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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

My Creative God Complex

I am creatively restless.

I am about to explode. There is so much in me.

I lamented to a friend that I was itching to get out of my office, go away someplace, create, write, paint badly on canvas (never painted in my life), eat the most wonderful foods, drink amazing wines and have sex. That would make me happy right now.

My day dreams are becoming really powerful these days. Too powerful, distracting, and intoxicating for me to ignore and not act. They are far more fabulous and filled with passion and purpose than my current state.

In them, I am ridiculously happy, well-dressed, healthy and traveling as I please. I am working on my various projects, I am launching my novel. My non-profit for young women is doing powerful things.

Tyler Perry and Oprah are very interested in turning the novel into a movie. I’m asking Tyler over lunch respectfully about how he feels about the black bourgeoise crucifying him on every turn and blaming him for the coonization of black people in today’s media landscape, and how my main concern is that honestly those same people are the ones who love my book. How will he and his brand legitimize me in the movie world? He looks at me intently and says he loves the challenge and that is exactly why he was drawn to the material. His question was how will me and my book finally make those folks see him with different eyes?

He assures me not to worry. He’s ecstatic that I am so humble and wanted to learn everything about screenwriting that I can. He is impressed that I tactfully asked my question about coonery to his face. I’m so heavily invested in my book, and my characters that while I’m open to working with the pros, I want to be hands on…

See there I go.

To make matters better or worse, I get a breathless email from a friend who is traipsing through China this week, eating great food, exercising vigorously, immersing himself in language and culture and having a wonderful time. I’m jealous and inspired at the same time.

My sister sends me an adorable photo of the diorama of the wetlands she (mostly probably) and my nephew made for a school project. I think it is the finest diorama I have ever beheld.

These things heighten my senses.

I opened my fridge this morning to find spilled milk. I laughed while cleaning it up, and laughed harder at the irony of laughing at spilled milk. I thought of a new shirt design from that one incident. I thought of writing this blog. The creative force was beckoning me and I was already starting to run late for work.

Work is standing in the way of the greatness rumbling within. Damn…

Because I feel I am an artist today. On this extraordinarily rainy day, I decide to wear large jewelry, a shorts jumper over a white turtle neck, and blue tights, a massive statement necklace and long black jacket and tall black boots. It’s so extra for where I’m going to spend the next 8 hours, but I’ve got to be free. I’ve got to express myself today and through my clothes too (fashion is art). I recently finished reading an amazing novel, “The Human Stain”. I believe in order to be a great writer, you have to read great reading and study what the author was doing.

I was entranced by these characters Philip Roth developed. They each had a story that was thoughtfully played out. They were flawed, they were messy, arrogant, some how they were all intertwined with one another. They had secrets, they made massive mistakes, they carried their pain and they were often reckless in the quest to feel alive and free, if only momentarily.

I followed that connection in me. This yearning for reckless freedom. Freedom from the hold that paying bills and eliminating debt has on me. Freedom from the quick, scary pangs of fear when it’s really quiet in my apartment and I hear a random sound foreign to the regular sounds of my home and realize I am alone.  Whatever that sound is, if it is evil and wants to have at me, it has a very good chance of doing me in and no one will be able to save me.

I fill the noise with the low hum of the radio, say a prayer and go back to sleep.

So how do I break free?

The sobering reality is, I have to toil on in my practical world to pay the bills and finance my dreams that I feel are well within my reach.

Then came the rational roll-up-my-sleeves mantra I’ve adopted to “do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.”

In my Holy Spirit-filled home church, there was a saying people often said. “Your gift will make room for you.”

This meaning, if you stick to your God-given talents, acknowledge Him in it, recognize where it comes from always, opportunities will present themselves.

I am a creative person. I am a writer. I had gotten so far from the writing path professionally for a number of reasons. It’s time to come back full circle, this time doing it on my terms. I’ll finish my book. Tyler and Oprah will come…

I feel a power and a connection to God when I write from my heart or when I sing. The creative force itself is Godly, in my opinion. Why wouldn’t it be? He is the ultimate Creator, I think He delights when we start combining our intellect and what’s in our soul to make something meaningful, even if it is only to one person.

Folks often think when we love others unconditionally, or treat people kindly, that is when we are most God-like.

That’s cool, But I think when we create something, see an idea through until it is materialized into something we can see, hear or feel, smell or taste (food is art too) that’s when He says, “Wow, look at my children.”

When we make something beautiful or useful or meaningful, I think that’s when we are most like Him.

Perfect Little Pack Rat

digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

I am an email pack rat.

I had nearly 7,000 work emails, and Outlook politely reminded me today I was running out of space.

These occasional reminders help me purge. (Force is a more accurate word.)

I saw things in my email box from as far back as 2010. Surely, I didn’t need most of that stuff.

Email is our office’s lifeline, so having such a huge number of emails isn’t unusual, but 7,000 emails, in my opinion was way out of hand. I didn’t really even notice it until I got my little warning.

