Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Get So Weak....About Hot New Music!

"you understand my day to day...life can get oh so crazy..." --Jazmin Sisters


A big congratulatory shoutout to my girl, the amazingly talented artist and musician Felicia "FeliFresh" Khong, and her sisters Celia, Daria, and Nadia for their debut EP "90's Baby". Their first single "You" is an awesome throwback to the music I grew up on, and I'm so proud of them! They've paid their dues and it's their time. Rock out with them to their dope video:






Visit their website to keep up with the girls and their journey to the top of the pop charts!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Throwing Stones

"girls/you can't do what the guys do, no/and still be a lady..."--Betty Wright


My dream e-ring--which I refuse to purchase .
I'm all about women being on top. (I would insert some double entendre disclaimer, but I won't.) In fact, in college, I was accepted into an exclusive all-girls leadership program called Women and Power, a study of women's power from four key perspectives and the cultural and political implications of that authority in our present-day society. It was a two-year program that I thoroughly enjoyed. During the course of it, I participated in many riveting discussions about women's power, our 'place', our progress, and the areas in which we still struggle in the workforce and at home.

I went into the program with my highly extroverted mindset that the loudest, most overtly controlling person (read: me) was the automatic leader. But actually studying leadership hipped me to the reality that a true leader's power is often found in their ability to follow, and to correctly identify those times when they should sideline. That said, while I was on the 'feminazi' side of the fence in college, I've leveled out to a pretty even-tempered, moderately conventional girl, one who applauds all forms of girl power but holds a deep respect for traditional female roles.

You see, over time, I've learned that a woman's true power is in her femininity, not her ability to leverage her testosterone reserves. Being a woman is a woman's power, and I believe the essence of a woman's truest and highest happiness comes from celebrating and being celebrated as a female for things singular to us as a species.

All that said, NYMag.com is reporting that a new 'bridal' trend (if you can call it that) is women full-out paying for, or worse, going Dutch Treat, on their engagement ring.

*blank stare for an uncomfortable period of time*

There are many things that I want to scream in response to this, among them that this horrible 'trend' is a manifestation of the murky waters of gender roles these days, but I'll keep calm and carry on with a list of four reasons this is a terrible idea:

1. It's a tradition, duh. Sadly, our society is slowing doing away with any tradition or practice that celebrates and edifies womanhood. I'm no Phyllis Schlafly--complete name changes aren't my thing because I love my last name, and while I love to cook, I'm so turned off by men who can't cook at all. So even while I'm not willing to be a party to every vintage act of wifery, I certainly appreciate the romanticism of some traditional aspects of partnering. Women today are all "don't change your name, don't make sandwiches". It's like there's a faction of the female race that wants us to stop bathing or speaking to our husbands after we've married.

2. Where's the romance?  Femininity is mystical. Love, romantic love, even moreso. And culturally speaking, part of the magic of falling in love, getting engaged, and deciding to get married as a girl is, in fact, the ring. It's not about jewelry--or the expense of said jewelry--as it is about how well a man knows his partner as he offers her a symbol that announces both their love and unavailability for other relationships. Where some women today are all 'why do we even do rings blah blah', I happen to think that while it's certainly not necessary, it is a lovely sentiment that should remain a part of the fabric of our culture.

3. You're lying. To hear that some women are out there cutting the check for their own ring and flossing it is disturbing, and the primary issue I have with this phenomenon is the lie. We're all intelligent enough to connect the dots on the cognitive association between ring size and lifestyle. While it may be the dark, vulgar side of engagement ring-ism, there is a belief that the bigger or more ornate the ring, the larger the diamond or carat count, the classes of the 4 c's, the more successful or desirable the man who has proposed. So women buying themselves opulent baubles and swanning about in them is just plain old pretension. Because let's face it: If a woman wanted to just buy herself a big ring, she would have done that without the man. But with the man on board, it then positions a backdrop and a story behind the ring, assigning additional worth to the fianceé, which ultimately assigns additional value to the woman.

But why lie? Why not let a man with a small budget buy you a small ring, one that's indicative of his actual financial state? Are you not proud of it, of him? Because that, in and of itself, is a problem. Taking away a traditionally masculine duty and making it a joint effort confuses the reasoning behind the gesture. When a woman pitches in on the ring, isn't it then just a joint lie? Your first big hoax as a married couple? In other words, this practice contributes to a pretty sick cycle that celebrates posturing and removes the romance, and there's absolutely no upside to that.

4.  It's not about the money, but it is. I celebrate women's financial independence. I believe a smart wife keeps her own bank account and her own stash, and I congratulate women who enter a marriage with their own money. I'm not saying anything is wrong with a household where a woman is the breadwinner or makes as much or more than her husband/partner; kudos to the amazing women who live that truth. What I am saying is that regardless of how much a woman brings home, not one red cent of it should go towards an engagement ring. While a man shouldn't have to change his lifestyle to lace your digits, if he can't afford any kind of ring at all chances are it's a poor idea to marry him (no pun intended that time, seriously). A man that doesn't have any disposable income to sink into even a modest gesture might not be prepared to address actual necessities that arise after marriage. Not everyone weds a baller, but there is truth to the notion that you can do bad all by yourself. Piling the worries of a marriage and a relationship on top of your run-of-the-mill financial issues is not a good recipe for a happy union.

