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Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Yes, Brown, Thick People Like Themselves

I recently read an article by Refinery 29, where the author oohed and ahhed about one of my favorite comedians, Mindy Kaling and how she rocked a stunning green crop top ensemble. Is this really news? Yes, it is. Because Mindy Kaling is brown girl who is thick. She is not a size zero or two. She went on about how inspiring Mindy was for “effortlessly translating the trend.”

If you want to talk about effortlessly translating trends, I’d like you to meet the Rosetta Stone of plus-size fashion. I had to let out a laugh, because I instantly thought of the super fabulous blogger gabifresh who boldly rocked a crop top in some of her amazing photos and how she “been done that” numerous times.

Mindy Kaling wows em. Everett Collection Rex USA/Via Refinery29.com

Mindy Kaling wows em. Everett Collection Rex USA/Via Refinery29.com

Folks treat thick women like folks with disabilities sometimes and give the same condescending bs for doing everyday things like living. God forbid “others” love themselves. It’s one thing to be among similar people and praise one another for their differences, but to be out in the open and say you love yourself or you love your body and you don’t look like Beyonce or J. Low or J. Law, folks who fit into society’s blueprint of beauty and the arbiters of fashion are going to give you that slow clap that eventually speeds up because of your “courage.”

Get all the *ucks outta here with that.

I will give Gina Marinelli of Refinery 29 some credit. She tried her darndest to make her article not sound like a prom queen write in project because everyone assumes for someone like who looks different or is considered an outcast, this will be the best moment in their lives. So she used very careful language while giving Mindy praise.

Let’s put this out there right away: We’d never assume that the star of The Mindy Project can’t, in any way, wear whatever she pleases. And, she’s not the kind of lady who succumbs to those kind of notions either. No, Kaling is not a size 2 or 0 or whatever the “typical” size that may be associated with many young, female members of Hollywood.”

She did her research and already knew from an article from Parade, Mindy is not here for rosy platitudes.

From the Parade Magazine article: “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’”

So here we go. Mindy is brown and thick, and has already been retweeted and quoted and misquoted about fifty-eleben million times about being tired of condescending questions about her confidence despite being brown and thick. Folks have made memes with this quote and the beat goes on.

I liked this gem too from the Parade article: “There are little Indian girls out there who look up to me, and I never want to belittle the honor of being an inspiration to them. But while I’m talking about why I’m so different, white male show runners get to talk about their art.”

So I dig Mindy for a million reasons. This chick really started from the bottom, and while yall were sleeping, she was writing and directing episodes of “The Office” while yall thought she was simply the dilly Kelly Kapour. Mindy is acutely aware of her place and space in the world, she is unapologetic and she knows what her presence on television and in the writers room means for those who follow behind her. But like most successful women of color, we simply want to get to work and be recognized for being really great at what we do. We don’t want people telling us, “No, I don’t see color.” Because then you don’t see part of who we are, but we also don’t want people treating us or telling us we are beautiful or intelligent DESPITE our color or our weight, or because we come from a certain side of town.

But what bothered me most about the article wasn’t the article itself, but the comments. Folks were bashing Mindy like you wouldn’t believe. Some folks who from their avis looked overweight themselves. Harsh, harsh comments.

The same goes for Gabourey Sidibe.

Gabourey Sidibe via Wikipedia

Gabourey Sidibe via Wikipedia

Seems like folks get extra offended that this young woman has self-esteem. GASP. For shame. She is having the time of her life and a successful career well after the movie “Precious.” There were people who said that was the only role she could play because of her size, and her deep, dark color. It’s amazing really.

People can embrace Beyoncé for loving who she is as a mother and businesswoman and wife and she can dance around butt naked if she wants to. And even Beyoncé sang that “Pretty Hurts.” And that at the end of the day, you have to ask “are you happy with yourself?” Clearly, Gabby and Mindy are and they are making money even while they are sleeping at night while the rest of us walk around self-conscious and trying to make folks that don’t matter feel more comfortable around us. Pulese.

So because Gabourey Sidibe doesn’t lock herself in the house wearing a moo-moo, eating cartons of Haagen Daz everyday, wishing to be something other than herself, folks are actually offended and mad that she openly loves herself, isn’t looking for Weight Watchers endorsements or signing up to be on the next cycle of the Biggest Loser.

Folks take offense that Mindy is speaking the truth and rocking awesome clothes and having regular women take the time to make friends with tailors and seamstresses again.

In a society full of vain people, it’s awfully short-sighted to be discriminatory in terms of who can be allowed to openly love themselves, or their bodies or their scars or the color of their skin if they DON’T fit into the mainstream image of beauty.