I’m actually glad I got rid of a lot of stuff. It was a bit of a relief.

In the bowels of my email, there were even emails to my ex, and I even found my (canceled) bridal shower guest list. Ouch. I even had a hard time deleting those. God.

I  had also stumbled across an email exchange with a close friend detailing my wedding jitters and my fears of moving clear across the country in the name of love for a man who wasn’t completely acting right at the time.

My friend gave me some powerful words trying to remind me of who I was, am and to never lose that and how I never lost that with any other man I was in a relationship with and that was not the time to start.

Reading those emails now, was a great reminder of just how far I’ve come. I’m proud of myself.

Some of those emails reminded me of other painful things.

It reminded me of my obsession with having to keep and document certain things that I didn’t think were right on the job, or proof of professional wrongdoing in case I had to go to the last resort of filing a complaint with HR to handle an out of control co-worker who was single-handedly trying to make my professional life hell.

Those emails reminded me of how paranoid and powerless I felt and how I was literally dissecting every negative thing this person said to me or about me, and ready to assume whatever positive thing they said, there was some sort of evil angle. This person was controlling me. They were winning.

Then I saw the emails where my fortune was starting to change and with the help and encouragement of others, I was able to remove myself from a toxic work situation and even start doing new things outside of my original job title.

There it was, the ups and downs. My performance reviews and my vacation requests. I kept every thing for years… just in case.

Just in case.

I won’t front, even in this 5,000 email purge (still have about 1500), I still kept the most egregious stuff, and this person isn’t even in my department anymore. But I just can’t help it.

Just in case…

Holding on to things seem to be in my nature. I have a lot of crap in my house. In my car. My desk isn’t as bad as it used to be. One of my co-workers always had a snide remark about my desk. I told her it’s a carry over from my reporter days.

Every reporter I knew had a desk full of stuff. You couldn’t even see the desk at a certain point. Books and press releases, phone books, style books, dictionaries. Coffee cups, snacks. You were always on the go, hence the car had a lot of crap in it because you’d often have lunch and dinner there. You’d take phone calls there, do full-out interviews there, take notes, lie to your editor that you were on your way back to write. It was your real office. That’s where most of the real work took place.

So yes, old habits die hard.

As my friends found out on my 30th birthday weekend preparing my home for the party, I am a pack rat. I keep old magazines, and all kinds of paper. You will find convention laptop bags and family reunion tee shirts from the last 10 years in a closet someplace.

Every time I’ve had to move, that was the time I’d call on the help of impartial friends to get rid of things when I wasn’t looking. Just because I love Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, it doesn’t mean I need to keep the bag my bengiets came in, but the memory makes me happy. It reminds me I was someplace special, even though I have pics. I’m really crazy.

I’ve been training myself to get rid of junk mail as soon as I get it now, so it won’t pile up and then I have to spend most of a Saturday shredding my name and address off and disposing of it all.

I may have some kind of emotional disorder, I may have inherited packratism from my mother who keeps everything, but her problem is she just doesn’t know where she put it all anymore.

Like a true person with a problem/addiction, I claim I know where it all is, when in fact, I stumble upon things I’d forgotten about in surprise.

I’m clever though.

I semi organize my crap by purchasing organizers, shifting the crap into neat little boxes, so the crap isn’t all over the floor. Go me! Organized chaos!

I don’t think I’m a hoarder, because at a certain point, I do get sick of some of the crap in my house and I pick an area and just toss with reckless abandon.

When I was in the brunt of my emotional pain last year, I went to see a psychiatrist. And how did she describe me?

She said on the outside, I looked like I had it together. Nice clothes, great shoes, good-looking. I had a great education and a seemingly great career path. I was self-aware and well-adjusted considering all of the things I had been through.

But I had all of these deep, painful things going on with me and somehow I managed to put them all in these lovely boxes, stacked them perfectly and kept stepping with my head held high. She said that if I kept on stacking the boxes in their neat rows, one day there were going to be too many for even I to handle and continue to organize neatly out of my way. In fact, she warned they were all going to fall down. On top of me.

She told me, I was going to have to eventually open each and every box and deal with what’s in each and every one in order to truly be happy.

I hope I’ve begun to do that over the last several months. I certainly do feel happier.

So yes, I was professionally assessed as the ultimate (emotional) pack rat, even in a metaphorical, Freudian kind of way. But I’m working on it.

One email, one magazine, one piece of junk mail at a time.

Confession: I’m A Sexist Against Emotional Men

I have a confession to make. I’m a sexist.

What’s worse is I’m harder on men about traditional roles, while I’m way more flexible when it comes to what women can or cannot do, their abilities, etc.

Part of the problem is because there has been such a seismic shift in these roles, and as a woman, I’m proud that we can do so much. But God, we really can’t do it alone. We need help. In our march to be the best women we can be and compete and be just as good as and better than men, we were quietly letting them slip.