5. You're supposed to be the neck. I'm a firm believer in the importance of a man as head of the household because I think it's the best way a woman gets to exert real power. While I know this notion would blow the heads off of a great many women out there who battle against that tried-and-true power structure, there are biological imperatives in males and females that naturally assert themselves in relationships. Allowing a man to exercise his masculine desire to be respected gets a woman her feminine desire to be loved, treasured, and appreciated. Adopting traditionally masculine roles, in my opinion, creates an unnecessary imbalance in a situation that could be fluid if both parties simply respected their natural, biological, hormonal desires. Obviously, it's not cut-and-dry; I'm personally an Alpha woman and would never allow myself to be controlled or bossed around by anyone, least of all a man. But, structuring my home and my relationship in a way that respects my partner's role as top dog only reinforces my role as the neck, the absolute that supports the head and without which, the head is nothing.

Taking on a role so thoroughly masculine, that of providing 'the ring', not only changes the way he looks at our relationship and my position, but more importantly, changes the way I look at him. You're supposed to be able to reflect on the ring when things get rough as a symbol of why you got in in the first place and think of what it meant between you at that time. If I pitched in my own ducats on the ring, though, every time he got on my nerves or pissed me off, I would only be looking down at it and thinking how I want my money back. And that would be bad for all involved because, well.

Ultimately, every couple has their own story, and my way wouldn't work for everyone. But as a woman who truly enjoys possessing a God-given vagina and wants to enjoy possessing the accoutrements said vagina affords her in a romantic partnership, allowing a man to assert his inner Alpha and exercise his masculinity is key to my happiness. I would be truly offended if a man asked or allowed me to split the cost of an engagement ring.

My blood pressure rises just thinking about it.

When the time comes for me, no matter what our bank accounts reflect, I will let him be a man and buy the ring; and I will be a woman and accept it. This simple act will, I pray, set the tone for me to be celebrated as a partner who has the capability to lead, but also the ability to follow. Because as I've learned, that's the true essence of being in charge.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The B Is for Bitter

"it's about time for a miracle..."--Beverly Crawford

bit·ter/ˈbitər/:
1. Having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant
2. Causing a sharply unpleasant, painful, or stinging sensation; harsh: enveloped in bitter cold; a bitter wind
3. Difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear: the bitter truth; bitter sorrow
4. Proceeding from or exhibiting strong animosity: a bitter struggle; bitter foes
5. Resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment: bitter tears
6. Marked by resentment or cynicism: "He was already a bitter elderly man"


They say that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten, and while that sounds cute and sells a lot of t-shirts, it's not true. Because as I closed out my twenties several weeks ago on the morning of my 30th birthday, clinging to one of the 12 pillows on my bed long after my daily automatic 8:30AM coffee brew had gone cold, I realized that the most important thing I've learned was taught to me by the unmistakable brutality of my current geographical location on the map of life. Latitudinal: decidedly unemployed. Longitudinal: decidedly unsexed. They meet at a little point named Malcontentment in a swarmy region I like to call Childless in Rapidly Declining Fertility.

There's a decades-long argument in the faux-feminist stratosphere (read: the place where otherwise eloquent women fill voids in their lives by writing books and essays rife with rhetorical questions) about whether or not the female sex can have its cake and eat it too. Regarding which, I've guilelessly believed that I would be a part of the vaginally-gifted population declaring "yes, we can". Why not? Can we have lives and children? Can we have children and jobs? Can we have careers and fun? Can we have husbands and sex? Can we have protein with carbs? There are just so many un-answers to the question of whether or not women can 'have it all'. But the crudity of my late twenties, markedly void of the elusive pot of gold the motion picture industry's been pushing since the early 20th century, has taught me a woman's most important lesson: not only can you not have it all, sometimes you can't have any of it.

Just one would make a difference. The dream job. The kid. Of course, at this point in my life, one actually would preclude the other--get the dream job and it would push babies even further down the line; have a kid right now and I'm almost guaranteed to end up on some sort of modern day bread line. I can't even take a man into account without chuckling at this point because even in my wildest dreams I can't imagine who would sign up for this freak show. And so, from the vantage point of my stunted, sexless, sexless existence, I have had to stop and realize I'm not alone. Many women are at a crossroads; other chicks are, like me, being tossed around by their circumstances and their hormones like a shrimpin' boat in a tempest.

So I've been toying with the idea of writing a book. Nothing else has panned out, so why not? I've tossed around a couple titles and decided to share a list of books I'm thinking of pitching, the titles of which are lines many women need to hear or have already heard and ignored, no matter where they are in life.