Folks talk about self-confidence and self-love but as a society we sure don’t make it easy on folks who don’t appear to be the obvious poster children for it. Instead, we pile on the “others” hoping to stamp it out of them to make them shrink back into the margins.

But guess what? That’s not even about to happen. Because for folks who have to make the extra effort to smile, and to be proud of who they are inside and out, it’s not even about beauty anymore, it’s about personal integrity and it’s about survival. And that’s the safest place to be. Shallow folks will never have enough strength to reach that deep to destroy it.

Untitled Love Poem #325

The purest kinds of love are the ones that most don’t understand but spend lifetimes trying to figure out and define.
Love has to be figured out.
I say no.
Love has to be lived.
Love has to have some tears shed on it’s behalf.
Love has to be fought for.
Love can be felt. Love must be felt.
But love also has to be maintained and nurtured.
Love is discovery.
Love is compromise when compromise looks like it is the least desirable option.
Love is allowing one’s self to see with new eyes and to keep growing.
Love allows room to grow. After all love is patient.
Love is realizing how far you’ve come and the celebration of the strength it took to get there. Together.
Love is an agreement spoken and unspoken to stay, to support, to give, to listen, to laugh, to not judge, but if by chance you do judge, you will forgive and be forgiven. After all love is kind and keeps no record of wrong.
Love can be staying up all night talking about absolutely nothing.
Or standing still together not saying a word.
It’s a hand to hold at a time you needed it most but was too ashamed to ask but you hoped that they just knew you needed them. And they did.
It’s words of truth.
It’s a soul’s light that reflects off of you that illuminates an entire room, twice as bright.
It’s sacred secrets shared.
It’s feeling like you are at home and you are safe.
It’s a glimpse of Heaven on Earth manifested in man.
It’s a powerful force that humbles you.
Love will order your steps.
Real love does not have to be loud and boastful but its presence will not be ignored.
You will respect love.

If you love without fear, you will feel divinity.
I don’t need anyone to tell me how to love and especially how to love you, I know how to do that myself. I trust myself. I trust you.
And to love you as deeply as I do, it doesn’t require anyone to understand the particulars of how we love specifically.

It simply requires us two.

Pushing toward purpose

I won’t even fake.

It’s been a long and emotional week. Me and my friends said goodbye to a friend who passed away, we spent time with one another, thankful we are still living and healthy and making our little way in the world. I spent time with my parents, I laughed, I cried.

I helped one close relative put an end to one chapter in their life and watched them step out on faith to start anew. I was scared for them, but also proud of them too. Life is really unpredictable and complicated and we are all on this path to trying to be happy and it’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish because you basically can’t be happy all the time.

I’ve started prepping for my grad school classes that start this week and I’ve already learned about a whole lot and the material is exciting to me. One of my classes started out talking about the cells in our bodies and how these cells do nothing but try to help us stay balanced. The world is made up of all sorts of stuff that is in fact, trying to break us down and disturb our homeostasis, and all our body and mind wants to do is maintain that, but the environment that is around us, the air we breathe, the food we eat, our stress levels, the things that stress us out they continue to wage war on us everyday, and our poor, brave cells are fighting non stop to keep us mentally and physically balanced.

Isn’t that wild?

Life. That’s what it all is, trying to maintain balance, being cognizant of a whole lot of stuff that inherently attempts to break us and stop us, but like those cells, we fight. On a cellular level, even if it seems like we’ve given up mentally, our bodies are programmed to still fight until it burns out (cell death– which leads to ultimate breakdowns in health and eventually our own demise).

See? I’m learning stuff.

So I was up late last night prepping for my classes after driving five hours back from NY, and meeting a younger cousin visiting from Mississippi for dessert, dropping him off at a friend’s house. I was up until one a.m. and was deeply engrossed in the material I was studying. There were studies about the “weathering” effects on black Americans and that a middle-aged black person has an equal amount of wear and tear on the body and emotions as a very elderly white person. Disparities and injustice are real. And to see studies, and documentation confirming things black folks felt like the world tends to ignore and that we just have to live with it first affirmed me, then it made me sad, then it made me furious.

There are even terms for how black people are high functioning copers. That black women, no matter their economic status are the most highly stressed even though recent articles have said we have now become the most educated group in the country right now at really high rates.

Reading all of this at first made me proud, like yup, look at us we still achieve we still go higher. But then I got sad and upset. Why can’t the rest of the world see what I see, and even what these academics have found? But instead a lot of people see something else. Something completely different.

I do like that these courses are asking people to look at the complexities of society and the implications of things like racism, and classism and how it does affect the greater good.