Men started relinquishing certain aspects of their manhood, things that were innately in their makeup and now because society has told men over and over, women don’t need you, your money, your protection, a lot of men have taken a big gulp of that kool aid and started to believe it themselves. They went slinking away, for fear of retribution, law suits and being considered sexist. (Save the Males: Why Men Matter and Why Women Should Care is a great book that explores all of this stuff.)

I won’t front, I want it both ways. That’s wrong. It’s completely unfair and ridiculous.

What is probably even worse, is in addition to me wanting a man to know who to cook, clean, fix things, do yard work, take out the trash, discipline children, be there emotionally for me, compliment me, cuddle on the couch and then put some monster lovin on me in the bedroom, and bring home a nice paycheck (preferably equal to or more than mine), I tend to think I’m the only one entitled to get emotional.

I often forget men have feelings too, and they are just as sensitive as women (another stupid statement, we all are human and are built with feelings), and they often have a hard time feeling comfortable about expressing when their ego and pride have been hurt because society and women are telling them to suck it up.

But I don’t want no punk.

I think about when my nephew was about 5. My sister and brother-in-law felt they had to be careful about how they handled crying and certain tantrums. My sister naturally wanted to coddle and protect him, but my brother-in-law also had to step in from time-to-time, with a stern face and yes, tell a 5-year-old boy to stand tall. Once the little boy straightened up, and stuck out his chest, my brother-in-law wiped his little tear-stained face, gave him a hug and sent him on his little way. You could tell the boy was proud of himself after his dad gave him those strong words, but still showed him love.

This is the message we need to send to little boys from men. It’s okay to react, and have emotions. Don’t hide them, address them, but don’t run back to mommy either after the speech.

I make assumptions especially within the confines of my romantic relationships.

I assume that as a woman, I automatically care more about our relationship than he does.

I assume he has shrugged off a certain situation or a spat.

I assume when I’m complaining and he’s quiet, he’s ignoring me and he wants me to shut the hell up.

So I shut down. I say things like forget it, when I know it’s far from forgotten.

I’ve been told, men who love you want to solve your problem. In fact, they want to solve it right away. If they love you, they are quiet because they do want to process it and figure it out to give you a good solution or, they really do want you just shut up because they have problems of their own and are trying to figure those out too.

I foolishly think that men don’t care, that their feelings rarely get hurt, they get should get over stuff quickly, they should suck things up and that my words and action or inaction couldn’t possibly hurt them, meanwhile if the roles were reversed I’d be an emotional, raging nut-bag, complaining to any girlfriend who would listen and then consider not being in the relationship anymore because he doesn’t get me. And she’ll probably co-sign and say I should leave.

Well ain’t that the pot?

Where the hell did I get this from?

My dad is one of the strongest men I know, but he does not hide when he is emotional (happy, sad or frustrated) and he doesn’t have a problem with saying, “you hurt my feelings” after humbling his offender by running off a list of very recent, unselfish things he has been kind enough to do when he didn’t really have to. So I’ve always had a great example of a self-aware, strong yet sensitive man in my life.

So why am I so hard on the men I’m romantically involved with?

I told one of my good male friends about this and I said, there are times i just honestly feel like things don’t matter to yall.

I often take the approach to act like things aren’t a big deal to avoid being an “emotional female” thinking I’m saving the man I’m dealing with a lot more drama, and in his mind, I’m cool and I’m not dramatic like all of the other women.

Even in the beginning of a relationship, I’m breaking my neck to play it cool, to not seem too interested. I’ll say I’m busy even if I’m watching Sex and the City reruns in my old university sweatshirt. I’ll keep track of how often I’m contacting him, and make sure he’s contacting me just as much.

What a lie. And how exhausting.

As much as I like to consider myself low drama no drama, I can’t avoid coming home and talking about how much work stressed me out, or going on about why I feel like my more high maintenance friends misunderstood me this week and I’m tired of being the bigger person, always protecting their feelings, and if I give in again, I’m just allowing them to think they were right, thus exacerbating the problem.

That scenario just made me tired.

I can’t imagine being a man sitting across from me, loving me and having to hear this and hear me talk through it, knowing I won’t even begin to feel better about it until I’ve talked all. the. way. through. it. and knowing he’d be a jerk if he doesn’t look like he cares. He has to pay attention, because I’m going to ask him, (especially on the phone) “are you still listening to me?” “Then what did I just say?”

LOL. I just made myself laugh. Am I really that bad? Ugh…

Apparently I am. I have more work to do.

That’s been the major critique of men who have dealt with me. They said, I assumed they didn’t care, or assumed they didn’t want to attend a certain event with me and I didn’t ask them to go, or before asking about their day, I went on and on….and on about mine. They said I was not selfish, but I could go on and on and I made assumptions about how they felt and responded according to that rather than asking them and responding to their real feelings.

To me, it was staying a few steps ahead, knowing my man and anticipating his moves and not asking him every five minutes are you ok? Is everything all right?

I got to the point where I wasn’t asking at all, which can be just as dangerous.