  • Pregnant Bridesmaids Make People Uncomfortable: When Your BFF Gets a YES on her EPT


  • I Might Not Even Let You Babysit: A Guide To Picking Godparents God Would Actually Pick 


  • You're Too Old To E-Stalk, But If We Do It Together It's Normal: Supporting Your Friends' Unnatural Fixation With Exes Who've Moved On


  • Cool Aunts Wear Skinny Jeans: Co-opting Other People's Children When Personal Options Are Few


  • You Know You Couldn't Afford That Wedding: Putting on Airs While Putting Off Home Ownership and Draining What's Left of Your Parents' Terminal 401K

  • The Vibrator Makes Me Cry: The Myth of Masturbation As A Viable Substitute 

  • Is This A Joke: A Daily Journal with Guided Meditation


Cheers!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Support of Slapping Hillary

"when the drama starts to hit the fan/raise your voice but not your hand..."--Keke Wyatt

I've self-identified as a feminist since my teens. While I have some ideas that are more traditional than your average textbook feminist, I am fundamentally someone who supports the equality of the female gender and the rights and ability of women to do nearly anything a man can do (yes, sometimes better).

However, there are times when I shake my head at "those feminists"--not "us feminists", but "those" feminists--the hardcore factions of the group that are not only humorless, but also physically incapable of picking their battles. I've felt this way for a long time, but when I received an irate (and lengthy) email from a lib women's group today about a moronic game that some likely bored, AWM conservatives have invented in which the objective is to "slap" Hillary Clinton, I'd had enough. The email had a decidedly feminist bend--because of course to have all these Republican men sitting around slapping Hillary Clinton in their head is a brand new thing that must be immediately abolished.

First of all, it's a game--and a dumb one at that. Who thinks it fun to sit in front of a computer pretending to slap someone they don't like after the age of 10? Second of all, it's the GOP. A game, in the rawest sense of the term, is identified as a "pastime" or "source of amusement". Most people affiliated with the GOP, in the rawest sense of the term, are identified as dicks. Have they as a collective not proven that they will mock, denigrate, and otherwise abuse fellow Americans based on race, sex, creed, class, and a number of other inexorable demographic classifications? Why is anyone still trying to chastise them for simply being themselves?

You can't silence a Rush Limbaugh, a Sean Hannity, or an Ann Coulter. They're the tools from high school who got louder when people started paying attention to their inane ramblings. They're the kids who petitioned the administration for less disabled parking spaces and a White History Month celebration. At some point, you have to acknowledge who these people fundamentally are and allow them to congregate and complain amongst themselves with their solipsistic opinions and their pertinacious discourse.

Why does it matter ladies? Why are we wasting your time writing an email about this? Why are we wasting my time skimming an email about this? The anger over something this infantile is beyond anachronistic; there was a time when headbands and hairstyles and quibbling over Tammy Wynette lyrics were par for the course in regards to the Clinton gang, but that time is past. Fast forward and Hillary Clinton is poised to be the first female major party nominee for the Presidency of these United States, and she is one tough cookie. Trust and believe she's not for spending 30 minutes drafting an indignant mass email about something this stupid. Hillary has learned to pick her battles; if she went after everyone in the public sphere who disrespected her, she'd never get any real work done. And if she borrowed her supporters' ears to complain about every little slight, she would lose their support.

If the base wants to get people riled up for Hillary, talk about what she's doing, not what's happening to her. We care decidedly less about what these men--who have always and will always despise HRC and everything she stands for--think about her, because we already know how they feel. Not to mention it's far too early in the game to be feeling insulted, because when Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, we will all be shocked at how low these folks can go. Hillary Rodham Clinton has clearly decided to be someone who keeps her eye on the prize, not someone who gets side-tracked by the puerile recreational concerns of the Far Right.

Now, make no mistake: If she could somehow maneuver this little "game" into a political issue to be used strategically in her quest to win the White House, she would certainly do that--and that is a win. But it is a loss for everyone who cares about women's issues when we become symbols of the very thing we're mocked for [stereotypically] being: nags and hags, sitting around bitching and moaning about respect. The times call for real discussion about real issues affecting women. Who cares about this stupid game when women cannot legally carry tampons into the Texas Capitol Building?

The 'Feminazis' get one thing absolutely right: "they" are afraid of women. They're afraid of our power; they're afraid of our assembly, they're afraid of our vote. But let's take notes from Hillary and be serious contenders, focusing on the things that matter. Let them slap Hillary. Because if we know anything about the 'fairer' half of the Clinton power duet, it's that she'll come back up, swinging.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Single.

"and so I sit at home and just pretend/love is not for me..."--Tamia


Recently, a friend's friend suggested that I see a "Christian" documentary by the name of Soulmate.

Okay.

Now, let me preface what I'm about to say about this film with the fact that it's presumptive and not based in fact, since I haven't watched the entire thing and refuse to do so. But as the friend's friend raved about it as a ministry for single women, I was simultaneously curious and incredulous. For my part, I'm just not one to sign up for "single" things: singles' groups, singles' clubs, singles' parties, singles' events, stampeding to the dance floor when "Single Ladies" comes on like somebody rang the dinner bell in an 19th century orphanage--it's all a bit ridiculous to me. I have never thought of myself as a "single" person. I'm Ms. Brown and one day I'll be Mrs. Brown-____________. "Single" connotes something I don't see as my truth: that I’m not whole somehow, or less than. It's not that the actual word says that; it's what society has attributed to the word that I don't receive. I'm not "single" because I'm not a part of that community of people who revel in the ability to whine about being alone. I'm just a young woman--a whole person-- who is not yet married.