I found myself in the texts, my brain working and wondering how I can craft solutions to these problems, to this calling I have to help women and children and people of color and the disenfranchised. I found an energy even at one a.m. I knew I was tired, but I knew I picked the right path.

I’m going to be exhausted. This is going to be tough. But this certainly feels like the right thing to do.

Young, Black and Alive

A friend I grew up with died last week.

Me and the crew knew this guy for years. He lived around the corner. He was quiet and reserved, even though he was probably one of the most athletic and intimidating-looking guys if you were opposite of him on a football field or on the wrestling mat. He followed that path of strength and bravery into the U.S. military, and there he inspired other people beyond the borders of our small, sleepy town. 

I immediately think of senior awards night in 2000, when he called me Lauryn Hill, because as Hill swept the Grammys that year, I raked in scholarships and accolades in preparation for my college life, which prepared me for the life I’m living now. He told me he was proud of me. To see a sista no less, be honored and have to walk to the podium multiple times that evening, it was a highlight, he said. He was not at the top of the class in studies, but he always had insight. As me and my friends swap stories, I found that he stood up for people using his common sense through humbling, thoughtful words when he could have handily whooped ass. I guess coming from him, it had such impact, the bullies would back down.

He was at my sweet sixteen– handsome and physically looking way too mature for his age, his muscular frame his facial hair, a cool, and natural relaxed confidence his peers couldn’t quite master just yet, but were aching to. 

My father even asked me who the grown looking young man was. I had to assure him he was 16 too.  He was in the circle of friends who shared limos for junior cotillion and senior prom. Basement parties and bbqs he held up the wall with the cute boys, well-dressed and popular, but still pleasant and accessible. He cheered us on as we achieved success. We saw him become a devoted father and husband over the years. And it looked good on him. His life milestones reminded us single, childless friends of what was to come.

But now I can see the reason why our friend had the job of being a parent and husband as soon as he did. His life would be short and that family would be his joy and inspiration until the end. They needed him and he needed them.

Now, he goes before us into something unknown again. He reminds us of what’s to come and to embrace what we’ve got in the time between. 

As a grown man, he served his country, taking many trips to the battle field in the Middle East. He had a wife and two children who he wanted the best of everything for. Cancer took him far too soon. I can say that I’m glad he is no longer suffering, and I don’t want him to, but I wish he had more time, I wish he had more time to be healthy and be there for his boys to teach them lessons only a good dad can. So all I can do now is pray for his family.

I told a dear friend of mine that this was the kind of man people needed to see out in front. Someone of strong will and spirit and values. He knew how to be loyal, he knew how to stick to his values and do what was right even if it was of great inconvenience to himself. No one is perfect, and people tend to romanticize folks when they’ve passed on. So I don’t know what his grand faults were-he had plenty, I’m sure- but as I knew him, he was good people. Period.

So I’m going to the funeral this week with a heavy heart. I will be surrounded by my closest friends and we’ll mourn together. I even demanded that later that evening we celebrate together the fact we are “Young, black and alive.” We’ll count our blessings, and we’ll allow ourselves the opportunity to say the things we usually don’t to each other because we take for granted it’s understood. But after seeing our young friend laid to rest, the words will come so naturally and so easily for me anyway.

“I love you.”

“I admire you.”

“Thank you.”

Now, I think around last year I’ve been on a kick about saying these things to the people in my life, and this situation brings it home even more.

Rest my friend.

Reconnecting to My High-Achieving Self

It has been a tiring week, that was filled with crazy highs and neurotic lows. Moments that made me feel unsure and tired and other moments that made me feel ridiculously proud of myself.

It all surrounds the project I’ve been working on for my job.

At the beginning of the week, I was vexed because the ideas I presented to my group was originally met with a meh, kind of tepid response. To the end of the week, me having a breakthrough moment and actually being inspired getting out of bed to present my ideas through a well-produced, high-quality video.

I’m normally reluctant to get on camera, but for whatever reason (God, prayer) it just came together. I felt good, I felt confident. I hadn’t been this passionate about anything in a while.

My big boss seemed to even feel inspired and I haven’t spent this much face time with her in a long time. When I’d come in to her office, she’d stop what she was doing, and we’d end up talking for two hours. She seemed just as excited about my ideas as I was.

When she got in the door the same morning that I woke up with a script for my video concept, I made a beeline to her and shared my even bigger idea. She gave me full support. By the end of the day, I had a product and she was thrilled. She began to heap credit on me, and I reminded her of the people who quickly rallied around me to make the project turn out as amazing as it did.

So she looked at me and she said, “I’ve never seen you this happy.”

I said, “Oh, boy. I must look pretty unhappy most of the time.”