So here’s to self-improvement and to the men brave enough to share their sensitive side and call my “know it all, read it all, I Googled everything there is to know about the male ego” ass out. This one is for you.

Breaking Shoe Obsession News

I interrupt my regular life post, to bring you breaking shoe news.

I promise, I will not do this often. I like the groove we’ve established. I will not squander what we’ve built together for random shoe whims.

However, I have a thing for shoes.

I’ve probably mentioned this a number of times throughout this blog in passing, or in quick references.

Shoes are awesome, shoes are hot. Some make me feel comfortable, some make me feel like I can take on the world. Some say, “I mean business,” while others say, “Clothes? Who needs em? You just need us and a big ol smile, now get over here big boy.”

So, thanks to my latest online obsession Pinterest, other shoe fanatics can post gorgeous shoes that we can fantasize and dream about out in the open, without judgement. In fact, gushing is encouraged.

Well, these Maison Martin Margiela Line 22
Heel-In-Heel pumps took the cake, the cookies, and the ice cream. And I can be the proud owner for $790 (not including tax).

I love nude colored shoes (I don’t have enough of them), I adore wedges (got plenty– my faves are my snake-skin Coach wedges) and the fact that it’s doing this cut-out thin heel illusion thing, is just darling. These are certainly a talker.

But I would not interrupt a blog that usually discusses my journey into 30 off of some nonsense about expensive shoes I can’t afford and won’t buy.

I will interrupt this blog that usually discusses my journey into 30 to share with you that I’ve found an affordable solution (that may or may not have been inspired by this very shoe) on sale, and with a 15% off entire purchase coupon!!!

I present to you the Lana by Report shoes courtesy of Famous Footwear.

Que the angel choir singing led by Ms. Whitney Houston herself. (Was that cute or was that shameless? Too soon? Help me, I certainly don’t want to offend. Yall know I love me some Nippy. The Whitney movie marathon is scheduled for Saturday (Bodyguard, The Preacher’s Wife, Waiting to Exhale). I’m accepting side dishes and desserts. I’ve got the liquor and I’m frying fish.)

famousfootwear.com

I actually saw these shoes for the first time around Thanksgiving (long before seeing the uber-expensive dream shoes). The reduced price was down to about $80, but was still too rich for my blood, considering I was in Famous Footwear. Patience, my child. So I watched and I waited. The price continued to drop after Christmas, but I still kept waiting. “It will go down.”

The dream shoes re-sparked my interest, and I went back to the Famous Footwear site to see if the price dropped some more. They did. Now, these babies are $39.99 and I can add my 15% off coupon.

I am beyond happy. So much so, I’ll be rocking these at a happy hour, date, girl’s night out and cubicle near me… (You will pick me out of the bathroom stall lineup, oh well.)

Thank you for indulging me in my shoe indulgence today.

Outside in the Office

Socially, I don’t fit in at work.

Outside of work, I’m a rock star. I’m funny, I dance around, I have on cute clothes and shoes. Off the clock, you can’t not like me. I can get the party started and turn on the charm and work the room like nobody’s business.

At work, I feel like an outsider.

Most interactions outside of discussing something pertaining to work, feel uncomfortable, forced and fake.

Believe it or not, it’s not even because I’m one of about 6 people of color in the entire place and one of just 3 black women.

It’s age and the fact I’m childless and single.

Even though I’ve just cracked 30, most of the folks working here are 40 and older, and have children. Some have children my age. Their lifestyles are completely different from mine. And I don’t like telling people at work about my personal life (They don’t really care unless you are getting married or pregnant hence the reason for this latest party. Another baby shower. When I first got engaged I was the belle of the ball. “Show us the ring…again!” “Tell us about the plans!” “Here’s a great book!”), and I start to really check out when people start talking about weather-proofing windows or the latest child car seats or how its hell to refinance a mortgage right now or how you have to tell your stupid husband exactly what to do all the time, because he doesn’t have the good sense to do it right the first time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “stupid husband” stories. I sit there and think, he’s not stupid, or slow. If you talk to him the way you talk to me about him, he’s ignoring you and (because you are too tired, and looking haggard and complaining all the damn time) he’s probably giving it real good to his assistant or the hot colleague who keeps regular appointments for Brazilian waxes and doesn’t have Play Doh ground into her last good cardigan.

I think I get along well with most people in all sorts of situations, but I just always feel so awkward when a social situation comes up involving work folks, or someone throws a party and invites the whole office and it’s not a mandatory event.

A lot of those getting-ahead-in-the-workplace books would advise that you show up to these functions so people can get another side of you, and you don’t want to get to the point where no one invites you to anything at all.

But for me, I just can’t do it. It makes me feel like a big phony and honestly I’ve caught co-workers slip up with racial faux pas that just made me feel uncomfortable, because they were feeling waay tooo comfortable at these functions.

“That singer Seal, he’s really black.”