In any case, out of curiosity and at the bidding of the friend, I watched the trailer for the documentary. And afterwards, I had to rebuke what I saw in the name of Jesus. First of all, the trailer opens on the statistic that 47% of Black women are unmarried, which is the first of several major downers in the three minute piece. What about the fact that 53% are married? Glass half empty much? Then come the interviews. [Paraphrasing]: "I'm 52, I've never been married and have no children." "I'm 47 and people ask me if I even want a man because it seems like I'm having so much fun without one!" "My husband contracted HIV in a homosexual relationship and gave it to me."

None of this was sounding particularly sexy.

It's not that the information isn't valid. And not that I begrudge anyone somewhere to go to feel a part of a community and to get a better understanding of their circumstances as they see them. But as for me and my house...nuh-uh.

Bottom line: I refuse to commiserate with sad, lonely people. All that does is create an atmosphere for that loneliness to metastasize and fester, mildew into depression, and effectively block blessings because one is too downtrodden to see the light from the dark place they've fallen into. This might not be true for everyone, but it's my view of the vast industry that caters to "singles", "singles", of course, connoting 'people who would rather be married but just haven't gotten lucky yet'.

I would much rather focus on being joyful about where I am now and celebrating where I know I'm headed--and one place I'm fairly sure I'm not headed, by the grace of God, is 52, childless, and unmarried. Not that I'm better than that or above those circumstances, but it's just not what I feel is the promise over my life. I think it takes understanding what God is doing in your life before you get to the point of desperation, the point when watching a documentary about menopausal women who've always lived alone seems like a good idea.

No one is saying that procuring that level of wisdom is easy, but the fact is that it's more than likely that a huge portion of women are missing the point. I don't believe that 47% of these women are meant to be alone; I just don't buy it. And the changing of this dramatic statistic takes the changing of a mentality of a bloc of women that have become mired in their marital situation, or lack thereof. For instance:


  •  Black men aren't the only men on earth. Not saying I don't want one myself- -God knows I do (*Color Purple Sophia voice*) --but if that wasn't my destiny, I'd have to find a way to live with it. I know; I hate to hear it, too, because frankly I feel like I'm entitled. But no one can deny that joy and pleasure can come in many colors.

  • We need to start thinking about these things at a younger age. Too many women put their entire focus on their career (believe me, I'm way guilty too) and make their whole young adult life about status and professional advancement and then want to put the rush on the husband search when the snooze button on their biological alarm is on its last ring. We need to be more focused on family building and partnership potential when we're younger. Of course, that means less promiscuity and more wisdom in dating when you're young, which is an entirely new conversation, and one I'm not willing to engage since that clearly wasn't my mindset when I was younger.

  • Coupled with the idea of a new mindset is the subject of choices. When I was a little girl, my father used to tell me that too many women date married and/or totally unsuitable men for 10, 15, 20 years, and then end up alone and past childbearing years. Yes, he really told me this as a child. I'm grateful now for his mildly inappropriate conversation with me, because I see what he meant--simply that we are often the sum of our choices in the area of partnership. Dating married men or waiting for men who are simply ridiculous for a myriad of professional, criminal, cultural, spiritual and plain practical reasons has to stop. We can't hitch our wagon to losers for decades and then think that dreams will come true the minute we step to the side of right. Some men just don't deserve a chance, and desperation isn't going to help any girl's cause. We need to be looking at the big picture with everyone we date if we intend to be partnered. "I'm just having fun right now" can easily turn into 52, childless, and alone--or worse, 42, divorced, and alone. Last year, when I was trying to decide if I was going to break up with someone I'd been dating for a month who was certain I was his wife, I called my father for advice because something didn't feel right. I told him my issues with the dude, the pros and cons, and my dad gave me the best advice. He said, "Just don't let him waste your time, babe. That's the only thing a man can take from you, is your time." We need to stop letting guys who aren't going to make the cut waste our time, energy, and resources. Every day they take is a day we're not in position to receive the good that's actually coming. We retard our own progress by filling up our time with the undesirable. Women know that trimming the ends of our hair is essential to growth; you hang on to an inch or two for "length" and pretty soon you're cutting off five inches of split ends. We should apply this lesson to our partnership search and cut the dead weight.


  • I'm the last person to jump on the bandwagon of that societal bottom-feeder mentality that attacks Black women for not being perfect as a group. It's disgusting how a lot of folks [Black dudes] say Black women are lazy, dumb, fat, ignorant, selfish, materialistic, willful, bossy, mean, don't want to go anywhere exotic, don't like to hike, scared to swim, don't want to kayak, have too many kids...and a lot of the other nasty things thrown around after being exposed to the delectable cultural delicacy that is your typical White or Asian woman (I mean, let's face it). Check it: I don't ever want to deny White, Asian, and/or White Latina women their positive cultural stereotypes (see Jay-Z's "Girls, Girls, Girls" for footnotes). But I reject negative classifications of Black women. Yes, there are plenty of dumb, morbidly obese, lazy, ignorant Black women just as there are plenty of dumb, morbidly obese, lazy, ignorant White women. [I left the Asians out because, to be honest, I've never seen a dumb, obese, lazy Asian; I just haven't. So sue me--but you probably haven't, either.] And, as most people with half a brain know, there are plenty of gorgeous, brilliant, adventurous Black women in all shapes, sizes, and colors, each bangin' in their own way, who are not partnered. Now admittedly, some of them are crazy (see name of site)--but that's another topic for another conversation. All this said, I implore Black women to take care of ourselves, live outside of the box, try different things, really live life. Big ups to Tyler P, but he is not a cinematic genius. Turks & Caicos and Barbados are lovely--and many thanks to LisaRaye and Rihanna for their respective tourism development efforts--but there are some islands on the continent of Asia that would make the entire Caribbean look like Jones Beach. Sit-ups are not a workout. Perhaps these are things about which those of us who know better should be spreading the word.