We laughed and she assured me I didn’t look unhappy most of the time, but it had to have been clear to both of us that I’d been in a professional rut. Her giving me this opportunity ended up being much bigger and better for me than I really initially anticipated. As I mentioned in the last post, I really wanted to play the background, but the ideas kept coming. Then the confidence kept building. I was working for my own integrity, and doing it from my heart and an honest place. And that’s what made it feel good.

Then I felt like we had an ultimate mentoring moment. And I do respect my boss. She is one of those started from the bottom now we’re here type women. And at every level she’s gotten to she’s had to learn things the hard way, she’s had to make mistakes, she’s had to make really tough decisions and she’s had to fight harder because she’s a woman. Sometimes she’s had to walk blindly through somethings or put on a brave face, but she’s tough, she’s sharp and she has an insatiable curiosity. For some reason, I feel like our interactions this week did just as much for her as it did for me. My favorite part of the conversation was when she asked me what I thought of my finished product.

I told her, “I think it’s fabulous.” She noticed me catching myself and trying to turn humble. And she laughed. She laughed really hard.

I explained that it was an affirmation for me. I woke up this morning with an idea. Just this morning, I had this vision in my head and now it’s something real. In one day. I’m so happy about that. I’m happy that people rallied around me to make it happen and they also believed in what I was trying to do and eagerly supported me. That’s what made it even more special. It seemed like the excitement was infectious throughout the office. People saw me standing in front of the cameras, some watched and smiled. Some people were thrilled I asked them to participate or do a quick cameo. I realized, people want to feel acknowledged and even feel like a star sometimes… little did I know that I did too.

So here I was, channeling one of my favorite television host personalities Rene Syler, proudly rocking my natural hair and I found myself calm and cool and confident on camera.

I gave my boss all the details that the final edit would be done soon, but even the rough cut made me very happy. I told her that I did wonder what our group would think of it, because sometimes they could be downers and she said to me, “What do you think of it?”

“I love it.”

“Well that’s all that matters.”

And she smiled.

Even though I’ve been exhausted every night this week, I haven’t felt more excited or happy about my work. And that hasn’t happened in a really long time. I had a meeting today with my group and even the most critical ones of the bunch loved my video concept. It seems to have reenergized everyone and we might create a lot of buzz during our out-of-town business trip next week. Everyone wins.

I did put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best. I won’t lie, I did tell a friend earlier in the week that I wanted my presentation to be so good, I want anyone going on after me to have a panic attack in the restroom.

When members of my group were trying to figure out the order of presentations, people quickly suggested I go last because no one wanted to go on after me. “I can’t follow that.” “Me, either,” they said.

So this week, I felt like I was reconnected to my high-achieving self. And I won’t lie. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like me. I believe this is truly the start of a new season in my life. New opportunities are opening, some of which are very unexpected. But I’m glad I threw myself into this experience because what I’m feeling right now is worth being tired or feeling a little uncomfortable. This is worth it.

Now, I just hope it goes over with the really important people at the meeting next week!

Silencing the Noise

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have already heard that I quit Plenty Of Fish.

Like, I quit for real, for real. I didn’t just hide my profile and take a little break from it, I took myself out of the game completely.

There were a few times before where I thought about deleting the profile, but I’d get pulled in by another message from a new guy showing interest. Even if I wasn’t interested in them, it still made me feel wanted. So for that reason alone, even though I was getting pinged all day and all night because I had the app on my phone, it was a form of validation that I had been wanting that I, was indeed desirable.

The trouble with Plenty Of Fish is I’m not the only one.

If I don’t respond, the person on the other end really isn’t going to be heartbroken, he’s just going to click on another profile and try again. A catchy profile and some cute pics didn’t make me special. Inboxes full of faux admiration didn’t either.

I actually hated when dudes off the bat would call me sweetie, or love or gorgeous. It felt so… ugh. It felt so phony.

This weekend, I had a bunch of crazy revelations.

Somehow my good ex hit me up again on Friday night when I was doing absolutely nothing. So I started talking about dating and how difficult it’s become. I complained that it’s at a point where everyone is dating like robots, following a script.

Simply he just said, “You ain’t gotta. Do you.”

I don’t know why what he said seemed to just shoot through me like lightning, but it was so simple. It made so much sense. I don’t have to keep going on date after date. Introducing and reintroducing myself to men I’m really not that interested in, but trying to be “open-minded” too.

That message kept ringing true at not one, but two church services this weekend. The focus was on women in both. Both talked about loving yourself and giving things up so you can receive God’s blessings which may or may not include a man.