Seal is really black. So is Wesley Snipes–black people say it all the time, but hearing a white person say it, and with no real context–it threw me. I’m considered light-skinned and I was totally offended and shocked. I shot the offender a “no you didn’t” glance and she literally shut her open mouth and reached for more food to put on her plate.

True story.

So to avoid that nonsense, I only go to the scheduled basically mandatory social functions after our major meetings when our off site, out-of-state colleagues come to town. Which makes sense because we only see these folks a few times a year, but we work with them everyday. During those functions, I follow the rules of those professional books and I mingle and I force and fight my way through with a smile. Not participating in those types of events, in my opinion are professionally damaging.

I think it’s the culture of the company I work at. A lot of folks have been here for 10, 20 even 30 years. They literally have grown up together professionally, so they do have a very clear, long-standing personal bond they’ve built with one another.

Which makes sense.

At one of my jobs, we were all new reporters, and transplants from a completely different region than where we were working. When we weren’t working like dogs, we went out for drinks together, had barbeques, went on road trips and because we were so far from home, often spent holidays together. We were all close in age and in economic and relationship status and mostly without kids. So we were peers, and we all loved bitching about our editors. That was the common bond regardless of race or religion! I’m still good friends with some of these folks, other jobs and years later.

I’ve learned to stay in my lane at work when it comes to the social hour. I did put money in the card and signed it. My best wishes have been sent.

As for the party later, I politely decline.

Handling these kinds of situations require the sensitivity and agility of a tightrope walker which leads me to today’s inspired jam.

Dream, Plan, Execute, Celebrate, Elevate, Repeat.

Dream, plan, execute, celebrate, elevate, repeat.

That came to me this morning when I was getting out of bed.

I was thinking about the business I’m working on, the creative process and success.

Dream.

Man, my dreams are big. My dreams involve a lifestyle brand involving clothing, eventually a perfume, a social networking community, blog, internet radio show and internet t.v. show. I already have planned out a photo shoot, the models, the themes and what my website will look like.

I know what my brand launch party will look like, and even the very cool space where I want to have it. I see the appetizers and people sipping on drinks and video and photos from my shoot enlarged, projected on the walls as loud music pulsates through the room. Family and friends are there, I’m being interviewed by bloggers and local media. People are buying my products.

I dream about visiting a new city and seeing strangers wearing one of my shirts, stopping them to take a photograph to put on my website and being blown away.

Plan. 

I enlisted help. I am enrolled in a program geared towards grooming female entrepreneurs and the classes are intense. But it’s totally worth it. They also offer other networking functions where you get to meet other women business owners and exchange ideas and find mentors. It’s a supportive environment where I can actually see my project off the ground in a realistic way, acknowledging my own shortcomings and where I have to grow or put in more work. They have me crunching numbers, doing research, market research, establishing my target customer, figuring out who my competition is, etc. Refining my idea, going back to smaller goals and attacking those one-by-one.

Execute.

I’m executing my plan by being enrolled in the course. By working on designs and making samples, wearing my samples and getting feedback. Working on the concepts for the blog, t.v. show, securing my models and a photographer and planning my photo shoot for the summer. I write down any and every idea and I’m constantly looking for inspiration. I study people/brands who are doing things similar to what I’m trying to do at the smaller levels and I’m studying companies doing it on a much larger scale, seeing where I can grow.

I saw the best quote ever last week. This one business owner said, that you should love the business you have started and should be working harder than your friends with the so-called “real jobs.”

So in addition to my real job, I have to put in the time on my business. My day doesn’t end when I leave my real job. I should still be working on ideas and making decisions and plans and studying.

Celebrate.

When my samples show up, I celebrate. When the photo shoot happens, me my models and photographer will celebrate. When I launch the site and make my first sales, I will celebrate. When I actually turn a profit, I will really celebrate. I enjoy seeing my ideas come to life and it makes me feel I am one step closer to the entire dream happening. As a journalist, seeing my byline in print never got old. Mini celebrations all around. If you don’t celebrate accomplishments great and small, you are going to put a lot of pressure on yourself and the distance between you and the bigger picture is going to seem a whole lot farther away.

Elevate.

After you celebrate, it’s immediately time to look over what you did and figure out how to improve upon it. Can I make this better? Is there something I see now that I didn’t see before? How can I save myself time and energy and money the next time around? Who else can I ask for help who knows a particular area very well?

Repeat.

Go back to the dream state. I always go back to dreaming about that launch party, dreaming about the photo shoot and dreaming about how the web site will look. I dream about eventually being able to use the philanthropic arm of my company to visit young women in middle and high schools and talk about dreams, their talents and about the planning and execution of their dreams. I dream about giving stand-out girls and women scholarships and internship opportunities, and jobs to support themselves and their families.

When I imagine myself as a kick-ass business woman, I envision myself giving a presentation like this someday, just for the hell of it. Love this scene from Charlie’s Angels.