  • And last but not least, God is not your man and has zero desire to be your husband. It's everything to be in relationship with God, but know that He called us to partner. So for all the women who haven't had sex in 20 years or a date in 15 steady talking about "all I need is Jesus" but laying in bed every night watching Tyler Perry films, salivating over the strategically placed hot guys: It's pretty safe to say you're not living up to your potential.


  • Not that there aren't some things that need to be changed about the corresponding men as well, but I'm not going to get into that for two reasons: one, because we'd be here all night (you wanna talk about a soapbox…); and two, because I truly believe that women changing will force men to change. In fact, I think women changing is the only thing that will cause a change in men. Nearly everything men do is because of the 'power of the p-u…'(more Jay-Z; not sure what's wrong with me right now), and women need to re-learn to harness and leverage that power for good.

    I have several best friends: one lives here in Los Angeles, two in the NY Tri-State Area, one in the San Francisco Bay Area, one in the Washington, DC area, and a first cousin who's like a sister that lives in Pittsburgh. I've really loved two men in my life romantically, and been quite fond of a great many more. I live in a courtyard-style Melrose Place -esque Hollywood Hills apartment building with over 30 units and many friendly neighbors. I live in a city of millions. I have family all over the globe that loves me, and I love them. I have a father I adore in Texas, a dear stepmother, and not-so-little-brothers I can't live without. I have a mirror-image mother resting in peace that I carry in my heart everywhere I go. What I am is unmarried. But I'm far from single.



    So let it never once be said that I am "single". What I am is simply not married. Yet.

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    Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Your Vagina

    "gonna get there/get there/cause she got the honey..."--Matt Kearney

    There's nothing like a happy ending. Stumbled upon this today and it gave me hope for the future.

    However depressing the quality of this video, I'm positive you can find a way to appreciate it. Happy trails. 



    Ménage à Quatre Campaign Video from menageaquatre on Vimeo.

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    Monday, May 20, 2013

    It starts early. 

    Just remember: You saw it here first.

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    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    "i know/i know/when i compliment her she won't believe me..."--Bruno Mars

    As with most comedy, there's a ton of truth behind this hilarious parody, which bangs the nail on head regarding how many girls accept (or are incapable of accepting) compliments. I died!





    What I enjoyed most about this is that it highlights the natural born sarcasm innate sense of humor many females enjoy.

    -"I look like a whore locked out of her apartment!"

    -"I'm legally retarded."

    Comedy gold.

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    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Ain't Nobody Got Time For Google

    "i thought it was over/but here you come back again..."--Musiq

    If you tried to access this site over the weekend, you saw some really gross images nestled amongst links to various porn sites. My apologies on behalf of the solipsistic [and porn-addicted] parasite commonly known as Google. We are back.

    Should I experience any further technical difficulties after lifting the curtain on the little green wizard, the secret bunker (complete with archives dating back to 2007) is now at thebiscrazyredux.wordpress.com. Apparently, in today's world there's nothing we don't have to back up.

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    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Lean On This

    "it must be magic..."--Teena Marie

    So, we've had enough courtesy celebration of Sheryl Sandberg and her new 'working girl' tome Lean In. It's about high time the subversive brigade rolls into town. And we all know I am going to jump on that bandwagon and ride it 'til the wheels fall off.


    So, we're leaning in, right? Make sure you're leaning before I continue. We're all leaning, fantastic. First of all, let me preface the following with the fact that I do admire Sheryl Sandberg. She's awesome--she's worked her arse off and she enjoys an amazing career doing something she loves. I celebrate her success with every other female climber out there.


    But the thing about Sandberg's offering is that I'm not quite sure I needed to be instructed to lean. After much consideration, the determination at which I've arrived is that everyone who wants to lean is probably already leaning. Many other women like me have sacrificed a whole mess of other things in life in reverence to the one-track minded career path we're on. Unlike Sheryl, I'm not married and I'm childless. For other women like myself--who are possibly excused from this entire discussion since we clearly haven't yet positioned ourselves to "have it all", evidenced by our [empty] lives--the question begs itself: What the phuck else do we have to lean into? Our unborn unconceived children? The husbands we haven't yet met? Reality television? No. No. Sometimes. But mostly, we lean into our work!

    Moreover, for the women with families, the ones who are serious about their professional success are inevitably doing the same. Now, I don’t begrudge those women the head pat that Sheryl's words probably offer--it is comforting when someone with the same responsibilities and problems, albeit with millions more to throw at them, addresses your issues. I'm sure it's really inspiring to hear a "you can do it" spiel from the contemporary Holy Grail of women's professional achievement herself.

