks of us anyway and now here we go perpetuating that mess.

After I went all the way in on the show, I’ll leave you with this final thought.  To me, “BMJ” was another disappointing show in its representation of black women.  The pilot was great, but the season premier took Mary Jane in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It was like having a great first date and then on the second date the dude farts at the table, flirts with the waitress, and stiffs on the tip… but, believe it or not, after all that, I’m still willing to go on a third date.  It was only the first episode, so I’ll watch to see where she ultimately ends up.  I just hope her final destination is a therapist’s couch or a confessional.  She needs Jesus.

Why do we hate Black hair?

I read a post on Feministing.com today that made my blood boil.  The post, entitled “Hating black hair starts young, just ask Blue Ivy Carter”, gave voice to everything I’d been thinking about the people who’ve taken to the internet rah-rah’ing about a baby’s kinky, curly, fuzzy hair, taking shots at both the parents AND THE BABY.  Huh?!  So, enraged, I posted a link to the article on my Facebook page with the following commentary:

THIS. It infuriates me that people hate to see hair in its natural state — unstyled, unaltered. Black people especially hate to be reminded of how most of our hair REALLY looks, so we pull, prod and burn our own hair into submission and/or wear the hair of someone else. (Sounds kinda crazy when I put it that way, huh?) And I am so disgusted by people who think it’s okay to take shots at a BABY and/or her parents for not “doing” her hair. She’s a BABY, and this is what her hair looks like. It’s like y’all expected the child to be birthed out of Beyoncé with a full virgin Malaysian weave that matches her mama’s. Ridiculous. The politics of black hair. *smh*

Naturally, because I’m friends with a great group of opinionated black women both on Facebook and in real life, this post created quite a stir.  The back and forth comments evolved into a discussion about whether natural hair should be “kept”.  And what I had to say in response to that is that I don’t believe that hair — any kind of hair — needs to be “kept” anything but clean.  Had you asked me this years ago, before I went natural myself, I probably would’ve had a different opinion.  But, today, after fielding many off-the-wall, inappropriate, GTFOH comments about my hair, I truly stand behind my belief that hair is a personal choice and people should be able to wear their hair the way they want to wear it without being ridiculed for it.

But what really burns me up is that people act like Blue Ivy was going to miraculously be born with some silky straight hair flowing down her back like Beyonce.  Well, newsflash, folks… that ain’t Beyonce’s hair!  I mean, it’s hers in the sense that it’s in her possession AND she paid for it (and probably paid a pretty penny at that!), but it did not sprout from her head in that texture, in that particular shade of honey blonde, and did not grow from her scalp to that length.

This GIF accompanied the Feministing post:

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(Blue Ivy is so adorable that I don’t even notice her hair here.)

And, then, let’s look at another photo of Bey and BIC that I adore:

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So, while we sit here and debate the merits of keeping a child’s hair “done”, nobody is going to mention that mommy is wearing two pounds and twenty feet of someone else’s hair?  Why is that not an issue?  While folks are busy criticizing Bey for sending Blue out with her hair “undone”, why aren’t they also taking shots at Bey for her own hair shenanigans?  I’ll tell you why: because in our society “kept” hair means “tamed” hair.  But Black hair grows up and out, it’s wild and free, it’s difficulty to contain, and that’s deemed “messy” or “unpresentable”.

I have more questions.  Just who decides what “presentable”, “kept”, or “done” means anyway?  And what subliminal messages are we sending to ourselves and to our children when we say that the way that Black hair grows naturally out of Black heads is “unpresentable”?  I know PLENTY of white women who roll out of bed without putting comb or brush to hair, and they are considered to be not only “presentable”, but beautiful in their most natural and “undone” states (so beautiful, in fact, that “tousled curls” and “bed head” are actually desired “looks” in the white world of hairstyling).  Why can’t we be granted the same pass?  Why does unshaped, unstyled, unaltered, natural black hair evoke cries of “unkempt”, “unkept”, and “uncouth”?  It makes me so sad to see that we hate our hair in its natural state to the degree that we’re driven to think it’s acceptable and appropriate to talk trash about a innocent precious baby.  It makes me uncomfortable that we are so disgusted by our own God-given characteristics that we would vilify loving parents who choose to let their baby’s hair go free rather than conform to society’s standard of “tame” or “kept”.  It hurts me that all signs everywhere always point to the fact that who we are is not good enough to be accepted by the mainstream.