Straight Vs.’Natural’: I’m Neutral

*When I say natural hair, I use that term in quotes, because all black women do not have naturally coarse hair. It ranges. Natural to me is what grows out of your head. But I generally mean coarse, non-chemically straightened hair. I have friends who get their hair blown out and pressed straight and they are still considered natural, because they didn’t use chemicals to straighten it.

One of my favorite singer/songwriters India. Arie has a popular and lovely song called, “I Am Not My Hair.”

It was an anthem for black women encouraging them to stop obsessing over our hair, although the connection to our hair and what it means in terms of beauty and self-esteem is very real and it’s serious.

*I don’t even feel like going into the history of black women their hair and their psyche. Chris Rock did a decent job in the movie “Good Hair.” Just know it’s deep. It’s not just hair. It is beauty, it’s how others see us and how we see ourselves. We are affected and we are working on it.

Since the age of 12, I have been putting a chemical relaxer in my hair. My mother fought against it for as long as possible. I could see why.

Because since then, there’s been battles with breakage, regrowth, dramatic cuts, and a little color, more breakage, ruined in the rain, comb-breaking, burnt… I could go on for days.

But fortunately times have changed. Somehow in recent times, “natural” hair (not chemically straightened) has finally been more widely accepted as beautiful. I think this is great for younger black girls because it is way more visible in the media than when I was a kid. Basically it was straight is great, and natural hair and fros and such needed to stay in the 70s.

So now, I want both passionate factions to declare peace. We all have choices, and grown women especially have figured out what works best for their lifestyle and what’s most flattering to them, so let’s let each other be.

If you are “natural”, don’t look down on your chemically straight-haired sister, assuming she wants to look European (a “wannabe” as Spike Lee nailed it in his classic “School Daze”) or is trying to fit into a certain culture or attract “shallow” men who prefer that look.

Straight-haired sister, please, stop calling your more kinky-coiffed sister nappy headed, mother Africa and all of that other stuff.

I feel like as women we need to lift one another up. Whether it’s straight or kinky, if you have gorgeous hair, I compliment it. I think women with natural hair are almost shocked if another black woman with straight hair gives them an honest compliment. It often seems like you can’t cross that line and give one another props. How you wear your hair seems like an unspoken declaration that you clearly approve one choice over the other. It’s terribly wrong.

Even if I go to a poetry event or something where it is stereotypical for people with “natural” hair to go to, I get looks sometimes like I don’t belong there. Get real. What does poetry or positive hip hop have to do with the texture of my hair?? I like what I like.

We are now in an era of choice. I do not think women with “natural” hair these days face the same amount of hostility they did 20 years ago. So I’m glad we’ve all evolved.

A number of artists and celebrities that I love go back and forth and they look amazing whether weaved out, with a fro or damn near bald (shout out to the lovely Chrisette Michele who did rock a near baldy).

Right now, I’m someplace in the middle. I don’t really like wearing my hair completely bone straight anymore. I like more body and fluff. I’ve been spacing out my chemical relaxers longer and longer because I hate how straight it is the first week or so now.

I do think with the success of hair care brands like Miss Jessie’s and others, women of color have become way more comfortable wearing their hair all kinds of ways.

I used to hate on women who wore weaves and called them fake. I don’t any more.

I have friends who love them, who may have difficulty maintaining their own hair and they feel good about how their weave makes them look. So it’s silly and stupid for me to look at another woman on the street and take her choice so personally. Now if it’s a bad weave, that’s another story!

Men were another problem. The men I liked and loved (including my father), liked seeing my straight, long hair blowing in the wind. It was the ultimate sign of beauty.

Occasionally to give my hair a break, I would wear it in tight curls a few times a year. My ex wasn’t a fan. Before we went out for a major occasion, I’d calm him down and say, “I’m getting my relaxer this week, don’t worry, it will be straight.” And then his face would relax.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I may want to only relax my hair twice a year and then get a really good blow out and press in between.

I’ve been on a big hair kick lately and I have a few inspirations. I love the new artist Elle Varner and I’ve already said I think my natural hair texture twin is probably Leela James.

I tried out my “Leela James” when I went on vacation alone, because no one knew me there and I loved it. After being on the beach and in the water, I didn’t feel like straightening my hair after I washed and blow dried it. So I didn’t. My hair was huge, and I thought I looked quite exotic. My father and my ex would have probably said I looked like I had my finger in a socket, but I was on vacation and I didn’t care. It was cute. I may have the courage to do it again in my own back yard.

I won’t abandon straight styles altogether, but I won’t wear it that way all the time anymore either.

Ghosts

I was driving to work today and as the world prepares for Whitney Houston’s funeral tomorrow, radio stations have been playing her classics all week long.

“Didn’t We Almost Have It All” came on and it hit me hard.

Twice.

Once for Whitney, the woman we all loved and assumed had it all because of her massive success, fame and world adoration. She was poised to rise yet again with the new movie remake of “Sparkle” to hit movie theaters in the summer.

Twice, because the song made me think of how close I was to getting married and how it didn’t work out. I lost someone I loved the closer we got to what I thought was “having it all.”