    But as for me, now? I love to lean, Sheryl. Leaning is, in fact, what I do best. I'm leaning in so hard that I don't have anything else to lean on. But thanks for bringing additional attention to my lean, and encouraging women who were not yet leaning in to compete with my leaning in, resulting in my having to lean even harder. How exciting for us all.

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    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Remember That Time I Moved to LA and Got Really Stupid? That Was Funny.

    "bending battles/maneuvering schemes/false expressions/washed up dreams/everybody makes believe in..."--Rufus

    Against all odds, some eight years after landing in this alien planet we affectionately call "City of Angels"--even while acknowledging it's really stock full of devils--Los Angeles has become home. I no longer feel like I'm getting out of dodge when the wheels lift on the plane going anywhere but here, and I actually look forward to returning to the land of trendy sushi and mind-blowing traffic.

    There are some clear pluses. This place is absolutely beautiful, from the exotic palm trees and ocean views to the mountains that surround the city looking like they were freehand drawn by God to the wide boulevards packed with beautiful young people living their lives out loud . The weather is phenomenal, replete with 80 degree winter days to the LA summers, which are sexy and epic. Add to all that that the best artists from all corners of the globe end up in this town, and as such, there is an entrepreneurial spirit in this town bolstered by a cornucopia of talent that lives here. People arrive with an immutable hunger to see their dreams come true and be amongst the throng of people clawing their way to the top.

    But let's be clear: It's not all wine and roses.


    Los Angeles lacks a lot of things that people from just about any other place in the United States can identify as priority. For instance, there is a deep, pervasive cultural void here. The rich sense of community that defines every other place I've ever known is supplanted in Hollyweird by a marked spirit of entitlement. For every member of the best, brightest, and smartest class of creatives that emigrate here, there are ten idiots coming to be famous, thinking because they were voted "Best Hair" in a high school class of 100 people in B.F.E. someone's going to hand them an Oscar in this star-powered village. Not to mention "The Secret" that creative people are among the most insane, angst-y folks on the planet (not excepting myself). Excavating all that visionary truth out of a body isn't easy, and there's a dark side to artistry. Consequently, people in this town are always on the lookout for a vice that masquerades as a credo or soulful preservative (*cough* Scientology *cough*). Simply put, this town lacks the reliant spiritual resolve that characterized my upbringing and the environment in which I was raised.

    Most acknowledge the inevitability of an existential outlook in a place so naturally beautiful--of course there has to be a higher power that imagined the mesmerizing visual that is California. But while an exciting hustle vibes about our town, you find it's accented by a contagious restlessness that seeks respite in all kinds of crazy spiritual solutions. In fact there is no clear spiritual center to this city; if New York is about the nonconformist expression of personhood, then Los Angeles is about her spiritual freedom. Which could be a celebration except that there's a Jim Jones-esque quality to the spiritual side of LA; people latch onto any marketable doctrine that looks and feels workable. Even more confusing is the religion buffet this city feasts on; people patchwork quilt their beliefs together from a myriad of faiths and practices--and yet still have no true resolve at the end of the day. Anything goes, and sometimes the free-spirited nature of the value system here is a lil bit scary.

    You have to not only be totally passionate about what you do to live here, but you also have to be totally convinced of who you are since if you're not careful you can begin to feel as though you live in a funhouse, mirrors and all. Because there's the whole truth: This is the land of the fake, the phony, the completely created and unreal. The pageantry doesn't end with the Universal Studios tour; nothing in LA is as it seems. Remember the "squatters' rights" laws that became popular nationwide a couple years ago, the age-old legislation on the books that in contemporary terms meant that people could randomly move into foreclosed homes that had been abandoned and take them over? Well, that system was old hat for us out here; part of dating in LA when I first arrived was coming to understand why seemingly successful men were constantly moving from mansion to mansion and never really furnishing any of them. In my country naivete, I thought they were just restless millionaires who needed a woman's touch. Little did I know they were savvy poseurs, playing the system while they tended their careers, getting paid when and where they could like every other working actor, musician, and writer in this town.

    Making lumps sums of money stretch until the elusive next paycheck shows up is our way of life, but when you see the people the rest of the country watches on television cashing unemployment checks in the bank and 'receiving funds' at Moneygram in the grocery store, the slip on the whole situation does hang a bit. And speaking of slips, I'm all for high-maintenance beauty regimens, but women here have more cosmetic surgery and other beauty treatments than you could possibly imagine, particularly young women in their 20's. "Miss New Booty" doesn't even begin to describe the total body makeovers I have witnessed in my time--some admittedly for the benefit and some to the clear detriment. Tits and ass pop up overnight, flaws disappear from season to season and if you go a year without seeing someone, a fun game at any gathering is to try to put your finger on what's "different" about them. Nose? Chin? Cheeks? Arms? Yes, yes, yes, and no...oh, yes. "Hoeing", moreover, is an absolute art here, and I've known LA ladies of the night who have never even had their own apartment and have instead shacked from guy to guy, making the rounds as "kept" women until they could get one sucker for love to wife them. This process is, literally, their job. No judgment though *side eye*.

    And I could live with all of that. People do what people do, but LA has done one thing to me that is not okay. Something so heinous and frightening that it's made me think about moving on more than one occasion.