I had a thought today about Idols. I posted on twitter that “One way or the other, God will remove your idols. You determine how drastic He has to be in order to get your attention.”

Plenty Of Fish was becoming an idol. It was consuming a lot of my brain space. It was causing me to either be excited about people I knew nothing about or completely aggravated with people I knew nothing about. I was expecting people to be accountable and ready-made after one date. I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear anything from certain guys with whom I had great conversations. I’d replay what I’d done or if I wasn’t attractive enough.

But it all boils down to this, we are all out here doing the same thing. We are evaluating people on highly superficial levels and not taking the time to build. The possibility of the next, better person that you may be missing out on always seemed on the horizon and one click away. But that’s not real life.

I’m about to devote two years of my life to a master’s degree. I devoted four to college and 10+ to being a writer and reporter and editor. Cultivating anything takes time and effort. I have friends of 20 years. I know everything about them and they know me. It’s scary, but look at all the time it took to get to that level of mastery in my friendships, and I’m still working on them and giving to them and nurturing them.

One year of online dating and the revolving door of men wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. It was a great social experiment in what’s out there, but I realize right now, it’s not where I need to place my focus or my energy.

So I deleted my page.

My mind instantly got quiet again. I wasn’t turning over in the middle of my sleep when my phone started to buzz, or checking messages at a stop light. I wasn’t spending time “man shopping” when I was bored, looking at profiles hoping that there was some coded language my Mr. Right used so he could find me.

I didn’t have to be disappointed anymore.

I could focus.

Even today, I’m realizing the dating site was taking a lot of my good energy and brain space.

My good ex did remind me of how confident I used to be. He told me things like putting on weight or how I wear hair was not going to matter. And I was confident. I just have to get back to that again. I knew the first place to start was silencing the POF noise.

I’m not knocking the site at all. I think it does open the door to help you meet people you may have never otherwise met. But as I review the last year of online dating, people are either not quite serious at all, or they are so serious, they come of desperate and scary. Online dating pushes you to the extremes of non-committal or super clingy. You can’t even truly be you. You are always on, you are always auditioning for someone’s affections.

And nope. I don’t want to do that. Not anymore.

So I said a prayer. I said I wanted to give this up and not look back and whoever is for me, he’s already out there. It’s time to stop worrying about it and it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let go of my insecurities and shut up the NOISE, most of which I’ve created in my own head that has been limiting me.

Noise was making me settle and noise convinced me I was widening my net and not being picky or stuck up. But noise was causing me to entertain folks I really didn’t see any kind of future with at all. I tricked myself into thinking it was a numbers game and that it was science. The right guy would have to come around if I kept putting myself out there.

Well, putting myself out there made me lose valuable energy. Putting myself out there led me to making rash decisions.

I need my head space. I need it for things like work, and school and my family and friends. So right now, I honestly don’t feel like I took a loss, deleting my profile. I reclaimed space in my mind and soul.

I decided that if there were men in my phone who managed to have my number and we still keep in touch, I will be nice. I won’t press them to ask me out, I’ll let them ask me. If I feel like sending a text or saying hello, I’ll send one.

Sometimes you have to lose to win, as Fantasia said in one of her songs. I’ve never found myself leaning so much on God and my faith, or praying as often or looking at the little things to help me see other things more clearly. God is in the details.

When I was at EssenceFest and heard Iyanla Van Zant speak, she kept saying, “Do the work.” “You’ve got to do the work, beloveds.”

She is right. God didn’t let me marry the wrong person for a reason.

I’m single right now for a reason, not just to work on myself or take on bigger goals I would have never considered if I was someone’s wife right now. I’m made for a purpose and I’m working all of that out. The pain I’ve felt makes me more compassionate to others and it makes me qualified to love folks in a more real, mature, honest and even non-judgemental way. In the way a grown woman has to decide to love HER man. The one.

I used to pride myself on loving people through stuff even if it took all of my energy.

I was doing it wrong.

I had to learn that I had to put on my life-preserver first before I started helping others and that it is perfectly ok to do so. You aren’t supposed to deplete your entire energy loving somebody. Giving and receiving love in itself should energize you. The person you’re loving should love you enough not to allow you to do that. And they won’t allow you to do it. People who love themselves for real can recognize love in a number of forms. And they can recognize when and if they aren’t pulling their load and they want to pull their load. People who love themselves want to pull their load because that means they are living up to their own expectations of themselves and how they want to treat important people in their lives.

Maturity. Self love. Wisdom. Discernment. I want all of these. I continue to pray that the man I’m supposed to be with, God give me the vision to see him clearly and not get bogged down in the noise. I want to hear God in my choices. This is no exception.





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