The ghost of that relationship has been popping up in the oddest of places recently.

Prior to hearing the song, I was visiting an art gallery this weekend for the last day of an exhibit I knew I had to see. I brought along a good friend and as I do with all museums and galleries, I had to go browsing in the gift shop.

I should have left well enough alone.

I was almost on my way out after not really seeing anything I wanted (and not being willing to pay the prices either) and out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.

It was a photograph.

I stopped in my tracks and stared. It was a greyish photo of the Capitol Columns which can be found on a hill in the middle of the National Arboretum– a beautiful, hidden Washington, DC gem. Acres and acres of land and trees and a lovely view of the Anacostia River.

My traveling companion wondered why this photo captured my attention.

I told him it was a beautiful place and the Capitol Columns was the must see of the whole place. The story of these amazing Corinthian columns is someone effed up when building the Capitol and once the dome was built (1864), the columns didn’t fit (built 1828). They were sent away to be stored.

It wasn’t until the 1980s did an arboretum benefactor figure out how to properly share these beautiful columns with the world and placed them there.

My friend said, “This is in DC? Sounds like a great date place.”

To which I replied, “It is, just don’t propose there.”

He looked confused.

“It’s gorgeous. That’s where I was proposed to,” I said. “We had a picnic, it was wonderful.”

I stared at the photo and wondered why such a beautiful place looked so grey and drab, when in fact on a sunny day it’s downright majestic.

I couldn’t decide if I saw it this way because of the role it played in my history, or if the photographer purposely picked a dreary day to shoot it, to make it look haunted.

“Didn’t we almost have it all?”

In retrospect, the location of my proposal was ironic.

The columns were planned to be a part of something grand, but they didn’t fit and making them fit would have been structurally impossible.

They sat and sat in storage for years and years until someone saw their beauty and recognized they shouldn’t be just hidden away. That person eventually found them a better home actually, where they would be appreciated and admired as long as they stood there.

They didn’t fit the Capitol dome, but instead they now stand boldly, with no ceiling, no walls.

It’s an odd beauty in the middle of a large meadow.  They appear as if they belonged there all along, and apparently they did.

As hard as we worked on our relationship, he building the dome and I building the columns, they just didn’t fit. I wanted to serve as his foundation, always supporting him– which was totally backwards and wrong. No wonder it didn’t fit.

The Capitol dome and the columns were a grand plan together, but the fateful mistake  made in its design ended up serving a greater good.

It takes someone with a creative mind to say these were a mistake for the Capitol, but these, these are a centerpiece for the arboretum.

I couldn’t see it when I was designing my new life with him, but now I know.

My columns were always meant to be a centerpiece.

A Girl’s Original, Ultimate Valentine

For a single chick who has no man, no prospect of a man and who endured a broken engagement at the start of 2011, it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m in an excellent mood.

I’m not drunk. I’m not on any prescription medicine.

I do think it’s life. I do think it’s maturity. Sometimes you just have to be happy where you are and take advantage of what your current situation offers you. I’ve been having that revelation over and over.

So to the couples and all of the people in love, that’s fantastic. Enjoy yourselves and each other.

I think I feel so good today because my dad taught me to feel good about myself through Valentine’s day and every day.

Every year, my dad knew what the deal was.

He had three females in his house. The toilet seat stayed down; me, my mom and sister went to the beauty salon on certain Saturdays and he stayed home to wash cars and mow the lawn and we all got a card and chocolates or a stuffed animal EVERY YEAR for Valentine’s Day.

The man trained me well in self-esteem. From teaching me how to ride my bike, helping me up when I fell down, to telling me not to dance with boys at my first sixth grade dance– especially NOT slow songs, he set the groundwork for how I saw myself and how the man I choose needs to see me.

I didn’t know it back then, but my dad was a teacher in this regard. When I was eating at the dinner table as a preteen, my father would check me every time my fork would scrape my teeth. For some odd reason, I would pull the fork through closed teeth with each bite. He’d say, “some day you are going to go on a date and no man is going to want to hear that every time you go out to eat.”

I stopped right away.

My dad is a stickler for hair. Even now, I get my hair done before I go to visit home. In high school, when I chopped my shoulder length tresses to a short almost pixie, he didn’t speak to me for two weeks. And would ask “when is it going to grow back?”

My mom hates the mall. Prior to online shopping, that woman was the catalogue queen. I’d mark the pages and she’d make the call!

My dad on the other hand, will leisurely stroll through the mall and that’s what we’d do to hang out. We still do it every time I’m home. He taught me the art of waiting out sales. But he was also doing something else, that genius. Because we were out shopping together, he did have a hand in my fashion sense in a quiet, sneaky way without seeming like an overbearing dad that didn’t want me to look attractive to boys. He took pride in the beautiful women in his life looking beautiful, and beautiful was how he wanted us to present ourselves. Anything short of that (jeans that were too tight, shorts that were too short, revealing sexualized clothing), in his opinion was disrespectful to the natural beauty he saw in us and wanted others to see, admire and respect too.