    LA has made me a little dumb.

    All aforementioned issues aside, let's be real when we say Los Angeles isn't exactly a thinker's paradise. At any given moment, you can throw a coin and hit someone who counts on his fingers and has to move his lips when he reads. Intelligent folks come to Los Angeles, but how long they remain intelligent once they get here is up for grabs.

    When I first arrived, I stayed in my Washington, DC academic cocoon, still reading the NYT and WSJ and checking Drudge Report intermittently throughout each day. I went to the library and tried to keep my brain working as it should. BUT. As I got more consumed by our seductive Southern California culture, my intellectual rituals increasingly fell by the wayside. And it was a few years ago when I went up North to San Francisco to visit one of my best friends from college that I found I was far from the smart Capital City college girl that stepped off the plane in La-La land way back when. My BFF had taken me to a get together for a friend of hers, and while I walked into the party feeling like the fresh, hot thing off the SoCal presses, I quickly realized that these were not the usual suspects. I was prepared for the size-up--LA competes in looks, brawn, and the career lottery. But these people were talking about the 'real' world, having the financial and political discussions that typified my East Coast academic experiences. As I boldly joined in the conversation, I was surprised to find that not only had my vocabulary shrunk considerably, but that I wasn't really prepared to discuss much. 


    While they talked about foreign film, I thought about the newest [blockbuster] Paramount releases. While they discussed the financial crisis, I thought about Pilot Season. While these people discussed international news, I realized the only global considerations I had anymore were Brazilian waxes, Brazilian booties, and Brazilian hair. In fact, I remember getting drunk that night as I sipped away my feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, wondering if I was destined to the pointless dribble my life had become. It happened back East as well; when I went home to visit, I was labeled "the Hollywood friend"--I had the wild, glamorous weaves, the beauty secrets, the year-round tan, and the industry skinny…but not much else. Adding insult to injury, I realized that I'd become the very thing I most disdained about LA: I was a walking advertisement for all that was not real. As I struggled [sometimes miserably] to build a career and still have a life, everyone back home saw adventure and prosperity. But in reality I was broke and burdened in every area of my life. Back home, I was the façade, the creation for which my new "hometown" was known. Roll away the couches and props and there was an empty set.

    I've realized that in order to be truly successful in Los Angeles, an awakening must occur. Once you "get" that you can't be one with this city and be successful in it, your focus shifts. The past couple of years have been about that for me. Getting back to who I once was spiritually, intellectually, mentally, and enhancing those things as I continue to journey towards the fulfillment of my dreams. Someone told me last year "you cannot lead people and be just like them". In order to be a leader in the life I've chosen, I can't be "of" any place, even while in it. There are some awful things about Los Angeles, some things that make me uncomfortable, things I would change if I had the power. But at the end of the day, I've realized that it's in God's hands, this culture that breeds a soul-changing journey.

    If you let it.

    >>read more

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    In Random News: My Life Has Vastly Improved Since I Stopped Wearing Foundation.

    "I make my own sunshine..."--Alyssa Bonagura

    I don't know anyone personally who is as slow as me in the morning. And it's not that I am slow in the conventional sense of the term --like, it's not as though I'm shuffling along underwater style or wake up only able to access half my brain capacity--but I am *not* a morning person. In fact, I usually wake up in a terrible mood and/or wishing I was dead.


    After a few minutes to adjust my eyes to the light, followed by a requisite morning prayer, I'm usually able [by the blood of Jesus] to shake the sense of morbidity. However, even after pumping the maximum dose of Feelgood into my brain, I am still pretty much just Grumpy Cat (as in the meme; see photo) and as such, everything takes me triple the time it would take any normal person because I'm totally discombobulated and easily distracted by any- and everything. For instance, my morning pee takes at least five minutes, only 30 seconds of which involves an actual stream of urine. The other four and a half minutes consist of staring out of the window and checking any number of social media outlets. I'm also known to take a couple of GRE vocabulary tests (my version of a guilty pleasure) on the toilet to avoid getting into the swing of the day.

    Because it takes me so long to feel like a person who's actually interested in going out into the world, I'm always on the prowl for things that shorten my morning routine so I can get going faster and with less of an attitude. The sad fact on top of my aversion to the early part of day is that I am also a makeup aficionada. I absolutely must 'put on my face' before I leave the house or the bad attitude I woke up with will never go away. I'm a perfectionist by nature, so it naturally follows that I like my face drag-queen-beat when I step out of the door. I don't leave home without, at a minimum, a healthy amount of mascara and eyeliner, and I also want to see as few pores as possible when I turn my rearview towards my mug before backing out of the driveway. Consequently, I've developed, over the years, an unhealthy addiction to Foundation.

    I didn't even start wearing the stuff until I was almost out of college. I've always had pretty good skin, if a bit porous. I've struggled with occasional [hormonal and/or stress-related] breakouts since my early 20's, but I've never had any serious acne problems. Yet and still, I know that cunning MAC makeup artist in the mall knew what she was doing when she first swiped that Studio Fix (throwback!) onto my skin back in 2002. When I looked into that glass and saw the flawlessness, I just about kicked the wall in. I. Looked. Spectacular.