On a lighter note, the most hilarious insinuation is that Blue’s “undone” hair is a sign that Jay and Bey are in some way neglecting her.  Blue Ivy’s hair looks “that way” because that’s how they want it to look.  Don’t believe for one second that her look is an afterthought.   Believe me when I say that The Carters could hire someone to comb and moisturize each individual strand of hair on Blue’s head if that were a priority to them.  But clearly Blue’s fabulous ‘fro is not something that concerns them, and the way she looks when they take her out to meet the paps is presentable TO THEM, so it should concern us.  And, really, until Blue is old enough to voice her own opinions about how she looks, her parents’ opinions are the only ones that really matter.

Look, I’m thrilled that more black women are embracing their natural hair — that’s a beautiful thing to see.  But, what I’d love more than anything would be for us to get to a point where natural hair is not a “thing” to be discussed or embraced.  I eagerly await the day that “natural hair” — Black hair — will just be hair… because that is all it is.

Remove the kinks from your mind and not your hair.” – Marcus Garvey

#message!

So, Kim Kardashian got a divorce from Kris Humphries. *clutching my pearls* I’m shocked! I just knew that they married for love! And the money they made on their televised wedding was just a perk that came along with marrying the person of your dreams!

… Okay, so, if you  relate to anything I wrote above, just stop reading now ’cause you’re an idiot! Kim is a dimwitted “celebrity” clearly being pimped by her mom/madame! Poor thing, she didn’t stand a chance. The second her mom realized that she, or her sisters, were remotely interesting to an audience, she started to put in work to ensure that the whole family could get fed off their shenanigans.

Apparently, Kim’s fans are in an uproar about her short-lived marriage to Humphries, saying that they “cheapened” the institution of marriage. But are they really surprised? I mean, this IS the same woman who got famous ’cause she recorded her seksi times with Brandy’s Brother, no? And you’re surprised that her actions might cast a negative light on marriage? Seriously?

C’mon, son.

Lemme put you on to something – the new synonym for “cheap” is “Kardashian”.

On the same day Kimmy Kakes filed for divorce, Jessica Simpson announced she was preggers by some NFL player she’s been dating. I remember the Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson reality show. They were the “Newlyweds” and they were in love. Part of their schtick was that Jess had saved her goodies for her wedding night. And Nick’s excuse for trading-in his bachelor card was that he gets to “bleep” Jessica Simpson every night. But, then, Nick and Jess went to Splitsville, population: 2. And Nick was linked to Vanessa Minillo and Jess was alone. Then, Jess started banging Romo and eventually ended up with some NFL bench-rider. Purportedly, they got engaged and now she’s preggers.

Soooo, lemme get this straight, girl. You skipped sex til you were mid-20s so your hubby would be the first to sex you. Then, you get a divorce, bang a couple pros only to end up fertilized out of wedlock?!

Mmmkay. Makes total sense, boo!

You should’ve just given it up to the first dude that set your loins ablaze — like the rest of us! ;)

I’d like to believe that Jess is just a victim and that nobody gets married intending to get a divorce. Unless, of course, your name is Kardashian. :)

Moral of the story: reality stars live in an alternate reality! And, as such, they should NOT be considered role models. I hope we all had this message memorized prior to Kim and Jessica’s shenanigans. But, in case we didn’t memorize the lesson prior to all this nonsense, take note… #MESSAGE!