Both my parents helped me pick out my prom dress and my dad actually picked out my shoes in Bakers that I didn’t even notice. They matched perfectly and were really, really cute!

Not only in clothing, but we’d play basketball in our back yard and neighborhood courts and we would even play pickup games usually against other boys and men and we’d win or it would be a really close game! He never told me to sit out and watch, instead we were strategic. Our passing game and pick and roll was sick! Talk about building confidence!

He was there to watch me sing, get awards, he was there when I failed miserably. He worked with me tirelessly on science fair projects and told me to stand up for myself on the playground. He told me not to give up when I struggled with my times tables. He always told me I was smart and beautiful.

Our bond was even stronger during a difficult time when my mother became ill and began to struggle with mental and emotional disorders when I was a teen. As he stood by her through her most difficult and erratic phases– which he continues to do, he showed me what true, unconditional love truly is.

When I struggled with the notion of staying home with him to care for her and not go away to school, he refused. He told me I had to live my life and go after my dreams with ferocity.

My father may have ruined me for any man after being such an example. He is far from perfect and he articulates his shortcomings so accurately, and so honestly, often saying that he wishes he could be even more for my family which I think is just impossible for him to do. His love has always been more than enough, overwhelming even, humbling, intimidating, because I don’t know if I can ever be as selfless as him.

Through the years I felt his frustration, I admired his loyalty and his strength and his compassion and patience.

My sophomore year of college we had finished moving me in the dorm and I was sad to see him go. We hugged and strangely at the same time said in each other’s ear, “You are my hero.” We both looked at each other surprised and with tears in both of our eyes, we embraced again. I cried all the way back up to my room. I knew that man loved me like no other. How could I be his hero? What have I really done? I know he was proud of me, but I wasn’t a rich media giant yet, who could start repaying him for his sacrifices, his hard work so he can finally relax.

One of the most recent moments where I even said, “this seems like something out of a sappy romantic movie” was when I was late for my bus back to the D.C. area. My father usually can find a parking space in NYC to see me off, but my bus was there and ready to go. I had to jump out, while he continued to circle and search.

I thought for sure, I wouldn’t be able to hug him as usual and say goodbye. I got on my seat and just before the bus pulled away, there he was jumping up, banging on the window, waving, smiling and saying “love you babe!” Keep in mind, I was in the aisle seat and had to apologize to my seat mate who fortunately thought it was sweet and smiled.

That’s my dad.

He’s going to make it happen. He’s going to show that he’s always going to be there.

That’s why no matter who I end up with, my dad is going to always be my original, ultimate Valentine.

Mom and Dad I’m Sorry

It’s about 5 am. I had a dream that unsettled me. I was out and about without a care in the world in some diner and my uncle somehow found me.

In his calm, cool but oh so humbling tone, he proceeded to tell me that my parents were worried about me and wished that I would take the time to just call. He said he felt the need to drive from NY to Maryland to give me that message personally, face-to-face.

It shot straight to my heart. I wrapped up my food and left feeling horrible.

I woke up and called right away.

No answer, I panicked.

* Background for context: My dad just got a cell phone in the fall and the reason why he finally did it was actually to rescue me, find me in NYC to give me money when I made the bus trip to go to a wedding and left my wallet wedged in the seat of my car at the park and ride where I caught the bus…in Maryland. I called my dad and he went and bought a prepaid phone so he could find me wherever I was once he got into the city.

This morning, I called his cell, it was off. I forgot we didnt set up his voicemail, because he said he didnt need it. My dad isnt much of a phone person.He fought against buying a cell phone for soooo long, but he didn’t hesitate when he heard his baby girl was in trouble!

Back to this morning, again…. I sent him a text. “Love you Dad. Miss you. Hope you remember how to find your texts.”

He just called me back now. It made me feel so good to hear his warm voice with a twinge of a North Carolina drawl come through the phone.

I told him about my dream and how I knew I had to call and that he and mom have done so much for me and that I miss them. That I got a little scared and with the sudden passing of the amazing Whitney Houston, I felt like they needed to know I love them so much and they needed to know right NOW. I would not be able to return to a restful sleep without speaking to at least one of them.

He told me it was alright and that he did talk to me for my birthday last week and he knew I was busy. That week felt so long for some reason to me and we arent the type of family that needs to call everyday. Usually two weeks is our max of going without a call. I told him I wanted to do better.
I told him about my week, and having to get the heat fixed on my car.

He interrupted me politely, suggesting we carry on this conversation later on the house line.
Not because he just arrived at work and had to go.

Because, “You usin’ up all the minutes on my phone!” He said with a chuckle.

That’s my daddy.

If your parents or parental figures are living and breathing, call them today. Even for two minutes.

If they are not here, remember a special moment you had with them that always makes you smile or laugh.

It’s Valentine’s eve and that day is not only about romantic love. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

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