    In the years since, I've gone through probably 20 different brands of foundation, each more "revolutionary" than the next. I learned to contour, I learned to shade, I found perfect matches (Makeup Forever 170, thank you) and then got a wild hare up my ass and switched brands for the hell of it.

     

    But. As anyone who turns 30 will tell you, some shit just has to go when you get to a certain age. One develops a diminished tolerance for foolishness, coupled with a strong disdain for anything that smacks of insecurity. About a month ago, that exact wind hit me. Standing naked in front of the mirror after brushing my teeth and washing my face, I just couldn't do it. I could not put those two different shades of foundation onto my hand, I could not wet that makeup sponge, and I could not combine those colors and blend that concealer and shade the contour spots...I could not do any of it. I was tired as hell. And so over it.

    And so, I splashed with cold water, wiped my face with a toner pad, and whipped out my E.L.F. [read: $3 at Target, bka cheap as cheap can get] Tinted Moisturizer in Sand, which in addition to being the cheapest makeup product I've ever purchased, also happens to be the only one that matches my skin perfectly. I'm "medium" skinned, but unlike many lighter-skinned Black girls I'm very red, not yellow. My complexion has strong pink undertones, so the reason I picked up the E.L.F. moisturizer in Sand to begin with was the description "for light to medium skin with pink undertones" on the front. And lo and behold it was PERFECT. In fact, I'd been wearing it underneath my foundation for over a year. But on this particular pre-Spring 2013 day, the E.L.F. was going Amelia Earhart. (Yeah, I put on a little primer, but I pity the fool who doesn't. Priming is next to Godliness). I stepped out cautiously, wondering if the world could see my pore-y little secret.

    I promise it was one of the best days I've had in forever. I felt light, free, and most of all, I felt effing gorge. Every day since then, I've enjoyed my "makeup" routine much more immensely. It makes my whole morning feel lighter and happier to know I don't have to go through the foundation rigmarole.

    My five different foundations are currently lost in the sea of crap in my makeup drawer in the bathroom, and I couldn't be happier about it. The next time I wear the stuff, it will likely be applied professionally, and I better be going somewhere really cool and meeting some truly awesome folks I might never see again for it to be worth the effort.

    I truly feel free in my new skin, because it is, finally and for realz, my skin. Take that, Sephora.

    >>read more

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    Never Forget...

    "i love you for sentimental reasons..." --Nat King Cole

    Six years ago on this day, I met the man I once thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. It was a sunny SoCal Sunday; I was coming from church and he was heading there. I was distracted; it was a memorable day for other reasons. And even though I was still coming down off a bad trip with a mess of a man, and even though he didn’t really seem like my style, something made me give him my real number, and something stuck with me about him all week, and something made me call him back and go out with him. We happened upon each other.



    And since then, in the years since our thing slipped down the drain of big ideas and good intentions, I can admit I’ve made love the stepchild of my priorities, the sliver of the pie chart you can barely see. But this day makes me fully contemplate that chance encounter six years ago, assigning it all the magic it deserves. Unlike a restaurant or a friend’s house or any of the other places I’ve met someone, the serendipity of us depended entirely upon a series of uncharacteristic choices and a three-minute window. I remember the electricity in our first kiss on a balmy April night, the vibration of which I'd heard tell of but never experienced in any relationship before and certainly none after. It was pure magic--I felt like a key had turned inside of a lock deep within me that I didn't even know was there and opened a door I didn't even know had closed. And since the moment after when I opened my eyes, I promise I have never been the same again. I was altered by that connection, made permanently drunk by whatever concoction we created in that moment.

    Unlike my previous long-term romance, which was peppered with betrayal and manipulation by a sociopathic megalomaniac (yes.) and rooted in my own poor choices and dreadful behavior, the one that washed ashore in my life six years ago today was equitable and fair, decent and kind. When I met him, I had grown used to the heart-wrenching surprises and calculated disappointments that characterized the eventual overgrowth of the ‘worst of times’. In my early twenties that kind of drama was welcome, a clear exchange for the radical highs hot on its footsteps. But the downside of that episode was that I had been conditioned to act out, rehearse the crazy, turn up like a madwoman and break down like a child. I thought conducting myself that way was how women were heard.

    But this time, with this man, there were consequences and repercussions for every choice. It was natural, fluid; form followed function. There was no confusion; it taught me how to look at myself and my behavior and evaluate who I am and what I do as a woman, as a person. We treated each other with respect and honored each other even when we made mistakes. Even my most cringe-worthy blunders were not deal-breakers and I discovered what it felt like to be safe. I learned how to communicate and be honest. 


    I discovered reconciling passion with love.

    Ultimately, obviously, it did not last. Life, careers, and choices took a front seat and I looked up to find that we had slipped through my fingers. And even though I know there were things we both could have done differently, there was no shame in the loss. Even when I see him now, there is a still that spark, a quiet smile that we share created by respect, nourished by passion, and sustained by well-wishes.

    Even as the fire has faded and different paths have been forged, I always think of you, my love, on this day. It will always belong to us, and every year I thank God you found me that day in history, today in history. Before you I was insipid and after you I was profound. And I will never, ever be the same again.

    >>read more